Some of you may be following along on Goodreads already, but here’s a long-belated accounting of the books I read the first few months of this year. Hoping to recount it month-by-month in the future.
- The Path to Power by Robert Caro
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
- Means of Ascent by Robert Caro
- Inside Apple by Adam Lashinsky
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
I enjoyed most of all the two volumes this month of Caro’s biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. Robert Caro is genuinely one of the handful of people I’d consider for a Nobel Prize for Literature from the US—and possibly the most deserving, despite writing strictly non-fiction. (Is that allowed?)
Tufte and Irving were ok (though I was disappointed by the latter), and Lashinsky wrote the Apple book that the Steve Jobs biography promised (and failed) to be.
- Inverted World by Christopher Priest
- Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan
- The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin
- Feminism is for Everyone by bell hooks
After the barn-burner that was January—not one but TWO Caro volumes—this month seems slight by comparison, even considering the 29 days. All four books are tight little works, and I was surprised to see myself enjoying Priest as much as I did. NYRB Classics wins again. I read my first bell hooks book and she lived up to my elevated expectations, putting out a concentrated primer on what feminism is all about. And Smolin’s work was Brian Greene for adults, both a deeper examination of modern theoretical physics and a useful counterbalance to Greene’s enthusiasm for string theory.
Sullivan is talented as hell, but there are weaknesses and crutches.
- River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit
- Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer
- The Possessed by Elif Batuman
- Airframe by Michael Crichton
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
Four impressive-as-hell books this month in Solnit, Batuman, Barnes, and Benjamin. I basically ran around babbling the praises of River of Shadows for all of 2012 so far, and they’re well-deserved. Re-readng it was just as pleasurable as my first time two years ago. Elif Batuman is a hell of a writer, and makes me want to read Russian literature so badly. This was my first time reading Julian Barnes, after consuming that slim volume on memory and remorse, I want to read more of him now! And Walter Benjamin just owns owns owns. Dude is so quotable.
Geoff Dyer is ok, but too unfocused to really delve beyond the aesthetic attributes of any experience. That’s certainly his strength and niche, but seeing the bounds of his domain over 400 pages of essays was kind of depressing. Michael Crichton was still Michael Crichton, and I can see both clearly both why I eagerly read all his stuff in 6th grade and why I haven’t touched it since. Most hilarious/disappointing part was picking up Tom Wolfe for the first time afterwards and noticing he has the same sort of weaknesses; instant turn-off.
I am excited about the rest of the year! Much better pace than 2011, which makes sense given my main weekend activity is reading until football shows up again in the Fall.