First Monday: Winter Reading List

There was mention of, and support for, a winter reading list recommendation last month.

So here's what we'll do.  Recommend a book or two below.  At some point, I'll go through and collect all the books, organize by genre (in a very general sense: non-fiction, story collection, graphic novel, etc.) and provide some links in next month's post.  That way I've got something to write about for two months instead of just one.  Everybody wins!

I'll recommend a couple books, some I've read, and some I'm hoping to get to this winter.

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

This is one that I haven't got to yet, but sounds interesting.  The Strugatskys are best known for science fiction, but here they tackle the mystery genre (an isolated ski resort, a dead body, a quirky list of suspects... you get it).

Today I am a Book by xTx.

I read this story collection back in August and really enjoyed it.  It was the first thing I've really read by xTx and I am in love with her language. The stories were short, the sentences direct, but every time there was something moving just beneath the story. It's the kind of thing that really gets me, every time.

Haints Stay by Colin Winnette.

I can't be recommending books and pass up an opportunity to recommend Winnette, who may well be my favorite author right now.  This is a bizarre book.  It's an "acid western" that's got murderous transgender cowboys, cannibals, a sharpshooting foster mother out for revenge... everything, really. I read it in about 4 hours.

So, what's on your winter reading list?  Or do you have a book that's perfect for someone else's list? Drop them in the LTE's.

How's Infinite Jest going?  Everybody found a copy?  Initial thoughts?

85 thoughts on “First Monday: Winter Reading List”

  1. I picked up The Girl in the Spider's Web from the library, the latest in the Lisbeth Salander series. While entertaining enough, I didn't care for it as much as the earlier books. Certainly, some of that is because it's a new author and not my brother Stieg doing the writing. I also think the translator may be a little to blame as well, as there were places where the prose was a bit stilted.

  2. I am about two-thirds of the way through Cloud Atlas. Really interesting, but I am still waiting for the payoff that ties the parts together coherently.

    1. You'll get there, Doc. Some parts are better done than others, but it'll still be worth it in the end.

      I think I read Cloud Atlas the same summer I read Richard Ford's Canada. That was a good summer.

  3. While waiting on a library hold for Infinite Jest* I picked up Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy on a whim (was looking for Jest at the used book store and found this). As I was already working on Going After Cacciato, I didn't think I'd get to this one anytime soon, but I started it in the carwash on the way home and got sucked into one of the most bleak, depressing and beautifully rendered settings & story I've ever come across.

    The story follows a teenager drifting to the Texas-Mexico border in the years just after the Civil War. He ends up with a group hunting (and killing/scalping) Apache. The casual violence is jolting at first ... and then it isn't. Reportedly, it's about "redemption through violence" but I haven't reached the "redemption" part. There's a lot to process, though I begin to understand the method to his madness.

    I didn't see this until ... today actually, but there's a connection to Jest:

    Novelist Wallace said of Blood Meridian "It’s literally the western to end all westerns. Probably the most horrifying book of this century, at least fiction."

    *3rd on the list ... seeing as how involved everyone says this is, I may just buy it.

    1. I put Blood Meridian down after 100 pages or so, and had to really make an effort to pick it back up. And then something clicked and I devoured it from there out. When I finished it, I think I reread the last chapter about 3 or 4 times over the next couple of days.

      I agree with DFW - it's horrifying. Did you see the Yale lecture series on the book? It's interesting if you feel like spending some more time in that world (2 lectures ~ 45 minutes each).



      1. I had not seen that but will definitely watch. I knew of this book, but had no concept of what it was. Going into it like that is a bit destabilizing, powerfully so. I haven't really put it down, except to watch some of the WS. I expect I'll finish in the next couple of days and will definitely be following up on some of the myriad items of criticism out there.
        Thanks for sharing the links.

        1. Finished this last night. Holy hell. I immediately read about six different reviews, trying to better understand what I'd just read. I have to admit that some of the least understood sections were when the Judge was doing his verbal judo, so that last chapter may require a few rereadings. I will check out these lectures before I do that.

      2. I also gave up after about 100 pages. And it's still sitting on my shelf. I should pick it up again.

        I've watched one part of a two-parter by this professor on Wise Blood. Definitely enjoyed the lecture. Not sure why I have not watched the second lecture.

