Books for the Dark Ages

This story was originally published at The Gentleman at Large.

Winter is coming.

But it’s not here yet, and it won’t be here for a while. It’ll be dark like 20 hours a day soon, and the snow won’t fly for a little while longer, and the new season of Game of Thrones apparently doesn’t air until like July. Pretty much we’re doomed.

What are you going to do? We’re eeking toward that time of year when everything is exciting and wonderful because it’ll be ski season soon, but when it’s actually just cold and dark and kind of miserable because it’s not ski season yet. We’ve got a little bit of time until that happens, though, and while everything is dark and mysterious and before your friends and loved ones try to send you to an early grave with like 8–10 holiday parties a week, I propose that you read a book.

A BOOK!?

Yes. A paper one. With pages. None of those Kindle things. Isn’t that a Kardashian, anyway?

And so to get you started, here’s a few fall book recommendations that should get you through ’til the snow flies.

Fall book recommendations.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre — B. Traven — Good ‘ol dang ‘ol adventure story with just enough socialist indignation to really resonate with a generation of millennials. A few down-and-out strangers in the 1920s skip town to search for a lost and cursed Aztec gold mine. Warning — there is a morale to this story.

The Immortal Irishman — Timothy Egan — Irish Republican indignation? Old timey frontier antics? Mysterious deaths of famous people? He had me at “indignation.” The story of an Irish revolutionary and Montana’s first Governor, this one is a biography that reads more like fiction.

Trinity — Leon Uris — If The Immortal Irishman left your indignation cup just half full, then slip on some sheepwool slippers, pour yourself a Jameson (bring the bottle, this book is long), and crack into Trinity. If Jack London wrote the Bible and set it in 19th century Dublin, you might get something like this.

The Monkey Wrench Gang — Edward Abbey — This book opens with two characters cutting down billboards with a chainsaw, and the hijinx just keep going from there. If you’re feeling any indignation about Bernie not getting a fair shake, or the North Dakota Access Pipeline, or you’re just generally angry at The Man, here’s a great place to find some inspiration. Jeep week is right around the corner!

Alpine Ski Tours of the Canadian Rockies — Chic Scott — Because ski season is almost here, after all, and we can’t just be angry all the time.

Hot Water — PG Wodehouse — Light-hearted, hilarious. Best to read it with an English accent.

A Confederacy of Dunces — John Kennedy Toole — Here’s one that you might not quite know what to make of the whole time you’re in it, and then one day you realize it’s your favorite book. An homage to self-righteous, over-educated under-achievers everywhere.

Don Quixote — Miguel Cervantes — The first novel. No, really. It’s more than 400 years old, but it is absolutely modern in its concerns and its relevancy. You really owe it to yourself to know more about Don Quixote than that he jousted with windmills. Just make sure you get a good translation.

The Italian Grill — Mario Batali — It’s dark out. It’s cold. It’s actually a great time to fire up the grill. Batali’s recipes here take a long time (frequently days), so it’s a great thing to kind of work on a little bit during the week and then reap the rewards on the weekend. Summer cookouts are fine, but there’s nothing better than grilling under a crisp winter night. Batali himself has had some little ethical issues (like widespread, systematic wage theft in his restaurants), so feel free to get this one at the library or find a pirated copy online.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky — Nancy Horan — Buy this book. Buy one for yourself. Then buy one for your girlfriend/boyfriend/regular friends. Buy one for each roommate. Then for each member of your family all the way through third cousins. Hardcover is preferred. It’s the life and history of the man who brought us Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island and Kidnapped, packaged as a riveting novel. Probably you should buy a spare.

Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72 — Hunter S. Thompson — This is an election year, the media has pretty much blown it, and we’ve got one of the craziest candidates in centuries. This is an election cycle that deserves Hunter S. Thompson.

Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace — You will laugh. You will cry. Carrying this book around is the perfect complement to your Warby Parker glasses and Gitanes cigarettes. The magnum opus of a deeply troubled, profoundly insightful man, you’ll get out of this one what you put into it. You will not get through this a few pages at a time before bed; I recommend leaving the country for someplace without electricity for a month and just, like, living between the pages, man.

The Nix — Nathan Hill — Is it disrespectful to call The Nix diet Infinite Jest? I don’t know. I do know that it’s got a similar style, similar feel, and also that it’s way, way more user friendly. You still get the fragmented narrative, the semi-cynical insights to the world around us, but you can probably read this one at home.

Don’t forget to support your local bookseller, and holler if there’s anything I’m missing.

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