What Are You Reading?

We know you’ve been itching to tell us, so let us in on what’s captured your attention lately or what’s coming up on your reading list for the month of March. Tell us about your new finds, old favorites — or get recommendations here.

60 Responses

  1. Stephen HawkingA Brief
    Stephen Hawking

    A Brief History of Time, the updated & expanded 10th anniversary edition. I find this business of time & space fascinating.

    I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. It is well-written and relatively easy to understand (pun intended). So far, Mr. Hawkins has raised my eyebrows on one point which I intend to ask him about via email. Something he said seems incorrect and I’m sure I’m the one who doesn’t understand what he’s saying, but I would like some clarification. I hear that he sometimes answers email questions on his web site.

  2. Popular Music from VittulaI
    Popular Music from Vittula

    I have just begun to read Mikael Niemi’s Popular Music from Vittula, a bestseller in Sweden. It is a hilariously eccentric story of two boys growing up in the 60’s in the northernmost part of Sweden, close to the finnish border. They are exposed to to tundra and forest, to weird cousins and beautiful girls, to the Beatles and rock music ( “Ollyu nidis lav” and “Owatter shayd ovpail”), to homemade distilled alcohol, youth movements, old rituals, communism, first sexual attempts, the use of the first paved road, saunas, rock concerts, strange vowel languages, mini skirts, guitar playing in the garage … and they make it their wild struggling life, and gloriously so. (A reading sample can be found here).

    A really good read so far – entertaining, lively, poignant, absurd, funny, snotty at times, and poetic at others.

    I read it and I see the Aki Kaurism

  3. CritiqueLevi motivated me

    Levi motivated me with his Truth-Force post to revisit Kant, so I just finished the Critique of Pure Reason. It is something that you have to read again and again.

    Would I recommend it? You need to be able convince yourself of the payoff for pretty detailed and pedestrian prose and very painstaking distinctions and logic. But, yeah, I’d recommend it.

  4. Wake Up, Sir!I’ve been
    Wake Up, Sir!

    I’ve been enjoying Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames — apparently a Wodehouse homage, situated in modern-day New Jersey, and quite charming so far.

  5. Literary SF (for non-fans
    Literary SF (for non-fans too)

    I’m reading a science fiction classic, “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester. It’s one of those rare books in which an author with a hyperactive, manic imagination manages to focus his attention and rein in all that energy, creating a driven, very involving narrative. Good for fans and non-fans alike.

    NOTE 1: The protagonist is reprehensible, amoral, violent, and almost entirely centered on his own needs. This effect is not created in a mannered or ironic way, it’s very realistic and in-your-face. If that puts you off, don’t read it.

    NOTE 2: This book was written in the 50s, about which two sub-comments –> (a) it is amazingly modern, not something that makes you groan at its dated style or content, (b) despite the previous point it does have some anachronisms, but these are entertaining rather than distracting, and for anyone with an interest in cultural history or a penchant for the 50s it actually increases the pleasure of reading the novel.

  6. Penquin’s Literature
    Penquin’s Literature Anthology

    Second edition, 2005.

    What a massive book! Over 1300 pages of short stories, poems and drama. I’ve found quite a few short stories and authors I’ve never read before. What’s great is that there is such a wide selection, extending back to 19th-century lit, 16th-century poetry and, um, negative 4th-century drama (Sophocles). A bit expensive ($40 new) but I can tell it’s going to be a good book to have around. Some of my favorite “new to me” short stories thus far:
    –“The Lady with the Pet Dog” Chekhov (could almost see this becoming a screenplay)
    –“The Yellow Wallpaper” Charlotte Perkins Gilman (creepy, nightmarish story of severe depression)
    –“Roman Fever” Edith Wharton (a story about two American upper-class women in the early 20th century with a nice little twist at the end)
    –“The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” Katherine Anne Porter (always heard about this one; excellent use/example of stream of consciousness)
    –“Library of Babel” Jorge Luis Borges (reminded me of Burroughs)
    –“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” Richard Wright (great storytelling; was filmed as a part of the PBS American Short Story series)

  7. The Cider House RulesThis is
    The Cider House Rules

    This is my third John Irving read after A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANEY and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. It seems to be a solid effort and good read halfway through, but I just can’t get Tobey McGuire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine out of my mind when I am reading.

