Worst books of 2009: A Sampling.
What'll you have?

Letting it all wash over.

My apologies for the continued quiet (cue crickets) here at Citizen Reader. This is a very novel situation for me; normally I am apologizing for things I've said, not for things I HAVEN'T said.

I have been back to reading, but I have not felt compelled to write about any of the reading I'm doing. That doesn't mean I'm not thinking about the blog, though. For instance, I am currently indexing a book titled In the Shadow of the Moon, by Francis French and Colin Burgess, about the space missions leading up to the moon landing. In one chapter, one of the astronauts muses about a spacewalk he took when his colleagues told him just to relax for a couple of minutes while they peformed experiments, and he used the time to observe the Earth and just let the entire experience wash over him. (How cool is that, by the way?) So, although I am not doing anything as cool as hanging out of a spacecraft in Earth orbit, I have been just letting a variety of readings and books wash over me.

This may not seem like a big distinction, but it is very different to read without formulating thoughts for "publication"*. I started this site in May 2008, and since then a lot of my reading has been enjoyed for itself, but has also been undertaken with an eye to what I thought about the reading, or how I would review it. That changes the reading experience, a little bit. I would like to ask some of the members of the dwindling field of book criticism if they feel writing about books for a living has significantly changed how they read.

So what's been washing over? Well, while still selfishly keeping most of my reactions to myself, I can nutshell the week in review:

I really enjoyed Chuck Klosterman's essay collection Eating the Dinosaur. I don't love him, love him, but I rarely find Klosterman dull, and I appreciate that. His concluding essay on Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber) is a work of beauty, ruminating on technology, society, and how "not all crazy people are brilliant, but almost all brilliant people are crazy." See? You may not agree with it, but that's not a dull thought.

Ny400 A wonderful friend sent me the gorgeous illustrated history book New York 400, which is a history of the greatest city in the world. (I think it just barely edges out, in my personal list of top cities, Montreal and London.) I have been starting each morning this week by plugging in the tree lights (yes, I am resisting taking down the tree), having my fiber cereal (still not as exciting as Pop Tarts, but what's an old lady to do?) and reading this gorgeous book and looking at the pictures. Thank you, my generous benefactress (you know who you are).

While reading for indexing is not really the same as reading for fun, I would highly recommend French and Burgess's history title In the Shadow of the Moon. If you wait for the new edition being published this year by the University of Nebraska Press, you can also use its new index, created by yours truly!

I also plowed through Louise Rennison's British YA chick lit novel Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? It's the last title in her Georgia Nicolson series, and it was worth the wait. Not only do I want to be British, I want to be a hilarious British teen like Georgia Nicolson. (I have in fact adopted one of her phrases, which makes Mr. CR nuts: when it's cold outside, I say "Brrr! Nippy noodles."

I also had the good fortune to be assigned to review the collection The Best American Magazine Writing of 2009 for Library Journal, and not to ruin the suspense of my review, but it's fantastic. The profile of David Foster Wallace (by Sam Lipsky) made me cry, and Chris Jones's feature "The Things That Carried Him," about the preparation for burial of a soldier killed in Iraq in 2007, pissed me off. (My opinion is: it's very nice that the army treats the bodies of deceased soldiers with respect, and carefully polishes the buttons on the uniforms of even the soldiers who are being cremated. But wouldn't the soldiers be better served if the higher-ups took a little more care with their bodies BEFORE they got killed? I ask you.) Any book that can elicit both of my personalities (Mr. CR's famous assessment of me is: "you have two moods: angry and weepy.") is, I think, a book worth reading.

So there you have it. Carefully unformed thoughts from a careless but highly enjoyed reading schedule. I think 2010 is going to be even more disorganized for me than last year, and I'm looking forward to it. Happy New Year to all of you!

*This is a blog, so we can't take it as seriously as things that are actually published. But I have to justify the time I spend here somehow, as it is not time when I am being an active salary-producing American citizen, so I call it a "publication" to kid myself.