What Are You Reading?

You haven’t checked in with us for a while to let us know what’s on your reading lists this fall. Have you come across a new favorite author or are you re-reading a classic? Maybe you’re not really reading anything and need some recommendations — I’m sure we can help you out. We know you’re busy, but tell us, what are you reading?

49 Responses

  1. A Gathering of Old Menby
    A Gathering of Old Men

    by Ernest J. Gaines.

    Good book. It holds my attention and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. A cajun man is killed by a black man on a sugar cane plantation, but we don’t know if it was self-defense or what. Several old black men gather around the shooter, all holding shotguns with one shell fired into the air, and when the sheriff arrives, they each claim that they did it. Will the sheriff arrest anyone? All of them? None? Why was the man shot? I don’t know yet.

    Gaines is the author who wrote The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which I used to think was a true story, but is actually a novel based on general truths. He also wrote A Lesson Before Dying. They made movies based on both Jane Pittman and Lesson. I haven’t seen either movie but I really liked both books when I read them.

    Ernest Gaines was born on a plantation in Louisiana, which is the setting for all his books. He is a visiting professor in creative writing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette.

  2. White Teeth by Zadie SmithI
    White Teeth by Zadie Smith

    I know Zadie Smith’s On Beauty is the hot book this year, but I never read her first so I figured I’d start with this one. I’m about 3 pages in so far, but it sure is a powerful (and hilarious) first 3 pages.

  3. EggersI just finished Dave

    I just finished Dave Eggers (You Shall Know Our Velocity) and like the acclaim it has gotten, I agree it is like a new age On The Road. I don’t know what I think about Eggers in real life though (this Real World TV show thing turns me off a bit.) I have learned reading this book though-in the middle of it he dissects his own writing, and makes it seem like he is giving something away, but it only makes it stronger. I have not read the SWOHG or whatever the initials yet. Eggers talks about death a lot and this is one subject I know little about-letting go and not being able to let go. That has something to do with the title-anyway I recommend it, although I am sure most have already read it.

  4. I like Eggers. I liked his
    I like Eggers. I liked his book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius even more than You Shall Know Our Velocity. You might want to try that one.

  5. I like what Zadie Smith said
    I like what Zadie Smith said about learning to write. It was something to the effect that the best way to learn how to write is to read other people’s books. There is a lot of truth in that.

  6. I have never read any of this
    I have never read any of this guy’s work, so I will check them both out, since you guys recommend… Besides, as I’m reading him I can peruse my Bulk file & read some junk mail… That way I can have Spam & Eggers…

  7. Fante and RuckerI just
    Fante and Rucker

    I just finished Rudy Rucker’s four ‘Ware novels: Software, Wetware, Freeware and Realware. Great cyberpunk. Hilarious.

    Currently, I’m reading Road to Los Angeles by John Fante. Great portrait of a young wannabe writer and his imagination through struggle.

  8. Book the TenthI’m reading The
    Book the Tenth

    I’m reading The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket to my kids. Got started when Levi suggested them last year sometime. (Thanks, buddy. Ugh!) Now we are thoroughly hooked. Though books 4-9 were getting played a little bit and the story was geting old. Now it seems with the tenth the story took an interesting turn and the mystery got deeper. I have an idea that by the end of the 13th book (the final one) no unfortunate events will have happened in the first place, but if I’m right I won’t spoil it for the kids. They are loving it.

    It’s a great thing to read to your kids.

    (I really should pick up a book for myself one of these days.)

  9. I loved White Teeth though
    I loved White Teeth though didn’t find The Autograph Man as engaging.

    With On Beauty, since it ‘pays homage’ so much to EM Forster’s ‘Howard’s End’, is it worth reading this first (since I haven’t) or do you think it’s better to appreciate what Zadie Smith has done alone?

    What do people feel about ‘paying homage’? Isn’t it all a bit hit and miss? Is it okay to do this at all – or is literature in danger of repeating though reinventing itself continuously?

  10. I think there will always be
    I think there will always be a place for paying homage, though I haven’t read the particular example you mention here.

