Monday, March 28, 2011

The Spring Reading List

I went to the post office my last day in Denver. I had six full boxes of books. Two boxes of books I couldn't part with, two boxes of Janice's books, two boxes of notebooks. I would hardly classify myself as a hoarder, especially now that I have read every book in my collection.
Janice and I went to Forest Grove a few months back to meet a poet named Bill Alton. It was a wonderful excursion. We rolled into Forest Grove early for the appointment. We opted to kill a little time at a thrift store. It fit into our budget and for some reason, wandering through thrift stores is like window shopping in the living rooms of America. That, and it's out of the rain.
I looked through the books. I felt a strange sensation I think is funny. Here it was January and I was looking through thrift store books. Hadn't we just gone through this in reverse just last September?
The books were inexpensive. It was the hard backs for less than three dollars kind of inexpensive. As I rolled over the titles on the spines, I took a few books off the shelf and looked through them. There were plenty of first editions, at least of some of the newer books. I found Susanna Moore's In the Cut, a first edition too. I bought it. I'd heard about this book and I saw the movie.
I was very happy with the purchase.
I continued thinking about the book on the drive from Forest Grove to McMinneville where we ate at Thistle. On the way home, I made a declaration to Janice. I said: “I'm only going to buy nice books, hard backs and first editions from here on out.” She agreed. She always agrees. I love her for many, many reasons. Mostly I love her because she accepts me, no matter how silly I can be. Then I said: “I'm only buying books that I'm going to read or that I have read.”
She laughed. Then she said: “So, that means you won't buy books you haven't read or that you won't read?” I'm still not sure why that's funny.
As I write this post, I haven't purchased a single book since In the Cut. Unfortunately, it may be some time before I do buy another book.
I do, however, own a library card.
Since being in Oregon, I've been using my library card. I daresay, I've used this library more than I've used any library. I'm grateful for it and all of us should be grateful for libraries. The bulk of the books on my spring reading list will come from a public bookshelf.
So, here it is:
In the Cut – Susanna Moore
O Pioneers! – Willa Cather
The Reader – Bernhard Schlink
Factotum – Charles Bukowski
Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene
Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
The Glass Door – Dashiel Hammett
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
Howard's End – E.M. Forster
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Amiee Bender
50 Great Short Stories

The task? 50 Great Short Stories is an easy one. I plan to rethink my workshops, the Jumpstart, and The short Story for the Editor and use examples from this book. I think this book will be great for a text book. Can you imagine an instructor choosing a book with millions of copies in circulation and all costing less than six bucks as a textbook? The revised series with required reading will be June's posts, right after the end of the Novel, Guerrilla Style series.
The “crime” themed noirs of Moore and Hammett don't exactly spell out spring time, but as a writer, I'm somewhat interested in these for their theme. I've written a few coming of age novels, novels on alienation, a love story and a dystopia. Now, I may want to write noir. I'm not sure where to go after that, erotica or memoir, we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.
I hope as you get going this spring and enjoy the warming weather and sunlight, you remember to read good books. You can use your library card if times are tight, you can buy beautiful hard back first editions. Develop your list, learn something, grow (spring's the season for that anyway). Go outside and read under a tree.

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