A dear friend of mine recently had major surgery and is looking at a long recovery. Which sucks, but CAN YOU IMAGINE THE TIME TO READ?!? And watch movies and stuff, I guess. She is fishing for recs, and lacking options simply will not do. Besides, I have a history of being there for long convalescences and reading recs is kind of what I do (and watching recs too, I guess). Not all of these may be to my friend’s tastes, but then neither was country music once upon a time, and it only took a decade for her to come around. Without further ado, some recommendations for someone with a lot of time on their hands…
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (14 books)
One single, massive, sprawling fantasy story that spans 14 books and 4 million words. A landmark work of epic fantasy that wrings every bit of potential out of serious long-form storytelling. Plus it packs up real small on your kindle.
The Wire (5 seasons)
The Wire is still maybe the greatest TV series of all-time. I rewatched it for the Nth time just after no-angel was born and, yeah, it’s still great. All 5 seasons are also available to stream for free via Amazon Prime. Honorable mention to The Shield, which might be even better but isn’t available to stream for free through any streaming service as far as I know, although shit it looks like you can get the entire series on blu-ray now and I’m buying that.
Avengers: Infinity War+background movies
I was more of an X-Men and Spider-Man, er, man in the early days of the comic movie boom because that’s what I read as a kid. But with the MCU Marvel has, partly by accident, created something really special. Disparate movies build on each other into something much greater, culminating in Avengers: Infinity War (or, really, Avengers: Endgame in April). This approach to storytelling gives you a few different options:
Short version: Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War (in that order).
Medium version: Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man Homecoming, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War.
Long version: all 20 MCU movies.
The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy
Why? The Border trilogy is probably McCarthy’s most accessible work, and if you have enough time on your hands you can translate all of the Spanish dialogue into English. Or just straight up learn Spanish. Plus, after all that fantasy, the Border trilogy is all blood and horses and knife fights.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The original doorstopper, and the greatest of the great Russian novels (or at least better than Crime and Punishment, which I did eventually finish after definitely not dropping AP English to get out of reading Crime and Punishment). Read the full Maude translation, not the compromised Kropotkin abridgement.
Long-form storytelling has its advantages. Telling the tale of the Titanic in real time really allows the romance between Jack and Rose to properly develop. We started watching Titanic on Christmas day and it just ended. 116 years later, the Titanic is still a big beautiful ship, and 21 years later the set piece as the Titanic sinks at the end (SPOILER) still holds up. Plus you can tell me what happens since the only time I saw Titanic in the 90s I spent a NYE at the strike of midnight watching a blue screen between Titanic VHS tapes because we were too stoned to change the tapes (the BLBB were involved).
Game of Thrones (7 seasons)
Game of Thrones has become a cultural touchstone, and it is undoubtedly the highest quality fantasy TV series of all time. Enough dragons and ice zombies to satisfy any fantasy fan, enough plot twists to satisfy any thriller fan, and enough pure spectacle via movie-quality set pieces to satisfy anyone. There is one, final season left, but it is scheduled to air this spring.
Chris LeDoux’s early work
The greatest singing cowboy of them all self-released 23 albums that he sold out of his pickup at rodeos before Garth dropped a line about a “worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women, and bad booze” and LeDoux got signed to a major label. You could probably burn a lot of time just tracking them down.
A 30-page report on a U.S. president
Because I’m not just entirely sure she ever turned her’s in. I’m also not terribly clear on what the AP US History assignment we both failed to turn in on time was all about. I guess it wasn’t that important after all.
Justified (six seasons)
Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy is just a taste of country noir. Justified remains the best country noir TV series of all time (although Ozark has it in its sights). Raylan Givens is one of the great flinty-eyed lawmen of all time, and Boyd Crowder is an even better villain. Plus the pilot had the greatest trailer in the history of television. Available to stream for free via Amazon Prime and for purchase in a blu-ray boxed set.
Lawrence of Arabia
Silicon Valley (five seasons)
Mike Judge’s brutal, biting, hilarious satire of startup culture in Silicon Valley. After all these recommendations I should probably include a comedy. Silicon Valley is also a great business TV series.
Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard books (16 books total)
If Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy leans to the literary side of country noir, Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard books lean distinctly on the pulpy side. I’ve only read the first book, but it is funny and a simple plan ends in an explosion of violence (as they do). There are a lot of them, and it spawned a TV series to vie with Justified and Ozark for the best country noir TV show.
Leave your own recommendations in the comments!