Sunday, May 31, 2009

Book Two Finished: Zorba the Greek

Success! Two weeks, two books. This time I returned to one of my all-time favorites, Zorba the Greek. Nikos Kazantzakis is one of my favorite writers since his characters and even plots are earthy and full of life. His narrative biography of St. Francis paints a very realistic (that is, unsaintly) view of this great saint. His Last Temptation of Christ shows us a human Jesus few Christians can be comfortable with, but reminds us of the humanity of Christ. His character Zorba is the embodiment of life lived with abandon, but that does not mean without restraint. While Zorba loves women, food, wine, and work with equal fervor, he also respects his role in life and how others must be treated. Kazantzakis gives us a character who recognizes his role and his responsibility to community, but never lacks in living a full life. What is most memorable about Zorba is that he dances -- this is how he talks. Happy, sad, distraught, and overjoyed are emotions displayed in the dance because they are beyond words.

Important for me to keep in focus is the narrator of the book, the "boss" who is too lost in the world of books. When Zorba asks the simple question, "why do people die?" the narrator is at a lost.

"'I don't know Zorba,' I replied...
'You don't know!' said Zorba in round-eyed astonishment, just like his expression the night I had confessed I could not dance.
He was silent for a moment and then suddenly broke out.
'Well, all those damned books you read--what good are they? Why do you read them? If they don't tell you that, what do they tell you?'"

If you have never read anything by Kazantzakis, you have great reading ahead of you!

Reading Challenges
So how easy is it do this reading? Not easy! As I've mentioned before, I do not read usually before 10pm, and by then sitting down to read for an hour can be hard. I've found reading at the kitchen table helps since I'm not too comfortable. Once I'm into the reading I'm fine, but getting started can be a challenge. Writing this blog is helping since I'm hoping people are keeping me honest. But having completed two books in two weeks gives me encouragement as I move forward. All this and the Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup Finals which means I'm more distracted than ever.

Next read: The Music Room by Namita Devidayal. The subtitle is "A Memoir" which made me almost start running -- I'm not a huge fan of memoirs. But this promises to give me insight into Indian music, which I enjoy, so it should be interesting. I read the first chapter in the library and was pulled in, so this may be a memoir I enjoy.

Are you out there?

My favorite daughter (Maria) is the only one actually "officially" following my blog, but I know my eldest (Gray) is reading this through an RSS feed. So if you are following it in some way, please send me an email at just so I know.

Happy reading!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book One Finished: Blink

Just a day after my first blog, I have my first book finished. Okay, I started earlier, but still within a week. I read Malcom Gladwell's Blink and I highly recommend it. Gladwell pulls in an amazing amount of information on how we make decisions quickly. The most interesting part to me was in an interview with him at the end of the book where he notes that he never uses the word "intution" because those decisions are really intelligent. Of course, now that we know why we decide what we do, we need to address those areas of concern. Racism plays a big role in a number of decisions, so we have a lot of work to do. Gladwell's interesting idea at the end is to not wait for all of us to catch up with the way we should be, but create structures which eliminate our stereotypes before they can interfere with rational judment.

I split my reading into five sections, which is probably how I'll approach most of this. I know there will always be a couple of days where reading is not possible, but less than five puts the reading load a bit too high for some nights.

In the future I'll discuss types of books which I will or will not read. But for now, it is off to Zorba the Greek. I've read this before and note that if you have not entered Nikos Kazantzakis' world, then you have some great reading ahead of you. I'll be teaching this book this fall so I'm reading it with a new perspective.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One Book One Week One Year -- The Rationale

I would describe myself as a reader. I read magazines, newspapers, online articles, blogs, cereal boxes, and anything else that is not moving too fast. I also read books, but for the past several years I feel like I'm slipping from where I want to be in reading. There are plenty of books I want to read -- I just never get to them.

I've got great excuses. First, a family. By the time everyone is asleep and things are picked up it is 10pm; a book serves as a great reason to fall asleep! Plus, I have a busy job with unpredictable hours so finding a routine is challenging. In addition to that job, I teach a writing course for first-year students in college and that also takes a lot of time.

But I've decided those are excuses. Typically I like to "start small" so I considered taking my 12-15 books per year and doubling it. A book every two weeks is manageable. But I want to be challenged. So I've decided to read one book each week for the next year. No excuses. Of course, I may fail, but it will not be for lack of trying.

Which explains why I add my first ever blog to an already busy schedule. I want accountability for what I'm doing. If I'm public about my goal, I'll have more reason to pursue it. So follow along. I'm just about at the end of my first book (Malcolm Gladwell's Blink) and I'll post some thoughts. But I expect to write more about how I'm doing it rather than giving 52 book reviews.

And yes, I know for many people a book a week is no big deal. My oldest son knocks off a few books every week and my oldest daughter must finish at least one per week (and she is not one for "easy reads.") I commend everyone who already does one I'm attempting to do. So feel free to follow along, offer tips, send encouragement, and recommend books!