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Bedside Manner: Books In My Possession, Which I May or May Not Read

A consumer guide to recent purchases

By Wells Dunbar, 4:09PM, Thu. Dec. 1, 2011

Bedside Manner: Books In My Possession, Which I May or May Not Read
Photo by Wells Dunbar

I’m a sucker for books. Reading them, however, not so much. Name a classic any self-respecting high school sophomore should have plowed through first semester – quick! Nope, never cracked it. (Somehow, they still gave me a diploma. And a job where I write. But I digress.)

This trait has stretched into my adulthood, where the ratio of books procured/read hovers somewhere around the Mendoza Line. Still, I look at this tower of tomes recently purchased with some meager hope.

Starting from the bottom:

YOU: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger, Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz. That’s right, Dr. Oz! This Savers near-freebie offers a holistic look at fitness, from diet to exercise. Seeing as how this dovetails nicely with my new exercise regimen, I rate odds on finishing this one at 9/10.

The Assault on Reason, Al Gore. Procured in a Marathon, Florida Salvation Army on my recent honeymoon (yes, this is my idea of beach reading), this post-Inconvenient Truth screed from the 43rd President of the United States is an outgrowth from his global warming opus, in that it argues empirical fact has practically nothing to do with the policy we set as a nation. For this, he lays a lot of blame at television’s feet, arguing only emotional appeals have any leverage in our 30 second sound bite culture. (Yeah, I got all this from the introduction.) I feel ya, Mr, Gore, but I dunno how soon I’ll be returning to this well-reasoned, albeit rather obvious, book. Odds 3/10.

Down and Dirty Pictures, Peter Biskind. Picking up where Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood left off, this book catalogs indie-cinema’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s explosion – Miramax, Sundance, Pulp Fiction, et. al. Looks to spill a lot of dirt too, what with less-than-flattering quotes about Robert Redford on the back cover. It definitely piqued my interest – why else would I have bought it? – but truth be told, I do prefer colder, more clinical film “studies” books, like this one and this one that currently reside on my shelf in various stages of being read. 7/10.

The Man Who Was Don Quixote: The Story of Miguel Cervantes, Rafaello Busoni. This is the only book in the pile I’ve made substantial headway on. Another honeymoon buy, it made for a great beach read – largely because it’s a kid’s book (but a kid’s book from 1958, when, I dunno, I guess they had expectations for the little ones. Anyway, why the hell am I apologizing for reading young adult lit, when Harry Potter and Hunger Games and … takes a deep breath … ) Anyway, this charming book traces the life of Cervantes from childhood on, recounting several formative life experiences (travels, war, imprisonment, political posts, etc.) lead him to create Don Quixote. Addressing many of the themes in the novel – most profoundly, the question of whether one is more a product of their surroundings, or their own conception of themselves – it gets kinda deep in parts, and is refreshingly free of glaringly politically incorrect sentiments for such an old book discussing foreign parts of the globe. Moreover, now I have an actual copy of Don Quixote, so, mission accomplished, Mr. Busoni. Plus it has lots of pretty, charmingly dashed-off ink drawings. 10/10.

The Limits of Power, Andrew Bacevich. Former Army officer Bacevich lays out a one-two punch in The Limits of Power, arguing that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are misguided, imperial adventures, and moreover, exemplary of a “crisis of profligacy” and “empire of consumption” at home, where we're deluded into thinking we can keep racking it up and the bill never comes due. I really enjoyed Bill Moyers’ interview with Bacevich, and this one’s short, so high hopes. 9/10.

Best Music Writing 2007: Lots of great writers – Sasha Frere-Jones, Rob Harvilla, Kelefa Sanneh and Jessica Hopper, for starters – with crit god Robert Christgau himself serving as guest editor? At Goodwill for $1.99? 10/10.

The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy: Speaking of gods among men, I’ve yet to tear in to The Crossing, part of McCarthy’s border trilogy (sandwiched between All the Pretty Horses and Cities of the Plain, neither of which I have read either). But I plan to. 9/10.

Blood Meridian, McCarthy: The only book in the pile I have read, albeit on loan from the library. I’m not even going to try to say anything about this modern masterpiece, except that it is just that. 10/10.

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