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For about 4 years now I have read nothing but economics, ecology, political economy, history, etc. books. In other words, really serious stuff – most of it becoming a blur to me these days. I will have a week of relaxation coming up and I want to try to get my head into something much more delightful.

In my better days I was a nut for adventure and travel stories (Into the Wild was a particular favorite, as was the story of Shackleton and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods was fun and hilarious), I really liked classic sports books (Friday Night Lights, A Good Walk Spoiled, The Greatest Game Ever Played, etc.) As for novels, I loved John Irving in my younger days, especially a Prayer for Owen Meany. I used to love science fiction, especially LeGuin, but I think I have lost my lust for that.

So, would you be willing to send me some lists of some books (not economics, politics, etc.) that you have read recently or remember reading that you just loved? What do you think of or know as the best adventure/travel stories? What about the best sports stories? Are there novels that were so well written, moving, inspirational, etc. that you simply wish that EVERYONE got to enjoy it?

I recognize it is hard to match tastes, but I’ve always found (at least back when I had friends) that seeing and learning about what my friends were reading really helped me figure out what I loved to read. MANY MANY thanks in advance for your recommendations.

19 Responses to “Sincere Question for My Readers (it’s neither a rant nor analytic)”

  1. Some of my latest pleasure reading…

    * Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” is a fun time.
    * Anything by Mary Roach (especially “Stiff”) is a both informative and hilarious.
    * For sports, check out David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game” if you like NBA basketball. For baseball, I loved George Will’s “Men at Work.”
    *Bill Bryson’s latest book, “At Home,” is mostly superb.

  2. Busterdog says:

    I just finished Voyager about Dick Rutan and Jenna Yeager’s record round the world un refueled trip. Not the best written but a compelling story. It is a true epic travel story.

  3. Michael says:

    For me, I tend to read fact and listen to fiction (books on tape), although there are exceptions. I think by listening to the stories, it becomes more enjoyable especially since I can do things like wash the dishes or other tasks that don’t require much thought. That said, I enjoyed listening to the “Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobit,” and the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. Eragon is also fun, but reminds me a bit of Star Wars. “Tale of Two Cities” is interesting, but it does get me to think about econ stuff. Generally, I like to stick with the classics since it also makes me a bit more “cultured” I guess.

  4. J Storrs Hall says:

    Depends on how your reading them. I’ve found the following a bit tedious to read but thoroughly enjoyable as audiobooks while driving (or not):
    The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
    The complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    Anathem by Neal Stevenson
    The Odyssey of Homer (… Over the wine-dark sea…)
    A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
    The Skylark of Space by E E Smith

  5. KMcC says:

    Thackeray – everyone should read Vanity Fair and Barry Lyndon at least once.

  6. Josh says:

    Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet is probably the best epic set during the dark ages. Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer is a classic, but you’ve probably already read it.

  7. Nathan Novosel says:

    One of my favorite books is also “A Prayer for Owen Meany”, but right up there is “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I can’t get enough of that story.

    Two of my favorite sports books:
    1) “The Miracle of St. Anthony” (legendary high school basketball Coach Bob Hurley’s perfect season at St. Anthony High School in Jersey) by Adrian Wojnarowski – truly inspiring.
    2) “My Losing Season” by Pat Conroy (traces Conroy’s senior year at the Citadel) – As a soon to be ex-athlete, I can truly relate to this.

    Fantasy/Fiction: Have you tried out the Philip Pullman trilogy, “The Golden Compass” and the following two books in the series? Also, I’m a big fan of the Eragon series. The Fourth and final book will be out this November. You are right about it paralleling Star Wars. I guess I just didn’t want the Star Wars series to end and this is a way to keep living it.

  8. Nathan Novosel says:

    Oh and how could I forget the Dan Brown books. You might have already read them, but my favorite one is “Deception Point”. One of the best adventure/mystery/thrillers I have ever read. There is a twist in the book that no one could possibly foresee. Great book.

  9. Steve says:

    All stories written by Vernor Vinge I’ve found difficult to set down once started.

  10. Mark Lipstein says:

    read some good science fiction if you already haven’t; try some vonnegut and bradbury and heinlein, very prescient and at many times hilarious too.

  11. Dan says:

    Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth was my best read this year. It’s astonishing for the truth and beauty of its expressions. It’s also an easy and captivating story: it has moments of great fun ridiculing New York “aristocracy”, but also moments of exquisite pain that you can savor.

    Or, for a shorter read, try her Roman Fever (link below). That’ll take you less than an hour. The plot is subtle with a shocking ending. The dialogue is indirect and full of emotional subtexts, but the surface is smooth. It’s remarkable.


  12. chuck martel says:

    A unique look at life in the truly “wild west” of the nineteenth century is “Tough Trip Through Paradise 1878-1879” by Edwin Garcia Jr. http://www.factandfictionbooks.com/book/9780893012502

    Thomas Hardy’s novels are all well-written stories that portray the details of an era in rural England that was ending even as he described it. His “Wessex Tales” is a collection of short stories that is ideal for entertainment at odd times.

    The historical novels of Robert Graves, most famous of which is “I, Claudius” and “Claudius the God” are great reads but the less renowned “Count Belisarius” describes personalities and events that haven’t received the attention they deserve.

