Monday, April 14, 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading: March 2008

This may appear, based on title & content, to not be a Top Ten -- but there are, indeed, several top TWENTIES at the end of the post. This is becoming a habit, it's like the Sunday Top Ten Cop-Out. When your life's like mine, Sunday's a state of mind. (UPDATE: omg, it's Monday.) Tuesday Top Eights are always hot. Also I'm working on an Auto-Straddle Top Ten. Next week for sure, I'll be on top of it. Speaking of topping ...

Hey, have you seen the award-winning documentary "Uh Huh ... Her?" Well, there's a brief clip of me freaking out at the Austin airport -- half epileptic fit, half unbridled enthusiasm -- and the clip's placement suggests that I'm spazzing out to see my number one band Uh Huh Her live in concert. That's what we at Automatic Universal Studios call "movie magic," like Jaws except with fake glee instead of sharks (and less blood, though a little blood never hurt anyone). I mean, I was happy to see them, but that's not why I'm exploding. Like the Uh Huh Her song "Explode" ... right ...

The truth is: After exiting the plane, I turned on my Blackberry and what did I find there but an email from my number-one feeling Sam Anderson, the New York Magazine book critic I raved about in last month's installment of "Stuff I've Been Reading," thanking me wittily for my kind words. I know OMG! This my friends is the magic of the internet. As you may notice in the screenshot (left), I'm cradling the phone like it's Tinkerbell. Also, including Sam (we're probs on first name basis now), that means at least 18 people for sure read "Stuff I've Been Reading: February," the monthly account of one [wo]man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books she's bought and the books she's been meaning to read, inspired by Nick Hornby's Believer column by the same name. (See January, it explains). 18 may not be a lot, but it's not nothing. It's the age of consent, somewhere. Where was I.

Last week's New York Magazine explores "The New York Cannon 1968-2008," with lists of New Yorkish movies, architecture, art, theater, etc. compiled by its critics, including Sam Anderson's 26 favorite New Yorky books (here). His list includes only a few I've read -- Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (Grace Paley), Bad Behavior (Mary Gaitskill), Bright Lights Big City (Jay McInerney), The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier & Clay (Michael Chabon)-- but now I know about a whole bunch more books that I WANT to read. I've got some lists of my own at the end of this post. See that? What I did there? Does that count as bringing it back around?

The Conde Nast Traveler Book of Unforgettable Journeys, various
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson
Drunk by Noon [poems], Jennifer L. Knox
The Book of Other People, Zadie Smith
Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters

This month I read only books given to me by other people (last month), including a book called The Book of Other People, which contained 23 stories about fictional other people even more incorrigible than my non-fictional friends.

I mentioned last week that I'd left Written on the Body on the plane back from L.A. -- I re-bought it, so maybe it technically is a gift I got myself? Anyhow I finished en route to Austin, and then, feeling accomplished, dove right in to Drunk by Noon, which I finished in about 30 minutes, 'cause it's a poetry book. "Look! I've finished two books already!" I said. Though I don't remember specifically, I'm guessing from experience that my companions' responses were as follows:

Cait: "Ooooo!"
Crystal: "What's that?" [that's Australian for "what did you say?"]
B.: "Good job, weirdo."

Usually it takes me a while to get into a novel and then my interest increases exponentially. Written on the Body sort of did the opposite -- at first, I was addicted to it. The voice was enthralling, sensual, brilliant, evocative, compelling.

Also, I confess I spent the first hundred or so pages awaiting the lesbian reveal. Then I read the back of the book -- "the narrator has not neither name nor gender," consequentially dug up the requisite gender studies academia on WOTB, realized the narrator remains gender-less, decided it was clearly a lady anyhow, and soldiered on. It's not that I'm a heterophobic reader, just that the lesbian reveal is always a good plot device, and I've read a bazillion hetero love scenes already in my life.

Howevs after re-purchasing the book, I never got back into it with my initial enthusiasm. Maybe it was the lack of underlines ... and I feel like it's blasphemy to speak ill of Winterson, but it gradually stumbled past plot into the vast meadows of endless emo. Like if the narrator was my friend, I'd be like, "shut up already and get a new girlfriend for crying out loud." Near the end the language got especially heavy-handed, like a personal blog about a breakup or me during Secrets Week. I started groaning a little and rolling my eyes and reading particularly annoying passages out loud. Maybe this's a side effect of reading too many bad personal blogs about bad breakups. For example, This Girl Called Automatic Win. Anyhow, it was good, one of the best books ever, etc.

Drunk by Noon was, as I expected from reading Knox's brill interview on bookslut (which made her my interview hero, I want to interview like her) was delightful & irreverant: "A chainsaw's God's way of evening out the playing field between you and everything, even the invisible stuff." How can you not like that? Or this: "Meat when it's alive's not meat, FYI. / Some meat's alive, and it lives in Wisconsin." I imagine hanging out with her would make me feel stupid in comparison, but smart by association, like she'd always be saying witty things and eating special foods I'd never heard of and emailing Denis Johnson while making poignant accurate observations about pop culture. [Read her here.]

While in Austin, I read nothing, 'cause I had to devote myself to Uh Huh Her/learning Final Cut.

So, I started The Book of Other People on the return flight. Zadie Smith, who I haven't read despite her obvious position in the hipster cannon, edited what's intended to be a series of character studies. Jaime said this about it, which I agree with: "several writers took the opportunity ["to make someone up"] to draw utterly empty, worthless, depressing people, in stories whose sole point seemed to be to show me how worthless, empty, and depressing these lives were. There was a string of that in the first half of the book."

