Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts – TED2012

Susan Cain is so inspiring.

I read her book, Quiet, in 2013 and nearly every page spoke to me. Not only is she a powerful writer, but she is quite the public speaker, despite acknowledging that being up in front of a large TED audience is not her “natural milieu.”

Favorite reads of 2010

[Like my 2009 list, this isn’t specific to works that were published in the said year, but rather just a list of things I got my hands on that I specifically enjoyed.]

2010 was a bit of a strange year for my reading habits: it started out voraciously, yet segued into me putting myself on a “time out” from reading books, as I believed that I needed to be doing more and reading less. This was a reverse in policy for me, from which I’ve yet to analyze the effects, but I still managed to experience some damn fine reads. Writing reviews or summaries is not my prerogative here, so I’m just writing whatever first comes to mind.

All in the Timing: Fourteen Plays by David Ives

Absurdity? Sex? Nostalgia? Regret? Sardonic…ness? Golf? All wrapped in delicious comic wit, with more puns than are able to be punished. Thanks to my friend Margaret for this recommendation.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

You can just tell something is wrong even before the shift occurs. Makes one wonder whether it was ever not too late. Reading the foreword made me question whether I—or anyone—really deserved to enjoy her work the way in which it was published. I can’t recall the edition I read, but in it was chronicled the contentious atmosphere of its publication due to its Roman à clef nature. I do readily recall gazing at the image of her on the back cover between reading chapters; being mesmerized by the enigmatic look on her face and beautiful stark composition of the photograph.

Revenge of the Lawn

Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan
He’ll wile you, alright. Some of the shortest of Brautigan’s shorts, they offer dream feelings and real feelings, with sincerity and play that can’t be faked. You may just laugh out loud… per page. And then wonder why you aren’t documenting all the little stories in your life and dispersing them as spores and pages.

Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge—A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution by Terence McKenna
The big thinker that pushed my own skepticism to its limits and changed my view of reality. Seriously. Meticulously researched, elegantly presented, and far from infeasible, Terrence offers a theory of human evolution that is so plausible that it’s crazy; crazy that it’s not discussed more, if only just for an exercise in thinking and possibility. For some unique, imaginative vision, and sincere concern about and suggestions for the current state of the human race and planet as a whole, drop a dose of this text.

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
Meta-fiction that will blow your mind. Get a pen and paper ready: you may need the aid of diagrams to keep track of the multiple layers of reality that unfold within these pages. Like Inception but with more nightmares, singing, and devils. A masterful debut from a serious literary genius.

Wild Ducks Flying Backward

Wild Ducks Flying Backward by Tom Robbins

Short essays, poems, musings, odes, and other such things from one of America’s most creative and stylistic minds. If his novels— with their outrageous themes and goofball characters—are too “out there” for you, this collection may be more approachable. Wild Ducks is also strong evidence that this man can write about anything, and that few out there can dance with words the way he does. I keep trying to find a suitable passage to reproduce here, but no snippet does the collection justice. My favorite is an essay entitled “In Defiance of Gravity,” in which Robbins describes his reasons for not taking his own life—as so many other important authors have done before him—and then proceeds to preach the importance of playfulness and its deficiency in the American literati around us.

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I’m looking forward to starting up my reading habits with renewed vigor this year, so please, don’t hesitate to comment with your suggestions or give your take on any of these that you may have read!

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Re-reads…

Cut to now: Ives is pummeling me one act at a time; rewind to recent: Calvino just re-reinforced the magical notion of love and existence and being with only 15 pages or so.— I want to revisit J.K. Toole for a stout ‘Nawlins fiction capsule; to greet again Joseph Heller so he can seriocomic me to death with alternating bouts of laughter and harrowing flashbacks; I want to absorb and be ensconced in Tom Robbins’ writing, that which can make the farthest-out fairy-tales seem scientific and dry by comparison; to let Beckett make me happy by making me sad… and unsettlingly scared. To have J.D.’s Zooey make a phone conversation in a sunlit bedroom force me to forget that anything besides feelings can possibly exist.

My acquisitive nature has me trying to read this contemporary work or that hallowed classic, for enjoyment, yes, but sometimes for status’ sake: to claim that yes, I have read that, or him, or her. But those ideas and words that have already impacted me at very specific moments and places in my life… to not re-explore them again is such a disservice. Half of the books I’ve read so far this year have been re-reads, and I’m so glad of that. Sometimes the experience doesn’t have the luster of that first time, but sometimes they attain a higher level of meaning and significance. A two-day-long binge on Naked Lunch and Trout Fishing in America fueled the ignition of my first bout of real dedicated writing, and colored the results with… well, Burroughs’ lurid, borderline grotesque colors and Brautigan’s short episodic dalliance.

If you have a beloved copy arranged on your shelf, spine staring at you even when you’re not looking at it, do yourself a favor the next time you add yet another suggestion to your never-ending “to-read” list: use the pre-Netflix equivalent of the “top of the queue” button and pull that old-love book of yours off your shelf and put it onto your bed: it’ll be there for lazy mornings, troubled nights, and the best mid-day nap.

My Favorite Books of 2009

This is not a “Best of 2009” list; rather, it’s a list of my favorite books that I read in 2009. If you and I have discussed literature before and—however faintly—share a similar taste, you may benefit from some of these suggestions. I’m also proffering this list not just as a suggestion, but as a window into my tastes for those that don’t know me that well. Books, by nature, are more of a commitment than an album or a film, and receiving a good recommendation from a friend is a prize that I cherish.

In no particular order:

Watt by Samuel Beckett [Irish]. Thanks to Kristen for recommending this. Beckett’s permutational enumerations can be grudging to get through, yet they may in fact be the least frightening aspect of this confounding and unsettling beast of a novel. Highly recommended for those that wish to be confused about life and art. Try reading it out loud if you don’t “get it.”

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett [Irish]. Technically a play, but still. If you think ten sentences is the bare minimum needed in order to describe a character putting on a piece of clothing, this may be for you. Also: you think God is dead.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami [Japanese]. Thanks Andrew + Michelle. Reading about a character doing their laundry has never been so entertaining as it is here. Also, it’s pretty mysterious.

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger [American]. This was my 2nd time reading this collection. If you list Catcher in the Rye as one of your favorite books, promptly repent by reading any of his other works. You’ll be doing me and Mr. Salinger both a favor (I’ve read that he hates that he’s most known for Catcher). Nine Stories is a good place to start. Read the Glass family quadrilogy next. Franny and Zooey gets more attention, but don’t forget about Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess [English]. Terrific language. Make sure to grab the edition with the extra final chapter; it’s what the author intended but publishers originally omitted. Gives a different vibe than the (excellent) film version.

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan [American]. If you’ve ever wanted to live on a commune built on absurdity and love, if you think poetry isn’t dead, or if you’ve ever loved someone who is built from different ions than you, read In Watermelon Sugar.

The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien [Irish]. Thanks again to Andrew + Michelle. 2nd time reading this one as well. The best novel about murder and bicycles that I’ve yet read. That said, no synopsis can really prepare you for what lies within the pages here. Marvelous.