d e t a i l s

  i try to make reading a daily part of my existence. there are a number of reasons for this but i imagine you're interested in exactly zero of them. so deem yourself spared. as for how i choose what to read, i use a genre-based rotation. the rotation changes from time to time but below is the present pattern:

POPULAR FICTION (e.g. ken follet, dan brown, john grisham)
CLASSIC LITERATURE (e.g. alexandre dumas, victor hugo, charles dickens)
SCI-FI/FANTASY (e.g. isaac asimov, orson scott card, robert heinlein)
PHILOSOPHICAL (anything from raw philosophy to the merits of bhudism)
MODERN LITERATURE (e.g. upton sinclair, william faulkner, theodore dreiser)
INSTRUCTIONAL (something towards making a better me)
HISTORICAL BEST-SELLER (from the kahn reading project)
NON-FICTION (e.g. michael lewis, jon krakauer, bill bryson)

the purpose of the above serpentine is rut and glut avoidance. i am desperate to not become a boorish one-category reader and i also love (!!!) the sweeping arcs of subject matter landscapes this practice forces my mind to ambulate through. from a fox hole in WWII europe to solar systems not yet seen (and in times not yet conceived) to how to make your child laugh more to the roman forum at its peak the potential behind this exercise offers limitless candy and vitamins for your mind (and soul).

if you think i'm missing a category, i'd appreciate to hear your argument. and, i'm ever interested in hearing about people's favorite reads, so please hit me up with yours.

The Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean M. Auel

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Kate DiCamillo

bella's kindergarten class has a reading program where kids are encouraged to track the amount of time spent reading. when bella gears up to add to her minutes she carefully selects a book, grabs a watch marty loans her for the purpose and hunkers down in her reading spot of choice. once settled she opens the book on her lap, positions her finger on the first word to be read, trains her thumb over the stopwatch's start button and with olympic-like accuracy depresses the button and utters the first word aloud at the very same moment.

bella came to me and said she was tired of reading on her own and asked if i would read to her (which is allowed) i was glad to help. in her hand was a birthday present i had given her, edward tulane. so we sat down, snuggled close and i leafed to the first page of the text. bella asked if i was ready. i said i was. the high tone of the stop watch grabbed my attention and i looked at it in her hand. bella turned to me frantically, "READ FATHER! START READING! READ! THE TIMER'S GOING!". startled i was barely able to mumble a childlike 'huh?'. i heard the high tone of the watch beep again. bella shifted in her seat to look me in the face. "father! i asked if you were ready and you said you were. when i start the clock you have to start reading." oh. sorry. now i understand. she reset the watch and asked, more slowly this time, if i was ready. i positioned my finger on the first word of the page and reported that i was. i heard the high tone sound and i shot out of the blocks with bella-exacting precision. now that i was properly schooled, bella and i moved through the book with routine ease, until late in the story.

tulane is a creative, adventurous yarn that takes an unexpectedly serious turn towards the end. serious to the point that i found my spoken words beginning to crack with emotion. nestled on the couch one sunday morning when bella and i were the only ones yet awake, i found myself fighting back tears as i read the final pages. in lieu of this i started taking long pauses between sentences trying to compose myself. each unnatural silence was met the same "read father. you're not reading. you gotta keep reading. do i need to stop the watch because this time can't count?" unsurprisingly, these repeated scoldings kept my clenching chest in check and allowed me to champion my way through the last moments of this short but touching novel. much of the sentiment was lost on bella, but it certainly hit the mark with her reading partner.

and in case you're wondering why i cared if i cried in front of my five-year old daughter, i don't have an answer. i was just compelled not to.
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Malcom Gladwell

blink is another one of those novels that discusses a facet of human nature most people are acutely aware of, but don't understand; the human brain's ability to process certain pieces of information with blinding, even unreasonable, speed. it is a phenomenon so mysterious that it has historically bordered on the supernatural. but gladwell, through a variety of cases, employs both hard and soft sciences to try to explain and understand what is happening as if he were debunking his very own x-file.

in the end it strikes me as a work not meant to teach you how to do it but instead to appreciate that an identifiable chemistry is at work. in many of the examples used, people don't know how they are able to do what they do and/or often aren't aware it is happening. furthermore, these moments occur at an individual level, like when the right combination of details are put in front of a person with the right combination of education and experience a little spark flashes in the room and left behind is a magic gobstopper, constructed out of thin air and with no intentional planning.

