Reading List

I normally shy away from recommendations, since I feel I have no right to tell anyone what to do with themselves, even to the extent of how to entertain and/or enrich themselves. But since I’m generally so liberal with my notions of what sucks, I thought I should expend a little more effort in rendering my notions of what doesn’t.

For this exposition, I’m limiting myself to books. If you haven’t figured out that these are the best form of entertainment, then there’s no helping you. Be on your way, and have fun arguing with each other about the best kind of telephone or video game console. If you keep at it, ya’ll are sure to find the best arrangement for all those deck chairs!

This is by no means an exhaustive list either; it’s simply those works that have profoundly entertained and enlightened me.

Keep in mind too, that I read very slowly. I can’t bundle words, and have a hard time recognizing words by sight, so I have to read read things word by word. (I also spell very badly.) If I had gone to school just a little later, I no doubt would have been pegged with some learning disability or another. As it was, I think they just took my learning difficulties and profound boredom as mild retardation and left me to my own devices; so I have to say it all worked out rather well for me anyways.

The byproduct of my slow reading is that I have not read as widely as I should have. But, on the plus side, what I do read, I retain. I have time to think about what I’m reading, as I read it, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, as to my recommendations:

For light reading, you really can’t go wrong with Terry Pratchett. Any Diskworld novel is fine, in whatever order, but anything with his name on it is sound stuff.

His collaboration with Neil Gaiman in Good Omens is a must read.

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, is as well.

Anything and everything by Douglas Adams. Reading all of his works is not an option for native speakers of the English language. Required.

I would love to recommend Tolkien on this list, since The Lord of the Rings did blast open my mind at a very impressionable age, but I have never been able to reread it. It’s an immersive world that shaped me, no doubt, but it’s also not a very well told story. Lots of walking. And elvish poetry. Then more walking.

When I was about eight years old, my grandfather read my sister and me Watership Down, by Richard Adams. It may have fucked us up, sure, but it also changed me in so many other good ways. This is one I have to return to every few years. In fact, I think I’m just about due for giving it another read.

Charles Dickens is always well worth picking up, if you have a month or two to really dig in, but if you were to limit yourself to David Copperfield, I would call you well sorted. If you haven’t read David Copperfield, then I would say you have done yourself a profound disservice.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not light. Not easy. But this work changed how I think about the world. Not what I think; how I think.

If we’re going “not light or easy” but that which fucked my mind into an exciting new shape, dig into Socrates, if you can. This shit aint easy, and I required plenty of guided interpretation with it, but when I got there with it, it changed my life.

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. Don’t expect cohesion or any kind of sense and just hold on for dear life. Oh dear lord, is it ever worth it, though.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. If you have even half a heart, this one will fuck your shit up. You can sense it coming too, laid down in such a deceptively simple way. The prose is stark and unpretentious; accessible even. Yet the whole time you feel this tectonic weight moving underneath it, and when it delivers it is crushing. Just brilliant.

To get back into slightly lighter fare, Ian M. Banks is an all time great for me. Either Player of Games or Use of Weapons are a good place to start. Dynamite stuff.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This may be the one and only time this work has been included on a list with Naked Lunch, but so the fuck what? I can’t enjoy a charming, post-Victorian tale of a precocious orphan girl who charms her way into a quaint Canadian village’s life? This shit is funny too, in a way that has been lost to us. G rated, kids book, as vanilla as Disney, but funny, funny stuff. And she’s a lesbian, so that’s a bit hot.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. An extremely entertaining mystery that is composed with breathtaking proficiency and skill. If you want to talk about the craft of writing, you can’t get any better than this.

Back to some pulpy fun: The Stand by Stephen King. Goddamn, this is a fun book. And if you’re in the United States these days, you’re basically living it!

There are plenty more I’m forgetting, no doubt, but this is a pretty good start. If I feel up to it, I’ll add more to this list, and may do a list of my favorite movies and TV.

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