Picking Up Another Book

I’m one for putting my books into stacks so you can imagine I usually put a bit of effort into deciding what I’m going to read next. For instance I avoid punishing myself with weighty tome after weighty tome. And I usually avoid the temptation of uninterrupted volumes of pulpy, psychedelic science-fiction. So I set plans in place. I carefully consider the next book I’ll read. And then I ignore all my plans and just read whatever.

A fer instance: I just finished Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a book best described by Nathaniel Philbrick in the introduction to my edition as reading something like “a very weird book on whaling by Shakespeare and the translators of the King James Bible.” It’s not light reading. After setting it down I knew exactly what I wanted to read. Something light, trashy, possibly garbagey. I needed a break. What am I reading now? A 150 year old travel memoir, the first published work of historian and writer Francis Parkman, the Oregon Trail .

It’s not exactly the heaviest reading but it’s not quite the trash I was hoping for. Melville, of all people, liked it, though. It apparently has “the true wild-game flavor”. And I’m liking it so far. But, again, it’s not trash. This is what happens when you run out of books when you’re at the cabin and go into town to the local used bookstore. Did I say bookstore. I meant Goodwill store where books are a dime. Yes, a dime. Amongst the mountains of used-up Danielle Steeles and V.C. Andrews I usually find a few gems. Like Parkman.

Now, what should I read after the Oregon Trail?

6 responses to “Picking Up Another Book”

  1. Um… more Cordwainer Smith?

  2. … or Phillip K. Dick? Both in my much-abused Stack. More of a floating-point stack. Wait, is that a computer joke? Sorry.

  3. Every once in a while, I come across a book that has a profound effect on me (now you can see why I joined this blog). The kind of book whose characters haunt you as though they are old friends you’d like to see again once the book is over. My recent read didn’t have characters that stuck with me, but it did have several references to society and the nature of people that did stick with me. C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite writers and I thought I’d read all of his good stuff. I was wrong. My new favorite Lewis read is The Great Divorce. If you read it and cannot relate the characters to folks that you know or life experience, well, then you haven’t left your house in some time. While some of it left me feeling unsettled, I also had a reassurance that personal character does matter. And a book that leaves you considering your own character through new eyes is worth reading.

  4. While, to be honest, I’ve grown less enamored of Lewis over the years, I do love hearing about the profound effect books can have on someone. I know they’ve had an effect on me. I’ll add The Great Divorce next to Till We Have Faces on my wishlist. I may be less enamored of Lewis but I haven’t given up on him.

  5. If you want a light-hearted satire, try “The Mouse that Roared”. It was popular in the 1950’s, but it is just as timely today.

  6. I’ve passed by the film adaptation in the Blockbuster a million times without ever realizing it was an adaptation! Thanks, Maestro.

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