Read any good books lately? | The Latte Guy | Jan. 23

It’s a little late to be adopting New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I’ve vowed to do what I have threatened to do every year for the past decade or so.

That’s to write down the name of every book I read during the course of a year so that when someone at a cocktail party asks me if I’ve read any good books lately, I won’t have to say what I usually say in such situations: “Yes, I’ve read several good books recently, but unfortunately I can’t seem to recall the name of even one of them at the moment, and could you please pass me the bean dip.”

Now that I think about it, why stop at simply making a list? I’ll put the name of every book I read this year on a spreadsheet that I can then sort and cross reference. While I’m at it, I’ll print out a couple copies of the various versions of the list to be sure I have a copy with me at all times.

That way, at cocktail parties, I don’t even have to answer the inevitable book question; I’ll just hand the questioner a copy of my list after first ascertaining whether he or she would prefer a version of it organized by the order in which I read the books, alphabetically, or rated from best to worst. Perhaps I’d better include cross references for other important criteria such as number of pages, type size, and the presence or absence of gratuitous and steamy sex scenes.

I’m really excited about this idea, and I see only two problems with it. First, I’m likely to have trouble sticking with the plan for the entire year. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see me abandon it by spring. Abandoning a New Year’s resolution is something I’m prone to. I’ve done it before, and I have a bad feeling about this good idea.

The second problem with my plan is that I never really go to the kind of cocktail parties where there might be the kind of people who’d ask me a question about books I might have read recently. And the rare times I do go to such parties, I usually take whatever book I’m then reading with me so I’ll have something to read in order to avoid having people ask me personal questions about books I might be reading.

(I wonder if there is any relationship between my not being invited to cocktail parties and my habit of bringing a book with me to such events when I do get asked? Probably not.)

Maybe if I had my list, I’d get invited to more parties. And if I couldn’t make it to the party due to a conflict with another social event (admittedly an unlikely scenario, but work with me here), then maybe I could just send along a copy of my list and ask the hosts to post it on the door of their refrigerator in case anyone at the party asks if I’m there and, when they find out that I’ll not there, they ask the host if he or she happens to know what books I’m reading at the moment.

I’ll keep you posted on how my plan works out. You could also check my progress for yourself by glancing at the refrigerator door at any cocktail parties you attend in the next couple of months. In the meantime, I’ve already got the first entry on my soon-to-be-abandoned book list for 2009.

It’s a debut novel by an Australian writer named Steve Toltz called “A Fraction of the Whole,” a comic novel about an unusual relationship between an unusual father and an unusual son. I highly recommend it, though it is close to 600 pages long with small type size and virtually no gratuitous sex scenes.

But besides being very funny and well written, it’s full of interesting ideas. For example, when the narrator first holds his newborn son in his arms, he has an eerie, déjà vu sort of feeling, and wonders if his son is possibly the premature reincarnation of his living self, effectively making him his own father.

Later, the narrator reflects on the biblical story of Lot’s wife, and wonders why an all-powerful, timeless force in the universe appears to be so stuck in time.

“What kind of divine being turns a man’s wife into a pillar of salt? What was her crime? Turning her head? You have to admit that this is a God hopelessly locked in time, not free of it; otherwise he might have confounded the ancients by turning her into a flat screen television set or at least a pillar of Velcro.”

I’ll tell you more about the book when I see you at a cocktail party.

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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