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Detailmuse ... 888 from TBRs

888 Challenge

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Edited: Dec 30, 2008, 8:17pm Top

"888 Challenge: Read 8 books in each of 8 categories during 2008." It feels big -- 64 books! -- since I’ve read only ~45 books per year in each of the last 5 years.

But this year's choices are well-screened: every book designated by "#" comes from my to-be-read shelves -- books I already own and am so excited about that I’d buy them again in a nanosecond.

And then the best part? I left a whole category open for books I discover on LT!

My current list is here. Category worksheets are in Messages 8-15.

Dewey by Vicki Myron (****) (See review)
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (*****)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings# by Maya Angelou (****)
Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (****)
Lucky Man# by Michael J. Fox (****) (See review)
Not Quite What I Was Planning (****) (See review)
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (****)
The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan (****) (See review)

I’ve Started and Want to Finish...
A Christmas Carol# by Charles Dickens (****)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius# by Dave Eggers (****)
A Thousand Splendid Suns# by Khaled Hosseini (***)
Everything is Illuminated# by Jonathan Safran Foer (****)
Like Water for Chocolate# by Laura Esquivel (****)
The Song Reader# by Lisa Tucker (***)
The Poisonwood Bible# by Barbara Kingsolver (*****)
The Time Traveler's Wife# by Audrey Niffenegger (****)

By My Favorite Writers
Airframe# by Michael Crichton (***) (See review)
Testimony by Anita Shreve (****) (See review)
The Gate House by Nelson DeMille (***) (See review)
The Gold Coast# by Nelson DeMille (*****)
The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (***)
Until the Real Thing Comes Along# by Elizabeth Berg (***)
What Now? by Ann Patchett (****)
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (****)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn# by Betty Smith (*****)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland# by Lewis Carroll (***) (See review)
Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman (***)
Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers (***)
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz (*****) (See review)
Holes# by Louis Sachar (***)
The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (*****)
When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale (****) (See review)

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (****)
Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe (****) (See review)
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (***)
The Omnivore's Dilemma# by Michael Pollan (*****)
The Power of Now# by Eckhart Tolle (***)
The Tipping Point# by Malcolm Gladwell (*****) (See review)
The Zen of Eating# by Ronna Kabatznick (***)
This is Your Brain on Music# by Daniel J. Levitin (***) (See review)

Flash Fiction# ed by James Thomas (****)
Labor Days# ed by David Gates (***)
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou (***)
Letters to a Young Doctor# by Richard Selzer (*****)
One Minute Stories by Istvan Orkeny (***)
The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review (*****) (See review)
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg (****)
Where I'm Calling From# by Raymond Carver (*****)

On Writing
78 Reasons why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might# by Pat Walsh (****)
Fingerpainting on the Moon# by Peter Levitt (***)
Journal of a Novel# by John Steinbeck (****)
If You Want to Write# by Brenda Ueland (***) (See review)
Page After Page# by Heather Sellers (***)
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (*****)
The Situation and the Story# by Vivian Gornick (***)
Writing Mysteries# edited by Sue Grafton (***)

Discovered on LibraryThing!
Food 2.0 by Charlie Ayers (**) (See review)
Gardens of Water by Alan Drew (****) (See review)
My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher (****) (See review)
Schooled by Anisha Lakhani (**) (See review)
Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger (***) (See review)
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall (****)
The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block (***) (See review)
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (****) (See review)

Edited to slot TBAs, add ratings to finished books

Dec 29, 2007, 10:32pm Top

I'm glad I'm not the only one doing this challenge who doesn't usually read 64 books in a year! But hey, that's the point of a challenge :). Good luck!

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 4:32pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Jan 5, 2008, 6:09pm Top

Edited to post all category lists separately.

Jan 4, 2008, 11:21am Top

If you're open to suggestions, I've got one for your YA category. Judging by the other books on your list, it sounds like you'd like The Lightning Thief-I'm finishing it up right now and it's had me cracking up frequently.

Jan 4, 2008, 2:05pm Top

5: kaelirenee
Thanks for the rec! I need a LOT more cracking up in these lists ... :)

Edited: Jan 5, 2008, 6:07pm Top

I plan to designate a finished book by posting a star-rating by its entry on my list.

I’ll also post a sentence or two or link to the review if I’ve posted one. Here's mine for The Story of Forgetting.