  8. Rabbit Rules & Elliot
    Rabbit Rules & Elliot Perlman

    I just finished ‘Rabbit Run’ – John Updike, for the third time. Revisiting this one after many years reminded me why I love books. For me, just a great piece of writing and a story I can connect with. It never gets old.

    I’m also in the midst of “Seven Types of Ambiguity” (figuratively!) by Elliot Perlman. Picked it up on a recommendation from a friend. Interesting approach to storytelling and thus far, worth the effort.

  9. Stone based the
    Stone based the smuggler-mariner-character on Neal Cassady.
    I read this book in ’86 or ’87 and about at the same time read Camus’ The Fall. Dog Soldiers and its leitmotif had a major life-changing impact on me, really warping my Weltanschauung and was the last book to do so until Catch-22. Nick Nolte’s character in the movie adapation–Stone co-wrote the screenplay–and Dog Soldiers’ character are inexorably linked in my mind.

  10. Reading Lolita in TehranThe
    Reading Lolita in Tehran

    The memoir is Kafkaesque but in the worst way because its roots are in reality. There are literary questions, e.g., “Why read fiction?”, that I never before pondered and it is the kind of book that is a must-read because it adds a perspective to your life that possibly would’ve never been without cracking that book. I’ve postponed finishing reading the other books I’ve started because it is so compelling and there are Kafkaesque jewels of description that I can sadly identify with my present life.

  11. The Wind-Up Bird
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

    I’ve been reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Marukami. It’s got more more sucked-in than any book I’ve read in a while.

    Also, try reading Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud A Solitude. He’s a Czech author and is absolutely fantastic.

  12. Thanks for the information!
    Thanks for the information! This book was recomended by Jennifer Egan who kindly responded to my personal reaction to her book _The Invisible Circus_ which has interesting parallels with my own life. I wanted to know of more fiction written with themes revolving around the question: What do “the 60’s” mean? Maybe you could share your recomendations…

  13. Love in the Time of
    Love in the Time of Cholera

    I’m a sucker for unrequited love.

  14. bohumil hrabal is an
    bohumil hrabal is an exceptional writer.

    i’ve read several of his books, among them “dancing lessons for the advanced in age”, a story written in one single breathless sentence, told by a bizarre old man monologuing about his life to strange sunbathing women. fantastic!

  15. What the sixties mean to me,
    What the sixties mean to me, in terms of literature? More than anyone else, Richard Brautigan.

  16. my kid…my daughter… she’s
    my kid…

    my daughter… she’s 15 today.

    pretty good time if I remember that far back.

    anyway, she wrote a couple pieces and submitted them to a few places. got published in literal translations from litmocracy, and some schoolwide anthology.

    Gotta say… there’s only one thing better than waking up and reading your own work and actually digging it still.

    And that’s reading your kid’s work and realizing it’s way better than yours could ever be.

  17. “They” always say the ’60s
    “They” always say the ’60s ended in ’75. I think of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, HST’s Hell’s Angels and both his Fear & Loathing, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for the ’60s zeitgeist as I read it in elementary high school and junior high. My older sister’s Cosmopolitans always had what I enjoyed then as short stories. I never read any Brautigan and like Stone and Tobias Wolfe and Raymond Carver who definitely are ’60s writers as being defined by the zeitgeist and carry it forward writing about the baby-boomers. I also link Vonnegut with the hippie absurdity which I only saw as flower children and bikers at the Armadillo World Headquarters before it died during the early Reagan years. The essential ’60s movie was Easy Rider.

  18. Locas…The Hopey and Maggie

    …The Hopey and Maggie Stories, by Jaime Hernandez, a collection of Love and Rockets comics – absolutely classic. (i’ve alwasy had a thing for Hopey.)

    also on the stack: Neal Stephenson’s System of the World (V3 of the Baroque Cycle), Mark Epstein’s Thoughts without a Thinker.

    just finished Jack Kerouac’s play, The Beat Generation. i really liked the third act (where Ginsberg (Irwin) and Burroughs (Mezz) appear), great language and everything. i’m not sure about it as a play – anyone see Pull My Daisy, based on the third act? i’m curious if the play actually works as a play.

