The first creative writing class I took when I was an adult was at the local community college. It was a great class. The teacher had bushy eyebrows and an incredible talents for spotting and explaining how good writing worked. I learned a lot from Jim Krusoe and the way he started every class by say, “So what is everyone reading?” There would be a long pause before someone would finally chime in with a title of a book. Krusoe would then would ponder and say something like, “Ah yes. I read three of her books,” before explaining the authors main themes and literary style. Jim seemed to have read every book ever written and understood all of them. He would then ask the the person who brought up the book, “Do you like it? What do you like about it? Or not?”

I suppose these questions coming from a seriously smart professor could appear threatening to the novice student who did not have the same literary background, but it never felt that way. Jim has a knack from making the intellectual book conversation nothing more than talking about books and why people like them. The class would then slowly ease into joining in offering other titles. During the course of the class, I was exposed to a ton of great reads, many of which inspired me to write, travel, and change my life in both little and big ways.

I never did get good at analyzing theme and smart literary perspectives, but I carried the simple discussion into my MFA program and continued to hear about great authors and writings that still inspire me to write, travel and change — all for the better. Now that grad school is over, I still want to know, “What is everybody reading?”

I do not plan to start discussions about writing, but I felt that letting you know what I am doing would help me continue to search for books. Not that I need more books, I already have way too many and do not have the heart to switch to kindle just yet. However, if you want to ring in with what you are reading, I would love it!

Here is what I have read recently…

March 2010
I know I have flaked on this article update, but I have not stopped reading, so let me catch you up to date with a few of the notables.

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk
I am a Palahniuk fan because he makes me feel like I am reading the National Enquirer, Tiger Beat, Penthouse, and any book by Dr. Phil all rolled into one — sort of a dirtier version of a guilty pleasure. While definitely not one of Chuck’s best, Snuff does have some hilarious moments woven into an odd tale about a 600-person, record-breaking gang-bang. For obvious reasons, this one is not for kids or conservative sensibilities. I read it knowing I would be getting something ridiculous, and I did.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I picked this one up at the library’s book store for a few bucks after I overheard two women singing its praises. I also knew about this story of a young professor giving a final lecture after discovering his terminal illness prior to reading this book. I desperately wanted to love this book. I wanted to be inspired by his personal strength, integrity and his “never give up” attitude. I hoped for something truly touching. Unfortunately, I have to be honest. The book is so-so. The stories are so-so. It did have some nice moments. However, there are a ton of other books that do the same only much better. I would recommend Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. Palmer’s books is about the same size in dimension about 100 fewer pages and made 10 times the impact (I really hate writing this).

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios
Yes, this is a book on physic expressed through the super powers of superheroes. The book is funny, clever and, if you have a history with comic books, nostalgic. However, this is a book that explains and teaches physics, so it is all not just fun and games. So, have a greater interest in physics and the patience to learn more about a complicated subject and this may be a winner for you.

…And now, please add what you are reading below and maybe a few lines about whether you like it, or not.

January 2010
Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
J. M. Coetzee is a South African writer who won the Nobel Prize for Barbarians. This book is now thirty year old, but it does not feel dated like several I have read in the last year. So far there is the war machine, cruelty, torture, injustice, the local population that are seen as faceless possessions worthy of being controlled by force. There is an intensity in the writing that I have felt compelled to follow, which is an ideal quality in a book. It is only 150 pages long so it is moving along too quickly in the space of time for me as a reader, again an ideal quality. I haven’t decided yet to either just finish it today or force myself to read it slowly and give myself eight pages a day to enjoy it.

I am also picking at The Friendly Guide to Mythology by Nancy Hathaway.
My daughter recently finished a series of young adult books that has her completely in love with Greek Mythology. While I am not in the dark on topic, I need some backup and this book is straight forward on a number of world mythologies. I think the Norse is still my favorite, go Loki!

I will be in Japan but will be bringing a book, so more next week.

How to Read Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
– Jan 12, 2010
Actually, I just finished this one. I guess while I will never be like Jim Krusoe in the litarary genius category, I have not thrown in the towel. Foster made a quick read that shows how food, fairy tales, vampires, the Bible, Greek mythology, others and lots of other things can have multiple meanings beyond the words on the page, and they usually do. I liked the way he covered the gamut of major subjects of history and subject matter (like vampires) and leaves lots of room to remind the reader that there is never only one way to look at a story or symbols within a story. It does get a little repetitious and I don’t understand Foster’s love of the Dubliners by Joyce, a book that does not stand the test of time and is too nuanced for my taste, but still worth the read if you are inclined to see more layers in writing.

If your like, add your book titles in our discussion section, directly below. -d-

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