Having a bit of time on my hands, I've been plowing through some books.
First off were James Michener's Poland and Recessional. Poland is a historical fiction epic, following a few families (peasants, minor nobles, major nobles) from the 1200's through WWII. Fiction is the operative word here. Recessional is a novel about a contemporary Florida retirement home. Both were good choices for me - Michener is a master storyteller, writes lightly enough that you can put the book down for a couple days, and writes really long books. If you're ever a bum like me, I'd reccomend them.
Next up was Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild. It's the story of a kid that kinda goes off the deep end of natural aestheticism after college, voyaging around the American West, Mexico, and Alaska with basically nothing, and ends up starving to death in Alaska. The book is more personal/philosophical musing than travel narrative, which I didn't expect, but makes sense given the lack of records. It's a measure of Krakauer's writing skill that at times I found myself relating to the kid. As expected, at other times I figured the author and subject were both somewhat nuts.
I bumped into Robert Parker's new book Appaloosa at a truck stop, and of course I had to read it. It's set in the Old West, but is basically Spenser and Hawk do the Earps. The similarities between the Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, the local law, and his Boston characters is fairly distracting and the book suffers for it. It is a fun read, but I'd reccomend most of the Spenser books above it.
All this time I've also been reading Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle. Like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch, it was based on his time in the Soviet Gulag system. My literature-poor understanding is that the title is an allusion to Dante's Inferno. Dante knew that the heathen scholars around him were bound for hell, but was torn by his intellectual respect for them. Thus his first circle of Hell was for these scholars. Somewhat similarly, the Gulag's had special facilities where the intelligentsia could be sent to do work that the state found useful. Solzhenitsyn spent time in one of these. Like most of his books, it's both gripping and exhausting.