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

READ BEFORE BOOKS FROM : 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018


I Am Charlotte Simmons
Tom Wolfe

i've long said the female mind, especially the young female mind, let's say younger than twenty-five or thirty (and much longer for sheltered souls), cannot conceive the depravity of the male mind. there have been times where i've said this to girls in the past and they turn to me curious and ask me to enlighten them, or to try to at least. always with a chuckle, i explain i lack both the skills and the confidence to bring them into the know. but here, in tommy wolfe, we've tapped the most capable or appropriate member of the tribe to throw the barn doors open.

wolfe's journalistic style makes him the perfect american male to vivisect our college-age youth. or you could say, he picks up where the most-effective movie Kids left off. i'm glad that wolfe exposes what sorts of nonsense is happening on the other side of the tracks from where Kids drama unfolded because i think many left the theatre with an inflated sense of the them-not-us mindset, and charlotte simmons makes the strong point that that notion is simply not true. in evidence, here's one of wolfe's more succinct bits of work:
By the time they reached the bed, she had somehow managed to unbuckle his belt and undo the top button of his khakis. Like many a man before him, his brain had dropped like a stone into his groin.
socio-economic standing doesn't have a lick to do with that small but absolute male truth.

and i can't tell you how many times i repeated the mandate in my head that i'm going to make bella read this in the months before she leaves for college. there were a few points were i dismissed the notion saying that by then it will be too dated for her. then i re-did the math and realized i'm looking at eight short years and know, sadly, the book will still be perfectly relevant and accessible in that desperately brief span.
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The Cellist of Sarajevo
Steven Galloway

this is not the sort of book i typically read. it is the sort of book book clubs typically read and if i'm anything i'm not a book club sorta fellow (as they usually include more than three people and my comfort level plummets severely when there are more than three folks at the table). how this one fell into my queue, my well-defined and intensely-guarded reading queue, was through an invitation to lead a discussion group for a college freshman reading program. always up for tickling the routine a bit, i quickly accepted the curious invite with the twinge of apprehension we all might feel before walking through an ill-lit, unfamiliar doorway.

before the actual session with the students, the facilitators were invited to a preparatory talk being led by a college english professor. here the book in question would be analyzed, professionally, and possible discussion points raised. i had a feeling i would really enjoy this session having not been part of such a forum since my college days. as for how it went, rarely do you find yourself in situations that immensely outdo your expectations, especially when you expectations are immense. having the opportunity to sit in a room with university professors of all practices (e.g. english, anthropology, architecture, history, music, design) discussing a book with rapt and pointed focus was even better than my school days as back then there were the inevitable tourist in the class that never took the material or college opportunity seriously. this roundtable of interested professionals was the secret wish of all ravenous english dorks and what they/we wished for in every literature class - people who cared about and considered the text deeply, even if differently. this unusual opportunity was surely the perfect storm as each person in attendance had agreed to lead one of the discussion groups and thus had skin in a game. and by skin i literally mean their skin because failing to produce ninety minutes of engaging book-discussion-fodder for their group of students who were experiencing their first ever collegiate-level academic moment would scar everyone in the room good and long.

regarding the work itself, at the surface the book tells a detailed and intimate story of a horrific moment in human history. when you have the luxury of teasing the words and sentences apart with a pair of tweezers (thanks preparatory session) there are hidden rooms and floors of material, material that exposes the astonishing and grotesque sides of humanity and the choices we all have to make to determine what shape and volume our contributions to the buckets of life we touch will be.

man do i miss me a good ole' college english class.
link to this review


Game Of Thrones
George Martin

i am a man of regiments and rituals. a few rules related to this review:
  1. i only watch a television show if it has a full season in the can and the next one is underway. reason being i don't like the cliff-hangers typical in season finales. so for an active show, i will watch a whole season in immediate sequence, like on dvd, and at the last show, immediately roll into the next season, just watching enough episodes, usually two to three to resolve the previous season finale's suspense-laced storyline and then i stop. of course, this only applies to shows actively being produced and not ones that are fully run and done).

  2. if i see a movie if being made of a book i want to read i rush to (a) buy the book before it gets its actor-posed movie cover and (b) attempt to read the book before the movie press starts. the rigidity in which i enforce this is proportional to how much i want to read the book. the more i want to read it, the faster i am to act. the reason behind this approach is that (a) i find movie book jackets lame and thoughtless and (b) i don't like having the story's characters pre-defined in my mind's eye. there's only so many personas tom hanks, or leonardo dicaprio, or russel crowe should be allowed to portray.

