I like to read books in threes. This allows me the chance to avoid one while not making another feel bad. It also makes for piles.
Jonathan Safran Foer has a short story I love called “Here We Aren’t So Quickly” composed entirely of sentences of the style: “I was not…,” “You were…,” “I always…,” “You never…,” “We went…”. One sentence reads “You were not able to cope with a stack of more than three books on my bedside table.”
The three are usually of different categories: in this case, modern literature, memoir, and a German translation. Normal.
All have sticky notes on sentences I like, and all have post-it notes on the back flap with words I don’t know. Current words: syncopation,puerile, proselytizing. Please help me, because if you don’t I will never look them up.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
“When will it sink into my skull that there is no such thing as an obscure Bible verse?”
This book follows A.J. Jacobs as he decides to follow the Bible literally for a year. He doesn’t just try to stone adulterers with pebbles as he passes them on the street, he tries his best to devote himself to God. Though he confesses he started the year as an agnostic, one of my favourite things about this book is that it proves that changing behaviour changes the way you think.
I find Jacobs’ books so exciting (The Know-It-All follows him as he reads the Encylopedia Britannica from A-Z) because they follow absurd creative processes. As readers, we get a lot of the benefit of what Jacobs has done: we learn the Bible, and the Encyclopedia, and we see how they relate to modern life. We laugh, too because Jacobs is a truly funny person.
Listen to this TED talk by A.J. Jacobs about The Year of Living Biblically. Hearing AJ’s voice made me go, “Oh. I get it now.”
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
“There is one line of thought according to which all you can truly say of any historical event … is that ‘something happened’.”
I just started this book, so don’t really ask me about it. I found out about Julian Barnes, a very well-respected contemporary British writer, in an excellent interview with CBC Radio’s Writers and Company. I bought Flaubert’s Parrot at Companion Books on Hastings St. in Burnaby because Eleanor Wachtel read out the opening sentence to what I thought was Flaubert’s Parrot but isn’t, because I opened it and that isn’t the opening sentence.
This book reminds me of what I like about Ian McEwan and John Updike: wistful detail, and a strong, scared man’s point of view. Things I like so far include that the main character’s girlfriend’s name is Veronica and is nicknamed ‘Vron,’ something I’ve never considered, and also that he is friends with two other boys and this really cool one named Adrian. Nobody really likes each other but all are obsessed with Adrian.
Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann
“Anything written about Today should be destroyed immediately, just like all real letters are crumpled or torn up, unfinished and unmailed, all because they were written, but cannot arrive, Today.”
I am reading Malina because of a blog post by Bookslut. I get convinced, whenever anyone talks passionately about a book, that there’s something worth feeling from reading that book, so I do.
from Bookslut: “I can’t leave this Ingeborg Bachmann novel alone, this Malina. I keep picking at it, like you pick at a skin problem. It might be the reason that someday I learn German. All I can think about this novel is, She nailed it. She nailed it, I wonder how you say that in German, it was like there was a thing, a problem, a creature flopping around in the middle of the room and it had to be killed and she just stabbed a fork into it and it stopped moving…”
I don’t know and don’t care what Malina is about. It is covered in sticky notes for good sentences. I think the character Malina might be a product of the imagination of the main character, a woman named Ich (‘I’ in German), or she a product of his. So far she’s in a horrible relationship with this bossy man named Ivan. She is more desperate than any of us would care to admit we have been. She sits by the phone and cuts off her sentences and bows down to him, but somehow it’s cute, lovable. Now that I write it, I realize that I probably shouldn’t be feeling this way. Maybe I’ll become a bit more feminist by the end of the book. I did just finish Part 1, “Happy with Ivan.”
Now to you. What is the book you feel most passionately about?
I promise to read the first book suggested to me in the Comments section below, and to post about it in my next “3 Things I Am Reading.”