For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 17 July 2016

What Are You Reading?

I'm always fascinated by what others are reading.

Right now I've just read or am reading Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal; Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession by Ian Bostridge; Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of DH Lawrence by Geoff Dyer; Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities; and John Gray's Straw Dogs — an incredible, infuriating, outlook-changing book which will make all your ideas about religion and philosophy, science and 'progress', history and morality, humanism and anthropocentrism fall about your ears like a house of cards. It's essential, provocative reading, with the unmistakeable yet disconcerting ring of truth.

What are you reading at the moment?

42 comments:

Gwil W said...

I don't know why I haven't visited this most interesting blog more often. I shall make every effort to rectify my error.

I wasn't reading anything in particular until I came across your prompt. The outcome is that I'm going to begin Friederich Nietzsche's 'The Genealogy of Morals - An Attack' later this evening.

My thanks!

The Solitary Walker said...

Nietzsche is discussed in the John Gray book I cited. When I first read N. I found him intoxicating!

George said...

John Gray's book sounds profound and thought-provoking. That's one I will explore further.

Just went to the bedroom and checked my bedside table, which is where most of the books I'm reading or planning to read in the near future can be found. Here's what I found: WORDS UNDER THE WORDS, a collection of Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry; THE ZEN OF CREATIVITY, by John Daido Loori; THE HUMAN AGE: THE WORLD SHAPED BY US, by Diane Ackerman; THE LONGEST SILENCE, a collection of essays about fly-fishing by Thomas McGuane (just recently started trying my hand at fly-fishing, which I've not done since boyhood); and three volumes by Rebecca Solnit, namely, HOPE IN THE DARK, THE FARAWAY NEARBY, AND A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST.

A great idea, Robert. I look forward to getting ideas from your other followers.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Interesting list Robert.

Normally I'm a one book at a time reader, but just happen to have two on the go at the moment, as this first on the list is too heavy to carry around to read on the train etc.

1.Annals of a Former World: John McPhee (beautifully written, digressive book about the geology - and geologists - of the USA, much more interesting than it sounds).

2. The Ancient Greeks - Ten Ways They Shaped the Modern World: Edith Hall (I confess I'm only reading this because I was at school with Prof. Hall, whose intellectual gifts and taste for challenging received wisdom were both evident from an early age!)

Cheers,
Gail.

donna baker said...

THE BURIED GIANT. I am quite a ways into it, but it feels like a children's fairytale. I'll just have to see. Seems like all the "profound" books I read leave me scratching my head (and thinking, are you kidding me?). I've been trying to get into fiction this last year and probably batting 90% fails. The book reviews are very often wrong and I've fallen for them, but not anymore.

The Solitary Walker said...

Great, George, thanks for this. Naomi Shihab Nye I had heard of, and now I've just read some of her stuff, and she is brilliant. The Diane Ackerman looks to be essential reading - thanks for this pointer. Solnit I love, as you know. I read A Field Guide to Getting Lost not long ago. Thanks for getting into the spirit of this. It's good to share discoveries!

The Solitary Walker said...

To me both these books sound fascinating, Gail, as I am interested both in landscape/geology and Greek/Romam culture and civilisation. I really appreciate your recommendations, thanks so much!

The Solitary Walker said...

Like you Donna, I find contemporary fiction a minefield, and one can waste a lot of time just to get disappointed. And this is someone who adores novels. Not sure I'd like the Ishiguro you mention, but Remains of the Day was a classic - and the film too! A brilliant writer, who will always embrace new approaches.

sackerson said...

An interesting list. I feel drawn to investigate Straw Dogs... Perhaps... when I've returned your Werner Herzog? :)

I'm reading Cain's Book by Alexander Trocchi. Don't worry, it's about as likely to turn one onto using heroin as Moby Dick is to turn one onto whale fishing. I am going through a phase of wanting to read transgressive books - which is odd since I'm not feeling particularly transgressive myself. What next? William Burroughs? Perhaps its because I feel we're living through very un-transgressive times that I find those curious, cracked prophets alluring.

Before that I read Sarah Bakewell's new existentialism book and Sartre's Nausea. I've still got a backlog from before my eye went haywire. I'm half-way through James Robertson's Joseph Knight, which I intend to go back to. I'm also dibbing into WS Graham's selected poems.

