The Darwins’ Immediate Book Meme

From Darwin Catholic:

There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let’s focus on something more revealing: the books you’re actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let’s call it The Immediate Book Meme.

Aww yiss!  I hate having to come up with the top ten most important or most influential books. It happens that I was heavily influenced by books that weren’t very good. And it happens that I can’t think of anything besides what everyone else already put on the list. This one, I just have to shove my bed away from the wall and rummage around on the floor to make my list.  Here’s the questions, with my answers:

1. What book are you reading now?

(I do almost all my reading in the 20 minutes before I fall asleep, so there is a lot of variety under my bed, to accommodate how tired I happen to be.)

2. What book did you just finish?

  • The Human Factor by Graham Greene. Wah. Not nearly so much blood and thunder as his over novels, but it broke-a my heart.
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks. So good.  There’s nothing worse than a story that comes up with a really good idea, but then the people don’t act like people would when some amazing thing happens. In this book, they do act like that.

3. What do you plan to read next?

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

  • Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty. It’s so good, but I just can’t deal with all those southern people. It’s kind of a problem.
  • Theology for Beginners by Frank Sheed.  Five chapters in. Not waving the white flag yet, but boy do I feel dim.
  • Playback by Raymond Chandler.  Probably won’t bother finishing. It doesn’t make very much sense, and Marlowe really crosses the line in this one.
  • Charley Is My Darling by Joyce Cary. I don’t think I have the courage to finish. It’s just too melancholy.
  • The DaVinci Code by whatever whatever.  I bought it in a book bin to take it out of circulation, then got curious. First I was amazed, then I was fascinated, then I was entertained, then I just got depressed, and couldn’t finish.  The idea of so much paper and ink and proofreading and delivery truck drivers’ labor going into something so thoroughly awful was just crushing. Couldn’t get to the end. So I guess I’ll never find out who whatever whatever whatever. At least the dollar I paid for it will go to the senior center.
  • We are 75% of the way through The Princess and the Goblin with the kids, but it’s been such a long time since we picked it up, I’m afraid they won’t remember what’s going on.  I always forget how difficult it is to read George MacDonald out loud.  There’s a lot of, ” . . . Wha? Let me read that sentence again.”

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis De Sales. I’m gonna, okay?
6. What is your current reading trend?

I’m making an effort to read books I’ve never read before, rather than re-re-re-re-re-re-revisiting old favorites. Working my way through more non-fiction than usual. Pro tip: it’s easier to read non-fiction if it’s about sex.

Okay, now your turn!  And thanks, Darwins!

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  • roughplacesplain

    Book posts are (some of) the best!

  • Rachel

    1. Reading now: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Really really like it so far. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction but this one drew me in right away.
    2. Just finished: She Wolves: The Women who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor. Mostly enjoyed it, lighter than a lot of nonfiction history.
    3. Next: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein and maybe Theology and Sanity by Fulton Sheed.
    4. Keep meaning to finish: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick. I have another book about the same person (the Empress Matilda/Maude, the book is “When Christ and His Saints Slept” by Sharon Kay Penman) that is so so good that this one doesn’t really hold my interest.
    5. Meaning to start: The Shining by Stephen King. I got it on sale, I’ll get to it sometime this year hopefully.
    6. This year I’m trying to read everything I already own that I haven’t started or finished yet. I actually have a surprising amount of books that fit into this category. Definitely enough to keep me busy for awhile!

  • Lydia

    1. Reading now: Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John LeCarre’. I love it even more than the Alec Guinness movie version.
    2. Just finished: Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer. Completely silly period brain candy.
    3. Next: Bleak House by Charles Dickens. I got it out from the library and suddenly wasn’t feeling Dickensian and also Kirsten Lavransdatter.
    4. What book do I keep meaning to finish: Introduction to the Devout Life, Silas Marner. Devout Life is wonderful, I just get distracted whenever I try to read it. I hate everything by George Eliot, but always feel like I ought to read it.
    5. Meaning to start: Crime and Punishment. Really.
    6. I’m trying to branch out. I was an English major, and have always mainly stuck to the classics. That’s lovely, except sometimes just reading for fun is necessary to mental health. So, I’ve been trying to read lighter fiction. I’m also working through all of Flannery O’Connor, and after her I’m gearing up for a Percy/Welty extravaganza. Southern Catholic writers FTW.

