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174. Books Bought & Read, October 2018…

174. Books Bought & Read, October 2018…

To be fair, October is my birthday month, so it was only to be expected that I would go a little crazy with my book-buying, but this month was especially ridiculous.

I went somewhat wild knowing that there were only so many more times I would be able to get lost (both literally and figuratively) volunteering among the basement shelves at Housing Works, or browsing the boxes of books at The Strand at Central Park.

We’re moving, you see. Ditching one New for another, from anglicised to gallic, from York to Orleans.

So I had to make sure I had something good to read on the plane…

Hence this month’s totals: a full deck of 52 bought, a (comparatively) paltry 19 read.

As well as reading literature this month, I managed to hear it too, as my birthday weekend coincided with that rarest of sightings, a public talk by Haruki Murakami. He featured at the New Yorker Festival in Manhattan, and since tickets were priced obscenely I decided to simply show up at the venue and see if anyone had a spare.

They did, it was cheap, and I got to watch one of my literary idols spend over an hour charmingly explain how he never re-reads his own works, barely seems to remember plot minutiae which his audience clearly obsess over, and answer every other question/thesis from fans with some variation of: “I have no idea what that character was thinking, or what I meant by that. But yours sounds like a good theory!”

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Haruki Murakami charms the audience at the New Yorker Festival, October 2018

My favourite revelation from him concerned a line in one of his most popular novels, “Kafka On The Shore.” The interviewer asked how he had uncovered the rare and wonderful fact that Franz Kafka loved diagonal lines. Murakami’s response: “I just made that up! It sounded right!”

If that’s not master fiction writing in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

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I continued my novella-buying spree, the perfect bedside companions, and went on a boxing spree too. The excellent poetry collection on legendary African American boxer Jack Johnson (no relation) seemed to have been based directly on the chapter on him in Joyce Carol Oates’s expanded essay on the Sport of Kings which I’d happened to read just before it, and both were carefully crafted looks at the sport (if, as Oates may have convinced me, it is indeed a sport).

I also keep turning up beautiful editions of Arthur Miller plays, thanks to Penguin (as always).

I found and devoured the prequel to a book I’d much enjoyed several months ago, The Geography of Genius, this time Eric Weiner following a hot topic by reporting on various countries’ sense of happiness (or lack thereof) in The Geography of Bliss. This dovetailed with my recent obsession with ‘hygge‘-mania, and was a fun travelogue of a read.

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Nick Hornby led me to Carlo Rovelli’s simple but mind-boggling short treatise on time and how it doesn’t really exist the way we experience it. The part of this densely packed scientific exploration which stuck with me, and seemed so simple and yet so inexplicable, was that most natural processes look different going forwards and backwards, since they all involve a transfer of heat in some way. All except time, which in its purest form would look identical flowing in either direction.

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I’m not quite sure what this means, but I found it both beautiful and powerful.

Finally, I read Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, (another Penguin Classic find, which dominated this month’s haul), and learned what an incredible impact it has had on our culture; I never knew the backstory to Sinatra’s hit Mack the Knife, and was blown away hearing the German original.

One more mystery book was included in this month’s reading, and next month will reveal the reason for all the redaction. Stay tuned…

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Books Bought, October 2018

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

A View From The Bridge (Arthur Miller)

Death Of A Salesman (Arthur Miller)

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

The Big Smoke (Adrian Matejka)

Haruki Murakami And The Music Of Words (Jay Rubin)

The Elephant Vanishes (Haruki Murakami)

The Dept.Of Speculation (Jennifer Ofill)

The Tale Of Tales (Giambattista Basile)

The Threepenny Opera (Bertolt Brecht)

While Mortals Sleep (Kurt Vonnegut)

Moomin: the complete lars jansson comic strip, vol.iv (Lars Jansson)

James Joyce: a life (Edna O’Brien)

The Laramie Project (Moisés Kaufman)

The Last Interview (David Foster Wallace)

The Pathseeker (Imre Kertész)

Adventures In The Rocky Mountains (Isabella Bird)

The Cobra’s Heart (Ryszard Kapuscinski)

Borneo, Celebes, Aru (Alfred Russel Wallace)

Across The Empty Quarter (Wilfred Thesiger)

from The Meadows Of Gold (Mas’Udi)

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (J.K.Rowling)

All Souls (Javier Marías)

An Incomplete Book Of Awesome Things

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a fairies primer (Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver)

Close To Jedenew (Kevin Vennemann)

Penguin Mini Classics box set (various, 80 books)

The Order Of Time (Carlo Rovelli)

Same Same (Peter Mendelson)

The Infinity Of Lists (Umberto Eco)

The Union Jack (Imre Kertész)

Customer Service (Benoît Duteurte)

Parnassus On Wheels (Christopher Morley)

Fun Home (Alison Bechdel)

The Confidence Game: why we fall for it…every time (Maria Konnikova)

Moomin: the complete tove jansson comic strip, vol.I (Tove Jansson)

