Books I’ve read in 2020

A list of the books I read last year, with some ratings, quotes, and impressions.

⭐️ = A masterpiece ❤️ = I loved it

V.

Thomas Pynchon

Love with your mouth shut, help without breaking your ass or publicizing it: keep cool, but care.

This book is just too much... I honestly can't give a vote to it. I was enjoying the first part of this book but then... Well, then Pynchon really starts being Pynchon and you start realising that :

Life's single lesson: that there is more accident to it than a man can ever admit to in a lifetime and stay sane.

Motherless Brooklyn

Jonathan Letham

Someday I'd change my name to Shut Up and save everybody a lot of time.

A good detective story, where the main character suffers from Tourette's syndrome. The book has plenty of interesting ideas and inventions (that reminded me of The Thought Gang, one of the funniest books I have ever read), making it an above-average book for sure.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway

The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.

Really good but I still thinks Hemingways’ best work are his short stories.

Gargoyles

Thomas Bernard

It would be wrong to refuse to face the fact [...] that everything is fundamentally sick and sad.

Depressing. And beautiful. But still depressing.

The first half is about a doctor and his son travelling around post-WWI Austria visiting patients, while the second half is a 200 pages monologue (yes, two hundred pages of monologue) of Prince Sarau, another one of his patients. While the first half is as easy to follow as it is depressing to read, the second half is a whole other story: reading Prince Sarau's monologue you have the impression to be sitting in front of a crazy man listening to his train of thoughts but, here and there, there are brilliant moments of beautiful writing and reflections on humanity's situation.

P.S. The Italian title of the book is Perturbamento.

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Jared Diamond – ⭐️

In short, Europe’s colonization of Africa had nothing to do with differences between European and African peoples themselves, as white racists assume.

It should be considered as the ultimate book against racism.

And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie

I don't know. I don't know at all. And that's what's frightening the life out of me. To have no idea...

This was the first time for me approaching this story and I really liked it. Short and captivating, you try guessing who the killer is until the last page.

Poirot – Short Stories

Agatha Christie

The biggest strength of these stories, I think, is the fact that, if you pay a lot of attention, you may be able to solve the case the same way that Poirot does. Every clue is there, hidden in the pages. It’s not the lazy writing you find in other crime books or stories.

The New York Trilogy

Paul Auster

Only darkness has the power to make a man open his heart to the world.

An absurd “thriller” trilogy. A unique book, that will transport you in a world were things seem off and you start questioning reality.

Numero Zero

Umberto Eco

Not Eco’s strongest book. Far from that. It’s like a simplified and shortened version of Foucault’s Pendulum, never reaching the same heights.

The Dinner

Herman Koch

Big success in the Netherlands. It’s definitely a gripping book and it has a strong plot twist at the end with a clear political message. Still, the book is not that good.

La Macchina Del Vento

Wu Ming 2

Interesting for the story it tells: the Italian partigiani exiled on the island of Ventotene by the Fascist party that will then set the basis for the Italian republic. Still, if you want to start reading Wu Ming, this book is not in the top five and probably not even in the top ten.

Jorge Louis Borges

I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me.

A universe of topics and stories that I could not imagine in a lifetime. The story I liked the most is probably “The Immortal”.

Make Time

Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

A light-hearted productivity book focus on creating habits and tactics every day to improve your productivity and your life. I am not a fan of productivity gurus and these kind of books but the authors’s light approach makes it really enjoyable.

Il Diavolo Sulle Colline

Cesare Pavese

I loved this story mainly because it’s set near where I was born and it made me realize how much I miss those places.

The Remains Of The Day

Kazuo Ishiguro – ⭐️ ❤️

Such decisions were no longer a matter simply of wages, the size of staff at one’s disposal or the splendour of a family name; for our generation, I think it fair to say, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.

If you told me that I would have loved the story of a butler taking a break and driving through post-WWII England’s countryside I would not have believed you. And yet, same as for The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro is able to create masterpieces out of simple, yet powerful, plots.

The Yiddish Policemen Union

Michael Chabon

Every generation loses the Messiah it has failed to deserve.

A nice detective story set in an alternative history were, during WWII, Jewish refugees live in a settlement in Alaska. The Coen brothers were supposed to make a movie out of it but apparently they dropped the project.

War And Peace

Lev Tolstoy – ⭐️

I simply want to live; to cause no evil to anyone but myself.

This one has been on my reading list for years, almost decades. A few months ago I finally found the courage to go through it and, I have to say, it’s a really enjoyable read! Sure, some chapters are a bit hard to digest but they are usually pretty short and Tolstoy often jumps from on character to another, in a very modern way. It’s impossible to describe everything that this book contains, from the depiction of Russia’s aristocracy, to Napoleon’s portrait and his battles, from the descriptions of each character feelings, to a deep dive into their thoughts and minds. As Romain Rolland said: “this work, like life itself, has no beginning, no end. It is life itself in its eternal movement”.

Impossibile

Erri De Luca

Vado in montagna per perdermi. E ritrovarmi.

A really short read about a suspect that is being interrogated about a possible murder he may have committed while trekking in the mountains. The best part of the book are the author’s thought on what it means “to live the mountain”. And I agree with every word he wrote.

The Three Body Problem

Lui Cixin

Your lack of fear is based on your ignorance.

Despite Lui Cixin’s horrible opinion on China’s re-education camps, the book is a really enjoyable and gripping read. If I had enough time I would have read it all in one go because, when I was reading it, I was living in that universe. And that’s what makes a good book. Hard science fiction or not, for me it was a breath of fresh air.

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

I probably needed a more solid background on USA’s culture of the time to fully appreciate this book. I liked it but I felt like I was missing something.

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Edwin A. Abbott – ⭐️ ❤️

The use of Colour was abolished, and its possession prohibited. Even the utterance of any word denoting Colour, except by the Circles or by qualified scientific teachers, was punished by a severe penalty.

A satirical view of Victorian culture set in a two-dimensional world and written in 1884. It’s genius. It’s funny. It’s inspiring. I did not have so much fun and wonder while reading a book as I had with this one in a long time.

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