Category Archives: books

Confessions of a Book Lover, Part 2

Cover of "Blockade Billy"

Cover of Blockade Billy

This year for my birthday, I received two books: Liberty by Garrison Keillor and Blockade Billy by Stephen King.  They were both enjoyable reads that I read that same weekend.  I decided that I would make a goal for my self.   I was going to read 100 books for my 35th year.  That lasted about 2 minutes when I realized that 2 books a week might be a little bit (OK, quite a bit) too much to handle.  I decided that I would revise that goal to 50.  At a month to go before the half way point, I am actually doing pretty well–the count stands at 19.

But as I was looking at the list, I decided that it was time to refocus and recalibrate.  I love reading, but the reason that I set a specific goal is that I aspire to be a writer.  Almost every writer who talks about the craft has at least one piece of advice if you want to be a writer yourself: read.  I realized that I was picking up something that I had around the house, or an interesting looking book at the dollar store, or some pretty short books.  Now, I can’t say any of the books that I have read so far have been bad.  Quite the contrary.  But quite a few have been easy, leisurely reads.  For example: Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  Now, if you have read this book, you know that it is a heartfelt tribute to a beloved mentor.  It is full of wit and wisdom.  Truthfully a very good book.  But I finished it in one sitting.  While it had life lessons, it didn’t evoke feelings about myself, or make me question how I felt about certain things.

I decided that I was going to read 10 “classic” works.  Looking at my list, I had three that could easily fall into that category: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Seven more to go.  I could do this.

mark twain Category:Mark Twain images

Image via Wikipedia

Over Christmas, good luck smiled upon me.  On Lovely Wife’s side of the family, the adults draw names for gifts.  From my brother-in-law, I received a $25 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble.  What a perfect gift.  Yesterday I made my mini-pilgrimage and picked up four books.  One relatively short: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger;  Two “regular” sized: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; and one long one: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  So that makes seven.  Somewhere in the next seven months I also plan to read an epic novel.  Yup, that one.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  If that was accomplished, that would leave two more to go.  In case of a time crunch, I already have a plan: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  If I finish and have plenty of time to spare, I can revert back to my original goal.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that while you may not have been able to tell me who wrote Liberty or Blockade Billy, I’d be willing to wager that you didn’t need me to tell you who wrote most if not all of my classic selections.  Hmmm.

Anyway, wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Confession of a Book Lover

I felt a little dirty after doing something the other day.  How could I stoop to this level?  What on earth am I talking about?  Let me explain.

Lovely Wife joined me for a counseling session on Monday.  By all accounts it went well.  LW and I came away feeling like we understood and communicated with each other a little better.  She also now understands why I like “my” guy so much.  He isn’t a miracle worker (if he was, he could just wave a magic wand and rid me of depression), but has certainly been a trusted ear and a thought-provoking advocate for me.  Near the end, she asked him if there were any books that he could recommend for me.  He suggested two titles.  LW had to split to go get the kiddos, but I stayed and chatted a little while longer.  The first suggestion he gave me he assured that I could find at Barnes & Noble.  The second one was trickier.  He advised me to go to a little local place, where the proprietor likes to keep this particular author in stock. 

I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up the first title.  I don’t know about any other of B&N’s stores, but at our location, it seems as if the main aisle as you walk in has been taken over by a giant kiosk selling the nook.  As I tried to scurry past, the nice lady behind the counter made some sort of inquiry of whether I would be interested in hearing about the nook.  “No thanks,” I muttered, without breaking stride.

My love of reading and writing goes beyond words.  I love books.  Newspapers.  Magazines.  I’m not a luddite.  I am a blogger after all.  There is just something romantic about a book.  Something about the tangible document brings the words to life better than words on a screen. Words that can be erased with a click, disappearing into the ether.  Having a book is like a declaration of the knowledge or entertainment that you have transcribed into your brain.  I look forward to the day when my kiddos will ask me for a good book to read and I can hand them the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird that I read for my High School American Lit class.  How much more satisfying will that be than saying, “Here.  Download this file.”

I have already surrendered to progress when it comes to music.  I remember being a little kid, putting the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer  on the turn table, lowering the needle, and being engulfed in the music as I stared at the large, amazing artwork.  Soon, though, I graduated to cassettes that I could listen to in my Walkman.  Then came CDs.  “Side B” means absolutely nothing to today’s generation.  And while I still own and buy CDs, I will admit that I have purchased individual songs on iTunes.  In my mind I imagine a revision to the drawing on Endless Summer–in this one, the Beach Boys all have tears in their eyes.

I bought my book and was on my way to the next book store to purchase the other recommendation.  The woman helped me look for it, reiterating to me how much she liked the author.  No dice, though.  She didn’t have a copy.  In fact it may be out of print, she informed me.  She suggested I check at a second-hand store, and if they didn’t have it to give her a call and she would look into ordering it for me.

I went home and looked for it on Amazon.  They had several copies at decent prices.  I could order one.  I could call the nice lady back and have her order it for me.  But that would probably take at least a week in each case.  Then I saw that I could purchase a Kindle version.  I don’t have a kindle.  No worries.  I could download Kindle for PC.  So I did.  I stopped to consider that I could still order the book for cheaper.   But I wanted it now.  I bowed to my own pressure.

So now I own a book that exists as nothing more that a grouping of 1s and 0s.  Time marches on.  I resolve not to march with it.  I mean it this time.  For now.

THURSDAY FUN: Book Recommendation

Since we are talking about books today, how about a recommendation?  A couple of years ago there was a book fair at work, and I came across On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Sitting there on the stand, it almost seemed as if was placed there for me.  A book about history, literature, music, and sports.  Not to mention that I have always admired Kareem as person and an intellectual in addition to his athletic exploits. 

What I found was even more than I expected.  Kareem traces the history of the Harlem Renaissance through his love for literature, jazz, and basketball, and how these connected to a larger movement.  It opened my eyes to the writers of the era.  For example, I had heard of Langston Hughes, but I didn’t know much about him.  I love jazz, but didn’t connect its history through ragtime, minstrel shows, and the blues.  I had never heard of the all-black Harlem Rens, nor their friendly rivalry with the all-white Original Celtics.  I found the book entertaining, but more importantly I found it informative.  I am still not an expert on African-American culture, but it opened my eyes–and my mind.  I highly recommend you pick it up.  In book form.

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