Runners Who Read

Who knew? A bunch of runners who enjoy reading and discussing what they read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nominations and "Bed Table" Books

Thanks to everyone for the nominations I've already received for our first group reading selection (see the post just below this one for more on how to nominate) -- so far, offbeat humor seems to be something of a theme. Hardly a surprise there, I guess ... and at least a couple of suggestions I know I'm going to check out whether we vote to read them together or not. Plus, a couple of more seriously-themed thought provokers, with great potential for group discussion. Writers I've never heard of -- books I'm interested in exploring. That's what it's all about. Good stuff so far, my friends!

"Bed Table" Books

Without really meaning to, I seem to always accumulate a few books on my bed table – not chapter books, but the kinds of books which allow me to flip to any page and score a few last minutes of reading time before going to sleep. The books change, but they seem to always have one thing in common: it doesn’t really matter what page I turn to. Usually there’s a poetry anthology or two; currently it’s Kenneth Rexroth’s quietly poignant translations of One Hundred Poems From The Chinese.

Also, Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of A Wise Bird by Robert Aitken. Whether you know or care about Zen Buddhism doesn’t really matter: these delightful stories are usually one page or less in length and are written with a kind of rustic charm, deeply wise and often humorous. Uniquely told from the viewpoint of a group of forest animals, it’s a sort of American spin on some classic Zen stories and koans. And the brush-style pen and ink illustrations accompanying some of the stories are a perfect complement. If you like Aesop’s Fables and other such stories in the wisdom tradition, Zen Master Raven could definitely appeal.

As another example of a potential bed table book, I would imagine the brilliant dark humor of Saki’s (H. H. Munro) fictional miniatures would also serve the purpose nicely. For the most part, they’re nasty little satires about the Edwardian English upper classes -- sometimes politically incorrect , often comically macabre, and typically only 1-3 pages in length. (I haven’t read any of those stories in years; I should order a copy!)

Do any of you keep a “bed table” collection?


Blogger Paul said...

This could be a great tell.

After reading your post I went right over and gathered up all of my bedside reading and here it is:

The Child in Time by McEwan. I finished it, really enjoyed it, and would now be comfortable recommending it to Lyra.

The Portable Jung, edited by Campbell. Barely into it; not easy sleepytime reading.

Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Masai. I loved his book Embers.

Getting Better: Inside AA by Nan Robertson. Weak. A much better book on the subject that our friend Paula recommended was Drinking - A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.

Two old copies of Marathon and Beyond - vol. 8, issues 4 & 5 (ha!).

The Library of America edition of the complete novels of Carson McCullers.

So, there you go. That's my nightstand now.

5:57 PM  
Blogger roadsofstone said...

A Scottish author you might enjoy is Iain Banks (The Crow Road, Dead Air - he also writes science fiction as Iain M Banks, which I haven't tried).

William Boyd is also marvellously reflective - his most famous books are The Ice Cream Wars, about World War I in Africa, and Brazzaville Beach, set on the same continent, but I especially liked Armadillo, a humorous look at London, as well as The New Confessions, and Any Human Heart, which are two epic fictional autobiographies.

2:21 AM  
Blogger T said...

I'm going to have to be pretty geeky and cop to the fact that The Literature of Ancient Egypt is on my bed table right now, as is often the case. I suppose it would be geekier if they were my own translations... I'm not there yet.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

"Epic fictional autobiography" is a terrific sub-sub-genre that deserves its own thread sometime. (I've nearly finished reading my current example of this literary specialty, Memoirs of Hadrian.) Thanks, Nigel, and good to hear from you!

Jung and ancient Egyptian literature? Paul and Tracy, what dreams you must have ...

12:40 PM  
Blogger RWR said...

(Sorry, I haven't figured out how to post in my name yet....but this is Paula)

Who would have thought that telling what we had on our bedside would be so intimate?

My current bedside reading include:

Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues by Paul Farmer. About TB and AIDS. Really good, but difficult to read without pause.

The Truth About Children and Divorce by Robert Emery. I usually hate this genre of book. I still hate it, but I did find this book very helpful.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Literary mystery. For some reason I haven't been able to get beyond page 5. If I can't do better than that this weekend, I will take it back to the library.

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts. A compelling saga that covers the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I am re-reading the sections on the work of the epidemiology unit at CDC.

Nutritional Epidemiology by Walter Willett. This is actually my favorite of the group. Willett is my nutritional epi. hero and is one of the major forces behind the changed food pyramid at USDA. This text is sensational (much better than the text used for class) and I will occasionally refer to it as I am thinking about the experimental design for my dissertation proposal. He wrote a great nutritional book for lay readers called Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. Willett was the force behind studies/recommendations for the inclusion of a daily glass of red wine for health purposes. Which explains the hero worship on my part....

12:47 PM  
Blogger k said...

On the bedside right now:

Current issue of Marathon & Beyond

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I usually always have some Bryson handy for night time reading or anytime I'm travelling.

Running the Amazon by Joe Kane. This is a true story of a multinational team that wants to be the first to kayak the Amazon from its source high in the Andes to the Atlantic. For me the personal and group dynamics provide the most interest.


3:32 PM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

I don't keep a stack on my nightstand, but just tote whichever one I'm reading, which is now Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Living to Tell the Tale, around with me.

Scattered around our house and always at hand are innumerable infant care and development books, however.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

Oh, I have been carrying two books w/me to/from work that I open up when I have a chance, The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, and The River Sound, by W.S. Merwin.

9:46 AM  

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