Iggy Peck, Architect (Andrea Beaty & David Roberts)

What Do You Do With A Problem? (Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom)

The Tiger’s Wife (Tea O’Brecht)

Julia Child: a life (Laura Shapiro)

The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Graham)

Nutcracker And Mouse King/The Tale Of The Nutcracker (E.T.A.Hoffmann/Alexandre Dumas)

Orient Express (Graham Greene)

101 Things I Learned In Film School (Neil Landau & Matthew Fredericks)

Spell (Anne Lauterbach)

The Intergraphic History Of The World (Valentina DEfilippo & James Ball)

The Wondrous Workings Of Planet Earth: understanding our world and its ecosystems (Rachel Ignotofsky)

A Portrait Of The Artist (James Joyce)

Moral Disorder (Margaret Atwood)

The Man Who Had All The Luck (Henry Miller)

Black Panther, Vol.IV (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Between Eternities: and other writings (Javier Marías)

 

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

The Pickle Index (Eli Horowitz & Ian Huebert)

On Boxing (Joyce Carol Oates)

The Big Smoke (Adrian Matejka)

The Geography Of Bliss (Eric Weiner)

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

A View From The Bridge (Arthur Miller)

Death Of A Salesman (Arthur Miller)

The Last Interview (David Foster Wallace)

The Laramie Project (Moisés Kaufman)

The Threepenny Opera (Bertolt Brecht)

The Golden House (Salman Rushdie)

While Mortals Sleep (Kurt Vonnegut)

James Joyce: a life (Edna O’Brien)

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

The Order Of Time (Carlo Rovelli)

Fun Home (Alison Bechdel)

101 Things I Learned In Film School (Neil Landau & Matthew Fredericks)

Black Panther, Vol.IV (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Spell (Anne Lauterbach)

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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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172. Books Bought & Read, August 2018…

172. Books Bought & Read, August 2018…

A dozen books on each side of the scales this month – the (more or less) dodecahedral theme continues!

(In case you’re wondering what dodecahedrons have to do with anything, my mathematical leanings of late are explained by the fact that this was written after the events described at the start of next month’s blog, which haven’t been released yet, and won’t for many months, but will explain everything. If you’re still reading next month. Or, for that matter, if you’re even still reading now, after this overly-long and unnecessarily opaque paragraph.)

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Skimming the Books Bought column this month I’m pleased with how especially eclectic it is, from psychology to theatre autobiogs, from classic kids books to classic literature. But, as with the Books Read, one topic is coming to dominate both lists and that is: business, due to my (hopefully) impending return to what Americans quaintly refer to as ‘school’ (what I would previously have referred to as Uni). I was in New Orleans for an interview for business school, so Amazon and Whole Foods CEOs Jeff Bezos and John Mackey accompanied me, mingling with former N’orlins Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

John Mackey’s classic business manifesto ‘Conscious Capitalism‘ was an interesting insight into what sets businesses which care apart from those which only care about profits, and interestingly Amazon featured several times.

The conclusions both jibed and jarred slightly with Brad Stone’s insight into what made the online giant so great (and so feared). Clearly Amazon is a company which focuses on the big picture and customer experience more than anything else, but in doing so Bezos regularly appears to screw suppliers and producers (not to mention regular rumblings of the dissatisfaction of their own staff, from senior positions all the way down to those working at ‘Fulfilment Centers‘), key components of Mackey’s conception of Conscious Capitalism.

Politics and business clearly go hand in hand, so it was fitting that I moved on from these two books to Mitch Landrieu’s story of how (and, more importantly, why) he removed Civil War era statues from my potential future home, New Orleans, in the face of some pretty horrific opposition. Anyone who still believes that Civil War monuments are there for anything but a constant reminder to African Americans of their place should be encouraged to read this short, personal, excellently written memoir.

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I needed some palate cleansing fiction after all that heavy fare, and I found it in spades with one of the best books I’ve read all year and a second, close contender.

With Russia in the news so much lately, it seemed fitting to take a Russian friend’s advice and finally dive into Amor Towles‘s ‘A Gentleman In Moscow,’ one of those books everyone seemed to be reading on the Subway at some point. Clever, erudite, poignant, not constrained by its constraints (it is essentially set in a single hotel in St Petersburg over several periods), and politically astute, don’t be put off by the length of this novel and treat yourself to a good old fashioned moral tale, beautifully served up.

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As if things couldn’t get any better fiction-wise, my old friend Nick Hornby casually recommended a new author to me in the monthly Believer article he writes on his fictional forays, (which, I’ve just discovered, is available FOR FREE online. But you should also buy the magazine, which is one of my favourite things in the world, and you can pick up Nick’s compilations of these articles too).

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When one of my all-time favourite authors casually mentions that “The Wife is one of my favourite novels of the twenty-first century,” (in an article which proceeds: “…but The Female Persuasion has gone straight into my library of favourite novels ever,” adding yet another book to the infinite ‘To Buy‘ list), it won’t take me long to track it down and, given its almost novella length, devour it.

