I’m glad you asked me that question.
Then again, maybe I’m not… since it reminds me of the growing pile of must-read books that stands like a skyscraper about to topple near my desk. It never shrinks as I’m constantly adding to it. Doesn’t seem to matter that I’m always reading several books at once. But that’s the only way I’ll ever scratch the surface of this Sisyphean task. The older I get the faster I read. I burn the midnight oil, bleary-eyed, struggling to reach the finish line. And when I do there’s no time to pause and catch my breath, for another race has started.
I refuse to skim a book or skip pages…that (in my book) is a profanation. If a novel fails to hold my interest or disappoints after two or three chapters, I abandon it. Once I’m into a book I finish it no matter what.** When it comes to nonfiction I’m a bit more patient… usually caring less about style and nuance and concerned with feeding the data to my brain.
The real thrill, of course, is when I discover a book like Ron Suskind‘s The Way of the World, which reads like literature, is rich in ideas, intricately structured, quotable, annotatable (?)—satisfying on a dozen levels.
I just finished The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (mentioned in a previous post) and loved it. A tough act to follow, but Keith Thomson‘s satirical thriller, Once A Spy, seems up to the job. I’ll review the book on Zoom Street in the future.
For nonfiction, I’m reading two books: House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William D. Cohan; and Practical HDR by David Nightingale. The latter features a collection of the best HDR images I’ve seen in print. In particular, the work of Ben Willmore. I can’t imagine any photographer picking up this book and not being tempted to give High Dynamic Range imaging a shot. Uh, make that three shots.
So there you have it. I hope you’re not sorry you asked.
**One sad exception: The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower by Robert Graysmith. Graysmith is the author of Zodiac—one of the best true crime books ever witten, if not quite in Capote’s class. His new book sounded promising and gets off to a good start…then suddenly…it simply falls apart and goes nowhere. Like a masochist I stayed with it almost to the end out of sheer bewilderment… then started skimming. (Yes, it’s that bad.) No way on earth did an editor edit this book (or even read it) and that’s the unkindest cut of all.