  • Blobee

    I read “Introduction to the Devout Life” and I am now reading Pope Benedict XVI’s “Jesus of Nazareth.” I expected the Pope’s book to be better than it is. It’s okay, but I don’t know if I would pick it up for Lent. But I do recommend “Introduction to the Devout Life” for Lent, because the reflections, meditations, and suggestions for living devoutly are really deep, and serious, and classic and should be read in sort of daily snippets and reflected upon. Good stuff there.

  • http://lerheims.wordpress.com/ Bridget Green

    I think I’m going to straight up steal this and post on my own blog, and link back here of course (my mama raised me right) so I’m not going to answer it all here, but
    I have to say a couple of things.
    We just read the entire Chronicles of Narnia to our boys (8, 7, and 6, and the 6 year old actually stayed awake for a good chunk of it) and they loved it the way I love it which is saying something. We are huge Lewis fans here (hence our youngest son’s name: Ransom Lewis).
    We’re gearing up to read the Princess and the Goblin and the Princess and the Curdie, but are currently reading the Wizard of Oz. Dark and funny at the same time.
    As for the DaVinci Code, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who buys books or “loses” library books just to take them out of circulation. Dan Brown is a no talent hack who steals ideas.

  • Darwin

    Thanks for the link!

    Though, of course, now I’m thinking: Gee I suppose I should pull the bed out from the wall and see what’s behind it.

  • Anna

    1.Now: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton (the latter aloud to my kids) and The Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
    2.Just finished: The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    3. Next: Render Unto Caesar by Bishop Chaput and David Copperfield by Dickens. (both recent gifts)
    4. Meaning to finish: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni. This comes highly recommended by the likes of Michael Waldstein, but it keeps feeling like a lot of work for a novel.
    5. Meaning to start: The Brothers Karamazov. It seems so awful that I haven’t read this, since my mom was a Russian lit minor and started me on Tolstoy by age 5 (Twenty-Three Tales), but I just never have and now I’m always afraid that I’ll pick a bad translation that will ruin it, so I just don’t pick.
    6. Current reading trend: books I haven’t read that I’ve seen or heard recommended by someone else.

    • simchafisher

      Lucky Jim is one of the funniest books I have ever read in my life.
      Ditto for The Betrothed. I’ve tried at least three times, but can’t get into it.

      • simchafisher

        Oh, I mean ditto what you said about The Betrothed, not ditto that it’s the funniest book!

        • Anna

          I figured that was what you meant; I didn’t think I could be missing that one by *that* much. I wonder if it’s a man thing; the people who recommend it are all men like Peter Kreeft and Waldstein, but I don’t know if I’ve seen it recommended by a woman. But the men seem to think it’s the basis of civilization.
          Actually, in casting about for what to read next, I looked back at your Register post about funny books, hence both Lucky Jim and Confederacy of Dunces. Lucky Jim was excellent (it’s been added to the “just finished” pile); I was entertained by the fact that Amis is (in part) funny due to his lack of description, making Lucky Jim a kind of choose-your-own-adventure, but you get to choose your own swear words and insults as you find them apt.
          Confederacy of Dunces, if you haven’t taken the combox advice from that post and read it yourself, should be added to your list. It had much the same effect on me as Napoleon Dynamite did: I spent the time during it going “What?? What *is* this?” (“Arf! Arf! Woof!” for example) and then I’d be driving to the grocery store or something and snickering maniacally at the memory of certain scenes. Woo-ee!

  • Jenny Uebbing

    I’m reading Kristin Lavransdatter for the first time and I am in love with it. In love.

  • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

    Ooh! I love Horace J. Schmiddlapp III!

  • Karyn

    Now: The Robe by Lloyd Douglas, Holiness for Everyone: Practical Spirituality of Josemaria Escriva, and The Bronze Bow (read aloud with kids).

    Just finished: Valiant Voyager (about St Marguerite Bourgeoys – “my” saint from Fulweiler’s generator) and Shadows on the Rock from Willa Cather (to understand St Marguerite’s time and place better – highly recommend though “nothing” really happens in the book)

    Next: A Mother’s Rule of Life and some kind of fiction

    Meaning to finish: I keep reading Autobiography of a Soul bit by bit but there’s just something about the way St Therese writes that I have the hardest time with.

