Reading. Not just a bunch of words

Not just a bunch of words.

Reading is an infinite activity. Our government, through its agent, The Library of Congress, insures this. In the Library of Congress, books are everywhere and new ones are coming in all the time. The shelves are sagging with books of all sorts - from He Doesn't Know I Care to A Modest History of the Universe. Comic books to encyclopedias. books written by dedicated men and women of literature, compulsive egoists, celebrity Bar-B-Que masters, and people who didn't even realize they were writing a book.

Imagine how large this library must be. Curiosity trembles at the thought of this much information. Eyelids grow heavy and breathing slows. The mind can not encompass the existence of this many books. This is why we must read them one at a time.

Reading is an activity that can help put our feet on the ground, while at the same time, it is taking us to places faraway. It expands our vision. If you live in Minnesota, reading can give you a sense of Texas or Tasmania. And, if you live in Texas or Tasmania, you can learn the difference between Minneapolis and Saint Paul and other fascinating things, which you had no idea could make a difference. Outer Space is just pages away and you can come back any time you want. The past exists in the present and you can be a part of it. The opportunities are limitless.

Reading calms us down. Although it can be done, reading while walking or driving is not recommended. It is a reflective act. And reflecting at stoplights or on sharp curves can be dangerous. When we read, we are (most of us) sitting down. This, in itself, is beneficial. It keeps us from constantly doing errands. We leave behind the world as we know it and travel instantly to places we have never been and to places that may never have existed. This saves not only time, but also airfare. If you get lost, you can just go back a few pages and orient yourself. Unlike Television, which is anything but reflective, we can travel at our own pace and to wherever we want. On the way, we need not worry about hamburgers or our cars or whether we're on the correct long-distance plan.

Reading is a cooperative act. As a reader, you and the author together, design new buildings, create hairdos, and resolve conflict. You can toy with affections, fly an airplane, and outwit the enemy. You can help bake a cake, bait a hook, or beat the system. It's endless. Just when things seem to be falling into that ditch called Routine, you can revive yourself with a new adventure, a new skill, a new direction.

One of the few things from school that made a lasting impression on me was summer vacation. And when summer vacation was approaching, we would be presented with a reading list that contained suggestions of books of all sorts. This was the kind of homework assignment I could understand. No pressure - just suggestions. No tests. No reports. Just the pursuit of knowledge and happiness.

Teachers, freed from the daily restraints of the school system and the need for discipline, seemed to finally relax. They included books that they liked. Old favorites. Books that were important to them as people, not just as teachers. Reading the list excited me. All those possibilities.

Any list of books can only be a partial list. the ones that come to mind at the moment. The ones that have made themselves known. The ones that have jumped off the shelf this afternoon. The lists on the other page may be of interest to you.

Remember - No pressure, no tests, and no reports.

Reading is an infinite activity. Some books can help our writing by showing us how someone else has done it. Some can be directly instructive

On this page, I am including a list and description of books that writers involved with the school may find interesting and helpful.

I am providing a link to, not to be completely commercial, but because this can make the process of obtaining the books easier and faster. There are all kinds of books that deal directly with the subject of writing. Here, in no particular order, are some that I have found interesting and valuable.

Books About Writing

Becoming a Writer - Dorothea Brande
Gets to the heart and soul of it.

Aspects of the Novel - E. M. Forster
Characters, plot, and pattern, the whole ball of wax.

Elements of Style - Strunk and White
Also available online: Elements of Style Online Edition

The Sounds of Poetry - Robert Pinsky
How to hear better.

Women Writers at Work
Beat Writers at Work 
The editors of the Paris Review. Great interviews with great writers.

Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular - Rust Hills
How did he get that name?

A Poetry Handbook - Mary Oliver
Reveals the foundations.

A Writer's Time - Kenneth Atchity
How to organize, schedule and move forward.

The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
Has that great quote in it.

Woe Is I - Patricia O'Connor
Whoa!  An entertaining book about grammar.

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire
The New Well-Tempered Sentence
Paris Out of Hand
The Disheveled Dictionary - Karen Elizabeth Gordon   
Yes, grammar can be fun.  And, sometimes, necessary.  The Paris book is not about grammar, but about a Paris of the imagination.

The Writer's Digest Guide to Good Writing  
Writing advice from the past eight decades.

The Triggering Town - Richard Hugo
Wonderful essays on poetry and writing by a wonderful poet.

100 Things Every Writer Needs To Know - Scott Edelstein
Straight talk from a good guy from Minnesota.

Writing For Your Life - Deena Metzger
She goes deep and puts into words the healing aspects and possibilities of writing.

Writing Down the Bones
Wild Mind
Long Quiet Highway  - Natalie Goldberg
Natalie set me on the path and these books kept me focused.  Great, wise, and generous words.

One Continuous Mistake - Gail Sher
A directly Buddhist experience.

How To Read a Poem - Edward Hersch
Subtitled - And Fall in Love with Poetry.

Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott   
She's been there and retained her sense of humor.

