Tuesday, January 03, 2006

File under Self-Improvement: 2006 Reading List

Okay, so in an auspicious beginning to the New Year, I am late with my promised New Year's Resolutions. I was in Connecticut over the weekend, where computers are scarce. I have, however, compiled my infamous reading list for the year. This is a silly annual project where I compile a farcically long list of books I hope to read during the year; usually, I get through maybe a tenth (or less) of the list. This year, though, will be different. I will read more.

So, without further delay, here, in no meaningful order, is my list for 2006. Note that I am going to waste much of my time rereading old favorites: this is a highly unproductive habit of mine. But I am a gross, flaky creature of habit. Rereads are designated with an "(rr)". Also, because I have such little self-control and discipline, as always, many of the books on the list are books that I've only partially read, or gotten close to the end, but never quite finished. These are designated with an "(f)".

I have long suffered from the compulsion to buy books -- lately this has been replaced by a mania for putting books on hold with the LAPL. Often it seems, I am happier just to grab and hold on to books than to actually, tediously, finish them. I will post a longer commentary about the urge to have books later this week.

Please feel free to offer recommendations, commentary, cautions, etc.

Don Quixote (rr) - Cervantes (I could spend the whole year on this, probably)
The Sot Weed Factor - Barth (Barth is probably all washed up, but whatever)
The Interpretation of Dreams (f) - Freud (But no one reads the whole thing)
Meditations (f) - Aurelius (Isn't this how Clinton became President?)
Absalom Absalom (f) - Faulkner (I always get bogged down around page 35)
Confessions (f) - Saint Augustine (If only there were less stuff about God in here)
The Ambassadors - James
Nostromo - Conrad (I feel like I should like Conrad, but I don't)
Middlesex (f) - Eugenides (I'm like halfway through, and feel like I should finish)
Green Mars (f) - Robinson
Atonement - McEwan
The Big Sleep - Chandler
The Wapshot Chronicle - Cheever (Variations on Updike)
Three Case Histories - Freud (More Freud)
Lady Chatterley's Lover - Lawrence (File under old boring stuff)
In Cold Blood - Capote
The Prize - Yergin (my brother gave it to me, so I feel like I should read it)
The Order of Things (f) - Foucault (I've poked around lots, but would feel better finishing it)
Darwin's Worms - Phillips (if only everyone wrote as clearly as Phillips)
The Fortress of Solitude (f) - Lethem (I don't really like Lethem, but I want some Brooklyn nostalgia)
Will in the World (f) - Greenblatt (I bought it in hardcover and got bored, but I really should finish it)
Cloud Atlas (f) - Mitchell (I couldn't decide if it was good or boring.)
The Wings of the Dove - James (more James)
The Golden Bough - Frazer
The Varieties of Religious Experience - W. James
The Winter's Tale - Shakespeare
Darwin's Radio - Greg Bear
Typee - Melville
Bleak House (f) - Dickens (I actually really like Bleak House, but it's so damn long)
Moby Dick (rr) - Melville
Shalimar the Clown - Rushdie (I've heard this is better than the last couple of his, which sucked)
On Beauty - Smith
Bech: A Book (f) - Updike
Epileptic - David B.
A Treatise on Human Nature - Hume
Finnegans Wake (f) - Joyce (every year I try to read a few pages more)
Collapse - Diamond
The Bill of Rights - Amar
The House of Seven Gables - Hawthorne
The Artist of the Floating World - Ishiguro
The Rings of Saturn - Sebald
Distinction (f) - Bourdieu
Pride and Prejudice - Austen (I've never read any Austen)
The Psychopathology of Everyday Life - Freud
Licks of Love - Updike (I read too much Updike. It's like a crutch.)
Ka - Calasso
The Year of Magical Thinking - Didion
Dissemination (f) - Derrida
Perdido Street Station - Mieville (I hear he's the new "it" boy in SF)
Can't Stop Won't Stop - Chang (Pretty interesting so far, although I wish the whole book was not in sans serif font)
Ice Haven - Clowes
Melville - Delbanco
Never Let Me Go - Ishiguro
Maximum City - Mehta (Excellent so far. Wonder if I will be able to maintain my interest in Bombay for a whole book.)

I will post my resolutions shortly.


chanchow said...

this is a very long list. will it leave any time to read new books (not on the list), magazines and the newspaper? methinks not.

Anonymous said...

Long, but Octopus is nothing if not ambitious...

Atonement is unbelievable. Move to the top of the list.

I suggest you have lots of chowder on hand to get you through the "Chowder" chapter in Moby Dick. It always awakes a chowder craving deep within. Yum.

Yes, you must read Jane Austen. Girly perhaps, but excellent. P&P is the best (as is the BBC miniseries starring the delectable Colin Firth), but maybe "best" as in "most significant and well known." My favorite is Persuasion. Since we're on a girly train here, I suggest Edith Wharton -- very old New York (I would sometimes go for afternoon tea by myself in New York and read Wharton while sipping and munching on tea snacks -- heaven!). I don't recommend The Age of Innocence, but all others (esp. The House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country and The Glimpses of the Moon).

How about some Dreiser?


Octopus Grigori said...

