Winter Reading 2010

It’s been an on-and-off reading period during winter 2010-11. Looking back, I can’t believe that I read some of these books in the same winter, they seems so long ago. Winter runs from approximately from December 22nd to March 20th (12.5 weeks). I read or listened to 22 books this season which comes out to about 2 (1.76, actually) books a week. I guess despite feeling like a slow reading time, my rate stayed pretty even. Though the abundance of poetry on this list might explain that. Also, some of the books (Oxford Guide to Library Research, for example) has meandered on my ‘reading’ column for a month or two before winter. But enough analysis, here we go:

Tell Me by Kim Addonizio
A sharp book of poems that includes “Therapy” (one of my favorite poems, generally). In it, Addonizio talks drinking, relationships, and depression, her standard topics, but does it in such a way that every poems has something to discuss.

Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: What Truly Drives the World’s Most Passionate Managers (au) by Stan Slap
Just another business motivation book that says what so many have said before it. The only thing that saved it was the author’s unique brand of sarcasm. I 86ed this one halfway through.

The Culture Broker: Franklin D. Murphy and the Transformation of Los Angeles by Margaret Leslie Davis
Thoroughly researched and well-written biography of a power-player in the golden years of Los Angeles. An inspiring person was Franklin Murphy and this book, well, it’s highly recommended.

The Kingdom on the Waves (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, #2) (au) by M.T. Anderson
Though, like its predecessor, it had some very high points, I found this one lacking in comparison. Nothing much moved for a major part of the plot and this probably explains my reticence about this volume.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
Unlike Martin’s other books in that the plot is not ultimately uplifting. Still, this one had Martin’s sly humor and was a neat look into the art world. I read it very quickly (in one or two sittings, I don’t remember now). Hurry up, Steve Martin, write more books!

Decoded by Jay-Z
An interesting idea, to annotate his own rap lyrics, but disappointing execution. My favorite parts of this book was the autobiographical prose. The visual style was eye-catching as well.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (au) by Oliver Sacks
This book came to me recommended by several people. I found it a mixed bag, some of the stories kept my attention while other anecdotes dragged. I’m glad I didn’t read his other books, particularly Anthropologist on Mars since this one regurgitates roughly half of it (if not more).

The Zen Life by Koji Sato
Telling photographs, and insightful and accessible essay on life in Empuku-ji (a Zen Buddhist monastery in Japan). I’m quite fond of the subject and day[or longer]-in-the-life portraits.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets by Ted Kooser
Kooser’s manual said everything I’ve always wanted to say to neophytes of poetry better than I could. He also selects mostly excellent examples.

Click: The Magic of Instant Connections (au) by Ori Brafman (and his brother)
I found a lot to like about this little business book. I even made some notes later. In hindsight, most of the “insights” are obvious but what can I say? Click and I clicked.

Winesburg, Ohio (au) by Sherwood Anderson
Anderson’s short stories got the very marrow of his character’s emotional selves and the poignancy of all of them together in one small town. I loved this book and will be re-reading it.

Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose by Raymond Carver
A few good stories, but mostly filled with out-of-context introductions and book reviews. Unless you’re a die-hard Carver fanatic, read his actual collections.

Bombing Ploesti by Charles Hood
A poetry book that tells a story and whose words truly swing. On the strength of this one, I bought another book by Charles Hood and plan to read it sometime (soon?).

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (au) by Alain de Botton
These meandering essays do not do much to explore the pleasures and sorrows of work, but they do introduce one to some truly different and interesting professions and hobbies.

The House of Mirth (au) by Edith Wharton
I wrinkle my nose as I write this but I was really caught up with the fortunes of Lily Bart. Plus, turn-of-the-century New York is a great time for story.

Ugly as Sin: The Truth About How We Look and Finding Freedom From Self-Hatred by Toni Raiten-D’Antonio
Useful anecdotes and light tone made this book a fine read. If only the conclusion wasn’t such a cop-out…

The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann
Indispensable to anyone interested in research. Why didn’t we read this in library school again?

Am I Thin Enough Yet?: The Cult of Thinness and the Commercialization of Identity by Sharlene Hesse-Biber
The point-of-view reminded me of a few years ago when I read a few hits of 2nd wave feminism. The anecdotes and academic tone of this book were welcome.

The Call of the Wild (and a few other Klondike stories) (au) by Jack London
What a vicious adventure story. Truly a book for boys. I enjoyed almost every moment.

The Chosen (au) by Chaim Potok
A teen book at heart. Still, I enjoyed its “jewish-ness” and was fond of most of the characters. A poignant plot helped. Potok may not be the most literary of writers but he can sure keep me engaged. Will likely be reading the sequel, The Promise.

A Single Man (au) by Christopher Isherwood
I enjoyed the location and the mood of this book most of all. Everything else was great too.

Babbitt (au) by Sinclair Lewis
Lewis can write a sentence! He can also skewer middle-class businessman boosterism while still making the object of his ridicule sympathetic. Quite a book! I’ll be reading more Sinclair Lewis before long.

We’re into spring as I write this list so I am already into my spring reading. The goal this season is to continue making inroads into (mostly) early 20th century American writers that I’ve missed. I have a list as a draft in my gmail that I’m going through — future contenders for my eyeballs are Salinger (Catcher in the Rye, I know, I know, but I never got around to it in school), Frank Norris (McTeague), Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose), and possible either Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden) or Thorton Wilder (Bridge of San Luis Ray). Of course, diversions like poetry and selections from my Zen reading list may intervene. They say it’s a bad time for reading, but I do not believe them. I’m having a great time!

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