I felt initially that TBOOP was taking advantage of my "read everything in the anthology from start to finish" policy, like a boy who thinks he can use my bisexuality to talk me into a threesome. This policy is intended to forcibly expose myself to things I wouldn't ordinarily read and to expand my brainspace, but can often feel like masochism.

A disadvantage of reading on planes is that you can't scream or jump out the window without alarming everyone, but you can force your seatmate to read your least favorite passages, to which she'll implore, "Why don't you just skip that story, weirdo?"


In particular I felt like A.L Kennedy's story, "Frank," was really testing my faithfulness to self-imposed policy. Note to ALK, who's already more successful than I'll ever be: A sentence fragment in and of itself does not dramatic effect make. Furthermore, "not making sense" and "being excessively elusive about important things like 'wtf is happening' while recording every goddamn irrelevant detail possible" isn't a literary technique, it's just annoying.

Highlights included a Miranda July story I'd actually already read in a June '07 New Yorker but enjoyed again, and stories by Vendela Vida, A.M. Homes, George Saunders, and a graphic (that means it is all pictures/cartoons) story by Chris Ware. Like Jaime, I really dug "Lèlè" by Edwidge Danticat. I'd reccomend it mostly, if only 'cause it's big like most British paperbacks and therefore easy to read at the gym, where I finally laid this beast to rest. Also Nick Hornby's in it, which might make this meta. I dunno. I feel if it'd been arranged differently, I'd be giving a 100% rave review. I tend to be more tolerant of bad stuff at the end. Like a relationship: first you must earn my trust, then you can do whatevs you want.

Haviland gave me Tipping the Velvet for my birthday (see her inscription, right, which I'll be selling on ebay when she gets famous) in September. It looked very long, and falls easily into the "pre-electricity lit" category (I prefer "post") so clearly I've avoided it 'til now, although I should've known better 'cause Hav NEVER finishes novels, so if she read this whole entire book, it must've been really good. BUT OMG -- it might be on my Top Five Novels of All Time list. And I'm not just saying that 'cause the novel includes female cross-dressing, dildos, fisting, prostitutes, theater, England, seafood and is named for an oral sex euphamism.

Why read it now? 'Cause in Cait's car, A;ex announced: "Guess what I'm reading? Tipping the Velvet." I think my line was, "OMG, best book EVER!" but of course, I hadn't read it, which would be like if I said to Alex, "Guess what my new favorite font is? Verdana!" and she'd never typed anything in Verdana. I couldn't have this.

"Oooo! I'm gonna read it now too! I'll race you," I said. "It'll be like book club."

Alex: "Okay! You'll win."
Me: "But I haven't started it yet."
Alex: "You'll still probably win though. I'm on page five."
Me: "I'm secretly a very slow reader."
Alex: "Nice shoulder!"

[I made up that last line, but it's something she'd say.]

A;ex took an early lead, but I bounded ahead when she went to Dinah Shore and I didn't go to China (realizing that this is now April's territory, but let's be real, clearly this's "Stuff I've Been Reading: From the last time I wrote this segment through last week.") -- reading the last 300 pages in one day.

Despite its homosexuality, Dinah Shore is apparently not conducive to reading, which's probs why Shane is dumb as rocks. Here's Alex's account of what it's like to try to read a book while surrounded by 50 gazillion drunk lesbians in Gammorah:

First of all, I'm not sure if I missed the memo or what, but apparently Dinah Shore is "not a library" as I was told by a very intoxicated/angry/possibly sexually frustrated lesbian who I just met that night. Do you know how difficult it is to enjoy a great strap-on sex scene with angry lesbians yelling at you at 5 a.m.? Obvs I had to go back and re-read the sex scenes like 5 times, which was just the most inconvenient thing ever!

(Notice the Victorian inflection in that last line? Yeah you did.)

I literally couldn't put it down, I don't mean that as a figure of speech. Its language is exact. The pacing is perfect. Waters is both a master storyteller and a master sentence-constructor. I read Tipping the Velvet while walking. At the gym, on the train, in my room, in the kitchen, while walking from my room to the kitchen, while walking down stairs, while waiting in line, while eating & drinking & lying in bed. I read it at the laundromat while a bunch of angry black people yelled about my favorite topic, the shitty U.S educational system, which I know a lot about and kinda wanted to chime in, but figured that my opinion would be unwelcome in this context.

Another confession of my secret low-cultureness; I kinda like pictures ... I like seeing what the movie-of-the-book looks like (as in -- not WATCHING it -- but knowing about it) or some revelatory cover art. I've not seen the BBC miniseries all the way through, but I've seen clips of it here and there 'cause it's ALWAYS on Logo (or at least it was back when I used to watch TV) so I already had an image in my head of what Nan & Kitty looked like, which I think helped my overall visualization and consequential rapture.

Waters says that lesbiainism is incidental to her books -- and though Tipping the Velvet's 19th century story is fully driven by the implicit societally unacceptable behavior of "toms," I think she's right on. All peoples can read & enjoy this book: brown, yellow, red, straight, or Max.

But, as one of maybe ten well-written stories about lesbos in the 19th century, I clearly enjoyed that element. I learned that lesbian groupthink hasn't much changed since the 19th century: then & now, ladies love to gossip about each other, covet photographs of semi-famous homos, rush into serious relationships, have a lot of feelings, and develop complicated social cliques of hopelessly intertwined lesbos who, when all in the same room, can easily entertain themselves all night long just by judging each other. Other people do arts & crafts, we judge.

