After decades of lugging around cherished, gigantic hardcover nonfiction books most of the time (then, later, blessedly weightless nonfiction ebooks), I hit a wall with the genre last year.
Every new book claiming a new perspective on ancient Rome or the Asian theater of WWII, I just… couldn’t get into. Like, at all. Kurlansky wrote a new history of, I dunno, fuckin’ mud or something? No thank you. Even Graeber’s unfortunately posthumous triumphal lifework was an absolute slog.
I dunno if COVID wrecked my mind, if the endless inputs of real-life news and tweets and substacks has just rode down my capacity for anything real-world, past or present, but my brain is just rejecting this shit like Dikembe Mutombo in a bad TV commercial.
Rather than fight it, no matter how much “big non-fiction book guy” has been a main part of my identity since I learned how to read, I decided in the back half of 2022 to just lean into it. And I’m gonna continue that shit in 2023.
Near summer’s end, I decided I didn’t want to be reading gruesome histories at my mom’s pool or the beach or whatnot. I wanted simple, easy-to-digest fiction. Brain Candy, but not in the terrible Kids in the Hall movie sense.
So I plowed through 13 straight Joe Abercrombie books instead. Pulpy grimdark fantasy that answers the question “what if George RR Martin had a work ethic and an internal editor” that I enjoyed quite a bit.
I’ve got a bunch more John LeCarré novels to get through, having read all the Smiley novels and thensome since he passed. I’ve got a stack of unread heralded fantasy, sci-fi and literature books to get through. Plus some great poetry collections that I actually have as physical books that I’d like to enjoy as the Chicago winter runs its course into March.
Between that and life in general, work, watching TV with the wife, etc, something’s gotta give, and this year, it’s gonna be reality. Non-fiction can fuck right off. I ended 2022 after the Abercrombie run with The Devil’s Chessboard, a biography of Allen Dulles’ life and work. While a VERY GOOD book, I also ended it depressed and angry because, well, the topic. He was a real bad dude who founded and then was dictator over the entire United States intelligence universe for decades, and can credibly be blamed for like a double-digit percentage of all the bad shit that has happened on this earth since 1940. And: why feel like that? I’m angry enough every day about shit happening in real-time, why am I also giving myself the sads over shit that already happened that I mostly already know about in too-great detail?
Fuck it. Gimme swords and orcs and shit. Lasers glittering off the I-Beams of Orion or however the fuck that bloated quote goes. Desperate but FICTIONAL spy quests where the stakes are mostly personal and reputational rather than the fate of millions.
That’s what I want for this year’s reading. I wanna get a little stupider, and enjoy myself a lot more. Wish me luck, I could be blindsided by an irresistible new tome on The Fall of Rome at any time.