  4. I have been sticking to my reading list - 100 most recommended in American lit classes. I checkout 3 at a time then read the one that most interests me. Reading "The Chosen." I am really enjoying it. I didn't know much about the Jewish faith and Israel so it has also been educational.

  5. Progress made on Infinte Jest: I purchased it.
    Progress made on 100 Years Of Solitude: Soooooo close. Will finish in the next day or two. Was too tired to do it last night, otherwise would have been done. It's so beautiful, but so tedious, given it's all tell and no show.

  6. I was really counting on First Monday happening on Tuesday or later. I'll just finish my book tonight and pretend I didn't see this.

      1. *snort*

        Thanks for getting this post together, DG. I am glad someone around here knows how to get things done on time.

    1. I saw you & K both picked up copies – very cool to see folks supporting a lifelong friend that way.

      My mentor & another close friend just gave me an advance copy of their new book on music & memory in the Vietnam War. We team-taught a class on the material together for four years. My highest recommendation for anyone interested in the music of the Sixties, the experience of regular troops in Vietnam, or how music can help sustain one's sense of self in the face of extreme dehumanization – even half a century later.

      1. heh...wonder where a fella could locate compact disc compilations of said "music of the Sixties..."

              1. Don't feel badly - if I recall, you had quite a bit on your plate. Things were frenzied chaos between school, work and home (health-related anxiety) when we talked about that class.

  7. Books I read in October: I made a concerted effort to read all the "new" books (published in 2015) that I had lying around.
    Did pretty well, 7 of 9 this month were published this year and my "new" books pile is down to three.

    Bluebeard - Kurt Vonnegut
    One of the Vonnegut novels I hadn't read before this year. I'm finding myself really enjoying post-Breakfast of Champions Vonnegut.
    He keeps circling back to Midland City, but broadens the scope each time. The conclusion to this novel felt well-earned, not just for this book,
    but for all the novels up to this point. I have two novels left (Hocus Pocus and Timequake), and I might finish them both off
    before December and read some of his short fiction as a finale for the year.

    Two books from Dorothy Press - they publish two books per year, and these are the 2015 crop.
    Vertigo - Joanna Walsh
    Stories that made me feel "off" or "not quite right" in a quiet way. A quick read that was interesting.
    Many of these stories had characters somewhere that they almost but not quite didn't belong.
    The Weight of Things - Marianne Fritz
    Dark and sad and rich. A woman is committed to an asylum while her husband is stolen by another. But that's way too simple of an explanation.

    "Wilhelm headed into the fortress, still full of the hope that something unforeseen might occur and save him from having to drain this cup of sorrow."

    I bought a subscription for Open Letter Books (an indie press that publishes only translations). The first two books came this month.
    Rock, Paper, Scissors - Naja Marie Aidt
    Thomas' life unravels after his criminal father dies and despite his best efforts (or what he thinks are his best efforts), he finds himself involved.
    Bad things happen. And it ends up being a pretty gripping crime story with more to it than that. I wanted to read Aidt's short story collection,
    but I ended up with this book first, which makes me think her stories are going to be really, really good.
    Things We Don't Do - Andres Neuman
    Story collection. I love Neuman (as I've mentioned before) and this was no exception. The stories were short (all less than 10 pages) but still engrossing,
    I had a hard time putting this down.

    Deep Lane - Mark Doty
    I bought this book of poetry at a cool little bookstore in New Orleans (on our anniversary trip) and the proprietor knew Doty personally, which was fun.
    I really like his poetry, it's easy to just keep reading one after the other. There were a lot of nature themes and death wound under everything.
    Really good.

    The Fishermen - Chigioze Obioma
    A shortlist book for the Man Booker prize. I looked at the list and this one stuck out (along with "A Brief History of Seven Killings" this year's winner).
    A family in Nigeria faces a Greek-level rash of tragedies. Prophecy and madness abound. The many sons (mostly the four oldest) fight as they can.
    It's a great story, mythological and historic, with violence, curses, and some real tragedy and triumph. I very much enjoyed it.

    Ancillary Mercy - Ann Leckie
    The third book in the Radch Trilogy. It was a good conclusion to the series, but not as alien as the first two books, which I missed a little bit
    (while recognizing that it's hard to stay alien as I read three books set in the universe).

