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epic books

Books and a half

10 Epic Books To Read During Lockdown

Culture

Some ultra-stimulating books to escape deeply into while at home. Because a light read doesn't do the business right now.

  1. ‘Dispatches’ by Michael Herr

The greatest book about Vietnam which puts you right on the shoulder of Michael Herr as he witnesses the horrors the troops experienced as they fought a deluded war against a seldom seen enemy and lost their minds. Harrowing, unflinching, damning, but also written with a brutal lyricism that gives voice to men killed or forever damaged by experiences no human should go through.

  1. ‘Agency’ by William Gibson

Latest and one of the greatest by Gibbo (as no-one calls him), this future-present now-fi novel follows the creators of alternative realities, including one where Brexit and Trump never happened. This was right up to the minute until the Coronavirus hit, but is still a masterpiece of contemporary anxiety.

  1. ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon’ by David Sylvester

Legendary insight into the mind of one of the greatest and uncompromising artists in history, as Sylvester quizzes him on his work. Entertainingly Bacon is self-deprecating about his talent while nonetheless displaying the intense intellect and uncompromising judgement which made his work so frighteningly bold. “I’ve always hoped to put over things as directly and rawly as I possibly can.” Addictive, life-changing reading.

  1. ‘Catch-22’ by Joseph Heller

Classic fodder for the phrase ‘I’m re-reading…’ to cover the fact you haven’t read it but feel like you should have. Well, if you haven’t, what better time than now? As BOM was re-reading it (heh), it’s like being hit by electricity every time you turn a page – every line is crafted to be both laugh-out-loud in its absurdity and also anarchically cynical about the operations of war. Long but flies by in a whirl of sheer pleasure.

  1. ‘The True Adventures of The Rolling Stones’ by Stanley Booth

Amazingly well-written document of the Stones on tour at the height of their powers in the late 60s, including an unforgettable eye-witness account of the murder and mayhem at the Altamont gig. Certainly the best ‘on tour’ book every written, probably the best music book every written too.

  1. ‘If They Move…Kill ‘Em’ by David Weddle

Biography of the Sam Peckinpah who made movies which makes the work of Quentin Tarantino look like Midsomer Murders. A very revealing insight into a time when the film-makers were only marginally less gun-toting, hard-drinking and unhinged as they cowboys they depicted in front of the cameras.

  1. ‘Tree of Smoke’ by Denis Johnson

Johnson is best known for ‘Jesus’ Son’, the collection of short stories about junkies and drop-outs told in visionary style. This mammoth novel about Vietnam is arguably his greater achievement though, grander in scope of course but without sacrificing that eerie intensity which makes his writing like nothing else. One you can really live inside for weeks.

  1. ‘The Gallows Pole’ by Benjamin Myers

Dark historical novel by the best British novelist working today in our opinion. Myers pulls together a pre-industrial age story about David Hartley, an epically hard leader of a gang of ‘coin-clippers’ (real criminals who would essentially shave money around the edges, melt down the shavings and make new coins), which is revelatory about a lost era and brilliantly atmospheric.

  1. ‘The Great Shark Hunt’ by Hunter S Thompson

Collection of the journalist’s work mostly covering his political work in the 70s which, beyond the Gonzo drug-taking caricatures out there, actually shows off his searing intellect and heartfelt moral assessments which made him perhaps the only honest man in America at the time.

  1. ‘Jerusalem’ by Alan Moore

If you want something epic that’ll last you weeks, why not forgo the usual old epics and go for this three volume behemoth by Alan Moore. Fans of his comic books ‘Watchmen’ and ‘V For Vendetta’ will not be disappointed by this visionary explosion of mythology and the supernatural, all centred around his home town of Northampton. Do it, do it.

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