Don’t you hate it when you’re reading a bunch of books but none of them really do it for you?
That’s been my problem over the past couple of weeks. If only the books I’m reading were actually bad! Then I could stop—or (more likely) finish them right away and gleefully write them up in this blog.
So here’s what I’m slogging through:
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin—this is my “big bestseller” selection; it’s currently #6 on the USA Today list, enjoying its 47th week of fame. It’s about this dude, Greg Mortenson, who gets lost during a K2 climbing expedition and finds his way to a remote village in Pakistan. Befriending the natives, Mortenson agrees to return and build a school for the village children. Three Cups of Tea is the story of Mortenson’s personal journey from mountain-climbing hippie to nonprofit CEO, the story of what he gives to and learns from some of the poorest communities on earth.
There is nothing inherently bad about this book. The writing is quite good and the story is interesting, even inspiring, a la Reading Lolita in Tehran. But god-dang is it detailed. I’m halfway in and Mortenson still hasn’t finished his first school. It makes me feel a bit like I’m in school with a bad case of senioritis.
Next up is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Now I realize this is a cult classic. I also realized within about 10 pages that this was a cult to which I was never going to belong. I find the writing amusing (this is a good thing; I’m supposed to) and I always applaud the silly people who manage to make it in the arts. But I just don’t, can’t, care about anything that happens in this book. Just don’t. Just can’t. In the introduction, the authors write about rabid fans who’ve read this book so many times it has been dropped in puddles, baked in souffles, and incorporated into their nervous systems. My mind is boggled by such ardor. But I am happy for the authors all the same.
I’m also slowly climbing through The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a real literary work with an excruciatingly clever organization scheme that I am legitimately enjoying. The problem here is that I actually have to concentrate on this book and I am fresh out of brain cells most evenings.
So instead I’ve been turning to Over the Hill and Between the Sheets, a lighthearted collection about sex and love in middle age, edited by Gail Belsky. I actually picked this up as research for a project I’m beginning, but it turned out to be a fine read, especially when I was feeling too exhausted for school-building, random silliness, or excruciating cleverness. Marriage, divorce, adultery, botox—all are covered here. But my favorite selection of the bunch is Stephan Wilkinson’s “Mechanical Failure,” a story about life—and sex—after prostatectomy, “the all-too-common operation performed to excise prostate cancer” that “often snips the nerve that provokes an erection” and shortens the penis, to boot. Wilkinson speaks with candor and good humor about his adventures with penis pumps, hypodermic needles, and ultimately choosing life over intercourse.
But I finished the book, sadly—no more avoiding the rest! Since it’s raining today and I don’t do football*, I will attempt to free myself from at least one of the literary rocks so assiduously lashed to my ankles.
* unless someone brings me tasty snacks