Monday, November 15, 2004

Tell Me What to Read

I'm ready to start some new books so tell me what to read. I’m not saying I’ll actually read what you tell me to read, but I love it when people make suggestions of what they think I will like. I’m almost done with my (signed) David Sedaris books. The best one is Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. The next best is Me Talk Pretty One Day. The best line from Me Talk Pretty One Day is, “Is thems the thoughts of cows?” I’m struggling to get through a book called The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I thought it would be good because the main character is a deaf mute but it’s not panning out the way I had hoped. I’m also reading this non-fiction book I heard about on NPR called Changing Minds with the hope of learning how to control people and bend them to my will. It’s not unusual for me to read more than one book at once. You might say my appetite for reading is insatiable. Or you might say I am too lazy to move to another room so I just read whatever book happens to be closest to me.

I’m not one of those people who “doesn’t watch T.V.” We all know those people are liars, but it is true that I don’t watch T.V. during the day. I have Tivo, so I can watch what I want when I want. And, well, let’s just say that the kinds of shows I watch aren’t the kinds of shows I want to watch with my children, if you know what I mean. (Ok, I was just being a little gross because I thought it sounded funny. I don’t really watch anything naughty. But I do watch shows that I would not let my kids watch, like Law and Order—especially the first 5 minutes when they find the dead body). During the day I spend a lot of time sitting there “playing” with my kids. I like to read while I do this because sometimes it’s boring. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids, I’m just telling you like it is. The point is--I do read a fair amount.

I am in two book clubs but one is reading Rousseau’s On the Social Contract. Ex-squeeze me? Not reading that in college was painful enough. My other book club is pretty fun, except I am considered a rabble rouser because of my recommendation of the somewhat earthy biblical tale, The Red Tent. “Shouldn’t we be reading Rebekah by Orson Scott Card?" asked one faint-hearted member who loves Fahrenheit 451 which, I’m sorry, is just no longer a relevant book. Hobos memorizing classics is cool but the rest has not aged well. It’s now lame. I’m an English teacher and you can quote me on that.

I’ve kind of been on a non-fiction kick for a while but that doesn’t mean I’m opposed to fiction. I need some good fiction. And I’m certainly not a snob. But I just have to say, I’m probably not going to read the Work and the Glory. I mean, I just don’t see the point of reading fictional church books. If I’m going to put in some time with church history it sure as he[ck] better be true church history so I can get credit for it. That’s just the way I feel. Like why would I eat a rice cake that had 10,000 calories?

Maybe I’m in the mood for some Stephen King. I like him. I got a little obsessed with him about 3 years ago. It was not unlike my current obsession with David Sedaris. But I don’t want to hang out with Stephen King. When I read Bag of Bones I was so scared I had to sleep with the light on. It’s sort of horrible and R rated so I wouldn’t let Christian read it. It made me feel better to keep one of us pure. In an interview Stephen King himself said that of all his writing there is a scene in that book which actually scared him while he was writing it. This ghost communicates by knocking on the insulation in the basement. That’s what I would do if I were a ghost. And if I had a basement--which I don’t because I live in stinkin’ swamplands. You might think swamplands would be scarier than insulation in a basement but they're not. A ghost in a swamp is such a Scooby Doo cliché. It’s been done to death.

The funny thing about me reading Bag of Bones is that I pictured it happening in my family’s cabin which is, let’s just say, primitive. It is dear and charming, but it is probably not what Stephen King meant. He described rooms and rooms and cleaning ladies and I just thought of the one main room in our cabin and instead of a cleaning lady I thought of the hand-written poem next to the toilet: “All us folks with holding tanks/Give to you a heartfelt thanks/For putting nothing in the pot/That isn’t guaranteed to rot/No Kotex, Tampax, Kleenex too/Cigarettes and matches--they’re all Taboo!"

Of course my all time favorite book is John Irving’s A Prayer for Own Meany. Another book I really like is by Tova Mirvis called The Ladies Auxiliary. If you like Mormons, you’ll LOVE Jews. No need to recommend the Da Vinci Code. Read it. Believe every word of it. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel is another favorite. And I won’t tell you any more about the kind of non-fiction I read because it would reveal way too much about my private life and my geeky interests. That said, tell me what to read.


