Tuesday, September 12, 2017

“Read a Damn Book List (with Chit Chat from Sept. 2017)” by Richard F. Yates

About seven months ago, I decided to start writing reviews of the various books that I read. Since 2013, I’ve been making Reading Lists, so that the people who read my stories or enjoy my art can see “where I get my ideas.” (I steal them, of course…) Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to post my 13th reading list, I did something stupid, had to reformat my tablet, and lost the entire list… (I’m better with paper and ink than electronics.) So, instead of trying to remember what I’d read and recreate it (not possible), I went in a different direction.
My rules were simple: read a damn book, cover to cover (no skipping bits,) and then write an honest review. If I’d already read the book at some time in the past, I still had to read it again before putting fingers to keyboard. RE-reading is actually much cooler than most people think. There are a lot of words in most books, and no one can remember them all. In addition, if it’s been a long time since you read a book, YOU might be different now, even if the book isn’t, so what you take away from the rereading may be different than what you got from the book the first time—or second or third… Sometimes books get better—and sometimes they don’t.
The BENEFITS of writing reviews are numerous. First, I like to share stuff that I enjoy with other people. It makes me feel good, and I often read old or obscure or forgotten books that a lot of people don’t remember or might not have heard of, and I’ve made it my policy not to keep these things hidden for myself. I like to share. Another benefit of writing a review is the boost you get to understanding. (Writing IS thinking.) It’s important for people to analyze and consider what they take in instead of just passively consuming it. If you love a story, ask yourself WHY you loved it? If there was something about it that made you uncomfortable, what was it? What elements made the book really work, and where did it fall short? The secondary result of this type of reflection, especially when you bother to write these thoughts out, is that others, whether they’ve read the book or not, can benefit from an honest examination of a text. Does the book sound like it’s worth reading? Was there something going on in the book that I totally missed last time I read it? “Literary analysis” sounds like a scary thing (and I know most people HATE writing papers), but it’s what I was trained to do, and I love doing it.
Since I started doing these reviews (back in February), I’ve finished 46 books. Some of those books were short, but some seemed EXTREMELY long to me, even if they weren’t. (I read slowly—even MORE slowly if the book isn’t keeping my interest.) Either way, 46 is a lot of reviews, and unfortunately, my reviews were getting lost amidst the drawings and photos and poems and stories at The Primitive Entertainment Workshop where they were originally posted. They were getting buried rather quickly because I post anywhere from 3 to 7 items per day at the Workshop, sometimes more. To help keep the reviews above water, I started a new site, Read a Damn Book, which is ONLY for the reviews, but even there, with all those words stacked one on top of the other, most people probably don’t go all the way back and read the reviews of the earliest books very often. And thus, I have created this “Table of Contents” thing, so people can quickly and easily see which books have been reviewed and click on the ones they want to see. (Consider it a public service.) Enjoy!
001 – Scientific Progress Goes ‘Boink’ (Calvin and Hobbes) by Bill Watterson
002 – Dada: The Revolt of Art by Marc Dachy
003 – This Ain’t No Disco by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz
004 – The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey
005 – The Atomics: Spaced Out & Grounded in Snap City! by Mike Allred, Martin Ontiveros, J. Bone, Chynna Clugston Flores, and Lawrence Marvit
006 – Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse) by Charlaine Harris
007 – Doctor No (James Bond) by Ian Fleming
008 – The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky by Susan K. Putney and Berni Wrightson
009 – The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
010 – Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret by Michael Kupperman
011 – The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
012 – All This and Snoopy, Too (Peanuts) by Charles M. Schulz
013 – Getting Even by Woody Allen
014 – Krazy & Ignatz (Krazy Kat) by George Herriman
015 – Martian-American War by Daniel T. Foster and Michael J. King
016 – Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
017 – Spy vs Spy: Casebook of Craziness by Antonio Prohias
018 – We Must Remain Focused When Waiting for Thunder by Jesse Reno
019 – Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
020 – Madman Volume 1 by Mike Allred
021 – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
022 – The Far Side by Gary Larson
023 – Please Kill Me – The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil
024 – Krazy Kids’ Food! by Steve Roden and Dan Goodsell
025 – Duchamp by Janis Mink
026 – Unsolved Mysteries by Joel Levy
027 – Swag – Rock Posters of the ‘90s by Spencer Drate
028 – The Robot Who Looked Like Me by Robert Sheckley
029 – Flaming Carrot’s Greatest Hits by Bob Burden
030 – Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book by Shel Silverstein
031 – KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by JMR Higgs
032 – Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
033 – Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse) by Charlaine Harris
034 – Metropolis by Osamu Tezuka
035 – The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
036 – Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
037 – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
037a – Fear and Loathing… (Revisited!) – [Guest Review by Shane Grove]
038 – The Dot and The Line by Norton Juster
039 – Principia Discordia by Malaclypse The Younger / Rev. Timothy Edward Bowen
040 – Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
041 – Octopus Girl by Toru Yamazaki
042 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
043 – Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse) by Charlaine Harris
044 – Super Aces by Mark W. Counts and Michael J. King
045 – The Book of Hallowe’en by Ruth Edna Kelley
046 – Spiders (Little Fears) by Peter Edwards
047 – Cured by Lol Tolhurst
Before I decided to write individual book reviews, I would publish LISTS of the books that I was reading. Some of these, especially towards the later lists, started to have mini-reviews of the more interesting books. To me, they’re still interesting to look at, even if they aren’t quite as substantial as the full reviews. (Meanest thing I wrote: “I liked the cover.” That was the entire review.)
In addition to book reviews, I’ve also started writing VIDEO reviews. Part of what I like about books is that the reader has to participate in the work in order for the story to come to life, whereas a film or television series really just jumps out at you. Still, there are certain shows (films, television programs, documentaries) that I really enjoy, and because I like to share stuff that I enjoy… Heck, why not?
And that’s about it for now…
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)

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