Short Books And Lots of TV: That’s Entertainment!

Well, good ol’ 2021, part of the ongoing COVID era, found me doing this, that and the other thing to fill up the 17.5 hours during which I’m more or less conscious each day. None of those hours were spent at a workplace outside my home, because COVID deep-sixed the volunteer jobs that I had engaged in happily for years. I’m still working, however, because I spend a fair amount of time writing pieces for the shaky, suspect publication titled Yeah, Another Blogger. Yo, you take your part-time jobs where you can find them!

Writing aside, I’m left with shitloads of hours on my hands each week. Many of them are spent on my living room sofa, where I’ve mastered the art of staring into space as I twist the six strands of hair remaining on the crown of my head into fascinating shapes. Then I untwist them and start all over again.

Fortunately, I engage in a variety of more fruitful activities too. If I didn’t, my wife Sandy would have had me committed long ago.

For instance, I read books. Not an extraordinary number — hell, I know of some fellow WordPress denizens who tear through three or more books per week — but enough to keep my mind percolating a bit.

I’m picky, though. Any book that I contemplate tackling must be short, as in no more than 260 pages. And fewer than 200 as often as possible. I began taking this approach because my attention span and stamina, when it came to book-reading, began to fall off the table in 2015. I found my way to the ends of a mere two books that year. 2016 proved to be even worse, as I recorded a big fat goose egg.

Ergo, to kickstart my dormant love of books I devised the short-book strategy in 2017. And it has worked. Last year, for instance, I polished off 17 books, fewer than in my glory days of book-reading, but a number I feel good about.

All are members of the fiction category, including two mysteries (Sleeping Murder; And Then There Were None) by Agatha Christie that are as breezy and enjoyable as they can be. My list of conquests also includes Cathedral, a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver. Carver’s world is populated by people who have never figured out, or been encouraged to figure out, how to lead productive, happy lives. Matter-of-factly, but not depressingly, he lays out their plights in language that grabs hold of you from the opening paragraphs.

As it turns out, though, the first book I read in 2021 was the one I thought was the best: Flight, by Sherman Alexie (I expounded upon it here). It’s the tale, as vivid as daylight on a cloudless afternoon, of a 21st century Native American teen trying to come to terms with himself and with the country — the USA — that conquered and subjugated his peoples.

Yes, books entertained me mightily in the year that just entered our rearview mirrors.  The jollies that I got from them, though, paled in comparison to those provided by the magical medium known as television. Yeah, I spent quite a few hours in front of the home screen last year, continuing the practice I’d adopted at the start of the pandemic. Sandy used to watch the tube alone in the evening. But lack of outside-the-house entertainment options caused me to join her when coronavirus reared its f*cking head. We quickly developed into an adorable TV-viewing couple, settling in for an hour or two of laughs, gasps and whatever, five or six nights each week.

During 2021, Sandy and I watched around 20 movies on the tube and many more series than that. Almost every one was on commercial-free platforms and networks, mainly Netflix and HBO, both of which have become two of my closest friends. I’ve turned into a series addict, limited series particularly. Some of the limited ones that I especially liked last year are The Chestnut Man and Giri/Haji (tense crime dramas), Chernobyl (a dramatization of the nuclear disaster), and Maid (where relationships go very bad and where pure love is on display).

In closing, I give a hearty tip of the hat to Godless, a Western that, as is common to its genre, portrays a battle between decency and wickedness. This limited series is set in late-1800s Colorado. Jeff Daniels (Is there a better actor anywhere?) stars as Frank Griffin, an eerie bad guy who bosses around his band of associate baddies and takes his amputated left arm with him, like a good luck charm, everywhere he goes. (A bad wound necessitated the amputation.) In the end, does good triumph over evil? You’ll have to tune in to find out, because I ain’t one for dropping spoilers.

Thanks for reading, boys and girls. What activities/books/TV/music/etc. rang your bell in 2021? Feel free to comment.

Happy New Year!

168 thoughts on “Short Books And Lots of TV: That’s Entertainment!

  1. rencope January 9, 2022 / 12:51 pm

    I like Sherman Alexie, too. I’d recommend his memoir You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me. Just gut-wrenching. Raymond Carver is a master.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 9, 2022 / 4:20 pm

      I hadn’t read anything by Carver in many years. I’m glad I stumbled upon Cathedral last year.