It'd seem a primary lesbian literary archetype is that of "crushed-upon girl awakens latent homosexuality in narrator, leaves narrator for a man, narrator continues to pursue lesbian lifestyle while first love wastes her heart away in terrible hetero marriage," though I can't think of that many examples, I feel like I've read/watched it many-a-time. I guess it happens in real life (yes, right now, in some Illinois bedroom, a teenage girl is crying desperately with all the weight of her so far insignificant life crashing down around her like a rainstorm of glowly sticky ceiling stars and her best friend, less kind than she could be, is pulling away from her needy embraces, saying she has to go, he's waiting, and besides, she's not like that) and maybe has been me, too, on both sides.

One day, I'm actually going to return Heroes : Disc One to Netflix (which i've had now for like five months) and I'll watch Tipping the Velvet for real. Also, next time Hav suggests "Nan & Kitty" as costume of the day, I won't need to google it. I only wanna see the movie 'cause I want to re-experience the book over and over again. Even if you think you only like books with electric lights, you will like this book, and it will enrapture you when real life is less than perfect.

Oh, P.S., obviously I won the Reading Race I started. How, you may be wondering, did Alex lose after such a promising start? Here's how:

The prize is that now I can be smug and annoying about it. Really, it's remarkable I have any friends at all that aren't imaginary and/or stuffed animals. What's Tinkerbell's number one book, you may be wondering? Um, Tipping the Velvet! Also, close runner up: Dirty Girls. Very close third: Mrs. Pigs Bulk Buy, all about the dangers of enjoying too much ketchup.

Someone asked me in the reader survey for my Top 20 book Recommendations. I found this almost impossible, so instead I've compiled a series of lists across genres. I'm certain this is incomplete.

Also, the [self-imposed] rule is that I couldn't include the same author twice on the same list and I tried mostly to include books that I've read recreationaly, 'cause like, it'd be lame to just tell you to read Of Mice and Men or something, I'm sure you read that in 9th grade English anyhow. So these are not school books, mostly. RIGHT?! Most of them are also in my a-store.

My 20 Most Favorite Novels - In alphabetical order
20 Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid's Tale
19 Burgess, Anthony: A Clockwork Orange
18 Cunningham, Michael: A Home at the End of the World
17 Curran, Colleen: Whores on the Hill
16 Eugenides, Jeffery: The Virgin Suicides
15 Franzen, Jonathan: The Corrections
14 Gaitskill, Mary: Veronica
13 Hornby, Nick: High Fidelity
12 Kerouac, Jack: On the Road
11 Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
10 McInerney, Jay: Bright Lights Big City
9 McEwan, Ian: Saturday
8 Meeker, Marijane: Shockproof Sydney Skate
7 Moody, Rick: The Ice Storm
6 Nabakov, Vladimir: Lolita
5 Salinger, J.D. : A Catcher in the Rye
4 Sebold, Alice: The Lovely Bones
3 Sittenfeld, Curtis: Prep
2 Safran-Foer, Jonathan: Everything is Illuminated
1 Waters, Sarah: Tipping the Velvet

My 20 Most Favorite Short Story Books
20 Bloom, Amy: Come to Me
19 Bradbury, Ray: Martian Chronicles
18 Calvino, Italo: Invisible Cities
17 Carver, Raymond: Where I'm Calling From
16 Coupland, Douglass: Life After God
15 Driscoll, Jack: Wanting Only to Be Heard
14 Estep, Maggie: Soft Maniacs
13 Gaitskill, Mary: Bad Behavior
12 Homes, AM : The Safety of Objects
11 Houston, Pam: Cowboys are my Weakness
10 July, Miranda: Nobody Belongs Here More Than You
9 Miller, Rebecca: Personal Velocity
8 Moore, Lorrie: Birds of America
7 Nissen, Thisbe: Out of the Girl's Room and Into the Night
6 Orringer, Julie: How to Breathe Underwater
5 Paley, Grace: Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
4 Prose, Francine: Peaceable Kingdom
3 Roth, Phillip: Goodbye, Columbus
2 Salinger, J.D. : Nine Stories
1 Yoshimoto, Banana: NP

My 20 Most Favorite Memoirs
20 Allison, Dorothy: Bastard out of Carolina (I realize this isn't techinically a memoir, but c'mon, it is)
19 Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home
18 Carroll, Jim: The Basketball Diaries
17 Daum, Meghan: My Misspent Youth
16 Didion, Joan: The Year of Magical Thinking
15 Erlbaum, Janice: Girlbomb
14 Eggers, Dave: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
13 Hornbacher, Marya: Wasted
12 Karr, Mary : The Liar's Club
11 Kaysen, Susana: Girl, Interrupted
10 Kilmer-Purcell, Josh: I Am Not Myself These Days
9 Knapp, Caroline: Appetites
8 Levi, Primo: Survival in Auschwitz
7 O'Brien, Tim: If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
6 Salzman, Mark: Lost in Place
5 Sedaris, David: Naked
4 Smith, Alison: Name All The Animals
3 Walls, Jeanette: The Glass Castle
2 Wurtzel, Elizabeth: More, Now, Again
1 Wolff, Tobias: This Boy's Life

[I know that "Wo" is alphabetically before "Wu," but I'm a little embarrassed about Elizabeth Wurtzel, so I couldn't put her in the number one spot even if it is alphabetical. But now I've drawn attention to it anyhow, which is something that Elizabeth would probably do.]


