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My Summer Reading List

I have an ambitious reading list for this summer. Just like my dedication of two hours to write a day (or ten hours per week), I’m challenging myself to read for ninety minutes a day on Monday thru Wednesday plus Friday, or six hour a week. I tend to read 40 pages in an hour, 50 when I’m really feeling it, so if we take my optimistic number and combine it with six hours that’s 300 pages per week. Starting this week through the end of August, that’s fifteen weeks or 4500 pages. …That seems like a lot. I may have to re-think this. In the meantime, let’s get a little ambitious this morning!

All of these are selections I’ve never read before, so I have a completely fresh slate of stories awaiting me. Here they are in no particular order:

Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel, 272 pages)

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (fiction novel, 288 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (nonfiction novel, 307 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (nonfiction novel, 274 pages) * Excelsior UMC Men’s Book Club selection

The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockemeier (short story collection, 288 pages)

Tin House #39 (short stories and poetry, 200 pages)

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph (nonfiction short story collection, 208 pages)

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (nonfiction, 320 pages)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (fiction, 528 pages… I can’t find the abridged version, which the Ron Book Team has decided is just fine for our summer reading) * Ron Book Team selection

How to Think Theologically by Howard W. Stone & James O. Duke (textbook, 126 pages)

Best American Short Stories 2008 (short story collection, 384 pages)

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (fiction novel, 272 pages)

I also have the following to “read” on audio, all of which are re-reads for me:

On Writing by Stephen King (nonfiction novel)

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (short story collection)

Up in Honey’s Room by Elmore Leonard (fiction novel)

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman (kinda-sorta-not-really nonfiction novel)

From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (fiction novel)

That’s only 2235 pages – a far cry from the 4500 pages I calculated above. I think I’m going to be reading a lot slower than at my 50-pages per hour clip. I’ll be reading short stories and each one of those deserves to be digested slowly like little meals unto themselves. Some of the novels are for Men’s Book Club and I want to slow down and annotate them so I can better lead discussion sessions. And others I hope are so good I’ll need to slow down and savor them (Road Dogs). I’ll keep you posted as I finish different stories.

Right now, Kelly and I are almost finished with the audio version of From a Buick 8 and I’m about forty pages into The Last Picture Show and really enjoying it. I hope to finish it before I go to camp and start on a new book by then, too (that’s June 13, for readers who aren’t in the know).

What are you reading this summer?

-nm

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Books I gave, books I got

Merry Christmas, dear reader.

Books I received as gifts:

Best American Short Stories 2008 guest edited by Salman Rushdie

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Books I gave as Christmas gifts:

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

1957 by Pradt & Dexter

1954 by Pradt & Dexter

21 Dirty Trick at Work by Phipps & Gautrey


Multiple Blessings by Jon & Kate Gosselin

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King on audio book

Barrelhouse Magazine – Roller Derby edition (for my wife)

I’ve never owned my own copy of O’Brien’s book, though I’ve read it, and will enjoy having a copy I can annotate at my leisure. As for the latest Best American edition, I’m excited to see some great writers: T.C. Boyle, Alice Munro, Toby Wolff, Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Lethem, and – hooray, hooray! – Kevin Brockmeier. This last author’s story is tops to be read first.

What books did you give / did you receive for Christmas?

-nm

Your Friday Recommendation #3.

Young writers who are contemplating whether or not to try tackling the short story should give read some of the best out there. There are plenty of collections and anthologies out there, but the Best American Short Stories series is one you can rest assured lives up to its name.

Best American Short Stories is a collection comprised of precisely what its title indicates, and always features a guest editor who is usually of some high literary stature. 2007 saw Stephen King edit one of the largest collections yet, and his introduction detailing his process of story selection and his thoughts on where the short story fits in modern literature is worth the price of admission alone. As for Best American, one can pick up any volume and find several stories worth their time from both established and new voices. I’m a fan of short stories because they lend themselves to single-serving reading; I can read a great short story in bed and have some closure before turning out the light. Likewise, the short story is a writer’s perfect vehicle for embracing constraints in their craft. Novels take a certain skill, no one debates that, but the short story requires a whole other skill set, and the artist who is able to pull off both is impressive, indeed.

The cover posted is from the 2003 collection, featuring one of my favorite short stories of all time, “Space” by three-time O. Henry Prize winner Kevin Brockmeier. I’m a sucker for father/son stories, and I’ve got a soft spot on my reading list for this engrossing metaphor of a tale. You can pick up a copy of Best American Short Stories of 2003 at bookcloseouts.com for two bucks, plus find plenty of work by Brockmeier at great prices, too. Otherwise, check your favorite bookstore – the latest 2007 Stephen King-edited volume is available pretty much everywhere – or visit your local library for a shelf filled with Best American volumes.

Read a volume and apply what you’ve learned to your craft.

-nm