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152. Books Bought & Read, January 2017…

I know last blog I promised you a review of 2016, but as the legendary Douglas Adams famously said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by…

So that’ll be next month.

I read a large baker’s dozen of books this past month (14), but everywhere I turned I seemed to stumble across a treasure trove of Penguin Classic Deluxes, which I am slowly accumulating and which account for the elevated quantity of books in the Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott wheelhouse, as well as the tally of 43 books acquired, (including two of the Brooklyn bard’s classic ‘Leaves Of Grass.’ Anybody looking for a spare copy? I just can’t help myself from buying beautiful books…)

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I discovered a new favourite author this January in Simon Rich, ripping through two collections of short stories by this New Yorker and Saturday Night Live writer, every one of which was rye, twisted and hilarious.

Don’t let the fact that he looks 12 years old put you off: go out and read something by him, now.

(Here you go: I’ll even get you started with one).

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I gave my nod to NY history by finishing the mammoth biography of the richest man in modern times, John D.Rockefeller (Sr.), and refreshed my scientific curiosity with the short and sweetly written ‘The Ten Most Beautiful Scientific Experiments,’ a blend of history and explanation of the magical universe I greatly enjoyed.

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That set me up to read the equally delightful ‘The Pattern On The Stone,’ a simplified explanation of the theory behind computers. Terrified I would be inundated with complicated jargon and incomprehensible technical maps, this exploration of the core concepts of logic and information storage may not help me to create an iPad from scratch after the inevitable apocalypse, but was a fascinating and highly accessible read nonetheless.

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Miranda July continues to be one of my favourite people, and I finally got hold of a copy of her unclassifiable ‘It Chooses You,’ a masterclass in procrastination in which she visits, interviews and photos strangers advertising things for sale in a local newspaper which she has absolutely no intention of buying. Truly bizarre, and a little hypnotic.

A lot like this video of hers…

And, after reading two award winning novels last month, I eventually read 2016’s Booker Prize Winner, ‘The Sellout,’ in which Paul Beatty sets off from the starter’s pistol at pace and never lets up. A coiled, compact tale of race relations and twisted stereotypes packed with endless, streaming wordplay, I can’t believe it took me this long to read it.

You shouldn’t wait, either.

Books Bought, January 2017

Leaves Of Grass (Walt Whitman) x2

Privacy (Garret Keizer)

An Anthropologist On Mars (Oliver Sacks)

I Like You: hospitality under the influence (Amy Sedaris)

The Great War: july 1, 1916: the first day of the battle of the somme (Joe Sacco)

McSweeney’s No.23

On Argentina (Jorge Luis Borges)

Lonely Planet: colombia

Lonely Planet: iceland

Songs Of The Garden (Utamaro)

Twelve Years A Slave (Solomon Northup)

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

It Chooses You (Miranda July)

Bat-Manga! the secret history of batman in japan (Chip Kidd & Geoff Spear)

Ronin (Frank Miller)

The $100 Startup: reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and make a new future (Chris Guillebeau)

Top 10 New Orleans (Dorling Kingsley)

Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen)

The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)

Shakespeare Wrote For Money (Nick Hornby)

Housework Vs.The Dirt Nick Hornby)

More Baths, Less Talking (Nick Hornby)

Today Will Be Different (Maria Semple)

The Mark And The Void (Paul Murray)

Islam (Karen Armstrong)

The Broom Of The System (David Foster Wallace)

The Strange Library (Haruki Murakami)

Fooling Houdini: magaicians, mentalists, math geeks, and the hidden powers of the mind (Alex Stone)

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

Emma (Jane Austen)

The Narrow Road To The Deep North and other travel sketches (Bashô)

The Gospel Of Wealth: essays and other writings (Andrew Carnegie)

The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison)

The Divine Within: selected writings on englightenment (Aldous Huxley)

ABC (Marion Bataille)

The Pale King (David Foster Wallace)

The Ministry Of Special Cases (Nathan Englander)

Being A Dog: following the dog into a world of smell (Alexandra Horowitz)

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

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (George Johnson)

Collected Essays (Arthur Miller)

Presence: collected stories (Arthur Miller)

 

Books Read, January 2017 (Books in bold are highly recommended)

The Jaguar Smile: a nicaraguan journey (Salman Rushdie)

Spoiled Brats (Simon Rich)

A Book Of Penguin (various)

The Sellout (Paul Beatty)

The Pattern On The Stone: the simple ideas that make computers work (W.Daniel Hillis)

The Last Girlfriend On Earth: and other love stories (Simon Rich)

Hallucinations (Oliver Sacks)

Titan: the life of john d.rockefeller, sr. (Ron Chernow)

The Geography Of Genius: a search for the world’s most creative places (Eric Weiner)

Privacy (Garret Keizer)

It Chooses You (Miranda July)

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments (George Johnson)

Scepticism Inc. (Bo Fowler)

The Broom Of The System (David Foster Wallace)

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 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!

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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.

Doron

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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in BOOKS

 

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107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

Short

stories

are

BRILLIANT!

I have found myself reading a lot of them recently, and even discovering new favourite authors, from George Saunders to Etgar Keret.

They are an art form unto themselves, following different rules, logic and styles to other types of literature and, best of all, if you’re not enjoying one it’s all over soon enough and you can move onto another.

But even knowing all of this, and with glowing praise from newspapers, magazines and authors (including my beloved Dave Eggers) on the front and back covers, I was still blown away with how good Miranda July‘s 2005 debut ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You‘ was/is.

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As you can see from the website she set up to promote the book, she has a quirky, indie sense of humour which comes flooding out in the 16 tales told in this compilation, but it is a humour interwoven with an array of emotions and issues: ball-shrinking awkwardness, (‘Making Love In 2003‘ is the best excuse for paedophilia since ‘Lolita‘ only in a more sci-fi, hilarious way, if you can picture that); feminism; social awkwardness; sexual awkwardness; physical awkwardness, (it occurs to me, writing this, that there is a lot of awkwardness in there, which I probably should have guessed given the title…but awkwardness, as fans of ‘The Office‘ will know, is often amusing); and underlying it all, love.

Where we find love, how we find love, how it finds us, how it avoids finding us, what we put up with to convince ourselves we have it – these are all things you may learn reading this book. But most of all, you will have fun.

At the 2013 Hay Literature Festival I had the honour of attending a talk by the aforementioned George Saunders using a wonderful Donald Barthelme short story to deconstruct the art of the short story. (I am delighted to find that the piece itself is free to read online here). It was all about the journey and not the ending, the author leading the reader to new, unexpected places, and doing it in under incredibly restrictive parameters. (I think. I don’t remember it too well, and don’t have time to go back and listen to it, which you can do if you feel like, here).

If you haven’t read many short stories, you could do a lot worse than start here.

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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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