  1. I just read East of Eden and LOVED it, but since you are an English teacher AND an avid reader, you probably have already read this. Somehow I made it this far in my life without reading it, so we made it our current book club selection. (Our last book club book was The Red Tent--loved it).

    I also think you should take the Stunningly Handsome Nate Something's advice and read High Fidelity. I have not seen the movie but the book was great.

    My "current" favorite book of all time is "The Chosen" by Chaim Potok. Also loved "Dandelion Wine" a non-science fiction work by Ray Bradbury.

    You have probably read "The Secret Life of Bees" and "Girl with a Pearl Earring"---but if not, both great.

    Since you like Stephen King and are an English teacher, did you know he wrote a book called "On writing" or something like that about how he writes a book. I have not read this yet, but am considering it because a man in my office who reads more than anyone I know has raved and raved so much about it that I feel like I need to.

    Sorry to write so much, maybe I will count this comment as my blog for the day.

  2. Three words: "Bridget Jones' Dairy." Or, if humorous, pathetic singletons aren't your bag, read "Fast Food Nation." That will change the way you live your life. Another fave of mine is anything by George Eliot. Admittedly, it takes some work to get into the books, but once you do. . . oh man. You may also try "A Child Called It." Haven't read it, but the book club in my ward that I am too poor to be included in (they meet in Ivory Homes) is reading it right now. Good luck. Happy reading.

  3. Ah, check your email for subversive literature listings.

  4. I just read "The Secret Life of Bees" and it's really good and interesting. I also loved "Snow Falling on Cedars" and "Angels and Demons" which is the prequel to "The Davinci Code". Ummm...I'm reading a non-fiction book about JFK called "An Unfinished Life" which is fascinating but probably only to a JFK nut like me.

  5. Uh, by "bridget Jones' DAIRY" I actually meant "bridget Jones' DIARY." Although, I would be interested in a book called "bridget Jones' Dairy," cause, who knows what quirky things could happen if she ran a dairy??

  6. You should read High Fidelity or About a Boy by Nick Hornby. He is a great writer and I think you would appreciate his style. Do it!

  7. You know Kacy I have a book I think you should read. Its an interesting tell of a group of people that leave the old world and come to the new world. They begin to populate the land. The book is a history of their lives, kings, and wars. Very interesting. If you would like a free copy, I can have a couple of friends of mine stop by your house for a short presentation for you and your family.

  8. Okay... the fact that "A Prayer for Owen Meany" is your favorite book made me want to hug you and really, I'm just not that kind of person. As for what you should read, I COMPLETELY agree with Nate. Hornby is GREAT. Honestly, I think he knows Aidan and writes books about him. "How to be Good" is a great one from him too.

    I can't stop telling people to read "Middlesex" by Jefferey Euendies (I KNOW I spelled his last name wrong...but you get the idea) Seriously, that is one of the best freaking books I have ever read ever and I've read A LOT of books.

    Happy reading :D

  9. Wow... my book club is very different then both of yours. For example we read The Dirt by Motley Crue, that was a great book club. I recommend it, maybe not for your book club(s). I still think you should pick up some Sarah Vowell, The Partly Cloudy Patriot (David Sedaris is her best friend and it is like 80 pages long – you just can’t go wrong). My favorite books I have read this year are Middlesex, The Life of Pi (feel free to skip some of the middle… it can drag, but the end is worth it) and The Kite Runner (actually still reading it for my book club right now, the first 100 pages are a bit painful, but don’t put it down).

    Your book club(s) scare me…

    Oh… and did you hear they offered Tom Hanks the lead role for The Da Vince Code? Boo... he so is not right for that part.

  10. That ruins my day. I'm sick of Tom Hanks.

  11. The best novel I've read in the last several months is Atonement by Ian McEwan. I think you would really like it. It's set in WWII times and is on the literary end of the fiction spectrum. Just say the word and I'll mail you my copy.

    Oh, another novel I really think you'd like is Drop City by T.C. Boyle. Not quite as literary as Atonement, but entertaining and very well written. It's about a hippie commune that relocates to Alaska from California .

