In the heat of August nights

August 2017

Books Bought:

  • Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
  • The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice – Deborah Adele
  • Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  • Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession – Ian Bostridge
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
  • The Once and Future King – T.H. White
  • Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Every Day Life – Caroline Myss 

Books Read:

  • Welcome to Night Vale – Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (unfinished)
  • Awake in the World – Michael Stone (unfinished)
  • Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton (unfinished)
  • Tibet: Opposing Viewpoints – Greenhaven Press (unfinished)
  • It – Stephen King (unfinished)
  • Full Wolf Moon – Lincoln Child
  • The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
  • Tribes – Seth Godin
  • A Field Guide to Lies: Critical Thinking in the Information Age – Daniel J. Levitin
  • Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom – Thomas E. Ricks (unfinished)
  • The House of the Worm – Mearle Prout (Short story)
  • Manuscript Found in a Milkbottle – Neil Gaiman (Short story)
  • Blood Monster – Neil Gaiman (Even shorter comic)
  • Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Every Day Life – Caroline Myss (unfinished)
  • Ten Years in the Tub – Nick Hornby (Aug ’04 – Oct ’04)

The month came and went much as anticipated. Work has ramped up, days at different locations across Central Florida, nights at rehearsal, and plans, as they most frequently do, change at the drop of a hat. Several of those plans were unfinished books. 

First of all, Welcome to Night Vale I had been meaning to read for some time. I had learned of the podcast (not listened to it yet either) and then the book, possibly through a spot on NPR. I thought I’d knock the novel out pretty quickly. Well, best laid plans and all that. I could not find a groove to read it in. It’s witty, it’s playful, and it borders on the absurd (all things I immensely enjoy in my reading), and yet I struggled to get through the first hundred and fifty pages, at which point I decided I would put the book down. That’s not quite halfway.

If you make it halfway through a book, you might as well keep reading it. Prior to the half, you should have some options at giving it up. Film critic Mike D’Angelo wrote about watching the first 10 minutes of a movie in much the same way I’m describing the principle of setting down the book before getting to the midpoint. “Basically, I give the movie 10 minutes to grab my attention. Most of them [non-reviewed or poorly-reviewed films] fail, and get turned off at that point. If I’m still interested, though, I’ll watch for another 10 minutes. There are two more potential bail-out points at 0:30 and 0:40; if I still want to keep going after 40 minutes, I commit to watching the entire film, even if it turns awful later” (My italics added).

Obviously ten minutes with a book is not enough time to give you the full breadth of what you’re sitting down with. But you can probably get a feel for whether you’re going to like it or not. Anyway, Night Vale just didn’t grab me in the way I wanted to be grabbed. It could be an off month for reading, though, and I do accept fault for some great books that I just can’t get through. (I’m looking at you, A Hundred Years of Solitude; Great Expectations; and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.)

In an odd twist of fate, I got a bookstore email advertising the new Night Vale novel, It Devours!. And the guilt just keeps piling on.

Awake in the World, Religion for Atheists, and Invisible Acts maintain a pretty consistent theme. Spirituality, theology and philosophy keep me interested, and I do tend to gravitate towards those nonfiction titles, when I’m not in the mood for escapist fiction. All remain unfinished, as my intention was more ambitious than I was capable of achieving. Alain de Botton’s book is something I learned about while listening to On Being, oh, some months ago. I was fascinated in listening to his interview, and planned to get the book. The concept of what atheism lacks in terms of how the non believers interact is the fundamental point of the study, and I got through a swath of community before finally understanding that it wasn’t to be finished this month.

Now I’m neither overtly religious, nor am I an atheist. One of the problems I have with religions is typically a group-think mentality, where heretical views are shunned out of hand. Atheism, conversely, I feel leaves little sense of wonder to the Universe, so vast and amazing that try as we might for generations to come, we’ll only scratch the surface of understanding it. So, I fit somewhere along the interior of the scale.

Ms. Myss’s book was assigned for the book club at yoga studio I practice at. In addition to not reading the bulk of the book (and at just a couple of hundred pages, I really am only making excuses), I was not able to attend book club, and let them know in person that I had barely cracked it open.