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Books For Fun

Cosmicomics – Italo Calvino
Recreates the world.

The Little Sister
The Big Sleep
The Simple Art of Murder - Raymond Chandler   The master of simile.

3 Plays - Thornton Wilder 
A great American voice.

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
Mais oui!

Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
One of the first and most influential books in my life.

A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving
Possibly a perfect novel.

Alba - Delacorta
Hip mystery.  Lean, but mean prose.

Sixty Stories - Donald Barthelme
The master of the form and formless.

Up in the Old Hotel
Joe Gould's Secret - Joseph Mitchell
Brilliant reporting by an elusive artist.

Wise Children - Angela Carter
A great book about the theater, acting, and celebration.

Hotel Eden - Ron Carlson
Short stories are usually too short for my attention span, but something wonderful happens in each one.

Transit of Venus - Shirley Hazzard
A beautifully written book about fate and coincedence.

Charlotte's Web - E. B. White
Mr. E. B. and his kind heart.

The Horse's Mouth
Herself Surprised - Joyce Cary
The Horse's Mouth was my 11th grade English teacher's favorite book.  Mine, too.  In it, the passion and humor of an artist rises above a world too busy to really notice.

Weather Central - Ted Kooser
A great, midwestern, insurance man poet.

Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing - John Gierach 
Like Mark Twain, but on smaller, more intimate rivers.

The Mezzanine - Nicholson Baker
The king of Specific Detail beguiles us with language and lunch.

My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell 
Lawrence Durrell brother reveals the secrets of a completely wacky English family.  Very funny.

Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead,

Shakespeare in Love: a screenplay
India Ink
Arcadia - Tom Stoppard  
The greatest living playwright plays with our minds.

Understanding Comics - Scott McCloud
A different kind of narrative,

Buddhism - Plain and Simple - Steve Hagan
The best book.

Sailor Song
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Sometimes A Great Notion - Ken Kesey   
A real American hero who can also tell a great story.

Pigs Have Wings - P. G. Wodehouse
Laugh out loud and disturb the

A Story Like The Wind
A Far-off Place  - Laurens van der Post
Africa, a boy and his dog, a native uprising true love, words of wisdom, and an endless trek through the desert.  Wow.

Mysteries and Manners - Flannery O'Connor
Words from one of the great ones.  Includes the best chicken in literature.

Collected Poems - Kenneth Patchen
A beautiful dreamer.

Fires - Raymond Carver
Stories, essays, and poems.

War and Peace - Tolstoy,  Trans- Constance Garrett  
Who says translation doesn't matter?  This book will keep you warm in winter.

The Incredible Voyage
Adrift, and others. - Tristan Jones
The incredible Mr. Jones drags his sailboat through the Amazon jungle, is trapped with his ship on an iceberg off Greenland for months, and sails the sea with his three-legged dog.  True stories.

Freddy The Detective
Freddy and the Baseball Team From Mars
  - Walter Brooks
One of the best voices in what they call children's literature.

Refiner's Fire
Ellis Island
Winter's Tale
A Soldier of the Great War - MarkHelprin
Big hearts encounter adventure in an attempt to make sense of the world.

Red Harvest,
The Thin Man, etc. - Dashiell Hammett
He means business and he means red as in blood.

So Long, See you Tomorrow
Time Will Darken It - William Maxwell  
The longtime, former New Yorker fiction editor is one of the great stylists of all time.  Suspense, poetry, humor, everything is in his writing.

Crossing To Safety
Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner
Wonderful writing, wonderful stories.

Crow With No Mouth - Ikkyu
Zen haiku from a wildman.

Picnic, Lightning
Questions About Angels
The Art of Drowning

The Best Cigarette - Billy Collins    
All that poetry should be.  The Best Cigarette is a CD of poems read with feeling and humor.

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Solo Monk
Monk's Dream - Thelonious Monk

Steppin' Out - Astaire Sings - Fred Astaire

Today - Art Pepper   
Desert island music.

Jerry Garcia Band
This was on the box in my car for two years.

Diggin Uncle Q - NRBQ
Rock and Roll will never die.

Louis Prima Hits 
Oh, babe, there's no one like him.

12 Shades of Brown - Junior Brown
Ernest Tubb's illegitimate off-spring.

Buena Vista Social Club
Dancing, rum, and romance - what else is there?

Quanta - Gilberto Gil
Beautiful Brazilian songs that transcend borders, language, and genre.

True Life Blues - The Songs of Bill Monroe
Bluegrass performed by hot dogs that know how to swing.

Blues, Rags, and Hollers
Lots More Blues, Rags, and Hollers - Koerner, Ray And Glover 
The old standbys.

Shot of Love - Bob Dylan
I'm always slow.  It took me ten years to get into this.

World Out of Time - The Music of Madagascar
Truly out of time, mysterious and beautiful.  This is music that sounds as if it came from another planet, just like ours, only without the distractions.

Knockdown Calypsos - Growling Tiger
Old style, acoustic calypsos, poetic and funky.

Temptation's Greatest Hits 
Ain't too proud to beg.

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