    Remember when you and Christian got me to read Quincunx? That was such a good book. For those who haven't read it, you really should. By Charles Palliser.

  12. A modern day Catcher in the Rye would be Trainspotting if you are intersted, by Irving Welsh. Very interesting use of phoenetic spelling and the Scottish accent. Vox is interesting, though a bit dated, but if you substitute chat room for phone, it works quite well. Most of Nicholson Baker's books could almost be blogs, as they are usually very good insights on life, especially the Mezzanine.

  13. Neil, The Atonement has been on my personal "To Read" list for about a year since I read a review of it or something. However, I will wait at least until after Christmas to read it (hint hint). Instead I might just re-read the Quincunx, which is a perfect example of exactly the kind of book I love.

    don., I am intrigued by your recommendations and will look into them further. Someone else told me to read Trainspotting, too.

  14. Anonymous9:34 PM

    I agree with the poster above the recommended "Atonement" -- a terrific book. The only other book I've read in the last couple of years that competes with that book is "Fortress of Solitude" by Jonathan Lethem. An amazing book about Brooklyn, punk rock, the crack epidemic, comic book superheroes, race, Berkeley, and growing up. Really amazing.

  15. "Fortress o' Solitude" eh? I'm going to go to the library to check that out tomorrow. Cool. Chiam Potok is always good too, I agree with whoever said that. I read an interesting book called "The curious incident of the dog in the night-time" by Mark Haddon. I bought it in London because I saw an ad for it on the tube. It's ok, but quick. Another one of my favorites that is pretty mellow, but still fun is "Blue Skin of the Sea" by Graham Salisbury. If you want to read something that will insult your intelligence and entertain you at the same time read "Real Ultimate Power- The official Ninja Guide" by Robert Hamburger. It's funny, but be warned: it is not for the easily offended.

  16. Anonymous7:25 PM

    Cool! Let me know how you like Fortress of Solitude.

  17. I've never read Nick Hornby - my 17-year-old brother loves the guy - although the movie versions of "About a Boy" and "High Fidelity" are quite funny.

    Haven't attempted DaVinci Code yet. I don't know, I guess the fad is kinda over and I don't really feel the need. Maybe someday.

    I'm currently reading "The Strangeness of Beauty" by Lydia Minatoya. Moves kinda slowly, but it doesn't bother me, and slow plots usually do. It's got REALLY great descriptions, I mean dog-ear-and-underline great. Also a cool history lesson, Japan from samurai times to about the 1940s.

    I read "Blue Skin of the Sea" for a modern American fiction class, it was the adolescent pick. It's cute. Makes you want to go to Hawaii and be a fisherman.

    Erm...I really need to give your blog's URL to my mom. She'd load the place up with book recommendations. That's why I read half the books I do, she practically shoves them at me. Never finished "The Red Tent," although that was one she gave me as well.

    This is a long comment.

  18. Also...I read "The Secret Life of Bees" in an afternoon. It made me cry.

    Many things make me cry though. We've discussed this. I'd like to re-read it and see if it has the same's been a year or two.

    Not to be cliche, but "The Great Gatsby" is always good for a re-read. I don't care how screwed up Daisy is, wouldn't it be great to be that irresistible and rich? Well, maybe not. But I still like daydreaming about the glitzy life. Maybe that's why I'm so enamored of "The O.C."

  19. Yes, Yes, a fine blog, very interesting. So if you could just post a one-page summary of every book discussed above I would really appreciate it. In fact e-mail them directly to my English teacher and save me some trouble. (

  20. There are two kinds of people in this world kid, takers and users. And you, Spider Fan, are both. Can't wait to hear how the On Writing report went!

  21. Ok, I had nothing to do tonight so I am reading some of your old blogs. I eventually dropped out of book club because quite frankly I couldn't stand Fahrenheit 451 and I thought, "If this is a sign of things to come, I am outta here." So I dropped out. Everyone told me I could come back when I wanted to, which I took as a compliment, but obviously I did not come back unless you or Paige tell me things have gotten really spicy!


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