  11. my heartsoul brother
    my heartsoul brother jack

    Dharma Bums.

    I tried to find some of Kerouac’s books when i was in India and found Town and the City, my fathers copy of On the Road and a book that I have never been able to completely read called Visions of Cody.

    I think Dharma Bums is his best book. It is so sad and joyful ecstatic and beautiful and funny and true. This book is like a life changing LSD experience — no, its positively much better than that. It’s like an illuminating religious experience.

    I’m also reading Ken Keseys Sailor Song which I dont like too much, and Porno by Irvine Welsh, which I like a lot.

  12. Recent Reads, Fall 2005I’ve
    Recent Reads, Fall 2005

    I’ve recently read LIVING BY SUPRISE: A Christian Response to the Ecological Crisis by Woody Bartlett, published by Paulist Press; New York, Mahwah, NJ: 2003.

    Another one I’ve read is: NATURE REBORN: The Ecological and Cosmic
    Promise of Christian Theology, by H. Paul Santmire– published by Fortress Press; Minneapolis, MN: 2000.

    Finally, I am currently reading THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ARTHUR C. CLARKE by Arthur C. Clarke; TOR Books, New York, NY: 2000.

    The first two books were about christian ecology and were signed by authors I attended EARTHCARE conferences with. I was inspired by the speakers and bought and finally got around to reading both their books.

    Arthur C. Clarke is my perennial favorite author. I am enjoying this thick tome of 966 pages including the index. It will take a while to read this but the book is outstanding so far. When you read a collective work, you really can get into the head of the author. I’ve read about one third of the book so far and I like everything I read. I especially liked “The Lion of Comarre”, “Technical Error”, “The Nine Billion Names of God”, and “All the Time in the World”.
    “Guardian Angel” was as gripping as THE OMEN. There are so many more on my list of “likes”.

    “Reverie” reminds me of one of my early squibs. So there you go–I feel a strange kinship with Mr. Clarke.

    Some of his science fiction is as profound as the ecological cosmology in the christian ecology books. Everyone should read: “If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth…” to get an idea of the ecological threats we face. We are in the midst of the greatest extinction process since the beginning of the Cenozoic Age. Our own Bible speaks of the melting of the glaciers and great rains that came at the end of the last great ice age. Read: “The Biblical Flood”.

  13. Alf Mac LochlainnAlf Mac
    Alf Mac Lochlainn

    Alf Mac Lochlainn wrote this one about his penchant for eating cats… OK maybe not, but I’m not quite sure what “The Corpus in the Library” is about. The first novella has shades of Nicholson Baker and lots of Irish influence (he’s Irish), though I doubt I will have formed an opinion by the time I finish it.

  14. Nature Painted with Rilke’s
    Nature Painted with Rilke’s Hangnail

    Desert Notes and River Notes by Barry Lopez. He captures the frightening poignance of facing yourself in the middle of nowhere.

    Reminds me of the poetry of Phil Cooper (http://www.londonfields.org) morphing into something more akin to prose.

  15. 40 pages into this book, I’m
    40 pages into this book, I’m impressed. She is so funny, I’m pretty sure she could do standup. And I like her choice of homages, including a nod to a little-known Kinks song, “Willesden Green”, which I didn’t think anybody in the world remembered except for me.

  16. Conrad/The Town and the
    Conrad/The Town and the City

    Just finished reading “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad. Conrad gets a lot of deserved credit but usually you never hear this book mentioned.

    “The Secret Agent” is a great example of Conrad’s storytelling prowess. The story is of a counter-revolutionary mole that is being pressured by his superiors to mastermind some monstrous act of violence. He does just that, but with an unintended result. Conrad does a great job of using the narrative to strike contrasts and create suspense. He does this by positioning the violent act early, but not letting all the details out, so there is confusion as to who was involved. Also, Conrad saves the best plot twists (as in, more than one) for the last 50-or-so pages.

