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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Lords of Discipline
Pat Conroy

rare is a work which possesses such beauty and abjectness all at once. its akin to asking a great chef to prepare a meal that both delights and engages one's gag reflex simultaneously. yet here it is. a tale about one of our country's storied relics, one that has thus far refused to relent. it's almost as if you can see its fingers straining on the ship's railing, hanging on, constantly re-adjusting its grasp. conroy does much in Lords to dance between the lines of ardor and disgust and in doing so does much to reveal the societal schizophrenia we possess to explain and justify such hangers-on as this.

regardless of your position on the matter, this is an entrancing story with plenty of darkened corners. possibly one of the more remarkable facets of the effort is his ability to wrap things up so clean and neat at the end, just like the military shirt tucks mentioned throughout.
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Upton Sinclair

The road ran, smooth and flawless, precisely fourteen feet wide, the edges trimmed as if by shears, a ribbon of grey concrete, rolled out over the valley by a giant hand. The ground went in long waves, a slow ascent and then a sudden dip; you climbed, and went swiftly over - but you had no fear, for you knew the magic ribbon would be there, clear of obstructions, unmarred by bump or scar, waiting the passage of inflated rubber wheels revolving seven times a second. The cold wind of morning whistled by, a storm of motion, a humming and roaring with ever-shifting overtones; but you sat snug behind a tilted wind-shield, which slid the gale up over your head. Sometimes you liked to put your hand up and feel the cold impact; sometimes you would peer around the side of the shield, and let the torrent hit your forehead, and toss you hair about. But for the most part you sat silent and dignified - because that was Dad's way, and Dad's way constituted the ethics of motoring.

this was the first paragraph of a 548 page novel. they have yet to make the film that can come close to conveying the deep and vast imagery of a gifted writer.
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Switch Bitch
Roald Dahl

twisted erotica is a tough combination to beat.
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Jeff Smith

there's a comic book store near my house which i step into every now and again. i went in one time looking for something bella and i could read together. bella was close to reading on her own and i thought reading a good comic together might stimulate her interest and learning. a clerk directed me to the BONE series. i picked up the first few books in the series and took them home to bella. we read a chapter or two over a couple of days and then while i was sleeping or at work, can't recall which, bella learned how to read on her own. it wasn't at all how i imagined it. i expected it to be a gradual and pain-staking experience but for her it just sort of clicked and one minute she couldn't read and the next she could. as for my BONE experiment she left me in the dust and after a few more days asked if there were more of them.

it wasn't until i was stuck recovering in bed for two weeks that i got to revisit the series but instead of reading them with bella i read them with alex. there are nine books in all and it is available in one 1,300+ page collection. there aren't many long tomes such as this that can be enjoyed from start to end by kids and parents alike but this one hit many of the marks and i'm glad it found its way into our home.
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The Golden Compass
Phillip Pullman

the best thing about this story is something someone informed me when they saw me reading it. they said that christian zealots were protesting this book. i looked at the cover making sure we were talking about the same text and asked if they were mistaken. nope. they were sure they were right. i can't even imagine what would happen if these religionist actually read more. i think they'd have a full coronary if they knew literature existed that was more chilling and threatening than harry potter and other selections from borders' best-seller cardboard stand.

as for this though, i thought it was big fun. and given that the star of the saga is a young girl, i'm excited for when bella will read it because the daring and chippy heroine will surely thrill my daughter's young mind. the curiously tweaked world in compass is mysterious and magical, reminding me of myst island more than anything else. the story is fast and flowing, ending with a near-literal cliff-hanger. great and fluffy stuff.
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The Blind Side
Michael Lewis

if bissinger's friday night lights was thought to expose some of our country's social ills regarding america's obsession with football, this book took those same ills, placed them under the petri dish and vivisected them with wicked anatomical detail. we have some complex and messy issues floating around out there and i'm no less guilty than most i know and find myself plenty conflicted by the implications of this story, as touching and vile as it is.

fortunately, the timing of this read couldn't have been better in that i'm sure i'll be feeling better by the time the pigskin starts flying through the air again.
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Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett

without knowing the genesis that brought this book to life, it's easy to see it was not just another deliverable owed to a publisher by an established author, but a true work of ardor and interest. follet bled these characters. and aside from some godfather III like political complexities towards the end, this novel from the first sentence to the last proves to be as wrenching and entertaining a story as ever told. and as a storytelling effort rivals the works of gabriel garcia marquez and alexandre dumas. simply one of the best.
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10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management
Hyrum Smith

i first read this book eight years ago. it was referred to me by a colleague after i was complaining about my poor time management skills. on his recommendation, i got it and read the chapters dealing with time management (trying to be time-thrifty and all). i employed the techniques described, saw some gains but after a year still felt i wasn't achieving much. i returned to the text and re-read those initial chapters making sure i wasn't missing something. this time i continued reading and found that the real meat was actually not in the pages i first read, but all around them.

time management in itself is quite trivial. franklin quest (a company that this author is one of the founders of) has shown the world that effective time management has two simple steps:
step 1. if you have something to do, write it down.
step 2. if you have written something down, do it.
franklin quest, through their franklin planners, has made scillions of dollars on those two simple tenets. but what i learned in my second reading of hyrum's book is that yes, getting more done with your time is simple, but it is what you choose to do in that time that is the hard yet infinitely important part.

this book is responsible for the state of my marriage. this book is responsible for the state of my career. this book is responsible for the relationship i have with my children. without this book all of these things would obviously still exist, they would just be much less than they are, on all counts. there are many books out there that deal in these matters. i've read others like it but they haven't spoken to me as this one has. for this reason, i have re-read this book at the beginning of each year for eight years now. each time i walk away re-committed. i also walk away realizing how fluid life is. every year i have to tune and refine how i operate because my life is never the same two years in a row, especially now with children underfoot.

i'm not entirely sure why i have never included this on this list. i guess because it is quite different than the other works cited here. but 2007 was a tumultuous year and spending time in this book was therapeutic beyond words so i reckon hyrum has certainly earned a spot here for his role in my world. so i thank hyrum for divining it and i thank chris for leading me to it.
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