Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Me.

As I wrote before, I was always quite a reader. Still am, and I read at least a little bit (bookwise) most days. The problem I have is that I am an incredibly undisciplined reader. If a book catches my imagination in that way the right book at the right time, I'll plow right through it in a matter of hours, barely stopping for food or bathroom breaks, often staying up all night if that's what it takes to get to the last page.

Otherwise, though, I'm a bit of a scattershot, with at least a dozen books at any time that I am in some stage of reading. I pick them up as the mood strikes, put them aside when one of the aforementioned types strikes page-turning gold, and return to them or not as they catch my attention. I do finish many books, but I have to admit to starting many more before leaving them to fend for themselves. When someone asks me what I'm reading, I'm likely to give a deer in headlights look as I try to recall exactly what books I've been picking at most recently. 

We have several large bookcases in our home, filled to capacity and starting to spill over onto the surrounding floor. Besides these, though, my main book repository is my nightstand and the few feet of wall next to it. Ben and I bought new nightstands a couple of years ago specifically because they were for readers--dark wood with several levels of horizontal shelves perfect for reading materials, from novels to newspapers. Although it looked like a lovely organizational, simplifying kind of piece at the time, both of ours are of course completely cluttered. Mine, hidden away in the corner, is the worst. 

Sometime back I happened across a little book by author Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, A Long Way Down), who had a similar problem as I have in that he was always buying more books than he was reading each month. I do that. Bad. But Hornby's idea was to write a chronicle of his book-reading for a year, with lists of what he'd bought, what he'd read, and what he thought of those books. Of course, being me, I didn't actually finish his book--reading about somebody else's endless pile of reading while ignoring your own has some inherent flaws, I think--but I do think of it from time to time. 

Besides any reading we do during the day, Ben and I often read for a time before going to sleep. It usually takes me a couple of minutes at least to choose what book is next as I peruse my growing Mount To Be Read in my nightstand. Sometimes as I look through the piles, I find books I didn't even remember abandoning months before. 