Peach said...

hey, cool, thanks for this, I obviously missed your previous What I've Been Reading... but, I don't understand why you've put Lovely Bones on the same list as Kerouac? I mean LB is good and poetically written, but it's hardly a classic of all time?

And you had a lovely quote from wind Up Bird Chronicles, did you not want that on your top 20 ?

Same with Nick Hornby, hardly more than popularist?

It's a good list in that it's varied and unpretentious and I'm yet to read Nabakov, agree with you on Salinger and Burgess...not entirely sure about McEwan - did you read Enduring Love? Utter shit.

riese said...

Oh yeah -- absolutely, both Sebold and Hornby's literary merits are questionable (to say the least) when held up against Nabakov and Salinger. And certainly, Wind-Up Bird (which I read last month) is a better book on all accounts -- it's extraordinarily well crafted, a masterpiece really ... but it's admittedly not one of my favorite books. Were I to construct a list of the best 20 novels I've ever read (classics of all time, so to speak), I'd probs scratch Cunningham, Curran, Hornby, McInerney, Meeker and Sebold for sure ... there's a few others I might end up ditching too.

But I honestly really enjoyed High Fidelity for real, and The Lovely Bones. (though I haven't really enjoyed anything else by either author) I think by "favorite" I usually mean "books that I couldn't put down" (a phrase I clearly over-use, probs a carryover from my literary agency employment days), books that wedged into my brain and wouldn't let go of me. Like actually "The Hours" is probs a better book than "Home at the End of The World" and "Middlesex" is probably better than "Virgin Suicides" ... but they didn't grab me in the same way.

I didn't read Enduring Love, actually Saturday is the only thing he's written that I've read ... which might be a good thing?

Crystal said...

I was suprised that I had read a lot of the books that were on your Top 20 Favourite Novels list. I don't know why I'm surprised(?). I mean, I like to read stuff. Jay McInerney is one of my favourite authors, and it may or may not be because he rolled with Bret Easton Ellis.

I hope Shantaram is on the next month's To Do list. I also hope you like it, 'cause 800+ pages is a serious time investment. Anyway. Nice one, Auto-win.

Adam said...

The faves/best distinction is tough. There's definitely a part of me that wishes my tastes were more in line with my objective evaluations (the vain part), but you like what you like.

Even within accepted/canon authors there are books, and then there are books. I mean...Lolita might be the most perfect/crafted novel, well, ever, but past the first chapter/page (which I could read again and again until I die and never touch another piece of paper), I'd rather be reading Laughter in the Dark. Lolita is a better book (and Pale Fire probs better still), but they're not what I pick up when I'm bored and too broke to raid the bookstore.

For what it's worth, I think a faves list is way more interesting. Best lists are probably more or less just a function of what you've read (with room for squabbling about order), favorites actually say something.

chaitee said...

Awesome, thanks for this! I've added quite a few to my to-read list. Couple of spelling corrections on some, not to be critical, but just for ease of others being able to find these books -

- Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
- Marijane Meeker, Shockproof Sydney Skate
- Meghan Daum, My Misspent Youth
- If I Die in a Combat Zone BoxMe Up and Ship Me Home
- Name All the Animals, Alison Smith

I love your book posts, keep 'em coming :D

Juno said...

Life goes fast, but you go faster. Bloggety blogging away. Reminds me that I should start a slow life trend — kinda like slow food.

Oh, and btw, it was Vonnegut who was the semicolon hater, not I. I'm just a mere quotation vessel.

So, you've been reading stuff. Well practiced. You ready for your next race to the finish? I've been meaning to take a crack at Shantaram. If Gregory David Roberts' memoir was enough of a draw for Madonna to get her Kabbalist bootay into the slums of Mumbai (will write a posting on this very place within the month) then I have little intellectual recourse. You game?

Lemme finish Eat, Pray, Love (I'm also a deceptively slow reader; slow to read, fast to write) and then we can have a go. Your call.


(1) Written on The Body can be blamed for a full demi-shelf of Winterson occupancy in my apartment. Most of that was read during the summer of 1999 which statistically had a higher probability of literary adhesion as it was really humid in Western Mass that year. I think my summer job that year involved archiving mass emo therefore the reading came rather effortlessly.

(2) I will post another blog about a theater poster design photo shoot I did based on that very image from Tipping The Velvet. Rock on with "indcidental lesbianism" Sarah Waters, rock on. And you should also read Affnity — though parts of it verge on that very same Wintersonesque emo-rration.


(a) 20,16,15,12,11,6,5,2,1
(b) 2,1
(c) 16,14,11,5

Jo said...

Are you familiar with Charlotte Perkins Gilman? I'm sure you must be, but if not, you would definitely like her. Depressed feminist writing short stories with what I remember as pretty deep symbolism (it's been a few years...damn science curriculum taking all my time...)

Meghan said...

Ooh, thanks for the lists. I think I asked for that as a top 10 (not 20?) but the coffee shop wireless I am using is unbelievably slow (meaning, not instantaneous) so I'm not going to check.

My short story tastes are more closely matched to yours than my novel tastes, but lots of overlap. My OMG-very-best-short-stories-ever is The Whole Story and Other Stories by Ali Smith and I can't believe you don't have Ali Smith on your lists and I hope it's because you haven't read her not because you don't like her because then I will be a little bit crushed, as in my heart will break into a thousand pieces. She is amazing. For instance she doesn't write bad run-on sentences.

She has several short story collections, all fantastic, and three novels, also all fantastic. Srsly. Get any one of her books right away, you'll see.

