We live in a golden age of content, with myriad audio/visual content services vying for our attention. With those at our fingertips, it is easy to forego long-form written content (digital or otherwise), without noticing the absence. As Tim Urban points out in his segment of the linked video, the difference between reading about book a year in the next 55 years, becoming the "grandparent who hasn't read anything"; or 1,000 books in that timespan ("they've read everything!") is a time commitment of an average of about 30 minutes a day.
Over the past few years, I have come to a similar conclusion: I have to make a conscious effort to re-prioritize how I consume content if I want to read more books/novels/short stories/etc. To that end, I've set loose goals for myself: read more than last year, read a variety of genres/authors, and to change both of the prior if I'm not enjoying it. This has worked well for me - I've read 51 books in 2020; some quality, some challenging, some easy, and some comfortable.
Below is a list of books that I strongly recommend (more coming soon):
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. If Candide had been set in the 20th Century, and grounded in realism. It's one of the great American Novels — and true to its peers, it's powerful to read in 2020 and see how much still rings true. I was introduced to this book in my 20s, and while I wish that this had been part of my core curriculum in high school, I take solace in the fact my AP-English-teacher friend lent me the copy.
- Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah. Yes, the sequel — so please, please read Dune (if you haven't already). This is Sci-Fi world-building (world-expansion?) at its best. What do the revolutionaries do when fanaticism gives way to theocratic bureacracy? When the god-head no longer consents to rule? As much as I love Dune, this was more impactful for me, and a perfect rebuttal to criticism of the first.
- Keiichirō Hirano, A Man. A modern noir, heavy on the philosophy of identity and inheritance. Far-right xenophobia, and the intricacies of family registers in Japan provide the backdrop.
- Mark Lanegan, Sing Backwards and Weep. An unflinching deep-dive into the addictions underlying the music scene of the PNW in the '80s and '90s. Mark speaks to his own flaws with the honesty that I didn't expect from someone who wears them maybe a bit too proudly.
- Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir. Murakami succeeds in his description of the (generally conflicting) emotions runners have for their hobby. A must-read for those who wonder why his protagonists all love jazz, cooking, whiskey, and solitude.
- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. A practical guide to actually writing, from someone who has written more than I probably will ever read. Choose over The War of Art.