A little discussed aspect of my wellness program of 2011 is literature. When you give up certain behaviors and habits they must be replaced with something. Brown rice and kale are only part of the story. Books are an essential part of my continued turnaround. I have always been a reader and a lover of books. I worked in the FSU Strozier Library for the Inter-Library Loans office my first two years of college. I would rush through my rounds of picking up and dropping off titles to be loaned abroad so I could have the rest of my shift to browse the stacks and take naps on the ledge of the 5th floor, where they keep the Early American Literature.
In 1995-96 I worked for Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. At the time it was the largest independent bookstore in the country. I worked in a satellite store that specialized in books for cooks and gardeners. I was the guy who produced the UPC Scan stickers and put them on the books. I was happy to do it.
In recent years my taste became lazy. Challenging books began to intimidate me. Why bother? It will take forever. It’s probably stupid. With an entire bookcase of Louis L’Amour to work through, why would I ever ride my Appaloosa in off of the prairie?
Last September I set a goal of reading one book in particular, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I had read many of his non-fiction books and found his voice and breadth of references exhilarating. Reading DFW is like sticking your finger in the light socket over and over for fun. Infinite Jest was his most powerful wattage. This book was big enough to replace all kinds of demons and hobgoblins. So that is how it began: Brown rice, yoga, and 1,079 pages of compulsively footnoted compound sentences. As my brain woke up to the rigors of such a demanding read, I added new books to the list. I added some only because of their daunting reputations, and others because they caught my eye as books do.
I do not recommend any of these books to any of you, because recommending books is a lost cause. Books find us, and no third party can make a book the right choice for us at any given time. I draw inspiration and food for thought from many of you, so consider this a vanity post. As I pat myself on the back, feel free to read over my shoulder as you see fit. I will keep my comments brief.
Titles are linked, if you can’t tell.
Infinite Jest– It had to be done.
The Instructions Instant Favorite. Join the Side of Damage.
Chronic City– Late nights with Perkus Tooth
Cloud Atlas– The best 3 short stories and a novella to ever pretend to be a novel.
Freedom– Held my nose through the entire story, loathing everyone, then cried at the end.
State of Wonder– Chew all the flavor out of this one.
–A Visit from the Goon Squad Rock and roll as high art
War– Happening right now.
Matterhorn– Dude must know people. Reads like an 8th grade book report. Not a good one.
–Stephen King On Writing Stephen King must have serious issues with Infinite Jest.
Libra This is a fantastic book if you have trouble falling asleep. Well-crafted, but oh so what.
The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris. A tender account of an American affliction.
How about you guys, read any good books lately?