Different books require different amounts of momentum. A collection of short stories can be leisurely read, one a night or simply as the whim comes to read them. A short novel is delicious when devoured in a sitting, open to close without putting the story up for the night. But as the book gets longer, different strategies come into play. Is it pulp, such as a Ludlum novel? Or comparatively easily to read like a YA? Those make a good weekend read, maybe a week at the most.

When the tome gets weightier, both in subject matter and density of prose, a new strategy is needed. Foucault’s Pendulum. War and Peace. Of Human Bondage. All good solid reads, engrossing in subject, certainly no lightweight reading experience. But not something to read unless one has a good span of time ahead of oneself.  At this point pacing is what is required. Maybe a schedule to get through the work. Don’t laugh, one does this as one gets older and feels many demands on their life. This also works well for a series of books, such as The Wheel of Time, or In Search of Lost Time. 

But then there are the true tomes. They often get called door stops, but that does them a grave disservice. These are the books one can spend a lifetime in, weaving in and out as the focus of much thought and energy gets poured into them. The Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible all certainly qualify here. But they aren’t really what I am talking about. Now, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is certainly in our ball park, as is the book I picked up the other day.

Black Lamb, Grey Falcon. 1100 pages on travel though Yugoslavia during the run-up to WWII. Published during the war by Viking in the US and MacMillan in the UK, it became the benchmark of all 20th century travel, referred back to by others such as Robert Kaplan whenever the region erupts, as it did in the nineties.  The edition I picked up is from ’43, the first single volume edition. This one is sans DJ, but I will keep my eyes open for a good jacket, as they do come up on ebay from time to time. And really, dust jackets are a huge part of it for me.

So, I am settling in on this, which should (fingers crossed) work with my reading habits. See, during my tenure as a bookstore manager, I developed a bad habit of not reading a book to the finish, as I always had new arrivals that needed attention. If the book was good, I would circle back to it. If it wasn’t, well, there is always another book to take a look at. When I got back to the books I started, I was always good picking it up just where I left it. In fact, I could never stand to restart a book I hadn’t finished.

So, what are you working your way through?


Staff Writer

A fourth generation Californian, befuddled.

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13 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. Two movies on the way back.

    Boss Baby (cute, funny, surprising amount of butt/poop/fart jokes)
    Kung-Fu Yoga (Made a quarter billion dollars, surprised it didn’t make more)


  2. Lately I’ve been reading Flapper which is a cultural and social history of the Flapper in 1920s America. Academic but also light hearted.

    The tombs you describe are interesting to me. Sometimes I can zoom through them and they are highly engrossing. Other times, I wonder where the hell the editor went. Even enjoyable tombs can take me a long time to read. I’ve been picking up and putting down Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time for years now. I’ve yet to try with Rememberance of Things Past. But I was able to zoom through Caro’s biography of LBJ whenever a new volume comes out.


  3. I was three blocks away from a “terror” attack yesterday. The good burghers of Edmonton appeared to be thoroughly unterrorized by the incident and went about the usual Saturday night downtown binge drinking with minimal fuss.

    There is a lesson there about news reports of a city “reeling” in response to one of those things.

    So that was my weekend.


  4. *sigh* My weekend had an irritating encounter with Star Trek Discovery.

    *Star Trek spoiler ahead*

    *really. A kind of spoiler is coming*


    I’m having major problems enjoying the new Star Trek series because they’ve based the show around the main character being a mutineer, sentenced to life in prison because she committed mutiny. Everyone around her keeps calling her a mutineer.

    The writers apparently thought their grand idea was so brilliant that they didn’t bother to find out what “mutiny” means. A first year law student would have gotten that charge thrown out because although she did commit an assault and she disobeyed an order, she in no way shape or form committed anything even resembling mutiny. A mutiny is a group action, like a lynching. One person can’t do it, any more than a lone employee throwing a rock through their boss’s window in the middle of the night can be charged with rioting. By definition, a mutineer acts in concert with fellow mutineers. If she acted alone then she wasn’t engaged in a mutiny no matter what she did.


  5. I read Seanan Maguire’s novella Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day this week, which reminds me more of Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place than any other ghost story I’ve read does (this is high praise).

    Binge-listening to my podcasts as a comfort source, especially The Librarian Is In, Coode Street Podcast, and Terrible Thanks for Asking.


  6. I am really hoping to be done with “Moby-Dick” soon.

    I started out enjoying it but right now (I just passed the part where Queequeg has them make his coffin, but then recovers from whatever lurgy he had) it just feels like a depressing slog. (It doesn’t help that I fundamentally know the outcome – a lone-survivor situation – so yeah).

    I need something much lighter for my next “big read.” Am thinking either “Emma” or “Persuasion.”


  7. I’m currently making my way through Le Carré’s latest. As usual, melancholy and page turningly good.

    Also, re-reading Justin Cronin’s Passage trilogy. I’ve done this several times, and it never gets old. A love story disguised as post-apocalyptic fiction.


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