Monday, June 21, 2010


I've become fascinated with the act of writing. I guess it's the same thing for artists or musicians, but to take nothing and create something seems almost magical. The problem for me is I don't think I'm a very good writer. Sure, I don't try much. Most of my writing is in the form of this blog, or in emails. Instead, I've become a voracious consumer of anything written. This includes books, comic books and in a way film and television since they must have started out as scripts before becoming filmed.

But my reading list continues to pile up. I even joined a book club about 6 months ago to read books I normally wouldn't read, or just to get into a fun discussion about a common theme/story we read. This book club has so far read the following books:
- What the Dog Saw - a collection of short stories by New Yorker columnest Malcolm Gladwell. All insightful essays that look at common occurances in a more scientific way.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain - A story of a family breaking up because of the sickness of the mother -- told from the point of view of the family dog. It's a sweet story, but in the end kind of forgetable.
- After Dark - Murakami. A surreal short tale of a night in the life of a single girl in Tokyo. Quite good and since it was open to interpretation it led to a lot of great discussion.
- City of Theives - David Benioff. A novel about two young men in Nazi-occupied St. Petersberg near the end of WWII. A structurally flawed book since the author toyed with fiction and reality in a way that was was only done for a cheap "pay-off" at the end.
- The Stranger - Albert Camus. The famous existential novel written in the 1950s telling the story of a man who goes through life with little regard for himself or other people
- The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo - Steig Larsson. The best-seller about a murder mystery that took place 40 years before the story began.

If it had been my choice, I probably would have read all of these books sometime in my life but probably not in this order. I'm enjoying the idea of someone making up my mind for me. Or more specifically, I'm enjoying the challenge or not curtailing my own reading for the book club's assigned readings. I like planning out my month and seeing how many other books I can fit into reading and still finish the assigned book in time.

This month the assigned book is The Alchemist. I have not obtained the book yet, but will sometime this week. I think we have a planned meeting for July 18th to read the book, and before blogging this I was trying to figure out my reading schedule for the next few weeks. I expect the schedule to look like this:
The Colorado Kid - Stephen King - Today - Wednesday (and then I am down to 4 SK books I ahve not read)
The Alchemist - the week of June 28th.
Mr. Shivers - A book I know nothing about and have no desire to research since it was given to me by a friend over the weekend whose opinion I respect. I expect this to be read the week after.

Is this too much reading? I don't think there is such a thing. I love the challenge of a difficult book like the David Mitchell book I read last week Number 9 Dream. I love the schmaltz of a Stephen King book, I love the predictability of any James Patterson Alex Cross novels.

And the book club has added some things I didn't realize. I love it when someone says something that you never thought of and it makes you see the entire book in a new way. I love trying to come up with insights like that for other people. I love it when you and someone completely agree about your outlook and opinion of a story, yet I also love it when you whole-heartedly disagree which strikes up heated discussions.

I'm also learning that the best books, do not often make the best book-club books. For example, although my group all really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we had very little to talk about since most of the questions brought up in the book were answered in classic mystery style. Page-turners, are often like that. They bring up a bunch of questions and you keep reading to find out what happens only to have it all kind of neatly tied up in a bow at the end.

Compare that to the Murakami book we read - After Dark. This told a simple story of a night from midnight until 6 AM of a single girl in Tokyo. Not much there, but the layers and the weird David Lynchian textures that were brought up and never discussed again made the discussion heated, engaging and fun. In my day to day reading, I prefer the former. Mysteries and fun. But I'm learning in discussion books, I prefer the open-endedness.

In the end, there are too many books, and time is too short. I look forward to my continued consumption of the written word. Even though this blog is the type of writing I personally hate: Writing with little to no substance.

I have heard the best thing to do when you have nothing to write about is to just write anyway. Practice makes perfect and the more you write, the better you become. The only issue is when this adage was created, there was no way to post it on the internet for the world to see which I'm about to do right n-

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