September 2, 2011
My box of books arrived today from Texas. Half Price Books in Dallas is an ever-growing hunting ground. I had to show uncharacteristic restraint. Here's what I got:
The Control of Nature by John McPhee
A book about all-out battles with nature. Three chapters: "Atchafalaya," "Cooling the Lava," and "Los Angeles Against the Mountains." With all the Catskills flooding recently, it turns out to be even more salient than I expected.
A Long Desire by Evan S. Connell
Since I read Son of the Morning Star in an impromptu book club a few years ago, I've been picking up Evan Connell books whenever I can. He's a best-living-writer contender, and due for renewed widespread appreciation. This is a book of essays about exploration, about seekers of Atlantis, the Northwest Passage, El Dorado, etc.
The Fort Tejon Letters by John Xantus
Xantus collected specimens for the Smithsonian in the 1850s. These letters, written from a fort in the Tehachapi Mountains in California to his museum contact in Washington, describe his adventures trapping, shooting, stuffing, and shipping animals. Apparently, he was a bit of a fabulist.
Naturalist by Edward O. Wilson
Wilson's autobiography. "Most children have a bug period. I never grew out of mine."
Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen by Larry McMurtry
Already read and written about here.
Wilderness Essays by John Muir
A naturalist exploring California and other points West. A theme is emerging here...
The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde
How is it that I've never heard of this book? The pull-quotes come from people like David Foster Wallace ("No one who is invested in any kind of art can read The Gift and remain unchanged") and Jonathan Lethem ("Few books are such life-changers as The Gift: epiphany, sculpted in prose"). It just jumped to the top of my reading list.
The box also included two books given to me by my parents:
Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas by James L. Haley
After reading about the Comanches, I found my interest in Texas renewed. It's where I grew up, after all. My dad recommended this history.
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
According to the dust jacket, "a character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor" about the crash of the bond and real estate derivative markets. My mom recommended this.