Around Christmas, the technical expertise and beneficence of a friend allowed me to recover the data from a computer of mine from 2004-2008, one that has been offline since that spring when either its power supply or motherboard gave up the ghost. The machine spanned a transitional point in my life, from the high watermark of youth, to the beginnings of my adulthood. There are all sorts of artifacts from my life-that-was: saved chats, scores of MS Works documents, and…Livejournal posts, and I thought it would make an interesting exercise to look through them and see what books I was mentioning in conversation back then.
1. The Paragon, John Knowles
I apparently picked this up in 2005, following up on my interest in A Separate Peace. If I ever finished it, I don’t recall a blessed thing about it.
2. Short stories by James Turber
Thurber was mentioned in a psychology text, used in a class that I hated going to — not for lack of interest in the subject, but because the teacher was new, obnoxious, and dull despite his background as a saxophonist from Las Vegas. I used to sit in the back and read during the lectures. I mention that I went to the library looking for a collection of Thurber’s works, so evidently the text caught my attention better than the teacher.
3. Balance of Power, James Huston
I actually remember this one! Very vaguely. It’s a political-action thriller in which there’s some naval terrorist action, and the President won’t act so the Congress decides to dust off the Constitution and use that clause that allows them to issue “Letters of Marque”, or…engage mercenaries for bounty-hunting. This was one of the books I was reading in psychology class. My questionable verdict: “That is one good book”.
4. Ratpack Confidential, Shawn Levy
“It was the ultimate spasm of traditional showbiz–both the last and most of its kind. It was the high point of their lives and a midlife crisis. It was the acme of the American Century and a venal, rancid, ugly sham. It was the Rat Pack. It was beautiful.”
Just one of the many Ratpack and Sinatra-related books I was reading in 2005, along with The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin‘. I was utterly obsessed with Sinatra, listening to the same two CDs over and over again. (“Sinatra Reprise: The Best is Yet to Come”, and “Classic Sinatra”).
5. Submarine! I can’t find this book on amazon, but I seem to have purchased it at a mall in Montgomery, Alabama, and described it as a WW2 submariner’s memoirs. I went into the bookstore looking for a book on “zoology”, and mention browsing the gangster nonfiction a bit, including the memoir of Henry Hill.
6. Man of Honor and Bound by Honor, by Joseph and Bill Bonanno — the memoirs of a father and son who were part of the New York mafia. I was a bit obsessed with la cosa nostra in 2004 and 2005. Both were borrowed from my history professor, whose office I haunted regularly.
7. That Was Then, Then is Now, S.E. Hinton. I used carry this one in my jacket and read from it whenever I was waiting on something, and I mentioned it incessantly. No wonder my copy of the book is so beaten up!
8. Travels with Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck. I revisited this one in 2010, but I don’t know how my take on it drifted in the five years that passed. (When I mentioned the book the first time, it was quickly overshadowed by chatter about a girl…)
9. British History for Dummies and Shakespeare for Dummies. Both read in late spring 2005, in part for leisure and in part to help with a paper on Othello. I used to have a sizable collection of for Dummies and Complete Idiot’s Guide to… books, as they were cheaper surveys of various historical subjects.
10. The Broker, John Grisham. Another book I read during Psychology after receiving it for my birthday early 2005.
Also mentioned, but never elaborated on, were “a book of sketches from the Larry King Live show”, and “Men’s Relational Toolbox”. I assume the latter was self-help about relationships.
Although I wasn’t listing my books back then — and even when I started writing about books on purpose, instead of mentioning them in online journals and in AIM conversations — I seem to have been a fairly active reader despite the pressures of writing constant papers and struggling with literature like Phaedra.