Friday, August 7, 2009

Organize your library like an Italian genius (or a lazy blogger)

I’m tired of seeing Obama on Sportscenter. I’d rather watch Ozzie Guillen on C-SPAN.

It’s Friday. Welcome to the melange.

In If on a winter’s night a traveler, Italo Calvino classifies books not by genre or author but by our excuses for not reading them. I have since applied the Calvino System to my library.

1. Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
That would be Gone with the Wind.

2. Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. If either of my readers has a copy, they can name their price.

3. Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
Because I’m blogging about it, If on a winter’s night a traveler.

4. Books You Want to Own So They’ll be Handy Just in Case
The Handy Religion Answer Book. (A wonderful reference, not comprehensive but has often prevented me from asking stupid or offensive questions.)

5. Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read this Summer
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

6. Books You Need to go with Other Books on your Shelves
That would be any Leatherstocking Tale after The Last of the Mohicans.

7. Books that Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King.

8. Books You Needn’t Read
Scarlett, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. Obviously, I’ve read neither, but my wife has finished both and she compared Scarlett to a root canal without the laughing gas.

9. Books Made for Purposes Other than Reading
I think my psychology coffee-table book would qualify. Instead, it’s intended to be used as a talking piece or, in lieu of that, a bludgeon.

10. Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
The Mary Higgins Clark joke would be too obvious; but, yes, I’d assume most of her library qualifies.

11. Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
Brothers Karamazov

12. Books You Mean to Read but There Are Others You Must Read First
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

13. Books That Are Too Expensive So You Are Waiting For Them To Be Remaindered or Sold in Paperback
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I’m a cheap man. I haven’t paid full price for a book since college.

14. Books You Can Borrow From Somebody
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

15. Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Read Them Too
Probably my most shameful admission, but I’ve never finished Moby Dick. I’ve started it at least a dozen times, but I couldn’t get through that thing with a harpoon. Its page count is not the problem either. I just can’t stand Melville’s pace. The man will expend entire chapters describing a single room.

I get that pacing has sped as attention spans have shrunk, and to judge a historical author by modern standards is unfair; but I shouldn’t be able to use your novel as a soporific.

Fortunately, everyone else has read Moby Dick and talked about it enough that I can discuss it with my normal level of competency. (My normal competency level hovers between “troglodyte” and “drummer in Run DMC cover band.”)

Jason Lea,

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