Friday, November 05, 2004

Fall Reading

I actually woke up feeling a little less apoplectic today - or at least more resigned. I'll now turn my attention to something other than Black Tuesday.

As the chill winds blow most of the leaves away (and I pout over the disappointing lack of vivid colours in the foliage this year), a young woman's mind turns to reading. There's nothing I like better than snuggling up with a good book on a blustery day, unless it's snuggling up with a good book, several cats and my naked girlfriend, with a crackling fire and a glass of mulled wine close at hand. I'll take as many of those at once as I can get.

Anyway, the only problem with this is that I often have far too little time to devote to this indulgence. Usually I have a pile of magazines I'm working through (copies of The New Yorker, National Geographic, Smithsonian, Natural History and Wildlife Conservation that I receive regularly, in addition to individual editions of The Nation, Harper's, the NY Times Magazine or assorted others M or I pick up), not to mention occasional newspapers, preofessional newsletters, Television Without Pity recaps and multiple blogs and Internet sites and groups I try to keep up on. Combine that "light" reading with two jobs, a relationship and a NY lifestyle, and there's not a lot of time to dedicate to luxuriating in a fine novel. I am hoping to shuffle my priorities as Winter approaches, however, and give myself a little more allowance to engaging in the pastime I so enjoy.

Now, for those of you who have seen my Amazon wish list, I'm not lacking for entertaining books, graphic novels and games I'd like to peruse. But, as it is, I have a pile of books by my bed that I'm working on reading. As of this writing, it includes:

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
I just started reading this one, and I have great hopes for it. Being a fantasy buff and having grown up on 19th century English tales, this is just the kind of book I like to escape into on a dark, cold day, and it's received great reviews. We shall see if it lives up to them, but so far so good.

2. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
I've actually been poking through this on and off for some months. It is quite a fun read, despite the overwhelming intended scope and what I feel is the misleading nature of the title (it's really more a short history of old white male scientists and their theories). The difficulty is not only that it is not as engaging or distracting as a novel, during a time when I really need to be engaged and distracted (what with Black Tuesday, and all), but that there are parts of it where my mind is so filled or terrified that I need to put it down for a spell. You try reading the statistics on how very likely it is that a giant meteor could destroy life as we know it at any moment and see if you don't have to wander off and watch I Love The 80s for a while.

3. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus
I actually gave up on this one a while back. It was interesting at first, and seems like it could be really engaging, but... it fizzled. It's unusual that I actually put down a book part-way through and don't re-open it, so it's bit disconcerting. I keep leaving it there, stumbling over it and thinking "should I give you another chance? Nah... not right now." Then I leave it there to stumble over later.

4. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
I was stuck in a train station late at night and in a very grim mood when I bought this, but I'd also heard it's terrific . I do like this sort of morbid, semi-scientific investigative prose, but I have to be in the right mood for it. Some days I'll find it intriguing and funny, and others, just creepy and depressing. We'll see when the mood hits.

5. Magical Thinking : True Stories by Augusten Burroughs
M bought this one and found it wonderful. I have to say I did enjoy his first two books, but not as much as she did, and I liked the first one better than the second. I do find Burroughs to be a little too desperate for attention at times - like David Sedaris as an NYU drama student, if you will - but he can hit a groove now and then. I do plan to read this one soon.

6. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight : An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
Been meaning to read this one for months. Again, heard it was great, was intrigued by the subject matter, but a little afraid that the dramatic moments might catch me on a sensitive day.

7. Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America by Garrison Keillor
My dad sent me this one, but I was curious about it anyway. I really enjoy A Prairie Home Companion, although I've found some of his fiction a bit disappointing. He was very good on Bill Maher's show, so I have high hopes.

8. Learning Their Language: Intuitive Communication with Animals and Nature by Marta Williams
I keep poking through this at various times, mostly for professional reasons, although it never hurts to pick up a few pointers. I'm finding I'm having trouble slogging through yet another book on animal communication, though. Not because I think it's bad - just because I've read so many and spend so much time actually doing animal communication! I'm sure there's some buried jealousy in there, too, lurking about. People keep suggesting I write a book on AC, and I think to myself "do we really need yet another one out there?" Who knows, though. Maybe Maya will make me do it.

9.Exporting America : Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas by Lou Dobbs
Another one my dad gave me. I'm not so gung-ho on this one, because I have mixed feelings about the whole job-exportation controversy, but I'll give it a shot. Maybe it will help me understand the situation better. As it is, while I'm not pleased about giant corporations exploiting other countries' workers and taking away American jobs, if those other workers can do just a good a job or better and it's going to improve their standard of living, I can't argue that it's not fair just because "Americans deserve better than they do," waah-waah-waah, boo freakin' hoo. We'll see what it says.

So, that's my current list. What do you think it says about me? More importantly, what are you-all reading? Send me your lists, and discuss.

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