Friday, July 4, 2008

Summer Reading: So Many Books, So Little Time

Between book store remainder sales and BookMooch, I've found that I have amassed an absurd number of books to read for fun. While I should be reading in preparation for my dissertation, I have found myself alternating between reading research for my upcoming lit review and reading other things.

While I wasn't a fan of Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why or Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer, I thoroughly enjoyed Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor. While I found Bloom's and Prose's books to be a little dry (I didn't make it through Prose's book), Foster's writing is interesting and informative. His writing is able to convey the necessary ideas while also being entertaining. Moreover, while his writing is very accessible, you never get the sense that he is speaking down to his audience. Foster recently came out with a new book, How to Read Novels Like a Professor. It is currently sitting on my nightstand, and I am looking forward to reading it.

While I was at the bookstore buying Foster's book, the bookseller enthusiastically recommended Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman. Since one of my favorite books from a class I TA'd during my master's program was Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, I decided to give Ex Libris a try. I am currently halfway through the book, and while I have not had the same rhapsodizing experience as the bookseller, I am really enjoying it. Although some of Fadiman's ideas are completely different than mine (she is very particular about how to arrange her books and she loves the romanticism of people who aspire to greatness only to fall short), I like her writing style. Today, with a book credit I had from Borders, I actually picked up another book of essays by Fadiman, ensuring that I will spend more on books than food this month.

Lest you think I am only reading essays and nonfiction (even though that is usually the case), I am also reading The Portable Dorothy Parker. While I was somewhat familiar with Parker's writing before (most notably her scathing assessment of Katherine Hepburn's performance: "She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B"), I hadn't actually read a lot of her work before. What I appreciate about Parker's short stories is that she is witty, honest, and refreshingly unsentimental. The only problem with this book is that it is a trifle large. Unlike the Fadiman collections or Foster's new book, The Portable Dorothy Parker isn't all that portable.