Sunday, January 23, 2011

What to do?

I am off to another continent in a few days for a big trip. Total travel time both ways is roughly 40 hours. So... I need to get some goooood books.

Trick is, I read very quickly so I want to bring several, but I also don't want to travel too heavy, so I want to bring few.

If you have any sympathy for my sanity-- please help me choose from the following:

1. Let the Great World Spin
McCann's sweeping new novel hinges on Philippe Petit's illicit 1974 high-wire walk between the twin towers. It is the aftermath, in which Petit appears in the courtroom of Judge Solomon Soderberg, that sets events into motion. ...  McCann's dogged, DeLillo-like ambition to show American magic and dread sometimes comes unfocused—John Corrigan in particular never seems real—but he succeeds in giving us a high-wire performance of style and heart.

2. Jane Eyre
...On the surface a fairly conventional Gothic romance (poor orphan governess is hired by rich, brooding Byronic hero-type), Jane Eyre hardly seems the stuff from which revolutions are made. But the story is very much about the nature of human freedom and equality, and if Jane was seen as something of a renegade in nineteenth-century England, it is because her story is that of a woman who struggles for self-definition and determination in a society that too often denies her that right. ... Jane Eyre is full of drama: fires, storms, attempted murder, and a mad wife conveniently stashed away in the attic. This is very sexy stuff - another reason Victorian critics weren't quite sure what to make of it.

3. Cleopatra: A Life
For those who think they know enough about Cleopatra or have the enigmatic Egyptian queen all figured out, think again. ... Rather than a devastatingly beautiful femme fatale, Cleopatra, according to Schiff, was a shrewd power broker who knew how to use her manifold gifts—wealth, power, and intelligence—to negotiate advantageous political deals and military alliances. Though long on facts and short on myth, this stellar biography is still a page-turner; in fact, because this portrait is grounded so thoroughly in historical context, it is even more extraordinary than the more fanciful legend. Cleopatra emerges as a groundbreaking female leader, relying on her wits, determination, and political acumen rather than sex appeal to astutely wield her power in order to get the job done. Ancient Egypt never goes out of style, and Cleopatra continues to captivate successive generations.

4. The Once and Future King
Quartet of novels by T.H. White, published in a single volume in 1958. The quartet comprises The Sword in the Stone (1938), The Queen of Air and Darkness--first published as The Witch in the Wood (1939)--The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and The Candle in the Wind (published in the composite volume, 1958). The series is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, from Arthur's birth to the end of his reign, and is based largely on Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte Darthur. 

5. Volumes 4 and 5 of The Sandman Collection
In many ways, Season of Mists is the pinnacle of the Sandman experience. .... Here in volume 4, we find out about the rest of Dream's Endless family (Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, Death, and a seventh missing sibling). We find out the story behind Nada, Dream's first love, whom we met only in passing during Dream's visit to hell in the first book. When Dream goes back to hell to resolve unfinished business with Nada, he finds her missing along with all of the other dead souls. The answer to this mystery lies in Lucifer's most uncharacteristic decision--a delicious surprise.
You may have heard somewhere that Neil Gaiman's Sandman series consisted of cool, hip, edgy, smart comic books. And you may have thought, "What the hell does that mean?" Enter A Game of You to confound the issue even more, while at the same time standing as a fine example of such a description. This is not an easy book. The characters are dense and unique, while their observations are, as always with Gaiman, refreshingly familiar. ... In almost every way this book sits at 180 degrees from the earlier four volumes of the Sandman series--although the less it seems to belong to the series, the more it shows its heart.

6. House of the Spirits
A best seller and critical success all over the world, The House of the Spirits is the magnificent epic of the Trueba family -- their loves, their ambitions, their spiritual quests, their relations with one another, and their participation in the history of their times, a history that becomes destiny and overtakes them all.
We begin -- at the turn of the century, in an unnamed South American country -- in the childhood home of the woman who will be the mother and grandmother of the clan, Clara del Valle. ... 

It is the supreme achievement of this splendid novel that we feel ourselves members of this large, passionate (and sometimes exasperating) family, that we become attached to them as if they were our own. ... 


Plus 3 issues of American Cinematographer and one issue of Savuer.

If you could only bring 3 of the books... what, oh what would you pick?

[each synopsis stolen from amazon.]


  1. I've heard really good things about Let the Great World Spin and the Cleopatra biography. My third choice would be Jane Eyre, but I don't know if it's what I'd read on a trip so maybe you should take either the Sandman books or The Once and Future King for the third?

  2. I was not a fan of Let the Great World Spin, which I thought read like a series of plotless, loosely connected New Yorker stories, but you like tone poem-y things so I'm sure you'll like it better.

    I hated Jane Eyre, but I think it's a book that divides on gender lines pretty evenly: guys hate it, girls love it. You should probably read it before the movie comes out, if you had wanted to see that.

    I read Once and Future King in 6th grade and loved it, but I was a huge King Arthur nerd back then (and honestly still am).

    Haven't read Cleopatra but it's supposed to be great. I think you should go with that, one of the first two, and Neil Gaiman (since he's probably the most fun on the list).

  3. don't underestimate the power of the airplane movie selection...I did not hate watching such gems such as Just Wright.

  4. Oh man, Sandman is awesome. I'd read 1 through 3 first if you haven't, that shit weaves subtle narrative threads like nobody's business and you don't want to miss callbacks.