March 6, 2008 10 Comments
Reading is like many of my other hobbies in that I don’t do it consistently, but when I do, I do it hardcore. That means I may end up buying dozens of books in 2 months, read 75% of them, and then not finish another one for the next 6 months. Ever since I started taking the train, however, I’ve come to appreciate having reading time on a regular basis (all 10 minutes a day of it), enough that I think it may become more of a mainstay than it has been. The trouble now is finding the books.
About 2 years ago I went through a golden age of reading. Sure, there were a couple books I didn’t quite care for, but in the end I more than doubled my list of favorite books. Memoirs of a Geisha, Middlesex, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Empire Falls, The Kite Runner, and The Power of One, to name only a few. I learned that I enjoy contemporary popular literature of the trade paperback variety. Not the mass market type full of dialogue, or the trendy stream of consciousness episodic style, and nothing even remotely obscure either, just good, pretty, sometimes witty prose. East of Eden by John Steinbeck, anything by John Irving. I also have a soft spot for prehistorical fiction – e.g. Jane M. Auel, Edward Rutherford, etc.
At any rate, now that I’ve exhausted my familiar names, I no longer know where to find dependably good books. Just going by what’s new and notable doesn’t work for me; few things depress me more than buying a book only to discover that I’m just not that into it. I’ve latched onto a few authors to try and stave off the dry spell – Robert Sapolsky, Oliver Sacks – but am quickly running out of titles. Lately, it’s been a “nonfiction” phase. Not necessarily true nonfiction, but the anecdotal, pop culture type exemplified by Freakonomics (Stephen Levy) and The Tipping Point (Malcom Gladwell). I’ve found that I lose interest in anything that goes into too much detail (RIP, The Elegant Universe…).
Currently, I’m reading Monkeyluv by Robert Sapolsky. I have nothing lined up after that, so if anyone has suggestions for books, I’d definitely welcome them. Here are more books I’ve read recently that I really liked:
Animals in Translation – Temple Grandin. If you’re at all interested in animal behavior, or in autism, this book is amazing.
A Primate’s Memoir – Robert Sapolsky. Self-deprecating humor at its finest.
An Anthropologist on Mars – Oliver Sacks. Enlightening and perfect for anyone who loved reading psych case studies in college.
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell. Good if you’re the type to contemplate why people do what they do.
Bringing Down the House – Ben Mezrich. Fast-paced and makes you think maybe, just maybe….
Until I Find You – John Irving. If you like John Irving, this will be familiar. The ending, unfortunately, seems just a tad too little, too late.
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not quite as florid or fantastical as 100 Years of Solitude, but still beautiful, and stays fresh to the end.
Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres. Passionate and moving, the love story is interwoven with the war story without demeaning either one. It might just make you cry.
And other books I did not particularly like:
Atonement – Ian McEwan
The Known World – Edward P. Jones
The Singularity is Near – Ray Kurzweil
The Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
The Tangled Wing
Saving Fish From Drowning – Amy Tan (but I loved all of her other stuff)
Maybe I just don’t like books starting with “The”?