3 List-Obsessed Books
“Examining lists means playing with the re-creation of history.”
1. Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed, edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay (Routledge) This illuminating A-Z guide from Los Angeles–based Scram magazine endeavors “to nudge the canon so that lost records tumble out” for the enjoyment of all who love to listen to as well as read about music. Reviews of albums are accompanied by such lists as “5 Hypothetical Sesame Street Covers,” “6 Greatest Midget Rock & Roll Records,” “Songs for Word Geeks,” “Deeply Wrong Big-Eye Pop-Psych” and “10 Non-Goth Albums Goths Listen To.”
2. Prisoners’ Inventions, written and illustrated by Angelo (WhiteWalls) This peculiar compendium of inventions found in prisons, complete with explanatory diagrams, was created by a prisoner known as Angelo in conversation with the artists group Temporary Services. You’ll find the ingenuity and the aesthetic expression inherent in every activity within the confines of a prison cell, but be forewarned: “We recommend the reader to use this book intelligently and to not attempt to build the items listed herein.”
3. How To Be Idle, by Tom Hodgkinson (HarperCollins) From the editor o f the British journal The Idler comes an immensely amusing and erudite hour-by-hour guide to the (in)activites, dispositions and locations that allow for the inspiration that exists outside the reach of the 9-to-5 existence. An indispensable companion and vade mecum for all who wish to practice such “idle” worship.
1. A Reading Diary, by Alberto Manguel (Picador) Newly released in paperback, Manguel’s account of his reading during 2002 and 2003 is full of remarkable meditations, some in the form of lists. Although similar to Nick Hornby’s Believer-inspired experiment in monitoring his own reading in The Polysyllabic Spree, Manguel, author of The History of Reading, offers a greater range of reference and more philosophical reflection. Lists include “Things I Remember” (recalling Joe Brainard’s classic 1975 list book I Remember), “Mad Scientists,” “Favorite Detective Novels,” “Imaginary Libraries,” “Literary Heroes” and, finally, his “Reading List.” “Reading is the occupation of the insomniac par excellence,” observes Manguel. So too is list making.
2. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley (Knopf) The novelist concludes her investigation into novels with her own personal reviews of 100 novels. “I knew I would be reading books I had read before, books I had always meant to read, and books I had not ever wanted to read but knew were important.” Titles range from Justine and Frankenstein to Moby-Dick and Madame Bovary, from Possession and A Fine Madness to The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
3. Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, by Maureen Corrigan (Random House) The appendix to the NPR book critic’s reflections on reviewing is organized into 10 categories including “Female Extreme-Adventure Tales: Traditional and Feminist,” “Catholic Secular-Martyr Tales,” “Literary Criticism That a Nonacademic Audience Can Enjoy,” “Fiction and Nonfiction That Make a Reader Believe in Possibility,” and “Books I Never Get Tired Of Rereading.”
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