Meghan said...

P.S. and not just because of various lesbian reveals, either.

riese said...

crystal: As I'm sure you can imagine, the 800 pages is very intimidating after knocking out a 600-pager ... howevs, I've been looking heartily at the spine for a long time and thinking long & hard and I've heard that it has a great ending, soooo ... no, I'm gonna start it soon for sure, 'cause it's from you! ... you should read Tama Janowitz, to round out your cannon of the Brat Pack. She can be annoying, but Area Code 212 is actually semi-brill (and better, I think, then her famous book Slaves of New York) 'cause she says cute strange things a lot, likr me.

Adam: Actually right after writing that comment, I thought to myself, "I should've added that Pale Fire is a better book than Lolita ... " It's actually oddly one of the only books I've re-read (I'm not a big re-reader), which I felt was a silent criteria of the list. I mean ,on any given day, I'd rather be reading Shopaholic Takes Manhattan ... I mean! Dubliners! I figure the Modern Library or whomevs already did a Best list, I might trust them. Moreso, I enjoy comparing their list to the reader-voted favorites list right next to it, which I believe elected The Fountainhead into the top spot. Which is amazing.

chaitee: Oh, thanks!! Fixed! What's the error though on Marijane Meeker? My spelling matches yours I think. It's possible howevs that I am blind.

juno: I'm afraid that Eat, Pray, Love, which has been recommended to me a lot, will make me want to eat all the time. I prefer anorexia memoirs, they require less trips to the kitchen, which is oh so far away when I have all this writing and reading to do. Crystal gifted me Shantaram and said it was her favorite book, which's all the endorsement I need. Howevs, that spine is really serious. I think I read nothing but plays (Albee, Vogel, Voigt, Lanford Wilson, Wasserstien, Durang) and Douglass Coupland during the summer of 1999. Mostly on my lunch break at the mall. Oh right, and Fear and Loathing, which freaked out my coworkers @ GapKids. (and bridget jones. actually ... read that on cape cod.) memoirs of a geisha and this boy's life on the plane to/from australia. the liar's club. Why do I remember this? In need to clean out my brain. I think I have a lot more Waters to read.

Jo: Clearly I need to quit all other activities but reading. I haven't heard of her, but I love depressed feminists, and I think I need more short stories, I have ADD.

Meghan: Oh! I read "The Whole Story and Other Stories"! I forgot to include it. This is going to continue happening all night (omg, I forgot that one, omg, and that one). Carly lent it to me, I may never return it. So your heart will not break, I promise. Also I always like when she writes for The Guardian.

Meghan said...

I hear you--in retrospect, asking for a top any number of favourite books is obvs not a fair or realistic question. I'm glad that you came up with 60 titles for us anyway.

eric mathew said...

omg the internet is so powerful. when i wrote the post on SAVED the director wrote on it. it's redic how people find your things and read them, but so cool at the same time.

Dinah looked intense i mean Tila and Pat Benetar? Crazy.

asher said...

"I felt initially that TBOOP was taking advantage of my "read everything in the anthology from start to finish" policy, like a boy who thinks he can use my bisexuality to talk me into a threesome."

that's officially the best simile ever. like that should be used in school as the example when you learn what a simile is.

also, just to be an ass - you misspelled "recommend" in the bit about THE BOOK OF OTHER PEOPLE, and you have a link on the left to I'm "Quitely" Judging you. (but i think that name is more fun and ironic, so i might stick with it).

Kat said...

The Powerbook is by far my favorite Winterson work, though everything she has written is phenomenal.

additionally, The Night Watch is another Sarah Waters masterpiece.

just a couple of recommendations, if you haven't already read them.
you were on such a roll with the Tegan and Sara titles; what happened?

keep up the great (reading and) writing!

amlisdabomb said...

You have no idea how pleased I was to see that you love A Catcher in the Rye. I have maybe read it 600 times. Holden will forever be one of my favorite fictional characters of all time.

Wuthering Heights is another story I loved. I think I was the only person in my senior class that read it and enjoyed it. I wrote my finale 15 page paper on the use of birds in the novel. It's kind of intriguing to read a novel where you can't even truly like one character. You feel for them in your own certain way, but none of them evokes a strong sense of likeability. I think it's brilliant.

The Lovely Bones, ugh. I have a tendency to cry when reading books and I cried heavily reading that. I heard they are doing a movie, which worries me. I hate when movies butcher their original novels.

Martian Chronicles another favorite. I read that so long ago, I'll have to give it another go.

I love the lists you made because I am always frantically looking for new things to read. I'm currently reading like four books at the same time.

Have you ever read The Giver? We read that book when I was in middle school and I reread it recently and took something completely different than I did back in the day.

A Million Little Pieces? I know there was all this talk about whether or not it's true. I don't care. I loved the style it was written in. It felt so raw to me, so I loved it.

You know what other book reminds me of The Lovely Bones? The Collector by John Fowles. I don't know why because it's been a while since I read it, but I always remember thinking that when I read it.

The Outsiders SE Hinton. Great book.

Sorry this is so scatterbrained. I just type things when they come to me.

supr said...

i find it amazing that you came up with a list of 60 books. if i had been asked to list top 20 i probably would have had to fill the last ten spaces with sci-fi, leaving myself wide open for ridicule. good thing no one cares what i read.

on that note, ive read finger smith by sarah waters about 10 times. its probably my number 1 not-able-to-put-it-down-er. and just because i feel bad for the only novel of hers not yet mentioned, i look forward to reading affinity as well. my tendency to assign emotions to inanimate objects is endearing, or so i choose to believe.

