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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…

157. Books Bought & Read, June 2017…

157. Books Bought & Read, June 2017…

In ‘Willpower,’ the fascinating study of that illusive character trait which I have in abundance when it comes to alcohol and not at all when it comes to purchasing books, Baumeister and Tierney discuss how strict diets can set the average weight watcher up for failure as, once you transgress your self-imposed limits once, it often leads to the food floodgates opening.

The bibliographic equivalent befell me this month.

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Since last month, I have made a vague effort to not read at least as many books as I buy, and with a week to go I was a couple of copies ahead of my purchasing potential.

And then I visited my friend Chris at the Central Park Strand Stand, and all the month’s good work was undone.

So it didn’t seem worthwhile holding back anymore, and I emerged later that (hot, humid, New York) afternoon from the mythical underground East Village Books and Records with three as-yet unowned editions of the Last Interview series (all B’s, bizarrely: Bolaño, Bradbury and my beloved Borges), as well as a second Kerouac of the month, (not bad for an author I’m pretty sure I dislike, but when Penguin decides to include him in their Classic Deluxe Editions, what’s a collector to do?!)

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So, 33 bought, 23 read, and a new written dietary regime begins afresh in July.

Frustratingly, in an effort to hurriedly rebalance the scales, I ended up reading a book I HAD ALREADY READ. Denis Johnson is an incredible, versatile author, and ‘The Laughing Monsters,’ his short tale of passion, betrayal and spies in Africa, may have been equally fun the second time around, but there are too many books in the universe, (or on my bookshelves, even), for me to read books twice. Fie.

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I was depressed by Joshua Ferris’s wonderfully bleak short story collection ‘The Dinner Party‘, (his debut novel, ‘Then We Came To The End,’ is still one of my favourites of the past few years); thought-provoked by Klosterman’s challenging ‘But What If We’re Wrong?’ (with its ingenious, OCD-infuriatingly upside-down cover); and discovered a new author when I finally read some Carson McCullers short stories, and went straight back to the shelf to wolf down her ‘ The Member Of The Wedding.

Nothing much happens in this lilting, Southern tale, but it fails to happen in such gorgeously described detail, and features a kind of female Catcher In The Rye, (as I saw the main character described), which makes for a wonderful reading experience.

But if there is one theme to last month’s reading, it is: beautiful editions.

Naturally, there were a few more informative TED talks , and I finally started in on the small corner of sweet, red-bound New York Review of Books kids series I have tucked away, (with a bizarre and bizarrely dark tale by Astrid Lindgren,), but it was the equally Scandewegian, equally fairy taley H.C.Anderson who provided the most beautiful bindings for my shelf.

Ten Speed Press released stunning, cloth-bound editions of two Anderson tales, (the puzzling ‘The Fir Tree‘ and the deeply disturbing ‘The Snow Queen‘), with illustrations from neighbouring Finn (and contender for Most Melodic Name Of All Time Award) Sanna Annukka. They were originally intended as presents for my (newly) 8-year-old niece, but somehow haven’t found their way off my shelf yet.

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Luckily, the same can’t be said for probably my favourite book this past month: ‘I’m Just No Good At Rhyming,’  from TV comedy writer Chris Harris. Within half a dozen pages I was a kid again, (not that it takes much…) reading Michael Rosen and Dr.Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and laughing out loud perhaps more than a 39-year-old should at a kids book of poems.

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Harris and illustrator Lane Smith make full use of page space, visual gags, comedy callbacks, and surrealism, sprinkled with just the right amount of not-too-much emotion to produce a work I was more than happy to present to my equally delighted niece.

Mainly because I had two copies.

 

 

Books Bought, June 2017

Seiobo There Below (László Krasznahorkai)

The Sunset Limited (Cormac McCarthy)

The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe and other stories(Carson McCullers)

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

On The Road (Jack Kerouac)

The Wonderful O (James Thurber)

The Book Of The People: how to read the bible (A.N.Wilson)

Asteroid Hunters (Carrie Nugent)

Glaxo (Hernán Ronsino)

The Good Earth (Pearl S.Buck, ill.Nick Bertozzi)

Lord Of The Flies (William Golding)

Who Are You Really? the surprising puzzle of personality (Brian R.Little)

The Blue Fox (Sjón)

Vile Bodies (Evelyn Waugh)

Sputnik Sweetheart (Haruki Murakami)

Welcome To The Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut)

Shenzhen: a travelogue from china (Guy Delisle)

The Crucible (Arthur Miller)

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (Mark Twain)

The Abolition Of Man (C.S.Lewis)

The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Anderson)

The Fir Tree (Hans Christian Anderson)