Edited: Dec 20, 2008, 12:37pm Top

Dewey by Vicki Myron (****)
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (*****)
Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rehak (deferred)
I Could Tell You Stories by Patricia Hampl (I liked the personal essays; the others, not so much; abandoned)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (****)
Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (****)
Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox (****)
Not Quite What I Was Planning (****)
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (****)
The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (deferred)
The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan (****)
Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes (a collection of her newspaper columns, with little substance or emotion to engage me; abandoned)
Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire (deferred)

Edited: Dec 20, 2008, 12:40pm Top

I’ve Started and Want to Finish...
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (****)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (****)
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (***)
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (****)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie (deferred)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (****)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (deferred)
Story by Robert McKee (The Anatomy of Story in my "On Writing" category has comparable info, presented with much less ego; deferred)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****)
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker (***)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (****)

Edited: Dec 20, 2008, 12:42pm Top

By My Favorite Writers
Airframe by Michael Crichton (***)
Testimony by Anita Shreve (****)
The Gate House by Nelson DeMille (***)
The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille (*****)
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis (deferred)
The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley (***)
Talk Before Sleep Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg (***)
What Now? by Ann Patchett (****)
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (****)

Edited: Dec 20, 2008, 12:43pm Top

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (*****)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (***)
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (deferred)
Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman (***)
Dope Sick by Walter Dean Myers (***)
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (deferred)
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (deferred)
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz (*****)
Holes by Louis Sachar (***)
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke deferred
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (*****)
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld deferred
When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale (****)

Edited: Dec 20, 2008, 12:45pm Top

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (****)
Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe (****)
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (***)
The Annotated Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott (deferred)
The Man Who Tasted Shapes by Richard Cytowic (deferred)
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (*****)
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (***)
The Quantum Zoo by Marcus Chown (deferred)
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (*****)
The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznick (***)
This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin (***)

Edited: Dec 27, 2008, 11:03pm Top

Flash Fiction ed by James Thomas (****)
Ideas of Heaven by Joan Silber (deferred)
Labor Days ed by David Gates (***)
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou (***)
Letters to a Young Doctor by Richard Selzer (*****)
One Minute Stories by Istvan Orkeny (***)
Stories by Anton Chekhov (deferred)
The Best American Short Stories 2007 (deferred)
The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review (*****)
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (deferred)
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor (deferred)
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg (****)
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (deferred)
Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver (*****)

Edited: Dec 30, 2008, 6:21pm Top

On Writing
78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh (****)
Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri (deferred)
Dialogue by Gloria Kempton (deferred)
Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Levitt (***)
Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck (****)
If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (***)
Page After Page by Heather Sellers (***)
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (deferred)
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (deferred)
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby (*****)
The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick (***)
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler (deferred)
Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider (deferred)
Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton (***)

Edited: Dec 30, 2008, 3:45pm Top

Discovered on LibraryThing
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (superficial and non-subtle; abandoned)
Food 2.0 by Charlie Ayers (**)
Gardens of Water by Alan Drew (****)
My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher (****)
One Minute Stories by Isvan Orkeny (moved to Short Stories)
Schooled by Anisha Lakhani (***)
Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger (***)
The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review (moved to Short Stories)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak moved to Children's/YA
The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall (****)
The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block (***)
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (****)

Edited: Jan 7, 2008, 8:13pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Jan 8, 2008, 7:52pm Top

Finished Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman -- highly recommended memoir-ish essays about reading. The collection is intelligent, sweet, nostalgic, emotional -- it’s just the second book I’ve read this year but it’ll surely make my 2008 Top 10 list.

Also finished Airframe by Michael Crichton, review here.

Jan 10, 2008, 1:29pm Top

Just finished The Anatomy of Story by John Truby -- an excellent primer on the essential aspects of good storytelling, including loads of case-study analyses of film scripts.

I have several other fiction-technique books in my 888 list, but think I will let Truby settle for a bit while I read the more ethereal, inspirational If You Want to Write.

Jan 16, 2008, 4:02pm Top

Finished Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver. It was difficult to press on through story after story of tight finances, abundant alcohol, and marital trouble, but geez the writing's good. And what a pleasure to re-read my favorite short story of all time, "Cathedral" -- talk about character change!! (and reader change too, btw)

I've hit a bit of a stall in Everything is Illuminated and If You Want to Write ... so couldn't resist beginning the ARC of Firefly Lane when it arrived yesterday.

Jan 20, 2008, 11:38am Top

I finished the excellent Everything is Illuminated, which necessitated some putting-down of the book and picking-up of tissues. Until the end, I had trouble getting interested in the Trachimbrod narrative -- but loved everything involving Alex, the sensitive and hilarious Ukrainian narrator. (And I want even more of him! -- I've put the film version on hold at my library.) Be forewarned: the humor, as in Catch-22, is there only to make the horror bearable -- in this case, of the Holocaust.

Needless to say, following the Holocaust with Firefly Lane's story of two teenage girls makes their troubles seem ridiculous. So I'm veering off into The Man in My Basement -- I love Walter Mosley's reflective characters, love his reinforcment that racial cultures may differ but the human species does not.

Jan 21, 2008, 11:38am Top

I haven't read the book of Everything is Illuminated, but I thought that the movie was excellent. Which I know is much different from having read the book, and thinking the same of the movie. It was beautiful and horrifiying.

Jan 26, 2008, 3:16pm Top

I finished The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley. He writes about sympathetic, introspective characters who are quietly facing life and, often, racism. The premise of this short novel (a white man asks to rent the basement of a house in a black neighborhood on Long Island) developed into a slightly weird and darker-than-expected (yet satisfying) peek into one man’s African lineage and current life.

