reading retirement

I’ve always known that catching up on reading would be a central to my retirement;  there are thousands of books in my to-read pile.  Luckly the “pile” is virtual now as I read mobi/azw on an e-ink Kindle during the day and epub on a tablet at night (using FBreader).

These are some books I have read or re-read since I retired.

seriously,  read these right now

  • Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart.    This is the best writer I have ever read, and English isn’t even his first language.  A crushing, hilarious work of hallucinatory detail.  Read this now, thank me later.
  • Homesick for Another World, by Ottessa Moshfegh.  My second encounter with Moshfegh, and I gather this is more representative of her work.  This collection of stories features characters as disgusting and horrible as Blood Meridian (see bottom of page) but also fascinating.    Not for the squeamish.

 

add to your reading list

  • Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Book 1) by Jeff VanderMeer.  The excellent book the mediocre movie was made from.  This is the most disturbing fiction I have ever read, and I’d read some dark stuff. Books 2-3 weren’t nearly as good IMO.
  • Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs Novels Book 1) by Richard K. Morgan.  Excellent sci-fi.  I didn’t like the second and third books in the series nearly as much.
  • Neuromancer (Sprawl Trilogy Book 1) by William Gibson.  Absolutely canonical sci-fi, did much to popularize cyberpunk.  Didn’t like the 2nd and 3rd books in the series.
  • the Naturalist  by Andrew Mayne.  Serial-killer? Cryptozoology?  Exceptional writing.
  • The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman.  Maybe this is like an adult Harry Potter (magicians).  I dunno because I didn’t read those and don’t care about magic.  But the writing is terrific and the characters so real.
  • All Systems Red – Book 1 of 6: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.  The writing is good and the central character (a murderbot) is terrific.    The ending is flawed, you can tell the first book was split in two.  That’s ok, keep reading.  A guilty pleasure, but a great one.
  • My French Whore, by Gene Wilder.  A trifle of a spy novel / romance set in WWI.  You can read it in one day, and probably should.
  • Berlin Game, by Len Deighton.  I’m not a spy thriller guy, but I rather liked this.  I picked up Mexico Set and will continue.
  • Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh.  My first encounter with Moshfegh, and it’s deeply weird.
  • Memoirs and Misinformation, by Jim Carrey  and Dana Vachon.  Art and play, not entirely successful.  Like a Hollywood party on heavy hallucinagens.

if you have time

Some of these are time-fillers.  Others are really good but take such an investment in time or grit that I can’t recommend them in good faith.  Looking at you, Tolstoy!

  • Jennifer Government by Max Barry.  Corporate hellscape.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert.  Lots of interesting sci-fi here, but it’s a commitment.
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  10% incredible insight into human psychology, 10% great story, and 80% digression on war, strategy, etc.  I was hoping Napoleon would shoot me.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  Less padding than War and Peace, so let’s say 30% psychological/romantic insight, 30% tragedy, and 40% digressions on the nature of peasantry and agricultural theory.  I didn’t necessarily want to throw myself in front of a train by the end, but it did occur to me.
  • Death in Zion National Park: Stories of Accidents and Foolhardiness in Utah’s Grand Circle, by Randi Minetor.   Good at what it claims to be, a listing of all the deaths in ZNP and their causes.  Enough to make you root for the park and against the idiots who seem determined to make their last clowning there.   There are a few accidents and suicides but most is foolishness.
  • The Answer Is . . .: Reflections on My Life, by Alex Trebek.  Not particularly interesting.
  • Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, by by Mary L. Trump.  Probably the best of the Trump tell-alls so far.  Explains why he so deeply fscked up.  Almost makes me sorry for The Donald.   If you aren’t interested in psychology or if you think Donald is The Emperor God then this likely isn’t for you.
  • Tranny, by Laura James Grace.

I bailed on these

  • Who Ate the First Oyster?: The Extraordinary People Behind the Greatest Firsts in History by Cody Cassidy.   There is academic history, popular history, and whatever this is.  Seems to be aimed at adults with YA-levels of comprehension.
  • Mind Machines by Dima Zales.  Average sci-fi, and some clever observations but some of the word choices are horrific.  “Brainocytes” are a central theme, not making that up.  Needed a more forceful editor.
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  I like dark but I hated every single character in this book.  There was no one I could even neutrally engage with.  Gave up at the 50% mark and I want my time back.   I wouldn’t make terrorists read this rot.
  • What Is a Dog? by by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger.  Pretty sure this started out as a few academic papers massaged into book-like form.  Authors take an inherently fascinating subject and kill it with repetition and dead language.  If you’ve ever fallen asleep in a boring lecture you already know what this book is like.