Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Am I a good reader?

Unusual question? It just popped into my head as I was reading the Letter from the Editor in my most recent issue of Bookmarks magazine. It was about David Foster Wallace's suicide. I actually have never read any of his books because I could never get more than 40 pages into Infinite Jest (a book I gave up on more than a decade ago). But here he is, being mourned by the literary community.

I read a large number of books, by today's standard, but am I any good at appreciating the best of the best?

Are you a "good reader"?

I'm very excited that Wally Lamb is coming out with a new book - The Hour I First Believed - on November 11th! Ten years has been much too long to have to wait for a new work of fiction from Lamb.

Malcolm Gladwell has another book coming out -Outliers: The Story of Success. I have read neither The Tipping Point nor Blink. What am I missing, I wonder?

The Booker Prize Short List . . .
The book that currently piques my interest the most - The Northern Clemency by Philip Henser
From Bookmarks: "In 20th-century northern England, two families' fates and connections intensify as they reflect the social landscape of the early Thatcher era."

The Booker Prize Long List . . .
I can't believe that A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif was on it. I read this book as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program. It was a struggle to finish it.

Of Bookmarks' Best Books of 2008 (50 in total), I have only read one - The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, which I enjoyed but thought could have been funnier. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill sat on my nightstand for a couple of months, marked off at around page 10. I left it, came back to it and started over. Nowe it sits buried on "to read" bookshelves.

Hmmmm . . .

1 comment:

Mary said...

I've read a few of David Foster Wallace's essays, and a graduation speech he gave that was in Best American Nonrequired Reading. I really liked those, so when he died I went to Barnes and Noble to find Infinite Jest. The clerk said that since it was published by a small press, they wouldn't be able to get copies for months, so I kind of moved on.

I think much of reading is subjective. Even books that appealed to me at one time in my life (i.e. All the King's Men, Life and Times of Lydie Newton) often don't appeal at other times. I don't think it's a good idea to compare your fancies to those of critics who are not you!

Think about all the different reasons you read - escapism, fantasy, education, exploration, diversion, or just to feel like you aren't the only one on earth feeling the way you do.

I liked the Wally Lamb book I read many years ago, maybe we should pick the new one for the group. . .

I would say don't waste your time on Malcolm Gladwell. His ideas are interesting, but only if you are planning to apply them to a business situation. I felt like they didn't translate at all into my personal life because I am not trying to sell or promote anything (or myself for that matter).

I expected B & N to have the Booker Prize winner displayed (an Indian writer I think) but I didn't see it. I picked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Sarah's Vowell's new book The Wordy Shipmates, which I'm halfway through.

I think all the *best* lists are mostly marketing tools to be ignored. . .