The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, yes, my Werner Herzog:)

Like your phrase 'curious cracked prophets'. Made me think of William Blake. Reading Burrroughs gives me an unpleasant feeling of having ants under the skin,rather like reading that 'Trainspotting' author (sorry, his name's gone - it's the middle of the night).Give me the transgressions of Henry Miller any day - at least they're redemptive. Nausea is very fine, but I haven't read Trocchi or Robertson.I believe WS Graham is one of your mother's favourites?

am said...

Last winter I started re-reading War and Peace, one chapter a day, as suggested on Sabine's blog. Have missed many days while reading other books that have come my way. Have re-read about 1/4 of the book. First read it in the 1980s. It's even better than I remembered. Currently I am at the beginning of Sulha, by Malka Marom. From the back cover: "Sulha is one of the most poignant and inspired novels to have emerged from modern Israel's harrowing yet exultant experience." -- Elie Weisel. "... Crucial human questions, passionately addressed in a spirit of humility ... I rejoice in [Malka Marom's}] achievement." -- Leonard Cohen. I heard about Sulha while reading about Joni Mitchell and discovering that Malka Marom is a friend of hers. Bob Dylan plays are part in Malka Marom's life.

Have recently read Until Further Notice, I Am Alive, by Tom Lubbock. An extraordinary book that I was led to via Sabine's blog.

Come to think of it, everything I have read recently strikes me as extraordinary:

Into The Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon's Quest To Discover The Mysteries Of The Brain And The Secrets Of The Heart, by James R. Doty.

The Iceberg: A Memoir, Marion Coutts.

Good to see all the book suggestions so far. Thank you for asking the question!

martine said...

Hi I found an interesting interview with John Gray on youtube, he sounds really interesting, thanks for the recommendation. I am currently reading 'A prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving which I am really enjoying, and have just acquired 'Africa Unchained' by George Ayittey after watching a Ted talk by him the other day. I am really looking forward to this having studied African colonialisation at Poly.
Thanks to your readers for all their suggestions too.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for sharing your current reading list, Amanda - some fascinating things here which many of us will feel compelled to explore further, I'm sure. A very good idea to read a chapter a day of War and Peace. I still have to finish it. It is, of course, magnificent, and would feature in my list of the best novels of all time. Ah, another idea for a blog post!

The Solitary Walker said...

I haven't read John Irving, but would like to. My wife and son recently read Until I Find You. Thanks so much for joining in, Martine. It's good to share enthusiasms about books in this way as reading can sometimes seem an isolating activity.

John Pendrey said...


I have been reading KUSAMAKURA by Natsume Sōseki. The narrator's world became mine, a wonderful world which I entered like a dream that I didn't want it to end. It did end but I am still returning to it, opening pages at random. But I can't return. The magic has gone. My best books are escape into a poetic world.

I would be tempted by the polemics of, THE SILENCE OF ANIMALS by John Gray.

"Admitting that our lives are shaped by fictions may give a kind of freedom – possibly the only kind that human beings can attain. Accepting that the world is without meaning, we are liberated from confinement in the meaning we have made. Knowing there is nothing of substance in our world may seem to rob that world of value. But this nothingness may be our most precious possession, since it opens to us the world that exists beyond ourselves."

And there is a pleasure in having ideas confirmed. I would also argue that the silence of animals is close to the silence of the universe. But I would rather not argue. I am l seeking some mystery in a book. I am a romantic. In 'Kusamakara' the beautiful, mysterious Nami draws me in.

I have in fact started KOKORA also by Sōseki. Japanese literature takes me to a place I like to be, which is often alone.

am said...

One more! Beginning on December 1 of last year, I've been slowly reading the Wilhelm/Baynes version of The I Ching or Book of Changes. Although I've had the book since 1967 (my first year in college), until now I had only read the parts of it that were determined by the throwing of the coins, and I had read the Foreword, written by Carl Jung in Zurich in 1949. As of just now, early this morning, I'm about half way through the book. Bob Dylan, among others, first brought the I Ching to my attention. The times they are a changin'?

From page 370, on Ch'ien / The Creative: The clouds pass and the rain does its work, and all individual beings flow into their forms.

George said...

Here, here, Robert, to the redemptive transgressions of Henry Miller . . .

David said...

