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Category Archives: BOOKS

My (irregular) blog on books: what I’m reading, why I’m reading it, where I’m reading it…

168. Books Bought & Read, April 2018…

168. Books Bought & Read, April 2018…

Four months into 2018 and my intake for the first time this year overtook my consumption: 17 bought and just over half of them read.

This was due to a combination of a 40th birthday party weekend in Vegas which took a few days out of my monthly reading schedule (and a few days out of my memory, too…), a hectic work schedule, and a particularly meaty book on the food industry which took longer than expected to get through.

Like someone on a diet who gives in to temptation once and then goes on a binge, as soon as I realised I wasn’t going to keep up with the Books Bought column, I went out and bought a bunch more, (at least one of them for its Penguin Classic Deluxe cover).

 

The more eagle-eyed readers out there will notice one Mystery Book included in both columns, but I can’t/won’t talk about that yet. It’s good to have a little suspense in life.

When I’m not reading or working, I’m generally addicted to podcasts these days, and it always makes me smile when life synchronously presents a book to me at the very moment I’m listening to an interview with its author on the excellent Fresh Air with Terry Gross. It happened again this month with Tim Kreider’s wonderful collection of personal essays, ‘I Wrote This Book Because I Love You.‘ A blend of David Sedaris-style memoir and David Foster Wallace’s observation, the collection shows an  all-encompassing interest in life which emerges as a thing all its own. It ranges seamlessly from the painfully personal to the panoramically universal in the most fluid way, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of his work.

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Journalist Mark Kurlansky kept me entertained in my more sober Vegas moments with his tales of culture told through the eyes of various animals and the people around them, and Michael Eric Dyson taught me about the incredible cultural meeting between Bobby Kennedy and James Baldwin in 1963, which was part of the administration’s attempt to improve race relations. After reading his highly influential and persuasive ‘Tears We Cannot Stop‘ last year, Dyson has become one of my go-to guides on the issue of contemporary race relations in the US.

 

The aforementioned ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat’ had me both furious at the food industry and furiously scanning labels for ingredients at the supermarket. I don’t eat or drink much processed food (chocolate aside), but I am certainly making more of an effort to eat more fruit, vegetables, and natural ingredients after consuming this hard-to-swallow exposé. You really don’t want to know how much cheese there is in just about everything we eat these days, (thanks to people switching to skimmed milk from the 1960s, and the US government’s pledge to support the dairy industry, however much they produced).

To take away the bitter aftertaste of that work, I ironically turned to one of the bitterest drinks out there. ‘The Monk of Mokha’ tells the tale of the first Yemeni coffee expert in centuries, risking his life in a civil war zone to restore some pride to the middle eastern hotspot. It is a return to form for Dave Eggers, whose non-fiction I may enjoy even more than his fiction, (see: ‘Zeitoun’ on Hurrican Katrina, ‘What Is The What’ on the Somali refugee crisis, etc).

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I don’t actually drink coffee, (with the amount of sugar and milk I’d have to add just to make it palatable, I may as well just have a milkshake. Which I usually do, despite Michael Moss’s warnings), but this tale made me want to head to Blue Bottle to give it a try.

Which I may do right now.

 

Books Bought, April 2018

****! ***’** ****** ** * ***! (**** ********) (Book redacted pending future update)

In Praise Of Wasting Time (Alan Lightman)

The Divine Comedy (Dante)

World Without Fish (Mark Kurlansky)

What Truth Sounds Like (Michael Eric Dyson)

The Monk Of Mokha (Dave Eggers)

F You Very Much: understanding the culture of rudeness and what we can do about it (Danny Wallace)

Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Döblin)

How Not To Be A Boy (Robert Webb)

The Third Plate: field notes on the future of food (Dan Barber)

Fear Of Flying (Erica Jong)

Johnny Ive: the genius behind apple’s greatest products (Leander Kahney)

Napoleon: a life (Paul Johnson)

Winston Churchill: a life (John Keegan)

Dinner At The Center Of The Earth (Nathan Englander)

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)

Gorgias (Plato)

 

Books Read, April 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

****! ***’** ****** ** * ***! (**** ********) (Book redacted pending future update)

In Praise Of Wasting Time (Alan Lightman)

What Truth Sounds Like: rfk, james baldwin, and our unfinished conversation about race in america (Michael Eric Dyson)

F You Very Much: understanding the culture of rudeness and what we can do about it (Danny Wallace)

Salt, Sugar, Fat: how the food giants hooked us (Michael  Moss)

I Wrote This Because I Love You (Tim Kreider)

Double Indemnity (James M.Cain)

City Of Beasts: fourteen short stories of uninvited wildlife (Mark Kurlansky)

The Monk Of Mokha (Dave Eggers)

 

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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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167. Books Bought & Read, March 2018…

167. Books Bought & Read, March 2018…

Hi.