"All peoples can read & enjoy this book: brown, yellow, red, straight, or Max." holla.

supr said...

oh and kudos on making yourself sam anderson's new bff. it was only a matter of time.

dani said...

Riese, first of all: I can't believe you read so many books. It's crazy,'s enviable.
Now I'm so enthusiastic and the next thing I'm gonna do is visiting amazon. In january a friend told me about "Tipping the Velvet", but I didn't give a shit, because I thought the only bool this person has ever read is MacBook. I hopefully finish the incredible thrilling Biology of the Prokaryotes soon...can't wait for Sarah Waters.

Allie said...

I've been away awhile, but reading updates in pieces when I can. Today feels normal, because I actually read this whole thing in one sitting. It's good to be back. Anyway, I'm glad you archive everything everything (don't delete this post!) because there are lots of books here I want to read. I've not even read half of what's on the lists, but I'm pleased to see that Waters, Bradbury an dof course Salinger made the list. Love it. I must go back to "A Perfect Day for Banana Fish" sometime soon.

Also, since you haven't done any Charlotte Perkins Gillman, start with "The Yellow Wallpaper." It's insane and beautiful and I love it. I can't believe you made it through a liberal arts education without it.

Ellen said...

Oh man, WHORES ON A HILL! That book caused a mini-scandal when it came out in Milwaukee (the biggest city near the farm of my birth) because of the depiction of Catholic school girls; there are only two major Catholic all-girls' high schools in town so there was a lot of speculation over which one she was addressing.

And the rest of us girls who didn't go there were like, I always knew it!

This gives me a ton of things to add to goodreads. (Have you done goodreads? Deeeelightful.) I actually have a copy of TIPPING THE VELVET somewhere, seems I oughta read it sooner.

Stephanie said...

""crushed-upon girl awakens latent homosexuality in narrator, leaves narrator for a man, narrator continues to pursue lesbian lifestyle while first love wastes her heart away in terrible hetero marriage,"

First thought: "I Don't Cry Anymore," Catie Curtis.

Have you read anything by Meredith Maran? If not, try An Incomplete Revolution: Real Life Since Feminism. And if you like books about the education system/high schoolers, try Class Dismissed. I love her.

rocketdyke said...

i didnt read all the comments so maybe someone already said this. if you liked sarah waters, then you should read her other books, too. fingersmith is the first novel i havent been able to put down in about 10 years. it was SOOOO good. so good so many times, because she tells the story from one perspective, starts again from another perspective, and it just gets better with every go-though. also, it has the anticipation of the lesbian reveal, so youll like that. also, night watch was very interesting.

emilykate said...

If you thought the Wind Up Bird Chronicles was good, but too long and convoluted to do again, try Norwegian Wood. He doesn't get into magical realism (if that's what you'd call it. I would.) and instead the whole book is all about character development and just beautiful. CP Gilman is hilarious (and actually had some really fascinating social theories about housing and women's rights at the turn of the last century, including a whole magazine she created based on promoting the idea of 'kitchenless' communal houses called the Forerunner: But for some real fun, go for Monique Wittig's Les Guerilleres. Meanwhile, I've been trying to find something to get me out of my non-fiction rut, so thanks for giving me a list to follow!

emilykate said...

oh, um. I meant to say that Gilman is hilarious in Herland, NOT in the Yellow Wallpaper.

MoonKiller said...

I haven't been reading as much as I should recently. I've been reading a lot of graphic novels, and by that I mean I've read V for Vendetta 3 times in a row and a couple of Flash comics.

I've also read Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs for like the 100th time. It's my favourite book ever and I recommend it.

I'm going to buy some books of Amazon soon, so I'll get some on your list. :)

Juno said...

So the sticky has been promised by my dealer — he'll drop by with the pages tomorrow at which point they will be expedited to you. Shhh.

Also, the first dozen "beads" (or so) of Eat,Pray,Love have a borderline anorexic tinge to them; this will spare you some footing between your emo-cave and the kitchen.

Okay, so here's the math on getting Shantaram read in 30 days. We start on Friday, April 18th and aim to have it done by Sunday, May 18th[!]. The book has 944 pages. Divided by 30 this makes for 31-32 pages of reading a day. If we intensify the absorption factor to max volume, it'll require about an hour's worth of time per day. Sounds feasible. In the meantime Crystal and B. will have ample time to come up with better responses than "What's that?" and "Good job, weirdo."

Summer of '99: I watched about as many plays as you read, including Pygmalion, To Forgive, Divine, and Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. Did you read out loud to the co-workers? Were they just freaked by the cover? Or did they think you had aspirations to become a female Hunter S. Thompson? Oh, and quite the leaps from mall to cape to the island continent — I kept myself more localized between South Hadley, Austin and San Fran.

And, yes, you do have a lot more Waters to read. Eventually.

Lozo said...

you know i didn't read this one, but you better be that excited to get an e-mail or text from me.

riese said...

meghan: In retrospect, I can't believe I came up with 60 titles. I feel like I read so slowly, maybe retrospect makes me feel better.

eric mathew:My favorite thing about this comment is that you managed to find the small shards of non-book related information and respond to it. I don't mean that sarcastically, I really find it remarkable, and further evidence of your potential love-match with Lozo ....

asher: Sometimes I really do love my own misspellings. Quietly is clearly a typo, but I like it, and recommend is 100% my own retardation. I like that a little bit less, but still like it.

my favorite simile from Nick Hornby's column: "Being a reader is sort of like being president, except reading involves fewer state dinners, usually. You have this agenda you want to get through, but you get distracted by life events, e.g., books arriving in the mail/World War III, and you are temporarily deflected from your chosen path." Not sexual, but I just like anything involving absurd things backslashed.

kat: OK I'll have to check that out. Is it about Mac computers? I've heard good things about Night Watch too, this is my first Waters experience.