  2. selizabryangmailcom January 9, 2022 / 5:11 pm

    I agree. Jeff Daniels: one of the best out there. Weirdly, have you ever seen Woody Harrelson in any dramas? He turned out to be a damn fine actor! And conversely, when we saw Tenet about a year ago, I had no IDEA that was Denzel Washington’s son because, imho, he had very little charisma and seemed wooden (the opposite of Denzel, of course).

    Anyway…I like your book choices. Native Americans telling it like it is is always fairly rare; sounds like a good one. And we saw Chernobyl too, and thought it was really good. There’s another great actor: Jared Harris. He was fantastic in The Terror.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 9, 2022 / 7:44 pm

      Hey there, Stacey. I live near Philly. The University Of Pennsylvania is in Philly. Five or ten years ago Denzel’s son played on the U of P’s basketball team. I would read that Denzel attended those games sometimes. I wonder if that’s the son who became an actor.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. selizabryangmailcom January 9, 2022 / 9:24 pm

    Hmm. Interesting. Maybe this was another son, ’cause John David Washington, the one in Tenet, was a football player……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Silver Screenings January 9, 2022 / 10:06 pm

    I read fewer books than I would’ve liked in 2021, and did less blogging than I would have liked, but I did a lot of cycling and exploring, and enjoying the sunshine. It was rather glorious.

    Best wishes to you and Sandy in 2022. May it be a year of laughter and opportunity and warm memories. 🙂


  5. George January 11, 2022 / 12:37 am

    Happy new year, Neil. And thank you for these reviews. Godless sounds fantastic. I agree wholeheartedly about Jeff Daniels.

    I really like the sound of the Cathedral too, although I need to work through the dangerously high pile of books teetering by my bedside before I add to it.

    I know what you mean about shortening attention span. I’m not too bad with reading, but with writing I find I often trail off mid s

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Annika Perry January 11, 2022 / 5:19 am

    Neil, I read a Raymond Carver short-story collection years ago and admire his style but couldn’t quite get into them. Books are still my lifeline and reading avidly every day whilst TV viewing has been a cosy way for my husband and me to spend our evenings. Lots of films on top of various series. Whilst I alone got into The Quid Games, my son’s suggestion, together we finished watching ‘Community’ and just started ‘Modern Family’ when it disappeared from Netflix! I’ll have to see if some of your suggestions are available here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 11, 2022 / 7:02 am

      Hi, Annika. I noticed that Netflix is carrying 30 Rock. That’s a very funny series. It ran on commercial TV in the States years ago. Netflix acquired the rights to it not long ago. Thanks for your input. Enjoy the day!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. chris bichler January 11, 2022 / 8:07 am

    I enjoyed reading your blog post. I too love to read books, but the more pages the better lol, I think on average I manage to read 10 books a year. Despite reading books since I can remember, I shortly rediscovered painting and sketching… maybe I’ll write a post about it soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 11, 2022 / 12:07 pm

      Hi, Chris. Painting and sketching are good additions to your creative activities. It’s good when we spread our wings.


  8. Jeff the Chef January 11, 2022 / 9:34 am

    I like the way you said that Netflix and HBO are you closest friends. But I like it even more that you read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 11, 2022 / 12:09 pm

      Hi. Yeah, I don’t want book-reading to fall away from me, which it did a few years ago.


  9. Mark January 11, 2022 / 3:17 pm

    Nice to see some Godless appreciation had me hooked from start to finish. Definitely due a rewatch sometime soon. Love your humour too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. stargazer January 11, 2022 / 6:47 pm

    Like you, I normally prefer relatively short books. Sometimes, with the right book, it’s fine with a chunkster, it all depends…. I don’t watch many films these days, which may also be due to a decreasing attention span!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 11, 2022 / 9:48 pm

      Hi. Thanks for the input. You know, I’m hoping that one of these days I won’t have trouble once again tackling hefty books. I’d probably need a fast-moving narrative though.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Crystal Byers January 11, 2022 / 7:07 pm