I'm glad you're having fun with Straw Dogs. It's one of my all time favourite books, although this is probably because I already agreed so strongly with its message! I also enjoyed Gray's The Silence of the Animals and The Soul of the Marionette but it's always Straw Dogs I come back to. It's a book that really divides people. Another book you might find rewarding is Ehrenfeld's The Arrogance of Humanism. Well worth reading. I'm currently devouring a new book by Derrick Jensen that punctures a related sacred cow - The Myth of Human Supremacy. Very different in style from Gray, much less scholarly but a real cry from the heart.

Danish dog said...

I started on Leopardi's Zibaldone a couple of months ago. I've reached page 47. Only 2,022 pages to go. I think it is best enjoyed in small bites. I have read three or four pages at a time. This slowness is supported by the fact that I am reading it aloud for my wife, who prefers to read books this way. Initially I thought it might take us a year, but at the present rate it's going to take seven. But we don't feel there's any rush. He started on it almost 200 years ago, and after his death it lay undiscovered for half a centur. Then it was neglected for another century.

Ruth said...

Robert, thanks for asking. This is fun.

And thanks for the rec on John Gray. I am heading into a vacation this week, so reading material is needed. I just ordered it for Kindle.

Mine: COLLAPSING CONSCIOUSLY: TRANSFORMATIVE TRUTHS FOR TURBULENT TIMES by Carolyn Baker; LADY SUSAN by Jane Austen; THE OTHER WES MOORE by Wes Moore, about two men of the same name in the same community growing up very differently; ENQRIQUE'S JOURNEY by Sonia Nazario (our incoming students are asked to read it this year).

Sabine said...

As Amanda mentioned, we are working our way through War&Peace and there have been days I found myself reading beyond the chapter a day so that I am now almost finished with it.

I really enjoy the chapter a day thing and have lined up a couple of "tomes" as my next chapter challenge: "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton (because my daughter lives in NZ), "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein (because she goes on and on and I cannot stand it for more than one chapter but I feel she has much to say) and "Dying Words, endangered languages and what they have to tell us" by Nicholas Evans because he is a friend and I once wanted to become a linguist.

Earlier this year I completed reading all novels by Marilynne Robinson and I feel my mind and my heart have opened up throughout reading, esp. her latest novel "Lila".

I am currently reading "LaRose" by Louise Erdrich. I think she is a fascinating writer and deserves a much wider audience. I found her first novel, "Love Medicine", by chance about 20 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Years ago, someone gave me the readers guide to her novels (she has a complicated web of recurring characters and family trees) and this has seen much use.

Amanda Summer said...

Rereading Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle.

What a fascinating reading list posted by your other commenters~

Susan Scheid said...

A composer I know whose mother was born in Estonia told me his mother has been working for 20 years on translating a trilogy of novels by Estonian author Jaan Kross that is to come out perhaps even later this year. Kross was unknown to me, and my friend recommended Kross's earlier novel, "The Czar's Madman." The political situation on both sides of the pond has, I'm afraid, kept me distracted a good bit, but, when I do sit down to it, I'm finding it a fascinating window into another world and time (it's set in the early 1800's). My other recent reading grew out of our trip to Portugal this spring, and talk about marvelous windows into new perspectives there! The great finds for me were the poet Cesário Verde and particularly his poem "The Feeling of a Westerner," Pessoa's Mensagem (Message in English), and the novelist António Lobo Antunes's novels "The Splendors of Portugal" and "The Return of the Caravels," both remarkable books that I can't even begin to characterize.

pilgrimpace said...

Great post Robert.

Walking the Woods and the Water' Nick Hunt - I think you would enjoy this - he walks in the steps of Paddy Leigh Fermor - very good writing, and a good meditation on the last 80 years of Europe

'Ventoux' Bert Wagendorp - Dutch novel - cycling, friendship, the past, Mont Ventoux

'A Year on the Wing' Tim Dee - fantastic nature writing

'Upon This Mountain' Mary McCormack - Carmelite praying

Andy

The Solitary Walker said...

I find this such a beautiful response, John. I think many of my blog readers will have enjoyed it too. I do not know Kusamakura, but your description is irresistible. Intriguingly, one of the books I have in mind to read next is Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North. Re. John Gray, it's so liberating that he cuts through all that superiority of mankind nonsense and demonstrates our affinity and equality with our companion creatures living on this earth.

The Solitary Walker said...

