The Books of December

More or less. I’ve got a lot of books to catch up on. Here’s the first batch.



Beartown — Fredrik Backman (2017)

Dropped it after just a cou­ple of chap­ters. I like hock­ey but not this much. And I don’t sim­pati­co with the char­ac­ters. The idea of an entire town’s future rest­ing on the backs of a bunch of high school­ers is just to famil­iar. Small town foot­ball and the pre­dictabil­i­ty of the thing…. Etc. Anyway I didn’t read it past about the 20% point.
* Just didn’t care what happened. *


Paris in the Present Tense — Mark Helprin (2017)

More aca­d­e­mics behav­ing bad­ly. And late life exis­ten­tial crises. There are some live­ly descrip­tions of music, a young woman, and Paris. The side kick is help­ful­ly vapid but don’t actu­al­ly know why I fin­ished this one. It’s been high­ly praised but I found it pre­dictable. And the end­ing well, it’s far too pat for me. Though the mur­der mys­tery from the mur­der­ers point of view is kind of amus­ing. The writ­ing is nice­ly competent.
* I read a lot of sto­ries about Paris lately. *


On Imagination — Mary Rufle (2017)

I’ve read this twice and will read it again. There is a small goat with a sil­ver bell on a blue rib­bon around it’s neck liv­ing in Mary Rufle’s attic. How she (he? Rufle nev­er do says if her goat has a gen­der) got there is the mat­ter of the essay. On cre­ativ­i­ty, the muse, and what imag­i­na­tion actu­al­ly means.
Rufle says that ask­ing a poet to describe imag­i­na­tion is like ask­ing a fish to describe the sea. It is that in which the cre­ative swim and it doesn’t ever stop being a part of the thought process if not the entire thought process. She goes on to char­ac­ter­ize the rela­tion­ship between the thinker and imag­i­na­tion in star­tling deep ways.
It did feel a bit preda­to­ry to pay 8 dol­lars for what amounts to a mid-sized essay But I think that there is enough meat here to make me feel like I got val­ue for the money.
* I might by the paper copy just to have the illus­tra­tions done up nicely. *


The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds — Micheal Lewis — Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris (2016)

Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman invent­ed the field of behav­ioral eco­nom­ics. This book, sad­ly, isn’t about that, it’s a biog­ra­phy of an intel­lec­tu­al col­lab­o­ra­tion that derails in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion and frankly it’s a lit­tle bit creepy. I’d have rather heard a lot more about the things that they are research­ing than the grue­some details of their lop­sided work­ing rela­tion­ship. When the end of a rela­tion­ship between two researchers is char­ac­ter­ized as a divorce… And while I appre­ci­ate the effect that the Holocaust, the German occu­pa­tion of France, and their expe­ri­ences in Israel after WWII had on the two men, I real­ly did­n’t need the in-depth his­to­ry lessons. If you’re look­ing for a book that will bring you up to speed on the var­i­ous tricks and illu­sions that your mind brings to the decision-making process (and that is what these two men were study­ing) look elsewhere.
* There must be a bet­ter resource than this. *

The Graveyard Book — Gaiman — Narrated by the Author (2008)

I love this sto­ry of Nobody Owens raised by his Guardian and looked after by the denizens of a ceme­tery after the (in true fairy tale fash­ion) gris­ly death of his fam­i­ly while he is a toddler.
* It mag­nif­i­cent­ly sat­is­fies the urge to be told a story. *



Lincoln in the Bardo — George Saunders (2017)

Also lis­tened to Lincoln in the Bardo — hav­ing read it recent­ly. The audio pro­duc­tion includes dozens (hun­dreds?) of voic­es and is fun to lis­ten to but if I hadn’t already read the book I would have been utter­ly lost. This one is best read in the for­mat it’s designed for — the large pages of the hard­back edition.
* so many voic­es, so much fun *