Reading log: April 2011

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Books acquired: Too many.

Books read: “There’s a Country in My Cellar,” Russell Baker; “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Mark Twain; “California Crazy and Beyond,” Jim Heimann; “The Computer Connection,” Alfred Bester; “Comic Book Culture,” Ron Goulart; “Confessions of a Crap Artist,” Philip K. Dick; “A Case of Conscience,” James Blish; “Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress,” Candacy A. Taylor; “10 Minute Clutter Control Room by Room,” Skye Alexander; “The Batcave Companion,” Michael Eury and Michael Kronenberg.

Nurse, give me 10 cc’s of books. Or 10 books with two C’s in the title. Yes, from my groaning shelves of unread books, for April I chose 10 books with a couple of C’s in the title. No real reason, other than to make a game of it and to entertain you here. Most were books I’d been meaning to get to and a theme sort of coalesced.

Ten books in one month is also a personal best. Woo-hoo! (Maybe for “Books read” I should also have written “Too many.”) The first two, by Baker and Twain, were the longest, and they were 99 percent read by the beginning of April; in fact, I started Baker’s collection of columns in January. The rest were read throughout April.

Ten is too many to discuss here individually, but they include newspaper columns (Baker), a literary classic (Twain), science fiction (Dick, Bester, Blish), architecture (Heimann), comic book analysis (Goulart, Eury and Kronenberg), nonfiction (Taylor) and (gulp) self-help (Alexander). (It wasn’t all that helpful, either.)

Readers of this blog, i.e. you, might particularly enjoy “California Crazy and Beyond,” which is about mostly L.A.-area roadside architecture — restaurants, gas stations and such that resemble a recognizable object. The 909 example pictured is the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, in which the standalone rooms look like tepees.

(The book’s bibliography, by the way, cites a 1997 article I wrote for the Victor Valley Daily Press, days before changing jobs to come to Ontario, about a building in Victorville shaped like a lighthouse. This book was published in 2001 and I bought it at Powell’s Books in 2007. Nearly four years later, I find my name in it. I’ve really gotta catch up on my backlog.)

Another book some of you might like is “Counter Culture,” an ode to “lifer” waitresses at coffee shops and diners around the country. Turns out many of them love their jobs and keep working into their 60s, 70s and 80s not because they have to (in most cases) but because they think the activity keeps them young. It was illuminating and touching.

Some of these books I’ve owned a long time. The Blish and Dick novels date to my teenage years, the Twain to my college years and the rest to various later dates, the Batman book, from December, being the most recent.

The letter C must be fairly common in titles because even after reading almost 2 percent of my backlog in one month, I still have four unread books with a couple of C’s in their title. If April had had 31 days (or maybe 40), I might’ve gotten to them.

For May I’m returning to a smaller number of books with a greater variety of letters.

So what have you been reading, readers?

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  • Paula Harmer

    I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia, 1-5 so far. They are as enjoyable as everybody has always said. No real need to elaborate too much on such a well known series. David, I would suggest them for you, they are written on the 5th to 6th grade reading level. (Maybe that’s why I was able to read 5 of them last month.) The only problem is, they don’t have enough pictures for your taste. ;) Hehehe.

    [Ha ha! Paula mocked me in person about the number of photos in "California Crazy and Beyond." Where would we be without friends to mock us now and then? -- DA]

  • Ted Melendez

    I’m reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton looks like a beast but the chapters are pretty short so it flows nicely. Though it would be a tough read academically but more of a thriller hmm.

  • Bob House

    I get winded just reading your monthly log.

  • Will Plunkett

    Pathetic reading month for me. I think I read maybe two books? I know I read another Kathy Reichs “Bones” novel, Cross Bones, and perhaps a second book. Sad…

  • John Clifford

    Still working on the mighty Mark Twain Autobiography–Volume 1. Filled in with a couple of comic book collections that I bought at Borders during their last days (pitiful). I also read a computer manual, does that count? And of course, lots of documents from the city of Pomona Charter Review Commission. Also about to tackle the proposed Pomona General Plan which at 246 pages will probably take some time, a real page turner.

    Fortunately, I do still have time to read the DB daily. Perhaps if I stopped that I could finish Twain? Hmmm.

    [How you talk. Pff. -- DA]

  • http://www.hughcmcbride.com/blog hugh.c.mcbride

    As always, a fantastic list, Mr. Allen. I’m particularly intrigued by California Crazy & Counter Culture — will definitely be adding those to my “to read” list. I just “discovered” the Wigwam Motel about a month ago via Charles Phoenix’s weekly e-mail. Would love to spend a night there sometime, & California Crazy may be the perfect book to tote along.

