Thursday, 29 July 2010

Currently Reading

You might notice on the right toolbar a new picture I've added. I love to read and always have three or four books on the go at once. I often include in this blog passages that inspire me. So I decided that I wanted to let people in on what book I'm currently reading. Who knows, it may inspire a conversation between us, or perhaps inspire someone else to pick up the book and try it themselves.

No, I won't post all four (or five, six, eight, ten!) books I have on the go. Just the main one.

Which brings me to my latest thought on choosing and reading books. For the longest time I had it in my mind that if I pick up a book, I must finish it. Even if that means slogging through something I am not enjoying. I also used to subscribe to the idea that I should finish one book before starting a second one.

Now I am more of the ilk that books will speak to the reader in different ways at different times in the reader's life. So while "War and Peace" may do nothing for me right now, five years down the road I may wonder why on earth I didn't see the genius of it before. (Side note: I loved "War and Peace!") Reading is a hobby. Hobbies are for enjoyment. Ergo, if I do not enjoy the book, I put it down. I may pick it up down the road, I may never open its pages again. If I enjoy a book, I may read it another three or four times over the years. Then again, akin to my experience with "The Chronicles of Narnia," I may find that a book was perfect for a time in my past, but not relational to me now.

I am always looking for recommendations of books. I can go through the classics easy enough; the list is out there and well known by almost everyone. But I have trouble keeping up with newer books (written in the last 50 years, say). The number of books written has grown, and there simply isn't time to read everything. I don't even have the time just to investigate all the books that have hit a best-seller list. So if you have a favourite book, or read something particularly inspirational or entertaining, I am just the sort of person with whom you can sit down with and share your excitement.

Currently I'm reading (for the second time) "Gone With the Wind." Fantastic book, and even better the second time through. I have very strong opinions about the film, in light of having the read book. Makes a great debate, if you're ever up for it.

(Also currently on the go: "Better Off" (second reading), "The Book of Mormon" (study of the book of Moroni), "Homeschooling on a Shoestring" (random perusing of subjects), and "Walden" (slow going, a couple of pages a week).


Anonymous said...


A really interesting read: "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.

Kevin said...

Was just about to start Walden -- even got through the introduction and the first page on Economics -- when a very new (very unexpected!) friend gave me a copy of the Qu'ran rather out-of-the-blue. Given the warmth and goodwill of both the gesture and the friend, I've been giving the book some serious attention, brief and intermittent though it might be. I'm a little concerned that this edition includes editorial annotation and analysis (you never know how that might lead you astray in a religious text), but since I'm not really at risk of conversion either way, I suppose it's more of an aesthetic complaint than anything. (And hey, it'll probably make it easier to read anyway, right? Added context and all that.)

When I circle back to Thoreau I'll let you know. Looks like captivating stuff. I had a love affair with Harold Bloom for a few years there (who am I kidding! -- it's still ongoing), and I love the way an essayist speaks right to you. Wonderful when you're looking for company, and just the kind of thing to keep you up at night reading page after page, mumbling "just one more section -- just one more section", while peering past droopy lids.

Recommendations? Sure!

I just came off a lengthy Robertson Davies kick. Six of his novels in a row, with one brief interruption for a book by another Canadian author whose work I've also quite enjoyed. Sadly, it paled in comparison to the master, I was terribly disappointed, won't recommend it cuz you certainly wouldn't enjoy it, and was happy to get back to Mr. Davies. Start anywhere. With any book. Whether novel, short story, essay or whatever. Nobody writes with the same bright wit or effortlessly precise prose. I don't care what you thought of Fifth Business in high school, the man's a national treasure, and one of the few writers who actualy takes a stand on -- and makes claims for! -- a genuine Canadian culture, distinct and independent from both our neighbours to the south and our British antecedents. He's the real deal and we'll never have another like him.

[End of part one. See next.]

[Wow. Long, huh?]

Kevin said...

[Part two.]

Maybe not feeling the Canadiana at present (for whatever reason)? An English novelist who's been knocking the socks off everyone for the last ten plus years is Ian McEwan. Atonement and Saturday are probably his two most satisfying reads, but his whip-smart intelligence and ever-engaging style make any of his books worth a look. The only trouble I tend to have is a constant awareness that he's smarter than me (like, a lot) and he's not particularly afraid to show it, especially in the form and structure of his narratives. (But maybe I'm working harder for the jokey tone I'm aiming for than I should be. To clarify: he doesn't condescend; he's just a brilliant novelist, well-versed in the history of the form and not at all afraid to experiement -- though usually in ways that don't distract from his page-turner plots).

