Articles about reading

The New Torchlight List — Jim Flynn

Jim Flynn’s first Torchlight List book was a really interesting guide to one man’s essential reading list. This follow-up takes a different tack but is just as engrossing. Here Flynn takes a more global view, focusing on different parts of the world and calling out books and writers that he thinks are worth reading.

Flynn talks about the books and writers in the context of the countries and regions they come from. He gives excellent overviews of the various regions including their history and politics, which helps to explain the genesis of the different writers. I learned a lot just from these sections — they could almost be a book on their own.

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Fight Club — Chuck Palahniuk

The characters in Fight Club have a cruel self-destructiveness that I would hate to encounter in real life, but seems strangely appealing on the page. It’s the only way they can exert control over their lives, and it grows into Fight Club and spirals out of control in quite a satisfying way.

I wasn’t excited by this book when it first appeared, even when the movie version duly arrived. But I loved the Dust Brothers’ single “This is Your Life”, which consisted of a collection of rants by the character Tyler Durden with electronic accompaniment. I loved the result, which sounds like some twisted motivational speech or a dystopian self-help tape. (“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake!” etc.) I made a mental note to read the book. And now, barely 12 years later, I finally have. It’s not for the squeamish though — the descriptions of the fights are graphic enough to discourage me from watching the film version. I think I’ll listen to the Dust Brothers again.

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The Torchlight List — Jim Flynn

Some books are so good that you can’t put them down — you have to keep reading them, even if it means reading by torchlight in the middle of the night. Jim Flynn has read a lot of good books — The Torchlight List describes 200 of the best.

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The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life

I never seem to have enough time to read all the books I want to read. So I grabbed this book, which promises to put more books in your life (including itself, I suppose).

The thing I really liked is the idea of maintaining a Library of Candidates, a fancy name for the pile of books you own but have not yet read. Having lots of unread books has always seemed like a bad thing to me. I have thought of it like a large pile of clothes that have to be ironed, as if reading books were an arduous chore instead of a pleasure. Instead, I should revel in the number of unread books on my shelf, secure in the knowledge that I won’t run out. I will keep all such books together on my shelves, so I can easily choose one during those happy moments when I have time to start a new book.

This won’t really help me with my ironing, but at least it’s a start.

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