I Need Some Books to Read

Earlier this year, I resolved to read at least half as many books as my wife. We’re getting close to the halfway point for the year, I have to admit that, so far, it’s not going great. While I’ve read parts of about half a dozen books, I’ve finished a grand total of none of them. The problem is, I haven’t found any books that have really captured my imagination. Here’s some of what I’m working through:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: It’s a classic, yes, and an excellent example of a well-written comic novel. And it is funny — really funny, not just stuck-in-literature-class-and-desperately-looking-for-a-reason-to-stay-awake funny. The problem is that it’s the same joke over and over again. There’s no character development. Everybody in the book starts out dumb and stays at pretty much the same level of dumb throughout. As a result, the book is eminently put-downable.

Quiet by Susan Cain: As an introvert myself, I was hoping this book on introverts would help me to know myself better and to feel better about the myself I know (good sentence structure there; I’m a writer!). And truth be told, there are enlightening and encouraging tidbits in there. But as I read more, the book seems to be devolving into a grocery list of cherry-picked statistics and excuses for introverts to stay in the basement, alphabetizing  their comic book collection and listening to The Smiths. I don’t know if excuses are what introverts needs, given that we’re living in, as Cain herself admits, a world so thoroughly geared toward extroverts.

Paradise Lost by John Milton: I don’t know what I was thinking. I want credit just for attempting this one.

The Divine Comedy by Dante: Don’t be fooled by the title. It’s actually not that funny.

Learn to Solder: Tools and Techniques for Assembling Electronics by Brian Jepson: Starting to think I could get more out of this book if I actually owned a soldering iron. Or had ever held one.

Now, so that I can have half a chance of keeping up with my wife, I need some recommendations for some great reads. Some grabbers. Some page-turners. Some can’t-put-it-downers. (But not necessarily, y’know, “downers.” Happy stories are good too. Anyways…)

Can anybody out there recommendation anything? We’re heading into summer reading season, so this would be the perfect time to build up some reading momentum. Bonus points if you can recommend something that is not also a movie. I know, I know: Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are great. Let’s branch out a little.


  1. ucfengr

    What kind of books do you enjoy? If you’re looking for exciting, any of Vince Flynn’s books would fit the bill, especially the Mitch Rapp books. Lewis’s Space trilogy is excellent as well. Lots of free books on the Kindle.

  2. ucfengr

    Posting as I think of them. If you like US history, McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is an excellent single volume Civil War book. Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ and The World’s First Love (on Mary) are excellent as well, though this advice is coming from a Catholic so YMMV. CS Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower series is a good read as well.

  3. ucfengr

    The original Tarzan series is free on the Kindle, and a pretty good read. Much better than the movies. The Tarzan in the books is a lot more interesting than the “Me Tarzan, you Jane” movie version (nothing against the movies).

    1. Jason

      These here are some good recommendations. I think I’m going to try a little Vince Flynn and a little Dresden Files. Truth be told, I’m trying to write a book that has action elements and supernatural elements, and I think you should read good examples of what you’re trying to write. So those sound like they’re right in my wheelhouse.

        1. Jason

          You are much too kind. I appreciate the offer, but I really, really like, probably to an unhealthy degree, grabbing books with my kindle. But I’d be much obliged if you recommended a good Flynn novel for me to start with.

          1. ucfengr

            Agree about the Kindle which is probably why I’m pretty sanguine about donating my old “dead tree” books to worthy causes. Regarding the Flynn books, the first one, Transfer of Power is a good place to start, though American Assassin is the origin story and is also a good place to start. With Dresden Files, start with the first one, Storm Front.

  4. Eos Pengwern

    I’m assuming you’ve read everything by CS Lewis already. Otherwise, how about some Ayn Rand? Atlas Shrugged is a terrific page-turner with a Bond-movie climax; I can’t understand why a movie hasn’t been made of it, except perhaps that Rand’s politics are at the opposite end of the spectrum to most of Hollywood’s.

  5. John Mo

    I have a feeling you might like Stephen King’s “11/22/63.” I couldn’t put it down and when I finished it I just really wanted to spend a little more time with the characters. Politics, conspiracy, time travel, romance… it’s got something for just about everybody.

    More along the lines of your blog, I’ve been reading “Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?” Haven’t finished it and I can’t say that it’s been extraordinarily revelatory, but I’m generally finding it to be good at reminding me of some fundamental truths that are easy to lose sight of in the heat of a political moment.

  6. Caroline

    Don & I love ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ by John Irving. It’s make-your-hair-stand-on-end good at the end. Takes some patience to get into, though, as I recall.
    Here’s a great series that ain’t been movied, yet: John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series. It’s fabulous – well written, great character dev, easy reads, but challenging for younger readers (yes, it’s in the young adult fiction category). Don’t be fooled by this “for young readers” fiction; it uses some SAT and GRE words, my friend! The first in that series is much more fantastical than the rest of the books, but it’s a great intro to the characters. Don says the series seems a little too influenced by Lord of the Rings; that’s not such a negative thing, IMHO.
    Oh, and for your humanitarian side, try Three Cups of Tea by G. Mortenson or Wish You Happy Forever by Jenny Bowen. The latter is set in mostly in China…which I love.

    1. Jason

      I’ve heard good things about Irving, but if I get into something that heavy now, I’ll never be able to keep up with Rachel. Ranger’s Apprentice sounds like it’s more my speed.

  7. If you like sci-fi, try the Wool series by Hugh Howey. Very different, and sort of creeped me out because they are set about half an hour from where I live. I binge read all three books (Wool, Shift, Dust) and I am not a sci-fi book kind of gal. Please ignore the fact that I spent all my allowance and babysitting money on Star Trek books when I was 12.

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