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Archive for April, 2011

What Is One Book You’ll Never Read?

We talk a lot on this blog about books we love. I could write all day about To Kill A Mockingbird or I, Claudius or any of the books currently in my top 5.

But here’s a topic of discussion for the weekend. What are some books that you know you’ll never read?

Maybe a book intimidates you, maybe it’s too vulgar or graphic, maybe it’s too “girly” or brutish, or maybe you just flat out don’t want to read it. You’ve got bias. I’ve got bias. There’s got to be one book out there that makes you throw up in your mouth a little bit.

I’ll start. I know, for a fact, that I’ll never read any book from the Twilight series. Sorry if I offend anyone. Stephanie Meyer has made a pretty penny off that series, and good for her. But I just have no interest in teenage vampire romances. Who knew that could even become a genre?

Now, your turn. What is one book you’ll never read, and why?

Dear Pretentious Reader: This One’s For You

You know the person. He or she professes to have read everything you ever mention. Everything. Even the obscure out-of-print German romance novel from the 1960s–you know, the one with the protagonist named Bjorn.

Here’s a great little skit from the hilarious show, Portlandia, that mocks said pretentious reader.

Is there a pretentious reader in your life?


How David Foster Wallace Brought Me To Tears

This guy could like write. (Photo via Steve Rhodes/Flickr)

Since I started 101 Books, I recall tearing up only once while reading–that was during one dreadfully depressing passage in Rabbit, Run.

It really takes a lot for a book to make my tear glands kick into gear. Although, I’ll admit that, after having a kid, I’m more prone to drop a happy tear every now and then for whatever reason.

There’s one passage in Infinite Jest that achieved that feat. At this point, I don’t even know how essential this passage was to the plot as a whole, but I only know it moved me.

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Margaret Mitchell Manuscript Avoids Tara-Like Fate

Way back in November, before most of you knew this blog existed, I reviewed an obscure little novel called Gone With The Wind. Heard of it?

Margaret Mitchell’s southern classic was book #5 for me–and, until I finish Infinite Jest, the longest novel I’ve read.  Anyway, the book has been in the news recently because the last four chapters of the original manuscript–once thought to be burned–have been discovered at a small library in Connecticut.

The story goes that Margaret Mitchell thought all of her work should be judged in final, not draft, form and she directed her husband to burn all of her early manuscripts after she died. Well he did that, almost.

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Some Early (and Random) Thoughts on Infinite Jest

Let me take you “behind the veil” of 101 Books. Truth is, I was reading Infinite Jest about a week before I posted about it.

I had to get a head start with this one, simply because of its length–and the fact that I don’t want to be posting about IJ for two months on this blog. That would wear everyone down. So while I was finishing up Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I had already started on Infinite Jest as well.

At this point, I’ve finished about 30% of the book–and I’m past the point where many readers give up and quit. And, I’ve got to admit, I’m starting to see why so many people are obsessed with this book. But I can also see why many readers get frustrated.

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Don’t Dump Those Bookcases Just Yet

Following my post about digital readers last month, I found this article from the New York Times interesting.

The article lists the gadgets that you should keep or get rid of. For instance, the author argues that desktop computers aren’t needed because laptops work just as well. He says point and shoot cameras and camcorders are no longer needed because of smartphone capabilities.

But, considering my stance on books,  I found this clever paragraph about digital readers and books encouraging:

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You’ll Need Some Help Reading Infinite Jest

I get the sense that many of you probably haven’t read Infinite Jest. It’s true, the book does look daunting and downright intimidating to read.

But the amazing thing about Infinite Jest is that there’s an entire world of resources out there to help you read this book. How many novels have companion readers and reference guides and wikis? This one does.

It’s unwise to attack Infinite Jest like it’s any other book. You need a plan.  Jason Kottke at kottke.org (seriously, like one of the oldest blogs ever) created this list of tips on how to read Infinite Jest, which I’ll definitely be following. Thanks to Jason for permission to repost these tips:

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Rankings Updated Through Book #15

Well, it’s that time again. It’s time to justify my rankings.

Here’s the deal. I update my rankings after reading each book. You can always go to the My Rankings page to see where things stand in my biased and subjective mind.

After each set of five books, I’ll make a post that explains what in the world I was thinking. This is your opportunity to belittle me for my ignorance and obvious bias.  I haven’t posted about the rankings since book #9, so I’ve got one extra ranking to justify this time. And here they are:

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Next Up: Infinite Jest

In the history of reading, I dare say that no person has ever–I repeat, for emphasis, ever–followed  Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret with reading Infinite Jest. But that’s what 101 Books is all about, friends. Breaking boundaries. Breaking boundaries.

But this novel intimidates me. There are a few books on the Time list that I doubt my ability to grasp–this is one of them. At nearly 1,100 pages, with 200 pages of footnotes, Infinite Jest is like some kind of holy grail of modern fiction writing. David Foster Wallace was (sadly, notice the past tense) freaking brilliant, and his brilliance as a writer scares me as a reader.

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Book #15: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Unspeakable things happen in a labor and delivery room. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. With my eyes.

June 16, 2010 was the day my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world, a little boy. On that day, I was certain, absolutely certain, that I would never again–or at least until we have a second child–experience what it means to be a woman like that.  Lights. Voices. Blood. Fluids. Apparatuses. God only knows what else.

This whole giving birth thing is pretty intense, I thought.  I could never do that. Thank God for women.

So I thought I had pretty much experienced the essence of womanhood. But, oh no. Dear Lord, no. Thanks to Judy Blume’s epic tale, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I learned that there’s much more to being a woman than childbirth.

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