  19. Francophone Literary
    Francophone Literary Journals

    As a Canadian poet who has lived in the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, my schooling was offered primarily in English, with French as a mandatory second language. I consider myself fortunate to be a citizen of a nation with two official languages and an education system that encourages the acquisition of both.

    In recent months, I have explored the rich variety of literary magazines published in Quebec and in Europe’s French-speaking nations. Quebec’s provincial government is a great supporter of the literary arts and funds many periodicals through a grant system. Combined with grant monies received from the Canadian Federal Government, Canada’s French-speaking province has spawned some of the world’s most beautiful literary arts magazines. A diverse range of publications – both print and on-line are produced in Western Europe’s Francophone nations. Predictably, France is home to most, but there are a few in Belgium and Switzerland too. I have included links to directories listing their websites at the end of this post, so interested poets and authors of fiction will have an easier time locating them.

    Poets and authors of fiction who read and write in French or who have had their work translated into French have a much larger market to submit work to than those who write strictly in English. My advice to those whose knowledge of French isn’t sound and who are considering hiring a translator is to hire a professional, preferably someone who has experience with literary translation. This is especially crucial for poetry, as might be expected.

    Most translators charge by the word, and a suite of seven to ten poems might run anywhere from $150.00 to $300.00, depending on the translator’s qualifications and experience. And CAVEAT EMPTOR! There are always sharks out there ready to charge upwards of $500.00 for shoddy work.

    The person who translated my English chapbook is a native of France who now lives in Canada. She is a graduate of the University of Paris, holds a Certificate in Translation from the University of Toronto, and has worked as a professional translator for eleven years. She charged me $180.00 (Canadian) for a suite of seven poems plus copyright, quotation and dedication pages. Several of the poems she translated for me have been published or are forthcoming in French-Canadian and French literary journals, and the chapbook has been added to public and university library collections in six countries.

    One last word of advice: to heighten your chances of publication in Francophone magazines, select poems or stories for your translator that have previously been published in English. A track record always helps.

    Good luck!

    Jay Black
    Vancouver, Canada

    Directories of Francophone Poetry Magazines:






  20. for God’s sake: Englishmen!as
    for God’s sake: Englishmen!

    as a gift, it came to my hands a strange book, something like “the better youngest English novelists”. it often contains a novel’s chapter rather than short stories but for me it is enjoyable to peep at least for a moment to a more extensive story. It has some great photos of nice places in England, and people that remind me of scenes here but in the earliest 80s! I’ve been especially amazed by a photo of a yard in which they repair vintage telephonic boxes in Mertsham, Surrey! and a great house in Harwich, Essex, certainly remains me of the place in which I did therapeuthic gym in San Jer

  21. That’s a good idea, a book of
    That’s a good idea, a book of chapters from different novels. i bet that hasn’t been done very often. interesting . . .

  22. so glad you’ve posted a
    so glad you’ve posted a comment to mine. yes, that book has brought me strange images (literary or not) of this foreign country. thanks!

  23. A People’s History of the
    A People’s History of the U.S.

    Written by Howard Zinn as a revionist historical piece. Should be required reading in any U.S. history class. The historical angle and perspective is that of the victim instead of the elite. A very refreshing historical piece for anyone who is tired of reading euphanized, p.c. history. The book is intimidating because you discover how much you really do not know about our history, even to self-proclaimed history euridites like myself. Very enganging and Insightful.

  24. This sounds really good. I
    This sounds really good. I remember reading After Appomattox by Stetson Kennedy, about how racist President Andrew Johnson turned out to be after Lincoln was assassinated. As a measure to reconcile the South to the North, Johnson conceded privately to allow much of the Klan activity to continue.

  25. The Power of Many, by
    The Power of Many, by Christian Crumlish

    Questions I’ve had in the back of my mind are being answered.