on the suck side, much study has gone into taking commercial advantage of these cerebral reactions, which gladwell dips into, in the name of profit. i always find that side of science quite distasteful. in this case though, i feel it is good to know, even though i'm seemingly impotent to deflect the practices at hand. aside from this one dark matter, the book holds a bevy of entertaining curios.
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The Fourth Hand
John Irving

the fourth hand tracks a character so devoid of redeeming or interesting characteristics one would be pressed to hold a four minute conversation with a real-life version of the guy. aside from the man's noteworthy maiming, this human has no business getting a novel's worth of attention. and he surprisingly proves as uninteresting after his incident as he was before. i mean, the story here is as gripping as reading three hundred pages about an attractive high school quarterback who suffered a knee injury mid-season. as i read, i kept wondering how the inventor of garp, owen meany and the berry family could divine a personality so lacking or more to the point, be satisfied with the flow and outcome of the story.

anyone who has read more than one novel by john irving knows he's a solid maker of curious characters. had someone else written this, maybe, and i stress the 'maybe', i'd garner an ounce of passion for the lead. but i expect more from irving because he is irving. and, i hate to be part of that 'you're only as good as your last set' mentality (because i think it's wholly unreasonable), but such is the way of a medium that requires such a time commitment from its audience.
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The Naked Sun
Isaac Asimov

the worlds/societies asimov divines are breathtaking. couple that with his very simple style of narration and the guy is savant-like in what he does. i mean it's one thing to dream up some previously untapped scenario but it's another to think through so many of the nuances of your vision making the reader walk away with a real sense of familiarity. and everything i've read by him comes off so effortlessly it makes it seem like he's personally visited these worlds. his depth and art of description appear limitless.
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The Paradox of Choice
Barry Schwartz

the topic of this book resembles grammar and time management, we all know the basic workings, we just don't know what all of the doo-hickeys are called, thus making it very much of a head-nodding experience. but while it validates the science behind your actions and encounters, being able to envision the math does not necessarily help the palatability of it all. furthermore, the lengths the work goes to illuminating the various trends and behaviors of individuals seem for naught for the recorded observations are trends and behaviors for quite a good reason; it is who we are. very much of what is discussed here deals in a person's hard-wiring. how do you get someone who roils over a high dollar transaction to not experience angst? the short answer is, you don't. simply, you're either a roiler or you're not a roiler so thank or bad-mouth your folks accordingly for it is they who are responsible.

and curiously i started reading this book at the same time i started looking for a job. for the first few weeks i had no prospects and was miserable. and then an incredible and incredibly viable option presented itself and i was elated. a few weeks after that a second promising offer came up and i was again miserable. having no options sucks and having too many options sucks, in some ways even more, leaving the only blue-sky scenario to having one right and good choice. unfortunately for us folks living in the dollar-whore society that we do, fewer choices just ain't gonna happen. doubt me? go buy a toothbrush. one like you grew up using. then we'll talk.
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Christopher Paolini

i was told this book was written by a twelve year old. i bought it thinking this. i later learned it was not true, although paolini was quite young, impressively young even, starting it at fifteen and completing it at nineteen. since it was already on the shelf i decided to give it a look. it jumps at you right quick. no playing around, no setting the scene. just right to business. while the pace continued fine, it was ultimately and unsurprisingly not able to maintain the initial punch in the face (much like the film star trek VI : the undiscovered country).

i don't read a lot of fantasy. sci-fi, sure. especially recently but not much of the molly-hatchet-cover sorts of stuff. i'd place this into that realm and feel a little unqualified to speak to its effectiveness. additionally, i don't know how much of it was actually unique or innovative for the genre. the closest thing i could liken it to is tolkien's works which seems wholly unfair. but as i think on it, i finished it which, especially as of late, says something in its favor.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

c.s lewis is the anti-tolkien. tolkien could make mowing my lawn into a six-volume series (and my lawn could fit inside my living room). lewis on the other hand could recount the birth and evolution of the universe on a post-it note. his story began:

there is a place called london. they had a war. for protection-sake, the children were sent to the country. four kids went to this one house where one of them opened a door and they found a magical land.

there are seven, perhaps eight more sentences in this novel. i don't want to spoil it for anyone who plans to read it so will stop there.

unfortunately, an inordinate amount of attention is given to the biblical aspects of this work. it is not necessary to track these details to enjoy the narrative. i know this to be fact because i thoroughly enjoyed this adventure.
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