    I would also recommend Introduction to the Devote Life for a Lenten reading.

  • echarles1

    You have a Herriman illustration heading this post but no Krazy Kat on your reading list! Krazy Kat is available in collected works. Herriman was a genius at word play. Do yourself a favor and read Krazy Kat. Though Don Marquis wrote Archy and Mehitabel with Herriman illustrations, the Herriman written and illustrated Krazy Kat shares much the same sensibility.

  • ForsythiaTheMariner

    1) where angels fear to tread by em forster:
    I’m in the middle of it, so too early for a review, but am enjoying it so far. The kindle version is free on amazon.
    2) habit of being – the letters of flannery o’connor : this is a wonderful collection of much of flannery o’connors correspondence with close friends, acquaintances and her publishers over a number of years. It helps if you like o’connor’s writing, of course, as it lends a much deeper insight into both her and her work. But one doesnt necessarily need to be familiar with her work to appreciate this collection. She has some pretty profound insights into faith here.

    Poor baby: a child of the 60s looks back on abortion by heather king
    I stumbled upon this little book on amazon, and its beauty lies in its simplicity and the authors search for truth. Highly recommended.

    The gift of the magi by o henry
    (always a gem…and also free on kindle at amazon)

    3) the complete stories by flannery o’ connor : it’s been many years since I last read this collection, and, after reading her collected letters, i think i will have a new appreciation for her stories.

    the aspern papers by henry james

    Lastly, i am trying to finish the New Testament, which I started a few months ago. After that, the old testament from start to finish.

    4) i try to always finish books ive started. I dont feel i can properly move on to a new book without finishing another one (unless of course its awful,p)

    5) St. Thomas aquinas by gk chesterton
    I bought this for my kindle app some months ago and keep looking at the cover, but i will start it one of these days soon!

    • Anna

      After I read Chesterton’s bio of Aquinas, I wished mightily that I’d read that before I’d read all that Aquinas in college. I would have been able to appreciate his writing as being from a man and a saint instead of just plowing through all that philosophy.
      I’ve found it very hard to read Henry James with a straight face after reading James Thurber’s spot-on send-up of him…

  • anna lisa

    I’m finishing The Courilof Affair, after reading David Golder, The Ball and Snow in Autumn, by Irene Nemirovsky.
    I really recommend them.
    I’m reading the Great Brain at the Academy to the three little ones (if they pick up the room first)
    I’m about to pick out another book by Jacques Phillipe for my upcoming retreat because I loved Interior Freedom so much.
    Kirsten Lavransdatter magically appeared in my Kindle a few months ago when I told one of the boys I wanted to read it. I’ve been regarding it with guilt ever since he told me, “I got it from the Internet”.
    I pick up Divine Mercy in my Soul here and there just for a light dusting of guilt from time to time.
    I try to reread the mass readings each day, and just heard about a great way of reading B16 every day on the app Laudate. I’m going to check that out.
    I’m reading a book Mark Shea said was the best book of the year called Forming Intentional Apostles by Sherry Weddell, but I find it mildly depressing.
    I read Holy Sex! and a Christopher West book after I found them in my daughter’s crate of books she brought home from college. She said the Popcack book creeped her out, but that’s because she’s twenty and knows next to nothing on the subject. She giggled about something that appalled her, and I giggled back, but admitted that it was a true statement. There was a pregnant pause in which she winced. Her vivid imagination must have given her a bad visual. (Parenthood is a succession of endless humiliations) *My* problem with the book had more to do with *my* vivid imagination, and the photo of the author on the back of the book.
    I’ve read two of Dan Brown’s books. They’re lame page turners. The guy is a stuffed shirt opportunist who is obsessed with Catholicism.
    I really enjoyed The House of the Spirits too. You’re right, it’s her best work, and is fun. It helped me to understand my mother-in-law, but the style was a total rip off of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

    • Anna

      If “Kristin” isn’t the Nunnally translation, then don’t feel guilty about not reading it. I didn’t like it the first time I read it, but lots of life experience and a different translation made a huge difference.