    Immensely successful screenwriter Calder Willingham Jr. wrote a number of novels, some of which made it to the cinema. One that didn’t, and is an absolute classic of southern fiction is “Eternal Fire”.

    Another accomplished southern writer is Harry Crews. Try “The Gypsy’s Curse”.

    While Winston Churchill is known to posterity as a politician, he might well have considered himself a journalist and writer. “The River War” is a first-person account of the last real cavalry engagement.

  13. Speedmaster says:

    You want books? You got books.

    Book Review: Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege by Antony Beevor

    Book Review: The Fall of Berlin 1945

    Book Review: Under The Black Flag by David Cordingly

    Book Review: Bespoke: Savile Row Ripped and Smoothed

    Book Review: The Wolf: How One German Raider Terrorized the Allies in the Most Epic Voyage of WWI

  14. Speedmaster says:

    Book Review: The Gun by C. J. Chivers

    Book Review: Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

    Quick Book Review: Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

    Book Review: Nelson’s Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World

    Book Review: Take Ivy, The Trad Bible & What’s A Bumbershoot?

    Book Review: Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine

  15. Christina Cordell says:

    Most of the stuff I’ve been reading lately is just fluff, but there are a few more classic books I remember reading years ago that I would recommend (you may have already read them all). I really like Dan Brown’s books, “Angels and Demons” is probably one of my favorites out of the ones I’ve read so far. “Anthem” by Ayn Rand was interesting, and “Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom is a nice quick read (I’ve never seen the movie). I loved “Into the Wild”! I had to read it for an environmental science and forestry class in high school.

  16. Harry says:

    Anything written by Elmore Leonard, including his short stories, which sometimes became the foundation for the characters in his novels, who are amoral criminals.

    Right now I am reading The Sentry by Robert Crais, another crime novelist who develops plot and character cleverly. The main character is a guy named Joe Pike, who had tattoos before they were cool. He is a secondary character in Crais’ novels about Elvis Cole, a PI in LA who has a cat and a Mickey Mouse telephone in his office.

    In sports, you might like reading Mark Frost’s The Grand Slam, about Bobby Jones, which I enjoyed greatly, even though I wish Frost’s editor had cut out some embellished pages.

    And then there is Lawrence Sanders, author of the deadly sins novels, which are gripping, and his McNally novels, which are lighter but fun.

    All the above are about animal spirits, but none refers to Keynes

  17. Harry says:

    Also, in case you have not read Tom Clancy, read them all. At the beach I read his latest, featuring the SEALS, the Juarez Cartel, and the Taliban. All of Clancy’s books have a bias toward American military power, and I am sympathetic to that. However, you should wear a hat and protective eyeglasses should you read Clancy books at lunch in the U of R faculty club. Like Michael Crichton, Clancy is a master of the craft novel. Clancy, by the way, predicted the means that would destroy the WTC, although the villan was Japanese, sore about Okinawa.

    English professors might look down their noses over all the above as trash, but then pleasure was never the point when making up the summer reading list, was it?

  18. […] another story that comes from Alston Chase’s excellent book, Playing God in Yellowstone (so much for pleasure reading while on vacation): No one knew in fact what role predators had among Yellowstone fauna. In the […]

  19. cmprostreet says:

    This suggestion also especially goes to those above who enjoy the Eragon series.

    Anything by Jim Butcher.

    He has two series out right now:

    1. Codex Alera

    More swords-and-horses type fantasy, he wrote the series on a bet that he couldn’t write a best-selling series built entirely on a cliche. So he chose the lost Roman Legion and Pokemon, and by the end of the 6 book series hit #2 on the NYT Best Seller list. The reason it’s great is that it never feels like a cliche, because it’s done right.

    To paraphrase the author, if you write about a talking bear, a pirate, an old wizard, and a farm boy going to rescue the princess from the dark castle, it’s terribly cliched. But if you do it right, it’s Star Wars.

    This series took a while for world-building in the first book, which was tough for some people, but it is worth it. The third book in the series is one of the best I’ve ever read (and in some ways reminiscent of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card).

    2. The Dresden Files

    Compared to the books, the TV show was worse than horrible. Currently on its 13th book (and continuing to about 23 plus an apocalyptic trilogy), it’s the tale of a P.I. in Chicago who’s also a wizard. It is also the only set of books I have ever enjoyed which are written in the first person perspective, and the narrator/protagonist does snark better than House. This series leaves no topic untouched- Norse Gods and mythology, Faeries, Fallen Angels, three separate and unique types of vampire, several types of werewolf, and future plans to include the Greek and Hindu pantheons. The books aren’t extremely long, and many can be read in one or two (long) sittings.

    I’m reading the latest one out loud to my wife as a bedtime story each night, and I’m also on my third re-read of the series to piece together more insights on the long-term plot.

    The first three books are good reads, but they aren’t as polished as the rest. If you’re looking to jump right in, fast forward to book 7 (Dead Beat). I wouldn’t skip any further ahead though, as you’d be missing too much back story to fully appreciate what was happening.

    To give an idea of how strongly I recommend the Dresden Files, last week I went to meet the author at a book-signing, and my signed copy of the most recent book is now one of my most cherished possessions (me, my wife, my brother, and her brother each have one).

    Oh, and don’t try to get the first few in hardcover. There weren’t many printed in that format, and they’ll run you about $300 each.

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