One-man book club: Bring out your dead

It’s one-man book club week here in Tonsil-land, where I say all the things I would say if I was in a book club (and the selections were all up to me). Monday Costume-grim-reaper-clipartand Tuesday I blogged about seven books.

But today is the dark-interlude portion of the one-man book club meeting, where a moment is taken to grieve for the misfires — those books that did not pass the FIFTY-PAGE TEST.

Let me explain. I give every book I buy or borrow the first 50 pages (one sitting) to get me in there. Sometimes I’ll push it to page 75 or 80. But if it’s not happening, I give myself permission to put it down and move along. Nobody’s fault. That’s important to underline. I’m not going to take the book back and demand store credit or anything. I just read until hooked, or until I make a decision that it’s not for me and I move along. On the chance that these authors self-Google (and who doesn’t? Dave Eggers probably doesn’t), I’ll keep it brief so as not to upset karmic literary balance.

Fast farewell to these, and I’m sorry there’ve been so many lately:

ba-book29_ph_SFCG1262035519Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda. My fault. I didn’t want to read “a history” of memoir, I wanted to read more about the psychological impulse (nowadays, especially) to commit the act of memoir. And there it is plain on the cover: “A history.”

Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America’s New Rootless Professional Class by Peter T. Kilborn. Loved it as a New York Times story however many years ago. This book-length extrapolation was recommended to0805083081 me by a few people who got the same vibe when reading about Frisco, Texas, in my book. But 60 or so pages in, it just felt spun out (and stretched out) to me. Too dry and newspaperly about something that can also be absurd, odd, funny.

Zeito1119-zeitoun-eggers-coverun by Dave Eggers. Sorry, McsWeenies, I gotta save my Katrina interest so I can review Treme on HBO in a month or so. This book comes from the calculated enterprise that is Eggers’s earnest effort to save society through literature. Although journalist pals at Gangrey were excited to delve into it, I was corn-fused by the reporting process as spelled out in the acknowledgments. Zeitoun is intent on being matter-of-fact. Frankly, it struck me as boring. (I know: how can a flood be dry? You’ll see.)


Finally: This Is Where I Leave You, an angsty-comic family drama novel by Jonathan Tropper. That is where I left it, right around page 50.

• • •

More one-man book club on FRIDAY, with reviews of THE ROOM AND THE CHAIR, UNION ATLANTIC and YOU ARE NOT A GADGET. Plus a little ukelele.


  1. nan on March 4, 2010 at 8:48 am

    You’re in good company with the 50-page rule — that’s the same number recommended by the great librarian Nancy Pearl (besides being a great librarian and book recommender she is also the model for Archie McPhee’s Librarian Action Figure). And the news gets better: After you pass the age of 50, Pearl says you can subtract your age from 100 and that’s the number of pages you should give a book. Because you have less time left, I suppose. So if you’re 70, you only have to read 30 pages, etc.

  2. Suzanne on March 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    This reminds me of Hornby’s book, The Polysyllabic Spree, which I read and loved.

    I’m happy to find your blog!

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