Juancho’s 2011 Not Recommended Reading List

A little discussed aspect of my wellness program of 2011 is literature. When you give up certain behaviors and habits they must be replaced with something. Brown rice and kale are only part of the story. Books are an essential part of my continued turnaround. I have always been a reader and a lover of books. I worked in the FSU Strozier Library for the Inter-Library Loans office my first two years of college. I would rush through my rounds of picking up and dropping off titles to be loaned abroad so I could have the rest of my shift to browse the stacks and take naps on the ledge of the 5th floor, where they keep the Early American Literature.

In 1995-96 I worked for Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. At the time it was the largest independent bookstore in the country. I worked in a satellite store that specialized in books for cooks and gardeners. I was the guy who produced the UPC Scan stickers and put them on the books. I was happy to do it.

In recent years my taste became lazy. Challenging books began to intimidate me. Why bother? It will take forever. It’s probably stupid. With an entire bookcase of Louis L’Amour to work through, why would I ever ride my Appaloosa in off of the prairie?

Last September I set a goal of reading one book in particular, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I had read many of his non-fiction books and found his voice and breadth of references exhilarating. Reading DFW is like sticking your finger in the light socket over and over for fun. Infinite Jest was his most powerful wattage. This book was big enough to replace all kinds of demons and hobgoblins. So that is how it began: Brown rice, yoga, and 1,079 pages of compulsively footnoted compound sentences. As my brain woke up to the rigors of such a demanding read, I added new books to the list. I added some only because of their daunting reputations, and others because they caught my eye as books do.

I do not recommend any of these books to any of you, because recommending books is a lost cause. Books find us, and no third party can make a book the right choice for us at any given time. I draw inspiration and food for thought from many of you, so consider this a vanity post. As I pat myself on the back, feel free to read over my shoulder as you see fit. I will keep my comments brief.

Titles are linked, if you can’t tell.

Infinite Jest– It had to be done.
The Instructions Instant Favorite. Join the Side of Damage.
Chronic City– Late nights with Perkus Tooth
Cloud Atlas– The best 3 short stories and a novella to ever pretend to be a novel.
Freedom– Held my nose through the entire story, loathing everyone, then cried at the end.
State of Wonder– Chew all the flavor out of this one.
A Visit from the Goon Squad Rock and roll as high art
War– Happening right now.
Matterhorn– Dude must know people. Reads like an 8th grade book report. Not a good one.
Stephen King On Writing Stephen King must have serious issues with Infinite Jest.

Libra This is a fantastic book if you have trouble falling asleep. Well-crafted, but oh so what.

The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris. A tender account of an American affliction.

How about you guys, read any good books lately?


21 Responses to Juancho’s 2011 Not Recommended Reading List

  1. Actually, I am reading one that I am enjoying and every night when I turn the light out I say, “This is such an ODD book.”
    “An Arsonist’s Guide To Writer’s Homes In New England” by Brock Clarke

  2. The entire Daniell Woodrell catalogue, but you might want to pause after every 50 pages and take a shower. Not so true of Winter’s Bone.

  3. whatever, I’m re-reading The Hobbit.

    I will say, and not defensively, that I’m reading it to a 7 yr old.

    Next, I’ll read her that Infinite Jest thing; does it have Elves in it?

  4. At the risk of over-sell: Your reasons for reading Foster Wallace are pretty similar to my reasons for reading Heat Moon. Blue Highways is his most popular, and a delicious read — America, from the slimy underbelly to the purple-mountain majesty, as seen from a cot built into the back of a beat-up old microbus. When sentences are so well-crafted you want to shout out loud, and real people’s stories are more engaging than fiction, you’re reading Heat Moon.

    I’ma put somma your reads on my list, btw.

  5. Michael Chabon. (BAM!) “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier& Clay.”, also “Summerland” (which you could read to a 7 year old.

    Tim Powers. All of them, if you like some ghost stories.

    Neal Stephenson. “Cryptonomicon” to start and you’ll see.

    Nothing wrong with some Louis L’amor.

  6. Louis L’Amour taught me a lot about the woods, and waiting for them to draw first before you have to gun them down. Daybreaker for life.

  7. The only thing I read this year was “Snow Falling on Cedars”. I am still not sure how I feel about it. It goes from crazy passion to infinite detail, and then paints vivid pictures. Not a heavy read, but good.
    I have heard several people talk about that Stephan King book. I think it’s trying to find me.
    Thats all I got, I throw it back to you smart fellars now.

  8. I know it sounds weird, but my favorite reading lately is Cook This, Not That, by the Men’s Health guys. Not only are the recipes great, but they’re fun to read. Really! 🙂

  9. I can’t read that Least Heat Guy. Can’t do it.
    Keith Richards- Life. You’ll learn a lot. About guitar playing if nothing else.
    Tried to read The Help. Couldn’t do it. Various complex reasons. None of which had to do with the complexity of the book, obviously.
    I don’t think I can read DFW. I am not smart enough and not sure I want to be. Plus- excuse me? Depression?
    My advice- Always go back to Dickens.
    And that Stephen King book is his best, I do believe. Not that I’ve read a piece of fiction by him in years so I don’t really know.
    I’m going to the beach. I might take some Nancy Drew, a few Bobbsey Twins. I think I could maybe handle that.

  10. I read Infinite Jest 12 or 13 years ago. The only scene I can remember is when Hal’s in therapy and talks about coming home and something “smelled delicious” in the microwave.

    Perfect dark moment, that one.

  11. I would reiterate the Rev’s Stephenson recommendation. I have gotten into Stephenson this year and his works have dominated my time (when not reading King). Cryptonomicon is great, and his Baroque Cycle (trilogy) should follow, or precede, you choose.

    Which brings in Mr. King, Juancho. If perhaps unsure of leaving L’Amour on the shelf, read the whole Dark Tower series which is now finished and references his On Writing experience. You can borrow my set-I’ll bring it over in a saddle bag.

  12. Now I’m reading The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America,” by Timothy Egan. What a great story of the beginnings of our national parks and the move towards conservation! Can’t put it down!

  13. I’m reading “invisible Man” right now. A classic I missed. Intense. Like a fever dream in places. Totally agree about Freedom and Infinite Jest and Cloud Atlas. I think about Corpocracy a lot. We’re living it. Jennifer Eagan’s short story Safari that was in the New Yorker a while back killed me.
    Found your blog through Bless Our Hearts. I’ll be back.
    Have you read The God of Small Things? Stephen King would probably have something to say about that.

  14. Hey! I just checked back here and found this thread still alive. Invisible Man is one of my all-time favorites. I think the voice is spellbinding.