The 21 Books of Quarantine
I’m an avid reader. Comics, books, newspapers, zines, all of it. Amanda complains when I buy new books because we don’t have any more room on the bookshelves to store them. I have enough books to keep me busy and well-read for the next 20 years, and before the pandemic started, I would average maybe 4-5 books read every year.
I’m a slow reader, because I enjoy absorbing every detail and description. I also almost never had time to sit down and read due to my hectic work schedule, with the only time being the weekends or late at night. With all the books I have on my shelves, I longed to just sit down and read, knocking out a good chunk of my library. I guess I should have been careful for what I wished for.
I started working from home in March of 2020, like a majority of the country. Already I felt more at ease, not having to worry about the 3-hour commute from home to work and back again, or helping cook dinner the moment I stepped foot in the door. It also gave me more downtime to read, and read I did. Even when I was furloughed and eventually let go, I finally had something to look forward to and take my mind off of things. Books, beautiful books!
Here’s a list of the 21 books I’ve read during the year, with some honorable mentions. I didn’t include any graphic novels, because that would be cheating.
1) The Deep by Rivers Solomon ft. clppng - The Deep first came on my radar from the This American Life episode on Afrofuturism, featuring the song "The Deep" performed by clipping. I loved the idea and story behind it, and was thrilled to pick up the book by Rivers Solomon last year. It's a great read! Highly recommended.
2) Burning Bridges to Light the Way by David Thorne - Thorne is always a must-read, and I always get scolded for cackling like a maniac, he's so funny. He usually releases a new book every year, so he's a reliable read.
3) Lightning Lord and the Duplex of Death! by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd - Lincoln Lourd is a ridiculous man, and the perfect main character for this ridiculously fun book. Carroll-Bradd spins such a charming tale of radioactive lightning, Steampunk villains, and scandalous underwear modeling set in Victorian London. One of the most enjoyable reads I've had in the past year!
4) Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson - I've never read this one, Hunter S. Thompson's first published book, and was thrilled to finally have time to enjoy it. It was a brilliant look at a moment in time, the mid-60s, and the rise (and peak) of the Hell's Angels. I could totally see the first steps of his "Gonzo" style of writing, and what it would one day evolve into soon after. Great read, even if the subjects were the absolute dregs of society. Also? The TPB cover I own is horrendous!
5) Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman - This was such a fun book, with Gaiman condensing some of the best classic Norse mythology into entertaining prose. I especially loved "Freya's Unusual Wedding." Now to check out the comic adaptation when it eventually comes out!
6) Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs - I did not like this one bit. People will say, "No, no, you don't understand! It's satire! It's a crazy look at the judicial system at the time and the strict anti-drug laws!" Bullshit, I say. It's obscenity for obscenity's sake. The only reason this book was even published was because Burroughs' friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac helped him get it published, but even then no one wanted it until it got a little publicity in the press from obscenity/censorship cases against it. No one wanted to publish it, and rightly so in my opinion. I'm all for it helping set precedent against censorship laws, but let's not pretend William S. Burroughs is some sort of genius, worthy of praise. The man was a junkie, a hack, who happened to have famous writer friends. Right place, right time. Nothing more.
7) Less by Andrew Sean Greer - It's been a few years since I've enjoyed a book this much. Such a damn good read! Andrew Sean Greer weaves a wonderful tale of Arthur Less, a lovable bumbling protagonist, who embarks on a worldwide tour before his 50th birthday. And it's not to avoid his ex-lover's wedding, no sir! Things don't always go exactly right, and Arthur always manages to come out unscathed (for the most part). Beautifully written, wonderful characters, I'm so glad David Sedaris recommend it at one of his readings I attended last year. I'll definitely now be checking out Greer's other works!
8) The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis - Spoiler alert: my cat Dinah is in fact the Fifth Risk. Very educational and fascinating look at the different unsung departments in our government and how they work. It then makes you lay awake at night in horror upon realizing who Trump had put in charge of the departments, and how much irreversible damage they could have caused. A must read!
9) Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood by Karina Longworth - Having been a fan of her podcast You Must Remember This for several years, I knew this was going to be a well-sourced and amazing read by Karina Longworth. It did not disappoint! We get a fascinating look into the life of Howard Hughes and the strategies he used to keep control of the many women in his life. A must-read for fans of old Hollywood!
10) Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher - Quick read, and a nice palate cleanser. I miss her and her humor so much. Her unique voice is needed in these troubling times.
11) Animal Farm by George Orwell - I never fully paid attention to Animal Farm in high school (I blame Snowball), so I'm much more appreciative to have given it a thorough read as an adult. Great read, and definitely pairs well with Orwell's 1984.
