Hi everyone. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about what I’m reading so thought I’d start again, with what will hopefully be a recurring series delving into the books that I have open at the present.
Due to the myriad of mental and physical issues that I confronted during most of the pandemic (and continue to deal with) there was a long stretch when I read very little. Unable to sleep, but also unable to focus on a book for long, I started listening to random audiobooks from the library. Audiobooks are great in their own way, but for me nothing will ever replace holding a paper book in my hands. I also know that my brain simply does not retain anything that I hear nearly as well as information that I have read. Anyway, I think it would make more sense to devote an entire post to pandemic reads, and how we all approached them differently, but for today I just want to look at what I currently have been reading, and hopefully it will start a conversation where you will share your own current reads below – what better way to find a new book that a personal recommendation?
William Faulkner – Sanctuary (1931)
Faulkner’s sixth novel, Sanctuary tells the story of Temple Drake, a young college student who is abducted and raped. The novel that brought Faulkner commercial success, he called it a “potboiler” and said he only wrote it for the money, although that has been disputed. The edition I have was published in 1958 by Random House. I found it for one dollar at SCARCE-LY Used Books and Records in Addison, Illinois. For anyone in the Chicagoland area, if you haven’t been to this place you need to. Their merchandise is in great shape at great prices, which would be more than enough to attract me, but it also happens to be a nonprofit focused on keeping materials out of landfills and donating money to charity. Needless to say it has become one of my favorite places for used books and music.
I am about 100 pages into this so far and thoroughly enjoying it. That feels like a weird thing to say owing to the subject matter, but his prose is simply so well written and powerful. It’s also very interesting to read older books with themes and subject matter such as this because, unlike today, they were not able to simply be point-blank graphic in their description of the events. Of course, in many situations that has lead to a downplaying of the brutality and horror of such things, but with the expert pen of a writer such as Faulkner, it has a haunting, claustrophobic quality throughout that I find stays with me on multiple levels in a way that something simply brutally graphic does not. We’ll see where it goes from here, but so far I would recommend it.
John Steinbeck – Travels with Charley (1962)
Another book that I found for a dollar, (this one, the 1968 Bantam Books edition, at Frugal Muse), John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley is so far a delight. I have long been a fan of Steinbeck but didn’t know much of his later work, including this one. In 1960, when he was almost 60 years old, Steinbeck decided to reacquaint himself with America. And what better way to do this then driving across the country with his dog Charley? He says early on in the book that the comment he got most from people wherever he went was “I wish I was doing that.” And you know what, so do I. Back in 2014 I traveled around the country by myself for a total of 80 days, visiting old friends and making new ones. It was perhaps the best thing I’ve ever done, and in some ways, the hardest. The pandemic, along with other situations in my life, have made me feel trapped, like I’m sure millions of you feel as well. Starting out on this journey with Steinbeck made me feel like I can breathe a little more, be a little more free. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this book and am so glad I picked it up.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Peace is Every Step: The Path to Mindfulness in Everyday Life (1991)
The world recently lost a giant in the form of a small Vietnamese Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I’ve been listening to his talks and reading his books for about 15 years now. I had been interested in Buddhism since I was very little, but being raised Roman Catholic had next to no actual knowledge of it. When I came to study on my own the first big two names I read were the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh. At this point I can’t honestly remember the first thing I read by either of them but this little book of his, which I found in a Free Little Library in San Diego, is one that has stuck with me and that I pull out fairly often. Like many of his books it is very easy to dip into a little at a time but come out with enough wisdom to contemplate for days, weeks, or longer. One need not be a Buddhist to enjoy his works and to find deep meaning in them. I would honestly recommend this book, and so many of his others, to essentially every person I’ve ever met. Rest in peace Thay, even though a cloud never dies 🙂
Guide to Literary Agents 30th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
After working on a novel on and off for a number of years I tasked myself with finishing it before 2022, and indeed, on December 31, 2021, I officially finished my manuscript. Less than a week later the celebration came to a quick and abrupt end when I was knocked on my ass by covid. Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated and boosted and so while there were a rough few days, I soon recovered and was able to start working on writing again. So, with a finished manuscript, that means the next step is trying to find an agent to represent it. Enter the Guide to Literary Agents – the gold standard when it comes to finding an agent when, like me, you have no personal connections whatsoever. I’ve only started to peruse them in search of ones who are interested in the type of work I create, but hopefully somewhere in there is one because, as writers so often like to remind themselves, and rightly so, it only takes one “Yes.” There may be hundreds or thousands of rejections before that, but all you need is that one yes. It is a long process, and perhaps that’s a good thing, because the world is already choking on too many books, and I’m sure the process, which is rather daunting to many (including me) scares plenty people off. But I’m in it for the long haul, because without writing I don’t know what worth I have.
What’s everybody out there reading right now? Do you usually have multiple books going at the same time, or do you pick one and see it straight through? Personally I can go back and forth, but most often have at least two books going, switching off depending on my mood/time of day/etc.
Okay, that’s all for now, keep writing, keep reading, and keep trying to focus on the possibility of good things ahead, something that I constantly struggle with, but is very necessary.