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HERB BENHAM: Going by the book on this TBR list

Herb Benham

The to-be-read pile stacks up in the closet of Herb Benham's home office.

I just finished reading "The Last Laugh: The World of the Stand-up Comics" by Phil Berger.

I bought it after listening to a Jerry Seinfeld podcast. As a young comedian, Seinfeld was looking for reference points on what the path to becoming a stand-up comedian might look like and Berger's book was one of the few out there.

After finishing it, I gave it to a friend. Some books you keep, some you give away. Although there is comfort in having a library at home in the same way as having exercise equipment at your fingertips should you be so inclined, it becomes less about owning and more about the pleasure of reading. The experience weighs less and travels farther.

I am between books. Being between books is like being between pets. When a much-loved dog or cat dies, you have a couple of options: Get another one posthaste or wait until your heart mends and perhaps make a more measured decision.

Books are also like a good dessert. The good ones leave a taste that can linger. No reason to double down on a lemon bar if you've had a satisfying slice of chocolate windmill cake but no one can blame you if you do.

I have a stack of books, like many people, from which to choose. Mine are piled in the closet in my office, waiting patiently for the nod. The book on comedy was pretty easy sledding so maybe something more challenging is in order. Time to visit the literary woodshed.

I opened the closet door and picked up "The Everglades River of Grass." the history of the Everglades. A friend sent it. I should read it, I will read it, but I think I'll read it later. How much later, I don't know, but later.

Talk about the woodshed. How about "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," by Jane Jacobs. This is a very cerebral book with cerebral ideas and requiring a cerebral approach. I'm not sure how you could live in this country and not care about the subject matter, although we've made it this far and still have a spring in our reading step.

Nonetheless this is not one you want to read in a hurry.

In a hurry, or when you're on vacation, when you're thinking about going on vacation or after you've returned from vacation, so the window is small.

"In the Heart of the Sea" is the tragedy of a whale ship. Either "Moby Dick" was based on it or it was based on "Moby Dick." One or the other. Not only does it have a great cover, but it's a National Book Award winner. How could I pass up a National Book Award winner? I turn the book over and read the praise, I smell it, I bring it to my chest to assess its chest-feel. I do everything but read it.

Under the big whale book is a surefire winner: "21 Days to a Big Idea." I could use a big idea. I could use an idea period, big or small. I had an idea, save the book for a time when I have even fewer ideas than I do now although it would be hard to imagine what that time might look like.

"Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God's Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits." I'd like to imagine heaven and that I have a puncher's chance of seeing it but I'd rather not read a book right now with death in the title. That's what the obits are for and I'm in for a daily dose of those.

Obits can be a good source of reading material as was the next book in the stack, "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit" by Judith Kerr. I saw Kerr's obit and thought I should read something by her but I'm trying to figure out the title. Hitler, a pink rabbit, I am confused and confusion has led to abandonment and being buried in the bottom of the stack.

"Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time," "Vanity Fair's Women on Women" and "Joan Didion: The 1960s & 70s." Joan, I love you, I respect you, and "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is one of the all-time great book titles but I want a book like the Skechers I just bought: light, comfortable and preferably slip-ons.

I chose "Blacktop Wasteland" by S.A. Cosby. A mystery. I'm not sure it's going to end well, but in the meantime, it's wearing well.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.