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

The Last Temptation (Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli & Alice Cooper)

Stories Of Your Life and other stories (Ted Chiang)

Am I Alone Here? notes on living to read and reading to live (Peter Orner)

My Friend Dahmer (Derf Backderf)

Object Lessons: the paris review presents the art of the short story (various)

Believe Me (Eddie Izzard)

Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac)

The Last Interview: Roberto Bolaño

The Last Interview: Ray Bradbury

The Last Interview: Jorge Luis Borges

 

Books Read, June 2017 (highly recommended books are in bold)

The Dinner Party and other stories (Joshua Ferris)

But What If We’re Wrong? thinking about the present as if it were the past(Chuck Klosterman)

Spork (Maclear & Arsenault)

Building The New American Economy: smart, fair & sustainable (Jonathan Sacks)

Writing In The Dark: essays on literature and politics (David Grossman)

I’m Just No Good At Rhyming: and other nonsense for mischievous kids and immature grown-ups (Chris Harris, illus.Lane Smith)

Color: a natural history of the palette (Victoria Finlay)

The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe and other stories(Carson McCullers)

Stay Where You Are, Then Leave (John Boyne)

Asteroid Hunters (Carrie Nugent)

The Laughing Monsters (Denis Johnson)

The Good Earth (Pearl S.Buck, ill.Nick Bertozzi)

The Bricks That Built The Houses (Kate Tempest)

Glaxo (Hernán Ronsino)

Who Are You Really? the surprising puzzle of personality (Brian R.Little)

The Blue Fox (Sjón)

The Member Of The Wedding (Carson McCullers)

My Son, Mio (Astrid Lindgren)

Shenzhen: a travelogue from china (Guy Delisle)

The Abolition Of Man (C.S.Lewis)

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (Mark Twain)

The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Anderson)

The Fir Tree (Hans Christian Anderson)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…

156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…

 

Yipppeeeee! For the first time in quite a while I read more books than I bought this month, giving me the feeling that I have added the tiniest grain of order to an entropic universe, doing my smallest part in the fight for organisation in an uncaring, chaotic world.

It’s even better than the tally of 22 bought, 25 read seems, since several of those were presents, (or headed to the increasingly bulging Books To Gift stack), meaning I managed to get a few books ahead of myself in the past 31 days. This was almost miraculous given that I began a new job two weeks ago, and am spending much of my spare time trying to figure out the difference between computer storage and memory.

Sure, many of the books I read were (as ever) graphic novels, but when Neil Gaiman declares a work “The best graphic novel I’ve read in years” you know it’s going to be worthwhile, and it was: Scott McCloud’s ‘The Sculptor‘ was a tender, mythical look into art, life, Faustian bargains and final intentions by the writer/artist who brought us the excellent ‘Understanding Comics‘.

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Many were Penguin Great Ideas, the series of beautifully bound, 100-page selections ranging across styles, centuries and themes, from Orwell on the price of books to Marco Polo on his adventures, and one each came from Penguin’s Great Journeys series (shipwrecks in the Americas) and their Great Loves collection (the slightly interminable Abelard and Heloïse), as well as the highly (and rightly) acclaimed Paul Kalinithi on turning from doctor to patient when cancer curtailed both his career and his life in ‘When Breath Becomes Air‘.

But I also found time to finally devour George Saunders‘ debut novel, ‘Lincoln In The Bardo,’ a sweet, smart sea of voices from beyond the grave commentating on life, death, politics, and everything else which makes us human, with all of Saunders’ typically tender touch.

In ever-eclectic fashion, I devoured books on feminism (after attending a talk by the excellent Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie); modern American racism (by the powerfully persuasive Michael Eric Dyson); and the history of Dungeons & Dragons in graphic novel form.

But this month’s highlights were stories: firstly from one of my favourite Young Adult authors, David Almond, who crafted a collection of childhood memories into allegorical tales so powerful one of them left me in tears.

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And secondly, a first collection from The Moth story-telling events, which take place monthly at my workplace, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and which I finally plan to attend next month.

Ranging from the famous to the everyday, from euphoric yarns to tragic tales, from universal themes to the peculiarly personal, these snapshots of life should be enough to entertain anyone, whatever you’re looking for.

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And, of course, Neil gets to write the foreword.

 

 

Books Bought, May 2017

We Have Always Lived In The Castle, (Shirley Jackson)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

The Shadow Of The Sun (Ryszard Kapuściński)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Wall And Piece (Banksy)

Nobody’s Fool (Yoshitomo Nara)

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

The Book Of Cheese: the essential guide to discover chesses you’ll love (Liz Thorpe)

The Dinner Party and other stories (Joshua Ferris)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

The Greek Myths (ed.Robert Graves)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)

 

Books Read, May 2017   (Recommended books in bold)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

Tears We Cannot Stop: a sermon to white america (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music: conversations with (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Occupy (Noam Chomsky)

Books vs Cigarettes (George Orwell)

Travels In The Land Of Kublai Khan (Marco Polo)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Shipwrecked Men (Cabeza de Vaca)

Forbidden Fruit: from the letters of aberlard and heloïse

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

Half A Creature From The Sea: a life in stories (David Almond)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Snow White (Donald Barthelme)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

Go Tell It On The Mountain (James Baldwin)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)

House Mother Normal (B.S.Johnson)

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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155. Books Bought & Read, April 2017…

155. Books Bought & Read, April 2017…

April 2017 saw me buy 24 books and read a nice round 10 of them: a slowing down on all fronts, but then I am getting older, (I somehow turn 40 later this year, although thankfully I still feel 14 inside), and started the second of three jobs I will have by the time you read this, so I may have to focus on quality over quantity from now on.

As warned, my reading revolved primarily around food this month, as I led my first food tours around Greenwich Village, so the history of places and proteins were my principal literary diet this month. From fish to France and potatoes to Provence, I filled my mind with all sorts of food and drink based knowledge as well as virtual geographical exploration.

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Even when I wasn’t directly learning about where our fish comes from (and why it’s almost run out), or how apples were spread across the USA not for their fruit but for the liquor you could make from them, I was reading literature which revolved around food in the form of the International Booker Prize winning South Korean novella ‘The Vegetarian,’ which was dark, depressing and mysterious, a kind of Murakami novel without the jazz, or cats, or wells, or spark of optimism.

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The Last Interview series continued to surprise and educate with a series of snapshots of the life of Lou Reed at various points during his life. This blended seamlessly with John Strausberg’s encyclopaedic tome on Greenwich Village, whose streets I pound most days now, whilst feeding people pizza and ferreting out modern-day speakeasies or discovering the (still existent) studio where Jimi Hendrix recorded Electric Ladyland.

Michael Pollan continues to delight and surprise: I devoured his ‘Cookedlast month, and this month finally had a crack at one of his smaller offerings which had somehow never tempted me.

Despite its awful title, ‘The Botany of Desire‘ revealed the wonders of human interaction with apples, potatoes, tulips and marijuana. Trivia abounded, as did some useful information for my tours, (did you know apple seeds each create their own, completely different type of apple tree? You did? Liar!)

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Paul Greenberg’s ‘Four Fish‘ was equally fascinating, and followed the flow of salmon, tuna, cod and sea bass across space and time. The latter I learned is a bizarrely catch-all term for a huge number of creatures, including the Patagonian Toothfish which, unsurprisingly, sells much  better in restaurants when presented under its new name: Chilean sea bass!

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It was a blend of depressing history, (repetitive over-fishing and tragedy of the commons), with scientific genius, but I ended the book more confused than ever about which fish to eat/where to get them/whether to eat fish at all.

I’m going to go have some organic sprouted almond butter on ezekiel bread whilst I think about it…

 

Books Bought, April 2017

McSweeney’s No.3 (various)

Lists Of Note, Vol.II (ed.Sean Usher)

A Field Guide To Whiskey  (Hans Offringa)

His Bloody Project (Graeme Macrae Burnet)

Here I Am (Jonathan Safron Foer)

The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

The Best Of McSweeney’s (various)

The Last Bad Man (Miranda July)

I (Stephen Dixon)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

In Their Lives: great writers on great beatles songs (various)

A Little History Of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton)

The Undoing Project: a friendship that changed our mind (Michael Lewis)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Meeting (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

McSweeney’s No.49 (various)

The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Somewhere A Master (Elie Wiesel)

The Duel (Anton Chekov)

Collected Stories (Gabriel García Márquez)

Half A Creature From The Sea (David Almond)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

On Writing: a memoir of the craft (Stephen King)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

The Pine Tar Game: the kansas city royals, the new york yankees, and baseball’s most absurd and entertaining controversy (Filip Bondy)

 

Books Read, April 2017 (Recommended books in bold)

David Boring (Daniel Clowes)

The Last Interview (Lou Reed)

Coming In To Land: selected poems, 1975-2015 (Andrew Motion)

The Botany Of Desire: a plant’s-eye view of the world (Michael Pollan)

The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues – a history of greenwich village (John Strausbaugh)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Meeting (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Food And Wine Of France: eating & drinking from champagne to provence (Edward Behr)

Four Fish: the future of the last wild food (Paul Greenberg)

The Subway Chronicles (various)

The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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