Saturday, December 11, 2010

How To Live Forever

A stack of books just crashed to the floor from my bedside table.  It was a sign.  Every year about this time, I anxiously await inspiration to strike so that I can write our  annual Christmas letter.  It hasn’t struck yet, and I’ve decided to keep procrastinating loosen up by describing the books on my bedside table, as I did almost a year and a half ago here.  Uh oh, I have changed bedside tables since that post—I now use the top of an old wooden trunk—and I have a lot more space.  Yeah.  That’s why one of the stacks just gave up and fell to the floor.  The books here can be divided into several categories:  re-reads, dip-in-tos, poetry (always a re-read), and new books waiting to be munched on.  You’d nod off long before I listed all of them, so here is just a sample.

My favorite re-read is almost always at my bedside:  Yearnings:  Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life by Rabbi Irwin Kula.  Here’s what Mitch Albom had to say about it.  “This wonderful book…embrace[s] the magic of day-to-day living, the spirituality that can be found in our questions, our mistakes, and our doubts.  Life is indeed messy, but as Irwin Kula shows us, sorting through it is what transforms us to higher ground.”  Of course I would love someone who encourages me in my favorite activity:  sorting through things in my head.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a re-read from almost 40 years ago.  But for me, it’s a whole different book now.  Do you ever feel like even though you’re decades old, you just woke up last week?  I feel that way all the time.  What was I thinking 40 years ago?  I don’t think I had a glimmer of insight into this book.  When I read it then, I became fascinated by the idea of buying a motorcycle and traveling across the country.  And that’s about it.  I was a clueless dork, and I’m just a tiny bit less dorky now that I’ve been awake, alert, and alive for a week or so.

Right now, I’m reading these books for the first time:  No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh; Farm City:  The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter; and The Nine:  Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin. 

A dip-int0-start-reading-anywhere book is Jack Smith’s LA, a collection of essays on the city of angels by the long-time and much-beloved columnist of the LA Times.  Jack Smith made me laugh out loud for years and still does.

Poetry books roam the trunk, because I usually grab one and read a poem before I go to sleep.  Right now there is one by Billy Collins:  Picnic, Lightning; a poetry anthology edited by Billy Collins:  180 More:  Extraordinary Poems for Everyday; and a collection of poems by Mary Oliver:  Thirst.  I love them all, as well as their brothers and sisters on the nearby shelf.

Having a big stack of books yet to be read is a hedge against dying, at least for me.  I admit it.  As long as all those unread pages are within arm’s reach, I get to keep living.  It’s like sleeping with the light on if you’re afraid of the dark.  Here are the latest still-to-be-reads:

Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle; Mattaponi Queen:  Stories, by Belle Boggs; No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh; The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker; The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, and not because Oprah likes him; and Look at the Birdie:  unpublished short fiction, by Kurt Vonnegut.

I’ll live a long time yet.



  1. That's a cool-lookin' trunk; and I always love to hear what someone is reading.

  2. That's a heck of a lot of books to be on a bedside table. I bet you don't sleep long.

  3. First of all, I've got to say---I love that trunk. It is gorgeous. Second, I am so gratified to know that I'm going to live a very, very long time, as my stacks of books (both to-be-reads and dip-intos) are even higher than yours. Third, I like the term "dip-intos."

  4. That sounds like an interesting lot, though if I were you I wouldn't bother with "The Corrections". if I were you. I remember hating it, though mercifully it has faded from my memory and I can't remember in huge detail why.

    I'm going to catch up with my to-read pile when I retire. Or so I tell myself.