This past week I read a book by Paul Harding, Tinkers. January has started me off with some really good literature, and while I love mindless, stress-free reading, I love the way some books sharpen my mind. Whereas some books make me forget about the world, other books bring me back to reality. The reality of fiction. Tinkers is real.

The novel is a quiet, humble little book, only 191 pages. A few quotes:

– What is it like to be full of lightning? What is it like to be split open from the inside by lightning?

– And Howard, by accident of birth, tasted the raw stuff of the cosmos.

– Of course, Sabbatis is ancient only to me. My father is ancient, too, because both were men who passed from my life when I was young. My memories of them are atmospheres.

I’ve had an account on Goodreads since 2007 but just started using it within the past 8 months. It helps me keep track of the books I read and want to read. I enjoy reading friends’ reviews and looking at ratings and marveling at people’s range of preferences. Sometimes a book moves me enough to write more than 5 words about it. Here’s what I wrote for Tinkers:

“Reading Tinkers is like a dream where I eavesdrop on a conversation between W.S. Merwin, Marilynne Robinson, and Annie Dillard. And then sometimes they’re talking directly to me in whispers and screams. By mention of those authors in association with Paul Harding’s debut, you should then know that you must read Tinkers slowly, and with great care. Inhale deeply the language and float away on nuance. Straddle both the ethereal and the conscious, so that you can let the tears roll and then acknowledge them.”

Other books I read in January:

Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem: Eccentric characters and marijuana in New York City. It may sound typical, but this Lethem’s is a fun approach.

The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe: The history of the United States space program! Fast read. The press, machismo, wives’ perspectives.

Naked Pictures of Famous People, Jon Stewart: My thoughts on Goodreads: “Where were the naked pictures? THAT’s why I’m giving this book a score closer to a 3 instead of a 3.5. Young Jon Stewart’s satire. A lot of it is funny and relevant, historical and hysterical. Some of it is more cringeworthy, though. Which can make it more fun.”

The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy: This felt a lot like Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. “Very noir: fast-paced, gruesome, and quite tragic. With a slight tease of hope at the end.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain: Reaffirming, validating. Emphasized the value of my inherent qualities as well the qualities I’ve worked hard to develop.

Blindness, José Saramago: One of the best books I have ever read. Not even kidding.

What are you reading? I want to know.