There’s more to life than books, you know. (But not much more)

Frum Satires latest post is an interesting read. We don’t share the same taste in books at all. He’s completely outdoors focused while the closest to the outside I get is when I see it while closing the blinds so my little cozy cave of bed is darker.

But reading is my earliest passion. One of my earliest memories is seeing the words “FP is an avid reader” on a first grade report card. I immediately asked what avid meant and a vocabulary which is both magnificent and underused was pictured in its baby steps.

I would read anything. I remember reading a book of Roald Dahl short stories when I was 20 and wondering why a certain story was so familiar when I realized I read the book when I was about 6. I even finished ‘Go My Son’ (arguably the longest and best of all the holocaust books) before the age of 10. I literally read any random thing that was grown up. I read a biography of Paul Getty around the age of 8. I never read it again, but I’ll never forget the whole bit about his grandson who was kidnapped. He famously refused to pay the ransom saying that “if I pay for one kid, they’ll kidnap all of them”. They cut his ear off with a razor (described in very graphic detail, especially for a kid my age) and sent it to Paul in a parcel. When they realized he was serious about not paying the ransom, they released the kid. I remember being struck by the fact that his biggest upset about the whole ordeal was the fact that he could no longer wear sunglasses. I read a book on the Golom of Prague until I got too scared. I must have been 5, and the book was telling a story of a Priest who tried to start a blood libel that the golom stopped. It described him tempting a boy into the church where he slit his throat with a dagger shaped like a cross and draining his blood. Whichever rabbi wrote that, could have had a brilliant career writing horror books and film scripts.

I used to like gedolim biographies, until I realized they were all the same. I’m convinced Artscroll has a template and they just churn them out by auto-replacing names and locations. (Born poor to a pious family, brilliant and precocious child. Memorized Chumash and Tanach by 5, Mishnayos by 7, Talmud Bavli by 10, at 13 he traveled across: Poland/Russia/Lithuania (pick one) to learn by the gadol of his generation. He learned with the brightest students and outshone them all even though he was so young. etc…).

I was the only one I knew of who enjoyed books in school. I thoroughly enjoyed the novels we had to read (everything from ‘Hatchet’ to ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ (I was so sad at the end)). I also read ahead in my history and politics textbooks. Even though the latest president in them was Reagan! My school had a list of approved books of course and our english teacher did the best he could with what he had to work with. To teach us racial tolerance we read ‘Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ although the sequels were banned, I believe because Cassie got pregnant in the second one.

Modern times: Lately I’ve been reading Woody Allens works over and over. He wrote four books of the best short stories ever. They’re everything that could appeal to me; witty, wise, philosophical and unabashedly ridiculous. Actually short stories are my new thing. They’re like novels on concentrate. No need to fluff the story up with side plots, just enough time to cover the whole point and distill it down to its purest form. And you can knock out a couple every break, no need to read 400 pages over 3 weeks of lunch breaks and keep wondering whats going to happen next. Edger Allen Poe (remember The Raven from high school) is of course the classic master, but check out Jeffery Archers books, as well as his best novel, ‘Kane and Abel’. Also the aforementioned Roald Dahl, and I’m talking about the adult stories, not ‘The Witches’ or ‘Matilda’ (though those are also brilliant. I just feel his adult stories are under-appreciated). The two most recent books I’ve read are a biography on The Smiths and… erm… a Bloom County collection.

35 Responses to “There’s more to life than books, you know. (But not much more)”

  1. im pretty sure i finished go my son by 9 it is one of the best holocaust books although i dont think anything can compare to eli weisel

  2. Wiesel is a different sort, but Dawn is a masterpiece of fiction.

  3. read the judges by weisel it will turn your mind

  4. Will do. I’ve been looking for something new to get into.

  5. I’m loving all these book posts! You remind me of myself. I read way too much at waaay too young an age. It’s one reason that I want to be on top of making sure what my kids read is age appropriate, bec. it severely messed me up. But now, I’ll read anything really. You should work in a library! I come home every night with an armload of novels for myself, nonfiction and graphic novels for my husband and picture books and easy readers for my kids. I am wearing out my library card!

  6. I have library cards from two countries and several states!

  7. Awesome- so you are almost as well-traveled as you are well-read!

  8. Dude the artscroll template thing will be used by me in a later post- with a linki to you of course. That was brilliant- I have a post all about the artscroll monopoly and how they are like famous bands who rerelease albums to sell more copies.

  9. I just discovered this. I love finding orthodox blogs. You should make your comments “do follow”, buy removing the rel=”no follow” tags.

    That will get more people to comment.

  10. Hesh, what a great analogy.

  11. Oh, and whoops — I was accidentally signed into my wordpad when I sent that previous comment…

  12. *wordpress! gr!

  13. Thats fine Hesh. I’m a big fan btw, and its an honor.

  14. I’m a huge Bloom County fan, I’ve been reading them since I was eight. Outland is also good, but a little depressing and actually even stranger.

    If you’re into short stories, you really should check out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stuff. Also O’henry, if you haven’t already.

  15. Bloom County may be a bit embarrassing to admit to reading, but as far as comic strips go, it’s probably the most intellectual. Definitely the best. I’ve got all these anthologies that I found at a library sale. I think I’m only missing two for the collection to be complete.

    I can’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald anymore. Not ever since that incident… to sum it up; Scott had just showed me his draft of ‘Great Expectations’.
    I thought it was good, but somewhat unnecessary as Dickens had already written it. Zelda agreed with me, so did Dali, but then Hemmingway punched me in the mouth.

