About a month and a half ago, I began working as a part-time bookseller at the Odyssey Bookshop. Since then, I’ve sold many textbooks and am now beginning to sell normal books! The staff at the Odyssey contributes to a blog, (which you can find here) and tonight I wrote my first post. The post was basically to introduce myself, and to give people a little idea of who I am and what I read. I’ve spared you the introduction on this blog, but I thought I’d post the body of it here as well!
As far as reading goes, it was my favorite pastime when I was a kid, and I’ve been a huge book lover ever since. I love a good novel, but mostly tend to read non-fiction. If a gun were pointed at my head and I had to pick three favorite books, they would be Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, Silence by John Cage, and The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross.
Invisible Cities is built around imagined conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, with Marco’s descriptions of fantastic cities in the Khan’s empire in between their discussions. It’s a great book to keep in your bag to read in little spurts while you’re waiting for the bus or the doctor simply because the divisions are so short, most of the cities are only a page or two. Each description of a city plays with something that we take for granted, for example the fact that cities stay in one place and that we breathe air and not dirt. The world Invisible Cities lives in has no restrictions from the laws of physics, and it’s just so much fun imagining life in these mysterious places.
Alex Ross is the classical music critic for The New Yorker, and is a fabulous music writer. Whether it’s his reviews and essays or either of his two books, his writing just makes you need to go listen to whatever he’s talking about. Reading The Rest is Noise introduced me to more great music than I could possibly list, and his second book Listen to This has had the same effect. The Rest is Noise takes you through the music of the 20th century in a way that is completely accessible for everybody, not just those with a degree in music history or theory.
The book gives insight into some of the most interesting stories from the last century of classical music, and puts it into context with the general history of each time period. One of the most gripping sections of the book deals with World War II, telling the stories both of Richard Strauss, who led the Reich Music Chamber for the Nazis to protect Jewish family members, and Olivier Messiaen, who wrote his most famous piece from inside a German prisoner of war camp. The entire book is wonderful, but I have to admit a special soft spot for the chapter on minimalism. I would suggest this book to anyone, and especially to music and history lovers.
I have to thank Lidia Chang, Eduardo Leandro, and Miriam K. Whaples respectively for bringing these books into my life. If you ever read them I hope they enrich your life as much as they have mine!