Reading Roundup: April 2022
I’m continuing my monthly series reflecting on my reading list throughout 2022. This entry for April 2022 will cover the reading I managed to get done, including some extended reading opportunities during a six-day trip across the country. If you’re interested in seeing my top ten books from last year, please see the following link:
Top Ten Books I Read in 2021
Early in the pandemic, around June 2020, after spending five weeks waiting for the world to end, I decided to make two…
A Word on Method
I average about two hours of reading per day. One hour I spend reading works from Martin Seymour-Smith’s “The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written”, beginning in 2022 near the middle of Philo’s complete works. Another hour is spent at night before bed, reading from a stack of books on my nightstand I replenish as needed. Each stack contains about fifteen regular authors I’m reading chronologically, and five other works from whatever I happened to find in used bookstores or thrift shops or has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for a long time. As of the beginning of this year, I’m also working on an historical fiction work of indeterminate size, which will require re-reading a few classics, as time permits.
I’ve continued my studies in Philo during April with “Hypothetica: Apology for the Jews”, “On Providence”, and “On the Embassy to Gaius: The First Part of the Treatise of Virtues”. I had hoped to finish up reading Philo in April, but I couldn’t find space while traveling and was burned out after getting back.
“Hypothetica: Apology for the Jews” and “On Providence” were both fragments taken from Eusebius, who collated some of Philo’s work within his own treatises. Rather than being direct works written by Philo, theses summaries help highlight the way that others received and processed Philo’s unique brand of philosophy and theology. The former was intended as a letter of support for the Jews during the build up to the Roman-Judea Wars. The latter summarized Jewish theology and philosophy for consumption by others.
“On the Embassy to Gaius” recounts the terrors of Caligula against the Jewish people during his brief reign. Like “Flaccus”, Philo begins with a lineage and history for Gaius/Caligula, then proceeds to document the terrorism experienced by the Jewish people throughout the Empire. Portions of the Alexandrian Riots and their immediate aftermath are recorded here, as well as Caligula’s efforts to install a statue of himself as Jupiter within the Temple at Jerusalem, and the incredible lengths to which the Jewish nation went to prevent it before the project was abandoned by Caligula’s assassination. Philo’s ability to describe and explain really shines through here, as in “Flaccus”.
I have one more treatise to go and two appendices, including a collection of fragments. Next month I should close out my reading of Philo. Fingers crossed!
The Handmaid’s Tale: From Genesis to Gilead
An essay considering the story of Hagar from the earliest version in Genesis through the modern literary interpretation…
Here are ten more books I finished in April 2022.
William S. Burroughs — Letters to Allen Ginsberg (1976)
Published by Full Court Press, this collection of letters spans William S. Burroughs’ time in Tangier from 1953–1957, where he was struggling to write, kick an opiate drug habit, and sort out his life after twenty years of addiction. Letters were received by Ginsberg, Kerouac, and others, along with writing samples containing characters and routines which would make their way into his famous posthumous work, Naked Lunch. This collection of letters finally unlocked huge portions of Naked Lunch for me, exciting me enough to revisit the film and the novel, and to reflect on my literary obsession with William S. Burroughs.
Decoding Naked Lunch
An introspective look at my lifetime fascination with William S. Burroughs and his work Naked Lunch.
Margaret Atwood — Selected Poems (1976)
Collects poems from her first six publicly available collections of poetry, including a full reprinting of The Journals of Susanna Moodie. Revisited a number of favorites included in this selection, especially from You Are Happy and Procedures for Underground. My copy was used as a textbook, which must have been a great literature class. Placing these poems side by side allows you to really see the evolution of her poetry style and syntax. Highly recommended for anyone looking to dive into her early poetry.
Virginia Woolf — Night and Day (1919)
Woolf’s second novel is a doozy, an Edwardian love story that is longer than the New Testament. The work revolves around upper class woman named Katherine Hilbery and middle-class man named Ralph Denham, from a prototypical meet-cute at a social gathering all the way to their eventual marriage after multiple obstacles and distractions. This was the first of five books I read over the course of six days, spending a majority of the time on a twelve-hour train trip to Davis, CA reading Night and Day after forgetting my phone at home. I found it fascinating to see Edwardian life, along with Woolf’s relatively acerbic style when pointing out the foibles of British Imperial society. One character, Mary Datchet, is a suffragette and political activist, who weaves in and out of the story as a friend and potential love interest to Ralph and was perhaps my favorite character. This work takes a commitment, so if you like Woolf, dive in.
The Subutai Corporation — The Mongoliad: Book Two (2012)
Book two of the Subutai Corporation’s Foreworld Saga, which weaves three separate stories centered around Kiev, Rome, and Karakorum. The main threads delve deeply into the politics of the various factions, both within the Khan’s court and within Rome’s papal crisis of the same time, along with stories from the front where civilizations were clashing. Honestly, it was a fun read that I polished off in less than 24 hours, mostly during a red-eye flight when I couldn’t sleep for longer than fifteen minutes. It was perfect enough to keep my interest and my mind occupied while being masked in a hollow metal tube rocketing through the atmosphere towards New York.
