Since my wife and I are still in the same stay-at-home situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, awaiting the vaccine, one of the activities that’s helped my the most to avoid going stir-crazy is reading, which I’ve done more of over the last year than ever. I usually like to vary the type of books I read, between fiction an non-fiction, to keep things “interesting”.
Among the non-fiction choices, I’ll admit to reading plenty about politics, Trump, and such. Some were better than others. The most recent of these is actually a review of many of this sort of book by Carlos Lozada, called What Were We Thinking , and I thought was excellent.
Because I do love science, especially things about astronomy and cosmology, I read two selections by Lawrence Krauss. A Universe From Nothing and The Greatest Story Ever Told, So Far, which were highly interesting and understandable explanations of the current ideas of astrophysics, without requiring high-level mathematical abilities which I don’t have. They also agree with my agnosticism about the existence of “God”. A similar excellent book is The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, which, I think is the last book published by Hawking before he died. Finally, I’ve just finished The Varieties of Scientific Experience, A Personal View of the Search for God, by Carl Sagan, based on the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology he gave at the University of Glasgow in 1985, so obviously not a new book (Carl Sagan passed away i 1996). This is Dr. Sagan’s response as a scientist to the idea of “God”, and includes some question and answer material form the lectures–it’s one of the best I’ve ever read addressing this subject.
I did read one biographical book about one of my musical “heroes”, Jelly Roll Morton. It’s called Jelly’s Blues. by Howard Reich and William Gaines, and is a wonderful and complete story of his whole life, from it’s high points to it’s not-so-happy ending.
The fictional books I’ve read are largely science fiction or, at least, concerning the near-future. Two by William Gibson are Pattern Recognition, which occurs “now”, and involves a lot of computer and internet-related material; and Agency, more futuristic, and involving some time -travel. I love the characters Gibson creates, and the dialogue he creates between them.
Neal Stephenson has become another of my favorite writers. I’ve recently read Reamde and Fall by him, and loved them both. Reamde occurs in the present time, involves a very popular world-wide computer game, hacking and terrorism–quite a combination. Fall actually includes some of the same characters, but extends, eventually into the far future, and is about up-loading the mental contents of people’s brains to computers when they die, and, eventually, a kind of alternate reality that’s created. Stephenson’s characters are wonderful, and, again, I love the dialogue between them. All of his books are very thought provoking.
Finally, one of my very favorite authors in Don Delillo. My favorite of all his novels that I’ve read is Underworld, which was written to commemorate the Millennium, and may be the best book I’ve ever read. His most recent is The Silence, which is a short novel, pretty disturbing, but very good. While some parts of Underworld, a long novel, are laugh-out-loud funny, I can’t say that about The Silence. This new book is about two couples, along with another friend who meet in one of their apartments to watch the Superbowl on television, when everything “goes dark”, inside and outside the apartment. It’s really mostly dialogue between all of the protagonists, with basically all of the “questions” left unanswered in the end. It’s definitely not a “happy story”, but Delillo, as always, is a wonderful writer.
These are just the books I’ve read over the past year that I’ve liked the most. As always, I have a large pile in my study to keep me busy for awhile!