Book Report: More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl (2005)

Book coverAfter I read Book Lust in January for the Winter 2021 Reading Challenge, I was surprised/not surprised to find I had the sequel on my bookshelves. I didn’t buy them at the same time–I bought the first at the Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale in autumn 2015 and this volume, signed by the author but not inscribed but with the recipient’s name, in autumn 2018 at the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. So of course they were not really anywhere near each other on the bookshelves, and any time I saw one, I probably saw the other.

At any rate, it’s much like the first volume: A collection of topics and books for that topic. Really, one, and by “one,” I mean I is not so much looking for books to read about a topic–one has a disorganized library full of books on many topics (books on boomerang and whip making, for example) and actual book sales this year to fill the few gaps one creates by reading these smallish paperbacks. So it’s more about keeping score on books I have already read.

Which is not a lot, actually–the bulk of the topical book listings list relatively recent books for the most part and avoid poetry, read: grandmother poetry and chapbooks, and classical literature. The book also dodges overtly political content, but the leftist bent is in evidence, more acutely in this book than in the previous one as she explicitly says about some older books that it’s hard to read because contemporaenous views on race were not contemporaenous to this book and because a lot of the selections are on the Race question–pretty much the whole state-by-state selection of Southern fiction deals with racial matters.

Still, I flagged a number of books she mentioned that I have read:

  • Killing Floor by Lee Child (see below)
  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  • The Deep Blue Goodbye by John D. MacDonald
  • Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (although I do not have a book report on it, I did ask my boys to read it last year)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.
  • Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (this year)
  • “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (I read it most recently in Selected Tales and Poems in 2017)
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (apparently, I cleaned up on the books listed in the “Horror for Sissies” section)
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • David Copperfield (in progress)
  • Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
  • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
  • “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. It’s not a whole book, but I haven’t brought up that I used to go to poetry open mic nights and recite the whole thing from memory in almost a year
  • The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer (ugh)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte BrontĂ«
  • By The Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the section on South Dakota, as are
  • The Long Winter
  • Little Town on the Prairie
  • and These Happy Golden Years
  • True Grit by Clinton Portis
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Millennium by John Varley
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Those are the ones I flagged as having read, anyway. To be honest, in the week or so where I read the book off and on, I might have stopped flagging the ones I’d read if I felt like I was flagging too much and then started after a couple of pages without flagging anything.

Most of the books that I read are mentioned in passing and are not actually the subject of the entry. Also, note that only, what, three of them that I have read are from within the last fifty years.

I also flagged a couple of passages for snark, but I’ll tuck them below the fold to keep this book report from completely consuming the front page here.

Other Quibbles and Comments:

Now Appearing on the To-Read Shelves For The Fourteenth Straight Year
In the section “All the World’s A Stage”, she mentions Janet Burroway’s Opening Nights, which I bought in 2007 because the author wrote the “textbook” that we must have glanced at in my collegiate Fiction Writing class. The book later reiterates how much the author likes Burroway and mentions her textbook, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, which is probably also on my to-read shelves yet. If I bought it during those lean college years.

What Comes Around

Pearl entitles one section “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” and says:

I don’t know why I’m so taken with so many novels set in West Virginia, where I’ve never been but hope someday to visit. Maybe it’s that I’ve always loved “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” [sic] the John Denver song that gives this section its title….

Little did she know that this song would appear in a video game in fourteen or fifteen years, which led to its resurgence. It gets played in arenas, and children know the lyrics. Unfortunately for me.

Perhaps She Also Likes The Dinosaur Romances

Of all the many odd novels I’ve read, Marian Engle’s Bear ranks high on the list, but not only because of how strange it is, but also because of its total believablity. Winner of Canada’s Governor-General’s Literary Award in 1976, this novel tells of a young woman’s love affair with–what else–a bear, on an ostensibly deserted island near Ontario, Canada.

The first of many Affairs With Animals books that would later take Amazon’s self-publishing world by storm. I am sure many have wondered if these books exist because society has detoxified masculinity in a lot of actual human men over the last half century.

Also, A Major Motion Picture

She doesn’t mention the film when she says:

The best-loved contemporary novel with an Iowa setting may well be W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, the story of Ray Kinsella, who builds a baseball field in back of his house after hearing a voice say, “If you’ll build it, he’ll come.”

