Reading is important. I’m an admittedly apathetic person about a lot of things, but recreational reading is an activity I stand wholeheartedly behind. The subject doesn’t have to be historical, spiritual, or educationally enlightening to be worthwhile. I think something as simple as Harry Potter or the Hunger Games is good enough to keep your brain sharp. In that vein, here’s a few books I’ve read in the past year that were seriously engaging. If you haven’t read them already, I highly suggest:
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson
Erik Larson’s books fall under the category of “narrative non-fiction,” which translates to a looser, easier reading style than your average historical tome. The structure is classic storytelling, but the story is true, in this case the American diplomat to Germany and his family during their stint in Berlin in the 30’s, on the eve of WWII and the Third Reich’s terrifyingly calculated control over the German people. It’s akin to watching a scary movie and knowing there’s a killer right behind that door. Larson is great because he provides that long winding shot up the stairs/towards the door in vivid, interesting detail, instead of reiterating the same awful Nazi atrocities we all know so well at this point.
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Windup Girl is post-apocalyptic science fiction, and it’s awesome. Haunting, actually. I read it in May and still get the chills. The backdrop is a future in which the world’s oil supply has dried up, spawning a crude pseudo-industrial age concurrently ravaged by bio-engineered food shortages. The title subject is a Japanese android called a “windup,” an Asian engineered being meant as soldiers, slaves, or prostitutes (like replicants in Blade Runner). The story is just familiar enough to be plausible, which to me is the best kind of science fiction. Fair warning: there’s a couple stomach-churning scenes of sexual brutality. Just sayin.
Decoded (Hardcover Edition), by Jay-Z
This is why actual, physical books will always be important. I myself have an iPad and use the Kindle app, but I alternate between real and electronic. Decoded is an aesthetically gorgeous thing to hold in your hands, with thick glossy pages, photos, drawings, clippings, fonts, colors, collages. It's truly an example of images and words being used simultaneously to create a fuller experience. Truth be told it helps if you know and like Jay-Z's music, but if not, the effect is probably still there.