Sunday, April 03, 2005

Books Bought and Read

I'm about halfway through Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree, which is a compilation of columns he's written for The Believer. Each month, Hornby lists the books he bought and the books he read - sometimes, the lists are even similar.

I've been a Nick Hornby fan since High Fidelity was released. After How to be Good, I lost track of him a bit, but was delighted to stumble back across him recently. Interestingly enough, he also has an autistic son, which for some reason only makes me like him more. I know that's irrational; I'm sure there are complete idiots out there who have autistic children (though, to be honest, I haven't met one yet.) It may have something to do with the extraordinary work he's done by founding TreeHouse.

The Polysyllabic Spree has inspired me to start tracking the books I buy and read as well. Since I don't have the time, energy, or inclination to read as much as Hornby, this is likely to be a several-months-at-a-time endeavor. And in that spirit, here is the run-down of books bought and read, in order (to the best of my fuzzy recollection) for the past three months., January to March, 2005.

Books Bought:
Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism - Paul Collins
The Answer Is Yes: A Novel - Sara Lewis
Second Draft of My Life - Sara Lewis
Our Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A Roadmap - Linda Andron (ed.)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books - Paul Collins
Songbook - Nick Hornby
The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby
Banvard's Folly: Thirteen People Who Didn't Change the World - Paul Collins

Books Read:
Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism - Paul Collins
The Answer is Yes - Sara Lewis
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books - Paul Collins
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers
Second Draft of My Life - Sara Lewis
Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Diagnosis, Options and Answers - Mitzi Waltz
Aspergers Syndrome, The Universe, and Everything - Kenneth Hall
Your Inner Physician and You: CranioSacral Therapy and Somatoemotional Release - John Upledger
Banvard's Folly: Thirteen People Who Didn't Change the World - Paul Collins
Thinking in Pictures - Temple Grandin (unfinished)
The Polysyllabic Spree - Nick Hornby (unfinished)

Starting in January with Not Even Wrong is actually appropriate, because many of the books I've read since then can actually be traced back to Not Even Wrong. I've written about it in a previous post, but I just saw on that it has been released in paperback with a different title, Not Even Wrong: A Father's Journey Into the Lost History of Autism. I'm not sure if this is some publishing practice that I'm not up on, but Collins' first book, Banvard's Folly, had a different subtitle in hardcover than it did in paperback.

Anyway, I loved Not Even Wrong so much that I immediately bought Sixpence House and soon after, Banvard's Folly. They are all very different from each other, but I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite. Like Not Even Wrong, Sixpence House is a memoir of Collins and his family as they attempted to buy a house in Hay-on-Wye, a small Welsh town with 40 bookstores. The book introduces Collins' son Morgan before he is diagnosed with autism, though there are little glimpses that I recognized from Bud's early childhood - like taking him to a park with an acre of grass and watching him seek out the one strip of head-bashing asphalt on which to play. Sixpence House is delightful and engaging, and I was sorry when it was all over.

Banvard's Folly is an entirely different kind of great read. It is a historical journey through the lives of thirteen disparate people who have one thing in common: failure. They are people who, through circumstance, bad judgment, poor timing or ill repute sealed their fate as could-have-beens. Each story is compelling and fascinating, and though it is not the sort of book I would typically be drawn to, once I started reading I found it hard to put down.

A google search of Paul Collins led me to McSweeney's, which led me to Dave Eggers, and boy am I glad it did. I was completely captivated by Eggers' memoir of raising his young brother after both of their parents died of cancer within months of each other. I was equally captivated by Eggers himself. His book captures the simultaneous self-aggrandizing "I'm the King of the World" and self-loathing "I can do nothing right" assessments that (apparently) exist in us all, but that we each think are ours alone.

Interestingly, McSweeney's also led me to some old friends, including Nick Hornby and Ayelet Waldman (who was posting to a listserv at the same time as me for a while several years ago, and because of the personal nature of the listserv and some shared emotional trauma feels like an old friend. Long, long story that I will never go into, but that I'm sure she'd discuss at length should you ever have the opportunity.) Ayelet's husband, Michael Chabon, was also there at McSweeney's, and I was reminded that though I have given Kavalier and Clay as a gift several times, I've never gotten around to reading it myself. So, it's on the bedside table waiting... but more on that next time.

A second but no less significant thread that resulted from Not Even Wrong was a renewed interest in reading autism-related books (I tend to go in waves with these) - thus, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, Thinking in Pictures (which I keep going back to but never stick with) and Asperger's Syndrome, The Universe, and Everything. This last title was written by a young boy (ten or so, as I recall) with Aspergers, and is a terrific insight into the way he ticks. Though Bud doesn't have Aspergers I find that "aspies" are as close as relatives, so Kenneth Hall's world was strangely familiar. It is a great, quick read.

The other books - Upledger and Lewis - were completley unrelated to these other threads and were sort of "cleansing the palate" reads. That's not an insult. They were great cleanses.


Moi ;) said...

You don't want to know the amount of books I've bought and never read...LOL....

MOM-NOS said...

The mark of a true Book Person!