First, some numbers:
- bike miles logged since January 1st: 1,775.
- Hours ridden: 114.
- Races completed (in unspectacular but acceptable fashion): 1.
- Books read: 16.
- Hours worked: too many.
Rather than writing reviews, I’m busy enough to be reduced to lists, but that’s better than complete silence, so here’s what I’ve been reading since I last posted:
- I finished Zadie Smith’s essay collection Changing My Mind, which was absolutely fabulous. If you like essays on literature and culture, read this! Smith is brilliant and charming, and I have become a fan (I read White Teeth a while back and liked it fine, but my response to this essay collection has been much stronger).
- I finished Essayists on the Essay, a collection edited by Carl Klaus, which is exactly what the title promises. It’s very good if you want to get a sense of the essay as a genre and also if you want essay recommendations.
- My mystery book group read Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park, which I can appreciate as a very good example of a particular kind of mystery/thriller, but which I struggled with a little. I’m not a plot person, basically, and this was a lot of plot. I get tired of struggling to keep everything straight. But still, lots to appreciate here.
- David Shields’s Reality Hunger deserves its own post, which it may not get. I give it five out of five stars for articulating a nonfiction aesthetic that I like very much and for having awesome book recommendations, and two out of five stars for being obtuse when it comes to the value of fiction. Also, I was never completely won over by the argument it implicitly makes about collage, quotation, and plagiarism.
- Lorrie Moore, Anagrams, which was funny and inventive. It has an interesting structure, with four chapters or so that give you the same two characters but in different permutations: with different backgrounds, personalities, careers, etc. Eventually it settled down into one version of these characters and told a more coherent story. I was a little disappointed the opening structure didn’t continue through the whole book; once it settled down into one story, the whole thing got a tiny bit less interesting. But still, very good.
- Darin Strauss, Half a Life: A Memoir. This tells Strauss’s experience of accidentally hitting and killing a high school classmate in a car crash when he was 18 and about to graduate. The accident wasn’t his fault, but of course the experience was still devastating. The story is well-told, and Strauss does a great job articulating what the experience was like. At times, I found the writing too vague and abstract for my taste; sometimes it was hard to wrap my mind around the thoughts and images. But still, it’s a brave book.
9 responses to “Recent Reading”
You’ve been busy! You make me want to pull the Smith book off my TBR shelf and start reading it right now to the neglect of all the other books I’m reading. Essayists on the Essay definitely goes on my TBR list.
“Busy” seems an understatement!
Moore’s book seems intriguing in concept but the fact that it doesn’t continue the structure may not persuade me to read it.
I credit Gorky Park w getting me back into fiction after a long hiatus quite awhile ago. Thrilling, interesting story.
Thank you for presenting “Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time”, I’ve never heard of it before – but do think I will find it very interesting. Have you read any other of Klaus’ books?
Glad to see you back! I enjoyed the list, am awed by the riding.
Sorry to hear you have been so busy with work–I know you’re working on coordinating an event, right? At least the semester end is not too far off to think about and hopefully you can to relax more. At least you’ve been reading some good books and cycling lots! 🙂 I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a very much plot driven sort of reader (though I like other sorts of stories, too), so I should really read Gorky Park (though I read it when it first came out and have of course forgotten all the details in the interim!). Hope all is well otherwise!
I agree with you in regards to Martin Cruz Smith. I appreciated it, but struggled with it and don’t feel inspired to read anything else by him. I’ve been meaning to read Lorrie Moore for years, but, for some reason, I never seem to get around to her. Good for you for bike riding so many, many miles already this year. Hope you meet whatever goals you’re setting for yourself (seems like you most certainly will).
I felt the same way about Martin Cruz Smith: interesting but not interesting enough for me to want to read anything else by him. I’ve been meaning to read Lorrie Moore for ages, but I never seem to get around to her. Congratulations on all those bike miles logged so far this you. Hope you meet whatever goal you’ve set for yourself (seems you certainly will!).
A mini-review is better than no review at all! Good to keep track of your reading anyway. And also your cycling. That’s a lot of cycling! I’ve been meaning to read those Zadie Smith essays for ages, and yours might be the push I needed. Thanks!