Bookshelves #3

Now we come to the orange overflow and yellow shelf. Follow this shelf series here if you’re game.

I don’t remember the Jhumpa Lahiri book very well, though I read it just last year. I did dog-ear a couple of stories, so I must’ve figured I’d revisit them one day. A Lesson Before Dying is a good, important, difficult-to-read book. The Lester Bangs is a departure from the sort of thing I usually read. A lot of the pieces in it were meh, a lot were really funny, and here and there were really great ones. It’s not one I’ll ever reread all of, but I may go back to dog-eared columns here and there.

You Bright and Risen Angels is I believe the only Vollmann book I’ve ever finished, and I didn’t really like it. I’ll probably never read it again and should probably get rid of it. The Saunders was ok, but I keep Saunders, period. I haven’t read Five Skies yet but have heard good things about Carlson. The Marquez was pretty good (not as good as Solitude), and maybe I’ll go back to it one day.

Infinite Jest changed the way I live in and think about the world and validated the way I inhabit my own head. I’ve owned a couple of copies over the years, but this was my first, which I first read I guess 19 years ago or so, and which I’ve read cover to cover I believe 6 times, with a few partial reads scattered in there as well. I wrote a lot about it a few years ago here (other authors on the site used the same tag, so all those posts aren’t mine) and which I started to write about some more here as I reread a couple of years ago. Wallace has had a more profound influence on who I’ve become as an adult than probably anybody else. This book is definitely a keeper.

Next to Wallace is Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, which I false started on maybe 13 years ago and finally read in full two or three years ago. It’s surprisingly accessible and fun.

Julian Barnes is smart and writes well, and I’ll almost certainly look back over his work over time, so The Lemon Table stays. Tucked in next to that one is DeLillo’s The Body Artist. I have really mixed feelings about DeLillo. For example, I thought his Falling Man was terrible, and I rarely love any of his books, but then you come to one like Underworld that’s hard and sometimes a little uneven but that grapples with so much and is at times virtuosic, and you can’t discount him. This little book was evocative and kind of mesmerizing, and it had a really good payout for the time I invested in reading it.

I had meant to read Lethem for years and finally picked up a few books in 2015. By and large I think he’s great, and this weird, fun little book was a treat. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to it, but I’m not ready to part with it yet (I have a knack for selling a book back and then deciding a few months or years later that I desperately need to take another look, at which point I often enough buy it back again). I didn’t love Gaddis’s Carpenter’s Gothic (it’s the worst of his novels), but I keep Gaddis. The slender Moby-Dick title is a comic book version that a friend gave me many years ago, and I keep Moby-Dick. I used to group Moby-Dick books together on the shelves (as I did Wallace), but now I scatter them, each, like good old Ishmael, its own sort of orphan.

I rarely read nonfiction and even more rarely read nonfiction about work or business stuff, but I moved into a leadership position in my job a couple of years ago and picked up a few relevant books to read about teamwork, leadership, etc. Work Rules was interesting enough that I thought I might go back and read my scribbles and the things I had underlined from time to time (and I was right).

Finally, there’s Libra, which I may have read 15 years or so ago and sold back and forgotten and later bought back with a different cover. I forget. I do tend to nibble at DeLillo’s work, and I intend to read this one (again?) some day, though I’m not very excited about it.

Next up, the pale yellows and greens.

3 thoughts on “Bookshelves #3

  1. I think Fortress of Solitude is my favorite Lethem so far, if that influences you at all. The one I mention here is a nice simple introduction, but it’s not his heaviest work by a long shot (it’s more influenced, I believe, by his interest in Philip K. Dick and gumshoe fiction). Motherless Brooklyn is also really good, probably better than this one. I also liked Chronic City a lot, and it has some pretty clear references to IJ, which is fun. Of the five I’ve read by Lethem, the only one I haven’t given four stars on Goodreads (as high as I go for a book that wasn’t in some way formative or utterly transcendent) is Dissident Gardens.

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