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And, as always, he wasn’t wrong.

The thoughts of a wife who has frittered away her talent supporting her unfaithful writer husband unfurl backwards and forwards through time, and although the twist in the ending wasn’t much of a surprise to me, the poignancy and feeling in the writing were masterful. I’m looking forward to reading much more Meg.

Finally this month, I was encouraged to read Tao Lin’s ubiquitous ‘Trip,’ the gorgeous-covered literary autobiog which has been staring at me from every hipster bookstore shelf and table for months.

The style was unique, a bizarre blend of journalistic detachment and self-exposition; the contents informative and thought-provoking; and the overall effect disorienting.

Lin charts his fascination with Terrence McKenna, a fascinating traveller, experimenter, ethnobotanist, social advocate, and modern-day Timothy Leary. This serves as a diving off point for years of research into drugs, the self, nature, reality, all of which Lin charts in minute detail with the combined passion of a searcher for truth and the dispassion of a scientist, charting exact dosages of which drugs he consumes over time, be they ‘illegal,’ ‘over the counter’ or the everyday staples of contemporary life from coffee to cigarettes.

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Seeing the world as a continuum as opposed to binaries of good/bad makes for a messy but fascinating ride, and Lin’s introspective style is amplified by the feeling that he is trying to connect with the world but often failing, (a most modern malaise, perhaps). But emerging from the fever dream of ‘Trip’ I learned more than I have from most books, and was left with far more questions than answers, always a good thing.

I guess those hipsters know a good book when they see one.

Books Bought, August 2018

Joan Of Arc: a life (Mary Gordon)

The Wolfman and other cases (Sigmund Freud)

50 Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy (Tim Harford)

Failing Up: how to take risks, aim higher, and never stop learning (Leslie Odom Jr)

The Challenge Culture: why the most successful organizations run on pushback (Nigel Travis)

We Are All In The Dumps With Jack And Guy: two nursery rhymes with pictures  (Maurice Sendak)

Desire (Haruki Murakami)

A Life Less Throwaway: the lost art of buying for life (Tara Button)

The Battle For God:  (Karen Armstrong)

Mentored By A Madman: the william burroughs experiment (A.J.Lees)

Beautiful And Impossible Things: selected essays (Oscar Wilde)

Sea Prayer (Khaled Hosseini)

 

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

Conscious Capitalism (Mackey & Sisodia)

The Wife (Meg Wolitzer)

In The Shadow Of Statues: a white southerner confronts history (Mitch Landrieu)

The Everything Store: jeff bezos and the age of amazon (Brad Stone)

Trip: psychedlics, alienation, and change (Tao Lin)

The Double Death Of Quincas Water-Bray (Jorge Amado)

The Where, The Why, And The How: 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science (ed. Lamothe, Rothman, Volvovski & Macaulay)

100 Poems That Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the words that move them (ed.Holden & Holden)

Sea Prayer (Khaled Hosseini)

Desire (Haruki Murakami)

A Gentleman In Moscow (Amor Towles)

Failing Up: how to take risks, aim higher, and never stop learning (Leslie Odom Jr)

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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136. 2014 In (Book) Review…

136. 2014 In (Book) Review…

Blimey, writing a book takes time. Who knew?

It is the first week of March, 2015, and only now am I getting around to analysing the stats of my 2014 in books, with most of my spare time nowadays being dedicated to writing my tales of travel and trouble. (Copies of the book will be available for sale shortly, in case anyone is interested!)

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My final tally for 2014?

229 books bought, 143 read:

a net annual LG (or Literature Gap, a measurement I have just invented), of 86.

As far as this book blog went, it had a fairly impressive 6,800 views, (impressive given that, with all my travels and sports writing, this has essentially been downgraded from a weekly blog to a monthly one…at best…), and featured 358 photos. Apparently, I also usually post on a Monday.

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My most viewed blog was what i was reading in October… 2013!! I like to think it was the insightful reviews of David Foster Wallace and Italo Calvino that brought you there, but knowing the internet, it was probably the photo of Hitler-cat.

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Still, it made me happy that my third most popular release this year was my centennial effort, my interview with the wonderful Nick Hornby.

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The blog had viewers from 111 different countries! I’m not even sure i can name that many countries! The USA took top spot, then then the UK and Portugal, which makes sense given my travels, living locations, and friendships.

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My new year’s blogging resolutions include: to add to my Top 10 blogs, for both authors and books…10 is a ridiculously small number anyway!

This being my third year of blogging, I could go back to my reviews of 2012 and 2013 and calculate some averages: I buy an average of 235 books each year, and manage to read almost 160 of them. And before you ask, no, I you can’t have my life: I’m using it.

Keep dropping by for monthly updates as I make my way further into the world of the writer, and feel free to subscribe to make sure you never miss one of these irregular posts again!

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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in BOOKS

 

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