  3. i try to avoid reading the same author twice in one year. the reason behind this is for authors i super enjoy, i fear exhausting their catalogs too rapidly, thus depleting my ability to experience them anew anymore. while i'm just as inclined to binge as the next person, i force myself to be patient to milk new material as long as possible.

  4. although, my consistency in this wavers (i'm now currently back on track) i attempt to read books in a defined genre-based rotation. this has changed over the years but the current pattern is this.

    POPULAR FICTION (e.g. ken follet, dan brown, john grisham)
    CLASSIC LITERATURE (e.g. alexandre dumas, victor hugo)
    SCI-FI/FANTASY (e.g. isaac asimov, orson scott card)
    MODERN LITERATURE (e.g. upton sinclair, william faulkner)
    INSTRUCTIONAL (e.g. typically recommendation-based)
    CLASSIC LITERATURE (e.g. charles dickens, vladimir nabakov)
    NON-FICTION (e.g. michael lewis, jon krakauer, bill bryson)
    MODERN LITERATURE (e.g. gabriel garcia marquez, theodore dreiser)

    the purpose of this 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 forces my mind to ambulate through.
the above rules are needed for book review because all four of the tenets were challenged by this book. last month i was in north carolina visiting my two best friends. their monikers, curiously, are bookpimp and bookguy, although that is, surprisingly, completely unrelated to this story about books. while visiting bookpimp (as i stayed with them separately) he mentioned this new hbo show he was watching. he said it was rife with unexpected and curious happenings and he found it most entertaining. at his suggestion i watched the first few episodes, three to be exact.

now since it is an active show in the midst of its first season, it was in conflict with rule 1. since the show was unusually good out of the gate, i knew this was going to prove problematic. wanting to see the sort of longevity the show might have i looked into where the story came from and found there was a line of books, five to be exact, fueling the series. in looking into the books, i found the fans of this particular author were nothing less than rabid for his words, calling him a modern-day tolkien. while it gave me hope for the series, it now put it in conflict with rule 2 (even though i didn't know i was breaking rule 2 when i began).

figuring i would take control back and stop the bleeding i stopped watching the show and bought the first book of the series. i made three immediate observations about it:
  1. it was crazily identical to hbo's series. i don't think i've ever seen something translated so perfectly (the next best thing may be the porting of the UK version of the office to the US version of the office - although i still contend that the one you prefer depends on the one you saw first). scenes and dialog are portrayed near verbatim, missing none.

  2. given the convoluted, and often similar, kooky names for things, i would have been lost trying to keep things and places straight. having watched the show i already had faces to names. i was also able to download and print a visual family tree of the players and houses which i kept folded up in the book in the early chapters to help me keep the diorama in check. due to an amazing job of casting done by the hbo team, having faces pre-stamped to names was surprisingly not annoying and allowed me to easily lose myself the story being told instead of fighting the fantastical language.

  3. the story was masterfully good. and i tore through it's 900 pages at a surprising clip. as i got near the end and the storyline was popping in multiple threads i lamented to marty how i was sad it was ending. surprised, she said i thought it was a series. i said it was but referred her to rules 3 and 4. without hesitation and with a great judgmental inflection she said, "i suggest you live a little troy and read that second book. i mean, go wild. tear it up. they'll never see you coming."
and you know what i did. i got wild and read that second book. well i got wild and started that second book at least. and like when i watch television shows, i got through the cliff-hangers, and once i did i lost my cavalier spirit and reason returned. i put a bookmark in book two at page 150 and returned it to the shelf, trading it for the next one in my scheduled rotation, a tom wolfe selection and one i've been anticipating since i read his last (there's that bristling newness i work to protect).

so in short, this book was entertaining enough to make someone as regimented as myself leave the comfort of my well-defined and hard-held routines to taste just a little more. 150 pages more to be exact. and i'm confident the rest of book two, scheduled to come up in rotation sometime in 2012, is not going to disappoint.
link to this review


The Winter of Our Discontent
John Steinbeck

my neighborhood saw some recent strife. an older neighbor in regard to the trouble asked me in passing if i had read steinbeck's winter of our discontent. when i said i hadn't, he simply replied with an "oh". when i asked why he asked, he said "no reason". given he's an overly curious fellow to me, i figured it was worth discovering the reason.

now having read the work, i see the neighbor's point. but more relevant to how this work spoke to my community woes is how it's been too long since i've read something by this man. holy crap is he a bender of words. and, when he truly hits his stride (because, of course, not all sentences are equal) the culmination nears ridiculous unbelievability.

