“Read This, Not That”

This post will struck some as snobbish.  As opposed to the other posts, which strike all as snobbish.

Have you heard of the popular book, Eat This, Not That?  Apparently it helps people make smart fast food (read: jumbo shrimp) decisions.

Well, I have no freaking idea what people should eat, really–  like everyone else, I struggle with it.  It’s time vs. money vs. but-the-hangar-steak-on-the-menu-looks-good!  It’s steamed kale vs. home pasta.  It’s that most elemental of daily decisions: Gym vs. Bar.

But I do know what people should read, and often times when I walk the center aisle of the airplane, or stroll a sandy beach on a summer afternoon, I want to say to grown adults, “Read this, not that.”  (I know, I know–  I’m a snob.  I’m a snob about movies and TV and theater, about books and foodstuffs.  I am not, however, a snob about music, or, more importantly, life decisions.)  I want to say this because I see people, adults, intelligent people I know and life, reading crap that I wouldn’t have read in middle school.  I mean, at a certain point in an adult’s life it just becomes unacceptable to read certain authors, no?  (No, you say.)

So, I will use the tiny bully pulpit (‘bully”s not a word I’m comfortable with; how’s about ‘influence’) of this blog to recommend three books, two new and one slightly older that I’ve read / am reading, and you should too.

1.  The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer – My father, who listens to books-on-tape and devours magazines and newspapers but rarely chomps down on the printed page, read this several summers ago on the beaches of Nantucket.  Then I read it, mainly on the ferry back to reality.  Now I spend every day telling everyone I know to read this book, starting with harassing a perfectly nice young couple browsing one afternoon at my favorite bookstore.

Here’s how much I love this book: Moehringer worked for, and did not have a good experience at, The New York Times.  And it’s discussed in this book.  And yet I love it.  It’s a tale of being raised in a bar, of absent fathers and co-opted father figures; of running away from home, and returning; of drinking too much and changing your ways; of writing and 9/11 and, well, yes, life.

2.  Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

I haven’t been reading a ton of novels these past few years, but my literary sister Alexandria recommended this one by the Irish expatriate, and wow.  This novel of NYC in the 1970’s dazzles.  It casts a true spell, and its characters– all fictional, with the sole exception of a disguised Philippe Petit –stay with you long after the long book has ended.  A novel to luxuriate in, to be swept away by.  Read it before Hollywood gets ahold of it, though if anyone can do it justice, perhaps J.J. Abrams can.

3.  The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman – I want to kill Tom Rachman.  Seriously.  How do you get to be just three years older than me, work for the International Herald Tribune and the AP, live in Paris and Rome, and write the novel of the year?!  It may seem strange to reccommend a book I’m only halfway through, but this debut is a must-read.  I stumbled upon it a) thanks to, yes, the New York Times, and b) ’cause I’m a sucker for anything set in the newspaper world.  And Rachman takes you through mainly expatriate characters who populate an on-the-brink overseas newspaper (yes, like the Herald Tribune).  I don’t know how it ends yet, but I know I can hardly wait to curl up in bed each night with the next character, the next chapter.  And these days, couldn’t we all use a good read to curl up with?

I could go on (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay!  About Alice!  Monster!) and on. There are folks who will disagree with me, of course–  I have friends of the blog who still rightfully upbraid me for not being able to finish a certain Martin Amis or Don DeLillo novel.  But I guess that’s there’s own ‘Read This, Not That.’


One Response to ““Read This, Not That””

  1. Rock Solid Says:

    I just started to read and curious if you’ve read “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper? Also, the Tender Bar rocks!

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