While fiction reading can be a great pleasure, and a great way to pass the time, it’s also one of the best ways to stimulate imagination — which stimulates creative thought. We regularly mention on the site that creative problem-solving is massively valuable in DFS; but it’s also valuable for each of us as we figure out how to navigate these times. When the New England Patriots run the hill at the end of practice, Belichick often tells his players to “put it in the bank” — suggesting that this extra effort can be drawn on when it’s needed. I feel the same way about the creative benefits of reading.
Here are some of my favorite reads, if you’re looking to put something in the bank during these unusual times ::
- Harry Potter :: J.K. Rowling
If you’re looking for something light, immersive, and escapist during this time — and have never bothered with Harry Potter — it’s an excellent series.
- Slaughterhouse-Five :: Kurt Vonnegut
Maybe the weirdest novel you’ll ever read about World War II. I think I’ve read every Vonnegut novel at least twice — and while he’s not for everyone, you’ll thoroughly enjoy him if he’s for you.
- The Great Gatsby :: F. Scott Fitzgerald
If somehow you’ve never read it, it’s light, easy, and engaging — especially for a classic.
- The Secret History :: Donna Tartt
Tartt grew up a great fan of Dickens, Salinger, and Fitzgerald (and if you’re familiar with those authors, their influence is evident), but she also grew up reading mystery novels and other story-driven fiction. The Secret History was one of the most popular books of the last 30 years. It’s deeply literary, but it reads fast and is very engaging.
- The Goldfinch :: Donna Tartt
I could write for hours about Tartt, but we’ll keep things short. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 and was polarizing among critics, but it was massively popular and is, in my opinion, a great masterpiece. Like The Secret History, it reads fast. If you read regularly, you’ll notice more apparent flaws in this book than you’ll find in The Secret History; but if you’re a writer, you’ll also notice that she does some practically impossible things — and makes those practically impossible things look easy.
- Freedom :: Jonathan Franzen
Freedom is long and has little at stake (i.e., there’s nothing in the “story” that compels you to continue reading), but in terms of…well, I’ll put it like this: I believe a great novel could be given to an alien race to show them, ‘This is what humans were really like.’ Franzen does an incredible job showing what some humans are like.
- The Baron in the Trees :: Italo Calvino
This is a short, fairly quick and quirky, extremely enjoyable read. It’s about a Baron who lives in the trees.
- The Road :: Cormac McCarthy
McCarthy has a unique writing style (no quotations; little punctuation — for starters), but even non-readers tend to have an easy time getting into a certain segment of his books. The Road and No Country for Old Men are recommended starting points.
- Blindness :: Jose Saramago
This is a strange, dark, fascinating sort of allegorical “experience” about a plague of blindness that spreads throughout the world. Saramago won the Nobel Prize in Literature (which is awarded as a sort of lifetime achievement award) in 1998. I think Blindness is his best work.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude :: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Another “experience,” from another Nobel Prize winner. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the pioneer of magical realism. This is a unique and memorable book.
If you’re looking for something purely escapist ::
John Grisham, some Stephen King (The Stand was his best work, and you could kill about 40 hours with that one), Michael Crichton, and Raymond Chandler can all help you bleed the hours. Elmore Leonard can also kill off four or five hours at a stretch (he was Tarantino’s favorite novelist, and you’ve probably seen about ten movies that were based off his books).
If you’d like a longer list (i.e., books not on the list above, but that could have been), here are a few others I can think of ::
The Art of Fielding
Most things by Hemingway
The Bell Jar
To the Lighthouse
The Things They Carried
A Prayer for Owen Meany
East of Eden
We the Animals
Let the Great World Spin
A Visit from the Goon Squad
The Catcher in the Rye