in case you fear i have whimsical or exaggerated memories of the read, you should first know better (smile) and second know that i have tangible proof of my claim. the evidence comes from a practice i have of marking books up when i read. this marking up involves highlighting and flagging and coding any passages that strike my as unusual or special. one of my most pedestrian coding conventions involves simply flagging a sentence or paragraph in the margin with a sweep of the pen noting the start and stop point of the noteworthy bit. if the marked passage employs an extra tasty use of the language, i add a star to the block and then dog-ear the page so i can re-visit the best parts of a book in the future. when you look at this particular book from the side when closed, there are so many folded corners it looks like there was a problem at the printers. that small nuance is how i know this bit of writing is something special.
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Lonesome Dove
Larry McMurtry

"what they lived we dream..." this is what was written on the back jacket of my copy of this book. a more apt description could not be penned. i am completely dumbfounded by the comprehensive richness an author like this is able to achieve. speaking from the intimate perspective of ten to twenty characters effortlessly. young-old, male-female, civilized-insane. such ability is absolutely mind-boggling. as such, this sprawling tale is wildly entertaining.

i am anxious for my next mcmurty which will have to be the works sequel, the streets of laredo, but when i look at his others efforts, terms of endearment and last picture show, i'm eager for those as well. mcmurty only came on my radar after hearing an interview with robert duvall. he was asked, excluding the godfather, what was his favorite movie project he was ever involved in. with zero hesitation he said it was without a doubt and by far lonesome dove. i myself hadn't even known there was a lonesome dove movie or that bobby duvall, of all possible people, was even in it. hence the selection. that said, i'm a little bummed that i still won't be able to watch the movie as i don't want it to soil my images of the characters (i still don't even know who duvall portrays - and don't bother emailing me because i like it that way). add to this i never read the same author twice in the same year (i do believe aasimov is the only exception to that but his pieces are so short and sooooo enticing, this should be forgivable) that i now have to wait until next year to even begin laredo and then i have to finish it before i can watch the film.

also, this book gets many extra points with me as it was the first book that was able to engage and hold me after my mother's death. i tried over ten other books but none of them were up to it so i give a deserved bonus mark of recognition here.
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The Happiness Prescription
Deepak Chopra

for me reading books on happiness could qualify as a pastime of mine given the number of them i've gone through. anymore it is an exercise in comprehensiveness than true searching. that said, this one delivered a right jab to my temple that left me dazed. it happened straight away, in the author's forward. here the author explained how the happiness paradigm typically works, by western standards at least: you do good things, people reward you (in various ways) for your good things, you feel better about yourself. easy, cheesy. this is known as the basic ego-driven system. immediately after describing this familiar format, the author says it is has been proven that this model is flawed, very flawed. he goes on to explain that in eastern teachings, for thousands of years, the following five things have been widely understood to be the greatest fears of mankind and thus, the most prevalent obstacles to one's happiness.
  1. not knowing your true identity
  2. clinging to the idea of permanence in a world that is inherently impermanent
  3. fear of change
  4. identifying with the socially induced hallucination called the ego
  5. fear of death.
i've never read five lines of anything, even that i myself have written, that seemed to more succinctly describe me. "fear of change" ... "socially induced hallucination called the ego!" ... "fear of death". the words haphazardly tumbled through my head as i repeatedly read the section. needless to say i tore through the remainder of this short book with a rapaciousness i reserve for few things. in the end do you know what i found? i found that mr chopra didn't answer a single one of the five introductory points. #*&!$@ !!!

a week after finishing the book i saw the woman who referred it to me. she asked how i liked it. i said #*&!$@ !!! again. i raged. it picked at five predominately suppressed scabs. it cited them as being the problem. and then it didn't give answers to a single, damn one of them. that's how it went. terrible. horrible. she looked at me with a calm and understanding face. she all but put her hand on my arm and said, "he does answer the points troy, you're just not hearing the answer. you might not be ready." might not be ready? what kind of obi-wan nonsense it that? i explained that i give whole parts of my day, of my life, for years, in trying to better understand these matters. there's no way i'm not ready. she then said the problem is often that the ego-based paradigm is too ingrained in our thought to grasp some of the new notions. great. by many standards, i've done ok using this ego-based system. this system that has now been called, by at least one, a socially manufactured facade. #*&!$@ !!!

while i'm a tad pissed about all this, i'm still convicted to getting my arms around these concepts, to at least have a reasonable grasp at what he says is the fix. to this end, i'm re-reading the book. although to call what i'm doing reading would not be accurate. what i'm doing is studying the text one paragraph at a time. i assure you there are serious scholars who have treated the torah less seriously than i'm treating this short but dense book.

#*&!$@ !!!

read at your own peril.

#*&!$@ !!!
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