Read past the winter doldrums

Published 1:16 pm Sunday, January 31, 2016

About this time every year, winter begins to turn a bit trying.

We’ve endured the holidays, the bitter cold of January, but we still have a long ways to go. While it feels like we should be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, spring could still be a few months away.

That’s why I typically find good books to delve into this time year. The cold, cooped up days go by a little quicker when you have a good book you look forward to opening after a workday.

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So to spur some discussion and thought for books: Here’s a few of the books I’ve read over the last few months. Go comment on this story on to share what you’ve been reading and what’s on your reading list.

The artistic/hipster choices

“The Stranger” 

It’s a classic piece of absurdist, French existentialism. What’s not to like?

Yes, this piece is probably in the top 10 of most “hipster” reads. But it doesn’t change the fact that Albert Camus’ 1942 novel is a great, thought-provoking book. It seems remarkably simple at times, but it’s full of absurd happenings at every turn. It’s got an icy funeral, a murder and a bizarre trial. What’s not to love?

Camus himself perhaps summarized the book best: “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.”

 The classics

“Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Breakfast of Champions”

It took me far too long to fully appreciate the genius of Kurt Vonnegut, but it’s always fun discovering something “new” no matter when or how — even if it is pushing 60 years old.

Warning: Vonnegut is an acquired taste, especially since readers often want instant gratification. But he’s arguably the best American satirist with great wit and absurd, dark humor.

It’s also fun to see what all the fuss is about. Vonnegut’s writing was at the center of many famous school book banning cases. So it goes.

If you need a short read, check out any of Vonnegut’s letters in response to book bans. They’re fantastic, well-written pieces in support of free speech.

 The page-turners

“The Martian” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

“The Martian” is one of the best page-turners I’ve read in years. I highly, highly recommend it.

If you’ve seen the Academy Award-nominated movie, it may take out a bit of the suspense, but it’s still a fun book with a surprisingly fun amount of science.

I simply couldn’t wait to get back to it as I read it. One of the only complaints is that the book at times seemed to go too fast.

As for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I needed a book that would be fun and not require much thought and focus. This book succeeded in that. But overall, it’s nothing special.

The old go-to

“The Andromeda Strain”

The late Michael Crichton was a regular on best sellers list for years with books like “Jurassic Park,” “Jurassic Park: The Lost World” and “Timeline,” all of which have been turned into films.

I finally took the time to go back to one of his first best seller: “The Andromeda Strain.” It may not be as fast-paced as some of his later, more polished works, but it sets the stage the man vs. nature themes that would echo in most of his books. It’s a novel fans of his other works will almost certainly enjoy.

What’s in my reading list: “The Girl on the Train,” “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn, “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, “Just Kids” By Patti Smith and “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut.