Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

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.


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).


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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143. Goodbye 2015…

143. Goodbye 2015…

Dear Book Blog,

I have been neglecting you like I have never neglected you before. I haven’t written you a monthly update since March: you could have had a baby blog in that amount of time!


The truth is…I’ve been seeing someone else. It’s not another blog this time. It’s more serious than that. I was involved with…a book.

Don’t cry. You don’t need to feel inadequate. We have fun together, but a book…well, that’s something serious.

But we’re through. That’s my big news. Me and the book, we finished in the first few days of this new year. There are one or two loose ends to tie off, but pretty soon I’m going to have a lot more time for you and, if you’ll have me, I’d like to come back to you.

Even with all our problems, we had a pretty good year, right?

Even with me neglecting you, over 4,000 people came by to see us in 2015, (although I suspect some of them may only have been visiting to see our mutual friends, David Foster Wallace and Miranda July).

And we’re a pretty international pair: those friends came from 95 different countries! (Mainly in the US, the UK, and Portugal).

Here’s to a bigger, better, closer 2016.


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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in BOOKS


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140. Books Bought & Read, March 2015…

140. Books Bought & Read, March 2015…
Plenty of presents and purchases in preparation for my impending new job as a tour guide in NYC which, incidentally, is where the majority of these books were bought on a flying visit to the Large Golden Delicious: 50 in total, in fact, and only a dozen read.
In yet another wildly unbalanced month, my bought/read ratio was damaged as I dedicated myself to my own novel, meaning that I was much more picky about the books I read. I finally got around to reading the seminal graphic novel ‘From Hell,’ Alan Moore’s interpretation of the Jack the Ripper murders, covering themes from royalty to masonry and the supernatural, all in a detailed, Sherlockian analysis. It was the only one of my reads this month to be awarded the coveted ‘Borges Book of Brilliance,’ by me.
The latest Gladwell was everything I expected it to be, (although nothing more), and Christos Tsiolkas‘ sophomore offering ‘Barracuda‘ does for swimming what Chad Harbach did for baseball and David Foster Wallace for tennis: the story of a teen’s on/off relationship with the sport through the social prism of modern-day Australia. It wasn’t quite as good as his debut, ‘The Slap,’ but enjoyable nonetheless.
My reading was really all over the place in March: a series of essays on language, by writers who were born in one and write in another, was only bought due to its beautiful, braille cover but proved to be fascinating, (especially for a linguist and writer like me); a bizarre kids’ classic in ‘Emil And The Detectives‘ was followed by an even more bizarre Japanese classic by the other Murakami, and later in the month I continued my slow assault on The Russians by reading my first and highly enjoyable Turgenev; and Portuguese history was joined by the always-amazing essays of David Sedaris, and this particular one on Dutch Christmas myths may be my new favourite by him.
I finished the month with another essay collection, slightly different from the Sedaris ones: ‘Sprezzatura,’ a wonderful Italian word for invention with flair, was a series of 50 three-page articles on the most famous people, inventions and historical moments in Italian (and, indeed, world) history, which left me with a deeper insight into the country I once spent six months inhabting. From St.Catherine of Sienna, (who lent her name to a school I once taught in) to St.Francis of Assisi, DaVinci to Dante, and ballet to law, there was something fascinating on just about every page of this two millennium journey.
Books Bought, March 2015
The Ask and the Answer,’ Patrick Ness
Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead,’ Neil Strauss
69,’ Ryu Murakami
Falling Man,Don DeLillo
Hopes And Prospects,’ Noam Chomsky
The BFG,’ Roald Dahl
Just So Stories,’ Rudyard Kipling
Black Mischief,’ Evelyn Waugh
Religion For Atheists,’ Alain DeBotton
Penguin: Great Ideas, Vol.II (20 book box set)
McSweeney’s Quarterly, issue 4
McSweeney’s Quarterly, issue 9
The Sometimes Cloudy Patriot,’ Sarah Vowell
The Alcoholic,’ Jonathan Ames
The Pale King,’ David Foster Wallace
A Confederate General From Big Sur/Dreaming Of Babylon/The Hawkline Monster,’ Richard Brautigan
By The Book: writers on literature and the literary life from the new york times book review,’ ed.Pamela Paul
That Is All,’ John Hodgman
David And Goliath,’ Malcolm Gladwell
Information Is Beautiful,’ David McCandless
A Child Again,’ Robert Coover
Assassination Vacation,’ Sarah Vowell
The Knowledge: how to rebuild civilization in the aftermath of a cataclysm,’ Lewis Dartnell
A Caça Ao Snark,’ (The Hunting Of The Snark), Lewis Carroll
O Incrível Rapáz Que Comía Livros,’ (The Incredible Book Eating Boy), Oliver Jeffers
Equívocos, Enganos  E Falsificacões Da História De Portugal,’ (Errors, Mistakes And Lies Of Portuguese History), Sérgio Luís De Carvalho
Grandes Entrevistas Da História,’ volume 1
Grandes Entrevistas Da História,’ volume 2

Grandes Entrevistas Da História,’ volume 3

Books Read, March 2015
The Last Wild,’ Piers Torday
Emil And The Detectives,’ Erich Kästner
69,’ Ryu Murakami
The Genius Of Language,’ ed.Wendy Lesser
From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell  51-r5H5xvML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
Black Mischief,’ Evelyn Waugh
Barracuda,’ Christos Tsiolkas
Holidays On Ice,’ David Sedaris
First Love’ & ‘Diary Of A Superfluous Man,’ Ivan Turgenev
David And Goliath,’ Malcolm Gladwell
Equívocos, Enganos  E Falsificacões Da História De Portugal,’ (Errors, Mistakes And Lies Of Portuguese History), Sérgio Luís De Carvalho
Sprezzatura: 50 ways italian genius shaped the world,’ Peter D’Epiro & Mary Desmond Pinkowish

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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in BOOKS


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