You probably don’t remember me.

We met online once.

I thought things went pretty well; we both liked books, and talking about books. And puns.

Well, I liked puns, at least, and you didn’t leave.

And then, just when we were getting closer, and things were getting a little more serious, (how long have we been hanging out? 3 years? 4?), I disappeared.

It’s not you; it’s me. I’ve been busy.

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I know that sounds like an excuse, but in this case it’s a pretty good one, if four of the biggest upheavals in life all happening within a few months of each other can be considered a good excuse.

None of them have actually happened yet, but they are all in the pipeline, quite far along the pipeline actually, almost at the end of the pipeline it could be said. November for one, December for a couple of others, and January for the last.

But you’ll hear all about that in the coming months’ (catch-up) blogs, (and the Sherlockally-minded among you will be able to glean some clues from the selection of books consumed in the upcoming blogs).

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All I’ll say for March is that I began well-balanced: 17 bought, 17 read.

I made a concerted effort to make a dent in the McSweeney’s shelf I have in the apartment, with some poetry and comedy from my favourite San Fransisco publisher.

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I got stuck into a bunch of great history books, from the paranoia of Hunter S. Thompson, to Chomsky on US ‘democracy,’ to the creation of the extraordinary Hamilton, to the history of man-made languages, (did you know George Soros’s parents were early adopters of the ur-language Esperanto, and changed their last name to the Esperanto verb ‘to soar‘? You did? Liar…)

 

 

I returned to the topsy-turvy, adult fairytale world of Finland’s favourites The Moomins once more, after revisiting neighbouring Iceland’s myth-maker Sjón in another magical tale.

 

 

And after picking up a proof copy of the incredibly talented Sarah Winman’s latest tale, Tin Man, I read it in an evening whilst practically holding my breath, a stunningly moving sliver of a book.

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Until next month, which  will be coming sooner than expected…

 

 

 

 

Books Bought, March 2018

Further Joy (John Brandon)

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest (Runberg, Homs & Carot)

The Descent Of Man (Grayson Perry)

Feel Free: essays (Zadie Smith)

Enlightenment Now (Steven Pinker)

The Best American Non-Required Reading (ed.Sarah Vowell)

I Wrote This Book Because I Love You (Tim Kreider)

A Horse Walks Into A Bar (David Grossman)

The Last Interview (Hunter S.Thompson)

Jagannath (Karin Tidbeck)

Frankenstein In Baghdad (Ahmed Saadawi)

Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

The Complete Moomin Comic Strip, Vol.I (Tove Jansson)

Salt, Sugar, Fat (Michael Moss)

Socrates: a man for our times (Paul Johnson)

From The Mouth Of The Whale (Sjón)

 

Books Read, March 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Seducer’s Diary (Søren Kierkegaard)

The End Of The Story (Lydia Davis)

In The Land Of Invented Langauges (Arika Okrent)

The Descent Of Man (Grayson Perry)

A Horse Walks Into A Bar (David Grossman)

The Last Interview (Hunter S.Thompson)

Tin Man (Sarah Winman)

The Complete Moomin Comic Strip, Vol.I (Tove Jansson)

A Load Of Hooey (Bob Odenkirk)

Tombo (W.S.DiPiero)

Tradition (Daniel Khalastchi)

Secrets, Lies and Democracy (Noam Chomsky)

The End Of Love (Marcos Giralt Torrente)

One Hundred Apocalypses (Lucy Corin)

Socrates: a man for our times (Paul Johnson)

Hamilton: the revolution (Lin Manuel Miranda)

From The Mouth Of The Whale (Sjón)

 

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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166. Books Bought & Read, February 2018…

166. Books Bought & Read, February 2018…

The shortest month, but plenty of time for reading with winter making a late appearance in New York: 20 books bought, and 20 read, (although there is a case for counting the Harry Potter script as two books, since it literally says so on the cover…but since I bought it this month too, it wouldn’t affect the tally if I did, so it can stay as one, wonderfully nostalgic tome. I enjoyed it way more than I expected to, dipping my toes back into the history of Hogwarts and Harry’s (h)offspring).

