Here are the first lines of some of the books I read during August (yes, I know it's the end of September - I'm just trying to get caught up).
With the library “Bookshelf Bingo” program to spur me on, I read ten books, which makes it sound like I was lolling around doing nothing but reading. Looking back, it’s clear that some of this material was pretty bleak, but thankfully three of them were children’s books.
Book #1 (for the bingo square “Novel with a two word title that doesn’t begin with “The”, “An”, or “A”)
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, shipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.
Book #2 (“A best novel of the 20th century, chosen by Modern Library”)
All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.
Zoe Chambers eased the Monongahela County EMS ambulance to a stop next to a heap of dirty snow.
Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house.
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites inquired of the Lord, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The Lord said, ‘Judah shall go up. I hereby give the land into his hand.”
In a smallish London suburb where nothing much ever happened, my family gradually became the talk of the town. Throughout my teens, wherever I went, I would always hear the same question, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
* * * * * * * *
Here are the titles and authors.
Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. We read this for book club. I love this book! Steinbeck gets it just right – presenting his characters with humor, but without mocking them. And there are frogs! My husband is big on the book club snacks pertaining to the book. We wanted to get chocolate frogs, but they were too expensive. But since we had book club on my birthday, we had birthday cake. It was a perfectly lovely way to spend my birthday.
Slaughterhouse-Five, or, The children's Crusade : A Duty-dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut. Difficult topic. Great writing. The story is not told sequentially, which normally drives me nuts, but it works in this case, and seems appropriate. It is good I did not read this earlier in life, because it would have disturbed me so much that it would have prevented the main points from getting through. It was a struggle to read this right after Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, because of the frequency, arbitrariness, and distressing occurrences of death. And so it goes.
Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy. This is a murder mystery that takes place in Pennsylvania. It was a bit too nerve-wracking for me (other people might call it a good page-turner), but I liked the main character.
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
For a children’s book, this one was awfully creepy. Excellent writing. This was recommended by Younger Daughter.
Judges (The Bible). This book contains several gruesome stories which should not be read by children. Kids, go read Coraline for a good scare. The main point of Judges seems to be that the people just can’t resist doing evil. And evil, nasty things happen.
When I was a child I was fascinated with the story of Samson, which I read in a sanitized version in a picture storybook. That version left out the part where Samson visits a prostitute. Samson is kind of like The Incredible Hulk of Bible times, crashing around, tearing down buildings and slaying thousands with the jawbone of an ass. The biblical text passes no judgment on him for any of that stuff, but, boy, does he get in trouble for hanging around with Delilah.
Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math, by Daniel Tammet.
“Like works of literature, mathematical ideas help expand our circle of empathy, liberating us from the tyranny of a single, parochial point of view. Numbers, properly considered, make us better people.” I found this book fascinating, since it sits at the junction of philosophy and math. Includes one of my favorite math concepts, Riemann sums, as applied to history.