Irvine Welsh — Trainspotting (1993)
Welsh’s first novel, written from segments in a couple publications and using the Scots dialect of Edinburgh’s seedy underbelly, is ripe with drug use and crime. I remember seeing this film a few times in college and listening to the two soundtracks on repeat throughout the 2000s, but this was my first time reading the book, which I finished in a couple days between seeing New York and catching up on rest from traveling. The book was way better than the film, somehow more brutal and graphic, and really does justice to a few of the characters that feel relegated to the side, especially Spud. One thing I noticed was how much Welsh must have been influenced by Burroughs, while representing the realities of heroin addiction in 1990s Edinburgh. Looking forward to reading his other output, now that I can read the words, likesay ken?
Malcolm Gladwell — The Bomber Mafia (2021)
Gladwell’s most recent work, based heavily on his research for his popular podcast, Revisionist History. Gladwell decides to look at the influence of aircraft on modern warfare, from the hope of developing precision bombing to make war “more humane” prior to World War II to the reality of napalm firebombing in Japan and later Vietnam. It’s a very fast read, developed primarily as an audiobook. I was able to read it in just under three hours. Gladwell’s prose always makes digesting simple and complex concepts fun. I always leave feeling a little more educated and a little less ignorant, while also looking forward to the next one. Whenever that might be. I’m caught up with Gladwell with this book and will need to find a new author to add to my rotation.
Bucky Sinister — Time Bomb Snooze Alarm (2012)
Bucky Sinister is a spoken word poet from San Francisco, well before the area became a technological wonderland. Bucky’s own life took a few twists and turns, from punk squats to corporate jobs, and a few self-help books along the way. This collection for publisher Bloody Write takes a more reflective look at the changes within the Bay Area, what was gained by progress and what was lost to time. The mood is melancholic, sometimes almost yearning for the days which treated him the worst, because at least it feels like something rather than nothing. A very slim volume, in chapbook format. Glad I picked it out of the poetry section at my library’s used bookstore.
Philip K. Dick — In Milton Lumky Territory (1958)
When I decided to start reading Philip K. Dick, I never realized there was a whole series of realist novels he had written along the way which never saw the light of day until after his death. These novels often push the boundaries of 1950s morality, albeit only just a little. In Milton Lumky Territory considers a relationship between a young man who later marries his fifth-grade teacher to help her run her typewriting business. Dick’s characters in these realist novels are often prototypes of his science fiction novel characters, a function of Dick’s narrow range in character creation and perhaps a latent desire to be considered as a “serious author”. While not as exciting or enlightening as his science fiction work, In Milton Lumky Territory does present the lonely story of the traveling salesman and a look at the early product wholesale and liquidation industry.
Jim Butcher — Peace Talks (2020)
Butcher’s 16th novel in the Dresden Files finds Harry Dresden, former wizard detective and current White Council member and Winter Knight for the Winter Court of the Sidhe, dealing with everything at once as per usual. A lot has changed in sixteen novels and two anthologies, and the stakes have never been higher, perhaps never could be higher. Peace Talks only feels like half a story, though, like a part one for a dramatic two-part conclusion, ending with multiple open threads, and literally in the middle of a massive battle. I have enjoyed every entry in this series, but I’m looking forward to it finding an end, for Harry anyway. Plenty of excellent characters in there to consider further, as demonstrated in the previous anthology, Side Jobs. One more entry and I’ll be caught up with Butcher’s Dresden Files.
William S. Burroughs — Naked Lunch (1959)
Reading Letters to Allen Ginsberg made me want to watch David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the novel, which lead me to re-read this novel for the third or fourth time. After a lifetime of reading Burroughs, I’ve come to realize this work is about a man attempting to come to terms with his junk sickness while excoriating everything wrong about modern society, as written between and during relapses. I wouldn’t recommend this work to anyone, mostly because it takes a great deal of aesthetic distance to get past the raw, obscene presentation, especially in its postmodern style. But I felt more rewarded by this reading, enough to write a little piece about decoding this work throughout my life, which you can find here. Not a bad way to chalk up my 50th book this year.
Decoding Naked Lunch
An introspective look at my lifetime fascination with William S. Burroughs and his work Naked Lunch.
I’m definitely finishing my trek through Philo’s complete works, then probably taking a break from reading works from the 100 Most Influential Works. I have a lot of notes for papers and stories from my time reading Philo that I want to give their just attention. The next work is the New Testament, which will be interesting as my last read was over a decade ago.
I’ll also be reading from my nightstand stack, which will include Ursula K. Le Guin, a lengthy novel from T.C. Boyle, another fun work by Christopher Moore, and perhaps another entry in Robert E. Howard’s Complete Chronicles of Conan. It’ll be another stack of twenty books after that.
See you then!
Here are links to my previous entries for 2022:
Reading Roundup: January 2022
Rounding up books read during January 2022, along with accompanying writing pieces when appropriate.
Reading Roundup: February 2022
Rounding up books read during February 2022, along with accompanying writing pieces when appropriate.