Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reading in 2009

I started reading fairly young. I think it had to do with spending so much time in hospital waiting rooms. All growing up, I read quite a bit. I remember in 6th grade reading Stephen King books while the other kids were reading R.L. Stein books (if they read at all). I have since spoke with many people who say similar things, so I know that I am far from unique in this. I’m not in 6th grade anymore, but some things stay the same. In the last week or so, I’ve read 3 books. I read Push by Sapphire (it’s the novel that the new movie ‘Precious’ is based on), The Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson (an autobiography), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I’d already read this one once or twice, but I love it).

After finishing the 3rd book this week, I started wondering how many books I’d read this year. I thought back and listed just the books I read completely. Even if I read ¾ of a book I didn’t consider it. Off the top of my head, I came up with 23 books so far this year. That seemed pretty high to me, so I figured they must mostly be small books. Looking back at each book and making a note of how many pages each one was, I realized that these weren’t small books. While the smallest of the books (Push) was only 150 pages, the largest (The Stand by Stephen King) was 1149. The average number of pages for all the books I read this year came up to 446 pages. That’s a pretty decent average. After breaking it down, though, it only comes up to 31 pages a day. For the pace I read at, it averages out to about 52 minutes a day spent reading. Just numbers….

Here are a couple of the books I’ve really enjoyed this year:

Push by Sapphire – At 150 pages, this is the shortest book I read this year. Despite it’s brevity, it has to be one of the best. This book is powerful. If the movie is anything like it, it is going to be amazing. The style of the narrative is the uneducated first person. What I mean is that it is written like ‘I did this’ ‘I thought that’. The first person. The ‘I’. The uneducated is just like it sounds. I really enjoy when an author can adopt the tone of someone they are so clearly not like. In doing so, you can empathize with the narrator of the story (In this case a poor, uneducated, overweight black girl living in Queens that has a life that must be hell on earth), but also see past their view to see things that the narrator clearly doesn’t see or grasp. Think of To Kill A Mockingbird or even Forrest Gump. In fact, after finishing this book I had to reread Mockingbird. The themes and styles of the two books are not so far off.

Dean & Me by Jerry Lewis – This book by Jerry Lewis is about Dean Martin and the relationship they had together during the 10 years they spent in the Martin and Lewis act. I actually listened to this audio book. The reader was so good at the voices of Martin and Lewis, I think it was probably even better listening to it than reading it from pages might have been. I really like Dean Martin. He’s my favorite of the Rat Pack and his greatest hits album has to be in my top 10 of all time. I laughed so hard at times that I had to rewind the audio book to catch what I missed (no small feat on an iPod). I originally listened to it because I liked Dean Martin, but this book influenced me to further my education on classic films and read about other Hollywood actors from the 40’s and 50’s. I went on to read ‘By Myself and Then Some’ - Lauren Bacall’s autobiography; ‘In Black and White’ about Sammy Davis Jr; and Sinatra: The Life. It takes quite a book to make me get interested enough in a subject to read several more books and watch even more movies. This is certainly quite a book.

Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man by Frank McCourt – When Frank McCourt died this year, I took the opportunity to reread a few of his books that I really liked. Angela’s Ashes won a Pulitzer Prize back in the 90’s for nonfiction. It is the story of Frank’s life from when he was born until he was about 20 and came back to the US. Much has been written about this book, and I don’t have much to add other than it is a great book. It is written well without any of the bitterness you might expect given the subject matter. In fact, Frank is able to look back with some humor at some pretty appalling things. ‘Tis and Teacher Man continue the story of his life in New York working his way through the military and school before beginning his teaching career. Any of these 3 books are worth reading. If I had to pick just one, though, I’d have to go with Angela’s Ashes. Frank – I hope you are enjoying a pint in the everlasting pub in the sky.