It was a light, lovely winter for me (well, most of it) and I spent it reading at whim.
Here are five books that stand out:
A Little History of the World
Gombrich is probably best known for his art history survey, The Story of Art, but he wrote this book before, in pre-Nazi Germany. When a textbook publisher hired him to translate a history book for kids, he thought it was so bad he could write a better one himself. So he read all day and wrote a chapter each night until the book was done. I love the way he starts and begins the book with visual metaphors to help kids picture history. [Buy indie]
Sam is one of my favorite working writers, but I didn’t really care much about Oklahoma City or basketball when I picked it up. And yet, I loved this book. While reading it I was like, “Is this as good as I think it is or is Sam nuts in the same way I am nuts or have I been driven nuts by reading it?” One thing I cannot get enough of is the sense when you’re reading a book that the author had a blast writing it — that they let themselves get carried away and went for the ride and wrangled the thing in just the right way so you could strap in, too. [Buy indie]
Every year I try to read a bestseller that everybody’s talking about. Last year it was Educated, this year it was Normal People. It’s easy to see why Educated was a hit — it’s written well, it has an Oprah-style arc de triumph, and it confirms the dominant cultural narrative about the importance of formal education. But this book? The whole time I read this book, I was thinking, “Why am I so into this?” I think it’s the way Rooney manages to describe contemporary emotions (ew), but, like Educated, I also think there’s magic in the pacing and the chunking. Hey man, no need to overthink it: If you’re turning the pages, it’s good. [Buy indie]
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Combination detective story and fairy tale with a huge dose of astrology and William Blake thrown in. (It gets its title from Proverbs of Hell.) A great winter’s tale. Definitely picking up her novel Flights soon — loved this excerpt. [Buy indie]
If I had read this book when I was 19, it would probably hold a super high place in my personal canon. The thing that holds me back from outright adoration is my (perhaps unreasonably) low opinion of Elvis. I love the parts about the tension between artist and audience. I will probably go back and try to get through Lipstick Traces again this year. [Buy indie]
It strikes me, looking at this list, that every single one of these books was read on my Kindle. I think this is the first time this has happened and I don’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, I much prefer reading on paper, with a pencil, but on the other, ebooks are so convenient, they allow me to flit and flirt and read promiscuously.
By the way, here are 5 other good books I read this winter:
- David Carr’s The Night of the Gun
- John O’Connell’s Bowie’s Bookshelf: The Hundred Books that Changed David Bowie’s Life
- Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s Seinfeldia: How A Show About Nothing Changed Everything
- Alan Jacobs’ Breaking Bread with the Dead (galley)
- Elisa Gabbert’s The Unreality of Memory (galley)
More of my reading years here.