Thursday, August 2, 2012

Good: Back to school


This month I'm going to try Good magazine's 30 days of good challenge. The theme is "Back to School" and today's assignment is to start reading a book.

From young adult fiction to literature to short story to a book on lettering, I've got a stack of books in progress and am going to continue with them.

Here's what I have:

  • Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. I was #200-something on the list when I put this book in hold! But the library has 300 copies of it (!) so the wait wasn't so bad.

  • Zadie Smith, On Beauty. I finished her first, prize-winning novel, White Teeth, last year, and found this copy in my local thrift shop.

  • John Biggs, Craft of Lettering. I like how this book describes the characteristics of each letter and I enjoy learning typographic terminology. Here's an excerpt of the letter J, which I read on the train this morning:

J is a letter which was not used by the early Romans and therefore does not appear in their inscriptions, but it came into occasional use in the second century for the consonant Y and the vowel I. It was not until the seventeenth century that J was established to represent its present consonant sound. In form it is an I carried below the bae line and may taper to a point or swing to an abrupt finish in a sheared terminal. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it sometimes ended in a circular blob. In 'modern face' letters the tail of the J does not descent below the line.

  • Lydia Davis, Collected stories. This is a dense volume and full of all kinds of stories, some of which comprise simply one sentence. It's great short-span reading, and gives me great hope for my own scattered craft! Here's one short story, "A Position at the University":

I think I know what sort of person I am. But then I think, But this stranger will imagine me quite otherwise when he or she hears this or that to my credit, for instance that I have a position at the university: the fact that I have a position at the university will appear to mean that I must be the sort of person who has a position at the university. But then I have to admit, with surprise, that, after all, it is true that I have a position at the university. And if it is true, then perhaps I really am the sort of person you imagine when you hear that a person has a position at the university. But, on the other hand, I know I am not the sort of person I imagine when I hear that a person has a position at the university. Then I see what the problem is: when others describe me this way, they appear to describe me completely, whereas in fact they do not describe me completely, and a complete description of me would include truths that seem quite incompatible with the fact that I have a position at the university.

  • Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea. Sent to me, along with the above, by someone I greatly respect and admire, describing it as probably the best book he has ever read. I can't wait to get into it!

  • Kathryn Stockett, The Help. I know: super behind on this one. I saw the film last year but have not had a chance to crack it open yet.

  • Clare Vanderpool, Moon Over Manifest. First one, pulled at random, on my quest to read the Newbery Award winners. This is 2011's and I like it so far.

This is only a part of the stack of books strewn about my apartment. Who knows when I'll finish them all! Bye the bye, as it always is. What's on your summer reading list? I love recommendations. And do you know about Goodreads? Yea or nay? Or would you vouch for another book list site?


  1. John Biggs' Craft of Lettering almost sounds like he is in the land of Dictionopolis!

  2. The excerpt from "A Position at the University" made me laugh. I feel that can be said for any profession.