July Heats up/Sandor’s book list

July is plodding along slowly and yet we still have clients coming to us for their projects.  We think this is great and we welcome any new projects people may have.  Dr. Weiner has been tirelessly working on her own writing and a few blog posts of her own.

Besides writing, working at CambridgeEditors and studying for the GRE, I’ve been reading a lot.  I have probably said this before but I’ll say it again, all writers read and it’s important to read everything–the good, the bad, the morally corrupt, the strange, and the downright stupid. The only exception would be the Twilight Series–no one should ever read those books.  But this has very little to do with what I want to talk about today.  One of the great things about being a reader and a writer is that people always ask me for book recommendations.

I love it when one of my friends says to me, “Sandor, I’m looking for a good book to read can you help me.”  It’s like chicken soup for my ego.  The good thing about a blog is that I can give advice and recommendations without having to be asked.  So if you’re looking for some good books to read as summer comes down the home stretch, then look no further.  These are a few of my favorite books for summer and be warned, you won’t find Hunger Games or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, on this list.

1) Roads-Larry McMurtry

One day Larry McMurtry, decided to take long driving trips on the American Interstates. That’s what spawns the 286 page discussion of American travel, literature and history in this book. Over the course of the book,  the author of Lonesome Dove makes several 1500-3000 mile trips on the major American highways as a way to explore the history of the American landscape and cultural character of different places. One of my favorite parts in this book is when McMurtry is driving on I-10 in Texas and comes across a lone office chair in the middle of the highway.

2)Ham on Rye-Charles Bukowski

If you think literature should have standards i.e. stay away from vulgarity and crude language then stay away from Bukowski.  However, I’m not one of those people.  I enjoy vulgarity if its done right, and Charley does it better than most.  When I read Ham on Rye I would occasionally burst out laughing from what was going on. The book is semi-autobiographical, and is Bukowski’s own Portrait of the artist as a young man.  Through his alter ego Henry Chinaski, Bukowski talks about his tough upbringing, an adolescence riddled with acne and his dream to become a writer.

3) Dog of the South-Charles Portis

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From the author of True Grit, Portis’s Dog of the South is a wacky roller coaster ride of a book that will have you laughing from beginning to end.  The sardonic main character Ray Midge tracks his wife through Mexico and South America in an effort to get his car back.   He’s joined by the outrageos Dr. Reo Symes who in my interpretation is a kind of failed Horatio Algers figure.  Whenever someone asks me for a book to read, I always recommend Charles Portis and Dog of the South.

4) To A God Unknown-John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is not known for subtlety or literary grace, some people like him for that others don’t.  However, in To A God Unknown Steinbeck strays away from his usual populist and political voice to talk about a more mystical subject.  In the book, Joseph Wayne is a frontiersman who moves out to the Salinas river valley.  He begins to think an oak tree on his farm contains the soul of his father.  The whole book investigates religion, transcendentalism and family relationships through magical realism.   It’s a pretty easy read and Steinbeck has some great passages describing the landscape of California–the forests, rivers and mountains.

5) The Crying of Lot 49-Thomas Pynchon

I don’t care who you are, Pynchon is weird and not always easy to understand. Lot 49 is his most accesible book and probably his funniest.  Unlike the stream of consciousness style of Gravity’s Rainbow, Lot 49 has an easy to read prose, which is good because sometimes the story is hard to follow.  However, if you can keep up with it The Crying of Lot 49 is a wildly funny and paranoid bus ride into the beginning of 1950’s post-modernism.  Oedipa Maas is called upon to be executor of the will of a former boyfriend.  She stumbles the sinister history of a secret mail delivery service.  As she tries to solve the mystery she believes she is imagining the whole thing and becomes increasingly paranoid. It’s Pynchon’s testament to the failed experiment of modernism and the inability of signs to signify.  I’m making it sound incredibly dull but I assure you it’s a fantastic ride.

6) Airships-Barry Hannah

Airships is Barry Hannah’s collection of Short Stories.  One thing that you can say about Hannah is that he is inconsistent, in a good way.  He is very good at taking on new voices and different types of characters. Too often short story writers stick to a specific voice, style, character, story, setting.  Hannah changes it up from story to story. Good for some quick reading before bed.

7) The Hot Kid-Elmore Leonard

The Hot Kid By Elmore Leonard Unabridged Hr Min Harperaudio

The Hot Kid takes place during the Great Depression when Bank Robbers like Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, are robin hood figures.  A time when men talk tough and when the tommy gun is their mouthpiece.  Elmore Leonard’s hard written prose is fast to get through, but you’ll wish that it was longer.  The story is so good that you’ll be putting off going to sleep just to find out what happens next.  If you want a quick read anything by Elmore Leonard is good.

8) Even Cowgirls Get the Blues-Tom Robbins

From just a few pages of Robbins you’ll ask yourself why you haven’t ever picked up one of his books before.  It’s a mystery why Don Delillo has more literary fame than Tom Robbins but that’s just the way the pages turn I guess. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a philosophical masterpiece about hippie politics, drugs, religion, body odor, and free love.  The main character Sissy Hankshaw is born with thumbs that are too large, which she uses to her advantage, hitchhiking to New York to work as a model.  Some of the chapters seemingly have nothing to do with the story and come from left field, but the writing is so good that you won’t even care that Robbins suddenly starts talking about Amoebas.

9) Nobody move-Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson is how I want to write.  He can go from hard boiled Dashell Hammet-like prose to high literary language and it’s always awesome to read.  In Nobody Move, Jimmy Luntz–a barshop quartet singer and compulsive gambler–is on the run from some seedy types to which he owes money.  He’s joined by the stunningly beautiful Anita Desilvera, a divorced housewife bent on a spree of suicidal destruction.  The witticism and tough language contained makes it exciting and poignant all at the same time.

10) The Great Gatsby-F. Scott Fitzgerald/The Sun Also Rises-Ernest Hemingway

 

Yeah I know, two of the most stereotypical pieces of American fiction.  But I like what’s good and these are the best, at least in my opinion. I felt like ending this list with a classic and I couldn’t decide which one I liked more.  So you tell me which is better, I’m happy to have a discussion about it.

So that’s just a brief list of books that I would recommend.  Start reading, and don’t stop writing.

Best Regards,

Sandor Mark

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