CHANCHOW: Ithinks I am a super fast reader!

LC: Umm, where do you think the title to the famed 'CFM radio show "The Chowder Hour" came from? Just kidding. I am psyched to read Jane Austen. And that girlytrain? It chugs straight for chanchow

Dreiser? NEVER!

Anonymous said...

chowderpus, is that a resolution? that thing is INSANE. might as well call a spade a spade and simply resolve to self-flagellate with greater vigor and ever-increasing reps. i wish we could *talk* about this list. hell, i wish we could read these books together -- the decent ones, anyway, about which more forthwith -- but that would mean we lived in an alternate universe, one in which Protestant capitalism wasn't so in-your-fucking-face-Commie-boy! ascendant and people actually believed in the virtues of leisure as an end to itself, rather than as a 'battery recharger' (can we talk about this, people, please? never, NEVER tell me that your week-long vacation in Belize 'recharged your batteries.' I, Robot, indeed.)

But back to reading, that now mostly scoffed-at 20th century pastime of many Jewish people and other suspicious types (i.e, the Ethnic Upstart and Old-school Elitist).

1. Do the Dick. If, when it comes time to choose which doorstop gets picked up and thrown into cognitive employ, you have to pick between the Miguel's DiQ and Herman's Dick, do the Dick. (Amendment, later: just boticed this is a (rr) re-read. Still: my notes hold. Do the Dick: again, for the first time! (Cormac McCarthy says he reads Moby Dick once a year. Do we believe him?))

2. I heard Atonement was good. I used to do McEwan. Then this last excretion (S_t_rd_y) was excreted on the happily coprophagic public and I want to revise all earlier opinions (cf, me, 1999, 'the beginning of 'Enduring Love' is one of the strongest openings of any contemporary novel' (see also: Purple America), etc. The man needs to be stopped. He needs to, well, atone. But not, God grant us mercy, publicly.

But I'll stop short of offering an opinion on the matter -- I don't want to influence your decision.

3. Instead of Freud, which is really not what you want to be reading after 18-hour work days, can I recommend, wholeheartedly and without reservation, the work of Adam Phillips? He is one of the smartest fucking men alive, a, b, he owns Freud (he's the editor-in-chief of all the new translations... and is really smart about *that* subject, too, not surprisingly. Really: trust me. Monogamy, Equals, Beast in the Nursery -- all are good starters. Skip the Houdini one. (For the sake of humility I will allow the above to stand unedited, but let the record here show that I just noticed that a; AP is on yr list, and b, you're hot on his trail already.)

4. Give up on Eugenides, and make one of yr new years rez's being able to abandon the books that don't deserve you. Mid-fucking-stream.

5. Ice Haven rocks. Also Clowes' Eightball, and his Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, which is so out there it makes Mulholland Drive look like an Aesop's fable.

6. Insted of Chandler (and yes, Chandler's great), read Jim Thompson, who will give you a whole lot more bang. Or blowback. Or kickback. Or kick. What is it a 28-guage gives you again, Dick? Start with 'The Killer Inside Me,' then go wherever you want.

7. Give up on Rushdie. (We're getting into personal tastes here, bigtime, but how many chances does this guy get to suck? Candor: I didn't even like Midnight's Children, though, so don't listen to me.)

8. I don't even wanna go into reading Dissmination. But it seems like that's one to read if you're gonna read at least 10 other equally dense works of philosophy to buttress it -- which you're not -- cuz otherwise you're not gonna lace it into any larger web of meaning... you'll just get a more performed version of the version of dissemination you already know (meaning never closed, open to polysem(en)ous (fore)play, etc.)

And I'm worried about you enough already, Grig. So please: buy another Clowes book, and skim Derrida-for-Dummies while in line at Borders.

9. Please leave Lethem alone. Really. (Exceptions made fro his earlier fruitcakey metaphysical SF stuff, the pre-cute era). If you want Brooklyn with your literature, look for Paula Fox, say, who is knock-your-Jockeys-off good. Start with Desperate Characters. Money-back guarantee.

10. Stop reading books just because someone you like gave them to you. Life's too short, books are too important. (Obv., if someone gave you a book and you have a feeling they're onto something, the rule doesn't apply.)

11. Saturn's Rings will dazzle you. Especially if you can manage to read it in big chunks, so that the density of it can really register, all its echoes, and well, rings.

12. Yes, you should read In Cold Blood. But to that you should think about adding Executioner's Song (more fun than ICB, if you have to choose) and Carrere's Adversary, which is one of the creepiest works of nonfiction ever, anywhere. (Which will undoubtedly lead you to seek out Carrere's other stuff: and The Moustache is a not-so-minor, post-Poeian masterpiece.)

13. Updike's great, whatever David Foster Wallace wants to say (well, that's not fair -- in that piece savaging Updike he pretty much said he loved him, but was getting horrifically disappointed with the later work, of which I've read none...) Last one I read was 'Of the Farm' -- that's not even one of the ones that gets talked about -- and it was amazing.

I'll stop. Both because the rest of the list either looks good, great, or totally unknown to me. And because I don't want to add any more books to this strange act of public masochism you've invited us to spectate upon. Go easy. Recharge your batteries.