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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed January 16, 2019 7:28 pm 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

i love steinbeck as well...who are some of your favorite authors?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed January 16, 2019 8:52 pm 
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lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

i love steinbeck as well...who are some of your favorite authors?

Oh man, that's tough. Steinbeck would definitely be up there. Raymond Carver. Charles Bukowski. Cormac McCarthy. Neil Gaiman. Stephen King. Clive Barker. Jack Ketchum. Chuck Klosterman. Those are all guys I've loved just about everything from.

I'm probably forgetting a few. What about you, Len?


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed January 16, 2019 8:55 pm 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

i love steinbeck as well...who are some of your favorite authors?

Oh man, that's tough. Steinbeck would definitely be up there. Raymond Carver. Charles Bukowski. Cormac McCarthy. Neil Gaiman. Stephen King. Clive Barker. Jack Ketchum. Chuck Klosterman. Those are all guys I've loved just about everything from.

I'm probably forgetting a few. What about you, Len?

steinbeck, cormac, chabon, jonathan safran foer...i need to start reading again

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed January 16, 2019 9:00 pm 
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lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

i love steinbeck as well...who are some of your favorite authors?

Oh man, that's tough. Steinbeck would definitely be up there. Raymond Carver. Charles Bukowski. Cormac McCarthy. Neil Gaiman. Stephen King. Clive Barker. Jack Ketchum. Chuck Klosterman. Those are all guys I've loved just about everything from.

I'm probably forgetting a few. What about you, Len?

steinbeck, cormac, chabon, jonathan safran foer...i need to start reading again

:thumbsup:

I read in fits and starts. There are times when I'll go months without touching a book. But I always miss it.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Wed January 16, 2019 9:03 pm 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

i love steinbeck as well...who are some of your favorite authors?

Oh man, that's tough. Steinbeck would definitely be up there. Raymond Carver. Charles Bukowski. Cormac McCarthy. Neil Gaiman. Stephen King. Clive Barker. Jack Ketchum. Chuck Klosterman. Those are all guys I've loved just about everything from.

I'm probably forgetting a few. What about you, Len?

steinbeck, cormac, chabon, jonathan safran foer...i need to start reading again

:thumbsup:

I read in fits and starts. There are times when I'll go months without touching a book. But I always miss it.

yeah...i used to always have a book going somewhat - it might have taken me a few months to finish but i always had one in progress...now i just can’t concentrate, same go s for movies

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 1:17 am 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
4/5 wrote:
Okay so I want the perspective of some of the Lit people here.

My high school and college educations didn't expose me to very many classic novels and I mostly chose to read nonfiction in my spare time. Over the last few years I've read a bunch of classic novels and I've often enjoyed doing so. For example, I just read Crime and Punishment and loved it and look forward to reading more Dostoyevsky.

But I browse through this thread and those you of who are avid readers are pretty much all reading stuff I've never heard of and apart from this thread I wouldn't even know where to find out about these types of books. So are the classics overrated? Is it that many of you have already spent a lot of time reading those and have moved on?

Idk why or even really what I'm asking. Just an observation and kinda thinking out loud. I'm reading Great Expectations now (hasn't grabbed me 100 pages in yet) and have Ulysses sitting on my shelf to read soon. Am I just going through like a freshman literature reading list doing stuff like this?

I was an English major, so I was exposed to a lot of that stuff in college.

I would say that, in general, classic lit just isn't for me. There are some exceptions, of course (I love Steinbeck). And I try to never shut myself off from a specific genre or niche in anything. But I do/did find a lot of that stuff to be fairly dry and, frankly, dull.

As for recommendations, Goodreads is awesome, as bune mentioned. I also tend to find a lot of stuff reading "best of" lists on Amazon or Reddit or what have you. Or just browsing threads like these. As with music, I find that word of mouth (especially from folks whose opinions I trust) tends to be the best way to find new things.

Yeah, I've done a lot of best of types of lists, definitely browse at libraries/bookstores/Amazon like Bune suggested. I know my post was a muddled mess as even I wasn't sure what I was getting at. After reading Bune's and your reply I think what I'm wondering about is about classics vs. contemporary stuff. I think there's a part of me that has viewed it as a natural progression that one goes through classic stuff/old stuff and then graduates to contemporary works. Of course I know that's ridiculous and I've read DFW and Eggers (I'm guessing that's pretty cliched but whatever) so it isn't as if I haven't read stuff that isn't 50 years old. But I do feel this compulsion to read the stuff that's considered the best ever first and I wonder if that's at the expense of reading contemporary stuff I might love. Fwiw, I really enjoy the fiction that I read, so it's not as if I'm slogging through old books so that I can say I've read old books.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 1:33 am 
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4/5, it sounds like you have 2 questions--"Should I read the classics?" and "How do I find books to read?" I'll answer one at the time, and word of warning: the 1st one is going to take waaaaay longer to answer, so you may want to scroll down.

