What Are You Reading?

Whether it’s contemporary literature, classic literature, or the back of a cereal box, we’d like to know what you’re reading these days. Anything good?

30 Responses

  1. Dickens and KerouacJust
    Dickens and Kerouac

    Just received Kerouac’s journals, Windblown World, edited by Douglas Brinkley — inspiring! I’m on page forty-something.

    Trying to finish, betweens bouts with exhaustion, Great Expectations, which I love, but find challenging to read at night while tired. I Will finish it. I want to eventually read Bleak House and others.

    Does anyone have some good non-fiction recommendations along the lines of Jon Krakauer or Sebastian Junger? Or a really “must-read” biography? Thanks.

  2. If you mean what I think you
    If you mean what I think you mean about Krakauer/Junger, I’d suggest Joseph Conrad or Herman Melville — they took the psychological adventure novel to new dimensions.

  3. De Quincey &
    De Quincey & Kerouac

    Recently finished Kerouac’s Tristessa. It’s a short book, but it’s the Jack I love, full-blooded and firing on all cylinders! It’s now my 2nd favorite Kerouac book after On the Road.

    Now I’m reading Confessions of An English Opium Eater by Thomas de Quincey. This is very enjoyable read, despite the 19th century tendency to over-explain every point and quote other languages without saying what it means. So far, there are actually some parallels between Tristessa and Confessions. I didn’t know that when I chose to read the two books, and, as I am only at the beginning of Confessions, I don’t know how long the parallels will last.

  4. Chronicles, Volume Oneby Bob
    Chronicles, Volume One

    by Bob Dylan. Yeah, I got this for Christmas. I really like, I mean I really like it. I can tell I will reach the last page and be sorry to have finished reading it. That makes me sad, because this is Volume One, but I am sure that Volume Two is not going to be out there for me to pick up when I have finished One… and I am going to have to wait a lonnnnnggggggggggg time for it. Well, I can read it again, can’t I?

  5. Ah, Confessions of an English
    Ah, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. The sensational tell-all book from way back in the day. I read this several years ago, and I don’t actually remember much about it, but I think that the poetry of Coleridge makes a nice companion to this book. I think.

  6. Two that I haven’t read yet
    Two that I haven’t read yet but have been highly recommended to me are:

    South by Ernest Shackleton. There was a big Shackleton resurgence about 3-4 years ago. If you don’t know the story, he was on his way to cross Anarctica on foot, but his parties boat got frozen and crushed in an icepack. It took them two years to get back to civilization and he didn’t lose a single man.

    And The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, another antartic story. I’ve heard from multiple authoritative sources that this is the best adventure book ever written. He was part of the Scott expedition to the South Pole where Scott and 3 others froze to death.

    I can recommend some adventure non-fiction, that’s good but not quite as testosterone-fueled as Junger and Krakuer.

    Just about any travel book by Paul Theroux. Dark Star Safari, his most recent about travelling the length of Africa from Alexandria to Capetown is really good.

    In Patagonia and The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. Travels in Patagonia (obviously) and Australia among the aborigines.

    Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan by John L Stephens. Him and an artist ‘re-discovered’ the Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza in the 1840s.

    Another old one; The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz. Not spectacular writing, but quite an adventure story.

    Also Peter Matthiessen writes good travel books as well. Snow Leopard, The Cloud Forest, Under the Mountain Wall.

    If you want an adventure biography, there’s Undaunted Courage, the popular Ambrose bio of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

  7. How-ToThe Art of Poetry

    The Art of Poetry Writing by William Packard and This Craft of Verse by Jorge Luis Borges.

    I don’t write poetry and have no real intention of trying to be a poet, but I figured knowing some of the mechanics behind it would help my appreciation and couldn’t hurt my prose-writing.

