What I’m reading

Thanks to Litlove and Simon (Stuck in a Book) for this great meme. I’ve been wanting to post something for a while so this gives me an easy option.

1. The book I’m reading
is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I’m reading it slowly and so it could take a while. I’m interested in what he has to say but I find long eBooks a bit difficult to read. It’s taking ages to move from 6% to 7% and I do like to see that I’m making progress. At the moment he’s talking about the difference between System 1 and System 2 thinking. System 1 is more automatic (including unconscious) thinking while System 2 is the slower, more deliberate effort of thinking that we use in our day-to-day lives. The most effortful thinking, in his research, involves doing an exercise such as ‘Add 3′ where you have to hold a string of numbers in memory and then add 3 to them as you go along. Our dilated pupils as we do this are a sign of intense concentration. And trying to walk at the same time will be too difficult.

2. The last book I read
was Sweet Talk by Stephanie Vaughn. I discovered her writing through The New Yorker Fiction podcasts when I listened to Tea Obreht reading ‘Able Baker Charlie Dog’. I was immediately drawn to Vaughn’s distinctive voice. Sweet Talk is a collection of 10 short stories and five of them are written from the perspective of Gemma, a teenage girl growing up on a military base in America. They are semi-autobiographical and I found them brilliant. Moving, funny, quirky and written in deceptively simple, powerful English. The story ‘Dog Heaven’ is one of the best in the collection and I love the way she blends the various layers of the story – Gemma’s perspective, the dog’s perspective as well as wry descriptions of the teacher and life on the military base.

I’ve been mulling over how to write a review of Sweet Talk even before I finished it. Vaughn is a professor of creative writing at Stanford but she has very little published writing herself. That’s a great pity since some of these stories are the most memorable ones I’ve read in a long while.

3. The book I’ll read next
will probably be a children’s book. I have four other books to finish and also four weeks before the end of the term. I’m looking forward to a good, escapist novel for my end-of-year holiday. There’s no shortage of to-be-read books but I need something special.

4. The last book I bought
was a children’s eBook and it was a complete waste of money. I was sitting in bed reading to Leah and I suddenly thought I could find something entertaining at the Kindle store rather than walking over to her room to read one of the books we’ve read 20 times already. The book was a piece of doggerel about the biggest cupcake in the world.

The last proper book I bought was David Lodge’s biography of H.G. Wells called A Man of Parts. It was on sale at my local bookshop and since I both enjoyed the last Lodge that read and am intrigued by the subject matter of this one, it seemed like a good impulse-buy.

5. The last book I was given
was The Gift of Rain by Tan Kwan Eng. I enjoyed this a lot but it did make me think that I’m probably a difficult person to buy books for. L gave me this for my birthday after a friend raved about it in her bookclub. She said it was one of the best books she’d ever read. Well I didn’t find that but I did find it a good read (after a slow start).

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3 Responses to What I’m reading

  1. litlove says:

    Sweet Talk by Stephanie Vaughn goes straight on the list – sounds excellent! Mr Litlove read the Daniel Kahneman and it took him a while to get through it, but he did find it very, very interesting. He’s explained some of the premise to me, and I found it fascinating. Haven’t felt in the mood to tackle a long, slow intense read like that, though. And I know exactly how you feel about needing a special book for the end of term. Those are always the hardest to choose! But I’m sure something just right will come along.

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks Litlove. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Stephanie Vaughn. I know what you mean about not being in the mood for long, slow intense books at the moment. I have to go on a school trip tomorrow and so I need something light and diverting to take with me. At least I don’t have to go on military trips anymore and this school one should be enjoyable (when we’re eventually there).

  3. doctordi says:

    Oooh yes, I must say you’ve piqued my interest with the Vaughn as well… sounds delightful. And there’s no way I’m reading Thinking, Fast & Slow in my present state. You lost me at System 1…!!

    Lovely to hear from you, Pete. Miss your posts.

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