Reading Log: May 2013


Books acquired: “The Adventures of Solar Pons, Vol. 1,” August Derleth; “The Baker Street Letters,” Michael Robertson; “Granddad, There’s a Head on the Beach,” Colin Cotterill; “Inside Benchley,” Robert Benchley; “Scoop,” Evelyn Waugh; “Will in the World,” Stephen Greenblatt; “A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator and Other Travels (Library of America),” Mark Twain; “Woe is I,” Patricia O’Connor; “The Slide,” Kyle Beachy.

Books read: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Michael Pollan; “Ulysses,” James Joyce; “Boogers are my Beat,” Dave Barry.

Three may be the fewest number of books read in a single month since I started writing these monthly blog posts. Then again, “Ulysses” could have been a month all to itself, representing the single most complex book I’ve ever read, and three weeks of solid reading. It was 650 nearly incomprehensible pages. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was very readable, but it was 450 pages. Two tough picks in a row.

“Omnivore” is all about where our food comes from. Pollan visits an Iowa corn field, follows a steer to a Kansas feed lot (where it eats Iowa corn), can’t get a tour of a slaughterhouse but describes the process, then eats a McDonald’s meal, the ultimate end product. He also visits organic farms, some industrial, some not, and also tries to construct a meal entirely out of items he gathers himself, including a wild pig he hunts and kills. Eye-opening and dismaying, and highly recommended.

“Ulysses” may end up the subject of a column. It’s the famous novel about a single day  — June 16, 1904 — in the life of some Dubliners, mostly Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus, and every single thing that happens to them, is said to them or that runs through their minds. You might say it’s the ultimate celebration of the common man, except that the common man can’t read it, Joyce’s prose being notoriously dense and, at times, completely unpunctuated. So, “Ulysses” is easier to admire than to love, and at times easy to hate.

The point is, I can now brag for the rest of my life that I’ve read “Ulysses,” and that’s  nothing to sneeze at.

I read “Omnivore” because the Upland Library chose it for the library’s first community read. “Ulysses” I bought in 1998, from the Montclair Borders, when it was named the best novel of the 20th century by Time magazine; I read it now because a friend challenged me to read it by June 16. He’s not even halfway through, which may mean I’m a sucker.

I might have stopped there at two books for the month, but I had six days left after finishing “Ulysses” and decided to squeeze in something short and unpretentious. You can’t get much more unpretentious than a Dave Barry collection with “boogers” in the title. I’d put this one in the middle range of his books, with some of his shtick growing tiresome, for me at least, but with enough surprises to be enjoyable. “Boogers” may have come from Amazon shortly after publication in 2003.

Thus, three books for May. Not a great number, but they added up to a somewhat more weighty 1,350 pages. I’ll return to more sensible books in June.

You’ll notice from my list up top that I bought a lot more books last month than I read (sigh). All nine came from various St. Louis bookstores. So, have you read any of my three books, or my nine purchases? More importantly, what did you choose to read in May?

Next month: I read some of my oldest unread books.


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