    The Martian - Andy Weir
    Enjoyed it. Listened to one my SF podcasts covering the book/movie and got incredibly sick of the nitpicking of the science they did. I'm excited to get out to see the movie sometime.

  8. Books read in October:
    The first 18 pages of Infinite Jest.

    [insert melodramatic sigh here]

    My job is suddenly threatening to eat me alive. I'm not going to let it, but my reading has really taken a hit. I'm hoping things will take a turn for the better soon.

  9. Read Opening Day by Jonathan Eig about Jackie Robinson's 1947 season. Well-researched and well-written, but there wasn't much that I didn't already know.

    War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis. It's about the Puerto Rican nationalist movement that culminated in 1950 with a FBI crackdown and an assassination attempt on President Truman in DC. It's a story I didn't know much about and found pretty interesting, but it was fairly disorganized.

  10. So how about a suggestion for the winter reading list?

    On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss. I read this early in the year, and it has really stuck with me. On the surface, it's an exploration of the history of inoculation and the current conflicts around vaccination, but it didn't feel at all like an "issue book." Biss weaves in her own experience as a mother along with the more science-heavy sections of the book. In addition, she explores the language and metaphors we use when talking about disease and immunization, including drawing parallels with Dracula in a way that I found fascinating. And to top it off, the book is beautifully written.

    1. Our librarian just asked for non-fiction suggestions for the library's popular science section and I suggested this book. Hopefully they take me up on that.

      My 10 suggestions:

      How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown
      On Immunity by Eula Bliss
      The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
      Failure: Why Science is So Successful by Stuart Firestein
      Ignorance: How it Drives Science by Stuart Firestein
      The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
      Scatter, Adapt, and Remember by Analee Newitz
      The Only Woman in the Room by Eileen Pollack
      Divine Fury: A History of Genius by Darrin McMahon
      Cosmic Apprentice by Dorion Sagan

      1. Nice list! (Not that I know them all, but I love the two I've read and have heard good things about several others.) On the topic of science, the book I keep thinking I should read but haven't is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

  11. Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was a fun read, with all of the trail hiking I've been doing in the last couple of months. I was surprised how critical Bryson was of the US Forest mgmt (the less funding the better).

    Laughed when I heard Nick Nolte was cast as Katz. Redford seems too old and too skinny to be Bryson. I'll skip the film.

    Turns out there is a small chunk of the Appalachian Trail that cuts through CT. I will check that out when I'm finished with the New England Trail across CT. Just did the Hanging Hills by Meriden on Sunday - what a great hike.

    1. Ooh - I really enjoyed A Walk. I first stumbled across Bryson while underway; in the small library/chapel/classroom/meeting space onboard the O'Bannon, I found a copy of In a Sunburned Country. I was disappointed to learn that a Westpac for our East Coast home-ported ship was unlikely (though we did make it through The Canal and points south along S. American coast) as Byson's book made a visit to Australia particularly appealing.

  12. 65 pages into Infinite Jest. Not sure if I'll make to 100.

    Philo did you finish 100 Years last night? Also you realize that GGM won a Nobel Prize for literature basically on the back of 100 years.

    Tell not show #smdh

    1. No, I didn't finish. Work exploded over the weekend, so my aspirations were cut short by my exhaustion. Not looking great for tonight either, given similar workloads today and tomorrow, plus the need to plan a religion class for Wednesday. <40 pages to go.

  13. Finished Anna Karenina. Kindly refrain from going back to check when I started this one.
    700-some-odd pages, in summation: Anna and Vronsky's bold affair and subsequent ostracization from society drive her mad and, not unrelatedly, ruin his life. This is contrasted to the wholesome union and happy-ever-after of the outwardly-rough-but-ultimately-noble Levin and the innocent Kitty.

      1. I definitely enjoyed it, and take fault as reader for not giving it my best. Bedtime reading currently does not lend itself well to truly being absorbed in a great book.
        I really did like Levin and his stumbling through society, trying to decide whether or not he liked people and/or life generally. I could identify with him.
        This book even had mushroom hunting!

        This is another read in which if I knew what I was supposed to be looking for from the beginning, I might have enjoyed it even more.

