Vacation Reading List

One of the things I didn’t necessarily expect to do while I was in New Orleans was to buy books.  But after seeing a few of the bookstores in the French Quarter I couldn’t help myself. Every bookstore I found was a small, independently operated shop.

The FAB bookstore on Frenchman street has a wealth of books on or about New Orleans. I found Rob Walker’s Letters from New Orleans here, which I enjoyed a lot. The letters were not originally intended to be a book, they were personal observations Rob sent to his friends and family about his time in the city. All of the letters were written before Hurricane Katrina and some of his observations about the city are chilling, including one line about flooding I still remember: “New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen.”

I also bought both of my David Sedaris books at FAB. I got When You are Engulfed in Flames which I thought was very funny, and I’m about halfway through Naked, which I don’t like as well as the first book I read. Engulfed in Flames is more recent than Naked, incidentally.

Another bookstore I enjoyed was Faulkner House Books, which is in Pirate’s Alley which runs between Decatur and Royal Streets directly beside St. Louis Cathedral (right off of Jackson Square.) If you’re not looking for this bookstore you’d miss it because not a lot of people seem to walk down Pirate Alley. Also, the bookstore entrance is so small you could walk right by it and never notice.

The woman who runs this bookstore takes great pride in her collection, which she carefully curates. I was pleased to find she had an entire group of Louisiana and New Orleans short story collections. I bought the work of one writer, Tim Gautreaux and started with his collection Same Place, Same Things. The stories are about poor people, and/or Cajuns living in Bayou country. Many of the stories were published in well known journals like GQ, or Harpers, or The New Yorker and I enjoyed almost all of the stories tremendously, they are incredibly well written.

After reading Same Place, Same Things, I went on a hunt in the Quarter for his other collection which is out of print. It’s called Welding With Children, and I was able to find it and I’ve read everything but the last story. My favorite story in this collection is called Easy Pickins which is about a dumb, down on his luck thief who wants to rob an old Cajun woman in her home. Let’s just say, things don’t go as the thief planned and what ensues is entertaining as hell.

Finally, I haven’t started reading Barb Johnson’s More of This World or Maybe Another which I picked up at Faulkner House, but Ms. Johnson’s personal history is so interesting I wanted to support her efforts. She spent 20 years as a carpenter living in New Orleans, and then went back to school to get her MFA. During that time, she won a $50,000 dollar grant, and with the money she chose to produce this set of short stories.

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6 Responses

  1. I love Faulker House. For New Orleans stories, I recommend In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist. And The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.

  2. I downloaded Naked about a year ago, and for whatever reason never got around to reading it. It was recommended to me because I’m such a huge Augusten Burroughs fan. Of course Running With Scissors is his big seller, but I think I love Magical Thinking the best – its a collection of memoir shorts – some are incredibly hysterical, and all with that same brutal honesty about life he always has. I think I’ll start reading Naked this week – thanks for reminding me! 😉

    • Since you like Burroughs I think you have a high chance of liking Naked, and Sedaris in general since he also writes funny stories about his life and observations, with some brutal comments about his family life mixed in.

  3. Thanks for the great reading suggestions. Have you read Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day”? Funny. Your description of Tim Gautreaux’s “Welding with Children” is intriguing. You said it’s out of print. Is it available anywhere?

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