    And it turns out that Packard’s book is actually one of the best how-to books I’ve read of any genre. He has an enthusiasm for poetry of all forms. He quotes Mexico City Blues and Bukowski as appreciatively as Robert Frost and John Donne. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    Borges’ book is a transcription of lectures, and he says interesting things about metaphor and how he reads poetry, and says humble and cryptic Borgean things. Sort of a lightweight read but interesting.

    Over Christmas I read some Haruki Murakami. After the Quake and Sputnik Sweetheart. My intro to him, and read those two because they were what was in at the library.

    There’s a lot of ennui in both books, written in simple prose that reads fast. The thing is, you will be reading along, the flatness of the writing will have you in a dreamy chance, and then something will just reach out and grab you. Not in a disconcerting, abrupt way. Kind of in the way you might be driving along an interstate in highway hypnosis and then you’ll wake up and notice a feature of the landscape that was gradually appearing over the horizon and all of the sudden it’s there and it’s in front of you and it’s beautiful. After the Quake in particular was really, really good.

  8. The Pugilist at Restby Thom
    The Pugilist at Rest

    by Thom Jones. This guy is a fantabulous writer. I mean a serious ass kicker.

    Jones is from Aurora, IL, joined the Marines, boxed a bit and, I believe, got epilepsy from boxing. After a while he ended up working as a janitor in a school. Then his short stories caught on. So, you see, there is hope for the rest of us.

  9. Bellevue Is a State of MindI
    Bellevue Is a State of Mind

    I am currently reading Bellevue is a State of Mind by Anne Barry. Apparently the author infiltrated a psych ward and wrote of her experience there. I am on page 35, not sure what I think of it yet.

    I am also reading The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, I’m on page 74, lots of writing exercises.


  10. The Bellevue book at least
    The Bellevue book at least sounds like an interesting premise. Let us know what you think as you read more!

  11. The Books I’m InMoby Dick by
    The Books I’m In

    Moby Dick by Melville
    The Labyrinth of the Alphabet by Drucker
    The Cloud Atlas by Mitchell
    Fathers and Sons by Turgenev
    How We are Hungry edited by Eggers

    (I like to read many books at a
    time, I enjoy that manner of
    cacophony and also it provides
    the occasion to notice parallel
    patterns between texts and concepts etc.)

  12. Thanks. Great
    Thanks. Great recommendations! I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and suggestions.

    As many of us are writers, poets, artists — or just damn busy — finding time to read is challenging, but something we make time for, right? A bit of sanity in a sometime insane world.

    “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” – Bono (U2)

  13. Great Expectations is one of
    Great Expectations is one of my favorites. I recently read A Tale of Two Cities and was quite disappointed. I also have Bleak House but it’s a very long mutha so I will pass for a while. Dickens and I are taking a long hiatus from each other.

    Into Thin Air by Krakauer (sp?) is outstanding. It made me want to take up mountain climbing for the first 100 pages. And then some really bad stuff happens and my desire to climb mountains crapped out.

    I read A Perfect Storm by Junger and it pales in comparison to Into Thin Air.

    Antother great non-fiction book is The Hot House — Life Inside Levenworth Prison by Pete Earley. It’s absolutely excellent.

  14. Literary Scuba-DivingThese
    Literary Scuba-Diving

    These days I’m reading Edgar Allan Poe in English and I have to put a big effort in it because I’m Argentinian and I normally speak Spanish. I suppose that that big effort is part of the new pleasure of reading, in his original language, a writer that I have reading a lot, but in Spanish. With a friend of mine we read some poetry of Jos

  15. Sounds like you’re diving
    Sounds like you’re diving into some good stuff — what Poe are you reading and what are some of your favorites? I enjoy his poems and stories as well and definitely agree with you on Maupassant also.

  16. Also am reading my Christmas
    Also am reading my Christmas present ‘Chronicles’ and enjoying it. But it’s so slim and I too can see a long wait. I just wonder if he has a scrapegoat on his farm/home.

