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176. Books Bought & Read, December 2018…

176. Books Bought & Read, December 2018…

Season’s readings to one and all!

December marked the end of an incredible year (in many senses), and the culmination of a fairly ridiculous few months for me and my newly enlarged family. We looked at the 3 or 4 most life-changing things you can do, and decided to do all of them, at pretty much the same time.

Pack up your entire life into precariously stuffed boxes? Check.

Move cross-country and attempt to find a place to live? Sure.

Go back to school after two decades and try to get a Masters, whilst transferring (or possibly leaving) your job? Done.

And then the minor matter of having a human…

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So, this is the first blog coming to you live and direct from our new hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana, where I look forward to reading much more Percy Walker (*edit: I of course meant Walker Percy, as my father-in-law has pointed out since this blog was published, but I like both names so much I’m keeping it in!*) and Tennessee Williams, and re-reading A Confederacy Of Dunces (already a wonderful welcome gift from my extended family here).

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In one final fit of New York bookstore shelf-emptying, I finished the month with a total of 27 books bought, (including one of the New York Times Top 10 books of the year, American Prison, an exposé of the penitentiary system in my new adopted home state which I am more than curious to begin), and a dozen read.

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I only had time for short stories and plays for the most part, thoroughly enjoying Arthur Miller plays (who knew he’d written more than just Death Of A Salesman? And The Crucible? Oh, and View From The Bridge? Well me, I guess, although I discovered even more after learning that Penguin Plays had released a gorgeous-becovered series of them for Miller’s centenary), and getting through the stack of bedside novellas which have been piling up, (the Tolstoy wonderful, the Gaskell less so).

To continue the theme of yin and yang, I also read two highly critically acclaimed works, Jenny Offill’s ‘Dept.Of Speculation’ and Ben Loory’s collection of (very) short stories, Tales Of Falling And Flying.

The former (a birthday present for my ladywife, which I decided to pre-read for her, in the selfless tradition of royal food tasters) was short, sharp, beautiful and wonderful, despite the depressing subject matter (marital infidelity), which is merely the skeleton Offill uses to drape her sweet, simple prose upon.

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Loory’s bite-size surrealism, however, had lured me in with its cover reviews boasting of his ‘whimsical, magical’ fables. Instead, I wished I’d just (re)read some George Saunders or Etgar Keret, or gone back to the source and picked up some Borges. Simplistic rather than simple, repetitive instead of thematic, I haven’t been so disappointed in a book for a while, (especially given how beautifully Penguin had packaged it).

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I also felt let down by the Obama-endorsed ‘The Power,’ a parable of a world where women finally take back physical power. A great read for the first part as societies shift to accommodate the new world order, it eventually degenerated into a mess of characters I didn’t really care about having adventures which were far less interesting than the concept as a whole.

I recommend reading the first chapter or so, and making the rest up yourself from there.

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Keep your eyes peeled for my now-traditional Review Of The Year In Books coming soon (or if not soon, possibly never, as I begin grad school in 2 weeks…), keep reading, and see y’all in 2019!

Doron, Rachel, and Oscar

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Books Bought, December 2018

The Hueys in None The Number (Oliver Jeffers)

Five Children And It (E.Nesbitt)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

The Night Of Wishes: or the satanarchaeolidealcohellish notion potion (Michael Ende)

The Price (Arthur Miller)

Broken Glass (Arthur Miller)

Utopia (Thomas Moore)

The Poor Clare (Elizabeth Gaskell)

The Lemoine Affair (Marcel Proust)

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)

Parnassus On Wheels (Christopher Morley)

Tales Of Falling And Flying (Ben Loory)

An Outline Of Psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud)

The Four Loves (C.S.Lewis)

Kusamakura (Natsumei Soseki)

The Romance Of Tristran (Béroul)

Living With Music: ralph ellison’s jazz writings (Ralph Ellison)

The Great Transformation: the beginning of our religious traditions (Karen Armstrong)

The McSweeney’s Joke Book Of Book Jokes (various)

All That Is Evident Is Suspect: readings from the oulipo, 1963-2018 (various)

Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm)

On Writing (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Devil Finds Work (James Baldwin)

An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler)

American Prison: a reporter’s undercover journey into the business of punishment (James Bauer)

Babel (Gaston Dorren)

Daisy Miller (Henry James)

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

The Power (Naomi Alderman)

Here They Come (Yannick Murphy)

Tales Of Falling And Flying (Ben Loory)

The Tale Of Hong Gildong (anon)

The Crucible (Arthur Miller)

The Price (Arthur Miller)

Broken Glass (Arthur Miller)

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)

Dept.Of Speculation (Jenny Offill)

The Poor Clare (Elizabeth Gaskell)

The One Thing: the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results (Gary Keller w/Jay Papasan)

#Sad! doonesbury in the time of trump (G.B.Trudeau)

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Posted by on January 8, 2019 in BOOKS

 

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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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170. Books Bought & Read, June 2018…

170. Books Bought & Read, June 2018…

17 bought, 11 read: failing to meet my quota for the second month running, I lost a bet with myself. I’ll put the money to good use though: buying more books…

With The Once and Future King (the thickest of the set) finished, I have finally made my way through Penguin’s beautiful (and toe-threateningly heavy) perspex-encased SciFi collection of six classic novels.

