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51q1ZdQ0YGL__SL500_AA240_“I love this book,” I said to Tim while attempting read in a moving car, something that, to my intense frustration, I have never quite managed to do without wanting to vomit (thankfully I can read on a moving train, which makes my long commute more bearable). 

 “Listen to this,” I said, quoting page one (yes, page ONE!!).

Hours later, not long after the genesis of Francis Wells’ idea, the party would meet a premature death with a cloud of plaster dust covering the Gardner’s guests, as well as a dessert table graced with spun-sugar Giacomettis and the life-sized sculpture of Michelangelo’s David, whose penis had all evening been dripping syphilitically.

 

“And this!” I raved.

By ten p.m. there had been three slideshows – one of which, “Hop Art: A  Portfolio,” projected photos of Bunny’s own work onto the ballroom walls, interspersed with a  series of dinner courses as carefully presented and unsatisfying as Francis’ wife.

“I didn’t want to love it, but there it is, how could I not?”

“Don’t you want to love all books?” he asked, confused.

I pondered his question; certainly its a valid one.   When it comes to reading, as with the rest of life, I’m total cynic. I certainly don’t expect to love all books – an inordinate amount of what is published is trash, or boring, or overdone (or pleasant and inoffensive, but forgettable).   But there are those who allege that cynics are disappointed idealists.  Maybe.  If it were not true that a vast majority of published works are just plain mediocre, if we did live in an ideal world, would I really want to love every book I read? 

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Cover ImageAmmon Shea is a total nerd. 

Best of all, he’s not ashamed of it.  He embraces his quirky (to some, but not to me) hobby of reading dictionaries (not to mention his voracious reading habits in general).  Not only that, he takes it all to a new level by reading the OED cover to cover (or rather – covers to covers). 

I applaud his humor, his wit and his self-deprecation because I love a good nerd, especially a self aware one.

I find books like Reading the OED completely and unabashedly undeniable. My only problem with them is that I wished I had written them, but these guys beat me to it!  A.J. Jacobs’ The Know It All is one of my favorite books (of ALL TIME).  I even found David Plotz’s Blogging the Bible an irresistible read (and I’m an atheist!).  Shea calls the OED his Everest.  He’s reading it because it’s there (which I would venture to guess is also why Jacobs and Plotz attempted their arguably insane reading mountains). I empathize with that kind of thinking. 

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I’ve been reading like crazy lately, so it seems strange that I haven’t had time to blog.  It looks like I haven’t done anything, if I assume that anyone’s actually reading this.  I may have been quiet, but I was cranking through some serious bookage these past weeks.  Unlike the industry, which seems to think that summer reading is more prolific, winter is, for me, the best time to stay inside and warm, snuggle up with some good stories (besides I hate sand in my books).

Here’s a quick summary to keep you posted:

I’m not a huge fan of what may be called Chick Lit, but I did read two books lately which could be considered as such.  One is a charming little fantasy novel called Garden Spells.  Though it probably borrows too heavily from Like Water for Chocolate and often seems to be a new rendition of the terrible movie Simple Irresistible,  it is a cute read, worth it if you borrow it from the library or from a friend (sorry, I gave mine away already).    The other, is a deceptively simple novel called The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.  I read this book in an afternoon and enjoyed this story of two sisters and a granddaughter.  The Esme of the title resurfaces into society after 61 years in a mental institution, but it’s not about her reintroduction to the world, it’s about delving into the past to see how she got there in the first place.  The desultory ramblings of her sister, well within the iron fist of Alzheimer’s, adds the necessary counter opinion.  This book is good in the reading, but where it hits you is later, when you’ve put it down and tried to move on.  It just won’t leave you. I found myself thinking about the implications of this books for weeks afterward.  Is that what reviewers mean by “haunting?”

In retrospect it seems I was trying to cleanse all that estrogen by picking up Dennis Lehane next.  He’s someone I summarily dismissed for many years because he’s so popular and well, I’ve seen the movies.  But Sacred and A Drink Before the War were all the fun of watching a movie without the $10.00 ticket fee (or Sean Penn’s ugly mug).  Lehane obviously writes in a certain genre, with movie dialogue, but I can embrace a good PI story, especially one set in my home state. 

Finally I picked up Anna Quindlen.  I just finished her book Good Dog.  Stay. and of course bawled my eyes out when the dog dies (I didn’t ruin it for you, of course it’s coming).  I’ve decided I want her career of writing small books that capture people’s emotions.  How Reading Changed My Life isn’t so much about how it changed her life as how it forged her life.  In this Anna and I have much in common.  We’re both that girl who would rather squish into an over-sized armchair with a book about far off place, then squashed into a plane seat on our way to said faraway place.   She’s the kind of reader I was and am and will be and it’s good to know that there are more of us in the world.

Cover ImageCover ImageTruly obsessive readers (i.e. people like me) have been known, on occasion, to read two books at once.  There are really only two successful ways to do this a) you can read two completely different books (one nonfiction and one fiction is a good idea) or b) you can read two books that complement each other, but only if one requires less “work” than the other.  This past week, in an attempt to fill the Harry Potter void, I chose option b and I picked my two books carefully – Reading like a Writer and The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.

Books about books (or about reading) are the sole realm of serious bibliophiles.  Readers wandering into Barnes and Noble or mindlessly exploring Amazon.com aren’t intrigued by these titles.  More often than not, they can’t even find them.  My favorite independent book store appreciates this small subset of readers and has a shelf entirely for us (entitled, obviously – Books about Books), but that’s unusual.  There are no book clubs for these kinds of books and even if there was, there is no cool way to tell someone you’re reading a book about reading (believe me, I tried this morning. Fortunately I outed myself to a fellow enthusiast), unless in the context of a class assignment (which, though it’s an adequate explanation and will save you some face, precludes it being “cool”)

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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