This is a list, a record, an accounting. Dull in some lights, if not pretentious, condescending and childish: Look at what I’ve been reading, Mommy! But in recent years, I’ve heard of more people keeping lists of books they’ve read. I’ve enjoyed looking at them. Nick Hornby’s is a feature in The Believer magazine. Of course, that’s the spectacular writer Hornby.
After years of false starts, like New Year’s resolutions that fizzle in six weeks, I started this list in January. It really was a resolution, and I never keep those. So far, I am.
This blog entry is for the archives. No need to read it. Tomorrow’s Brick should be funny.
Book List through June 2010
(Honestly? December’s) Air Guitar by Dave Hickey — masterly essays.
Prior Convictions by Dave Hickey — good short stories, but I see why he didn’t stay in fiction.
The Choiring of the Trees by Donald Harington — Didn’t finish. I’ll get back to it.
The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard — recommended at Harington’s memorial service by a writer I admire, Kevin Brockmeier. Over 1,000 pages, I read just the ones recommended by major book reviews. The creepy kind of sci-fi.
After Sunset by Stephen King (audio edition) — short stories. The more King I read the more I like him.
(Here’s January) Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, audio edition — There’s better books on the subject.
The Debt of Pleasure by John Lanchester. The well-regarded debut novel that’s mentioned in reviews of his latest, I.O.U. [see March]. Didn’t finish.
Food Rules by Michael Pollan, bought this one. Does exactly what Pollan intends — in just 112 pages, summarized the journalist’s years researching and analyzing the topic.
The South Beach Diet Super Charged by Arthur Agatston, M.D., bought this one. It should but does not say that it is a revised and expanded edition of his original tome. Best diet advice? Read and heed Pollan.
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. A guy I’ve always meant to read. His latest, not dense at all but a fun detective novel, honoring Chandler and Hammett.
White Noise by Tom DeLillo, audio edition. Well-regarded 1985 novel. Moves along nicely, makes some points, but this is groundbreaking?
36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein — Ever wonder about academic superstars? A true comic novel. Laugh out loud and cry real tears. Highly recommended.
Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon — Can this guy write brilliantly in any format? So far, yes. These essays are great. Can’t wait to see him pummel poetry.
What Narcissism Means to Me and Donkey Gospel, two collections by Tony Hoagland. Among the better poets, but I’ll take Billy Collins and Miller Williams any day.
The Ghost by Robert Harris (audio edition) — The new movie The Ghostwriter is based on this. Movie fun, book better. A political thriller.
Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman, (audio edition) — She’s clever, but this is a worn-out subject.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolfe (audio edition) — didn’t finish.
Touch and Go: A Memoir, by Studs Terkel (audio edition) — didn’t finish.
Native Girl by Carl Hiaasen (audio edition, abridged) — Bought this one. Fun, with a point.
I.O.U. by John Lanchester — explains the causes of the recession. Easy to understand, as the book was promoted to be, but don’t ask me to explain what he said — too complicated.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (audio edition). The title may be self-mocking, but this memoir for all its juvenile bravado is touching and the work of a gifted writer at the beginning of what’s turning out to be a tremendous career.
Why Sh*t Happens: The Science of a Really Bad Day by Peter J. Bentley, Ph.D. (and the * is cq) — a project, not a book. Didn’t finish.
Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda — Are you annoyed by exaggeration and out-and-out lying, and b-s even if true of recent autobiographies? None of it’s new. A must-read for any writer, especially would-be memoirists.
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut (audio editon) — I read all of Vonnegut by 10th grade. First time to revisit this later novel. The writing at times is clunky, or is that deliberate? The Dwayne Hickman comic tragedy is often interrupted with summaries of alter ego Kilgore Trout’s science fiction stories. Trout describes another planet and its people, then something happens. In most of his work, Vonnegut explains Earth and its people as if he was from another planet. That was his appeal. Vonnegut throws in a postmodern aspect — which I didn’t recall — putting himself in a bar with his characters. Flann O’Brien did that too, 20 years earlier, but I don’t think anyone called that postmodern.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac (audio edition) — like revisiting an old friend.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier. A “rules” book for new businesses. Sassy.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. A debut novel, a series of connected short stories about an English-language newspaper in Rome. Marketed as comic, but it’s not funny at all.
Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace (audio edition) — My first Wallace. Useless, irritating. Didn’t finish. It must be me.
Scat by Carl Hiaasen (audio edition) — charming with a point as always. Of all the contemporary writers, how does Hiassen get away with having manly men?
The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon. transcriptions of panel discussions of writers. Valuable. In short: Everybody does everything. It all works.
The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson (audio edition) — Popular Swedish trilogy, easy to see why: Exotic, elliptical, sensual. Nora Ephron slays the series in The New Yorker: “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut.”