    I love your short book strategy. I decided not to set a reading goal except to read the books on my shelves I haven’t read. One was a gift from my nephew a year ago Christmas. Ducks, Newburyport. It’s about 1000 pages and 8 sentences long, stream of consciousness, but I’m determined to finish it in 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. KT Workman January 12, 2022 / 1:19 am

    When I’m not in the mood for reading a book, I turn to short stories. I have quite a few books of them in different genres. Sometimes, my mind isn’t up for a long story, so I read a short story or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 12, 2022 / 7:35 am

      There probably are/have been fiction writers who write/wrote nothing but short stories. Maybe O. Henry, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

      • KT Workman January 12, 2022 / 7:24 pm

        I sure you’re right, but can’t think of any other than O Henry at the moment…maybe Edgar Allan Poe…offhand, I can’t think of any novels he wrote. But I know there are a lot of novelists who put out short story collections.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Wise Hearted January 12, 2022 / 11:52 am

    My husband and I watched more tv than we ever have in our 57 years of marriage. I love a good deep movie about a real life issue. I don’t like fluff but we even got into some of those chic flic. we moved to northern Mn during the pandemic and it’s cold cold and snow most of winter so no much going on. Our ministry that requires traveling was shut down so we took time to learn some newer ways to communicate to our missionaries and found we could do ministry right in our living room. I like short stories too but will occasionally get into a longer one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 12, 2022 / 1:59 pm

      Hi there. Thanks for adding your thoughts. My guess is that TV viewership has gone way up during the pandemic. And it probably will stay at high levels even if the COVID threat mostly goes away. As I said in my story, I’m watching more TV than I have in years, and it’s entertaining me beautifully.


  14. Pam Lazos January 12, 2022 / 2:32 pm

    Neil, the visual of you twirling the strands of hair on the top of your head made me laugh out loud!

    Read “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. More than 200 page, but lots of stories tied together so it’s almost like reading short stories. Best book I read in 2021!

    And note taken of the Jeff Daniels Western. My husband will love it.

    Happy 2022!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. tanjabrittonwriter January 12, 2022 / 11:08 pm

    I’m reading both fiction and non-fiction books and wouldn’t want to miss out on either. And because we still have a TV with terrestrial reception, we watch a lot of PBS series with titles such as “Downton Abbey” or “Poirot.” And check out movie DVDs from the library.
    Wishing you happy reading and viewing in 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. BookerTalk January 13, 2022 / 5:38 am

    We gave up on Maid – just couldn’t buy into the character. Chernobyl was outstanding though. Have you watched Call My Agent – about the staff of a French talent agency. It’s a hoot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger January 14, 2022 / 11:45 pm

      Hi. There are so many good ones these days. My wife and I are watching a limited series now called Katla. It’s a sci-fi drama. We like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. rkrontheroad January 16, 2022 / 11:13 am

    I’m a reader and a movie watcher, although our tastes are different. You certainly have the time to read longer books! Had to laugh at your hair habit… we all have our own way of navel-gazing. Glad you are keep entertained and occupied. May we all be getting out more later this year and expanding our horizons.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. slfinnell January 16, 2022 / 12:36 pm

    Loved the Val Kilmer documentary and hope he shares more in the coming years!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. KT Workman January 30, 2022 / 1:51 am

    I don’t like beer, but enjoyed the songs, especially Cold Fingers. Do you remember Tony Joe White’s old song Polk Salad Annie🤪?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. alhenry January 31, 2022 / 10:53 am

    I’m chiming in here a tad late, LOL, because I’ve been away, as the Brits would say, on holiday. Holiday is great for reading, especially a beach holiday, where for stretches of hours all you have to do is read, drink rum punches, and take the occasional ocean dip. I managed 3 books in 3 weeks–I won’t reveal here how many rum punches accompanied those tomes. Here’s to 2022 and MORE time spent reading, less time spent worrying. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. ellie894 February 15, 2022 / 2:59 pm

    In 21 I finally decided to give audiobooks a try. I’ve never been a fan of them but I have the library app and thought – what the hey, might as well give it a go. Oddly enough I’ve found that I prefer to listen to nonfiction over fiction. No idea why. And the voice of the narrator makes All the difference! It will never replace books for me but it’s nice to have another way to get some reading in from time to time. Have a great day, Neil!
    Take care,
    Suzanne ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

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