Books acquired: “The House That Sam Built,” the Huntington Library; “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California 1945-1975,” AMOCA; “Aldo Casanova: A Retrospective,” Scripps College; “This Shape We’re In,” Jonathan Lethem; “The Tomb,” “Tales From the Cthulhu Mythos Vol. 2,” H.P. Lovecraft; “Take My Picture Gary Leonard”; “Louise de la Valliere,” “The Man in the Iron Mask,” Alexandre Dumas.
Books read: “The Sheltering Sky,” Paul Bowles; “In a Sunburned Country,” Bill Bryson; “Golden Apples of the Sun,” Ray Bradbury.
November was a sunny month around the ol’ reading log. Glancing at the titles, we had sky, sun and sunburns. Luckily we were wearing sunscreen as we read.
“The Sheltering Sky” is the month’s literary effort, a 20th century classic about a trio of expatriate, bohemian New Yorkers who circa WWII travel to the Sahara and gradually lose themselves in its immensity and foreignness. I admire the 1990 movie version and finally got around to reading the novel, which is better, although kind of existential and depressing.
“In a Sunburned Country,” by contrast, was cheerful throughout. A travel narrative by Bill Bryson, who’s made a career of such books, this concerns Australia, which he argues persuasively, and often hilariously, is a wonderland that deserves to be better known. He layers in recent and ancient history, chats up the locals, visits lots of museums and an equal number of pubs and details many of the creatures that can kill you (there are loads). One of my favorite books of the year.
“Golden Apples of the Sun” is a 1953 story collection by my boy Ray Bradbury, one of his first, and the first to incorporate some of his mainstream fiction alongside the fantastic stuff. “A Sound of Thunder,” “The Flying Machine” and “The Fog Horn” are three of his best and most famous stories. Most of the rest are awfully good too. I’ve read “Golden Apples” before, but I was a wee lad at the time, so it was nice to return to this, especially after all the time I spent a couple of years ago reading all his recent, often subpar stuff.
“Sky” was bought at Borders Montclair circa 2009, “Sunburned” was pressed into my hands by Darlene Scalf (hi Darlene!) and “Apples” is my beat-up, secondhand copy bought in Illinois circa the mid-’70s.
This brings me to 57 books for the year. This morning I finished No. 58, I’m one-third of the way through a difficult novel that will be No. 59 and I expect to squeeze in something else as No. 60 before year’s end.
What are the rest of you (Hugh, Doug, Will, John, the absent Paula, etc.) reading?