  26. I`ve found a funny storyI
    I`ve found a funny story

    I keep on reading that book by british writers.I just have read a short story by Ben Rice and I enjoyed it a lot. I have just could read that book today yet again, because, during the days before I`ve had a sudden rush attack and the nurses applied me a Decadr

  27. in this so far away country
    in this so far away country I`ve read some Hopey and Maggie Stories by Jaime Hernandez. those girls are cool!!!

  28. Jane HirshfieldAll of her
    Jane Hirshfield

    All of her poetry, prose, and essays. She is stunning! I haven’t been this excited by poetry in a long time.

    And as a Zen type myself, I especially admire her early commitment to “practice,” Instead of going to grad school or getting an MFA, she sat zazen for 3 years, during which time she wrote nothing. And then she also commited to 7 or so more years of practice.

    Her 9 Gates is just amazing. A great illumination of the power of poetry.

  29. I’m reading”My Secret is
    I’m reading

    “My Secret is Silence” by Adyashanti

    “One Song” collected poetry of Rumi. It also has a great CD with Rumi’s poetry put into song.

  30. i recently read this book. I
    i recently read this book. I found it was a little slow, but overall the story was good. the movie actually pleased me.

  31. The Opposite of Fate by Amy
    The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

    This is one of those books that I’ve long wanted to read but put off reading because there is only one first time. Yeah, I’m strange that way. I am enchanted with Ms. Tan’s ability to acknowledge more than the obvious universe. The Opposite of Fate is a collection of musings (her description). The pieces range from amusing (her reaction to seeing CliffsNotes for The Joy Luck Club) to thought provoking (discussion of language’s place in our society) to ghosts (of her family and in her house) to the classification of modern literature (why is she seen as a writer of color rather than as an American novelist?). It has been a great read and I’m sorry to say I’m almost finished.

  32. I’m reading…Nobble Hospital
    I’m reading…

    Nobble Hospital of the Aegean by Paul Judges………wonderful !

  33. I finished it. I laughed a
    I finished it. I laughed a lot. What a glorous tale! Grotesque and eccentric, poetic and obscene.

    I loved it.

  34. Transcending The Levels Of
    Transcending The Levels Of Conscious

    The stairway to enlightenment. Not a book to relax with. Tough on “positionalities”.

  35. I have to see the movie.
    I have to see the movie. There’s a trailer on that site, for anyone who’s interested (big downloads on the trailer link, and a small trailer version directly from the homepage) – it’s not in English, but I think it gives you the idea.

    Rosk’n Roll Musis!

  36. Jane Eyre by: Charlotte
    Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte

    If you havn’t read this book, and enjoy classics, I highly recommend it.

  37. Buddha: The Mangafinally
    Buddha: The Manga

    finally finished all 8 volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha. very, very good. Tezuka’s a brilliant storyteller, quite imaginative, and his artwork is amazing as well (it reminded me of Chester Brown’s graphic biography of Louis Real). the series enriches the story with tonnes of subplots, and gives strong characters to those strange names that show up in the sutras (Ananda, Shariputra, Devadata, etc.).

    you gotta check it out.

  38. I saw that one — glad to
    I saw that one — glad to hear it’s good. I’m going to pick it up.

  39. dead europea joy to read,
    dead europe

    a joy to read, quick, confronting, tender and original

  40. Tell Me No LiesEdited by John
    Tell Me No Lies

    Edited by John Pilger.

    From time to time I feel the need for a bit of non-fiction and this is the best I’ve read for a long time. It’s an anthology of the best investigative journalism from the last 50 years from the liberation of Nazi concentration camps and the first journalist in Hiroshima up to Iraq and the problems of covering Islam in the 21st century. Some of it is sobering and some disturbing (in the right way). It reminded me that there have been and continue to be dark times in the world but that good people stick their necks out to make the world take notice and just sometimes it makes a difference. In the majority of cases the impact is only increased with the wisdom of hindsight, serving to underline the insight and acuity of the writers on the spot. This is not journalism in the current mainstream news sense of reporting whatever the powers that be want to be heard. This is journalism as it is supposed to be: asking the awkward questions and reporting the things the powers that be don’t want to be heard.

