Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Mid-Month Post, Because I Was Too Excited

"The techniques of opening conversation are universal. I knew long ago and rediscovered that the best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be

-Travels with Charley
John Steinbeck

As I was writing my weekly letter as demanded by my "25 Things To Do While I'm 25" list, I realized how low on the lovely personalized stationary that Santa brought me I am, and realized that I've now been 25 for 5 months! This is no real relevance to this post at all, I just thought it was an interesting way for me to measure time. Funny how fast and slow time can go at the same time. I just saw the first lightning bug of the season tonight (because the first lightning bug is determined by when I see it and no one else) and almost cried--it's almost summer. I love spring. I think I love it because it's often elusive--just when you think it's spring, it turns back to winter, and you have one beautiful day when you can smell the hyacinths on a pretty (but not too hot) day and then it's sweltering and you're in a bathing suit that you aren't quite ready for.

This may seem random, but it's certainly got me thinking about summer books. There are two times of year that people ask for books the most--summer time and Christmas time, and summer time is the most fun. Next week (hopefully), I'm going to be posting about the perfect summer reads for all your reading needs! So look out for that one.

In the meantime, I wanted to make a mid-month update on what I've been reading because frankly, I've been killing it in the reading arena.

I think I've written about my young love affair with non-fiction before, though not in great detail, but it is a love affair that I do so enjoy. Every once in a while, I need to clear my head with a good non-fiction read. If you are in that mode too, and frankly even if you aren't, please, for your sake, pick up Joshua Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein. First of all, if you know me and have ever asked me for a book recommendation, you know that one of the first things I ask is "So, you've read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, right?" I do love my Jonathon Safran Foer, so when I saw that his younger brother had written a book, I was all in. Moonwalking with Einstein is a combination of journalism and memoir that from what I've seen has been rivaled recently only by Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Foer takes on an assignment to talk about the US Memory Championships (yes, it's a real thing) where super-nerds congregate in attempts to out-memorize each other. They memories the orders of decks of cards, random words, poems, etc. and are judged on their abilities. Foer was so interested in this, that he decided to take one of the champions up on his offer to train for the next year's competition. Foer writes about not only his own training and such, but the history of memory and the devolution of memory in our society. This might sound like a boring topic, but Foer weaves the history and case studies in so well with his own memoir portions that it becomes a seamless narrative where you don't realize you're learning anything until the end. My favorite part was his explanations of how to develop and use a Memory Palace where, in order to remember a list of things, you envision a house that you are familiar with and place the things in the list around the house as you traverse it in your mind. His visits with people with memory issues (people who can't forget and people who can't remember) are well done and fascinating.

Sincerely, pick up Moonwalking with Einstein... it's a pretty quick read and will make you think about your own memory and how you use and abuse your brain. Fascinating stuff! Like I said, you'll like this one especially if you liked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!

The other book I picked up since my last post was John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. As you know, I just read Of Mice and Men pretty recently, but I kind of fell in love with Steinbeck's prose, and a friend of mine had read Travels with Charley and recommended it so I thought I'd pick it up. Again, if you know me, you know how I adore On the Road (and almost anything Beat Generation besides Burroughs... too creepy) and I think that part of the reason I love it (besides just loving on Jack) is because I love the idea of travelling by car (even though I was constantly carsick as a girl). I love the notion of freedom that it gives and the possibilities that surround it. So when I figured out that Travels with Charley is about Steinbeck's trip across America with his dog in a camper, I was so in. I loved it. It may be one of my favorite travel books ever. Steinbeck makes no pretensions about trying to "find America" because he knows that it's impossible--you might take the same exact trip and meet the same exact people as he did and you'd still come away with a completely different experience. It's what makes us humans. All he wants to do is tell us what he's seen and share his observations. It's lovely and refreshing. He meets and talks to all kinds of people about all kinds of things, he discusses the loneliness of the road and how it's like nothing else. Frankly, it made me want to pack my bags and just head out there. One of the most profound and interesting parts of the book was when he discussed the race riots and desegregation of schools that were happening in the South when he passed through there on his way home and how it affected him. His prose is clean and beautiful and it really got me at the core, which is what reading is all about.

Travels with Charley is short and a quick read as well and would be perfect before the planning of any trip or when you feel like you need to connect with something.

So those are my past two books and I couldn't wait to share them until the end of the month!

Next week, I hope to have a good summer list to you (I got an advance copy of a book from HarperCollins that I'll be sharing!) so that you can get a jump on all the great things out there for the beach, for when you're stuck at home wishing you were at the beach, or for finally catching up on things you've missed out on over the winter!

It's a pretty summer-ish night here, and as I finish my glass of wine I sign off before I venture outside into the lightning bugs again.

Happy reading,

1 comment:

  1. Wow Stephanie this was very insightful and whenever the never ending duties of motherhood let up I will pick these up. I'm re-reading A Light in August and it brings back many memories of high school english with Bartucci. Anywho love ya and happy reading.-Lenise