Monday, 22 November 2010

The to-read pile, and the on-hold pile, as at November 22 2010

In recent days I've been having a wonderful time talking with various people about books. One of the topics I seem to keep mentioning, along with my poor record in terms of what/whom I've read, has been the pile of books that sit metaphorically and, for the sake of this photo, physically, on my bedside table ready to be read. Unmentioned, so far, is the other pile, on the same bedside table, of books that I have started reading and put aside for one reason or another.

So, here they are, my two piles. First, the to-read pile, starting from the top:

  • Lonesome Traveler - Jack Kerouac (currently reading). Kerouac is one of the many conspicuous absences in the list of 20th century authors whose works I have sampled. I found this one in the remaining collection of my late uncle, nominally housed with my grandmother but slowly working its way to other homes in the family.
  • Breath - Tim Winton. I've read one Winton - Cloudstreet, probably his most famous book - and enjoyed it a lot. I picked this one up at the Library on my most recent scavenging expedition.
  • Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling - Bike Snob NYC. I was recommended the blog from whence this book has sprung, and have been enjoying it for a few weeks now. I have yet to read a blog-to-book adaptation that I haven't liked (sample size: 1), so I have high hopes.
  • The Tree Of Man - Patrick White. As Australia's only winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, another embarrassing omission from my reading resumĂ©. Also another pickup from my grandmother's library, although I suspect not from my uncle.
  • The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History - FreeDarko. The second book to emerge from the FreeDarko collective. Truth be told, I feel like the freedarko blog itself has waned a little in terms of the frequency of its really high-quality contributions, but I suspect this is because Shoals and his co-conspirators have been devoting more of their attention to commercial writing and to this book. Also another blog-to-book adapation, so almost certain to be good. Bought online, with ...
  • The Breaks of the Game - David Halberstam. Widely cited as one of the best books yet written on basketball, following the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers. Bought online.
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut - Francois Truffaut. I bought this book years ago on Amazon, on a whim, being super-impressed by the idea of an extended interview of one of the era's great directors, conducted by another of the era's great directors.
  • Down Under - Bill Bryson. A 20th century author that I don't feel especially embarrassed about not having read, but nonetheless one who people I trust have said is an entertaining read. I think I picked this book up from my father.
  • The Sentimental Bloke - CJ Dennis. To be honest, I'm not sure I'll get to this one anytime soon (the pile has a tendency to grow from the top, or sometimes from the middle, leaving scant chance for entries near the base). I just noticed it on my bookshelf as a nicely presented book, that I don't believe I've read. On the inside cover it has a sticker identifying itself as the 1994 year 11 prize for Chemistry from Mareeba State High School.
  • A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters - Julian Barnes. I have no idea what this book is about. I picked it up from my grandmother's library for precisely that reason. There is a high probability it will hold up this pile for a long time.

And the other pile, including some not pictured:

  • Claudius the God - Robert Graves. To be honest, I quite enjoyed I, Claudius, and I was enjoying this sequel until I put it aside. The only thing that prompted the interregnum was the somewhat fragile condition of the book itself, which makes it impossible to take it anywhere without fear of losing pages.
  • Thus Spake Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche. I was aware before starting this book that it would be challenging, not only in its content, but in its presentation. However, after only a few dozen pages I found the style too much of an impediment to the ideas, and I put it down. I will probably pick it up again at some point, though, when I am feeling brave.
  • A Thousand Plateaus - Deleuze & Guattari. A colleague at work is an ardent admirer of Deleuze's work, and recommended this to me. I lasted 5 pages before becoming infuriated by the pretentiousness of the prose style, and the obstacle it represented to understanding whatever ideas the authors were trying to communicate. I will almost certainly return this without reading another page.

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