Actually I have an answer to the T&S lyrics question -- I found that when I was trying to figure out what I was writing about in the archives, the lyrics I chose weren't descriptive enough for me to identify post by title. But mostly it's 'cause I've done so many specifically themed posts with inherent built-in titles (e.g., "Stuff I've Been Reading," "Auto-Fun") ... I did a T&S title on Friday though ... does that count? But I'll keep rolling with it, I just have to leave clues for myself too.

amlisdabomb: I think Holden is one of the best fictional characters of all time. I broke my own rule to include it -- I read it in 10th grade English for the first time, and the teacher tried to ruin it by giving us daily pop quizzes like "what's the name of the album holden bought his sister?" to be sure we'd done the reading. I kept reading ahead, everyone hated me.

I cried on a lot of subways while reading The Lovely Bones. I cried I think 3-4 times a day while reading it. I'm not sure why I still grant power to books/people that make me cry all the time.

I think I did read The Giver -- Lois Lowry, right? Or is that a different book? I don't think I could handle Pieces ... james Frey like, ruined my life (in that bc of what he did, there's a new scrutiny brought to memoirs, which means I now have to talk about things in mine honestly that I didn't want to talk about, therefore ensuring that my grandparents will disown me) I own The Outsiders -- love it.

supr: I think I have to get Fingersmith, I mean, it keeps adding up, this seems to be the popular opinion. I wonder if Max can read? I thought about that afterwards and felt bad. Actually if I was going to tell Max what to read, I'd probs recommend "My Gender Workbook."

dani: I really don't read that many books, I swear it. But trust me on Tipping the Velvet -- for reals, I didn't think I would like it, because it's all victorian and long ... but you'll like it, for sure.

allie: hayyy! haha, yeah, I won't delete this post. I believe there's nothing it in that's scandal-worthy, aside from alex's dinah shore debauchery photos. The Yellow Wallpaper. Okay. My liberal arts education was weird. I mean, I read The Prayer for Owen Meany in my lit class.

ellen: Really?! That's amazing, I didn't even know -- I got a proof when I was working at nerve, and I was just super impressed by the writing, and the characters ... it just felt really honest, like it captured adolescence really perfectly. I was on goodreads but I feel like it took me forever to load books and erum, then maybe i gave up?

stephanie: My Mom used to listen to Catie Curtis, she's a singer, yeah? I always liked her, but had forgotten about her ... omg, so many things to listen to/read/everything.

rocketdyke: Yes, Fingersmith, done and done. I think that'll have to be next on my list, especially if it's the first novel you've been addicted to in ten years. Wheeee!

emilykate:First of all, love the Beatles song by the same name! And thank you for the Gilman recs. I will check out the link, I wish we had no kitchen, 'cause I never want to do dishes again.

moonkiller: Oh, I read sex drugs and coca puffs! I mean, actually, my ex-boyfriend got it for me, and then he decided to keep it once he started reading it. But I feel like I've read most of it, and liked it, like about when he um, wanted to be on the real world. confession, when i think about that book i think "omg, moonkiller la-la-la-loves that book."

juno: Ooo, Crystal will say something fo'sho, it's her favorite book. But OMG, I think I might loose for sure. OK, I have to think it over.

I didn't read out loud to the co-workers ... they were just, y'know ... I don't think they knew a lot about books. They knew the Johnny Depp movie, probs knew it was vaguely about drugs. They also found it weird that i brought my own lunch instead of eating at Sbarro's or Burger King. It was GapKids. It's hard to put much past them. V. excited for sticky fingers.

lozo: where's it at, weirdo? you better be coming to the reading or your ass is grass.

amlisdabomb said...

Yes, I broke your rule too because we read it in 10th grade and I think I finished the entire book in the first week. I found it hard to stay in the two chapters or whatever we had to read timeline thing. Everyone hated me too. I remember everyone in my class just being like "I don't get it." And my jaw would drop and I'd say "are you crazy?!" Which is my new favorite catch phrase. I can't stop saying it because I think everyone has lost their damn minds, but that's a side note.

I KNOW! I always read in various places as well and I really hate when I start crying because I'm one of those people who starts crying and can't stop like an hour later because I think about what made me sad and I sob even harder. We should obvs get together and read The Lovely Bones out loud to each other.

yes, Lois Lowry. What did you think about it? I find myself fascinated by stories that portray the world as oppressed, well more than it is now anyways.

And yes, I understand that about Frey, but I still can't get over how much that book made me cry. I hate/love when books move me so much.

asher said...

i'm actually working on redesigning the cover for 'nobody belongs here more than you' right now. not a real project, mind you. just a studenty venture for my book. somehow helvetica type doesn't seem that difficult to improve upon.

the real reason i came back to comment tonight (on nothing in particular) was that i'm re-living studio 60 on the sunset strip via right now. (studio 60 is written by sorkin, and stars bradley whitford, but i assume you know that) anyway, 'josh' as i'll always refer to him was just in one scene where everyone is coming into the room to talk to him while he's trying to get something done and he says 'can't we have this conversation while moving!?!' and i couldn't help but think that sorkin was having fun with the spoofs made about west wing (snl and madtv, maybe). this might have been a lot about nothing. but i know you're a big west wing fan, so i thought it might make sense.

other (cancelled) series to look for on netflix include anything sorkin's written - sports night and studio 60 being favorites (if not all) besides west wing.