    “The Secret Agent” really focuses on the philosophy and morality of terrorists:
    “A bomb outrage to have any influence on public opinion now must go beyond the intention of vengeance and terrorism. It must be purely destructive. It must be that, and only that, beyond the faintest suspicion of any other object…But how to get that appallingly, absurd notion into the heads of the middle classes so that there should be no mistake? That’s the question. By directing your blows at something outside the ordinary passions of humanity, is the answer.”

    Annual re-read of “The Town and The City,” Kerouac’s warmly written first novel. This is the 7-8 time I’ve read this book and it never gets old. I tend to skip over some of the sections and focus on Peter Martin’s story the most, which is a great lead into “On The Road”, “The Dharma Bums”, et al.

  17. Memories of My Melancholy
    Memories of My Melancholy Whores

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    I just started it today, so I don’t really have anything to say about it except that man, I love short books.

  18. A Series of DreamsI found
    A Series of Dreams

    I found this book by accident on the shelf at my local Barnes And Noble. It just amazingly great poetry. I mean it is so diffrent from what is out there in contemporary poetry, and so well written. It reminds me of the classics I read as a child.

  19. Reminiscences of a Stock
    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

    by Edwin LeFevre. Never has a central character reminded me so much of the rich Texan in The Simpsons who appears and undoubtedly fires his pistols in the air. The book is based on a true story about a stock market speculator around the turn of the century. This man is as old school as it gets, the Doyle Brunson of the stock market world, making and losing millions of dollars with a frightening frequency. Leading me to ask, did everyone used to be like that? And if so, what happened? And where have all the cowboys gone?

  20. Unfortunately I think you’d
    Unfortunately I think you’d be disappointed by Willesden itself. Bit of a hole really.

  21. Eve GreenThis book by an
    Eve Green

    This book by an author called Susan Fletcher. It caught my eye as my third choice in a three for two deal. It’s the first of the three I’ve read though and I was pleasantly surprised.

    Got finished and realised the woman is three years younger than me too… ah well.. I know… quit complaining and get writing!!

    It’s about a girl who loses her mother and goes to live in Wales. About childhood, loss and discovery. It’s tragic, funny and devastatingly well-written.

  22. “A Series Of Dreams” By
    “A Series Of Dreams” By Flavius B. Vlad… As I forgot to mention… Again, great read…

  23. Life against DeathI’m
    Life against Death

    I’m currently reading Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History by Norman Brown. I found the chapter “art and Eros” particularly fascinating, especially how it relates to writers.

  24. another roadside
    another roadside attraction

    And so far it’s a pretty damn good read. I’ll be sure to read more Tom Robbins. How’re things around litkicks?

  25. Assassination VacationWhat a
    Assassination Vacation

    What a great read! Sarah Vowell displays a deep knowledge and sense of perspective on our current society and its history. This book chronicles Vowell’s travels to places connected with the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Along the journey we become privvy to some incredible details surrounding these events and how they have been commemorated. One such gem was the revelation that Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau, “was the one guy in a free love commune who could not get laid.” I had read her book The Partly Cloudy Patriot and was charmed by her wit and irreverent perspective. Can’t wait for more from her.

  26. Still Life with Woodpeckerby
    Still Life with Woodpecker

    by tom robbins is the best book ever

  27. Kiss of the Fur Queenby
    Kiss of the Fur Queen

    by Tomson Highway. a semi-autobiographical novel about two Cree brothers from northern Manitoba, who survive residential school and city life, to take on the art world, one as a dancer, the other as a pianist/playwright. and all the while they’re watched over by a beauty queen goddess, and haunted by the Weetigo (Windigo in Ojibwa).

    (disclosure: actually i’m mentioning this because i just took a playwriting course from Tomson Highway, a fabulous experience that has influenced my writing since.)

    Also, Buddha by Osamu Tezuka (i’m up to Volume 6: Ananda). very imaginative retelling of the Buddha’s life and teaching, and great manga artwork.

