Lighter Post – Books

Seems like the blog’s been a little heavy lately, so I figured I should write something harmless. Since it’s almost 6 a.m. and I can’t get to sleep, I figured I’d do it now.

This post just provides a few notes on books I’ve bought and/or read in the past year or so–some of which I’ve mentioned here in the past. Being a Librarian, lots of books come into my hands, and I’ve got a love of reading. Like almost everything else I do, this is sort of an addiction for me. I spend a buttload of money on books, and every now and again, I like to look back on what I’ve bought. I tend to prefer novels, since I deal with reality all day, so that’s what weighs down the majority of this list. Sure, my taste may not be the same as yours, but at least I’m not saying anything controversial this time! (Unless you really love or hate some of these books…but if you take it THAT seriously, you really need to get out more.) ๐Ÿ™‚

Stuff I’ve finished:

  • “The Secret of Lost Things” by Sheridan Hay [FICTION] – This was one of my recent favorites. I probably read it about a year ago, I don’t recall exactly…but it’s stuck with me. It’s about a girl who moves to New York from Australia and works in a bookshop. It’s kind of a fish-out-of-water story, which I usually like. The author did a great job of painting vivid pictures, but not bogging you down with every little detail. Compelling read and kind of haunting.
  • “Grief” by Andrew Holleran [FICTION] – I was almost halfway through this book (it’s pretty thin, by the way) before I realized that pretty much every main character was gay. That was interesting, and kind of a refreshing change from most gay-literature I’ve read (which, to be fair, isn’t much). Didn’t really HARP on the issue…it was just there as a fact…much like “it’s raining” or something. Kind of an interesting spin on that world. That wasn’t the main plot of the book, though. It’s mainly about a guy whose mom dies and he moves to a different town to kind of try to cope with it. He falls in love with a book that reprints the letters of Mary Todd Lincoln, and goes on an internal journey of healing. Good read.
  • “Watchmen” by Alan Moore [GRAPHIC NOVEL] – I mentioned this one not too long ago in the “Graphic Novels” post, so I won’t go too into detail. It suffers from the typical Alan Moore problems. The ending seems rushed and slightly implausible. Some of the character-actions lack motivation. The “twist” wasn’t as much a twist as it was just a complete switch of direction, abandoning the plot we’d thus-far followed…but nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. The characters were mostly well-developed, and for a book that starts out talking about people/heroes you’ve never heard of, you get really attached to their stories. There’s a depth to the background of this novel that you don’t find in most of the funny-books you pick up. Certainly worth a read if you haven’t done it yet…but set aside plenty of time. It’s long.
  • “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein [FICTION] – Saw this on the shelf at Starbucks and read a brief synopsis. Liked the concept, so I bought it. It’s pretty much the story of a guy’s life and struggles with loss, depression, and hope for success as told through the eyes of his dog. To some, that’s intriguing. For others, it sounds remarkably stupid. I’m in the former group, I guess. I couldn’t put it down and finished it really quickly. It was a fun read, and I was really pulling for the main character by the end of the first major section. It’s an easy read, but it has some weight to it as well. Good coffee-house book, I’d imagine…but I don’t really sit in coffee-houses, as I usually just stop in on my way to something else. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • “Love is a Mix Tape” by Rob Sheffield [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Some will know Sheffield as a writer for Rolling Stone. This book is about the death of his wife, whom he met through a shared love of music. He both loved and hated music after her death, both relying on it to help him through the darkest part of his life, and also mourning her through her old mix-tapes. I couldn’t put this one down either, and I’ve since re-read it, too (which I rarely do). The first time I read it, when he writes about his wife’s actual death, it was jarring and it felt like I’d read that someone I KNEW died. (This, of course, was before his story was all over the Internet and book reviews and I didn’t really know much about him. His wife’s death is kind of common knowledge now, and in a recent printing, I even saw it mentioned on the jacket-cover…so this isn’t a spoiler!) It’s a great, great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves the power of music, especially if you’ve ever lost someone and had to put away their favorite records until you were “ready” to put yourself through listening to them.
  • “Teacher Man” by Frank McCourt [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – I’ve loved everything McCourt’s published. (He’s most famous for “Angela’s Ashes.”) This book chronicles his life as a teacher. It’s a fun read, perhaps more-so for me since I was born into a family of teachers and now work at a college, myself. (I never saw that coming, by the way…never thought I’d work in the education field.) McCourt mixes tragedy and comedy seamlessly. Some are put off by his slightly quirky writing style. He has lots of run-on sentences with awkward punctuation–a lot like some bloggers you may know, wink wink–and some of his wording is fairly Irish in nature. But if stuff like that doesn’t bug you, his stories are incredible. (Personally, I find his style identifiable if not charming, so I love his work.) If you dig “Angela’s Ashes” and “‘Tis,” you’ve pretty much got to give this one a shot, too.
  • “Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut [ESSAYS/WRITINGS] – Pretty much, you’re either a Vonnegut fan or your not. I am. This was the last thing he really wrote before he died (though technically the next book in this listing is his “last” book, it’s more or less a compilation, whereas this one is more focused). It expresses his dissatisfaction with American politics in the era of “W.” If you agree with his slant, it’s a pretty good read…if you don’t, you might want to check out some of his fiction.
  • “Armageddon in Retrospect” by Kurt Vonnegut [ESSAYS/FICTION] – Some of this book is stuff Vonnegut wrote as essays or delivered as speeches. Other parts (the majority) contain fictional writings about his thoughts on the futility of war–could be any war, but much of the backdrop is WWII. Really good read, though (again) you kind of have to agree with his politics to like it. I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s a fitting tribute to one of my favorite authors, if nothing else.
  • “Unchristian” by David Kinnaman [CHRISTIAN CULTURE STUDY] – One of the best Christian Books I’ve read. It might be a difficult read if you’ve never been active in ministry or if you didn’t go to Bible College. In fact, I imagine that this is really written FOR ministers to read. When I began it, I was very, very disillusioned with the church–and longtime readers of my blog will know what I’m talking about. It was an interesting read in that mindset. I found myself surprised by how often I was agreeing with the opinions/perceptions of those who basically opposed the church. I don’t think that’s necessarily a BAD thing…I think it just means that I recognise a lot of the same weaknesses and problems that the secular world does. You can only work toward healing a disease if you can diagnose it. This book does an excellent job of describing the biggest symptoms of the church’s illnesses. It’s kind of a downer-but I think that if the lessons in it are taken to heart, it could do some real GOOD.
  • “Albert Camus and the Minister” by Howard Mumma [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Written by a guy who regularly met with noted existentialist Albert Camus and discussed Christianity with him. It’s a fascinating read. I don’t really know what to say about it, other than to say that it really changes the way you look at Camus, existentialism, and evangelism. It’s an amazing, captivating read.
  • “The Words of Every Song” by Liz Moore [FICTION] – A bunch of semi-related short stories with a focus on music. Moore has a strong, passionate voice and really knows her stuff. She’s also a songwriter and has a really good CD out. Fun read with lots to grab on to, especially if you’ve ever spent any time in the business…though it’s probably just as enjoyable for those who haven’t.