A lot of books listed were made into movies. This one, the original source for The Money Pit…. C’mon, man, just look at the list of books that I read above. More than half of them were made into major motion pictures. I wonder if there’s a reason for that.

I Have Heard Of The Incident

In the section “Central Asia: The Crossroads of Empires, Cauldrons of War”, Pearl recommends:

Fans of historical fiction will love Philip Hensher’s The Mulberry Empire, which makes a wonderful companion read to Susanna Moore’s One Last Look (see “India: A Reader’s Itinerary”). Set in the 1830s, when Britain’s cockiness about its empire-building was at its height, this is a story of the first Afghan War, when Lord Auckland sent fifty thousand British and Indian troops to unseat the amir, Dost Mohammed, the leader of the Afghans, and replace him with someone more acceptable to an important ally, the king of the Punjab.

The background for this appears in the lecture “Afghanistan: Khyber Pass Death Trap–1842” in History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach. I feel smaht. Also, running into it again so soon will help cement the connections in my mind.

Agree to Disagree
She gives Lee Child a whole “Too Good To Miss” section. As you know, gentle reader, I read the first two Jack Reacher novels, Killing Floor and Die Trying last year, and I’m not in any hurry to read any of the dozens more.

Now A Well-Received Netflix Series

In the section “Child Prodigies”:

Beth Harmon, the eight-year-old heroine of The Queen’s Gambit, has one talent: chess. During her spectacular rise from her first game to the U.S. Open Championship, Beth struggles with all sorts of inner and outer challenges.

Clearly they adapted it for television–the woman in the promotional photographs is older than eight. Also, she notes that the author, Walter Trevis, also wrote The Hustler, The Color of Money, and The Man Who Fell To Earth.

I Just Read An Article On That

In the section on her favorite cookbooks, she mentions:

First, of course, is Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker’s Joy of Cooking (but not the most recent edition).

Well, in my case, “just” is a year and almost a half ago, when I read the January 1952 issue of Pageant magazine.

Spoiler Alert: In Fifteen Years, You Will Be Made To Care

She has a section called “Gender Bending” where she celebrates:

Needless to say, one’s sexual orientation doesn’t depend on (or even necessarily reflect) one’s gender. These books (two novels and two memoirs) are required reading for anyone interested in the mysteries of love, gender, and self-identity.

I am not sure if these are now part of the core curriculum in public schools, but perhaps.

I Am From The Future, And You Have No Idea
In the section “Hong Kong Holidays”:

I think that the main reason I’ve always loved reading about Hong Kong is because years ago, I was lucky enough to stumble across the Yellowthread Street mysteries of William Marshall (who was described on the cover as “living in a modest castle in Ireland” which thoroughly delighted me). The first books in the series were published in the 1970s, and though Hong Kong has changed significantly since then, especially since the 1997 transfer from British to Chinese hands, some essential elements are the same.

Especially sincer these days, ainna?

Good Reading, Maybe; Bad 21st Century, Forthcoming

Three novels of the lives of political radicals of the 1960s (a la the Weather Underground) make for good reading.

I just skipped over quibbles I had over her defending the liberal establishment and defending the left. You don’t really get any balanced identification of conservative thought or even “classical” liberalism (she acknowledges the term has changed). Why would one, darling?

Agreed

In On Moral Fiction, John Gardner writes passionately (and controversially) of his belief that literature contains truths about the way we live and ought to live, and that novel writing must not be about the triumph of style over substance.

See also Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto and why I read so much genre fiction.


At any rate, I’m glad I found this and picked it up when I did, as I am pretty sure I am going off the book listing other books genre for a bit. I think the book, which was written only two years after the first, has a more, erm, modern sensibility. Which means Book Lust III would probably contain lists of books I would not have read or would not want to read at all.

I am amazed, however, at the volume of books that she reads. This book and its antecedent are jammed with other books, and she mentions re-reading some of her favorites every couple of years. Gentle reader, I try to read for an hour or so every night, and with a couple of hours on autumn Sundays set aside for daytime reading, I get to maybe 100 books a year. I cannot imagine the volume of books Mrs. Pearl reads. Maybe she doesn’t read all the books listed in her volumes. Even then, man. I have something to aspire to.