  28. Reading Fall ’05Last year I
    Reading Fall ’05

    Last year I read everything by Steinbeck so this year I went back and reread a few of my favorite books: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, that haunting short novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Sound and the Fury more haunted than haunting, and The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda. I also became familiar with Don Miguel Ruiz whose Toltec philosophy of love, kindness and personal integrity I went crazy for — I read all three of his books each twice this year — The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love and The Voice of Knowledge. Most recently I picked up books by a native American medicine man Sun Bear whose ‘Medicine Wheel’ is amazing and whose take on dreaming is very important — highly recommended.

    I have actually been thinking a great deal about Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in the context of these other works I have just learned about. I think Faulkner is often misinterpreted as some kind of genius super-brain writer whose fiction is so complex you can hardly read it — but I would say Faulkner’s work follows what I call ‘Pinter’s Law’ that is from a speech Pinter gave in 1962:

    “I suggest there can be no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily true or false; it can be both true and false. A character on the stage [in Faulkner’s work in a story or novel] who can present no convincing argument or information as to his past experience, his present behaviour or his aspirations, nor give a comprehensive analysis of his motives is as legitimate and as worthy of our attention as one who, alarmingly, can do all these things. The more acute the experience the less articulate its expression.’

    –from Pinter’s Collected Works vol. 1

    This is especially true in S&F — the only articulate character is Jason Compson who is so reprehensible a character that you can hardly call him worthy of our attention. Benjy and Quentin of course are famous for rendering their acute emotional experiences nakedly if inarticulately, and the Dilsey chapter shows what love really is. Dilsey loves so completely, openly and honestly that she really is ‘Christian’ in her love — that is, as Tolstoy wrote of Christian Love in What is Art?:

    ‘But the Christian ideal changed and turned over everything in such a way that, as the Gospel says, “That which is great among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” The ideal became not the grandeur of a pharoah or a Roman Emperor … but humility, chastity, compassion and love…And the highest work of art was no temple of victory with statues of the victors, but the image of a human soul so transformed by love that a tortured and murdered man could pity and love his tormentors.’

    In Faulkner the Compsons and Sartorises and Sutpens are all after that kind of grandeur that is subject to avariciousness and every form of nonvirtue — while the virtuous like Dilsey struggle in servitude and love their tormentors. Meanwhile, the final victors, the ones who end up memorialized in brass in Jefferson (it is Flem Snopes, right?) are the most cunning and shrewd and least able to act from their integrity, that is from their emotional integrity. That image of pity and love at the end of The Sound and the Fury, of Dilsey taking Benjy to church with her is one of the greatest things I’ve ever read:

    “I wish you wouldn’t keep bringin’ him to church, mammy,” Frony said. “Folks talkin.”

    “What folks?” Dilsey said.

    “I hear ’em.” Frony said…

    “Den you send um to me,” Dilsey said, “Tell um the Lawd dont keer whether he smart er not. Dont nobody but white trash keer dat.”

    later: “You’s de Lawd’s chile, anyway. En I be his’n too, fo long, praise Jesus!”

  29. Bums is one of Kerouac’s more
    Bums is one of Kerouac’s more lucid, even reads- very close to OTR in stature.

  30. Wuthering HeightsI decided to
    Wuthering Heights

    I decided to read Wuthering Heights and finally cross it off the list of classics unread by me. I was very surprised to be disappointed in this book. Nothing about the tale tugged at my soul with anything more than a mild contempt for the fools inhabiting it. The construct was mildly interesting but not enough to make me love it. Have I become a hard-hearted cynic, I wonder. What was it I missed exactly?

  31. Tom Robbins is one of the few
    Tom Robbins is one of the few authors whose works I will read again and again. It is good to be reminded that the world is indeed a mysterious place. In my opinion Jitterbug Perfume is his most potent work. It is the book I return to the most.

  32. The SeasAlright guys, The
    The Seas

    Alright guys, The Seas by Samantha Hunt is good. Cleverly written. A modern gothic with little or none of the sentimentality or unromantic romanticism that I dislike in the older gothic novels. A political, social, relational, and psychological commentary. Please read it.

