- “You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake” — Anna Moschovakis
- “The Same-Different” — Hannah Sanghee Park
- “The Nature of Mathematics” — Max Black
- “Aerial 10” — Lyn Hejinian
- “A Tale for the Time Being” — Ruth Ozeki
Near the end of December, in the middle of belatedly catching up on last semester’s assigned readings, I realized a couple of weeks late that the semester was over and it was time to take a damn break.
After a long period of reading almost exclusively for school or work, I’d gotten swept up in the rhythm of cram reading. Which isn’t necessarily bad or unpleasant reading; it’s really exactly like reading for pleasure, but with the additional kick of stress and a kind of shameful, needy urge to please educational authority figures that makes everyone — including myself — a little uncomfortable.
So, after finals week, with no syllabus-mandated reading list at hand, I was a bit at loss for how to start the month’s reading without any prescribed literature. My only lead was that I wanted to read something fun.
In the end, “fun” for me ended up being this: I put down my books and watched “The X-Files” for about two week straight. I watched TV until I could barely stand it anymore, giddy with the notion that I had become Ray Bradbury’s nightmare — a horseman of the television death of books. It was lame and irresponsible and maybe even kind of gross. But, in my defense, reading is hard.
Surely there are people out there who can read until they drop, but I was worn out. Over the past few months, all day and night, I’d kept my nose buried in a series of dense, dry and otherwise rather unappetizing essays on logic and math. Punctuated only briefly every night with clickbait and (embarrassingly) my own articles for The Daily Californian, the kind of reading I was doing was unsustainable — and, additionally, a pretty stupid way to go about being an English major, doggedly sapping the joy out of reading.
But, anyway, just before the start of the new year, I shut my laptop and broke my literary dry spell. First with Coetzee’s “Disgrace,” then Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” and Aristotle’s “Nichomachian Ethics.” One book lead to another in an untidy sprawl of literature. I fell back into a natural flow of reading, letting enthusiasm, rather than utility, guide my literary picks. Without the pressure of deadlines, reading suddenly felt right again — rigorous and challenging, but not depleting — exciting, joyful and fun.
So, readers, this blog will update monthly on my reading. We’ll be talking about books in terms of pleasure, and we’ll talk about the messy, disorganized process of finding books. Think of this blog as a place to write and read about books in more casual terms, and feel free to comment with your own picks of the month. We will get personal — uncomfortably so. We’ll be talking about feelings — something I rarely do, and something that usually makes me sweat in a classroom discussion. Stay tuned.