The best part about the end of year is not Christmas, it’s how everything and everyone publish list of the best books they have read in the past year, which I then stock and feast upon.
There is one great upside to this pandemic bullshit: I have A LOT more time to read. Books are my friends. I apparently read abnormally fast and I read a lot of them. With my faithful Kindle, there is no shortage of books, ever.
I tried to keep a list of all read books, but the list just got too long and I was too lazy to update it. So now natural selection does its thing: if I remember it properly, it was good enough or impacted me enough. If I have vague memories of it, it wasn’t that good.
So I thought I would list a few I read over the pandemic time that I really enjoyed. May they bring you some joy too!
The Overstory – Richard Powers
I read another book by him years ago that I still remember quite vividly (I read a lot of books and if they are not great, they tend to fade away in a blur of books I vaguely remember but not that much). The Overstory got a lot of press as it got the Pulitzer Price and a bunch of other rewards. It was absolutely justified.
It takes a while to get started as the first part introduces a bunch of characters that somehow are all connected to a different tree. Because this book is about trees. That doesn’t sound super sexy but it ends up being riveting, interesting, very well-written and at times absolutely heart-breaking. I loved it.
Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
While I think he is a good actor (seen “Dallas Buyer Club”? You should), I have no particular interest in the man. But that book got a lot of press so I was curious. I smashed in in a few hours. Besides the life story which at times is interesting, the hints of his values and life philosophy behind it were also cool and got me thinking about a few things. It also sounded very candid and honest in many ways. I did not expect to enjoy it that much but I did.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty – Patrick Radden Keefe
Not exactly my usual read but it was on a lot of lists so I ended up reading it. The first part of the book was honestly not that captivating, as it describes the lives of the first generation of Sacklers entrepreneurs and how they got into the pharmaceutical business. The second part, although obviously quite one-sided, was fascinating. It describes the launch of Oxycontin and the consequences of terribly efficient marketing and sales techniques, largely contributing to what is now known as the opioid epidemic. It’s an interesting look also at how money, power and persuasion take over general interest.
Killing Commendatore – Haruki Murakami
I love Murakami. The novels always have a common thread: there is a normal guy, who has a normal life. Then, something weird happens. And then it just gets weirder and weirder. Yet, despite knowing that, it is always poetic, intriguing, reflexive and really good. This one is no exception.
Dune – Frank Herbert
I had read it a couple of times already, but I got so excited about the movie and then so disappointed when it kept being endlessly postponed, that I decided to read it again. I am always reluctant about reading books again, because it is reading time I am not giving to another book that is just here waiting for me and is potentially good. But Dune is really one of the best sci-fi books ever. The universe is so rich, so inventive, the characters are complicated and layered and they evolve through the book. I had a great time for the third time.
In exchange of these, I would be super happy to get some of your recommendations as well.