This was one of the strangest, although least science fiction-y, of the set: four uneven books linked through time and characters, swaying back and forth between a youthful King Arthur, vindictive witches, and valiant young knights, but for me reaching its pinnacle with Book 3 which follows the hapless hero Lancelot in his attempts not to destroy the Kingdom.

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In a completely different mold, ‘World Without Fish,’ from journalist extraordinaire Mark Kurlansky, is a wake-up call for our future. The cartoon/science info blend may be written for kids but this book is relevant for anyone who cares about the future of our oceans, (and our dinner-plates).

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I was led astray by John Searbrook’s ‘The Song Machine‘, thinking it would be one of those fascinating, sweepingly historic non-fiction books on a single topic I have such a penchant for. Instead, it was one of those fascinating, narrowly-focused historic non-fiction books on a single topic which I love just as much.

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Where I thought I’d be learning about the evolution of pop music over the decades and genres, instead I was treated to the story of how a bunch of Swedes have essentially dissected music into microseconds of aurally pleasing hooks and rhythms and ‘written’ (or constructed) just about every major pop song of the past twenty years, from Britney to Backstreet, Pink to Perry, Avril to Aguilera.

My favourite nugget of knowledge explained why so many lyrics lately don’t quite seem to make sense these days. It’s not wily ambiguous lyricism from the songwriters: its Swedes not quite having a grasp on the idiom. Ever wondered why ‘(Hit Me) …Baby One More Time sounded so…well, abusive? Apparently the authors knew that you ‘hit someone up’ for their phone number, but not that you didn’t ask people to ‘hit you’ when you wanted them to call. And voilà: a pop hit was b(j)orn.

(Sorry: couldn’t resist!)

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My guilty pleasure this month was a return to my youthful days of sports card collecting, when I liked nothing better than ripping open a pack of Upper Deck basketball cards and seeing which players I got. (Full disclosure: there’s still little I like better than ripping open a pack of sports cards and seeing who I got!)

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‘The Card’, picked up in the $1 section of a Manhattan second-hand bookmonger’s, was a surprisingly interesting and readable history of cardboard collecting, from its innocent 19th century roots to its Wall Street-esque 1980’s gluttonous boom and bust, through the lens of the millionaire collectors (I’m looking at you, Wayne Gretzky…) and shady certifiers who took over (and, it seems, corrupted) what was once a simple, childhood hobby.

But the most interesting book I got through this month was a gift from family friends in South Carolina: ‘Stealing Fire’, a wide-ranging look at how people from a range of lifestyles (from athletes to CEO’s, Navy SEALs to Burning Man attendees) find different ways to expand their consciousness and achieve a state of ‘flow.’ From mind-expanding drugs to extreme sports, I wasn’t expecting to have my mind expanded quite as much as it was, and can recommend this to all those seeking a little something extra in life.

And what little extra did I get out of the book? Among other things, the fact that my name is not only Hebrew for ‘gift‘, (which I’d known all along of course), but also Greek for the same thing, (which I’d only had a vague inkling of), and that Pandora’s Box contained, linguistically, ‘pan’ (all) ‘doron’ (δωρον – gift), or all the gifts of the world.

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Books Bought, June 2018

A History Of The Middle East (Peter Mansfield)

Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Rip Van Winkle and other stories (Washington Irving)

The Time Machine (H.G.Wells)

Flowers Of Anti-Martyrdom (Dorian Geisler)

The Glass House (Salman Rushdie)

The Card: collectors, con men, and the true story of history’s most desired baseball card (O’Keefe & Thompson)

White Sands (Geoff Dyer)

The Road Through The Wall (Shirley Jackson)

Conscious Capitalism (Mackey & Sisodia)

Revolutionary Suicide (Huey P. Long)

The Little Book Of Lykke: secrets of the world’s happiest people (Meik Wiking)

The Evolution Of Everything : how new ideas emerge (Matt Ridley)

Mind Over Money: the psychology of money and how to use it better (Claudia Hammond)

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

We Were Eight Years In Power: an american tragedy (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

The Complete Novels (Jane Austen)

 

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

Dinner At The Center Of The Earth (Nathan Englander)

Classic Penguin: cover to cover (ed.Paul Buckley)

The First Four Notes: beethoven’s fifth and the human imagination (Matthew Guerrieri)

Vladimir Nabakov (Jane Grayson)

World Without Fish (Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton)

The Design Of Alain Grée

Stealing Fire: how silicon valley, the navy seals, and maverick scientists are revolutionizing the way we live and work (Kotler & Wheal)

The Song Machine: inside the hit factory (John Seabrook)

Flowers Of Anti-Martyrdom (Dorian Geisler)

The Card: collectors, con men, and the true story of history’s most desired baseball card (O’Keefe & Thompson)

The Once And Future King (T.H.White)

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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