A year when immersing yourself in books felt right


If ever there was a great yr to attempt to tune out the world, 2017 was it. Positive, it was an thrilling time to be within the information enterprise (assuming you stored your job), or to comply with the information. However typically following the information may be too thrilling, like a collection of panic assaults to the nationwide psyche.

A sure giant character was inescapable. Someday in October, the Bulletin’s Nation web page had 4 tales, headlined as follows: “Trump says predecessor didn’t honor the fallen,” “Trump, McConnell say they’re associates,” “Trump may rethink drug czar selection,” “Trump: Cuba ‘is accountable’ for assaults.”

Cease the world, I need to get off.

So 2017 was a yr through which burying your nostril in a guide was therapeutic. Studying-as-escape not often appeared so needed.

(Studying isn’t for everybody, however it beats consuming a whole tub of ice cream within the nook whereas weeping uncontrollably.)

I learn forty five books final yr, most of them having as little to do with present occasions as attainable. A few of them virtually certified as consolation literature, if there’s such a factor.

For example, “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic of piracy and boyhood and adventure, featuring Long John Silver, Squire Trelawney, young Jim Hawkins, hiding in apple barrels and pulling into coves and treasure maps. I don’t know why I never read this years ago. Me for the high seas!

Or “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” H.G. Wells’ novel of science gone mad, as the good doctor performs mix-and-match surgery on animals, transforming them into mockeries of men. OK, maybe the high seas aren’t for me. Some islands are best avoided. But the story was gripping.

One of Robert Heinlein’s best novels is 1951’s “The Puppet Masters,” in which slug-like aliens attach themselves like parasites to begin controlling humanity. Even Congress is infected, which may explain a lot.

Some books couldn’t help but seem like comments on our times. J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy,” a 2016 memoir about the struggles of poor whites in America, was often invoked to help explain Trump’s rise. Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” newly in vogue, is about what would happen if a know-nothing demagogue were elected president. It doesn’t go well.

Ring Lardner’s “You Know Me Al,” from 1916, collects a series of fictional letters by a semi-literate ballplayer to his hometown friend, the long-suffering Al, about life in the big leagues. In 2013, the Atlantic called it “the finest piece of baseball fiction ever composed.” Pitcher Jack Keefe is full of himself, has no self-awareness or sense of irony, refuses all advice and blames all his mistakes on his teammates. A century later, he might have been presidential timber.

Thankfully, most of my reading took me far away. I read Mark Twain’s “A Tramp Abroad,” his not entirely reliable memoir of 1880 about visiting Germany and trying to unravel “the awful German language.” Chapter 13,…



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