Weirdly, the book I’ve spent most time with recently isn’t on my copywriter reading list for this month.
It’s a book called Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.
So, how come it hasn’t made it?
Well, the first two thirds are great. A really noisy, messy novel that’s full of life. But I’ve really struggled with the last part of the book and for that reason I’m going to relegate it to an honourable mention, rather than a full recommendation.
Plus, there are three other books I really think you should read before you get to Skippy Dies.
Here they are:
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
A surprise in the sense that it could be considered a self-help book…
But more so because I 100% recommend you read it even if it is a self-help book.
In fact, I was so moved by it myself that I contacted James and interviewed him about the book and writing in general. You can watch the interview right here.
So, why did I enjoy this so much?
Well, aside from the mentions of Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut and various other cultural characters that I relate to – it seems a very authentic book.
Indeed, James is a very authentic writer. He writes openly. He writes honestly.
But Glenn, is it a self-help book?
Well, as James explained when I spoke to him – he wrote about how he helped himself in the hope that it would inspire those looking in. I think it succeeds in doing that. It’s not preachy. It’s not self-aggrandizing. And it’s not waffly, like so many of its contemporaries.
Instead, it’s direct. It’s full of ideas. And it’s pretty funny too.
That’s why I recommend you keep an open mind and give it a read yourself. (And let me know what you think.)
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
But there is still a very authentic feel to it.
I’m a big fan of Lethem’s work and his novel The Fortress of Solitude is excellent. This is its predecessor.
The good news is: it’s damn good too.
It’s largely narrated by an orphan called Lionel Essrog who also suffers from Tourette’s. He’s hired – along with three fellow orphans – by the charismatic Frank Minna, as a driver for his limo service-cum-private detective agency.
When Frank is murdered, Lionel takes it upon himself to solve the crime.
The novel comes to life through Lionel’s mind as he wrestles with the words and obsessions that force themselves out n his speech and in his actions, despite his best efforts to keep them internalised.
Obviously, the fact that Lionel suffers from Tourette’s allows Lethem to explore some interesting style ideas and though it can seem a little conceited at times, I think Lethem’s natural storytelling ability carries it through to a successful end.
It’s a really good read and if you can still catch some of the summer sun, this is one to enjoy outside, relaxing with a beer.
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Meanwhile, in the dark, depressing world of Kafka, K. is a land surveyor who believes he’s been hired by authorities in ‘the Castle’… but no one else seems to know about it. In fact, most people seem to want him to leave town.
Typically obtuse and typically unfinished (I think this was Kafka’s last novel), The Castle is confusing. But you know how these things are: they’re meant to be.
Now, I actually read The Castle years ago on a trip to Salzburg (it’s seemed appropriate) and I was brought back to it this month when I read a graphic novel interpretation published by Self Made Hero.
I love the graphic novels this little company is producing, but I’m undecided if this one adds to the original novel. I’m not sure. The fact that it attempts to visualise the intentionally confusing text seems contradictory. Hmmm. I’ll have to think more about it.
But while I do, you should at least read the original book. It’s enchanting. It’s aloof. It’s insightful.
In fact, when asked who my favourite writer is, I never say Kafka. Yet whenever I read him, I think he just might be. See what you think.
That’s all for this month – I hope that gives you some ideas for your reading.
And remember, if you’ve read any of the books I mention, please do share your thoughts on them in the comments section below.