Ben Heels

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Quick Thoughts on the Books I Read in 2017

Over the course of 2017, I read a total of eighteen books. While it’s not much, it’s the most I’ve ever read for leisure.

I got into reading not too long ago during the spring of 2016. My partner lent me a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Admittedly, it took a while for me to be able to read for long periods of time. I knew I was (and still am) a slow reader but didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to get started. I remember setting small goals for myself at the time, things like ‘Read before bed!’ and ‘Read at least ten pages!’, but the busyness of university and my lack of self-discipline barely allowed that. Time passed quickly, pages turned slowly, and the semester came to a close before I knew it.

I spent that summer working, somewhere comfortably far from home and school in the middle of the woods and mountains. I took Dunces with me along with The Neon Bible, Toole’s only other published work, and Radiohead’s Kid A from 33 1/3. Work was slow in the first few weeks, giving me ample time to read. I began reading more often and for longer periods of time.

I remember taking a long time to read Dunces for a few reasons. Since I wasn’t quite used to reading effectively, I took a great deal of time reading and re-reading passages in order to visualize every corner of Toole’s New Orleans and the characters that inhabited it. Each character had a very distinct voice in my head, too. These habits didn’t do me any favors as far as reading speed goes, but they definitely made the book enjoyable and memorable.

As soon as I got home, where I spent the tail end of that summer, I scoured the bookshelves looking for something to hold me over until university started back up. I ended up finding an old copy of Fahrenheit 451 in my room. I figured that since it’s considered a ‘classic,’ or maybe even an ‘essential’ read (and a quick one, at that, just over 200 pages), I decided to give it a go. I found right away that I loved the way Ray Bradbury wrote. That is, until I tried The Martian Chronicles a few months later and promptly gagged.

I ended up reading an ok amount that semester; more than I had before, at least. It was then that my partner introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut with Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!, one of the funniest books I’ve read to date. I also read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. The latter was easy to breeze through simply because I’d seen the movie, making the whole novel play out like a vivid screenplay in my head. Kafka, however, made me feel terribly uncomfortable. I plan to revisit his work this year with The Castle/The Trial.


Here is a list of the books that I read in 2017, in order:

The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway

Animal Farm – George Orwell

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

J-Dilla’s Donuts – Jordan Ferguson

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

Ubik – Philip K. Dick

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

VALIS – Philip K. Dick

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

The Last Interview and Other Conversations – Philip K. Dick

V. – Thomas Pynchon

The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon

The Stranger – Albert Camus

A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick

Stoner – John Williams

If you want to know more about any of the titles above or if you’d like recommend a book, feel free to leave a comment below.


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