Monday, January 14, 2013

Heard any good books lately?

A while back I read an excerpt from The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro, in the New Yorker. I found it riveting. I still remember where I was the day JFK was shot. This was back in the day when most of the mothers in our suburban village were stay-at-home moms and the elementary school day was structured such that we could go home for lunch. I had run down to the five and dime to buy some school supplies. A classmate there told me about the shooting. At first I thought he was making it up, but the store PA system was tuned to a local radio station which broadcast the news right then. I pictured JFK being shot in the arm, like the good guys on TV. Sadly, not so. Interestingly enough, though, Caro's book makes it seem that few of Kennedy's programs would have ever come into existence without Lyndon Johnson's knowledge of the inner workings of Congress to push them through, knowledge Kennedy and his staff eschewed while LBJ was VP.

Yes, I am reading the book. Or, rather, listening to it. This one falls into the category of I-am-interested-but-probably-will-not-be-able-to-slog-through. Fortunately, this one is also available from my local library on CD. Originally I pictured myself spending the winter curled up under an afghan, knitting while I listened to not only this book but all the preceding ones Caro has written on LBJ. The others were not available on audio, though, and quite frankly, 27 disks on one topic is quite enough for me.

Once upon a time, if I started a book, I finished it, no matter how dull or tortuous that might be. No more. I like reading Alain de Botton, and had high hopes for Religion for Atheists, but for some reason, it did not hold my interest. No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is another one I could not get through. World without Cancer I skimmed, as a good part of it has to do with altering public policy (good luck with THAT, Dr. Cuomo). I did read all of May Sarton's Plant Dreaming Deep and Journal of a Solitude, and also Maragert Roach's And I Shall Find Some Peace There, a title I find awkward. Is it a sign of my age that I am more interested in memoir these days?

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey and most likely will not, but I am nearing the end of Gone Girl. About the only fiction I can tolerate these days is mystery/detective novels and certain sci-fi/fantasy. Occasionally I stumble across something good, like Steve Hamilton's The Lock Artist. I try to read Haven Kimmel, but her more recent books go right over my head.

So, what are you reading these days? Any recommendations?


  1. I'm currently reading Life of Pi, which I love. It's been sitting in the unread stack for almost six years, but since I'll likely see the movie soon, I thought I should finally get around to reading the book.

    I tried reading the first volume of Caro's LBJ biography, but I threw in the towel after about 200 pages. Caro is one of the most boring writers ever. Pages and pages and PAGES about topsoil erosion. Good lord. I'm going to try Robert Dalek's LBJ bio instead.

  2. May Sarton! Until a few weeks ago I hadn't even heard of her. Now I'm reading "As We Are Now" and while it's sad, some might say depressing, I think it's great. Beautifully written. Next I'll try the ones you read. I've never had a driving desire to read any of the Caro LBJ books but I like listening to him being interviewed about his books. And I usually read a couple of reviews of his books and that's about as much as I want, so I understand the CD-listening strategy.

    I've read a couple of Alain de Botton's books (early ones). I liked him! Different from most other writers.

    Here's what I've read recently:
    "Joseph Anton," memoir by Salman Rushdie (too long but very interesting story.
    "State of Fear" by Michael Crichton: I'm reading this only because the book has had a curiously powerful effect for a novel. Climate change deniers love the book, so I just had to find out how he came to be so influential.
    "One for the Books" by Joe Queenan, about his reading habits from childhood to the present, books he likes, books he doesn't like, random observations about his love for books and reading. Funny. Loved it.
    "State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett. Still can't decide what I think of this book. Fun to read, hard to buy the premise.
    "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver. Liked it. Flew through it, which is always a good sign. Not as heavy-handed as it could have been -- some accuse her of being preachy about environmental matters.

    The other day I took a very similar picture to yours above. I planned to use it in a post about my possible attempt to read a book a day for a month, maybe a year. Time's running out fast and my house is overflowing with books I want to read. Which is what I'll do the minute after my finger hits "Publish."

    Thanks for the fun post!

  3. I'm reading Transgender Emergence, and The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Through the Window and Disappeared.

    But I was wondering how you liked Gone Girl. I heard it being discussed on CBC (The Next Chapter, I think) and it sounded good. I don't usually read mysteries, but I'm tempted by this one. Did you like it?