12) The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury - I had already read The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man years ago, and now I've finally read The Golden Apples of the Sun. It's an anthology of Bradbury's short stories, so I didn't finish them all in one sitting, but rather read a few at a time over the course of the past few months. He was a master storyteller for a reason, and easily one of my Top 5 authors.
13) Dune by Frank Herbert - Never read it before, but I'm glad I waited until I was older to finally read it. I loved it so much. People warned me it might take several attempts to enjoy it, but it had me from the first chapter. Herbert does an amazing job putting the reader straight in the middle of this densely populated world, rich with history, and still make it easy to follow. I can't wait to track down the next one, and yes, I know to stop reading after the 6th book. Now to check out the first Dune movie, and rewatch Jodorowsky's Dune!
14) Kasher in the Rye by Moshe Kasher - I really enjoyed this memoir by Moshe Kasher, documenting his insane childhood and teen years in Oakland. It's hilarious throughout, but then the bastard hits you right in the feels at the end. Great read, I'm very happy I read it!
15) On The Road by Jack Kerouac - I can definitely see why it's considered a classic. We all have a Dean Moriarty in our lives, right? The way Kerouac describes each journey across late 1940s America is intoxicating, and you almost never want him to stop traveling on the open road. I really enjoyed this one.
16) War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow - I was a huge fan of Farrow's Catch and Kill when it came out last year, and picked up War on Peace immediately upon finishing. Farrow has a wonderful talent for making complex, dense subjects like foreign policy and diplomacy incredibly easy to understand and follow. I was completely enthralled with this book. I can't wait to see what he tackles next! Also, Dinah enjoyed my lap while I finished it.
17) Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer - I was definitely in the mood for something fun, and Shaffer delivered a great mystery starring the cherished Prez/VP. I could hear Biden and Obama's voices the entire time, which is the ultimate compliment. Now to pick up the next one, Hope Rides Again!
18) Rage by Bob Woodward - I had a headache reading this one, out of both frustration, and hearing his stupid voice when reading his ridiculous responses. Woodward covers Trump's handling of North Korea, Impeachment, the George Floyd protests, and most importantly, COVID-19. Spoiler alert: he knew how bad the virus was back in February and downplayed the hell out of it. Woodward did an incredible job with this book, and it was comical to see Trump attempt to pull the wool over his eyes during the 17 interviews. After looking like such a buffoon in Woodward's previous book Fear, this was his desperate attempt to buddy-up to the author and try to paint a better picture of himself. Didn't work. Highly recommend!
19) For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - Because its a part of a collection, I had no idea how long it really was until I was a few chapters in. Despite it being a few hundred pages too long in my opinion, it was still an enjoyable read with an explosive ending. This is the second story set during the Spanish Civil War I've read in the past few years (Orwell's Homage to Catalonia being the other), so I think it's safe to say I'm done reading about that particular war for the time being. Hemingway once again shows why he's considered one of the best.
20) Naked by David Sedaris - Believe it or not, there are still a few David Sedaris books I haven't read, and Naked was one of them. I own all his books, and savor them slowly, not wanting to rush. This was his second collection, and it did feel like it. It was still hilarious and entertaining throughout (his adventures apple picking in Oregon, to giving a nudist colony a try), but it did seem slightly unpolished at times and some of the stories a tad longer, not the perfected Sedaris that I'm used to. It hit the spot though, and that's all that matters! If you're going to read it while naked, please remember to bring your own towel.
21) Clanlands by Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish - I'm not the Outlander superfan like Amanda is, but I've seen the show and have enjoyed Sam's Sassenach Spirits. That, and I'm 60% Scottish according to AncestryDNA, so I was interested in reading a bit of Scottish history from the viewpoints of two whisky-loving Scots who love to get on each other's nerves. A hilarious and informative read, I can't wait to finally go back to Scotland after the pandemic and go on my honeymoon with Amanda. Oh, and Clan Cameron rules.
1) A Promised Land by Barack Obama – I’m halfway through this one, and it’s incredibly interesting looking at his first term in office, but it’s also very meaty. I actually paused reading it for a week so I could read Clanlands before the Men in Kilts show debuted on Starz. I have no doubt I’ll finish it shortly, but it didn’t get in under the 1-year anniversary.
2) Complete Short Stories Omnibus by H.G. Wells – I love Wells, and would routinely read a few short stories between books or if I had a few minutes to kill. The omnibus is massive, and the short stories always a few pages and entertaining.
3) The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Another collection of classic stories, and like with Wells, I’d read a few mysteries when I had spare time to do so. I can easily see people being captivated when originally reading them in the newspapers back in the day.
4) The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle – Amanda got this beautiful collection for my birthday last year, and it’s a very fun read. Another crown jewel in my collection!
I was very happy I had the opportunity to catch up on some books in my collection this past year, but now I’m itching to get back to work! Until next time, stay healthy and well-read.