Monday, January 09, 2006

Books and Surliness

I have no clue how much I read throughout the course of a given year. Sure, I’m usually reading something, but I go through periods when I’m reading magazines/websites/cookbooks/craft books, when I can’t find a book to fit my mood and thus thumb through the first 20 pages of every book in the house before I start trolling the used bookstores, and when I get so busy with various other things in my life that my reading rate slows waaaaay down.

Therefore, I’ve decided to count the books I read this calendar year. This is in part inspired by the 50 Book Challenge on LJ (and VCB’s book blog), but I’m not really looking to hit a certain number, just see what number I hit.

Of course, if the number is looking low, this public documentation may compel me to read more to make myself look better. Can’t measure position without affecting momentum, you know.

With this count, I also introduce a new feature: I will write a Short, Unenlightening Review of Literature for this Year (SURLY) for each book I read. I’ve finished three books far, so let’s get started.

Book 1: Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
I admit, I read this almost entirely because there’s a Decemberists song about the author. It’s sweet, though a little slight, and I liked the earlier part of the book, focusing on the oppression of knowing you’re a mediocre child around smart people better than the latter part of the book, where the emotional distance of the family and each person’s escape into mysticism to fill the void was rather relentlessly expounded upon. Also, although I’ve not seen the movie, I kept picturing the parents as Juliette Binoche and Richard Gere. Way too attractive to be these people.

Book 2: The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ by Jim Fusilli
This book is like crack to me, as I mentioned in an earlier post. Fusilli covers all of the songs on Pet Sounds, and somehow manages to link Brian Wilson’s sadness to his use of complex harmonies without it sounding like bullshit. It’s a pretty good primer of the Beach Boys up to the recording of Pet Sounds, though it doesn’t get to the part where PAUL MCCARTNEY IS EVIL.

Book 3: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (partial re-read)

Hey, it’s Haruki Murakami. Hey, it’s emotionally alienated people in weird situations. But this time… there’s a naturally occurring reason! I love Murakami’s short stories (Elephant Vanishes is one of my favorite works of his), and I’ve been meaning to finish this slim volume since I saw the Steppenwolf adaptation of the last two stories. All these stories occur after the Kobe earthquakes, but before the subway attacks later in 1995 (a time during which Murakami lived in America, teaching at Princeton). I’m going to have to pick up his nonfiction work about the latter tragedy, Underground, because his work here is lovely.