Awake in the World is a book of excerpts from talks given by the author, Buddhist and yogi Michael Stone. It’s a continuation of my exploration of the yogic arts, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, spirituality and the like. This was a nice, quick read, and I enjoyed the tone of this book for much. Some takeaways include the paradox of entering life fully while still existing in the realm of language and thought, the practice of yoga as it applies to living (not just practicing forms, and the inherent duality in the commonality of the Universe. Boom! (That is the sound of my mind being blown. Feel free to imagine doing the outstretched hands beside my head as well).

I purchased Yamas & Niyamas to read at a later time, or to study over the course of my yoga practice.

Both of Godin’s books also touched on faith or religion in one form or another. I had remembered reading The Icarus Deception a few years ago. As a matter of fact, it was one book I commonly cited as inspirational to my planning back then, before the “incident.” (The incident, which at some point I’m sure I will be comfortable enough to describe in detail in a post, or several, was round about a year and a half ago. I’m still seeing the effects of that incident, and the choices I made following. It’s one of the reasons I dedicated myself to keeping this blog.)

Going back to Godin, Icarus is a book I would suggest to everyone, but especially those who are artists, or creatives; those who feel stuck at work, or capable of doing great things yet don’t know where to start; and those who are searching for their purpose. I sat there with about twenty new projects popping to my head, and I just wish I had the time and resources to go after them all right now. Tribes I had also read before, but didn’t remember it until I was a few chapters in. For me, not as resonant as Icarus, and yet still bursting with anecdotes and suggestions for being a leader.

Two other nonfiction books were Churchill & Orwell, and Field Guide to Lies. I finished the latter but not the former, though I enjoyed both in what I did read. I really only got through pre-WWII information in Ricks’s book. The two men lived extraordinary lives, and I was particularly taken by the section on Churchill’s love life, such as it was.

In Lies, it’s a lot of information. Basically, unless you know the source of statistical data, you should probably be dubious of what you’re told anecdotally or by the media.

Additionally, I’ve had a feeling of Halloween nearly this entire month. Part of that is owing to It, which I decided to read prior to the film coming out. At over a thousand pages in its paperback version, I had my work cut out for me. I made it halfway this month, and intend to finish it off for next month.

Full Wolf Moon was an odd little read, but I enjoyed the suspenseful nature of it. I’ve had a love affair with lycanthropy since I was a young boy. (I believe all young boys like werewolves, or like to be scared of werewolves. That’s normal, right?) Yet, and not to give away much, the villain wasn’t quite what I anticipated, and the supernatural elements left me equally unfulfilled. It seemed to me to be a right-brainer’s werewolf book.

Feeling in the spirit of a pagan holiday nearly two months away, I picked up copies of Call of Cthulu and Meddling Kids. Hell, even Hamlet has a ghost! I picked up this copy because it was an Arden printing, and on sale.

Let me mention Edgar Cantero, who I discovered several years ago with The Supernatural Enhancements. I enjoyed the book, loved the premise, the style, and the writing. I had been out from work for a week with a flare-up of arthritis, and started reading it. I finished it within a day or two. When I learned that he had a new work coming out, this one a loose take on Scooby-Doo, well, yeah, I had to get that. Hoping to read it over the next few weeks, as I’m giving It my full-ish attention.

Winter Journey and On Writing (King again) are books that I’ll read over the coming months, interspersed within my other endeavors. For those of you unfamiliar with Schubert’s Winterreise, and if you like male operatic singing, give it a listen. It’s lonely, sad, and evokes the seasonal isolation of snowy winter. Nothing like sunny Florida.

Then there’s Once and Future King, a lovely edition in yellow that is added to my book shelf more for aesthetic than reading. Somewhere I have a beat-up paperback of the book, along with a similarly ragged copy of The Book of Merlyn.

In spare time (hah!) I was able to knock out a couple short stories. Neil Gaiman remains generally my favorite author, and I had purchased his Humble Bundle a few years back as well, and still had some unread works in there. Honestly, I haven’t finished View from the Cheap Seats or even started Norse Mythology. So, that’s in my pile of books waiting for me to show them love and affection.

I found a journal entry, maybe from early last year, where I wrote, “…why I buy books. I seem to buy them to avoid reading what I have.” Then I come across this little gem in Ten Years in the Tub: “[So Many Books author Gabriel] Zaid’s finest moment, however, comes in his second paragraph, when he says that ‘the truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.'”

As I think about my growing library, and how long I’ll continue collecting thoughts about what I’ve read, I look forward to knowing that I could spend a small fortune on books. Or, maybe I’m just resigned to the fact. Time to get another bookshelf.


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