Friday, March 21, 2014

An Experiment with a Reading List, Amidst Other Things

Today is my 30th birthday, which, outside of the pursuit of a steady career with a pension that I know is an important component of getting older, means that it's time to write what I really want to write, to pull my future books into the present. I have two immediate ideas for biographies, one about the relatively controversial making of one of the first movies I ever saw, when I was 5 years old, and two ideas for novels. I'm not sure where to begin yet, but I know that the facts I can get for one biography are near me in Boulder City, while seeking more information via e-mail, the only way to do this. I know that just like my first book, some of the research will be monotonous, but the ultimate goal matters most: I want to be published again by the time I'm 35. Originally, I wanted to be published by the time I turned 30, but existing in Southern California didn't inspire any movement toward that goal. Plus, there was the fervent desire to move from there, which, from 2007, took five years. That was also an emotionally taxing time. Here, in Southern Nevada, it's a lot easier to write, to be inspired by what's around me. The Las Vegas Valley doesn't close in around you. It gives you time and space to think about what you want to do, what you want to pursue, what you want to be. We may not have a solid core of community as others know it, but I like that people can simply be here, in any way they wish. And while I still don't like it, I'm gradually getting used to the transience around me. In fact, while a substitute aide at Nate Mack Elementary yesterday, doing recess field duty after my lunchtime, one of the kids I know from my day of being the substitute P.E. aide two weeks ago, came up to me to tell me that he and his parents are moving to Portland, Oregon during spring break.

Now, I've heard of people moving back to the east coast, moving to California, moving to Arizona, but this is the first I've heard of Portland, Oregon. An interesting change from the usual suspects, and from what I've heard of Portland, I think he's going to have a very interesting, creative childhood there.

Anyway, my main reason for this post is not only to say that I intend to continue my "Where Was I When I Read That?" series, but that I'm also going to start a new series, an idea I had this morning, looking at the bottom two shelves of books in my left-side bookcase at the side of my room. It's there that I have Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D.G. Kelley, owing to my interest in piano jazz, that will also be a major focus in my life from now on, really all kinds of jazz, but more with the piano and saxophone.

This book was at the top of a list I created in my account on the Henderson Libraries website, which I was originally very much against being changed when they created a new design and system for the website. I thought the previous one, which I've ironically long forgotten, was better and more personal, more community-centered, but this one has worked out just as well. And just like Facebook keeps changing, I simply get used to it.

Before my family and I moved from Las Vegas to Henderson, I created a list in my Goodreads account called "Henderson Library Needs," which included books I had checked out in the Las Vegas-Clark County system, but didn't have a chance to read, though I still wanted to read them. And since the Henderson Libraries also had them, I could read them there, being that where I am in Henderson, I want to support the Henderson Libraries more.

After we moved, and after I got a Henderson library card, I found that I could make lists on this website of anything I wanted, be it books, DVDs, or jazz, though I haven't yet done the latter. And I decided to create a list called "Books to Put on Hold." It started out small, 10, 15 books at a time. Now it has 191 books, starting with Thelonious Monk, starting with the aforementioned book, sitting next to me under Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, of which I'm on page 127. I deleted that Monk listing after I checked out that book, and so Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music by Thomas Fitterling now graces the top of the list.

A lot of these listings are based on passions of the moment. When Peter O'Toole died, I looked for his two autobiographies and found Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers. That's #6 on this list.

Further down the list is Moneywood: Hollywood in its Last Age of Excess by William Stadiem at #42, which I noticed in February when there was an Oscars-themed book display at the Green Valley Library that I kept restocking as a volunteer. While I don't write movie reviews anymore, I still study movie history. That is an inextricable part of my life.

And so on. Different books based on different interests, and all waiting to be read. Some are a block of related works, such as wildflowers, and others are one-off. And the list will surely grow. But even with that, I want to do something else new for this blog, that of writing about this list as I read either each book or two or more at a shot. I want to see if there is more to this list than just the obvious themes and interests, if they are related to each other more than those. It begins with Robin D.G. Kelley's biography of Monk, and we'll see what emerges as I read them in order. Some of them are also connected in a "Where Was I When I Discovered It?" kind of way, especially when I was a substitute library aide at different elementary schools and spotted some of these books. A few are part of the week that I ran the library at Lewis Rowe Elementary solo. I have plenty of stories about the pleasure of doing that.

Ultimately, I want to see how these books might be connected further. That, I think, will make this a lot of fun. Plus, it'll be a way to keep writing about books during those times that I'm in between book reviews. Not next week, though, since I have to read The Plover by Brian Doyle for an April 1 deadline for BookBrowse, but certainly afterward.


  1. You're 30? Why, I remember when you were only 29. When Bill Clinton first ran for president, he told someone on MTV that he liked Thelonious Monk. After he departed, she asked, Who's the loneliest monk? Happy Birthday!


    1. Thanks, Janie!

      Yep, I'm 30. And it doesn't feel intimidating. There's a lot to do, and I'm going to do it.

  2. Happy birthday! I hope you get a box full of books... O_O

    I have no doubt you'll hit your publishing goals.

    1. Nope. I've got enough of those for the moment. I got new, much needed bedsheets to replace my aged ones, and the huge surprise of learning that my dad and my sister went to the Cosmopolitan without my knowing, and bought me a black mug (purple interior) with the hotel-casino's logo on it. It's my favorite property on the Strip, and so I'll cherish this mug. Next thing is getting a smaller one for my bathroom the next time we go there, but as Mom said, it's up to me which one I want. It means another visit there!

      No time to waste this time. I'm going to do it right.