Cormac McCarthy is another personal favourite, but I should temper the recommendation with a warning: he's an author determined to explore the dark places of the soul with a kind of harrowing intensity. Not a Sunday-afternoon-in-the-park kinda guy, you might say. Still, Oprah got up the nerve to add his post-apocalyptic The Road to her book club reading list (and it's a really stunning, deeply philosophical work, despite its minimalist simplicity, so don't let the ravings of the American house-wives scare you off), so I guess that says something for it's broad appeal, right? My dad loved it, too, and it's ultimately a book about fathers and sons, morality, and how to communicate spiritual and personal values in a world seemingly without a compass. Compelling stuff.

That's all for now. More later if I think of it. Hey, you might even convince me to read Gone with the Wind (I think my sister has an old copy lying around somewhere -- something I bought her in an effort to broaden her horizons without getting too far away from her preferred "flighty-female-protagonist" genre). Hey, it could happen... : )

Terri-Ann said...

Kevin - thanks for the recommendations. It's been a while since I sunk my teeth into anything Canadian, and probably time I did so again! Perhaps it's time to give Davies another look.

We'll have to discuss the Qu'ran at our next get together. I haven't read it yet, but am interested in your thoughts.

I agree with your comment on essays, and I would add to that that letters are another that feel like you're with company. Reading C S Lewis' letters made me feel as though he was a lifelong friend.

Perhaps our next debate will be about the merit of reading such books as "Fifth Business" in high school. As someone who read voraciously through classics as a teenager, I found "Fifth Business" hard to get through. So while I wouldn't say I didn't have the ability or skillset to read it, for some reason I found it inaccessible. (Sort of a tangent from our Shakespeare/Coles notes conversation...)

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

Man, you know, I even went into my room and picked up the book and looked hard at the cover to make sure there'd be no mistake ... and I still managed to bugger it up. It's the Qur'an, of course. (Whoops.)

Yeah, I think most novels offered up for high-schooler consumption are absolutely bonkers. Not because they aren't usually great books (I never disliked any, for example, but hey, maybe I'm special), but because without careful guidance or direction they tend to be either too stylistically/metaphorically/thematically complex, or just plain too difficult to relate to (i.e., "not scoff at") at that often indiffernt age.

(I suppose that's what made me a special case: being such a sensitive young soul and whatnot. I empathized with everybody. Villains, figures of scorn, parodic portraits... Maybe "gullibility" is the descriptor I'm looking for. "Easy mark"? Anyway...)

I have a fabulous (and gloriously illustrated) edition of The Deptford Trilogy (which opens with Fifth Business) if you're interested. If you'd rather start somewhere else (somewhere with fewer painful memories, perhaps), then The Rebel Angels is a good bet. Female protagonist, university setting, story of love and avarice, humility and pride, magic and superstition: it's a great read. (And also what kickstarted my endless Davies binge some months ago. Such a surprise to find so much delight in novel-length fiction again.)

Anyway, that's all, for the present. If I haven't already over-stayed my welcome, I feel dangerously close to treading the razor's edge.

Peace be unto you. Allah is great. G'night.

Anonymous said...


'The Red Scarf' by Kate Furnivall.

Kevin said...

Couldn't help but notice the change in your "Currently Reading" sidebar. Staying away from "the classics", are we.... : )

Is this the actual cover of the ... book-on-tape that you're currently ... listening to? If not, which translation are you reading? I've only read the Pevear/Volokhonsky, recommended-by-Oprah-herself version, but it's really quite wonderful, and I've been meaning to get around to their to-hell-with-the-plebes! rendition of War and Peace, which retains all of the original French dialogue as it appeared in the earliest Russian editions (with English trans. in the footnotes, just in case!). Sounds D-lish, no?

Also: when we gettin' together again, yo? I'll actually be living a bit closer to you guys, following my move next week. (Well, hopefully next week....) Maybe this means we should hang out more. : )

(Or maybe we should do that in any case.)

Talk to you soon.