This is a really interesting conversation that, maybe unsurprisingly, is being brought up in English and Writing departments quite a bit; it's been going on for the last 20-30 years or so [as I got further into this post, I realized that it's really closer to 40 years at this point], really, but is really gaining speed now as the older generations are retiring and a younger, more diverse faculty are being put in place. I'm coming at this from this very specific angle of course because (I know I've talked about it in this thread, but maybe not elsewhere) I have a Ph.D. in English literature and taught English and Writing at a state university for 7 years (and also for an additional year at a private, hilly college), and while I'm no longer teaching (at least for the time being), the academy is still a big part of my life. So when we start talking about the merits of the canon, I can't not look at it from this perspective.

Anyway, this question of "What's the use of reading the classics?" is a very important one and one that's still not settled. As I intimated with one of my asides above (that the academy is growing younger and more diverse) the problems hit upon by younger scholars since the 1980s is that the Western literary canon is overwhelmingly male and white. The word "classics" began to carry a disparaging connotation because it was associated with scholars and administrators (white men) who resisted adding curricula that emphasized non-western traditions. The hoopla has died down for the most part 20 years into this century because those who struggled for a seat at the table for non-white, non-western, female, queer, and other marginalized representations more or less won. You can see this reflected in the way syllabi are constructed these days at a time when, simultaneously, instruction in literature and writing has shifted away from a knowledge paradigm to one that values skills. I.e., what universities and departments are focused on these days is justifying their existence vis-a-vis what students can learn from literature classes and bring to other walks of life, versus learning about literature: when I constructed syllabi for Intro to Lit courses, I would sometimes only include contemporary, living authors and occasionally throw in something "classic," since what I was trained and encouraged to do was to develop students into careful and critical readers of any text--no one gave a shit if they could recite a soliloquy from memory or tell me what year a certain novel was published in. I then became a trainer and would encourage new teachers to do the same. So things have started to perpetuate themselves in that way in a similar manner.

But--I don't think you came here for a history lesson about the canon and the academy. But my thoughts and feelings are always clouded by this. How do I feel about it? It's...complicated. I received a very traditional and classic education when it came to literature and culture. When I was an undergrad, my college required a 2-year, 4-semester course in Western civilization that traced western thought as an unbroken line from the Greeks to the present day. When I took an intro to lit course, we read Shakespeare and Henry Miller and The Great Gatsby and T.S. Elliot. I took American Lit 1+2+3 and Brit Lit 1, plus 2-3 courses on early modern English (think Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, that era), and courses that focused on the Bible as a work of literature, one for the OT and one for the NT--it was a Catholic college, after all. I also took a poetry-writing workshop, a class on dark comedy in American poetry, and one or two capstones on literary criticism and theory. There are probably a few classes I am forgetting. Earning my master's I took seminars in Melville, Romantic literature, a bunch of other theory courses, Shakespeare, and others. Honestly, it wasn't until I started taking Ph.D. seminars that my education really widely opened up to a breadth of works that were not classic: literature from the fractured British Empire, post-colonial literature and theory, multi-ethnic American literature, under-represented theory, and more. I mention all this to frame this statement: it's very difficult for me to come up with an answer to the question "Should I read the classics?" from the outside, since my background in literature is so entrenched in it.

My real simple answer to the question would be, "Yes, sure!" But there are qualifications. I think my deep background has given me an appreciation of literature as both an artform and as a technical exercise; I think my exposure to the classics has provided me a window into the innumerable references and allusions (both in content and formally) that exist throughout literature; and I really, really believe that--despite the fact that the history of the Western canon is full of rhetorical violence and suppression of marginalized people and groups--lots of the classics are considered classics because they are pretty fucking good. But I certainly don't think that anyone should sacrifice the pleasure of reading something they enjoy in order to get "educated" (unless you're in my class, of course--if so, then do the fucking reading). Love that you loved Crime and Punishment, it's great (although it's been years and years since I last read it); but if you're not into Great Expectations, who cares? You might not get an allusion in some other book that was written 150 years later, but you'll never know you missed it, so...? I don't know anyone personally who shames others for putting down books, so don't sweat it: no one's going to judge you.

I know your other question involved finding ways to figure out what to read next. Don't worry, I have some ideas for that, too!

1. Ask! - If you like a book or an author, tell other people why you liked it and they can recommend more. I will certainly try my best to help out. Use a formula like: "I liked X because of Y; what else does Y?" I don't know exactly why you liked Crime and Punishment, but 3 works that pop off the top of my head that are like that are: Othello, The Stranger, and The Tell-Tale Heart (if you haven't read this since high school, read it again!). This probably works best for well-known works, like "Classics."

2. Stalk publishing houses - this probably works best for recently published or re-published books. If you find something you like, look and see what the publishing house is putting out soon or has put out recently--remember, there's someone in a building somewhere who chooses what gets published and what doesn't, so if you find something you like, you probably share at least a bit of the taste with someone there. The second level of this--and this is handy for lesser-known works or translated works--is to look at who the editor is of a book or who the translator is, and find other authors and works they have edited or translated.

