Saturday, September 26, 2009

On the Nightstand

People who know me well know I have a very small attention span. They also know that my reading tastes tend to fluctuate according to my moods. At any given time, I am usually in the middle of at least six or seven books, with several more in the queue. For this reason, it can sometimes take me several years to finish one book, while other books might take me only a few hours. It also means my nightstand is continually buried beneath a mountain of books.

Here's what's on the list right now:

Enslaved by Ducks
by Bob Tarte
I've read the part about the belligerent bunny and the amorous parrot. While I haven't gotten to the ducks yet, this book is great for people like me, who are polygamous in their reading preferences. The beauty of this book is that since each chapter is fairly self-contained, I can pick it up after several months and still have a good idea of what's happened.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
I have been working my way through this book through sheer force of will. Don't get me wrong, I was a loyal fan of the wizarding universe for years. Then the books got so long and complicated that my poor pea-sized attention span was no longer able to manage it. I purchased this book the day it came out and I'm still only halfway through. Last time I picked it up, I could hardly remember what had happened in the first couple hundred pages (not to mention the previous six books) and I can't keep track of the trillion or so characters so I'm continually confused. But I refuse to be deterred and I will finish reading this book, if only so that I can have that sense of completeness of having read the entire series. If you talk to me about the Harry Potter books, don't worry about giving away spoilers... I've already skimmed through and read the ending. (This has been my habit since book 4... you know, when the books started getting seriously long. I am not a patient reader.)

Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz by Edward Burger and Michael Starbird
My freshman year in college, Prof. Burger gave the keynote address during orientation and he talked about 4th dimension and how to intersect a ring with a sphere. Right in the middle of his talk, 500 beach balls cascaded from the rafters of Chapin hall so he could illustrate his point. This was the first clue that math--real math, not that ridiculous arithmetic junk they teach in high school--is seriously cool. In the end, math became my way to decompress and unravel my brain from the labyrinth of literary reading. To this day, I read math books for fun, but I don't read them cover to cover. Instead, I pick a book up and read a section or chapter now and again. (My other favorite math/logic books are Raymond Smullyan's The Lady and The Tiger or What is the Name of this Book?)

Thirteen Detectives
by G. K. Chesterton
A collection of detective stories, by the creator of the famous Father Brown. What I love about these stories is the language. It has a similar feel to the Sherlock Holmes stories, where characters say things like "elementary" or call each other "old chap."

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose
Another book that I dip into every so often. I rarely read more than one chapter at a time and I often choose the chapter depending on what area of my writing I think needs the most work on a particular day.

Take Joy by Jane Yolen
This is my bedtime reading. I like to read a small section of this book before going to sleep so that I always remember that writing is a joy, not a chore.

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