Stuff I plan on finishing:

  • “The Wounded Minister” by Guy Greenfield [AUTOBIOGRAPHY/CHRISTIAN INSPIRATION] – I’m not quite done with it yet…but I feel that I can comfortably say the following… This book belongs on the shelf of ANY minister (how ever you want to define that word) who has ever been hurt by a member of their congregation. I came out of a situation that I saw ALL OVER this book, and I know I’m not alone. His insight into personal healing is so great that it makes one reconsider not only one’s own feelings about ministry, but also feel pity and forgiveness for those who have been avid attackers of the clergy. His writing almost makes Christ’s action of forgiving His accusers understandable and identifiable. I have a list of people to whom I want to give copies of this book. It’s really helped me see things differently. If nothing else, it’s made me think that maybe I might someday want to go back into active ministry, whereas even a few months ago, I figured I was done with it forever.
  • “Finn” by Jon Clinch [FICTION] – I haven’t finished this one because it’s so disturbing that I have to read it in small chunks, and only when I’m in a certain mindset. It’s really dark. It’s the story of Huckleberry Finn’s father–who is very apparently a sociopath, as painted in this novel. I don’t know how Mr. Twain would feel about it, but I think it’s excellent. At times it’s actually made my skin crawl.
  • “A Star Called Henry” by Roddy Doyle [FICTION] – Just borrowed this one from my brother last week. Good read so far. It’s about an Irish guy growing up poor and his struggles. Kind of a fictional “Angela’s Ashes” so far. Suffers from the “I don’t care what the room looks like, just get back to the plot” syndrome…but the narrative is really good. Doyle’s a gifted writer, and I’m thinking this book is going to make me a BIG fan of his.
  • “Manic”by Terri Chaney [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – Really great read. Kind of hard to read more than a chapter at a time because of the subject at hand…it’s essentially a recounting of various things Chaney has gone through as a result of her manic depression (bipolar disorder). As someone who sometimes wonders if he’s bipolar, this book is both alarmingly jarring, but also inspiring. She talks about a range of stuff, but to give you a feel for how intense it gets, she’s talked about having been raped and abused by police so far…and I’m only in like the fifth chapter. Kind of have to take this one a little bit at a time…but it’s been really good in the bits I’ve read.
  • “The Mercy of Thin Air” [FICTION] – I keep meaning to get back to this book, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to re-read a lot of it to get anywhere. Chiefly, it’s about a woman who dies and her experiences as a ghost. Sort of a played-out concept, but I like that kind of thing. No idea why I haven’t read more of it. I guess I just have a short attention-span (as proven by having six books with bookmarks in them at the moment).
  • “Macedonia” by Harvey Pekar [GRAPHIC NOVEL] – I’m a big Pekar fan, and I thought I’d be really into this…but it’s not about Harvey, really. It’s about a girl’s desire to help out the people of Macedonia. To be honest, I’m having trouble caring about it. I don’t know if it’s that I know next to nothing about Macedonia, or if it’s that she reminds me of people I went to college with who thought they were going to save the world and who went to other countries only to return to the states to be fry-cooks and baristas. I LOVE Pekar’s work, and I really need to give this another shot. It’s well constructed and I feel like I should really like it more than I do. Guess you can’t be a fan of EVERYTHING, even if you like everything else.

