Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh is a the non-fiction account written of the decade this self-proclaimed “rogue sociologist” spent conducting research in one of the most infamous public housing projects in Chicago. Venkatesh became acquainted with a gang leader and his associates, as well as an intricate cast of characters that included prostitutes, Chicago Housing Authority building managers, Housing Police, clergymen and tenants. The book reveals a fascinating picture of the hidden economy and organization found within a society immersed in urban poverty. This was an impulse purchase from my local independent bookstore. I was trying to understand gang culture and I thought this book might provide some insights. This was a fascinating book and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of a world most of us know very little about.
Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. Coetzee is a Nobel Prize winning South African ex-pat who has been living in
The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. Two things led me to this one. The first is that it was a selection from the Odyssey Book Store signed first edition book club that I belong to so it was already in my TBR stack. Then I read an interview with Chris Bohjalian at The Writers’ Group blog and he was so charming, I wanted to read the book, and I’m glad I did. There are a number of elements that make this an especially innovative novel, but probably the biggest is the incorporation of characters from Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. A very interesting premise and an ending I didn’t see coming. Warning: Ello, I’m talking to you – do not read the last few pages of the book until you get to them or you’ll ruin the book for yourself!
Torch, by Cheryl Strayed. I first read about Cheryl Strayed at Kate Hopper’s blog. I subsequently ordered the “Best of” collections in order to read her essays and liked them so much that I ordered her debut novel, Torch. The book follows the path of a family in a small town in
The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall was a recommended read from The Electric Orchid Hunter when I posted my January reads. The nice thing about book recommendations from friends in the blogosphere is that it’s pretty easy to guess whether or not you’ll like the types of books they do by looking at their profiles. The EEO has several books that I loved listed, so I was anxious to read this one. You either love this type of book or you don’t. It would be easy to pigeon hole this with the growing category of stories that begin with a young amnesiac trying to piece together his past, but that would be a vast oversimplification. This book is Memento meets Fight Club meets the movie Jaws, taken to the next level and all written in flawless prose. Still confused? It’s part sci-fi, part literary thriller, part love story, part adventure story. I really enjoyed the book and expect to see a lot more from this talented English writer.
How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard. I picked this up because how could I not? I’m a sucker for books about reading. Somewhat tongue in cheek at times and occasionally a little heavy handed with references, Bayard’s assertion is that one doesn’t need to actually read a book in order to have a good grasp of it and in order to intelligently discuss it. In fact, he goes so far as to say that reading the book may even be an impediment to doing so. He refers to the “collective library” and our own “inner library” and the significance of understanding where a particular book fits in the collective library. It was a pretty good read, but I’d only recommend it to the nerdiest of book nerds.
Meyer, by Stephen Dixon. Somewhere I stumbled across an online article about Stephen Dixon and his latest novel, Meyer.
My TBR stack continues to grow at a faster rate than I’m able to get through it, but so far I haven’t found a twelve-step program for what ails me. What’s always is a surprise to me is what I’ll read next and I wonder if anybody else is as flaky about this as I am. I have TBR books piled on top of book cases in my office and I tend to stack a half dozen of them on my bedside table. These are the primary candidates for what I’ll read next, but I won’t always even stick with these. I guess it all depends on what I’m in the mood for when I’m ready to start a new book. Before I started Meyer (the last book I read), I literally lined it up with Saturday, by Ian McEwan, The Fall of Rome, by Martha Southgate and How the Dead Dream, by Lydia Millet and re-read all the book jackets before I chose Meyer.
Before I start the next one, I’ll glance over the entire stack and then at the short stack on the bedside table, but I have no idea what I'll start.
What was the best book you read recently?
How do you decide what book to read next?And a final note: Don't forget to celebrate National Poetry Month!