Dear Hope Nation,
A number of readers have questioned my inability to watch much video in almost any form. I don’t know how to prove a negative, and it’s not like I never watch any video. This year, during the beginning of the lockdown, I watched a number of episodes of “The Office.” Similarly, a lady friend and I watched a couple black-and-white movies in the spring. On the Fourth of July, I watched Hamilton, which we’d seen on Broadway, with my daughter. (She has since gone on to watch it another 10 times. While I enjoyed it, once was enough.) Finally, I introduced Becca to the movie Dogma, which made up for a hole in my task as a father. So, I do watch video, just not as much as most folks.
To make up for this gap, I absolutely truly neverendingly love books. When I was a kid, I looked forward to the Scholastic Books flyer the same way other kids waited on the Sears Christmas Wish Book. (The author returns after 20 minutes online looking through the 1969 Wish Book. Boy, did they have crappy toys when I was a kid.) Even today, when traveling I head for the coolest sounding local bookstore. That’s where I got to know Chuck Palahniuk (as pictured).
While I know some folks look down their noses at audiobooks as opposed to “real books,” I’m not that kind of snob. I first developed the audiobook habit when I lived in Pittsburg and spent four or five hours a day hiking through the Great North Woods. A fully charged phone, ear buds and a backpack with a snack and life was good. Today, I listen while driving, while working around the house and while walking, something no book every made possible.
I went back through my listening in 2020, and while I primarily listen to history, the following are some books I read this year, followed by some I reread. I recommend all of them.
I’d never read any of these before, and while I don’t have space to give thumbnail sketches, I’ll say five of the six are fiction and the best of them is Blindness, although Eleanor Oliphant is the most fun. Schaberg’s history of Alcoholic Anonymous’ Big Book is fascinating and painstaking without being a necessary read for anyone in recovery.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Writing the Big Book by William H. Schaberg
Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine by Gail Honeyman
Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
The following nine are books I’ve read before but enjoyed just as much the second (or 10th) time. The Pullman books I reread in preparation for a television dramatization of the first trilogy which I never got around to watching. I think the Mailer book is woefully undervalued, but I think most of his work got misinterpreted in the glare of money and a sort of celebrity.
His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) and The Book of Dust (La Belle Sauvage and The Secret Commonwealth) by Philip Pullman
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Plague by Albert Camus
The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer
What have you been reading this year? Or: What movies or TV shows have you watched this year? Or: What memes have you enjoyed this year?
Or: What names have you given each of your toes this year?
Regardless, never, ever forget
You matter. I matter. We matter.