Paul Margolis is an award-winning screenwriter and producer who has worked extensively in both film and television. His recent first novel The Naked Philosopher (Arden Hill Publishing) is a smart, suspenseful crime thriller set in the world of philosophy. Read an excerpt here. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three daughters. Learn more about Paul on his website, Facebook and Twitter.
For me, books are like ice cream: I love trying different flavors, even ones that sound challenging (have you ever had garlic ice cream??) So I usually have an eclectic selection of books on my bedside table that defy genre or a clear choosing strategy.
The book that sits on top right now is The Cartel, Don Winslow’s punch-in-the-gut sequel to one of the great crime novels of all time, The Power Of The Dog. I’m halfway through and don’t want it to end. But be warned, this book is not for the faint of heart. There is violence here, and plenty of it. Still, if you want to see how a true master of the crime genre effortlessly weaves multiple stories and characters into an emotional (and timely) tapestry about the Mexican drug wars, this one is for you.
Lying directly underneath Winslow’s masterpiece is a book that couldn’t be more different: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (subtitled The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) by Marie Kondo. I found this small, unassuming book while browsing online one day (to avoid writing!) and thought I had stumbled on an undiscovered gemstone, only to walk into a Barnes & Noble the same week to see rows of the blue, cloud-covered book on a bestseller shelf. But here is another read that packs a huge emotional wallop. Deceptively simple and written in the dulcet tones of a caring friend, its short chapters on how to organize every part of your home (and therefore your life) are nothing short of profound, and may very well change forever the way you look at socks (“they must breathe”) or papers you consider important (“rule of thumb: discard everything”). My favorite advice from the book is this: hold anything you own in your hand and take a good look at it. If it doesn’t bring joy to your heart, throw it away.
Finally, there is a big sloppy scoop of vegetable ice cream on my table—–or maybe liver ice cream is more accurate——something you wouldn’t go near unless you had talked yourself into thinking it was good for you. I know you’ll laugh because you’ve probably sampled the same flavor yourself at some point in your life. Or perhaps I should say “tried to taste” because it can be bitter, some might say inedible. The book is Ulysses by James Joyce. I confess this one has been on and off my table for awhile because I can only read a few pages at a time and sometimes I throw it down or return it to the bookshelf in frustration. That it is hard to read is a cliché, and I am one more poor fool who has tried to prove otherwise. There is no “flow.” It feels dated. Whole sections make no sense. And yet I can’t discard it. It’s too fascinating. Too raw. Too messily honest. And some of the sentences are swoon-inducing in their beauty. So I plow on.
And when I’ve had enough of Joyce on any particular night, I can always get a few licks of the Mexican desert where some headless body has just been found, or slurp up why I should throw away those little hotel soaps I took when I stayed at some luxury resort five years ago.