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173. Books Bought & Read, September 2018…

173. Books Bought & Read, September 2018…

19 bought, 9 read.

After breaking my streak with a positive net gain last month, it wasn’t even close in September. Not even 50%, (aka 2:1, proportionally speaking. Sorry, I spent the past two weeks intensely studying maths for the first time in around two and a half decades in order to pass a grad school entrance exam, which both limited my available time for pleasure reading and left me with numbers and symbols floating in front of my eyes from which I have yet to recover).

The Big Issues raised by this month’s blog: do the books I received for trading in excess copies during a vicious Bookshelf Cull count as ‘Books Bought’ for the month? And is it fair, knowing I won’t surpass my Books Bought total for the month, to not read the last few pages of a couple of novels I was nearing the end of, knowing I can then count them towards next month’s tally when I finish them on October 1st? Who knew keeping a book blog would open up such a Pandora’s Labyrinth of moral quandaries?! (And more to the point, without spellcheck who knew it was spelt ‘quandaries‘ and not ‘quandries‘?)

With slim pickings on the Books Read front, I have time and space to mention that the Books Bought column was boosted by the discovery of some beautiful covers on rereleased books. These were mainly those delightful Penguin Classic Deluxes, which I continue to hunt down faster than Pokémon in Central Park, although I only seem to be finding the 600+ page editions which are putting a significant strain on our bookshelves, (see: the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and the 50th anniversary edition of Bulgakov’s ‘The Master And Margarita,’ neither of which I may ever even read, having read them both already. But they sure look stunning on the shelf).

Following on from last month’s discovery of Tao Lin, I picked up and had a crack at his breakout novel, ‘Taipei’. Confusing, frustrating, stylistically interesting but with a lead character I completely failed to connect with, I can see why he has become both such a popular and a divisive figure, (a brief internet search immediately brought up a review from NPR containing the following: “Taipei, Lin’s newest book, is…(a)t once very bad and very good, it swings between dullness and wild, excessive beauty.” It is headlined: ‘Taipei is Lifelike – But That’s Not Necessarily A Compliment.”)

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On a completely different fictional plane, I have loved tracking down the bite-size books in Melville House’s incredible The Art of the Novella series, and this month I picked up and imbibed two more: a so-so Edith Wharton tale of marital folly, and Prosper Mérimée’s delightful ‘Carmen‘, inspiration for the opera and a thoroughly enjoyable 19th century romp around Spain featuring derring-do, men fallen from grace (for a change), and the laughing, cavalier eponymous heroine, a Roma traveller with a knack for getting whatever she wants. Highly entertaining.

The Prophet‘ was a gift from family friends which I had somehow never gotten around to reading, and there were some moving and relevant sections to this nearly century-old parable/fable (parafable?) I’m not sure the poetry is especially outstanding but, like Paolo Coelho, Gibran’s work presents something for seekers, and for every facet of their personalities at every important point of their life, which isn’t a bad way to achieve (eventual) popularity. This ‘something-for-everyone‘ nature of the book may explain why it’s not always looked upon seriously by critics.

‘Dream Cities’ was disappointing; Frankl’s holocaust-inspired memoir and exposition of his psychoanalytical method ‘Man’s Search For Meaning‘ was confusingly simultaneously depressing and uplifting; and R.Crumb’s baseball card-depictions of musical legends dating to the late 19th century was less informative than I’d hoped and simply pretty.

But my favourite book of the month was an early work by celebrated Spanish writer Javier Marías, discovered purely as it was put out by The Believer’s book publishing branch, and as I’m sure you all know by now I trust The Believer with my life, (or, if not my life, at least a significant portion of my finances). A faux-19th century travel adventure, ‘Voyage Along The Horizon‘ instead spends more time analysing the role of unreliable narrators and dissecting short story and  detective tropes than providing actual adventure, (not to mention conclusions), which the Italo Calvino fan in me loved.

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And with that, after being behind on my blogging for most of 2018, I find myself in the rare position of being up to date with my literary comings and goings, a state which I hope to maintain.

So you probably won’t hear from me again until next December…

Books Bought, September 2018

Rules Of Civility (Amor Towles)

The Joy of X: a guided tour of numbers, from one to infinity (Steven Strogatz)

The Gift: creativity and the artist in the modern world (Lewis Hyde)

You Are Not A Gadget: a manifesto (Jerome Lanier)

On Boxing (Joyce Carol Oates)

The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)

Big Sur (Jack Kerouac)

A Sentimental Journey (Laurence Sterne)

Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko)

McSweeney’s Quarterly, issue.51 (various)

The Book Of Other People (ed.Zadie Smith)

A Farewell To Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

The Master And Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

Sherlock Holmes: the novels (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Absolute Sandman, Vol.II (Neil Gaiman)

The Absolute Sandman, Vol.III (Neil Gaiman)

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

Carmen (Prosper Mérimée)

The Complete Fairytales (George MacDonald)

 

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

Dream Cities: seven urban ideas that shape the world (Wade Graham)

Voyage Along The Horizon (Javier Marías)

Taipei (Tao Lin)

Man’s Search For Meaning (Viktor Frankl)

Heroes Of Blues, Jazz And Country (Robert Crumb)

The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)

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

Carmen (Prosper Mérimée)

The Touchstone (Edith Wharton)

 

 

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Posted by on December 8, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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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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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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