Recommended Reading List: October, 2023

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Well, October is a month that divided itself in half for me and Dean. The month was chugging along just fine when Dean tripped on a 5K (while running a 6-minute mile) and slammed into the concrete, shattering his shoulder. Suddenly we were dealing with doctors and surgery and schedules we hadn’t had before.

I got a lot of reading done before that, and even more done afterwards, oddly enough. I read in hospitals and waiting rooms and doctors offices and for at least a half an hour before bed every night, just to shut off my brain. I only got about 4 hours of sleep per night the last part of the month, but I did manage to read enough to distract myself to get that much done. (And yes, for those of you who are wondering, he’s better now. And I am sleeping.)

I also started a couple of books that I didn’t finish. One notable book, by one of my very favorite authors, was set during Covid, and I just couldn’t. I managed to get about 40 pages in, with all of these great characters and wonderful writing, and I simply did not want to return to those years. The author put me there vividly, and I was not willing to stay. This was before what Dean calls his crash and burn. Ah well.

What you see below are the books and articles that somehow held my attention during a very strange month.

October, 2023

Broudy, Oliver, “Stress and the 60+ Body,” AARP: The Magazine, June/July 2023. I know a number of you are, like me, over 60. I knew most everything in this article, and yet the things I didn’t know were kinda important. The others were good reminders. Worth looking at.

Gardner, Chris, “We’re For Everyone In Show Business,” The Hollywood Reporter, August 16,2023. The Hollywood Reporter did a lot of scrambling from May to late August of 2023. No one in SAG-AFTRA could do a promotional interview, and the writers were forbidden from talking as well. Everyone else was gunshy. So when THR could land a good interview, they gave it room. They spoke to Annette Bening about her work as chair of The Entertainment Community Fund…and a bit about her personal history. The interview is a great read. It also has this lovely quote:

In our business, there’s so much that we can do by shining a light on something, by bringing attention to things like arts education. Music, dance, theater, opera, movies, TV, this is where we go for joy, and it’s where we go for truth, and it’s where we go to be told the darkest secrets, the secrets that we didn’t even know were there. It’s the part of life that makes it worth living.

Amen.

Giardina, Carolyn, “Hollywood’s VFX Community Sees AI as a Tool, Not A Threat,” The Hollywood Reporter, August 22, 2023. I know I have blogged a lot about the problems with AI in the writing sphere. There are a million articles about how the programs used theft to train their AI, and that’s leading to a lot of lawsuits. (Here’s an important blog on copyright and lawsuit problems.) But there’s no doubt that AI is here to stay and in the proper form, and with the proper legal framework, it will be a valuable tool for certain kinds of creativity. Here’s a case in point. The video special effects folks are excited about the possibilities of the tech. I’ve been using AI audio a lot and hope to continue to do so. (It’s fun.) So the future is arriving quickly and as usual, we all disagree on what it means and how we’ll use it. The fascinating part, at least to me, is that none of us really know what the future will bring, so we’re just guessing—and usually guessing wrong.

Grisham, John, Bleachers, Dell mass market edition, 2011. (Original copyright 2003) The title of this novella in German is “The Coach,” which I noticed as I got the links for this book. That title works maybe better than Bleachers, although Bleachers has resonance after you finish. (My dyslexia acts up whenever I see the title, though, and I read it as Beaches, which would be an entirely different book.)

I’ve had this book on my to-be-read pile since 2011. I have no idea why I picked it up in early October. I suspect it was because I had had such a sports-filled September and I didn’t want to let go of that. Or something. To my surprise, I loved this novella. Just loved it. To be fair, it hits most if not all of my reader cookies (as Gardner Dozois used to say). The book is about people dealing with the death of a difficult personality, people who have history with that person. The person happens to be a legendary high school football coach who was eventually fired, but still ended up revered in the community. His former players sit on the bleachers at the football field in the days before the funeral and talk about their lives.

Sounds dull, and it isn’t. It’s exceedingly compelling, easily the best of Grisham’s three sports novellas. It’s a quick read…so hop to it.

Grisham, John, Playing For Pizza, Dell mass market edition 2012. (Original copyright 2007) I read two of Grisham’s sports novellas during those two weeks of Dean’s accident and surgery. This is the novella I liked the least. The cover copy says it is funny, which I did not agree with. I found it somewhat poignant. It’s a book about people figuring out where they belong. I found it compelling, but then, I find most of Grisham’s work compelling. He knows how to pace a story. He knows how to pull you through even though nothing is really happening at all.

