Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On a Reading Jag

One of the absolute best things about retirement is the ability to read whatever and whenever  you want. In fact, when people ask me what my retirement plan is, the first thing I think of is reading.

Last summer I read a lot about Budapest and Vienna (which I thought we might also visit).  That was my main reading jag: one book kind of led to another.  But I went on a series of mini-jags during the summer.  I read the wonderful novel Euphoria by Lily King which is based on Margaret Mead and her then husband Reo Fortune and her future husband Gregory Bateson, all in New Guinea doing anthropological fieldwork.  I also read Savage Harvest by Carl Hoffman about Michael Rockefeller who was looking for primitive art and was attacked by cannibals in New Guinea.  That led me to Peter Matthiessen's Under the Mountain Wall, which was his account of the same expedition Michael Rockefeller was a part of when he disappeared,  Then just some more books about New Guinea art (with which I was utterly unfamiliar).  I also went on a mini-jag about bog people, reading Karin Sanders' Bodies in the Bog and P.V. Glob's Bog People, then some of Simon Schama's Landscape and Memory; that was a completely unexpected turn in my reading adventures.

This summer I am on a sort of World War II reading jag.  I came home from Budapest having learned so much about Hungary in World War II.  The parts of Parallel Stories I found most compelling were those about the war.  I then read Dark Continent by Mark Mazower (wonderfully ironic title) about Europe in the 20th century.  After that I read Martin Amis's unbelievably smart and clever book about one of the Auschwitz camps, The Zone of Interest.  That was followed by W.G. Sebald's A Natural History of Destruction, about the German amnesia concerning the bombing of German cities during the end of the war.  Followed by The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan about Australian POWs building the Japanese train line in what was then Siam.  I kind of like to alternate fiction and non-fiction.  But I am not sure what to read next.

The "problem" with reading such compelling, well-written, important books all together is that it's hard to go back to books that are not so well-written, compelling, or serious.  But really most of life is made up of reading books that are "good," not "great."  I am trying to decide whether to start Orlando Figes' book about the Russian Revolution, A People's Revolution. That is a huge decision because it is a mammouth book.

I should also say that I read flippy mysteries on my Kindle while I am doing "serious" reading.  I read them at night in the dark next to my husband in bed.  Most of them were bought for about $1.99, as part of a Kindle Daily Deal.

I am writing about this in perhaps too much detail because reading is a big part of what I do in retirement and at the lake.  Along with swimming, eating, drinking (martinis or gin and tonics), it is a favorite: perhaps THE favorite.

Do you ever go on reading jags?  What are you reading now?  I would love to know.



Tracy Altieri said...

I must say that I am in a bit of a reading lull. I read Lisa Genova's most recent "Inside the O'Brien:s" for book group. Like all of her novels - very hard reading (difficult subject matter), but very good. Since then I'm reading very light-hearted books - which suit me fine!

Debra Journet said...

I know what you mean. I have turned to mysteries this week.

Mddy said...

I probably need to buy another bottle of gin! I have been reading "In the City of Bikes" which is about bicycles and bicycle riding in Amsterdam. I had been fascinated to know how people found their particular bike in their multi-story bike parks! Haven't found that out exactly yet but it seems if its not locked down, many people just take someone else's!
It is an interesting history and I need to stop being distracted by blogs to get back to it!

Debra Journet said...

Gin, bikes and Amsterdam sound like an interesting combination. I love chasing down questions. Thanks for replying