books are like lobster shells

“Books, you know, Charles, are like lobster-shells. We surround ourselves with ’em, and then we grow out of ’em and leave ’em behind, as evidences of our earlier stages of development.”

– Dorothy L Sayers, from The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club


on having diverse tastes in literature

My reading list has been somewhat eclectic lately, reflecting my scattered frame of mind. My nightly flossing routine provides a valuable five minutes of reading time, which I spend on magazines: Inc. to learn how to build Wingspan into a corporate giant, Shambhala Sun to try to discover some inner peace and Rug Hooking to fantasize about a day when I’ll have to time to be creative again.

Then, in those few, drowsy minutes before lapsing into unconsciousness, I read a book like this one:

This Book is Overdue! by Marilyn Johnson. I found this book about the constantly evolving face of libraries and librarians interesting, even though it’s very different from my own experience as a lowly little part-timer working for a predominantly rural network of libraries. Johnson explores the multitude of ways in which librarians use technology to do what librarians do best – connect people with the information they need – and introduces the reader to blogging librarians, online librarians, Second Life librarians, anarchist librarians, reference librarians and lots of good ol’ public librarians who are seriously intent on keeping their libraries vibrant and vital to the communities they serve. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in libraries and/or information technology.

Then I swing to the opposite pole and read a book like this:

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. Because I’m always ridiculously late to anything hip or hot, I just discovered this book when it came in as a hold for a co-worker. The book is an offshoot of Halpern’s Twitter account of the same name, which, as you might have deduced, is about funny things sh*t Halpern’s dad says. And his dad can be funny. Really funny, sometimes. But since a book of one-liners would be tedious, I suppose, Halpern has written a short autobiography (he’s only 27) around his father’s quotes and it’s…okay. It isn’t terrible or deadly boring or anything like that, it’s just…okay. He seems like a nice enough guy, just one who, aside from the astounding popularity of his Twitter account, hasn’t done much that makes gripping reading. Public school. Moving out to attend university. Moving back home as an adult. Crummy jobs. Breaking up with girlfriends.

I also need to say that Halpern Sr’s profanity and scathing criticisms didn’t seem as funny to me when he was barking them at Halpern as a child. At times, it seemed downright abusive. He makes sure to emphasize his father loved and loves him very much, but I couldn’t help feeling bad for the kid. It must have been hard to live with such a prickly personality.

Would I recommend it? Sure, for a few laughs, but only if you aren’t bothered by cursing. There is scarcely a clean sentence.

And then I was on to:

Sloth by Wendy Wasserstein. Sloth is one of a series on the seven deadly sins, commissioned by The New York Public Library and Oxford University Press and I’m intrigued enough to want to read the others. Wasserstein’s approach to her sin was to create a self-help book, Sloth: And How to Get It. It’s a nice parody of the self-help genre – wry, not silly – as well as a biting commentary on those who coast through life with as little engagement as possible, but I have to admit I found all the talk about giving up hope, creativity, ambition, passion and drive depressing enough that, at times, it seemed like a how-to manual for depression. Giving up doing is one thing (and something that us over-achievers could stand to practice once in a while), but giving up caring pushed it into bummer territory, I thought. Still, the plan’s induction phase, maintenance phase and activity gram counter (limit of fifty per day) made me smile.

And what have you read lately?

two more recommendations

One good thing – the only good thing – about the horrible, stinking heat of summer is it gives me an excuse to sit and read instead of bustling around trying to keep things tidy. I just finished this:

This Cake Is for the Party by Sarah Selecky. The back blurb says only, “These ten smart, tautly written stories mark the debut of an exciting new voice in Canadian short fiction.” And it’s true. I’m always amazed by how skilled short story writers can fully render a character in so few pages and Selecky is a perfect example of someone with this ability. I found the stories ranged on a scale between poignant and downright sad, but I wouldn’t say they were depressing. Rather, they were sad in the way life is so often sad: people are lonely or unhappy or tormented or bitter or ill and there is no convenient resolution by the last page.

Selecky’s writing is so sharp and intelligent and evocative, it’s inspiring (as a reader) and intimidating (as a writer). My only complaint is the absence of quotation marks in scenes with dialogue. I know it’s probably a more modern, sleek way of writing, but my slow elephant brain had a hard time with it and I often had to backtrack to figure out what was dialogue and what wasn’t. It’s a minor point, though, and doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the stories.

Before Cake, I read this:

The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom. From the back cover: “…the magnificently hapless Israel Armstrong – a duffle-coat wearing, navel-gazing Jewish librarian who solves crimes, mysteries and domestic problems whilst driving a mobile library around the north coast of Ireland – finds himself on the verge of his thirtieth birthday and on the trail of a troubled missing teenager, the daughter of a local politician.”

I really, really liked this book. A lot. It’s smart and funny and completely entertaining – the type of novel I wish I could write. But haven’t. And probably never will. Sigh. Anyway, because I’m not terribly observant by times, I didn’t realize The Bad Book Affair is the fourth in the Mobile Library series when I borrowed it from the library and now I’m eagerly anticipating reading the first three books in the series. I’ll let you know how those go. Until then, don’t hesitate to buy/borrow The Bad Book Affair because it stands perfectly well on its own without having read the previous instalments.

And what are you reading these days?

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