Waymon Hudson

Open Thread- What was the last good book you read?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 07, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Living
Tags: open thread

I'll admit it. I have an addiction.

I read constantly. I love nothing more than curling up with a good book and tuning out of the world for awhile. Heck, I'll read just about anything- from historical biographies to trashy gay fiction. I'm also that person that will finish a book, no matter how bad it is. I'll roll my eyes until I'm completely done.

It is a sickness.

So here's the weekend question, Projectors: What was the last really good book you read and why? I always am excited when our contributors and commenters recommend good reads!

For some of the suggestions from our contributors see these great past posts:

10 Books Every Transperson Should Read - Rebecca Juro

10 Books Every Lesbian Should Read - Serena Freewomyn

10 Books Every Gay Boy Should Read - Michael Crawford

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 7, 2008 1:21 PM

I have mentioned "US foreign Policy and the Isreal Lobby" by Meirschimer several times.

"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

OK the Spice, if you want erotica there is nothing that compares to Voltaire and the Marquis De Sade.
I advise the lighthearted joy of the former and discourage the excesses of the latter. "Justine" and "The Philosophy of the Bedroom" are a must read.

I usually have 2 books working at a time, one for pleasure and one for historical education. I just finished "Our Endangered Values" by Jimmy Carter, and am presently enjoying "My Dirty Life And Times" (about the late Warren Zevon), by Crystal Zevon. A history of Harley-Davidson awaits me.

I read constantly; the last guilty pleasure really good book I read was Cell, by Stephen King. The last really good book by one of my favorite authors was John Irving's The World According to Garp. The last really good nonfiction book I read was The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang.

CBrachyrhynchos | June 7, 2008 2:08 PM

Terry Prachett's Making Money. Seriously, in the last five years Prachett has taken his Diskworld franchise away from the perpetual puns and parody of fantasy cliches, and into a critical examination of the things we take for granted in a modern society. Making Money suggests that modern economic systems are little more than an elaborate con-job, a shared delusion that a printed banknote has actual value. It's a great example of what speculative fiction can do as a social critique.

I've got the same addiction, but I've been in deep study mode for the last two months, so the last really great books I read not related to getting into law school were Un Lun Dun by China Mieville and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst.

I feel like the last GREAT book I read must be Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You by Peter Cameron. It's classified as a young adult book, but don't let that stop you - it's probably more resonant and meaningful to adults, and Cameron's writing is gorgeous. It's about a young man in the summer between high school and college, gay but not accepting it yet, living a rather privileged life in NYC with his parents and sister, working in his mother's gallery, and trying desperately to figure out a way to avoid going to Brown University come fall. It's a gentle novel, a wonderful read, funny and sad and so relatable (despite the NYC privilege). I fell in love with this young guy, and wanted to shake him and hug him at the same time. I never wanted it to end.

Fred Wander, The Seventh Well (a Holocaust memoir)
Garry Wills, Head and Heart (history of American Christian oscillation between modes of belief - in the middle of this one)
Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon (about depression)
a collection of L. Timmel Duchamp's short stories (mostly gender-bending sci-fi).
Kelley Eskridge, Solitaire (sci-fi with lesbian protagonist (and writer))

Each have provided or are providing food for thought.

I just finished North to the Night by Alvah Simon and I found it compelling. I also just finished (yes, I finished two books on the same day...it really is an addiction) House of Spirits by Allende. And I recently finished Standing Alone, which I found thought provoking.

Currently reading Renaissance Killer by Chistopher Poole; it's for a review on the site. It's a "memoir" of a gay assassin. So far, it's pretty good (although he says, "Dear reader," waaaaaay too much!). Christopher and I have been e-mailing back and forth and I've pondered just putting up our correspondence as the review. :)

Best books though? Ishmael and The Story of B by Daniel Quinn. Hands down. If you haven't read them, they'll change your world and the way you think forever. It's not often a fiction book can do that - let alone twice.


I clicked Submit before I was done. Dammit. I hate that. LOL

Anyhow - with Ishmael and The Story of B you'll be left with this gigantic feeling of what should I do now? Quinn's website has some good parables that give you his answer. Here's the start of one:

e day on his journey Uru came to a strange land where no one saw, no one spoke, no one heard, no one made, and no one thought. It was known to its neighbors as the Valley of Sleepers for this reason. Uru, who in the rest of the world is known as the Awakener, has a different name in the Valley of Sleepers, and this is how he came to have it.

Uru met a man who called out to him, "Uru, Uru! Please help me! My eyes are asleep, so I cannot see." Uru awakened the man's eyes and turned to continue his journey, but the man stopped him, saying, "I thank you, Uru, for awakening my eyes, but before you leave you must finish the task and tell me what to look at."

After a moment's thought, Uru said, "Look at what's around you. Look at what interests you. Look at what needs to be seen. Use all your faculties to awaken others as I've awakened you."

"Yes," the man said, "but can't you be more specific than that?"

"How can I know what's around you to look at? How can I know what interests you? How can I know what you need to see?" The man was unsatisfied by this answer, but Uru had no other for him and so continued his journey.