John Barleycorn said...

I felt the same way about WOTB -- it was good, and engaging, but somehow failed to maintain its energies. My copy is heavily marked and underlined, but halfway through i stopped underlining shit 'cause it was just too repetitive.

And I think the narrator is a dude. Maybe that's 'cause I'm a gay dude. I don't know.

Stephanie said...

Yep, that's Catie. If you like Dar and Ferrick, you'll probably like her too. "Radical," "Troubled Mind," and "My Shirt Looks Good on You" are probably my favorites.

MoonKiller said...

I'm not usually an underliner but that book is riddled with underlines.

It's like he can put things I've always tried to say into words and develops ideas that I have in my brainbox.

I'm happy I'm thought of :)

e. said...

'Kay, so I can't leave much of a comment because I've three papers due in the next 48 hours and a final exam tomorrow, which means that as much as I would love to natter endlessly on about Holden Caulfield and my James Frey hatred, I have time for only one observation, and it is this:

The picture of you (Riese) dancing around after getting the email from Sam Anderson? Is awesomely, awesomely adorkable, only surpassed by your description of said event. (Also, it's kind of like when you answer my comments, y'know? Like, "OMG, she reads them!")

I don't know, my brain is broken, and now all I want to do is read "Tipping the Velvet", they honestly should pay you commission or something.

I love when you talk 'bout books.

chaitee said...

oops, that spelling correction would be marijane meaker then :D

p.s GET A GOODREADS ACCOUNT! I think I mentioned this in some previous comment. I mention it again because rly, you should.

I'd love to recommend you some books because we def seem to have similar taste but I always get shy about book recommendations. I don't want to be held accountable for you reading something that you think is really quite shite. I don't get embarrassed about falling over in public, but I do get embarrassed bout someone hating on a book that I recommended.

I just read Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho and thought it was rather ace. And if you're not above reading The Lovely Bones (ugh, srsly, I threw the book at the wall a million times) - then have you read Janet Fitch? She's one of my (secret) faves. Unfortunately it's hard to get a copy of White Oleanders that doesn't have Oprah's fat head on it.

I've read all of Jeanette Winterson's. I have a nice gay section dedicated to her on my bookshelf. The Passion and Written on the Body are my favourites. Ooh, Lighthousekeeping was good too.

Electroboy by Andy Behrman was a wild read. It's his memoir of having bipolar.

I better stop there.

Crystal said...

Wait - is it the 18th yet? Have you started? You and Juno participating in a Shantaram read-off would be absolutely amazing. I can guarantee that I'll offer more than what's that? upon completion.

It is a big book, but I find that if you don't read the ending then it doesn't take as long. Just throwin' that out there.

I feel like you might not be my friend anymore if you don't like the book. If someone gave me a 900+ page book and I had to read it out of obligation and didn't enjoy it, I'd be pretty pissed.

Haviland Stillwell said...

its funny bc i obvs read far less than you, but the things i read and love, i reaaaallly read and love, like waters novels, wasted, appetites, on love by alain de botton, tennesee williams plays, and short stories like "the yellow wallpaper" and d.h. lawrence's "the rocking horse winner." there are more, obvs, but its a short list..

also, a lot of your faves have been turned into pretty good, wasted has not...i could play a pretty kick ass IAA student tripping out, you think?

riese said...

amlisdabomb: I find sunglasses are the best cure for crying in public, because of books. A hat, too. But sunglasses, you know, indoors, that's a good defense. I don't remember the Lois Lowry book. I think I remember the cover. There was a girl holding flowers, maybe, or a tree. A girl looking upwards?

asher: I read an article in a design magazine about no one belongs here more than you, about her website for the book. something about posterboard or refrigerators. How she could overcome the limitations of design by being so g-damn clever, or something. for real. i liked the first episode of studio 60. then it just seemed like a lot -- like they were giving tv us-government-like attention?

john barleycorm: Exactly, exactly. Maybe the narrator is the reader, which is so clever, it's almost redemptive.

stephanie: I do. I will. Look into this. I know troubled mind, i have that. I mean, the song.

moonkiller: i like the word "brainbox."

e.: Awww. It was a moment, I mean, really, I don't think I've ever been so excited in my entire life.

chaitee: I have a goodreads account, but it took so long to upload everything, my head started to hurt, it seemed like it should've been easier to do, you know? yes, it totally still exists, here. But I haven't updated it in forevs (though who knows, I'm sure I will, today). I like visual bookshelf though on facebook. Thank you for the recommendations; I've always wanted to check out Coelho.

crystal: The 18th is tomorrow, I think. That'd be officially three days after the day i as supposed to do my taxes. And oh you know me, I'll forgive anyone for anything. 900 days, 900 pages, you wanted the best. I'll have to read the ending though. I can't read that far, and then not read the ending.

haviland stillwell:"The Yellow Wallpaper" is the costume of the day, everybody's talking about it.

You could play a pretty kick ass IAA student tripping out. We could film up north in the woods -- and even better, Marya's just written a new book about her subsequent experience with bipolar disorder. Oh, life, for real.

asher said...

i believe it was the name of which never made sense to me.

and yes - that website was pretty damn great. i had a conversation about it tonight while waiting for a lecture by chip kidd - surely you know of him, no?