Readin’ the ‘Rona

Well, I’m not exactly burning up the roads of America this year. Other than watching Washington Nationals baseball games, I am spending a lot of time reading. I read National Geographic and Adventure Cycling magazines. Otherwise I’ve been working my way through a pile of books.

  • This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay – the diary of a doctor in the National Health Service in the UK. This is very funny, and sometimes tragic.
  • Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy – the incredible tale of a multi-year arctic rescue mission in the days before modern communications. If you liked books about The Endurance expedition to Antarctica, this one’s for you.
  • The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson – This book lacks Bryson’s usual wit (his A Walk in the Woods is the funniest book I’ve ever read), but it will tell you a million bizarre factoids about your bag of bones.
  • Lie to Me by J. T Ellison – an entertaining novel in the style of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
  • Sharp Objects by Flynn – ditto.
  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – a Bryson travelogue showing off his wit as a fish out of water in Great Britain. As you’re about to discover I tend to work my way through books by author
  • Dark Places by Flynn – Another dark Gone Girl-ish novel
  • And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks. The author is the wife of a former co-worker. Well written off-beat short stories that was not well read (as Nick Hornby likes to say).
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. Another witty travelogue.
  • Made in America by Bryson. A book about the history of the English language. I had high expectations for this one but it wasn’t my cup of joe.
  • Giving Good Weight, La Place de la Concorde Suisse, Irons in the Firel Looking for a Ship, The Ransom of Russian Art, The Control of Nature all by John McPhee. I loved these on first read many years ago but reading them in sequence got a bit tedious. Still he’s a skilled researcher and writer and they hold up well to the passage of time.
  • Buzz Saw by Jesse Dougherty. The tale of the improbable march to a World Series title by the 2019 Washington Nationals. I always regard the long baseball season as like an epic novel. This one proves my point.
  • Table of Contents by McPhee. By this point I was pretty burnt out on McPhee. (I have only Coming into the Country left to read in my McPhee collection.
  • One Day: The Extraordinary Story of One Day in America by Gene Weingarten. Dang is this book a revelation. Using a day chosen entirely at random, Weingarten reports on events that happend on that date in the recent years. I like Weingarten’s weekly humor column in the Washington Post but he’s cheating us by not writing more books like this.
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. A young adult novel in the style of Twilight. Weird times five.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. She’s a nymph, she’s a which, she’s a badass. I didn’t think I like this but it’s pretty great. The writing style is unusual but it works.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. How about a Russian novel in the style of Graham Greene. Not that I know anything about Greene’s writing.
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Unless you’re a big fan of Virginia Wolff and Mrs. Dalloway, don’t bother. By page three I was sick of metaphors and atmospherics.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney. A rich nerd has an affair with a smart jock in high school in Sligo, Ireland. The story follows them through college in Dublin. Rooney is amazing at describing the nuances of relationships.

Still to come: this eclectic pile. Note that my wife and daughter picked up on my tastes. I read Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant last year and was amazed. And since I saw Hamilton on stage last year it was a no-brainer to gift me the book where it happened. I loved Matt Damon in the movie about a botany nerd stranded on Mars. The Outsiders is a classic that I’ve never read. And two books by authors I first read earlier this year.

I am saving Hamilton for after the baseball season. I’m not throwin’ away my shot.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read so many books that float my boat.

9 thoughts on “Readin’ the ‘Rona

  1. Geez, and I thought I was reading a lot! And like you, reading in the midst of the baseball season. Only one book in common – I recently read Gentleman in Moscow – I liked it – and given my former line of work, I was sort of familiar with Graham Greene (e.g. – “Our Man in Havana”) I am on the waiting list for Normal People – Ms. Rooney is a gifted observer, isn’t she? I’ve been going through the Harry Bosch series by Mike Connelly – cop procedurals are a weakness of mine, and I really, really liked the Amazon Prime series that is based on the books. I have one book to recommend,that I just finished, which given our life and times, seems apropos – the terrific biography “Frederick Douglass – Prophet of Freedom.” Mr. Douglass is one of our greatest Americans, and many of his insights and his speeches and writings still have much to tell us about our nation and our culture. Thanks for the annotated bibliography – you’ve given me a few to add to my list! Our libraries here in SOCAL are shut down – thank gawd for the SCPL e-book catalogue.

  2. Coming Into the Country was one of my favorite McPhee’s. I can imagine heartily disliking him, though, if you’ve read a bunch of his books one after the other. I heard him talk, I think it was at SUNY New Paltz, in 1978, and he was so smug about how he researched and structured his books. It took all the mystery and pleasure out of them for me.

  3. IF you are going to read any Graham Greene, I suggest “Our Man in Havana.” Funny and accessible.

    I enjoy Bryson’s witty books and really enjoyed A Walk in the Woods. I kind of wish Newman and Redford had gotten the chance to make the movie together, but it wasn’t too bad.

  4. I like the wit of Bryson in Notes from a Small Island. Funnier still is Neither Here nor There. Hilarious story around Europe with Katz

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