Sunday, December 2, 2012
What I've Been Reading
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. Jacobs is a complete and utter nerd, so naturally, I enjoyed his writing. The book largely discusses why we're interested in reading when there are so many other things to do - check e-mail, text our friends, get on Twitter or Facebook, etc. He didn't reveal anything particularly groundbreaking, but he suggested that there was a time when we all enjoyed being read to as a child, when we could escape to another reality. He also suggested lots of different ways to think about reading, including the idea that there are three ways of reading: reading for entertainment, reading for information, and reading for knowledge. Jacobs likes to savor a good book, write notes in the margins, underline particular passages, etc., and those are things I never did except in college. But it would be interesting to revisit that method of reading. Also, I learned a new word: catholic. I never knew that it could be a lower case word for "a wide variety of things, especially a person's tastes."
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Don't ask why I read this, but Before I Fall is a book geared toward teenage girls. I'm not giving anything away, but the basic gist of the story is that the narrator - a popular girl in high school - dies in a car accident early in the story. Much like Groundhog Day, she keeps reliving her final day on Earth, changing little (or big) things here or there in the hopes that she can be released from her purgatory. It's a quick read, and it's actually pretty well written for being young adult fiction, but I don't imagine many of you will pursue it.
Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk. This is the story of Hazie Coogan, the personal assistant to a famous actress named Katherine Kenton. Katherine likes to think she's the boss, but it's really Hazie who's pulling all the strings. Palahniuk's writing style is a little bit annoying; he keeps name dropping famous actors and actresses, which is cute at first but then grows tiresome. There are elements of Palahniuk's Survivor and Invisible Monsters in here, but this book isn't nearly as strong as those two.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Believe it or not, I never read this when I was in high school or college. It's one of those books that you feel like you should have read by now, and if not, you're an idiot. Now I have read it; I am still an idiot. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and read it over the course of about two days. I had heard hints about how it ends, so it wasn't a surprise; but I can imagine that it would be even more powerful if I hadn't been expecting it. The biggest surprise of the book was that it didn't bore me to death like The Grapes of Wrath did.
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. I haven't read a ton of Wallace's stuff, but he's sort of hit-or-miss with me. Some things I enjoy, and some bore me. This is a collection of essays about various things like John McCain's election campaign, the lobster industry, conservative talk radio, the porn industry's AVN Awards, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. My personal favorite was the long discussion of the morality behind the preparation of lobsters. The thing I like most about Wallace's is his ability to dig deep into the motivations of authors and people, parsing sentences and words and human actions. However, don't pick up this book if you're looking for a quick read, because all the footnotes and interjections will slow you down.
Feel free to leave reading suggestions in the comments below. I'm always looking for things to add my already endless reading list.