So here, just because, is a list of what I'm currently "reading" or at least that I keep meaning to read. From my nightstand (not counting the many unread books still in my bookcases):
  1. In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson--I always enjoy Bryson's books and usually speed through them. This one, though I actually like immensely, I've been reading off and on since May. Lately, I've been reading a few pages a night, determined to finish the dang thing. 
  2. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson--In exchange for reading a book of mine I recommended (A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier), Ben gave me this one of his to read. So far it's kind of a high-octane humorous sci-fi romp, pretty different from my typical fare, but good. It does funny things to my brain.
  3. The Sandman; the Doll's House by Neil Gaiman--After years of hearing that I'd love the Sandman graphic novels about the king of Dreams, I received in the mail the first three in the series from an online pal I've never met who wanted to share their goodness with me. The first one, though supposedly before Gaiman hit his stride, was great. I loved it, but made myself finish a couple of other books before going ahead with the second installment. I'm a couple of pages into it now. That online friend is quite the mensch, I gotta say.
  4. Death and Nightengales by Eugene McCabe--I haven't opened this one since I bought it in the bargain bin at Hastings a while back. It's supposed to be good, but I've read too many Irish books lately, so it's on hold. 
  5. Breakfast at the Victory by James P. Carse--Another one Ben recommended. It's a nonfiction, anecdotal philosophy sort of book about the mystical that can be found in the ordinary, so I supposed it fits right in with the title of this blog. 
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte--one of my all-time favorites. I've read it so many times, I can just open in the middle at random and read a few pages here and there. I read it in its entirety every couple of years or so.
  7. Several New Yorkers--The problem with having a New Yorker subscription is that it comes every week and there's always more I want to read than time to read it. I get through what I can and hoard the rest for a future date.
  8. Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe--Ben recommended this book of short stories. I've read a couple. They're pretty good.
  9. High Profile by Robert B. Parker--My mother-in-law is a big Parker mystery fan and sent this one over, but I haven't been able to get into it. His dialogue is so terse. I may give it another try, though.
  10. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link--This is not actually a magic book, but a collection of short stories. I read the first story in the library one day (about a tiny kingdom in a magic purse) and loved her whimsy and writing so much, I immediately went out and bought a copy. So far, the other stories aren't as good. I haven't given up on it, though. 
  11. Several issues of Allstory--Ben likes to buy me these, director Francis Ford Coppola's monthly magazine of short stories. I read something in every issue, though never the whole issue. 
  12. My Brother Bill by John Faulkner--I like Faulkner a lot, so when I happened across this bio by his brother in a used book store, I grabbed it. It's one of those old 70s-era paperbacks. 
  13. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez--A classic I started reading last year, loved, put down halfway through, and somehow managed to forget about until I started writing this this morning. Will have to pick it up again. Yay!
  14. Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson--Same story as #13, nonfiction version. Temple Grandin is the autistic Ph.D. animal behaviorist whose findings have revolutionized much of animal science and husbandry. Fascinating book. Must finish one of these days.
  15. The Secrets of a Fire King by Kim Edwards--A book of short stories by the author of The Memory Keeper's Daughter. Haven't started yet. 
  16. The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino--In Little Rock author Kevin Brockmeier's latest book, The View from the Seventh Layer, one of the stories in it is a choose-your-own-adventure story, the kind I loved as a kid, but a grown-up, literary version. In one of the story's many paths, the protagonist stays home and reads The Baron in the Trees, which he expounds upon at length as being perhaps a perfect book with romance and mystery and magic and drama and completely satisfying in every way. I figured that wasn't a random choice, so I had to buy the book for myself. I've put off starting it, though, so it sits in a stack on the floor.
  17. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera--This was good, but the momentum of it changed in Part II and I didn't get back into it. Maybe the title is a little too accurate?
  18. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel--Something light to read sometime, supposed to be good. 
  19. Like Being Killed by Ellen Miller--Another one Ben recommended for me, a novel, but I haven't started it yet. 
  20. The Goldbug Variations by Richard Powers--I vaguely remember buying this large book at a used book store a while back. It has many impressive blurbs on the back, but so far has only taken up space in my floor-stack.
  21. March by Geraldine Brooks--I'm reading this one, an imagined chronicle of the Civil War as experienced by Mr. March, the much-absent father in Little Women. It won the Pulitzer, and it's very good so far. I try to always read the Pulitzer fiction winner.
  22. Silence by Shusaku Endo--This novel about 15th-century Portugese monks being persecuted in Buddhist Japan is the source material for a future Martin Scorsese movie, thus, its presence by my nightstand. Otherwise, it wouldn't be. Curse you, Marty!
  23. The Night of the Gun by David Carr--One of my favorite Oscar bloggers is David Carr, The Carpetbagger at The New York Times. Carr, a seriously talented writer who covers the media for The Times, this year published an autobiography of his years as an out-of-control junkie and abusive alcoholic, piecing together his many absent memories by interviewing hundreds of people who knew him at his worst in a painfully honest telling of his story and subsequent recovery. Haven't started it yet.
  24. Aloft by Chang-rae Lee--I heard good things about this novel, but I really just bought it because a) the cover was a pretty sky blue color, b) it was in the bargain bin, and c) being about small-engine planes, it reminds me of my friend Ken who just built a runway on his property. 
  25. The Courage Consort by Michel Farber--a novella by an author I like. It's just sitting there waiting for me to start.
  26. Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks--A historical novel by an author I like. It's just sitting there waiting for me to start.
  27. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini--A best-selling Afghani novel by an author I like (The Kite Runner author). It, too, is just waiting for me to start.
  28. Stardust by Neil Gaiman--After I liked the Stardust movie, my friend Donna let me borrow the even-better graphic novel. Good stuff, what I've read of it. I still have it. Guess I need to finish it or give it back soon. 
  29. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud--A library book I checked out last week, since I obviously have nothing else to read. I've read two pages. 
  30. The Stand by Stephen King--A second library book I checked out last week, since obviously I have nothing else to read. Of course it's huge. Been meaning to read it for years.
  31. The Captain's Wife by Doug Kelley--A third library book I checked out last week, since obviously I have a problem. This one, though, was written by a guy I know in Fort Smith, and I really ought to read it. Actually, I ought to own it to accompany my growing collection of X's Wife books--The Pilot's Wife, The Zookeeper's Wife, The Time Traveler's Wive (love that one!), The Nazi Officer's Wife, Ahab's Wife
So as you see, I'm a reader. Or at least a hoarder. I think I need help. 


Laura said...

From Stone Soup to The Psychoeducational Assessment of Children - I don't think I've read 31 books in my life. You may need an intervention.

Heather said...

Thanks for the kind words!!

Anonymous said...

OMG! I loved Snow Crash! It's on my front porch right now in a box of things to be given away because I've been ruthlessly cleaning out. But I think maybe I'll have to salvage it.

Other than that, you've read and read more books than I've ever even seen or am likely to encounter in 3 lifetimes.

Melissa said...

Holy crap that's a big list. You need to get on goodreads.

I try to keep my "currently reading" list to two or three books. This forces me to finish said two or three books or abandon them as "duller than dirt" or "hating it"