    Highly recommended for anyone who feels the need for a good dose of reality.


  41. wolves, snow and sleghesJack
    wolves, snow and sleghes

    Jack London. A book my father gave me as a gift some months before the accident. Some short stories are thrilling like “To Build a Fire” or “Finis” or “Semper Idem”. I know that his life was quite interesting too, but I need to dive more in his biography. The first short story I knew by him was “A Thousand of Deaths” when I was only seventeen, so I had the absurd idea that he was a clasic SF author like…..Maupassant with “Horla”. Later, I knew that they wrote in a much wider literary range, richer than those unusual stories.

  42. When I was CoolWell, I got
    When I was Cool

    Well, I got hot & excited reading this beautifully narrated memoir of Mr. Sam Kashner’s exceptionally time at the “Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics” (WHAT A NAME! GREAT!!WOW!!!) I admit, the book has been written just for people interested in the endless revealings of the Beat Generation. So what?

    Everybody a little familiar with the main saga of the famous handful of protagonists will only stop reading after having finished the last page.
    And there is news about Ch

  43. the devil dogI have read this
    the devil dog

    I have read this short story by London in a tales of terror anthology with texts recruited by Alfred Hitchcock during the 70`s, but, because of a printing error, several pages of the story were in white, so, my reading experience of this tale was incomplete. It attracted my interest, anyway. I will search this short story in some other anthology. I have been diving in London`s biography too. it called my attention too. I can`t stop reading it!

  44. I’ve heard about this book.
    I’ve heard about this book. So, you recommend it, do you? I’ll look for it. If you say it’s good, I believe you, Erni.

  45. You always have some
    You always have some intriguing short story writer to investigate. You are one of the only people who named Maupassant in their list.

  46. Writers that I am
    Writers that I am hearing

    Sometimes I’ve had to literally throw a book to the ground in order to catch my breath. Well after hearing the spoken word of Minton Sparks I’ve had to pause after every piece to catch my breath. This spoken word artist is taking me places in a fictional past I almost think I had. Her third record is entitled Sin Sick and I think I want to be after this second listening. Has anyone else heard of her?

  47. I first heard of Maupassant
    I first heard of Maupassant reading a compilation of short stories made by Isaac Asimov, intended to reveal what there were of SF in classic authors. so, it included “the horla” by Maupassant (the story of the relation of the principal character with a “ghost” that seems to have haunted the house. the way that this relation modifies psicologycally the temper of the character/narrator(the story is written as a diary) reminded me of the essays that wrote Freud about his patients(something I was reading by this time for the University).
    regarding London, I still haven`t found that short story, because the library is three blocks from my house (a non significant distance in the past but now something like going back to Itaca. I must send my father to the library!.

  48. I have not heard of her but
    I have not heard of her but you make her writing sound great!

  49. Pushcart Prize XXXI’ve
    Pushcart Prize XXX

    I’ve enjoyed the essays the most, so far, and A. Van Jordan’s When Richard Pryor Met Redbone. I haven’t read the short stories by the big name authors but the ones I have read were a tad flat but worth reading to the end.The editor still has no respect for the ‘net, which he calls “massive drivel.”

  50. Teach Yourself YogaIt’s a dog
    Teach Yourself Yoga

    It’s a dog eared copy of an introductory book to the wisdom of yoga. I’ve been practising alone for around fifteen years. For the most part, discipline in it has not been my forte, but in the last year I have gained some degree of consistency in my practice, and am now considering joining a class, so as to perhaps, perhaps, sometime in the future training to become a teacher.
    Looking to gain an unintoxicated route into that space of which the wise men from the East speak. I feel I’ve been there, momentarily, but am curious to see what is deep inside the core of my being. I’ll keep trying. I may not get very far in this present lifetime, but hey, little steps along the path, people. This book will always be close at hand.

  51. whow… that’s pretty cool. i
    whow… that’s pretty cool. i got stuck reading immediately.

    thanks for the great link, bill!

  52. pseudohypertext !This is so
    pseudohypertext !

    This is so cool!

    I want to try it.

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