          1. Chicken of the Woods (Sulfur Shelf) is great. I'd call it "Imitation Crab Meat of the Woods", but without the condescension built into that.
            I found some camping this summer and did bacon-wrapped Chicken of the woods on the campfire. I tried it the second morning with an older specimen and it wasn't good.
            I think my wife's appreciation for them is why I get to go out in the woods without too much fuss. (Birding is good for me, but it doesn't bring dinner home. So I go birding with a backpack with tupperwares or paper bags and a number of predetermined stops.)

            Check that location a few times next summer. They come back, up to 3 times in a summer (at least around here).

        1. mushroom hunting!
          Eastern Europeans don't have the English anti-fungus strain to their culture that seems to have imbued most Americans of any descent.

  14. I started Moby Dick this week. Melville makes a fart joke in the first chapter. That was unexpected.

      1. I never had it assigned to me growing up, but it has such a reputation that I figured I'd give it a shot. I wouldn't be surprised if I abandon ship, though. A lot of 18th and 19th century American lit that I've tried didn't really resonate with me.

        1. Same here. I tried to read it this past summer.

          My brother said he struggled with it but really liked the last quarter of the book. He said it was worth it. I just couldn't stick with it that long.

          1. I read it a few years ago. While I'm glad I read it, I don't think it will matter other than being able to say I've done it.

  15. I have Infinite Jest sitting on my nightstand. I may crack it open tonight.

    There's a nonzero chance that I may play on the floor with Caleb until he goes to bed and then drink beer and play video games, though.

    1. I'm not going to pretend that I have a book to read, but I think there is also a nonzero chance I will spend the next couple hours drinking beer and playing video games.

      1. He's already threatened me with bodily harm if I were to share on the Bookface. So I'm being slightly stealthy. A Stealthbrag, as it were.

      2. If anyone around here deserves smart assery it's... well, most of us. But especially Zombieman.

  16. So I learned today that a colleague did her master's thesis on Infinite Jest. She has read the entire thing three times (!) and got extremely excited when she found out I'm reading it. This is either really good or really bad.

    (Good because I'll have a resource for questions. Bad because she's upper management and if I crash and burn on reading the book, she may think less well of me than she does at this moment.)

  17. I was going to read Infinite Jest tonight, but picked up This Is How You Die, instead.

    It was a good choice. I really like the different directions that the Machine of Death sequel to the concept. At lot more variety, a lot more variety to the concept.

    Also, if we're being honest, the quality of the writing is a lot higher. I'm assuming they had a lot more entries to choose from this time around.

  18. I know nothing about Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler, but the guy next to me on the bus was laughing out loud while reading it.

  19. I got a new Paperwhite about a week ago or so. I love it. The light is so much nicer than the cover+light combo I had on my older generation Kindle. I feel like I disturb FW much less with it.

    I'm all the way to page 27 on IJ, a whopping 3% done.

  20. Winter list recommendation:

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This is the most "curl up in a warm place and don't move until you've finished" book I've ever read.

    1. The movie was one of the most "curl up in a warm place and don't ever stay awake and finish" movies I've ever watched.
      Took me five or six tries.

      1. That movie suh-hucked (I'm assugreying that we're talking about the one starring Commissioner Gordon).

        1. Disagree. It wasn't quite what I wanted, but I still enjoyed it immensely, and my second watch of it was even more entertaining.

  21. I did finish 100 Years Of Solitude sometime last week. The book was fantastic. I found myself much more enthralled with the building phase of the book, as opposed to the decline phase. But the last section recaptured some of that magic that the first stretch of the book had, and I thought the ending was incredibly strong. I don't know how well people remember the characters, but Ursula was awesome, Fernanda was was awful, and the various Aurelianos and Arcadios were quite compelling. It was amazing how much influence and impotence they could have at the same time.

    1. Speaking of GGM, I really should make more progress in Love In the Time of Cholera. But sadly I'm in a down-cycle in my reading. Haven't read much of anything lately.

        1. MagUidhir
          NOVEMBER 5, 2015 AT 9:37 AM EDIT
          I got a new Paperwhite about a week ago or so. I love it. The light is so much nicer than the cover+light combo I had on my older generation Kindle. I feel like I disturb FW much less with it.

          I'm all the way to page 27 on IJ, a whopping 3% done.

          Remains unchanged.

Comments are closed.