Reading, Writing and (some) Arithmetic


I was once asked how many hours a week I spend writing. I answered that in a good week, maybe 40—really. But this count depends on my notion that writing involves putting words on a page, as well as attending to the world with the focus of a writer and reading the works of others with the attitude of a writer.

I read 35 or 40 books a year eclectically distributed across nonfiction (mostly), fiction (increasingly), and poetry (sparingly). I’ve kept a list of the books I’ve read since I began writing seriously in 2000 (the total stands at 588 books). So, I thought I might share the books that I’ve read in the last few months.

For each of these, I offer a six-word review. Why six? I’ve long been fascinated by Ernest Hemingway’s six-word tale, which he considered perhaps his finest story: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Since Hemingway, there have been various ventures into six-word writing (stories, memoirs, music reviews, etc.) so my format is not unique—but it was fun. And although writing is usually agonizing, sometimes it should be fun.

The Lifespan of a Fact (John D’Agata): A good essay; an ok book.

About at Mountain (John D’Agata): Nicely crafted, even the true parts.

The Boat (Nam Le): Read this before closing the borders.

The Cutie (Donald Westlake): Yes, crime noir can be literature.

Memory (Donald Westlake): Forgetting is so softly, heartbreakingly dark.

The Man Who Quit Money (Mark Sundeen): Works fine if others have it.

The Making of Toro (Mark Sundeen): Funny, painfully true writing about writing.

The Spirit Bird (Kent Nelson): Heartfelt moments but can’t remember much.

Collections of Nothing (William Davies King): Soulful, provocative celebration of human packrat.

Mount Analogue (Rene Daumal): Great buildup to an unwritten ending.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen joy Fowler): Poignant, bizarre tale of family’s love.

Even the Wicked (Lawrence Block): Magnificent mystery by a genius storyteller.

Great Feuds in Science (Hal Hellerman): Pissing matches don’t make great reading.

The Perfect Storm (Sebastian Unger): Ego, courage, denial, dysfunction and testosterone.

A Walk Among the Tombstones (Lawrence Block): Power is relative; violence is absolute.

I’m Here to Learn to Dream in Your Language (HL Hix): I never get, but always love, Hix.

Ley Lines (HL Hix): Writing about art can be synergistic.

The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis (Ruth DeFries): Long answer

searching for short question.

History of Opera (Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker): Enchanting trees but not much forest.

Cold Service (Robert Parker): Brilliant characters: the soul of mystery.

Double Deuce [reading now] (Robert Parker): No mystery about author’s serious research.

#books #reading #reviews #sixwords

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This is the personal site of Jeffrey A. Lockwood, award-winning author and University of Wyoming professor of Natural Sciences and Humanities. Lockwood is the recipient of both the Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Medal.

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