Toritto’s Reads

I rarely, if ever, read fiction during my formative and working years.  My college degree was in economics and my personal interests revolved around European history.  The one exception was my fascination as a youth with the Iliad, which I was introduced to by our local librarian, bless her heart,

During my working years I read business magazines, economic reports and articles concerning the political situations in the countries which I traveled – Latin America first, then the Middle East and Sub-Continent.

There was no time or interest in reading pulp fiction, detective novels or for that matter, 20th century literature which is now considered classic.  I was successful in providing for my family but in many ways was a relatively uneducated man when it came to letters.

While in retirement I made a conscious decision to correct the situation.  I made a list of books I wanted to read.  Books I should have read a long time ago.

My problem at first was my vision.  I had a stroke in 2004 which took away my left peripheral vision in both eyes.  The condition is called left homonymous hemianopsia and it makes reading a book somewhat difficult.   As I reach the end of a line I can no longer see the beginning of the next line peripherally.  While scanning across the page it is easy to lose my place.

Enter Kindle.  Several Christmases ago my daughter bought me one.  It’s compact “pages” takes away the need to scan back and forth and makes reading a breeze.

So I diligently began reading literature I should have read a long time ago.

And for me, it has opened up a new world.

I started with Steinbeck; Grapes and Of mice and Men.

Moved on to HemingwayA Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell tolls.

And I formed an opinion; I liked Steinbeck’s writing better than I liked Ernest Hemingway.

Next I read Dalton Trumbo’s great anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun and I knew why it was withdrawn from publication during World War II.

I read Fitzgerald’s Gatsby and Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Matterhorn: A novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes, written in the tradition of Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead and James Jones’s The Thin Red Line.

Next was Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken; read the book before I saw the movie.

Not that I gave up history entirely.  I read Mussolini’s Italy: Life under the Fascist Dictatorship and Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider by Peter Gay just to quench a thirst.  And Ellie Wiesel’s Night.

This year I have been reading Russian novels.

Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don.   Mikhail Bulgakov’s  The White Guard, a novel of the Russian civil war in the Ukraine.

Vasily Grossman’s staggering Life and Fate, a novel of Stalingrad and life under Stalin, written by one who was actually there.  The novel was banned in the Soviet Union and not published until well after Stalin and Grossman’s death.

A month or so ago I decided I really should read War and Peace from cover to cover.  I am, according to Kindle, 92% of the way through!

I am beginning to feel like a moderately educated man.  And it takes my mind off of the Trump years.

“Failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow . . . . And the smell of rot fills the country . . . . There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success . . . . And, in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is the growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

John Steinbeck – Grapes of Wrath







About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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13 Responses to Toritto’s Reads

  1. beetleypete says:

    Many of the books you mention I read as a teenager. I bought the Grossman book this year, on your recommendation, and have yet to read it. Unlike you, I can’t seem to get on with e-books. They just don’t grab me in the same way. Unfortunately. vision problems also affect my book-reading now, and especially when the print is small. I am typing this with a full bookcase behind me. All those books I was going to read when I retired, five years ago…
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is the last time I’ll say this, Pete (unless I forget!) – remove your fears and get those cataracts done. I have today been given the all-clear (barely three weeks after the op) and have been told I can go and get some prescription glasses, in spite of the Cretan problems with the left eye. I’m now able to read physical books and on my iPad. You know it makes sense. (Sorry, Frank, to hijack this post but I worry so about Pete’s continual delay and denial. He won’t be able to drive soon if he goes on this way.) x

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What a marvellous collection to have started with, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennie says:

    Very impressive! Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. paolsoren says:

    As an old tired English teacher I am fascinated by this. And I must say that Steinbeck is the one American author I would put one the top of the list. You were probably too busy working to be affected by the ‘beat’ generation but a look at Kerouac’s first novel is worth the effort.
    Don’t forget the English and if you really want to go crazy there are a few Aussie novels worth a bit of a look.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. toritto says:

    Will put it on my list! Thanks!


  6. I agree with you entirely about the Kindle. I have always loved books – the feel of them, the smell, the look, the ritual of reading, so I didn’t think I would like the Kindle so much. However, the way you can adjust the size of the print or look up the words you don’t know instantly if you’re reading another language. And it’s so cheap to buy the collected works of more obscure or unpopular writers. Give The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien a try. The central character dies a short way into the book and the rest is set in a bizarre Hell masquerading as the Irish midlands but it’s a very witty book and full of strange conceits.

    Liked by 1 person

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