Monday, October 9, 2023

October reading update

I set an annual reading goal of 52 books. Which I rarely meet, but it gives me a north star to steer toward. To have any shot of reaching that goal I need to have a book going at all times. 

Sometimes I get stuck in ruts, selecting books based on what I think I should read, rather than what grips me and keeps the pages turning. Earlier this year I found myself burned out on sword-and-sorcery fiction. Not that what I was reading was bad, it was just too much of the same, and I found myself reading it out of some sort of obligation. I was slogging along, and my reading pace was slowing down.

So in June I decided to change things up. I put down the S&S (with one exception; see below) and dove headlong into stuff I really wanted to read. Here’s what I’ve read since June:

1. On the Road, Jack Kerouac 
2. The Eyes of the Dragon, Stephen King
3. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
4. Gov’t Cheese, Steven Pressfield
5. Watership Down, Richard Adams
6. Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman
7. Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian, Anna-Marie O’Brien
8. Heavy Duty: Days and Nights In Judas Priest, KK Downing
9. Night Shift, Stephen King 
10. Face the Music: A Life Exposed, Paul Stanley 
11. Lord of a Shattered Land, Howard Andrew Jones
12. Nothin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the 80s Hard Rock Explosion, Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock
13. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
14. I Am Ozzy, Ozzy Osbourne 
15. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

Right now I’m working on two books, Max Brooks’ World War Z, and Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, making good progress on both. That will put me at 35 books YTD.

You can see a couple clear interests emerging here.

One is horror. It’s October and I’ve got the Halloween itch. Stephen King and Thomas Harris at their best are tough to beat for delivering chills. I burned through Night Shift in a couple days, as well as Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. Harris at his best might be a better writer than King, though the latter has the superior imagination (Harris also only seems able to write about serial killers. Except for Black Sunday, which I mean to pick up one day).

I’m also engaged in writing a heavy metal memoir and so have been mainlining memoir and history of that genre. Gov’t Cheese is (non metal) memoir and Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks is also a memoir of sorts, a story of a dude coming to grips with his gaming past and the broader need for escapism. These books have not only gotten me in the mood to write but also provided a template for how I might tackle my own book.

Ozzy was an absolute lunatic in the 70s and 80s but you probably already knew that.

For Whom the Bell Tolls was a palate cleanser after a steady diet of 80s debauchery, but proved to be a terrific book.  

A couple of these are re-reads. I read Red Dragon a long time ago, long enough so that much of it feels new to me again. Though I remembered all the broad strokes and how the killer is ultimately caught. Which doesn’t matter—you read a book like this for the journey, not the destination. Harris does a masterful job sketching Dolarhyde’s entire backstory in a gripping 22 page sequence.

I recommend everything from the list above.