Adrift Upon the Reading Doldrums

Nothing frustrates me more than not being able to settle on what to read next. I have recently gone through a prolific period of reading, tearing through 14 books since November 1,and on pace to set a record for my best year since I’ve kept my list. On Friday, I finished reading the rather remarkable Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. And then, for some reason, I could not settle on what to read next.

I keep lists of books I want to read, but none of the books on my lists stirred desire. What followed was about 36 hours of frustrated floundering. Having finished Unbroken, my curiosity on Japan in World War II was piqued, and so I started to read The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 by John Toland. But it turned out it wasn’t what I was looking for. I read the first 30 or 40 pages of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, but the tone of the book was not what I expected. From there, things jumped around quite a bit. I tried Grant by Ron Chernow, a book I was really looking forward to, but   decided I was not ready for a long book. I started The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, but decided that I wasn’t interested in reading about a physicist at the moment.

I took a different approach and went back to topics that interested me recently. I started Alaska: A History by Claus M. Naske and Herman E. Slotnick, and then switched to Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, but neither felt right for the time. With remarkable chutzpah, I made my way through the first 150 pages or so of The Decline and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer before recalling that I really didn’t want to read a long book (and in this case, long being 1,250 pages).

Finally, I plucked Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage off my list and started that. That seems to have stuck, and I am enjoying the book quite a bit. Given that it has been cold here lately, I find it amusing that when Shackleton’s crew encountered a day in the Antarctic summer where the temperature reach a balmy 38 degree, they thought of it as a heat wave.

As we are preparing to head on our annual holiday vacation, I am stocking up on what I want to read over the course of the nearly three weeks I’ll have off work. In an effort to avoid these doldrums again, I picked out a few books that I think will go over well. For the long drive down to Florida, I’ve picked out A Christmas Carol, followed by Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennet. Also on my list for vacation: The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee, Jr.,  The Wizard of Menlo Park by Randall E. Stross, A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures by Ben Bradlee. Perhaps then I’ll be ready for Undaunted Courage and Grant, both of which I am eager to read, once I am in the right mood.

For now, I’m just grateful I found my way out of these doldrums


  1. What did you think of Walden on Wheels? I used to read Ken’s blog when he was still vandwelling but haven’t gotten to the book yet.

    1. Kevin, I really liked the book, especially the parts where Ken described Alaska and the work he did there. It is one of those subtle “how-to” books. I’m not fond of self-help book, and how-to books that explain, “Here is how you should do this…” I prefer books that show how someone actually did something. (I often point to Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb as a great guide to project management in this regard.) Ken’s book was similar. He described his particular journey, and set out some good guidelines therein for others to follow.


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