Thursday, July 30, 2009

Incoming Books: 30 July

In my house, vacation time means many things. But one of the most important is that I get some serious book-shopping time in. And so today, while The Wife was at work -- since retail never ends -- I took my two sons to the Montclair Book Center, the best new/used bookstore I know in New Jersey, for an extended stroll through their wares. The boys came out with one Gundam manga volume (Thing 1), two Junie B. Jones novels (Thing 2), and four assorted Garfield books (both).

And I got:

Lawrence Block's recent memoir/meditation on running, Step by Step, which I've already read, since it was available at the library one day I happened to be there. And now, since it happened to be in the book store the day I was there, I own my own copy.

I haven't yet read Christopher Buckley's memoir Losing Mum and Pup, though not through lack of trying -- I've been searching for it at the library for the last several months, without luck. So I bought it.

Has Roddy Doyle had a novel since Paula Spencer? It took me three years to get a copy of this one -- and I hope it doesn't take me that much longer to finally read it -- but I have the sense that I'm only this one book behind on him. (Literary writers can be nice that way; one book every three or four years is easy to keep up with.) This one is the sequel to his decade-old novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors.

I have a weakness -- shared, one way or another, with a lot of the book-buying population -- for books of funny snippets, easy to read and easy to put down. One of those is Leland Gregory's Idiots at Work: Chronicles of Workplace Stupidity. I'd never heard of it before I saw it at the store, but I bought it.

I've had Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files -- first in what I think will be a series of humorous family/mystery novels; there's already a sequel -- on my list of books to read for a while, but I've never quite gotten to it in the library. Maybe having a copy in my own house will mean I'll actually pick it up and read it; it looks good.

Another book I've actually picked up and looked at in the library -- but ended up buying in a store -- is Alberto Manguel's A Reading Diary. Manguel is the co-author of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, and a couple of other things that I think I've read, and this is a book about the books he was reading one year. I suspect his reading was aggressively highbrow, and that his musings on those books will be the same, but I love books about books, so I want to encourage them.

Merrill Markoe wrote some very funny TV for David Letterman's first late-night incarnation, and several equally funny books of essays. She also wrote at least one novel, It's My F---ing Birthday, which I hadn't known existed until approximately 11:15 this morning. It's a novel in seven monologues, or letters to herself, from a woman on seven birthdays in her life. I like funny novels, I like the way Markoe writes, and I'm a sucker for books with interesting structures, so I grabbed it.

The Book of Vice is subtitled "Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them)," which all by itself is a good enough reason to buy it. (The way that it vaguely mocks the mid-90s Bill Bennett The Book of Virtues is pretty good, too.) It's by Peter Sagal, who seems to be another one of those people with much, much more interesting and fulfilling careers than I do (broadcaster, playwright, screenwriter, writer for New York Times Magazine).

The American Future
goes on my Simon Schama pile -- with the three volumes of A History of Britain and with Rembrandt's Eyes, as well as three or four other books in various other places around here. There was a point at which I was reading Schama's books more quickly than he was writing them, but that time ended about a decade ago. Perhaps my mental image of myself as a man who reads Simon Schama books is in error?

I grabbed Mark Stein's How the States Got Their Shapes because I liked the title, and because I'm enjoying working my way (slowly) through State by State. As far as I can see, this book is exactly what it says it is.

I read Thy Neighbor's Wife -- the classic Gay Talese examination of the landscape of the sexual revolution of the '70s -- furtively as a young teenager, twenty-five or so years ago. I'd thought about it occasionally since then, but never expected to re-read it. But I saw this new HarperPerennial edition -- with updates from Talese and a foreword by Katie Roiphe -- and decided it was time to look at it again, and see what (if anything) of it I remembered.

And last for me was Donald E. Westlake's last Dortmunder novel, Get Real. It's a damn shame he's gone, but at least there's this one last book (and the upcoming, long-lost Memory) to remember him with.
Listening to: Cracker - Hand Me My Inhaler
via FoxyTunes

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