so it goes

   "Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time."

   A particular friend of mine is always game to discuss books with me. We were recently saying to each other that it is easier to understand how people think and where they are coming from when you've consumed the media they consider influential in their lives. What I mean is this: if you haven't read the books that have helped to shape my thinking and my views and/or that I have found to have lasting impact, then it will be more difficult for you to understand my processes than if you had read them. One of the books on her list is Slaughterhouse-Five. I'd been meaning to read it for some time and she often recommended it to me, so I finally ordered it.

   Slaughterhouse-Five is a strange little book. It is darkly funny and very poignant. It forces the reader to think about war and its effects from a new angle and doesn't mind being bizarre. I am not sure yet if it will make my List of Influential Books, but I intend to read it again.

   The story centers around Billy Pilgrim, a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time of the fire-bombing near the end of WWII (Wikipedia). Billy experiences his captivity differently from every other prisoner, as he is constantly finding himself at different points in time. He "is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren't necessarily fun." We follow Billy from Dresden to the States to the planet Tralfamadore to an airplane crash to his old age to his boyhood and everywhere in between. The jumps in setting make the story all the more effective, and the alternate title -- The Children's Crusade -- all the more meaningful. This is an important book.

Dresden post-bombing



    One day, I would like to be well-read. I'm not sure what that exactly looks like, but I'd like to get there. Is there a certain number of books to get through before one can be considered well-read? Or do I have to read only classics? What is a classic, anyways? Please tell me that being well-read has nothing to do with Oprah's book club, because if it does I'm giving up right now. So far my strategy has been "read, extensively".

   The problem is that I am usually at a loss as to what to read next. This has led to a large collection of Agatha Christie to fall back on. Don't get me wrong, I love Agatha and I love mysteries; I just know that there is a huge variety of books and genres out there that I could be reading instead of one murder mystery after another.

   It doesn't only happen with murder mysteries; I often find myself in the rut of familiarity. I want to read non-fiction, which turns into just reading Malcolm Gladwell. I want to a quick read, suddenly it's three months later and all I've read is comics. Same goes for science fiction, or young adult books, or my teenage Lord of the Rings phase. There comes a point every time when I am afraid I've forgotten how to read anything else. Am I going to read only Shakespeare for the rest of my life, or can I learn how to read lighthearted autobiographies? Series, thankfully, alleviate some of the feeling of missing out. Seven Harry Potter books means that I don't have to think about what I'm going to read next six times and I don't have to worry that I'm confining myself too much.  What a relief. 

   Fortunately, I have many book-loving friends who are always ready with suggestions. Many of my conversations eventually end up at what people have been reading lately, and I love to hear about it. If a friend gushes about a book I can be quickly convinced to read it, especially if I've just finished something.

   A few weeks ago, I had a very simple and fairly unoriginal idea. Why not start a book club? Not a we-meet-once-a-week-and-read-"The Ya-Ya Sisterhood" type of book club, but more of an ongoing literary conversation. I want to hear about what you've been reading. Have you learned anything from it? Do you think you'll read more from that author? What made you want to read it? What else are you planning on reading? How have the things you've read shaped your thinking?

   All this to say that I'm probably going to mostly post about books, and I'd like to hear from you as well. Give me some books to read.

   Just, please, I don't want to read Faulkner ever again.