Is there life after Dan Brown? That was the question worrying Miller (Tilting at Windmills: How I Tried to Stop Worrying and Love Sport, 2003), who had a midlife crisis of confidence after realizing it had been years since he had picked up anything heavier than The Da Vinci Code.
Bent on getting back into reading shape, he devised a “List of Betterment,” comprised of 50 books he “had succeeded in dodging during an otherwise fairly literate thirty-seven years on Earth.” Middlemarch, The Master and Margarita, and Moby-Dick tested his resolve but were worth the struggle; Anna Karenina, The Diary of a Nobody and The Code of the Woosters involved no struggle at all. (Neither did War and Peace, which proved as good as it is long.) Miller stuck with his 50-pages-per-day reading plan through thick and thin, suffering through Of Human Bondage, Pride and Prejudice and One Hundred Years of Solitude even if he had to drag himself to the finish line. He discovered that Patrick Hamilton is best read on a train. The author doesn’t just stay in the past; he loved Hilary Mantel and Toni Morrison and fell so hard for Michel Houellebecq that he wrote him a fan letter. Along the way, Miller remembers his bookish youth, his (kinda boring) love for rocker Julian Cope’s obscure Krautrocksampler and his unashamed lifelong affection for the late Douglas Adams. Miller also joined an insufferably egalitarian book club, which reminded him that books really are best enjoyed alone (“…[I]f all opinions carry equal weight and everyone is entitled to a wrong opinion, what is the use of being right? The best that one can hope for is a happy medium”).
Funny and engaging throughout and, for all the author’s self-deprecation, perfectly erudite.