Soon he was stopped by a woman who, through gestures, gave him to understand that her voice was asleep. Uru awakened the woman's voice and turned to continue his journey, but the woman stopped him, saying, "I thank you, Uru, for awakening my voice, but before you leave you must finish the task and tell me who to talk to and what to say."

If you don't listen to another book recommendation in the next ten years, read these two. It's a life altering experience.

Mmm -- I'm a book reviewer, so I read a lot -- a whole lot, mostly fantasy and science fiction, but other things as well.

The last really great book I read was Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. As for why, it's one of America's great writers in top form. It's really a breathtaking book.

On a slightly less Olympian note, two of interest, and more firmly in the realm of the literature of the fantastic: So Fey: Queer Faery Fictions, edited by Steve Berman; there are some wonderful stories included, and Berman shows himself to be a sensitive and subtle editor. Don't look for flash and dazzle, but expect a long-lasting and very pleasant aftertaste. The other I just finished recently, Elizabeth Bear's Dust, a science-fiction story that really is classic science fiction (without the technology, it wouldn't work) and is also immensely poetic.

I also will readily admit that I have no hesitation in recommending anything by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: it's genre fiction, but you can never be quite sure what the genre is. So far (and within the last year) I've read 9Tail Fox, the complete Arabesks (Pashazade, Effendi, and Fellaheen), and End of the World Blues. All are dazzling, just on the basis of Grimwood's utter disregard for the conventions of genre fiction. (And in a similar vein to the Arabesks, although older, somewhat seedier, and definitely more noir, George Alec Effinger's Budayeen Trilogy.)

And just for fun, I find myself rereading Tanya Huff's latest series, the Smoke series, fairly often: the adventures of a young gay wizard who works in television in contemporary Vancouver. His ex is a vampire who happens to be the bastard son of Henry VIII. 'Nuff said?

If I don't stop now, I won't stop ever. So that's it.

Melanie Davis | June 7, 2008 10:36 PM

The last good book I read was Pipi Longsticking by Astrid Lindgren. Yes, it was a book before it was a kickass series of movies. My 3yo is getting a (un)heathy helping of helpless princess "oh won't someone save me?" crap from her friend. I thought I should provide some alternatives.

The last great book I read was about 3 years ago (go figure), and it was Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks. The only bad thing I had to say about it was all the provenance. By this time in history, we all know who Ms. hooks is, so her exposition could have been edited a bit more. A thinner book is not always of lesser value. Look at The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff - brilliant and concise.

Don't laugh.

You're laughing.

Please, stop. It's a great book as well. You just haven't read it, yet. I've lost about 6 copies to friends who just "can't find it anymore." Yeah, right. Anyway, yeah, bell's book. Read it, live it, and then buy one for a random teacher.

The last good book that I finished was, "I'm Looking Through You," by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Despite my having many things to do, I picked it up one Saturday morning, and didn't put it down until I had finished it. I loved it!

I'm in the midst of reading two other books at the moment that I can suggest: "Omnigender," by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and "Whipping Girl," by Julia Serrano.

TomChicago | June 8, 2008 11:00 AM

I'm reading "The Royal Family" by William Vollman, and will probably be still reading it in 2012. Since it deals with such grimy lives, I've almost put it down a time or two, but the energy of the author is what keeps me curious and wanting more.

Be Near Me, by Andrew O'Hagan. It's everything Hollinghurst tried to be but couldn't quite pull off. Great story, great writing.

I also highly recommend Joel Derfner's Swish, and I'm about half way through the new David Sedaris collection, When You are Engulfed in Flames, and it is totally delightful.

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bordain
The Constant Princess, by Phillipa Gregory
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Phillipa Gregory
Persepolis 1 & 2, by Marjane Satrapi (comics totally count!)

I am currently working my way through The Masculinity Files, by Max Valerio. It's about his transition from F to M. So far it's pretty good.

I'm also reading Buddhism Beyond Belief, by Stephen Batchelor.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 8, 2008 1:28 PM

Serena, you have a standing invite to walk up Buddha mountain with me.

I recently finished James McBride's latest fiction novel, Song Yet Sung.

We may never know for sure if the American Black slaves actually had a system of code phrases that they used to help each other locate the entry points to the Underground Railroad --- but the notion is fascinating, and the story that McBride tells is written well and enjoyably entertaining.

I'm reading the complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway right now. And working on a french play by some Alberto Lombardo guy....

Oh, this is definitely a tough one, but I would have to say "The Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry" by Adam Kirsch. I picked it up randomly at the library and ended up savoring each chapter.

I just re-read Carlos Mock's "Papi Chulo" while writing a entry for him in a forthcoming LGBT literary encyclopedia. Three novels, with this one the latest, have established Carlos as one of our most important gay Latino authors. Puerto Rico is a part of "America" that few non-Puerto Ricans pay any attention to, but there's a lot to know, and ponder, and Mock tells the amazing and heartbreaking stories through a chronicle of his family, as they emigrate from the streets of San Juan to the streets of New York. "Papi Chulo" is published by Floricanto Press, who ought to be more recognized for their program to publish and promote Spanish-speaking LGBT authors in the U.S.

Disclosure: Carlos is a good friend of mine. But I can't help pointing out his good writing.