This summer, I cancelled my cable. Now stop right there. I’m not one of those people who gets all high and mighty about television rotting your brain. I love TV. It can be like syrupy heroin going straight into your faceglobes, to borrow half a phrase from Louis C.K. There are some shows I can’t get enough of. But “just DVR it” doesn’t take into account the addictive lure of flipping on the tube when you walk in the door, and realizing, too late, you’ve lost another night to whatever’s on. At some point, I realized I’d stopped reading. Books had become more of a bedtime ritual than a form of entertainment. (Read one page, pass out, read the same page the next night, pass out.) Plus, I was also out of shelf space, which meant: get a bigger place (pain), sell some of my books (ugh, MINE!) or stop reading forever (not likely).

So I bought a Nook. I started buying eBooks from Words, an independent bookstore in New Jersey (of course) that donates a portion of proceeds to kids with autism, and started using my library card to take advantage of the Boston Public Library’s formidable e-catalog. I even built a flexible stand for my reader, so I could read a book over dinner, hands-free, like I used to do with TV. I call it my “Nook Hook.” *pushes glasses up over bridge of nose*

I collected recommendations from friends, and finally tackled some of the classics my high school English program missed. I’m not a fast reader, but I’ll be damned if you don’t get through a lot of books once TV is out of the equation.

Here’s what I read this summer, on front stoops, parks, beaches, couches, beds, bars, planes, band vans and deserts:

  1. World War Z (Max Brooks)
    1. Something to hold me over between seasons of The Walking Dead. Combines zombies and history, so I was predisposed to like it.
    2. Recommended to Gina
  2. Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)
    1. Second Life before Second Life sparked and faded. Features a badass heroine obviously sprung from the brain of a very horny man.
    2. Recommended by Brian
  3. The Sirens Of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. The first Vonnegut I read, and still my favorite so far. Knowing the ending at the beginning creates more suspense than you’d imagine. The only one of his (so far) I’m compelled to read again.
    2. Recommended by Rish
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. There’s a very good reason this is “the one.”
    2. Recommended by Matty
  5. Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. The islands hardly make an appearance in this book. Redeems itself with the awesome device of putting an asterisk in front of each person’s name when they’re about to die.
    2. Recommended by Jes
  6. Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. Read this on a plane to China and looking around me, got paranoid whenever it knocked communism, which was every other page.
    2. Recommended by Sophia
  7. Snuff (Chuck Palahniuk)
    1. The most unappealing account of a gangbang you can possibly imagine.
    2. Recommended by Rish
  8. The Tawny Man Trilogy #1: Fool’s Errand (Robin Hobb)
    1. One of my favorite writers growing up, who I reconnected with personally after finishing this trilogy, and picked our conversation right back up from where we left off, half a lifetime ago. The end of this book also inspired a new Lights Out song.
  9. The Tawny Man Trilogy #2: Golden Fool (Robin Hobb)
  10. The Tawny Man Trilogy #3: Fool’s Fate (Robin Hobb)
  11. A Walk in the Woods (Bill Bryson)
    1. Environmental soapboxing prevents it from being as captivating as “The Lost Continent,” but his out-of-shape buddy, Katz, makes up for it.
  12. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
    1. One of the best books I read all summer. Brings you to a time when the skin of an apple was a treat that kids fought over in the schoolyard.
    2. Recommended by Mandy L.
  13. Lady Chatterly’s Lover (D.H. Lawrence)
    1. It’s like Less Than Zero, set in the 1930s English countryside, before it was socially acceptable to “let the wolf loose” (Marc). Class/money and getting your rocks off know no place and time. One thing that will always stick with me is the main character’s euphemism for “orgasm”: “crisis.”
    2. Recommended by Mandy H.
  14. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery)
    1. Understand different people express love in different ways, take responsibility for what you’ve tamed, keep what matters in perspective and take the hard road to it if you have to.
    2. Recommended by Mandy H.
  15. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
    1. Another enjoyable Children’s book. He has a tendency to use shadowy, cloaked figures in twos and threes as his villains.
  16. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
    1. A romp through London fantasy world, which I timed for the Olympics. He also has a tendency to write quirky, tough-but-vulnerable pixie women who whimsically turn hapless dudes’ lives around. But the shadowy villains in this one did inspire a song.
    2. Recommended by Marc
  17. Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
    1. Like a great song that gets in, makes you think and gets out. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn one of my favorite Yes songs, “Close To The Edge,” was inspired by it. Naturally, the song is longer than the book.
  18. 1984 (George Orwell)
    1. Nothing happens, then something happens. The future sucks, and this book spends most of its time painting a picture of it, pushing the actual story to the back seat. Wasn’t a huge fan. Did not love Big Brother.
  19. Brave New World (Aldus Huxley)
    1. Now I understand why those futuristic South Park characters said “Science damn you!” Not as oppressive and dark as 1984 – maybe because they were all taking a soma holiday. More plot-driven, and I enjoyed it more. But maybe I’m just a savage.
  20. My Cross To Bear (Gregg Allman)
    1. Even better than Keith Richards’ “Life.” The story about Jim Morrison and “just a little puppy juice” is worth it alone, not to mention his stories about early days playing clubs (and the Common!) and squatting in abandoned row houses in Boston.
  21. Lord Of The Flies (William Goldring)
    1. Made me think about summer camp. Poor Piggy.
  22. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)
    1. Possibly the most beautifully-worded book I’ve ever read. This guy’s command of the English language and the way he describes things is just amazing. When I learned English wasn’t even his native language, and he was that good, I felt like a tongue-tied retard.
    2. Recommended by Katie
  23. Who Goes There? (John W. Campbell)
    1. This was the story that inspired The Thing, and it holds up. Would recommend the movie, too. Just don’t expect roller skating and bee bopping to Stevie Wonder if you see the movie first. And the book’s ending doesn’t leave you guessing.
  24. Less Than Zero (Bret Easton Ellis)
    1. Read this on the plane to L.A., to get in the mood. Takes place in 1985. Loved the references to Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Duran Duran as cool, modern bands all the kids were into. Like a 1980s “On The Road.”
  25. Imperial Bedrooms (Bret Easton Ellis)
    1. Guess what; the kid from Less Than Zero became a messed-up soulless monster of a Facebooking adult. Surprise!
    2. Recommended by a nice random guy at Bukowski’s

In process:

  1. Welcome To The Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. Short stories are a nice palate cleanser between other books!
    2. Recommended by Melinda
  2. Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)
    1. Bruce Springsteen reference in the first chapter. An Antichrist named Adam. I’d say we’re off to a good start 🙂
    2. Recommended by Kate

On deck for the fall:

  1. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. Recommended by dad
  2. Palm Sunday (Kurt Vonnegut)
    1. Recommended by Brian
  3. 1221 (Dustin Thomason)
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