Reading log: May 2010

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Books bought: “The Best Short Stories of Mark Twain,” Mark Twain; “Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress,” Candacy Taylor; “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us),” Tom Vanderbilt; “Candide,” Voltaire; “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass,” Lewis Carroll; “The Good, the Bad and the Mad: Weird People in American History,” E. Randall Floyd; “Millard Sheets, the Early Years (1926-1944),” Gordon McClelland; “This is Claremont,” ed., Harold Davis.

Books read: “The World Jones Made,” Philip K. Dick; “Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A Jaws Companion,” Patrick Jankiewicz; “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Robert Louis Stevenson; “Dancing Under the Moon,” Al Martinez; “Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell With the Rolling Stones,” Robert Greenfield.

May was a big month: I read five books, not the standard four. It was also a big month because I gained eight, thanks in large part to gifts (three) and the emptying of a B&N gift card received 14 months ago (three more). Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of balance.

“The World Jones Made,” Philip K. Dick’s second novel, has been on my shelves since the ’80s. Jonathan Lethem has called it “godawful.” About a man who can see precisely one year into the future, it’s not very good. My chronological march through the PKD canon is going poorly so far. (I didn’t much like his first novel either.)

The “Jaws Companion” book, published last year, was written by an Upland resident who’s a pal of mine. It contains everything you’d want to know about the novel, the movie, the three (!) sequels and the phenomenon. Unfortunately, it also contains about 10,000 things you won’t care about. Some good stuff here, but the writing ranges from insightful to dreadful. (Sorry, Pat.) Still, this is aimed at fans, and if you’re one, you should get it.

I bought “Dr. Jekyll” last fall at Moe’s in Berkeley for a couple of bucks. I’d have guessed I read it as a boy after Stoker and Shelley, but nothing in it seemed familiar. Well, other than the whole concept, of course. This is where the whole downing-the-foul-liquid-in-the-beaker-and-transforming-horribly shtick started. Still effective.

“Dancing Under the Moon,” the book of Al Martinez columns, was bought (for $1) at Book Baron in Anaheim before it closed in 2007. Martinez himself signed it last year during his stop in Pomona. Published in 1992, it’s a genial set of columns by the former L.A. Times scribe. My favorite is about two elderly neighbors who pedal around their neighborhood.

The Stones book, “Exile on Main Street,” was bought during Virgin Megastore’s closing sale in 2009 for a song, ha ha. It chronicles the “Exile on Main Street” period and May seemed like a good time to read it, what with the album being rereleased. Focusing more on the band’s personal lives than the music, and without their participation, the book was disappointing — unlike the album.

In June, I’m reading the Twain story collection bought in May (see above), more Sherlock Holmes and a couple of other things (so far).

Comments on the above or on your own reading are, as always, solicited.

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  • Bob House

    Usually, I just feel guilty when I see your monthly book report, realizing I didn’t even get through one book in the month.

    This time, I’m also jealous — of your out-of-print finds; specifically, the Sheets and Claremont books. Hoping to see a post in the future with a brief “compare and contrast” of the Claremont book edited by Davis and Judy Wright’s outstanding book.

    If you’re an Alice in Wonderland fan, pick up “The Annotated Alice” by Gardner. Its extra-wide margins are crammed with explanations of all the historical and other references in the stories — really adds to the enjoyment of the works. Looks like you should be able to find a copy online for less than $5.

    [I saw "The Annotated Alice" at Borders and was tempted, but decided it was more Alice than I probably wanted. I did make sure to buy an edition with the original illustrations. -- DA]

  • K

    I found “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us),” to be a little disappointing. It’s full of interesting anecdotes, but he never really ties it together. OTOH, living in LA, we need to know anything and everything about traffic, so it’s tough to suggest that you skip it.

    Ever thought about writing the great Los Angeles traffic book!?

    [I'd rather read the great Los Angeles traffic book than write it! -- DA]

  • steve

    hey Dave, whatever happened to all the secondhand book stores?

    [Same thing that happened to all the new book stores. But Magic Door in Pomona is still here (and with 30 percent off this month)... DA]