Reading List

In addition to using my free time in Paris to write, I also have the opportunity to do some reading. I am frequently torn by what I read online (short stories and online lit blogs) and actual books. I try and divy up the time and here’s a list of what I have read so far. Keep in mind these aren’t reviews of the books, just my own spin, take, reasons, etc.

East of Eden, William Steinbeck

After being recommended by too many people whose taste I trust, I picked up a copy here. Seems like a good time and place to try and get through some classics I never had. I was looking for something of substance, and I found it. Again, echoing everyone else’s reviews, this novel had a bit of everything; humor, sadness, love, hate, life, death. It is a book that if I just read the synopsis wouldn’t grab my attention, but it certainly cracked my list of Top 5 books of all time. What it replaced tough I am not entirely sure…

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

Billy had given me this and The Road by Cormac McCarthy years ago. They sat on the shelf. A book about horses? Uhm… Just wasn’t a priority. He told me it was a violent book which always piques my interest. (Correction: Apparently he told me Blood Meridian, another in the trilogy was the violent book, but gave me the one about horsies one instead.) I saw it in one of the bookstore in Paris that sells books in English, and I found it used so I picked it up. I liked it. It took me a minute to get into the groove of how they talk, and the pace, but I liked it. It is the first book of The Border Trilogy. I would like to read the other ones, but I can’t say they are super high on my list either. I gave my copy to a friend here who lived in Cali for twenty years and worked with horses.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami

Wow. So I remember being in a creative writing class at the Community College of Philadelphia, maybe 8 or 10 years ago, and a chubby, red-haired kid with a pony tail, glasses and I would bet a fierce Dungeons and Dragons addiction would rave about the book. He would read it over and over. I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World years ago and really liked it. I tried to read Wind-Up Bird after and couldn’t get into it. But being here and it being a fairly long book, I thought I would give it another try. I’m glad I did and I am glad I waited. No other book I have ever read have I ever felt was more appropriate for where I was in life and what I was going through. How much I related to certain parts, characters, lines and plot-lines was uncanny. Glad I read it where and when I did. It will always stand out for me.

In between novels and when I only have small amounts of time to squeeze in some reading I am picking away at:

The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor

I wasn’t that familiar with Flannery O’Conner, but she is known for being a canon of the short story and of the South, so I thought a collection of her work would be a good thing to get my hands on. I can certainly see what all the fuss is about.

The Great Shark Hunt, Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter. Stockton. Thomspon. The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved. Need I say more?

The Atlas, William T. Vollmann

WTV is a fave. Here are short pieces and essays from his travels around the world. Seemed timely and appropriate. WTV’s voice is both unique and intoxicating.

And two works by friends of mine that they asked me to read and make notes.
One being a 13 page short story and one being a 130= page novel. I am having problems finding the time I feel they each deserve to devote myself to going through. Trust me though Martin and Ernest, I have begun and have notes underway.

Plus, I just started reading:
Papillon by Henri Charriere

The French classic. Appropriate.

What I want to read next:
Autobiography of Mark Twain

This book just came out days ago, and has an interesting backstory. Twain dictated his story, not chronologically, but as it came to him, and demanded that it not be published until 10 years after his death. This marks the 100th year since Mark’s passing. Hence, his autobiography finally gets to see the light of day. Why did Twain want the delay?

“He liked to say nasty things – he’s really good at it – but he didn’t like the idea of being there when the person heard them, and was hurt by them!”
– Robert Hirst, curator of the Mark Twain Papers at UC Berkeley on CBS Sunday Morning, Dead 100 Years, Mark Twain Lets Loose

I mean, this is Mark Twain. Mark Twain! And this is only the first of three volumes. Imagine writing your autobiography, not to be released until 100 years after your death and not only having it become a bestseller but a bestseller before it’s even released?!

An interesting piece on how a book written over 100 years ago is both copyrighted and not public domain can be read here.

So with all the posts about writing I have been doing, a little update on the books I have been reading.