I get so many book recommendations here that it's really hard to keep up. But I don't know what I'd do without them. Some of the most formative books I've read in the past three years--Capitol Men, A Nation Under Our Feet, King Lear--came out of recommendations from the Horde.
On that note, it feels wrong to circle back and re-read anything. But one thing I learned from The Age of Innocence is that as much as I like books, I rarely find them "pleasurable." Now, I've enjoyed a great deal of books, and appreciated quite a few more. I think I appreciate Faulkner, Shakespeare and Melville, but I wouldn't call their works pleasurable, and I don't even know that I enjoyed reading them. I enjoyed Capitol Men and A Nation Under Our Feet but I didn't find either pleasurable.
What I'm driving at with this rather pedantic distinction is the fact that all of these works gave me something that I'd be loathe to return. And all of them, at varying moments, thrilled me. But I pushed through those books, often against other desires. Every once in a while though, a book calls to me. Battle Cry Of Freedom called to me. As did The Intuitionist, The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath. These are books that I do not want to put down, that I don't power through, that I don't actually delight in finishing. I don't even feel particularly proud. I just feel sad that the journey's done.
I think that feeling is deeply personal and individual, and that's what I love about books--the individual and specific bond between the reader and the writer. That's the bond I have with The Age of Innocence and why I've gone back. The thing felt so good that I'm convinced I didn't get it all, and I find, in this instance, getting it all to be really pleasurable. I am fortunate enough to have, at this moment, reading and writing as my life's work. But like all the work that we give ourselves too, love is much more paramount then lust. And so when I have those moments of lust, I feel the need to really indulge.
I'll get to Middlemarch eventually. No need to rush.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power