      • anna lisa

        Thank you Anna. I checked the translation and it is the Nunnally translation. That’s a relief, since I couldn’t remember what people had recommended the last time Simcha talked about it. I was also squeamish about *where* he sourced the book, which is a whole different topic. Try talking to a guy in their twenties about paying for music, movies and books ALL THE TIME and they’ll give you that “aren’t you quaint” look.

        • Anna

          I figured that was where your squeamishness had come from, but also thought that if it was the old translation you had the perfect excuse for skipping reading it. :-) But it’s SO good!

    • anna lisa

      Come to think of it, I think it could have been West’s book(Good news about Sex and marriage) that she had the small tizzy with. I thought they were both good. I think I’d have to use a pseudonym if I wrote in such detail. Who could handle people looking at you like you’re the love guru? I guess that has to do with that ever present American puritanism that plagues us. But Dr. Popcak needs to rethink that professional photo on his book. He looks way too happy.

    • Chris Stewart

      The House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude are both of a genre called Magic Realism. Which isn’t to say that they are about magic at all — though they might be. Rather it is a narrative approach that treats the imaginary elements of a story as if they were real and literal. Thus, when José Arcadio Buendía dies in One Hundred Years of Solitude, it literally rains yellow flowers, and the story talks about the event with almost effervescent earnest.

      Anyway, enough of that. The best novel of the genre by far is Miguel Angel Asturias’s Men of Maize. I read the thing in Spanish, and it’s heavy lifting because it is inundated with Spanish words borrowed from the various indigenous languages of Guatemala. Most native Spanish speakers will struggle with it. I had lived in Guatemala for three months and had direct experience with some of the words through everyday use, but Asturias’s knowledge of language is broad, to say the least. There’s a UT article online that talks about Gerald Martin’s English translation, referencing the 547 footnotes therein. I haven’t actually seen the translation, but that level of footnoting is the work of a meticulous translator who knows how difficult it is to render in another language a work heavily laced with uncommon colloquialisms. I’ll bet it’s a great translation (just ignore the footnotes unless you’re really interested in that sort of thing).

      Asturias’s approach is to relate a number of what seem to be short stories whose various characters interlace in a broader narrative. The story about a fellow named Goyo Yic is both hillarious and sad. Neither Garcia Marque nor Allende ever came close.

      • anna lisa

        Men of Maize. How could I not read it after such a great review? Thank you. I do find life in Latin America to be more mystical. It isn’t a forced state. I laugh now when I think of my trip to the Ecuadorean jungle. I was too worried about the heat and the giant bugs (and not throwing up) to stop and write a poem about the single tree I could see from our little plane that buzzed the tree tops, that was a different color than the hundreds of trees of its same species. All I could think about was how horrified my parents would be if they knew I was flying in a tiny plane that had no sides, and a small, questionable seat belt strapping me in.
        I wonder if the people and the land lose their mystical quality as they become more like us.

  • Lydia

    (a different Lydia : ) )
    1. Right now – Pride and Prejudice. I hadn’t read it since high school and am enjoying (and understanding) it much more than I did then.
    2. Just finished – Agnes Parker, Girl in Progress by Kathleen O’Dell. A pretty nice book in the spirit of Beverly Cleary.
    3. Next – I’m really not sure. I might look for something at the library or find something at home I haven’t read yet.
    4. Finish – Anna Karenina. Our copy’s in the basement and I usually only read it when I’m down there and it’s so long…!
    5. Start – Les Miserables, unabridged. Speaking of long…
    6. Trend – I seem to be alternating between “easier” fare (graphic novels, children’s books) and novels.
    Anna – in college we read The Brothers Karamazov translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I liked it.

    • Anna

      Thanks for the translation rec!

  • Kate Cousino

    I want to read Introduction the the Devout Life this Lent. More than just the first two chapters, which is as far as I tend to get on my own. It’s so good, and so readable–there’s really no reason I should keep stalling except that it keeps reducing all of my excuses for not pursuing holiness like, right now, down to rubble.

    Maybe there should be a reading group. Not like a study group, more like a “So, yeah, that chapter? Whoo-boy, have I got some work to do” sympathy group. :-)

  • Caroline Moreschi

    I’m a Southerner, and I can’t deal with the Southerners in Delta Wedding. Have you read any of the short stories by Eudora Welty? “Why I Live at the PO” is hysterical.

    • simchafisher

      YES, love it. Will have to find her short stories again.


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