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I also decided to stop including gifts in my Books Bought tally, (and if you don’t like it, go start your own bookblog!), so you can add around 20% to the totals from hereon in, and I even briefly considered not including ‘swaps’ – books I already own which I buy just for the new edition it comes in, (i.e. most of the Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions I picked up this month, in case you saw Bridget Jones and Amy Tan and were wondering if you had slipped into a time-warp and it’s the 1990s again).

There was, as ever, a surreal blend of genres in my reading this month, starting with an amuse-bouche of graphic novels, (Tomine and Clowes, two of my favourites in the field, proving yet again that graphic novels are some of the best literature around), and reading Chomsky is like an anti-palate cleanser; it’s always good to remind yourself how filthy western history is, in case the current political climate has you yearning for the ‘good ole days.’

Memoir met New York history with a wonderful foodie bent in Tamara Shopsin’s unique ‘Arbitrary Stupid Goals,’ the history of her parents’ fantastic shop-turned-restaurant in my new stamping ground, Greenwich Village. Having recently moved to the Essex Street Market, and featuring almost 1,000 menu items, I have a new restaurant to visit, (and guidelines how to avoid being thrown out of it!).

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I somehow keep finding posthumous Vonnegut collections I haven’t read, and they keep failing to disappoint, as do the wonderfully informative Last Interview series. I may have to dip into some Philip K.Dick sci-fi as a result, to see the physical manifestation of the extraordinary paranoia he displays in this collection.

Possibly my favourite, guilty pleasure this month was a glossy, gorgeous, watch-shaped compilation of photos of deluxe time-pieces, and the stories of their owners. I’ve always been a horologophile, and this collection proved a fascinating late-night treat for the eyes.

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Books Bought, February 2018

The Seducer’s Diary (Søren Kierkegaard)

Bridget Jones’ Diary (Helen Fielding)

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Alice Through The Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)

The Last Interview (Philip K.Dick)

The Last Interview (Nora Ephron)

The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight (Vladimir Nabokov)

Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)

Letter To My Father (Franz Kafka)

Trickster Makes The World: mischief, myth, and art (Lewis Hyde)

The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)

Confabulations (John Berger)

Hector And The Search For Happiness (François Lelord)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

Swing Time (Zadie Smith)

Havana: autobiography of a city (Alfredo José Estrada)

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? (Kurt Vonnegut)

Shortcomings (Adrian Tomine)

Ice Haven (Daniel Clowes)

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, parts I & II (J.K.Rowling)

The Imitation Game: alan turing decoded (Jim Ottaviani)

 

Books Read, February 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

Drop Dead Healthy: one man’s humble quest for bodily perfection (A.J.Jacobs)

Everybody Lies: big data, new data, and what the internet can tell us about who we really are (Seth Stephens Davidowitz)

Table Manners: how to behave in the modern world and why bother (Jeremiah Towers)

The New Wine Rules: a genuinely helpful guide to everything you need to know (Jon Bonné)

You May Also Like: taste in an age of endless choice (Tom Vanderbilt)

The Last Interview (Philip K.Dick)

The Last Interview (Nora Ephron)

Arbitrary Stupid Goal (Tamara Shopsin)

Will You Always Love Me? (Joyce Carol Oates)

Hector And The Search For Happiness (François Lelord)

A Man And His Watch (Matt Hranek)

Ice Haven (Daniel Clowes)

Shortcomings (Adrian Tomine)

Confabulations (John Berger)

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? (Kurt Vonnegut)

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, parts I & II (J.K.Rowling)

Where Was The Room Where It Happened? the unofficial hamiton, an american musical, location guide (B.L.Barreras)

Roy G Biv: an exceedingly surprising book about color (Jude Stewart)

The Prosperous Few And The Restless Many (Noam Chomsky)

What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Noam Chomsky)

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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