Stuff I’ve bought and never read for some reason:

  • “Slam” by Nick Hornby [FICTION] – Hornby’s my favorite author, and I bought this the week it came out. I haven’t opened it, really. I think it’s that I know that the name “Tony Hawk” is going to pop up in it a lot, and I’m just not interested in skating or skaters. (It’s nothing personal…I just never got into that world.) I hear that you don’t have to like Hawk or skating to get into it…but it just seems like Hornby would be the LAST guy to write a book with a skateboarder as an integral part of the story. I’m sure I’ll GET to it…but it may be a while.
  • “The Alchemist” by Michael Scott [FICTION] – I neither know why I haven’t read this, nor why I bought it. I think I picked it up as part of a “Buy Two Get One Free” deal at Borders or something…like I needed a third book, and this one caught my eye more than the others on the table. I’m assuming it’s about an alchemist of some sort…but I may never find out. Who knows? It may be the best book I’ve never read!
  • “The Bloodstone Papers” by Glen Duncan – I really like some of Duncan’s other work. “The Death of an Ordinary Man” and “I, Lucifer” both made HUGE impacts on me. For some reason, though, I’ve just never gotten past the first sentence of this book. It just seems from the very moment I open it like it’s going to be a really tough read for some reason. I hope that I get to it one day, and that I enjoy it. I just haven’t had the motivation to get into this one yet…even the TITLE sounds like it’ll be heavy reading…and I just haven’t had the energy.
  • “Beautiful Boy” by David Sheff [AUTOBIOGRAPHY] – A father’s story of dealing with his son’s substance addiction. I like the concept, and this is on the list of stuff I hope to read before the Summer’s out. I just haven’t gotten to it yet.
  • “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer [BIOGRAPHY] – Okay…to be fair, I STARTED reading this one. However, I’ve completely abandoned it never to return. I see what people like about it–I really do. However, I just can’t get past thinking the kid was an idiot and made wildly bad decisions that caused a lot of pain to those around him and ended up costing him his life. (I mean…how do you go to Alaska and expect to live on JUST a bag of rice???) I know that comes off harsh, and it’s not my place to speak ill of the dead (whether I knew him or not), but I just don’t get why people are turning this kid into a hero. It’s kind of a chronicle of what NOT to do, but it seems to be having the opposite effect on many who read it. I also think the construction was poor in that the point of the book in made in the first chapter, then just repeated over and over again (at least to the point I read–about 75% of the way through). It has nowhere to build to after you read the first chapter or two, and I’m not sure why the book’s so popular…I would like to see the movie, though. I’d imagine I’d like that version of the story.
  • “Anarchist Propaganda” by Radical Andy [FICTION] – Ahem… I actually KNOW “Radical Andy.” That’s not his real name, and he’s not really that much of an Anarchist…it’s mostly just good title. I’ve wanted to read this for a while. I bought it the day after he told me about it, and it’s been sitting waiting to be read. I’ll get to it. It’s just kind of thin, and I know I can get through it in an evening, so I’m procrastinating. Sorry “Andy.” I promise I’ll read it and tell you what I think soon.

That’s enough for now, I think…it’s actually way longer than I meant for it to be. I hope SOMEONE found it interesting. I enjoyed it, anyway…and let’s face it…blogs are more about entertaining the people writing them than the people reading them! ๐Ÿ™‚

Current Listening:

  • Wayne Gratz – “Southlands” (Which is on the cable-music station that plays new-age music. I like to turn that on when I’m reading, writing, or just trying to nod-off.)