Books 6/5/06

I really should just get in the habit of posting right after I finish a book. I don’t yet have that habit, so here are the last bunch of books I’ve read.

Flapper by Joshua Zeitz: This is a fantastic new book about the history and cultural context of the flapper trend in the early 1900s. Extrememly well written, very insightful, and very informative. I may need to buy a copy of this one.

If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn’t Be Hard by Sheri Dew: Inspirational essays about the benefits of trials in our growth and development. Very good.

My Life at Rose Red by “Ellen Rimbauer”: A comfort reread, this is the book that “inspired” Stephen King’s Rose Red mini-series. Totally fake, but convincingly done, and based in part on the Winchester Mystery House.

The Algonquin Wits edited by Robert E. Drennan: Another reread. Those folks who gathered round the table at the Algonquin Hotel were funny people.

Spook by Mary Roach: I put off buying this when it came out in hardcover, although I’d been waiting anxiously for it, and I’m glad I did. It’s good, but not as good as her previous book, Stiff. I think that’s because she’s covering a topic that has no solid conclusions- the possibility of life after death, and what happens to the soul once the body has died. Stiff was concerned with what happens to the body after death, and that’s very quantifiable. Not so much for the soul. So this book just felt less substantial, whereas Stiff felt jampacked with information. Despite that, it was very enjoyable, her sense of humor is fantastic, and her random footnotes crack me up.

Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith: Some of you who read this blog consistently might ask yourself, why does she keep giving this author a chance when she keeps being disappointed by his work? I could ask the same question, but in this case, I’m glad that I tried this little book. Unlike Smith’s other two series, I really enjoyed this comedic, sarcastic look at a professor who wants more than anything to be acknowledged for his work in a tiny field. The short chapters in the book capture his comedic, naive, and sometimes embarassing experiences, and perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it more than the other books- the main character is likeable and fallible, rather than all knowing or condescending. Regardless, I’ll be looking into his other books in this series. (I think it’s a series, who knows.)

Reader’s Block by David Markson: I really don’t know what to say about this book. I enjoyed it, but I think I missed something huge, but then again maybe I didn’t. The book isn’t anywhere near a linear narrative, instead it’s made up of the thoughts of a writer (who refers to himself as Reader) as he attempts to construct a novel about a writer. Some of the thoughts are about the characters in the novel or where or how they live; most are random facts about long dead writers, many of them focusing on those who committed suicide, died early, or were anti-Semites. It’s unclear how many of these “facts” are true (especially the anti-Semite statements), and difficult to determine exactly where Reader’s thoughts are leading him. Is he considering suicide? Are the copious mentions of famous anti-Semites a reflection of his own feeling of persecution, or is he convincing himself that his prejudices are acceptable? (We never know if he himself is Jewish.) Likewise, we only get a framework of the story of the novel. It’s a puzzle to put together, an exercize in reading that I’m not at all certain that I performed properly.

Taking a break from the brain gymnastics, I’m reading Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie. Once I finish, I’ll go back to A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit, which I’m halfway through and which is incredibly good, but which again is making me think quite a lot, and my brain protests that these days.

Current total: 48
Just Finished: Reader’s Block by David Markson
Currently Reading: Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie

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