A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition by Ernest Hemingway: I hadn’t read this before, though it went immediately on my list when it was listed as the book that Hemingway wrote in every universe in the Steven King’s story that inspired the name “haunted Kindle” for my kindle. It’s so very good, so very sad. It’s a story of World War 1, and a man who lives through it. It’s pure Hemingway, every sentence distilled down to its essence. This version includes appendices at the back that contain earlier drafts of the end of the book- some close to the final ending, some quite different. This section is absolutely fascinating, seeing the changes and tweaks that he made is incredibly instructive.
Favorite, heartbreaking passage:
If people bring so much courage to the world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken place. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
And AAAAAAH! I just went to look up the name of the Steven King story and it’s available! It’s called UR and it is SO GOOD. It’s $3 and change, go get it NOW. It shipped already included on the original Kindles, and it’s one of the most thought provoking things I’ve ever read. Really, go get it NOW.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon: This is a short little book, but it’s full of great ideas. I got it on a major discount, which I’m glad of, because I wouldn’t have picked it up for full price, but I’m glad I read it. It’s all about being creative and how to effectively be inspired by other creative people. He has important points like, “Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.” But my favorite quote (it will be obvious why) is:
Your brain gets too comfotable in your everyday surroundings. You need to make it uncomfortable. You need to spend some time in another land, among people who do things differently than you. Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder.
How to Be Interesting: (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy: This book is also short, but so incredibly good. It’s full of ideas that I personally hold true and dear to my heart. Here are some of them.
Share what you discover. And be generous when you do. Not everybody went exploring with you. Let them live vicariously through your adventures.
Do not wait until tomorrow. Say, do, or make it now. Go where you need to be. Do not wait to be invited places. Host your own parties. Do not sit by the phone. Pick it up. Spread the word. Press the buttons. Buy the tickets and enjoy the show.
Be a sidekick to everyone you meet. Be the helper, the adviser, the assistant the hero can’t do without.
Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Lassater: This book was excellent. I don’t even remember where I heard about it, but it’s only $2.99, and worth way more. Lassater is a long time yogi practitioner/teacher, and this is her musings on how to bring yoga off the mat and into every day life. I need to get my yoga consistently ON the mat, but the thoughts here are fabulous.
In my case, it required a deep letting go of what I thought that enlightenment might be that allowed me the smallest taste of it.
I came to understand that belief is a preconceptions about the way reality should be; faith is the willingness to experience reality as it is, including the acceptance of the unknown.
At this moment, you are reacting to the way you think something should be and not the way things actually are.
Nevermore by William Hjortsberg: When I read the blurb about this book, I had to get it. “A psychopath is haunting New York City, imitating the murders that made Poe’s stories so famous. To Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the killing spree is of purely academic interest. But when Poe’s ghost appears in Doyle’s hotel room, the writer and the magician begin to suspect that the murders may hold a clue to understanding death itself.”
Um, yes, sign me up! It also helped that it was cheap. I like cheap books. Anyway, the story is well plotted, the characters read true to what I knew of them, and there was lots of period specific detail that didn’t seem shoehorned in. There’s some sex in it that, while important to the plot, wasn’t completely necessary. The mystery itself was entertaining, but was almost background to the interaction between Doyle and Houdini. And there’s a perplexing part at the end that went completely over my head, and from anything I can find online went over other people’s heads too.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey: This is an interesting book, it’s a collection of snippets about how famous creative people structured their days. Some entries are short, some are longer, depending on how much information was available about them. I’m always curious about people, and this was a nice little window peeking opportunity. Some things that stood out:
Joseph Heller said, ” I don’t have a compulsion to write, and I never have. I have a wish, an ambition to write, but it’s not one that justifies the word ‘drive’. ” I can relate.
About Kierkegaard: “Israel Levin, his secretary from 1844 until 1850, recalled that Kiekegaard owned ‘at least fifty sets of cups and saucers, but only one of each sort’- and that, before coffee could be served, Levin had to select which cup and saucer he preferred that day, and then, bizarrely, justify his choice to Kierkegaard.” This delights more than is probably rational. I’d totally do this.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida: This book is utterly fascinating. Higashida is a Japanese man, and this book was written via alphabet board when he was 13. David Mitchell’s wife read it (their son has autism) in Japanese, and wanted to recommend it to friends who couldn’t read Japanese, so David Mitchell translated it. It’s a series of questions about the experience of living with autism, and the answers are poetic and enlightening.
True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect. That’s what I think, anyway.
On why he doesn’t make eye contact when someone is talking to him: Voices may not be visible things, but we’re trying to listen to the other person with all of our sense organs. When we’re fully focused on working out what the heck it is you’re saying, our sense of sight sort of zones out. If you can’t make out what you’re seeing, it’s the same as not seeing at all.
Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloane: This is a short, 60ish page prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and I will just say that I grinned all the way through it. I LOVE the world that exists in these books, and I wish I could go to Penumbra’s bookstore all the time, and that I could search out arcane and amazing books. If these passages don’t make you grin and your heart race, I just can’t help you.
That spring, in the first session of English 211, The History of the Index- actually Occult Lit 211, Dangerous Books- Armitage explains that Galvanic’s library consists of more one-of-a-kind; untranslatable, and/or inexplicable volumes than any other collection on earth. In the second session, he sends you down into the stacks. There are books made from silver and bone. There are books with blood on their pages, figuratively and literally. There are books made of feathers; books cloaked in jade; books that ring like bells when you pull them off the shelf; books that glow in the dark.
You confess as much to Langston Armitage, and he reminds you that your colleage Carol Janssen recently recovered the six hundred year old Incan Book of Dreams. “It was composed entirely from knotted string, my boy,” he croaks, “and they had taken it apart to make sweaters.” He says it again, for emphasis: “It was in…the villagers’…sweaters.“
And perhaps the truest of all statements:
“He’s looking for a very particular book, Mo.” “As are we all, Mr. Corvina, as are we all. Most don’t realize it yet. So on that count, our friend Ajax Penumbra is ahead.”
If you love books, you really should read both of these- Mr. Penumbra’s first, then Ajax Penumbra. Trust me.
That’s it for this month. I’m in the middle of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which is lovely and imagination inspiring.
So I read 8 books this month, with a total of 90 so far for the year.
What are you reading?