Since a couple of good looking film recommendations that I wouldn’t otherwise have put on my rental list came out of the movie thread, I thought I’d see what books you gentlemen enjoyed last year. Dragonlance novels and comic books don’t count.
A Collection of Essays of George Orwell. Worth reading if only for the pleasure witnessing Orwell - fondly and tenderly, passage by passage -untwine the bowels of Dickens and hang them up as a oogy mess on the corner of his crypt in Westminster Abbey. Probably the most fascinating, loving obliteration I’ve ever read in literary criticism. The rest is great too.
Boswell’s Life of Johnson. In parts. I was a sucker and bought the 1500 page unabridged edition, which labors in parts like an elephant hydrocephalic of its own head-swelling sycophantia. The conversations are amazingly witty, and I read it through anyway, but I’d recommend anyone to grab the abridged version.
Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm. I reread this at least once a year, and it is my vote for novel of the century that no one has ever read or really heard of. If you want to read it, Beerbohm (a noted cariacturist) illustrated a version of it which is so much better than the unillustrated version that, two years ago, I paid 125 dollars for a copy. But it is now finally available in paperback for 10 bucks!
The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack. Hey, thanks guys. I don’t read a lot of current affairs, mostly because I’m a prematurely cynical anachronism who believes that common sense died earlier this century. But this book was the one where I realized exactly how much discredit that idea has done to my understanding of the world in which I live. I’m not sure it is better than many of the other current affairs books I’ve read, but certainly the one I read with the greatest sense of timing, and that allowed me to understand everything that the news blurbs hint at, but don’t report.
Louis Armstrong’s Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. The loving details he goes into about the joys of a fine bowel movement and habitual marijuana use is enough to make you want to roll a blizz out of your own crap. Take that recommendation as you may.
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. I don’t agree with a good deal of it, and like most of Chesterton’s work, it suffers from its own over-reliance on counterintuitively twisting contradictions by their emotional spine into proofs. Still, Chesterton was described as someone who could never pass a lamp post without wondering at the ethereal loveliness of it all, and in his hands, Christianity becomes the sort of playground of joyful ideas in which even the most hardened intellectual can feel like a child again.
The Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber. Seems to be out of print now, but I’m sure you could dig it up in a fantasy bookstore, and it is widely available in Ireland for like 2 euros a copy.
There were probably some more that impressed me, earlier in the year, but I’m vague enough wondering if I read them this year or last year that I’ll leave them off.