3. Amazon - Even if you're not buying books from Amazon, you can see what other people who bought books are also buying. This especially helps for recently published works, because the results will also usually be more recent books. For classics, it's just going to be all classics or popular books, so not much crossover there.

4. Book blogs - I used to read like 15-20 different book blogs per week, and that's how I kept track of new releases and reprints and everything like that. Something like The Millions. You'll get a preview of books that are getting buzz, books that are nominated for awards, and so on. You find a blogger you share a taste with, and you're in. I will try to find the list of blogs I used to follow for you.

5. book reviews - Most book reviews are spoiler-free, so if you want to read book reviews in The Guardian, the NYT, the New Yorker, LA Times, etc., you're not going to get spoiled. But usually just the first few paragraphs will set the tone for a book's period, its style, its difficulty. Try sifting through a few, or read a review of a book you've enjoyed and see if the reviewer compares it favorably to something else--you'll find stuff.

6. writers writing about writing - Writers write about writing all the time: their influences, the people they're reading now, things they're excited for. See if anybody you like is on Twitter--I bet they're sharing news about releases you may not hear about otherwise.

7. Push outside your comfort zone - I can't stress this enough. I've gotten eyerolls in their thread before for pointing out that when people ask for recommendations, 90% of what gets spit back out are just books written by and about white guys (except for the stuff Joey recommends). You probably won't be surprised to know, for example, that there has been incredible writing from the US/Mexico border in the past 25 years. African fiction gets translated more and more and is well worth your time (McSweeney's did a special issue with literature from South Sudan a few years back). I have some recommendations for diasporic texts if you're interested; it's not my speciality, but I have some favorites.

I, uh, hope that helps.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 1:33 am 
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tl;dr - enjoy the homework I just gave you.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 2:21 am 
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Simple Torture wrote:
tl;dr - enjoy the homework I just gave you.

Hey, thanks for the reply. My wife is telling me I have to pack for our ski trip tomorrow so I probably can't give a thoughtful response right now and maybe not until tomorrow but I want you to know I appreciate the response. :thumbsup:

Btw, the first question answer was definitely more of what I had in mind.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 2:28 am 
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good grief

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 2:33 am 
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lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
good grief

:wave:
I like Steinbeck too, Len. Wanna be friends?

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 2:35 am 
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4/5 wrote:
lennytheweedwhacker wrote:
good grief

:wave:
I like Steinbeck too, Len. Wanna be friends?

yeah i think we could make this work

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 3:57 pm 
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Love Steinbeck. Short stories. Novels. So good. My dad got me Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters way back before he passed away and I still pick it up and read passages. It's a great view into a writers mind and the process of piecing together a huge story but the best parts for me are the passages about his relationship with his kids. My dad really nailed that gift.

I need to go back to read East of Eden again.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 4:13 pm 
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Know what’s a great, underappreciated Steinbeck book (or at least I don’t see it talked about as much as some of his others)? Travels with Charley. I LOVED that book.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 4:14 pm 
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He’s one of those guys I just want to read everything from eventually, though. He’s so fucking good.


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 4:20 pm 
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i haven’t read travels from charley...of what I’ve read east of eden is definitely my favorite

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 4:20 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 4:24 pm 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
Know what’s a great, underappreciated Steinbeck book (or at least I don’t see it talked about as much as some of his others)? Travels with Charley. I LOVED that book.



:nice:


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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 7:30 pm 
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Simple Torture wrote:
tl;dr - enjoy the homework I just gave you.

Thanks again for the response. That seemed like a pretty balanced stance to take on the matter. At the end of the day I just like to read things that make me think or feel something, and so far reading things that are well known or classic or whatever label it gets has generally worked pretty well for me. The biggest challenge is finding time to read enough, really. And add to that the fact that at least half of my reading is nonfiction I feel like it makes my fiction choices that much more important because I'm going to miss so much already. So I end up relying on best of the twentieth century or best of Russian literature, etc. type of lists for suggestions. Like I said, it's worked out well for me so far, but I'm glad to get some perspective on what else is out there and how to access it.

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 Post subject: Re: What are you currently reading?
PostPosted: Fri January 18, 2019 7:37 pm 
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Blaine Ryan wrote:
He’s one of those guys I just want to read everything from eventually, though. He’s so fucking good.

Funny you say that because I haven't read Travels with Charley because it has always seemed to me to be a good day to finish Steinbeck. I've read almost all of his fiction but I haven't read him in awhile so maybe I need to rethink that whole idea of saving it for last. And TwC isn't fiction anyway, so who cares right.

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"I want to see the whole picture--as nearly as I can. I don't want to put on the blinders of 'good and bad,' and limit my vision."-- In Dubious Battle



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