As we find new ways to pass time at home, it seems reading is making a comeback. Although there is a plethora of streaming content available at our fingertips and plenty of gaming to indulge in, we may have forgotten how refreshing it is to get lost in a book. Admittedly I have not read for pleasure in quite some time. However, as I look at my bookshelf I am reminded of just how many have had a profound impact on me. Books give us the ability to build new worlds while teaching us things we may not have known. So here are 10 books that I highly recommend to read while you have the time.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman is one of my favorite pop culture authors. With sprawling critiques of everything from Empire Strikes Back to the Celtics/Laker rivalry, Kosterman’s deep dive into Postmodern American Culture is unlike anything you’ve read before. With an effortless ability to make even the most absurd interesting, “Sex Drugs and Coca Puffs” is smart, witty and funny. Even if you don’t agree with all of his conclusions or opinions, he still manages to remain compelling. If you want a deep dive into early 2000s pop culture, this is the book for you.
Life of Pi
Most recognizable for its award winning theatrical counterpart, The “Life of Pi” is an incredible read. Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2002, Martel crafts a compelling adventure story about a young boy lost at sea with nothing but wild animals including a 450-pound tiger for company. If you have not had a chance to see the movie, I highly recommend checking out the book first. If have seen the movie, I still highly recommend you check out the book. It’s THAT good.
If there was ever a book fit for quarantine, “Know-It-All” by A.J. Jacobs fits the bill. It tells the hilarious journey of one mans attempt read the entire Britannica Encyclopedia from A-Z. It equates to about 33,000 pages of learning, and Jacobs recounts his attempt with a candid and self deprecating wit. Tough it doesn’t make the list I would also recommend his other strange undertaking, The Year of Living Biblically. I find Know-It-All to be more easily absorbed, which is why I recommend it. It’s one of the best stories to learn and laugh at simultaneously, and I think most would enjoy it.
No More Prisons
A lot of books make this list because of where I was at in my life when I read them. “No More Prisons” by William Upski Wimsatt is definitely one of them. One of the few books I had with me during my travels to India, I’m not even sure how to categorize it as a recommendation. A social commentary on everything from the prison system to philanthropy, Wimsatt defines underground literature with honesty and skill. He manages to highlight issues that plague urban life without feeling too preachy or angry. Wimsatt offers a profound look at our culture today, one that changed me upon completing it. I hope it will do the same for you.
God is not Great
Never one to stray away from a little controversy, this recommendation may not be for everyone. To be fair, I did read it working as a youth pastor and while I was not convinced of its argument at the time, I nevertheless found it compelling enough to finish. Christopher Hitchens is championed as leading atheist author, so it should come as no surprise that the entire premise of “God is not Great” is to dismantle the religious institute. Despite my disagreements at the time, this book left its mark on me for years to come. I would say if you can handle the extremity of its content, it is worth reading even if its just to gain a new perspective or see things through a different lens.
His Dark Materials
While HBO has since turned it into a highly acclaimed Television series, His “Dark Materials” is an even better read. I should warn you that there is a strong atheist agenda shrouded in fantasy and adventure. However it is not as overt as my previous recommendation and the world is an exciting one to visit. With 3 lengthy novels packed into one series, His Dark Materials is definitely a book series that can pass quite a lot of time if you’re up for the journey. I can assure you it’s worth it.
Harry Potter Anthology
This is probably cheating, but seeing as how most of the books on this list deal with some pretty heavy subject matter, The Harry Potter series seems fitting to recommend here. If we’re being honest, I was actually a Potter hater for a long time until someone challenged me to read the series. I spent my first summer out of college ploughing through the books and fell in love with the wizarding world. While the films are fantastic, I think now is the best time to revisit the stories that quite literally changed the world.
Interpreter of Maladies
If you haven’t noticed by now, my trip to India had a profound effect on my life. The music and books I had available to me were quite literally all I had, so it should come as no surprise that they make a recommendation list. “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri may be hard to find since at the time it was only sold in India. But it is easily one of the most brilliant collection of short stories you can indulge in. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction 2000, these stories will conjure emotions you didn’t know you could have while reading.
The Poisonwood Bible
Reviewing my recommendations I can see that I don’t do a lot of “light reading.” Perhaps I just enjoy the heavy stories and controversial subject matter as a catharsis. “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingssolver is no exception. It follows the Prices, a missionary family who move from Georgia to the Congo in 1959. It is heartbreaking and compelling but also a look into the difference of culture and religion as well as the effects uprooting families to foreign lands can have. A truly emotional read, this is one to check out alone so no one can see you ugly cry.
Bloodletters and Badmen
Stolen from my 8th grade library, “Bloodletters and Badmen” has somehow managed to follow me for the better part of 25 years. An encyclopedia of criminals, gangsters, and serial killers, this one is just a fun one to have for any true crime aficionado. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about every 1920s mobster and their dirty deeds in one place, Bloodletters and Badmen is for you.
So there you have it. 10 books I recommend to pass the time while being stuck at home. There are a lot of pages here, enough to keep you busy no matter what your current state’s lockdown rules are. I truly hope you find them as enjoyable as I have.
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