  33. Greenwich Killing TimeOf
    Greenwich Killing Time

    Of course I’m reading this in German translation as I’m German. The Kinkster’s writing is sheer fun for me! I enjoy very much the Detective’s coolness and humour that matches mine a bit. Having been in Manhatten only once and in the Village just a couple of hours, I can’t of course follow the descriptions of locations very well but I recommend the book anyway to anybody loving kinky plots and stories!

  34. Light in AugustI have shunted
    Light in August

    I have shunted Faulkner to the back of my bookshelf for many years, only to pick up “Light in August” at the beginning of last week. Fortunately, I was no longer befuddled by his habit of repeating certain phrases, and I really liked it. I found his characters to be somehow familiar. It was good.

  35. Wind-Up Bird ChronicleAfter
    Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

    After an exhausting 14 or 16 volumes of Dave Sim’s Cerebus, I sped through Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress. I was required to read Catch-22 for an AP Lit class and have just completed it, and am looking through books that were either gifts or were purchased while reading other books to determine which I should tackle next. I read through all of Post Office over the course of today through waiting rooms and restaurants — and so my choices for next novel are: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, The Master And The Margarita, and To The Lighthouse. Not sure which to choose, but I may just start with Murakami as he is most familiar. Oh yeah, and I do need to pick up Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell again…

  36. Faulkner is a man whose
    Faulkner is a man whose talent lies in getting so much emotion into so few words. If you read his books without letting yourself get emotionally involved, I imagine you’d have a hard time finishing. I also remember, its been a while since the last Faulkner book I read, that lots of his conversations can be read two ways. Happy or sad, jokingly or seriously; which I always thought was a beautiful lifelike way to do things.

  37. I’ve heard of this. It sounds
    I’ve heard of this. It sounds like something I would enjoy if I can ever find the time to read it. By the way, if I accidentally posted twice on your guest book, it is because I am too lazy to learn other languages. That is a trait I hope to change someday. Nice artwork!

  38. Read “The Secret Agent” in
    Read “The Secret Agent” in high school english (40 yrs ago) and the passage you quote is the core concept I have never forgotten; the terror act must be purely destructive and create a sense of befuddled despair,helplessness,and
    surrender to the inane anarchy of the event. Recommended reading & thanks for flagging it!

  39. The Spoken Word
    The Spoken Word Revolution

    This is a great collection of contemporary poetry! For someone from abroad like me and older than the contributors in general, I can enjoy the writing anyway though. It’s stuff with contents and no blah blah and I’m grateful to the publishers having edited such a beauty of a book! Hard to get here in bookmarts.

    Carefully studying the thing, my favourites so far are Quincy Troupe,Jr. and his poem for Chuck Berry, Edward Hirsch and his praise of Jimi Hendrix (The Burning of the Midnight Lamp) and of course Howl by Beau Sia which touched me deeply.

    With such a volume in my hands I know that making books has a great future in our common culture besides of all the new possibilities of getting public like the Net or else!

  40. Hi there,I do too! Having
    Hi there,

    I do too! Having read Burrough’s masterpiece of the century maybe 20 times and also being familiar with his other writing & his art I can only say:

    What an extraordinary man – maybe it’s even true he was an agent from somewhere of outer space?

    Greetings from Erni Bar.

  41. The Collected Poems of Audre
    The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde

    It’s an excellent read. I have had it for quite a few months now and I am STILL reading it.

  42. The LeagueThis may seem like
    The League

    This may seem like shameless self promotion, but I am my own biggest critic. Nearly six months after it hit the shelves, I have begun re-reading my novel. It’s had a modicum of success, but I’ve been disappointed overall, so I’m reading it again to see how I like it. I’m constantly evaluating my own work to see how good it is. Of course, I never think it’s too good. I’m halfway through, now, and I think it’s a pretty decent mystery. Hopefully you’ll check it out.

  43. Fowles’s The CollectorI’m on
    Fowles’s The Collector

    I’m on page 73 and nothing much seems to have happened but the sentences follow one after another well enough and I am curious to find out what will happen–even though the language seems dated and the narrator is despicable–I keep reading because the narrative flows.

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