Sunday, April 12, 2009


Steph, in a meme of some sort, posted a list on her site: a three year reading list of books that she wants to read, should read, never got to. Here's her explanation of the whole project and where she found it:
Project Fill-in-the-Gaps was created by Moonrat on her blog Editorial Ass: fill in the gaps in your reading lists of classics and contemporary fiction. Make a list of 100 titles, give yourself 5 years to complete reading the list, and give yourself 25% "accident forgiveness" - consider the task accomplished if you achieve 75 titles in the time span. I found this via some blog or other..."
I'm not big on those group lists like "the best 100 books" or projects like "the big read" --- not a communal reader, I'd guess, or not a book club sort. So my reaction to the project, understandably, was no reaction. Without getting into the specifics of my education, I've done my time with multi-year reading lists of inordinate length. Appeal of repeating this experience: zero. I do carry around lists like this in my head, but they change or emerge by happenstance, say, when I come across a title consciously forgotten but now on view in a bookstore or library, and then I remember that I've wanted to read it. And so I usually buy it/check it out on the spot. But I think we all have similar lists, of symphonies unheard, recipes untried, places to visit, etc. Will the naught decade be the decade of lists ? I blame that book, which seems still very popular among, hmm, I'll stretch it and say the 32 and under crowd, but I've mostly heard it mentioned by people in their twenties: One Hundred Things To Do Before You Die. It seems to have spurred a whole movement of "life lists," (or "Bucket Lists," based on the movie). The worst ? The writer of the original book, a travel book, died at the age of 47, list unfinished, not eaten by crocodiles or anything exotic, but from a head injury suffered in a fall at home. Enough to put one off the idea entirely. But it hasn't. The idea spawned (I mean this in the demonic sense) an entire industry ---and maybe a generation--- of people who see life as a hop from one bullet point to another (was this inevitable after Power Point ?). I wonder if their lives will pass them by while they are busy checking off events and experiences... On the other hand, like titles that I suddenly reapprehend as desirable reads, perhaps the lists are a way of holding up our true self(ves) to the mind's eye, so that it doesn't get lost in the daily routine that keeps offering up the "someday" that will be different. All of this is getting philosophical and far from my original purpose for my entry, which is not a three year reading list, but one formed in the now of the latest NYTimes Book Review today. The first three are not in it; it is that when I read the review, I remember them. Every week, I tuck it aside and later in the week, I recycle it, and only if I am very organized have glanced through it again to remind myself of what I might like to read. Dear Reader(s ?), though I mention this newspaper quite a bit, it is not my only source. I also feel, for example, that I need to listen to the Wrens, but this impulse did not come from the Times. Aside from any other books I may have mentioned, which I may or may not have read by now, these are the books on my mind:
  • Current Read: A Meaningful Life, LJ Davis finished, 4/13
  • Keep Forgetting, But Really Want to Read: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri
  • More Jonathan Lethem (I loved Motherless Brooklyn)
In the Book Review this week (children's books caught my eye this time around, mostly, I notice):
  • Amiri and Odette, Walter Dean Myers, illustr. Javaka Steptoe : "the legend of Swan Lake moves into the projects."
  • The Yggyssey, Daniel Pinkwater, illustr. Caleb Brown (why hadn't I heard of Pinkwater before this ?). The main character is a girl named Yggdrasil Birnbaum, presumably after the great ash tree stretching from beneath the earth to the heavens in Norse mythology. I wonder how accidental the last name is: it means "pear tree" in German.
  • The Graveyard Book, Blueberry Girl and Coraline, all by Neil Gaiman
  • It would also be hard to pass on CAT, "written by Matthew van Fleet and photographed by Brian Stanton. All kinds of cats, in motion and rhyme." Why should the "2 and up" crowd have all the good cat books ?
  • The Glister, John Burnside. (finished, 4/19) Scottish fiction, teenage boys vanish in the woods for years until another teenage boy begins to realize what is going on. Read the review. My potboiler plot description does not capture what intrigues me about it. The review does.
Well, off to listen to the Wrens, finally, via the link I created here. Happy Easter, for those of you who are celebrating today.

Image from "Amiri and Odette" lifted from NYTimes Book Review website.

1 comment:

Jim Sligh said...

Briefly, thumbs up to The Wrens.

I think Motherless Brooklyn was probably Lethem's absolute artistic high point.(His stuff, particularly his early short stories, can be spectacularly uneven; Fortress of Solitude is worth it, though).