  17. Click here and Find outI am
    Click here and Find out

    I am currently finishing The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. My brother got me a $25 gift card to Barnes and Noble for Christmas, so I went there Friday and got four books (hey, they were on sale)and eight more dollars to spare:

    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (abridged, only 800 pages)

    Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

    Notes from the Underground, The Double, and other stories by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll (I couldn’t resist)

  18. Well, Bellevue was not a bad
    Well, Bellevue was not a bad read, but I would have found it more appealing if the author had explored her own psyche in some detail. After all, I believe we all have our own neurosis, and what better place to explore it than in the psych ward? My favorite line from the book is as follows: “My questions when I entered Bellevue centered around the paradox of any such institution: coexisting one finds the rigid laws of locks and straight jackets and the unimaginable, lunatic freedom to choose one’s own salvation.”

    The author’s only redemption for faking mental illness that I could sense, was her new appreciation for freedom after her release. (She was only in a week.)

    Now on to my next adventure, “The Crucible” by Henry Miller.

  19. Simply EinsteinI’ve never had
    Simply Einstein

    I’ve never had much of a scientific brain, I’ve always excelled in English, History, Social Sciences and have always avoided anything in the least bit Math-related but I’ve recently picked up an interest in the subject of relativity and this book by Richard Wolfson does an excellent job of translating Einstein’s theories to the layman.

  20. Maybe if I read that I could
    Maybe if I read that I could finally understand it. I hear these science buffs talking about quantum string thoery, worm holes in space, and time travel. While it sounds good, I don’t really get it all. I do, however, like science fiction.

  21. KerouacI have been reading On

    I have been reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It has a good story line going. Plus I have been reading Angelheaded Hipster which is about Jack Kerouac. It is a pretty easy read and it has some pictures to go along with the stories. Makes it more interesting.

  22. Interpreter of MaladiesThis a
    Interpreter of Maladies

    This a collection of stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, and every one of them subtly grabs and immerses the reader in the worlds of individual caracters. It is, possibly in part because of its slim size, the closest to a flawless story collection that I have ever experienced.

  23. latelyokay100 Brothers (not


    100 Brothers
    (not good-well okay)
    Orgrin of Inequality
    (very good)

    Lonesome Traveler


    plays of O’Neill and synge

    Henry James’ short stories

    and some old French book

  24. It’s been a long time since I
    It’s been a long time since I read Kerouac, but I was in Lowell on Sunday and decided I would pick up “Town and the City”. I have never read that one and I love the city of Lowell; it has changed considerably in the past few years and isn’t as bleak as when Kerouac was growing up there. I think he’d like it now.

  25. Rat Pack ConfidentialI felt
    Rat Pack Confidential

    I felt this book would chronicle the crazy drinking sex stories from Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, in regards to the Rat Pack Summit of 1960 at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. They all entertained together for one month, while filming the original ‘Ocean’s Eleven.” Sure enough, the wild party stories flowed. What suprised me was how author Shawn Levy painted the Kennedy guys. Jack and Bobby. It is a scalding essay, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s exagerating. Perhaps not.

  26. Dear FirecrackerSorry about
    Dear Firecracker

    Sorry about the delay. I’m not very used to internet. I’m reading tales like “The system of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Feather” and stuff like that of E. A. Poe. It ‘s not the same to read Maupassant when you’re nineteen years old like I actually did and to read him when you’re older. You find him much richier.
    I’m so glad with your response. I hope we’ll keep in contact.

  27. Sounds like you’re reading a
    Sounds like you’re reading a lot of interesting things — I recently picked up a book of miscellaneous Poe writings and observations called “The Unknown Poe” — you may want to check it out. It’s quite interesting and includes some of his essays and letters as well as poems and short stories.

    I first read a collection of Maupassant’s stories in high school and recently read a few others. I think your observation on the perspective, both as a reader and writer, is very insightful and I think I will make a point to re-read some more Maupassant short stories soon. He really is so skilled and I don’t think he’s mentioned enough.

    Thanks for your reply!

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