Read Or Die (Literally)

Comedian/actor Aziz Ansari examines love in the digital age in ‘Modern Romance' AP PHOTO

Comedian/actor Aziz Ansari examines love in the digital age in ‘Modern Romance’ AP PHOTO

“Reading more” is a staple of the average self-improvement resolution, right up there with “lose weight” and “save more money.” It’s honestly hard to decide which of those three things give people the most trouble, but I think it says something that our cultural conversation often revolves around movies and TV, and not so much books any longer.

A study released last month declared that reading at least 30 minutes a day actually increases your life — by about two years, on average. So yes, reading literally does save your life. (I have read 54 books so far this year, and therefore I will live an extra decade or two.)

So why aren’t we reading more?

I wrote an article a ways back (find it at about ways to make reading more convenient. But maybe it’s just that people are having a hard time deciding what to read in the first place.

That’s why this week’s column is dedicated to three book recommendations from me to you, to get you started on the road to better health.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

While his fellow comedians are churning out memoirs by the dozen, Ansari teamed up with Klinenberg (Going Solo) to instead produce a wonderful sociological study of love and courtship in the digital age. The wide range of possibility introduced by technology has brought us to the age of the soulmate (wherein “settling” is the failure, so the journey never ends), plus new wrinkles via Tinder and the like. Mainly, though, the book is really funny, which is how I want all my scientific books to be.

Related recommendations: Any of Mary Roach’s books on sex, death and digestion, as she also mixes science and humor to great effect.

The Postmortal by Drew Magary

What if we could cure death? The Postmortal posits that question and concludes that it would probably be terrible, with the world descending rapidly into anarchy and absolute misery. Think about it: If people couldn’t die, we’d use all of the world’s resources in no time, wars would break out and everything would be awful. That thought experiment is explored in depth here, but it’s still a quick and easy read that will make you question any illusions of immortality you may harbor.

Related recommendations: The delightfully unsettling stories of Phillip K. Dick, the mind behind Blade Runner and Minority Report.

Burning Man by Alan Russell

Everyone likes pulp detective novels. A gruesome murder, a flawed detective, a few red herrings, an epiphany, victory and a return to the status quo: It’s a formula that works. It’s been a thing since Sherlock Holmes, and you can find at least three shows that follow the format on T V every single day of the week. But I recommend this series entirely because its flawed detective has an awesome dog partner. The end. It has three titles so far — Burning Man, Guardians of the Night and Lost Dog.

Related recommendations: J.K. Rowling also writes pulpy crime novels under the moniker Robert Galbraith: the Cormoran Strike series.