For My Next Trick, I Will Read A Single Book From Beginning to End

It’s 5:15 am and the heat just turned on. I think I’ll go downstairs and pick up one of the books I’m in the midst of reading.

I used to amuse myself by alternately reading two books at a time.  I select my reading material carefully (from and in most cases, I can pick up a book, tune out the world and the rest of  my life until I get to the last page. Sometimes though, my alternating book practice would help me to stay with something that was losing its fizzle in the middle by taking a break from one and going to the other. Not sure how or even when it happened, but now I’m completely out of control.

I’m reading 5 books at once.

And it’s not good. For a  person like me (a Gemini) who is weak on completing things anyway, this sad situation has allowed me to compartmentalize my reading according to where I am at the time rather thean focusing on engaging with the storylines. This is largely dependent upon the physical size of the book. Here’s how it shakes out:

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri This one is a collection of 8 stories, some interrelated. This is one of my travel books and the format lends itself well to connecting flights. A few weeks ago when I made 4 flights in 36 hours, it was my faithful companion. It’s a paperback octavo so it just barely fits in my purse and its getting banged up.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith I was so intrigued after I watched the BBC mini-series on Hulu that I wanted to get deeper into the characters so I got the book. This one is a hardcover quarto so its even less appropriate to shove into my handbag. I’ve taken to packing it in my suitcase so that I have something to read in my spare time in hotel rooms. p.s. It turns out that I  never have any free time in hotel rooms.

To Absent Friends by Red Smith Just got this one recently. Fascinating! A collection of newspaper columns from this sportswriter written immediately after the passing of sports giants. Now I know who Pop Warner was.  It’s a 1″ thick hardcover and I have enough hardcovers to drag around now so it sits waiting for me on the table next to my TV-watching chair.

I’m starting to see a pattern here. I was so traumatized that my paperback copy of the 1000+ page The Powerbroker from 1974 went to pieces before I finished it that I try to get bound hardcovers whenever I can. I see now that is my problem with the portability of these books when I travel.

Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-First Century by Hal Rothman This is critical research for me since an area near Las Vegas is one of our top contenders for a retirement location. I know, right? Did you know that “Nevada in general and Las Vegas in particular are at or near the bottom in many indicators of public life, environmental, and educational health and wellness. The state has even been referred to as the “Alabama of the West”? Still, the showgirl in me thinks that might be a good place to end my days. I’m packing this for my trip to Vegas next week. Where I wont’ have time in the hotel room to read it.

When She Was Bad: The Story of Bess, Hortense and Sukhreet & Nancy by Shana AlexanderThis reads more like an extended gossip mag article from the NYC in the 80s. What’s wrong with that? The”she” in the title is Bess Myerson, the beautiful manipulative former Miss America/friend of mayor Ed Koch whose habit was to leave bags of poop on the doorstep of her former boyfriends. The real fascination here is Sukhreet Gable. Look her up. I didn’t expect to like her as much as I did. Nevertheless, the twists and turns and interrealtionships between Sukhreet, hired for a minor position by Bess in the Office of Cultural Affairs, her mother the judge who favorably ruled on Bess Myerson’s gangster boyfriend’s alimony decision,  and Nancy the gangster/city contractor  boyfriend’s wife, got to be too weighty about 3/4 of the way through. I started while sitting on the deck last summer – maybe I’ll pick this up and finish it in the summer.

So there we have it: what I’m reading/not reading right now – all at once.

12 thoughts on “For My Next Trick, I Will Read A Single Book From Beginning to End”

  1. I do that trick of swapping back and forth too. I’m involved in “The Dome” by Stephen King, which is getting a bit formulaic, and “Best Science Writings of 2007”, which is just enough over my head to make me appreciate Stephen King all the more.

  2. I can’t stand not to have a book on hand either, and especially when I travel. My bosses ensured I’ll never be bookless again by giving me a Kindle for Christmas. It is, hands-down, the best gift I have ever received. Imagine, if you will, an entire library of books in a gadget that weighs less than a pound, and that would not only have all the books at your fingertips, but also have them bookmarked to the last page read. Seriously, you need one of these doohickies!

    1. Do you really like it?

      I discovered at Minute One that I cant’ stand books on tape; much prefer a holding a book in my hands.

      You adjusted from real book to Kindle without a problem?

  3. Since your readers may want this info, too:

    Holy moly! I adjusted to a Kindle in about 30 seconds flat. It weighs 10 oz. It has the internet built in, so you can order books at any time. (Big for me, as I can’t stand to be without a book.) Loads of free books available, as well as current ones. It bookmarks your place, so you could read 10 books at once and still know exactly where you left off. You can adjust the font size easily. (And though my daughter and her mom (I’m a birth mother) love books on tape, I can’t stand ’em either… but the Kindle does have a voice mode, too.)

    What’s not to love?


    P.S. — I found a pal of yours and kin of Stedman’s here. Small world, huh?

  4. Most of my adult life I have been a prolific reader. Like all of you, always had a book going. Then something happened. I don’t know what it was but I stopped reading anything but the daily paper…which, as you know, is 6th grade level. It was strange, I just couldn’t get interested in anything. This year though I’ve plowed through 2 biographies of Colette (on my shelf for at least 5 years), many of the compilations of her books and short stories I’ve collected (some reading for the 2nd time) and now am on the Julia Child bio, “My Life in France” which I can’t put down. My voracious appetite is back! It is such a pleasure…maybe the lame tee vee season has something to do with it…along with canceling HBO and Showtime. I think though that the books have won!

    I also re-discovered Herman Wouk’s “The Winds of War” (1983 made for TV series) on Netflix and went through that one after another lickety split. Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, just excellent…1939 Europe to Pearl Harbor. Now I want to read the book. Then went straight to the 2nd part which came out in 1988, “War and Remembrance” which takes you from Pearl Harbor to VE and VJ Day. A bit grisly through the portrayals of the camps (they filmed at Auschwitz) and I had to fast forward through some of that even having seen all those historical pictures over the years…but what a saga and what a production! I’ll be on both of those in book form next.

    I’m not sure about Kindle…might have to wait until they are a little more affordable plus I don’t like reading even the news on screen so I’m not sure how that would go…

  5. I’m not sure about the Kindle either, but there are rumors that Amazon might “give” Kindles to Amazon Prime customers (of which I am one since I order so much stuff from them). If that’s the case and I can find out without spending the money, I’m all for it. However, when reading anything longer than a page, I hate computer type screens this is why I’m not sure if I’d like the Kindle or not.

    I have recently picked up an account and I do download books to my ipod that I can listen to while I’m driving. I have to be driving (or over at the fitness center on the treadmill – nearly the same thing… LOL), I can’t just sit and listen to them at home – I get distracted and lose my place – but in the car or gym they are great for me. I stick with sci-fi because for some reason sci-fi works really well when being read aloud or I’ve gotten some books with terrific readers (Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Retrieval Artist Series, China Mieville’s Between the City and the City, Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide – which I’ve already read about 16 times in print form, that kind of thing).

    In the right place – printed or audio books work. It all depends. At least with audio books in the car or at the gym, I feel like I’m not totally wasting time.

    I need to get away from my computer now. LOL.

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