A couple months ago I resolved to read more and especially to do substantial non-blog reading every day. Since then, I've finished these non-fiction books:
- My Struggle, Volume 3, Karl Ove Knausgaard
There are things one can do in a novel that aren't possible in other forms. The brief periods where the narrator reflects on his childhood as an adult are hypercharged in part because they're set up by so much description of his childhood from "within childhood." And everything is so much more poignant because we know (some of) what happens to him and to his father already. This volume not only exhibits the virtues of line-by-line narrative and insight of the first two, but also establishes Knausgaard's excellence in more macro-level aspects of structure that are important in a series of this length.
- The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Nine years ago, a drunk person in a cab line outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas made me promise that I'd read The Kite Runner. I have now fulfilled the promise. It's a gripping and well-told story, but it's hard to recommend as the one book (out of every book in the world) to read right now.
- My Struggle, Volume 4, Karl Ove Knausgaard
Still great, and perhaps the saddest of the first four. Particularly good at describing places and at illuminating the ways in which our internal lives affect our perceptions of place and of space, but without going too far in the direction of making any city or natural setting a mere object of reflection or opportunity for metaphor.
- The Last Rock Star Book: or, Liz Phair: A Rant, Camden Joy
Another book I read because of a long-ago recommendation (it was Kevin Goldstein's chosen book for the Up and In Book Club; that podcast episode came out in November 2010). It's as good as Kevin said it would be (also, it's dark, brash, and funny).
- All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
A while ago a Very Serious poet and student of literature claimed that McCarthy belonged on a very short list of the canonical greats. Now I understand why he said that.
It's useful to have a good dictionary or an Internet connection handy as you read this; between the bits of Spanish and the horse-related technical vocabulary, there is a lot of text that a non-Spanish-speaking, non-horse-knowing person won't understand at first. But don't let that stop you from reading this novel.
- The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene
Yet another book I read because of a long-ago comment from someone I respect. (I can be convinced to read things, but it might take me many years to do so.) A friend told me that although The End of the Affair is good, this book is better; he's right. Both an excellent adventure story and a worthwhile meditation on virtue and on life's meaning.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
A story told as a series of meditations from one of two protagonists. Satisfying both in its small meditations (on the metaphysics of doors and on the aesthetics of athletics, for example) and for its larger plot.