Like Bleachers, Playing For Pizza is a novella about American football, only it’s set in Italy. So it’s a fish-out-of-water story, something I do like. If this had been much longer (a novel, say), it would have been irritating. At this length, it was a great way to distract myself during some hard days. Which is really all anyone can ask of any piece of fiction.

Herron, Mick, The Secret Hours, Soho Crime, 2023. I don’t often reread books, but there are two of Mick Herron’s that I need to reread to see how he managed to pull them off. The first is Bad Actors, which I mentioned in the August recommended reading, and the second is this one. I nearly missed The Secret Hours. I wasn’t in the mood for a standalone Mick Herron novel or even starting another of his series. So I didn’t order this right away because it’s billed as a standalone. Then, for some reason, I reread the blurb which ends with this line: It is also the breathtaking secret history that Slough House fans have been waiting for.

Wait! What? Oh. So I ordered the book, and yes, I’m sure it reads just fine if you have no idea who any of these people are. In fact, Herron does not name most of the regulars who grace the pages, because the people in whose points of view we are don’t know them or their history. But we fans do. This book should not work. But it does, and not only is it breathtaking, it’s poignant.

Even though you can, don’t start here. Start with the first Slough House novel and read them all.

Huddle, Molly, and Slattery Sara, How She Did It, Rodale Press, 2022. I love this book, as you can tell by the photograph that accompanies this post. I have marked pages and pages and pages of this book. It’s actually written for younger girls and women, at the beginning of their active lives, but boy, does it apply to all of us. I already sent a copy to a friend to co-read it with her thirteen-year-old daughter. I think it’s essential reading, even if you never plan to exercise much or try anything athletic. The amount of wisdom here is amazing.

The book follows 50 “legendary” female distance runners, asking for their advice, having them tell their stories. It’s a great companion piece to the Amby Burfoot book I recommended in September, but curiously (or maybe not surprisingly) there’s a lot more detail here, particularly with the older women who had to overcome great odds to run at all. Read this book. Send it to all the young women you know. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jong-Fast, Molly, “Greenroom With A View,” Vanity Fair, June, 2023. Molly Jong-Fast is the daughter of Erica Jong and the granddaughter of Howard Fast. To say that Molly Jong-Fast has literature in her blood is an understatement. This is a wonderful personal essay about the way the promotion works now for traditional writers and the way it used to work.  I love this perspective:

Some of my earliest memories were sitting in small, stuffy greenrooms in cities that were barely cities. I grew up in the 1980s and ’90s, the era of peak book tour, when successful American writers went from bookshop to bookshop, from local television station to local television station, hawking their tomes.

I love that phrase: peak book tour. Yep. That’s what it was. And it was not glamorous. Writers! Read this!

Steinberg, Scott, “Test-Drive Your Next Vacation,” AARP: The Magazine, June/July 2023. Sometimes you find writing resources in the weirdest places. This article recommends using VR to “test-drive” your vacation. But what about using it to research your next book? Go to a location you can’t go to? Just an idea…

 

1 thought on “Recommended Reading List: October, 2023

  1. If you think the likes of Ian Fleming or any of the Cambridge Five lived exciting lives think again! In an article published last week it was revealed that the spy Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ aka Edward Burlington) who was unceremoniously refused an Oxford University scholarship survived 50+ known near death experiences including over two dozen “attempted murders for want of a better expression”.

    You can find the article dated 7 August 2023 in the News Section of TheBurlingtonFiles website (which is refreshingly advert free). The reason he survived may well have been down to his being protected by Pemberton’s People in MI6 as explained in another fascinating article dated 31 October 2022. It was for real. It is mind-boggling as is that website which is as beguiling as an espionage museum in its own right. No wonder Bill Fairclough’s first novel Beyond Enkription is mandatory reading in some countries’ espionage or intelligence induction programs.

    Beyond Enkription is an enthralling unadulterated factual thriller and a super read as long as you don’t expect John le Carré’s delicate diction, sophisticated syntax and placid plots. Nevertheless, it has been heralded by one US critic as “being up there with My Silent War by Kim Philby and No Other Choice by George Blake”. Why? It deviously dissects just how much agents are kept in the dark by their spy-masters and vice versa and it is now mandatory reading on some countries’ intelligence induction programs. See https://theburlingtonfiles.org/news_2023_06.07.php and https://theburlingtonfiles.org/news_2022.10.31.php.

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