The Bookshelf Report is an ongoing series where a Bushwick reader invites us into their home and shares a little bit about the books that occupy their shelves.
Today’s bookshelf comes from Seattle writer / film maker / sketch comedian Travis Vogt. His written work has appeared in many well know publications including City Arts, Wonder and Risk, and Encore Arts Seattle. Travis also makes up one half of the popular sketch comedy duo Travis and Kevin (guess which half he is).
How do you organize your books?
I have a big crate filled with college text books I was unable to sell back. They are arranged in a large, daunting pile of knowledge in a bin in my closet. Other than that, I mostly read books that friends loan to me OR I listen to audio books. Long story short, I don’t really have a book shelf. Several years back I had to move five different times over the course of 18 months, and that experience soured me to the concept of “keeping” things.
Be honest. What percentage of the books on this shelf have you actually read?
Well, I read about 37% of the text books, total. I was a history major and the amount of reading assigned was essentially impossible for a person living under the tyranny of the standard 24 hour Earth day. I eventually figured out that reading exactly 37% of the assigned material was the minimum required to achieve a 3.5 GPA or above. Science has since proven this to be correct.
What’s your favorite book on the shelf and why?
Well, my favorite book is Anna Karenina. I know that sounds like a phony-baloney cop-out, like saying “I like all music” or “my favorite movie is anything by Bergman”. But in this case it’s true. Well, Anna Karenina or Bloom County Babylon, but I’m not sure if we can count cartoon strip anthologies. I don’t believe I have either one of them on a shelf anywhere, however. How about this: they live in my heart.
What book do you plan on reading next and why?
Right now, I’m plowing through a bunch of voluminous audio books about American presidents. I’m going backwards in time: I started with The Bully Pulpit, about TR, then I didTeam of Rivals (Lincoln), American Lion (Andrew Jackson), and I just finished The Art of Power (Jefferson). But that leaves me kind of at the beginning. I was thinking maybe David McCullough’s 1776 or something about the French Revolution. I like to read books about my historical blind spots. Outside of the French Revolution, I know ALL OF HISTORY.
What is the most interesting book on the shelf and why?
I think I still have Portnoy’s Complaint lying around somewhere. That was pretty interesting. You go into it thinking “Phillip Roth? Renowned, famous piece of literature? This is going to be one classy book”. But then you read it, and it’s not. At all. It’s actually about…well, mostly stuff that probably shouldn’t be discussed here. Very interesting read. The sixties must’ve been pretty crazy.
In your opinion, what are the three biggest benefits of “not really having a bookshelf”?
1. Not having books to carry around when I move.
2. Not having a bookshelf to carry around when I move.
3. More room for my crystal cherub figurines.
Do you prefer it when authors record their own audio books, or would you rather they leave it to the voice over professionals?
That entirely depends on the author. Some authors are big, theatrical folks who are as good at talking as they are at writing. Others are best kept sequestered away in cramped rooms, far from polite, ear-having society. The late actor Edward Herrmann narrated The Bully Pulpit and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. David McCullough narrated his own 1776,however, and he’s already a popular television personality, so he knocked it out of the park. It’s all about the voice.
Have you ever been leant a book that the lender insisted you read that you didn’t really want to read, but you borrowed it anyways just to be nice? In a somewhat related question, on scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the meanest and 10 being the nicest, how nice would you say you are?
Actually, no. Well, I mean, I’ve been leant books that I didn’t want to read, but I read them anyway for whatever reason. That was the case with Catcher in the Rye, which was leant to me by a girl I was dating at the time. I guess I read it because I was afraid of being quizzed about it later on. Total snooze, that book. Doesn’t bother me at all that Salinger dropped out afterwards.
I’m like a 6 on the niceness scale. I often feel like I’m a total a-hole, but then I occasionally meet actual a-holes and I think “well, I can’t compete with that.” I think, if asked, friends would describe me as “nice enough, I guess.” It would be like the sixth Travis quality that would come to mind, after “fat”, “funny-ish”, “doesn’t ever hang out”, “loves beer” and “will only hang out when there’s free beer”.
What did you think of Steve Martin’s Object of Beauty?
Steve Martin is an excellent writer. He’s been exceptional at everything he ever attempted, with the lone exception of being in movies since 1991.
Thank you, sir!
For even more Travis Vogt goodness be sure to check out his Youtube page.