Behind the Times By Deb Anna

I’m horrible about reading, by which I mean that I read about .000001% of the number of books I’d like to. And I can’t really blame it on my work schedule. My friend Melissa de la Cruz, who literally pumps out something like 10 books a year (not to mention, recently, a baby, and, um, milk) is a treasure trove of knowledge on current books. Ask her what she’s reading and she’ll mention three recently released titles before giving brief summaries of the 12 she read last month.

All of this is, I guess, the preamble to the statement that I can’t name my favorite book of 2006. I’m at about 2004, books-wise, and the idea of actually having read everything I want so that I can actually peruse a new — or semi-new — release is nearly unfathomable.

Which is, I guess, the preamble to the statement that I’m going to instead tell you about the books I read in 2006 that surprised me the most.

Portnoy’s Complaint (Philip Roth) — Okay, I was late on this one (by something like 30 years) but having only been exposed to tortured, angsty Roth, I just loved how hilarious — not to mention semi-plotless — this was. And the insight into male sexuality? Fascinating — and a bit scary.

The Game (Neil Strauss) — I expected it to be the nerdy guys equivalent of The Rules and instead discovered a poignant coming-of-age story of a guy who realizes that having what every formerly lovelorn man supposedly wants — a slew of beautiful women at his disposal — doesn’t compare to having one who really matters. (Call me a sap, I don’t care.)

Wake Up, Sir! (Jonathan Ames) — I had been scared of Ames, a guy who I’d heard wrote obsessively about going bald, his affairs with transsexuals and a friend who was famous for having a “Mangina.” But I have to say that while many books about alcoholism and addiction are amusing — Permanent Midnight and Rachel’s Holiday both make me laugh out loud at times and I don’t LOL (that might, in fact, be the first time I actually wrote it) — there simply isn’t as side-splittingly hilarious a story about a drunk as this one.

I realize there are no women on my list, but honestly, I’ve always gravitated toward male writers. In college, I went around calling Catcher in the Rye and Clockwork Orange my favorite books and wrote all my short stories from a male perspective. But I swear that if I catch up on my reading to the point where I’m actually reading books released in the year we’re in, I’ll manage to work some more ladies in there.

11 Replies to “Behind the Times By Deb Anna”

  1. Don’t worry…I know exactly what it’s like to have a long “To Read” list and never getting around to it. I think I’ll have to put “Wake Up, Sir!” on my list as well =)

  2. I just got around to reading Portnoy’s Complaint last year too! Loved it, LOLed myself several times. And it kills me that the whole reason I became a writer is beacuse I love to read so much, and bow that I’m doing it I read less than I ever have! Yeesh…

  3. No apologies necessary, Anna, because we tend to all share in the same overloaded book piles. However it’s intriguing to learn that you read more male writers and have written from a male perspective. Now that really piques my interest about Amelia.

  4. I think also since focusing so much on my writing I actually enjoy reading less. Not only do I have less time, but it is very difficult to just lose myself in a book. I simply cannot easily turn off the analyzer in my head…How did the author do that? How did they do this? Wow, that’s great! Hmmm that’s not clear.
    When I can fall back into my former mode of reading I am so grateful but it is not often and like all the rest of you — my “to read” pile just gets higher and higher.

  5. I tend to gravitate towards male writers for certain kinds of fiction, and women writers for others. I don’t think I’m being gender selective – it just sort of turns out that way. I think men have also had a longer track record in publishing, so more classics tend to be male-dominated, but I have a feeling that’s all about to change … 😉

  6. My “to be read” list is always way longer than my “books actually read” list each year. And I’m always way behind the times, reading the books that everyone was talking about a year or two (or, okay, sometimes twenty or thirty years) ago.

    I’m so jealous of people like your friend Melissa who keep producing work of their own and still manage to stay on top of all the great stuff currently out there. How do they do it???

  7. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with stacks of to-be-read books. I buy tons of books, read some, and the rest are EVERYWHERE. Or I’ll read a few dozen pages and if I’m not hoooked, it goes on the bookshelf. It’s very bad behavior for a writer, but a girl’s got to sleep sometime.

  8. I’ve just recently read “Portnoy’s Complaint” as well. I don’t know when the last time I read something “new.” Sometimes I’ll pick something from the library “new” shelf, but only if it seems interesting when I pick it up. Sometimes something will not seem interesting one day, but another day will. I’m weird, I know.

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