  16. that would be an issue.

    As for Bloom County being the most intellectual comic strip…it’s up there, but Doonesbury definitely gives it a run for it’s money.

  17. Though Doonesbury is far less of a “real” comic strip. (Bloom County was a zany strip that also parodied current events, Doonesbury is just a daily political strip). Incidentally, I have a copy of original Doonesbury strips from when Trudeau was at Yale. Its also the uncensored one, with nudity. I’m hoping it will fund my retirement someday.

  18. Dude seriously? Where did you get that? I have the originals too, but the syndicated version, all the Ys already turned to Walden Ws, etc.

  19. Re: Elie Weisel, I personally don’t care for his fiction but highly recommend his memoir All Rivers Run to the Sea (I read Night years ago, can’t bring myself to reread it because of how sad it was but I still remember whole passages almost word for word so it left a pretty deep impression on me)

    I recently got a chance to tell Mrs. Shapiro (wife of the author of Go My Son) how much I liked her husband’s book and she was very happy to hear it. She said that she has come across so many people who have read it/bought it, including non Jews, and that she tells them to order it over the internet rather than buying from a Judaica store as it is cheaper.

    I also have all sorts of odd bits of information about various and totally unrelated historical figures like Nellie Bly, Eli Whitney, Cleopatra floating round in my brain because I used to read (and obsessively reread) ancient copies of children’s book biographies from my elementary school library.

    I read the Golem book too but I guess I was older, maybe 9 or 10, however, the bloodthirsty bits fascinated rather than disturbed me.

  20. Thats awesome you got to meet her. The odd bits of information are great. I can hold a conversation on a pretty wide variety of topics.

  21. ..and this blog posting title is also familiar (but their music was a short lived-depressing phase in high-school).

  22. if you’re talking about Bad Religion how are they depressing?

    Dude you should so read “Hairstyles Of The Dammed” there’s a new extended version which kicks serious ass

  23. Stacy: the header is from The Smiths song ‘Handsome Devil’.

    I’ve been reading ‘Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford and ‘Portnoys Complaint’ by Philip Roth.

    I’ll add that to my list but don’t know when I’ll get to it. Have you read A&R by Bill Flanagan? Fantastic and supposedly based on real people in the biz. Bill Flanagan used to work for VH1.

  24. that makes sense, I didn’t realize you changed it lol.

    I wish people would realize Phillip Roth wrote more than just Portnoys Complaint, My Life as a Man was amazing. and Freakonomics kinda turned me off economy books.

    I loved A&R-though not as much as U2- and if you’re looking to add to your list my suggestion is- For the Relief Of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander.

  25. Oops, I meant the title of the post is from Handsome Devil. The header is still Bad Religion. (And that’s what Neil was referring to).

    I’ve got every single Philip Roth book here. My brother is a massive fan and he’s convinced me to read him. I put it down earlier. It’s getting far too disturbing, but I plan to finish it.

  26. Wow! Just discovered your blog and added you to my blogroll.

    When I was 9 or 10 my mother got me into science fiction because she didn’t want me reading her books. I had gone through most everything at the library for children and teens. Little did she know that s/f was written by horny men. I definitely got an education.

  27. You reminded me that at the beginning of every school year I would take home all my textbooks one by one, read them, and bring them back. The rest of the year I did my own reading in the back of the class.

  28. Frum Punk: “I’m convinced Artscroll has a template and they just churn them out by auto-replacing names and locations. ”

    Now that’s funny. They all sounded similar to me too. Although I’ve read maybe 1 or 2.

    Woody Allen sounds familiar. Edgar Allen Poe sounds really familiar, but I can’t place from where.

    “I can’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald anymore. Not ever since that incident… to sum it up; Scott had just showed me his draft of ‘Great Expectations’.
    I thought it was good, but somewhat unnecessary as Dickens had already written it. Zelda agreed with me, so did Dali, but then Hemmingway punched me in the mouth.”

    What in the world? I’ve read “Great Expectations”. I’ve read something by Dickens. I’ve read “O’ Henry” by Fitzgerald, but I don’t get what you said.

    Come Running: wow, I’ve never heard of someone read all their textbooks in the beginning of the school year.

  29. Babysitter: Woody Allen is a famous director, but I mostly care about his books more than his movies. Poe is most famous for the poem “The Raven” which you almost certainly read in high school.

    That whole bit you didn’t get is just a joke based off a Woody Allen story.

    And I used to read my textbooks by myself, learned more than the class did. Of course, our textbooks ended during the Reagan years and refferred to the civil rights movement as “trouble ahead”. 🙂 This was in 2003.

  30. About the textbooks, that is so strange, your saying you had outdated books?

    For High School I don’t think I read any of my textbooks myself, only the books that we had to read for English class, but even then we discussed it in class after.

    My little brother read my older brothers college textbooks for fun, so I guess I can see how people can want to do that.

    Although when I was younger I loved reading the encyclopedia at my grandparents house, every time I went there I would look at another letter. But then they moved, I thought I would get the encyclopedia’s, but I dunno whatever happened to them.

  31. Babysitter: I think its strange that you find that strange. Maybe things are different, but I thought all yeshivas and Beis Yaakovs had outdated textbooks to save money. Yeahs, our were printed during the Reagan presidency, so we had great detail or scandals that noone remembers today but were big deals back then.

  32. By us we had all updated books, maybe just a year behind. But we had regents on this stuff, so it had to be new information. Although when I was in 10th grade and we were learning history, in 2003, there was no mention of September 11 I don’t think. But perhaps your right that they use outdated books to save money.

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