Diversions in Literature: My Long, Long Reading List

Those who have known me for a while know that I’ve had periods of being an avid reader, mostly in elementary and high school. Despite my preference in activities shifting in the past few years, I still love books, and have bookmarks on a number of tomes on my shelf.

For anyone interested in my thoughts on a number of books, keep reading. There’s some good stuff in here, despite my having not finished them. Each entry is marked with the title, author and how much of it I’ve completed to date…

Nonfiction

Mao: The Unknown Story
Jung Chang and Jon Halliday
22/617 pages.

This monster of a book has been sitting on my shelf for years, but I still some day want to go back and read it beginning to end. Jung Chang‘s Wild Swans was such a powerful and engrossing read that, years later, I’m still excited to read this.

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Jon Lee Anderson
135/754 pages.

Somewhat of a companion, to my mind, to the above. The summer before university started, these two (particularly Che) were my main reading materials. Knowing little about the famous figure that was Che Guevara, I picked up the book and started reading it. Anderson somehow weaves a compelling narrative, in great detail about Che’s early life, even for someone whose knowledge of its subject is somewhat lacking.

The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television
Edited by Tiffany Potter and C.W. Marshall
56/230 pages.

I take television seriously, both from an artistic standpoint and a cultural one. I believe artistic works, particularly mass-audience works like television shows, have a profound effect on how we perceive the world around us. We learn from them, see our reflections within them, and (if we’re lucky) begin to see the world in a new light because of them. I love media criticism and literary criticism of scripted television, because occasionally the show proves itself to be worth the analysis. The Wire is one such show. This book, reflecting on how The Wire tells stories about “a part of America that has never seen the inside of a Starbucks”, is a collection of fascinating essays on the show. If you’ve seen all five seasons, a very worthwhile read.

The Island of the Colorblind
Oliver Sacks
76/199 pages.

Oliver Sacks wrote what is very likely my favourite book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, a book based on case studies he’s encountered within his work as a neurologist. That book challenged how I viewed identity, personhood, and the idea of the soul, just by recounting the stories and experiences of real people. The Island of the Colorblind is similar, in that it provokes real thought about what we perceive as ‘normal’ in our sight-centric communities, by taking us into communities with a heavy colorblind population. Part travelogue, part anthropological study, it’s a very engaging read.

In the Blink of an Eye
Walter Murch
6/146 pages.

After reading The Conversations, the book-long series of interviews Murch did with Michael Ondaatje, I was really impressed with both men and their approach to storytelling. Two separate profs that semester recommended Murch‘s book, In the Blink of an Eye.  I really enjoy the tone of the book, despite the fact that I’ve only made a little headway into it.

Who’s Your City?
Richard Florida
66/316 pages.

Richard Florida‘s previous books based about his theory about creativity and cities really resonated with me. His methodology has been criticised by some, but I really think he’s on to something, particularly within the idea that every person is capable of creativity, and may indeed thrive in it. This book looks at city-regions and the types of people each suits best.

Relocating Television: Television in the Digital Context
Edited by Jostein Gripsrud
Unstarted.

The Television Will Be Revolutionized
Amanda D. Lotz
Unstarted.

Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers and Other Media Paratexts
Jonathan Gray
Unstarted.

All thee of the above are the result of a late-night (or rather, early morning) shopping binge on Amazon.com. I’m really interested in the future of television, and the differnce between the medium (the television set itself) and the format (x-length serialised video narrative). The first two seem like really interesting books addressing the future of TV in that context. The last is also something that really intrigues me: ass book about how promos, spoilers, etc. have become part of the television experience. Having watched Lost for 6 years, I definitely see the interest there.

Fiction

Old City Hall
Robert Rotenberg
12/369 pages.

I picked this up at Indigo, thinking it looked pretty fun. I’d still like to give it a complete read, because I very much enjoyed the opening chapter. Right now, though, I tend to take my fiction in television show form.

House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski
334/528 pages.

This is another one I’ve had on the shelf for a long time, chipping away at it every so often. It’s a fascinating, bizarre book, wondrous and strange and creepy. Also, Danielewski is the brother of singer Poe, whose second album Haunted had a lot of references to this book.

The Hour I First Believed
Wally Lamb
396/723 pages.

I’ve been a fan of Lamb ever since reading I Know This Much is True in high school, and then later reading She’s Come Undone. His characters really live and breathe, and he’s great at showing the descent from normalcy to crisis and how people attempt to recover.

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One response to “Diversions in Literature: My Long, Long Reading List

  1. Pingback: Diversions in Literature II: Unexpected Progress | The Diversionist

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