Friday, January 30, 2009

What I Read - January 2009

The following are the books that peaked my random interests this month . . .

~Curious Men by Frank Buckland. This arrived as part of McSweeney's Book Release Club. This book is part of the Collins Library, a series of newly edited and typeset editions of unusual out-of-print books. I'm really digging the Collins Library reprints (especially English As She Is Spoke, and To Ruhleben - And Back by Geoffrey Pike, and Banvard's Folly: Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck by Paul Collins). Curious Men is a series of 18 essays regarding the side show types of freaks that so obsessed large portions of Victorian Londoners. Buckland is at very matter-of-fact when describing the fossilized mermaid, guano mummy, and especially the man who walked upside down. Not every story is compelling but still a fascinating glimpse at a freakish past.

~Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. There probably isn't much I could say about this book that hasn't been said before (and much has been said, here and here and here). I was unprepared for the total awesomeness of this novel. My youngest son has been determined to have me read my own books to him and Lolita was by far my favorite read-out-loud book. Stunning sentences, tripped off the tongue. My only regret is I didn't read this book sooner.

~The Book of Lost Things by Michael Connolly. I'd had this on my Shelfari wish list for sometime now based upon The Onion review. Well, the book finally arrived this month and only took two days to read. Connolly is known for his adult criminal thriller books, however, The Book of Lost Things, falls more on the side of young adult fiction. The story delves into that special time when childhood is left behind but adulthood is still far away. Twelve-year-old, David, who is thrust into a world where stories and fairy tales assume an often gruesome reality. David's childhood fell apart upon the death of his mother, the start of WWII, his father's remarriage, and his stepmother's pregnancy. As David withdraws into himself, a physical land of beasts and monsters opens to him. While the quest tale is familiar, paying homage to the great fairy tales and legends, Connolly makes this fantasy world something so much darker and frightening. I was mesmerized by David's tale, and passed this on to my teenager.

The New Kings of Nonfiction - Edited by Ira Glass. I'd read anything with Ira's name on it, see below blog for my somewhat creepy love of all things Ira. Thankfully the book was full totally great works of Nonfiction (hence the name, right?). While all the articles were great, I really enjoyed my first taste of Michael Pollen. His following a calf from birth to meat/consumption was so information and complete. I really appreciated his lack of shock, and just-the-facts ma'am style. Also, even more sorry for the death of David Foster Wallace. I didn't always enjoy his fiction, he was a great nonfiction writer and his complete analysis of the Talk-Radio world was something that I've cited at least three times this month. And while I didn't know most of what the poker guy was talking about, I certainly felt his passion and was rooting for him in the end. Thanks Ira, edit something else, I'm sure I'll love it.

The Year of Living Biblically (One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible) by A. J. Jacobs. Appealing to those with a philosophical, historical, and religious bent in addition to being quite funny. This was a strange one in that I liked reading the book but I'm not really sure what I got out of it. I kinda got the feeling Jacobs wasn't sure what he got out of it either. Compare this one to The Know it All (One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs or Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler. I often look to Tyler for stability. I trust her books will take me into other lives, not necessarily so different from my own, and handle them with respect and care. She is simply, just a really nice writer and didn't disappoint me with this work. Read most anything else, although, The Accident Tourist, Back When We Were Grownups, Breathing Lessons and A Patchwork Planet are a few of my favorites.

The Sound of Building Coffins - Louis Maistros. I am SO lucky to have received this as my first official Blue Cypress Books Advanced Reading Copy. From the back: "It is 1891 in New Orleans, and a young Typhus Morningstar cycles under the light of the half-moon to fulfill his calling, rebirthing aborted fetuses in the fecund waters of the Mississippi River. He cannot know that nearby, events are unfolding that will change his life forever - events that were set in motion by a Vodou curse gone wrong, forty years before he was born." All the characters' lives are interwoven with each other, no one further away from another by more than one degree of separation, an all too real New Orleans phenomenon. This novel has so many elements, compelling story, music, love, hate, and true heartbreak. The story's greatest strength is the literal water rebirth and the redemption that hopes to follow, something intimately known by New Orleanians. With elements of Katrina indelibly on this book, I'd love to know if the author, a previously unpublished writer, had this book in mind before The Storm or if it only came into being post Storm. Maistros' book is this month's favorite read (okay, second but only to Lolita). So glad this one was sent my way. Look for the official release this month!

What's ahead: I swore that upon opening the store, I wouldn't make a pile, okay a HUGE pile, of books for myself. So far, so good. I put on my little shelf behind my desk the following: Indignation - Phillip Roth (signed!); A Mercy - Toni Morrison (signed!!); Villa Incognito - Tom Robbins; The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski; Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans (The Best of McSweeney's Humor Category); Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre; The Monster of Florence - Douglas Preston w/Mario Spezi; Maus - Art Spiegleman; How to Lie With Statistics - Darrell Huff; Sway (The Irrestible Pull of Irrational Behavior); Principia Discordia; 1 Dead in Attic (Updated) - Chris Rose. Whew! Sure to get all that reading done next month, right? Stay tuned . . .

5 comments:

Amy said...

I am reading Lolita for the first time as well. I am blow away! The way I figure it, with the economy taking and the weather getting chilly, what better way to spend the evenings and weekends than staying inside and reading. Now all I need to get is one of those Snuggies! :)

Kira said...

Read Lolita a while back (about 10 years ago) but remember that it was fantastic. Snuggies sounds good, but I hear they are on back order if you direct order them...but the Walgreens @ the Riverbend had them near the registewr last time I was there.

Blue Cypress Books said...

For crying out loud - those Snuggies! I mean seriously, when I start wearing a blanket with arm holes, I'll know I've given up on life. Ha!

WorkingWords100 said...

So, when do you read them?

Great list.

Blue Cypress Books said...

When do I read the books? My two reading times: when I'm laying down with the kids to put them to sleep and when I drive them around until they passout in the car and I pull over with a good book. So sad.