Like you, Amanda, I've used the I Ching so far for guidance every so often by throwing coins. It has proved uncannily accurate and helpful. I have other 'translations' apart from the Wilhelm, but I can't think what they are right now as many of my books are in boxes ready for moving house. The I Ching and the Tao Te Ching are such inexhaustible works of wisdom.

The Solitary Walker said...

Seconded, George!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comment, David. I"ll keep a lookout for the two books by Ehrenfeld and Jensen you recommend.

The Solitary Walker said...

The book by Leopardi sounds absolutely fascinating, Danish Dog. I like your attitude to reading and share it to some extent, i.e. it's not important how long you take to read a book etc. I find different books seem to dictate naturally how you read them, whether breathlessly all at one sitting or over the course of a lifetime, whether jumping around or in linear fashion, and so on.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for contributing, Ruth. Lady Susan - have you also seen the recent movie of this?

The Solitary Walker said...

Another wonderful reading guide, Sabine - many thanks! Catton I knew nothing about. Robinson and Erdrich always reap stunning reviews, but I haven't read either. Klein I know principally for No Logo. The more you read, the more there is to read, and the more you realise your ignorance is boundless! Although there's also something strangely comforting in that fact.

The Solitary Walker said...

I have that book, Amanda! And I agree - the comments and suggestions in response to this post have been totally fabulous.

The Solitary Walker said...

I really appreciate this insight into Estonian literature, Susan! It's wonderful to come across new authors - so much European writing lies untranslated and undiscovered.

Yes, I followed your recent Portuguese adventure. Of the three writers you mention, I only know Pessoa. What a writer! All those different personae he adopts - and I love the fact his life was so routine and 'ordinary'. What fertile imaginations lurk behind the unfathomable faces of all bank clerks and ledger keepers, I wonder? (Thinking too of Eliot and Wallace Stevens in this regard.) Pessoa's remarkable Book of Disquiet is one of my favourite books of all time.

The Solitary Walker said...

You always have such good reading suggestions, Andy - re nature and travel writing your tastes are similar to mine, as I've said before. Will certainly check out the Nick Hunt and the Tim Dee.

Ruth said...

Nope. Have not seen Lady Susan the movie yet.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes indeed Robert re W S Graham.

dritanje said...

This is a great idea Solitary Walker, as, with all these great recommendations, if ever we are stuck for ideas we can check out some of these books. Although, as ever, I have a pile of books still to read.

I recently read Laurence Durrell's Reflections on a Marine Venus, and then went on to A Smile in the Mind's Eye. Durrell is such a good travel writer because he writes about more than travel, he reflects deeply on life and some of his descriptions are marvellous.

A friend of mine recently published a memoir - of his life, and travels and search for life's meaning - A Gap Life, by David Cooper. It's fascinating to read about these travels to India and elsewhere, not long before I made that trip too, with similar goals.

And an uplifting novel LIfe Begins on Friday by Ioana Parvulescu, which I've reviewed here. http://www.scottishreview.net/MorelleSmith51a.html

Then there's Amelie Nothomb's Fear and Trembling which is funny, a story of a young Belgian woman working in a Japanese company and coming up against a very different way of working.

Thanks to all of you for these recommendations.

The Solitary Walker said...

Reading should be a wonderful adventure, and, as ever,I admire your adventurous taste, Morelle.I agree about Durrell. It's a shame he isn't more popular these days. And thanks for the link to your book review - I look forward to reading it!

Timecheck said...

‘Dark Money,’ by Jane Mayer - profoundly disturbing.

The Solitary Walker said...

Don't know this book, Ralph, but just checked it out. What a dark tale of power, influence and money.

Cris M said...

Hi Robert,
I am catching up on the blogs reading after months of abstinence; but thought to comment on this one based on the topic.
I finished reading a book that I don´t know if it has been translated into English, in Spanish the title is "Ultimas Inquisiciones: Borges y Von Balthasar reciprocos" from Ignacio Navarro. The book is a fictional conversation between Jorge Luis Borges and Hans Von Balthasar, the book is very much about the quest of God and beauty these 2 characters may have had... Not an easy book, lots of philosophy and real quotes from the two. I don´t know if it was translated, but I would think both you and Andy would enjoy it.

Hugs from Buenos Aires
Cris

The Solitary Walker said...

No, Navarro doesn't seem to have been translated into English, Cris. Which is a shame as this book looks rather interesting. Hope everything is well with you in Argentina.