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Recent Readings

October 19, 2010

Alrighty then……. (drum roll) here we go. Not sure I have enough time for a lot of description or editorializing or rating what I’ve read during these last few months but we’ll see if I have time at the end for that. Right now I’ll concentrate on getting it down accurately.

First off a couple of books about writing – how to write properly; and the process of it.

– re-read Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” – the sourcebook of choice.

Stephen King’s “On Writing” – wonder of wonders; well written!! (Ha,ha) Very accessible.

A couple from my ‘recommended list which I haven’t tracked down as yet but intend to read as and when I can. Anne Lamott’s “Word by Word”, Lawrence Block’s, “Spider Spin me a Web” and anything I can lay hands on by Natalie Goldberg (esp. “Writing Down to the Bones”). We have a good, well stocked library system but alas, no Natalie to be found.

Carrying on, this next list wouldn’t be here except for the interest generated in me by the two women at red Ravine, ybonesy and QM, who have written extensively about memoir. I used to think it was a fancy name for autobiography and have happily learned the difference. Onward!

“Glass Castles” by Jeanette Walls

“Drinking: a Love Story” by Caroline Knapp

“Liar’s Club: a Memoir” by Mary Karr; it’s sequel “Cherry”, and completing the tryptic “Lit’.

Roseanne Cash’s recently released memoir “Composed”. (Same trip I found her new CD “The List”. Woo-Hoo! Bonus!!)

Neil Peart (drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush) “Traveling Music: Soundtrack to my life and times”.  {Robin – I think you’d like this. It’s not about band tours} I’m currently 100 pages into his previous memoir “Ghost Rider: Traveling the Healing Road” which describes the extended road trip he took following the deaths first of his 19 y.o. daughter, then of his wife 16 months later.

Autobiographies – Biographies – Tributes

Eric Clapton; an autobiography

Michael Moore; a biography by Emily Schultz

Michael Streissguth – “Always Been There; Roseanne Cash, The List & Spirit of Southern Music”

Crystal Zevon – “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: the Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon” – interviews and anecdotes from bandmates, friends, producers, etc compiled in a chronologic fashion. Very interesting.

A tribute to life lessons learned from late husband Hunter S Thompson – “The Gonzo Way” by Anita Thompson.

Farley Mowat’s “Otherwise”.

Next on my list is Micheal J Fox’s “Always Looking Up” which marks 8 years since his first autobiography.

Next section is short and untitled but comes from the fact I needed a spiritual kick-in-the-ass as I recovered from my stepson Craig’s death back in June. Had a wee problem with this ‘power greater than myself’ – anger, resentment, etc – not a good head space. So I picked up one of Joyce Meyer’s many books – ‘The Secret to True Happiness’. No I didn’t expect to find my solutions between the covers of a book but it managed to at least begin the dialogue once again. God and I are on speaking terms again – I try to let him do most of the talking, then act accordingly.

Novels; I haven’t read very many and found a couple which I couldn’t get into lately. I’ll share a few I really enjoyed. First off, one recommended by cousin BJ – “Water For Elephants” by Sara Gruen. Excellent!! She has a just newly released book called “Ape House” which is also getting good reviews (edit: subject is a species of monkey called Bobobos). Another Canadian author is Elizabeth Hay. I really enjoyed both “Student of Weather” and perhaps slightly less “Late Nights on Air”. Great flowing prose, wonderful eye for detail. Hmmm…. another Canuck; a humorist by the name of Arthur Black, author of “Black is the New Green”. I like his satiric take on the everyday. (He works his surname into all his titles.) One novel that broke a lot of rules and that I liked is Reif Larson’s “Selected Works of T S Spivet”.

Is anyone excited about non-fiction?? In Stephen King’s “On Writing” he recommends reading more than you write; read according to your interests; and read great writers as you’re bound to pick up things useful to you for your own expression. Well, one of Canada’s greatest writers – prolific, varied, etc. – is Margaret Atwood. Over the years I’ve read some of her fiction and enjoyed it but I recently borrowed her “Moving Targets: Writing With Intent 1982 – 2004”. It’s a compilation of her essays, book introductions, speeches, reviews…. you name it. I started the book with some trepidation as she can be a sometimes daunting figure to approach. What I found was one of the singularly BEST collections of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Fluid, insightful, compelling… now wonder she’s Canada’s acknowledged ‘Lady of Letters’. She has written poetry, fiction – both in short story and novel, criticism, a couple of series of childrens books, taught at several universities, been writer in residence, etc….. it goes on and on.

Writing about her reminded me of another noted female Cdn author – Alice Munro. Noted short story writer and recipient of awards too numerous to mention… I read one of her collections a few months ago, Selected Stories (?). Highly recommended.

That’s all the time I’ve got right now. I’ll expand on impressions when I get a chance. Funny how I when from a very occasional reader to hard core in such a short time. Reading is a great diversion sometimes but this has also been an interesting and entertaining portion of my life lately.

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6 comments

  1. Thanks, Norm. I’ll check it out.

    I read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and thought the same thing (about it being well written…ha,ha). It was after reading his book that I stepped up my own reading.

    I have one of Natalie Goldberg’s books on my to-be-read shelf and hope to get to it soon.

    I love, love, love Margaret Atwood but also find her daunting at times. I’ll have to see if I can find that book as I haven’t read it.

    Looks like you’ve really been soaking it all in, Norm. 🙂

    It was a book that gave me a spiritual kick-in-the-ass, too (after Mom’s death). One of my blog readers recommended it and it helped pull me up and out of my depression not by giving me solutions (as you mentioned) but just by getting my thoughts moving in a different direction.


  2. Hiya Robin – I thought you’d like Peart’s book because he likes to bicycle & motorcycle while on tour or during down time and hike America’s national parks; especially in the west. I found I was taking notes of music acts and books he mentioned for further investigation as well. Plenty to choose from. Picked up Meyer’s book because I had seen her show a few times and like the way she presents herself; down to earth, knowledgable, dedicated to her ministry. Think you’ll like Atwood’s book. The pieces vary from just a few pages to maybe 20 but she addresses all sorts of subjects; very well.


  3. wow – you are quite a voracious reader!
    you obviously don’t watch much TV to have the time to get through all those in a few months

    it must be fantastic having such a great library resource at your fingertips


  4. {(Psssstt! Hey Kel – Don’t let on to my bosses but those newspapers and books help me pass many a quiet lonely hour while working my night shifts. No electronics allowed.)} Yup – four good sized local branches that I’ve been really impressed with how they keep up with recent releases. I keep picking up tips for new authors & books from those I’ve been reading… follow the breadcrumb trail.


  5. getting paid to read
    lucky you 🙂


  6. Yeah – 300+ pages per night = diddley per page but it adds up.



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