What to Read Next (No. 190): an overrated classic, kid favorites, and your fall reading
If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I’m not generally the type of book reviewer who gives scathing reviews. I know the work and love that goes into books, and if I don’t like something, my instinct is to keep it to myself and only highlight the titles I’ve enjoyed. This newsletter is called “What to Read Next” for a reason; it’s pretty clear that the books featured are going to have my stamp of approval.
There’s one area, however, where I don’t mind getting a little negative: classics. Those authors are either long dead or don’t give a hoot about my little newsletter. Moby-Dick? Pass. Huck Finn? I love Twain, but the writing in this one has not aged well (even though Finn is a great character). Today, I go after another classic—this time a comic. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy large chunks of it, it’s just that it’s far too universally regarded as the graphic novel.
Also in this newsletter are some books I’ve enjoyed with my kids and a look at some of your fall reading picks.
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Published: 1987 | Pages: 416
I really wanted to like this classic graphic novel. It’s on literally every list of “Best Graphic Novels.” I tried and tried and tried, dutifully turning the pages long after I normally would, hoping it would speed up and/or turn around.
For me—and I know I’m not alone here—Watchmen just didn’t live up to the enormous hype machine around it. It was fine, and I do get its literary-comic value—the unique structure, the subversion of superhero culture, the complex narrative (it’s most certainly not your classic good vs. evil story)—but it never grabbed me. It sat on an end table day after day and I’d just look at it, with little to no interest in picking it up. The pacing felt slowww, the story felt a little self-righteous (in its awareness of its subversiveness), and though I finished it, there’s a decent chance I wouldn’t have if the title was something other than Watchmen.
It sounds like I’m really slamming it here, which I’m not trying to do. It was indeed clever and, at times, propulsive enough to keep going. I just hit too many roadblocks. Ultimately, I thought it was fine—just not for me. Three out of five stars. Sorry, true fans!
If you missed last week’s discussion thread about fall reading, go check it out and get some great ideas for the upcoming season. I neglected to mention Halloween reading in that thread, which is always fun come October. This year I plan on reading Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, some Robert McCammon (haven’t decided which yet, but I’m finally taking your advice, Joe!), and Richard Lange’s new Rovers.
Here’s a few comments from you on your fall reading plans:
Tyler: “I read The Hound of the Baskervilles every year around Halloween.”
Hugh: “I like to reread the Sherlock Holmes adventures in the Fall or Winter. Foggy London makes me think of sitting by the fireside in Baker Street.”
Andy: “I always like to revisit ‘The Great Gatsby’ in the autumn. After all, as Jordan says to Daisy in the book: ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’”
Jeff: “Always a great time to re-read Walden by Thoreau.”
Alex: “Harry Potter is always my cozy book. Although I’m in Lonesome Dove currently, and may explore the rest of that series!”
Chase: “I am going to resume ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ Every time I pick this book up I enjoy reading it, however I find it difficult to consistently read due to the shear size of it. My goal for this fall is to finally finish it.”
David: “I usually try and check out a few football books to kick off the fall season. Last year, I read The Undefeated by Jim Dent. This year I am hoping to start When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss.”
Chris: “Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is always a good Autumn read.”
What I’ve Read With the Kids
My oldest son turned 6 this summer and we’re finally getting into chapter books that I really enjoy reading aloud to him. Roald Dahl has quickly become a household favorite, as have kids’ graphic novels. Here’s a few we’ve enjoyed recently:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. This book is a classic for a reason. It’s fun, light-hearted, and oh so whimsical. Most of all, it’s weird. Like super weird. But when you’re reading with kids, it’s just silly. Definitely qualifies as can’t-miss read aloud material.
Dragon Masters series by Tracey West. This 21-book series has quickly become a hit in our house. We read the first one about a month ago and quickly put holds on the next few titles. (We also read #7 in the meantime; you don’t entirely need to go through them in order.) A young boy discovers he’s a dragon master and spends his days fighting bad dudes and generally doing good things for other people. Very Harry Potter-esque, but for young kiddos.
Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Le. We’re very into superhero graphic novels at the moment and have discovered that they’re hard to get right. You need to have the right mix of action, wholesome characters (kind and resilient are great), and an easy-to-follow storyline. Those things seem simple, but are surprisingly hard to come by. Green Lantern has easily been my favorite of the handful we’ve gone through so far. Hits all of those important characteristics.
That’s all for this week. I’m working on putting together my 2022 reading list to share with you all in about a month. It’s gonna be dope. Thanks for the time and inbox space — I really appreciate it!