Sifting through the detritus

You don’t live with me, you live among the remains of dead people. You sift through the detritus, you read the terrain, you search for signs of passing, for the scent of your prey, and then you hunt them down. That’s the only thing you’re committed to. The rest is the mess you leave as you pass through.  

– Justine Hanna in the movie Heat

vlcsnap-51989In many ways, this quote from one of my favorite movies encapsulates my own reading experience, not only over the last two months but for the last few years as it’s pretty much how I sift through the odds and ends of my TBR (to-be-read) list.

Exhibit A: Here is the list with which I began at the start of the year.

  1. A Year With Thomas Merton: Daily Mediations from His Journal, Selected and Edited by Jonathan Montaldo
  2. Yes Please (the audiobook version) by Amy Poehler
  3. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir
  5. The Removers: A Memoir by Andrew Meredith
  6. Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
  7. Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder
  8. So, Anyway… by John Cleese
  9. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  10. Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, and Buy by Joel Beckerman
  11. The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  12. Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

Exhibit B: Here is the list that I came up with for Lenten Reading a couple of weeks ago.

  1. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott
  2. The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Hearing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond and Mpho Tutu
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

So far, I have read five of the 17, DNFed (did-not-finish) two, removed six from the list entirely including The Removers, kept two and am debating on whether to finish one other one. The five read are: The Martian, Dataclysm, High Fidelity, The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time, and To Kill A Mockingbird; the two DNF, The Organized Mind and Sonic Boom; the other five removed, in addition to The Removers, Yes Please, So, Anyway…, Small Victories, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Station Eleven; the two kept, Food: A Memoir but in audiobook version, and The Book of Forgiving. The last book, the first one mentioned (the Merton), is the one I’m debating on whether to finish because I’m not getting as much out of it as I thought I would. As of the time of this final draft, I’ve abandoned the Merton book.

Of the five read, four were fiction; two DNFs, nonfiction; five removed, and the last one under debate, nonfiction; the two kept, both nonfiction. While not giving up on nonfiction, I think I do better when I choose to read nonfiction sparsely. Also as much as I talk about giving up crime fiction, this past Lent and the previous Lent, I have to come to terms with it (much like Joey in Friends): I am Bryan and I am a crime fiction addict. Like Vincent, I live among the remains of dead people.

2014-08-11 13.11.55
The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania as taken by me

So after The Book of Forgiving, I’m returning to crime fiction with the final two books in the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Cop Killer and The Terrorists. I already have both downloaded to my Kindle. After that, who knows? As in the past, we’ll see where the river flows.

How do you sift through your reading choices to decide what you finally will read and what you won’t read? What are you reading this week?



I’m not daring anyone to tell the truth, but I’m feeling like telling the truth this weekend.

Truth: I only have read six books so far this year, five last month, one this month. I am not really a book blogger (again). <– and, ahem, this is why I’m sharing this post on a book blogging meme like The Sunday Salon.

Truth: I have several ebooks on hold at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and I’m way back in the line with many of them.

Truth: I don’t like waiting.

Truth: I always have lofty goals for my reading during Lent (see last week’s post), but I rarely achieve them.

Truth: By the time you read this, I probably will have cleared my hold list and gone back to reading crime fiction.

Truth: I tried reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin earlier this week, but my mind isn’t organized enough right now (if ever) to finish it.

Truth: I like some of Kanye West’s music, especially from the album Yeezus. This does not mean I don’t think that as a human being that he isn’t a tool; he is. I like Bob Dylan’s music too, especially his electric phase, listening to “Watching the River Flow” by him now as I type this draft.

Truth: Together, my wife and I are binge-watching Friends, because when we go to watch something on Netflix we need comedy this winter because it’s bleak enough outside and we don’t need more drama in our lives.

Truth: Separately, my wife and I are binge-watching Mad Men and Criminal Minds, respectively, because we still crave drama. The human mind is twisted.

Truth: You probably will be more outraged by my Kanye West comment than anything else I’ve written today. Good thing I kept my thoughts about Harper Lee’s “new” novel to myself.

Truth: Updated Saturday night. I haven’t cleared all of my holds, but did clear many of them. I’ve left the Desmond Tutu book from my Lenten list on hold and also Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel and Buy by Joel Beckerman from my start of the year list. That latter one did just come in from on hold tonight, but I won’t be reading until Monday since I’m going to watch the Daytona 500 with a neighbor this afternoon.

Last but not least, I also am leaving on hold…wait for wait, wait for it…To Kill A Mockingbird! I’ve never read it so I had to keep that on the list, naturally.

Feel free to share your own truths in the comments…if you dare.