    I put five more notches in the proverbial ol’ bookshelf last month. Deviating ever-so-slightly from my recent run of LA detective fiction, April’s reading list included two detective novels that didn’t involve LA & one LA novel that wasn’t a mystery. (Truly, I am living on the edge :-)

    * Killer on the Road (James Ellroy) – Early Ellroy, examining exploits of a serial killer. Probably my least favorite Ellroy novel thus far (though a lesser Ellroy novel still contains moments of magnificence)

    * The Neon Rain (James Lee Burke) – First in the series of New Orleans-based Dave Robicheaux novels.

    * Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime (Robert J. Rindisi) – First in the series of “Rat Pack Mysteries” in which Sands pit boss Eddie Gianelli uses his sleuthing skills to help Frank, Dino & the boys. Vegas, the 60s, the Rat Pack & a mystery — what’s not to love?

    * The Road to Los Angeles (John Fante) – Fante’s “lost” novel involving Arturo Bandini. Written in the 1930s, but not published til the 1980s.

    * The Moving Target (Ross Macdonald) – A Lew Archer detective novel involving a rich man who may or may not have arranged his own kidnapping, his paralyzed wife who may or may not want him back, an assortment of shady characters & ne’er-do-wells, & of course a holy man on a mountain. Standard stuff :-)

    OK, now off to schedule a weekend in the Wigwam!

    [I see you're back to doing precisely half of what I do. Good work. To give you a tip, you can probably limit yourself to 3, or maybe 2.5, in May. And, seriously, thanks as always for weighing in, Hugh. If you stay at the 'Wam, let me know how it goes. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    Not a great reading month for me… but a great month for spending quality time with my family and designing outstanding lesson plans for my students!…OK, a great month for surfing the net and checking facebook updates. What do you people want from me?

    I knocked Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” off my list of books-I-should-read-but-haven’t, thanks to the recommendation of David’s Kobo. Man, that guy writes wordy sentences. (Um… James, not David.) Also, I spent the whole book thinking (mild spoiler!), “These ghosts aren’t real.. this lady’s just imagining them,” only to find, upon perusing wikipedia afterward, that, while a lot of critics agree with me, James apparently intended them to be real. It gave me an odd feeling of having read a different book than the author wrote.

    I read “The Nautical Chart” by Spanish author Arturo Prez-Reverte for a book club I’m in. Modern day treasure hunters tangle with, well, treasure, I guess. And each other. Mixed reaction from the book club, but I enjoyed it. Takes a while to get going, but the author references Moby Dick, The Maltese Falcon, Popeye and Tintin all in the same book, so how bad can it be?

    And I’m currently reading John Grisham’s The Testament for another book club I’m in. (Um, Doug? THIS ONE WILL COUNT FOR MAY. Stop trying to pad your book count.)

    Enjoyed the update as always (yours and the commenters)… especially the strong showing from the sci-fi section of the bookshelf. And, man, is that Connecticut Yankee a thick book! Is the book really that big? Large-print edition, maybe? The scholarly version with lots of notes and deleted sections? That thing’s as big as Moby Dick. (The book, not the whale.)

    [It's scholarly. No deleted scenes, but plenty of notes, plus all the original illustrations. Also, thick paper. Thanks for the comments and the parenthetical asides. As a naive, Midwestern literalist, the theory that the "Screw" ghosts were merely the hysteria of the governess never occurred to me. I don't get how that could work anyway. The governess had never met these people or seen their photos, so how could she describe their specters so that the housekeeper could recognize them? Obviously she saw them...right? -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    Heh! Starting right now, I’m going to officially call this blog the third book club I’m in. :-)

    An argument in behalf of my theory… No one else in the book ever sees the ghosts, or admits to seeing them… The governess is convinced the kids see them, but they themselves never say say anything about ghosts at all. She’s projecting on them! She’s supplanting her own illicit feelings for her employer and possibly the older boy and making up ghost stories in her head to justify her own actions to herself! Or something. I’m a little out of my depth here. Plus, ghosts don’t exist! (Not a fair argument, I know :-) )

    On your side: your argument above, which is a little hard to get past; James’ own intention as he wrote the story, and he probably has some say here; and the (no spoilers!) last sentence of the book, which wouldn’t really make sense if the whole thing hadn’t happened exactly as she thought it had.

    I’m going to go with a Blade Runner interpretation here… Is Deckard a replicant or no? Both answers are possible! The ambiguity is part of the meaning of the movie! Maybe it’s the same for Turn of the Screw?

    Take that, Henry James and your authorial intent!

    [You make some good points, Doug, especially the part where you agreed with me. What a great book club. I'll pass you the plate of cookies and refill your cup of tea. -- DA]