Are Books Following You Around?

UCLABack in 1964 I packed my clothes in a small suitcase and my books and supplies in three orange crates (the cardboard ones with the full-fitting tops). Later that day my father dropped me off at the curb in front of the dormitory at the university and, because parking was forbidden, drove away leaving me to fend for myself in the big city. And it was only a day or two later that I realized that survival was the reality of the situation.

I had come up to the university a week or two early for the Freshman Orientation. I bunked with a guy from another part of the state that actually knew and revered my High School for its championship marching band (he was a Music major). But three days later the orientation was over, I was forced to move to another dormitory, and I realized I had more than a week to figure out how I was going to eat each day (food-service was not open yet) and whether I could withstand the terrors of Los Angeles. At least I had plenty of time to empty my three boxes of books and arrange them neatly on the built-in bookshelves.

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Bleak, Bleak, Bleak

On the BeachWhen I was a senior in High School I openly complained that too much of what I read was depressing. I had just finished Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield. If you recall, this novel presents a family that is beset by one disappointment after every disaster … but despite the hardships of life, Dr. Primrose keeps smiling and always expects to find a magic hedgehog nibbling candy-corn alongside the cotton-candy privet.

Of course, I grew up and gained an adult appreciation on life which allowed me to read these depressing books, often with far less angst than I experienced reading some pink and purple happy-shit. Besides, even the most embarrassing writing school will admit that a good story involves conflict and overcoming adversity. Let’s face it, even when the final outcome is positive, most of a depressing story is a downer. I remember reading Robert Ludlum: no matter how many times the hero escapes capture or death, another squad of cleaners jumps him when the hero has barely caught his breath. Is this hot action or a depressing view of life?

Well, several sources have been publishing lists of depressing books. Abe Books calls their top ten BLEAK:

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Reading For December

A cold front has blown through the South but I hear it’s a snowy mess up north. The white-tailed deer are running all over the development and I have noticed a few armadillos digging up the turf in search of grubs. Me, I’m still out on the lanai reading on my iPad (iBooks works fine as a reader) but I tend to come in for some warmth and hot tea much earlier than before. Of course, Daylight Savings Time is over and the dogs are still confused about dinner time. For me it turns darker earlier and I retire to my desk for some quiet reading. For December I have again shuffled a few titles and my monthly pool of books to read looks quite good. I’m  focusing on the easier to read digital books but there are still a couple of paper and ink novels I hope to read, even if I have to use my over-sized magnifying glass and a squint.

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So this is my list for December:

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Those October Reading Suggestions

readHere I continue my practice of providing a summary listing of the books mentioned each day during the previous month. I have read few of the hi-lited books and can’t honestly vouch for their quality (although I seldom even consider reading books with even a hint of crappage). I’ll have to move some of them to the front of my reading list to avoid continuing embarrassment. But let’s face it: reading is still rather subjective and whereas one person has read all the books in one list, they often come up short in another list. Even that much publicized and occasionally updated list of the 1001 books you should have checked off before you check out is far from perfect and in some instances generates more anger and disappointment than knowledge of good reading.

But lists are good to give you ideas and, as I see it, if a list of 30 book titles yields one good idea, then the list is well worth it .. good ideas, like good books, are getting pretty scarce nowadays.

Hi-Lited Reading for October 2013

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