One of the joys of retirement, I’m discovering, is that there seems to be a lot more time for reading. I mean reading that isn’t either logic/philosophy on the one hand, or wind-down late-night novels on the other. Of course, this probably says more about me than about how much extra time I’ve actually got (as I seem to be doing a lot of philosophical things about which more anon). For I guess it is really a matter of now giving myself permission to read stuff that isn’t work-related during the day.
So what have I read the last couple of weeks? I finished Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer, which is just terrific, has been rightly much praised, and gets you back to reading the man himself with even more pleasure. I also read Susan Richards Lost and Found in Russia: Encounters in a Deep Heartland, though I found that pretty disappointing. I’ve read books about Russia on and off since my student leftie days, this promised much, and again it was warmly praised by some reviewers. But Richards’s writing somehow gives very little concrete sense of place, and not much either for the changing feel of everyday life in the turmoil of post-Soviet Russia remote from Moscow.
But what I enjoyed most — though the end is wrenching — was Tony Judt’s remarkable The Memory Chalet, written (or rather dictated) as he was dying from motor neuron disease. The writing is simply wonderful, his recollections of times and places so evocative for someone of much the same generation, and his sharp observations on our times very much after my own heart. I loved this book (and the mind behind it). Read it.