Also finished If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, review here.

Jan 26, 2008, 7:29pm Top

>21 lisalouhoo:: lisalouhoo -- my husband and I watched the movie this afternoon, we liked it! There were differences between the novel and film -- the biggest one being the omission of an entire narrative thread (the 200-year history of JSF's ancestors and their village ... which was exactly the part of the book that I had trouble pursuing through).

The novel also had lots and lots more of Alex's humor and sensitivity. If you ever want to delve deeper, try the audio version. It looks like it has at least one of the same narrators as Foer's other novel (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) -- which was the first audiobook I've ever been able to get through.

Edited: Jan 30, 2008, 9:55pm Top

I finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, review here.

Alas, I’m giving up on the ARC of Firefly Lane. I hate to abandon a book, especially an Early Reviewer. But finishing it would be on my lips, at the time of my death, as something I regretted spending time on. Review here.

I have no books-in-process right now. With 9 finished on my 888 Challenge, I feel like I’ve been on a marathon. I’m going to take a break and catch up on my tipping-over pile of magazines.

Edited to link to review

Jan 29, 2008, 8:14am Top

So much for the magazines ...

The Early Reviewer, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, arrived yesterday. I peeked in it. I'm hooked.

Feb 4, 2008, 8:57pm Top

My 10th book was the excellent children's "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village" -- review here.

I'm still enjoying "Gardens of Water." It has a leisurely pace (which is not the same as slow) and I'm happy to make it last.

Feb 4, 2008, 9:57pm Top

I see we have a common "always wanted to finish" in Heartbreaking Work. Might I suggest another book by Dave Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velocity. I found it was quite good and read it completely after putting Heartbreaking down for a second time.

Any suggestions for something funny? I'm still looking to fill 6 spaces in my "Suggested by 8 of YOU" category...

Happy reading!


Edited: Feb 5, 2008, 9:26pm Top

Thanks for the post. I've been posting my reply on my own message board...should I be going to the other person's board? I was wondering how you would get my reply unless you went to my messages...

I added The Satanic Nurses on my category 3. Thanks! I've never been attracted to the Sedaris books, however, I'm open to it.

I would love to add an Elinor Limpan book to my "Books by authors of books I've read" category. I love Isabel's Bed! I looked at the list and she has so many! What would you suggest I read next?

Now, as far as Neil Gaiman goes, the first book I read was Good Omens which is actually Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It was excellent. That is the book that hooked me and I started reading his other books. My second fave would have to be American Gods. I suggest you start with one of those.

Feb 6, 2008, 12:45am Top

SqueakyChu says Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman hooked her! I put it on my list. Just thought I'd give you another Gaiman fan's suggestion for a starter.. :)

Feb 6, 2008, 11:10am Top

mojo -- if someone posts on this thread, I reply here. (If I post to someone else's thread, I return there if I want to check for a reply.)

But if someone posts a comment to my profile, I usually reply to their profile.

Feb 6, 2008, 11:22am Top

I'm trying to clear some of my TBR pile during this 888, so I have to decide whether to finish AHWOSG or cut bait. I loved the Rules and Suggestions, Preface, Contents, Acknowledgements! Also loved Part I, though truly heartbreaking. But then my interest fell off a cliff, is that what happened to you?

Maybe Velocity will be a substitute. And I'll slot a Gaiman, thanks!

Feb 7, 2008, 1:36am Top

The comments here don't bode well ... I put AHWOSG on my writer memoirs cateogry list and have made a few earlier false starts on it. I had trouble getting through many of the same books you have on your TBR pile. I finally finished A Thousand Splendid Suns as an audio book, wated Everything is Illuminated via Netflix and sold Reading Like a Writer. The second time I picked up The Time Traveler's Wife I absolutely loved it.

I notice you are doing some reading on writing as well. I am looking for writer memoirs that are about writing at least in part ... even something along the lines of Stephen King On Writing (which was to me strangely interesting and informative even though I read almost no horror at all). If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Tracy Fox

Feb 8, 2008, 12:07pm Top

32: tracyfox
Hmm, writing memoirs. I keep getting sidetracked by general memoirs by "writers," and how-to (i.e. writing craft) books. But here are a few that are either essays about writing or memoirs about writing (sometimes hard to differentiate):

Before We Get Started by Bret Lott

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See -- lovely and very light, more about lifestyle than craft

Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg -- a little memoir-ish, a lot how-to-ish

I Could Tell You Stories by Patricia Hampl -- about writing memoir; I just started it for my 888 Challenge

I haven’t read them yet, but am interested in these collections of writing essays: The New York Times’s Writers on Writing and Writers on Writing II; The Washington Post’s The Writing Life.

And all this talk about AHWOSG has floated it to next-up on my list! {crosses fingers}

Feb 12, 2008, 3:23pm Top

I finished the Early Reviewer, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew -- terrific! -- review here.

I'm making my way through A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius after all ... well, I'm 3/5 along now and every time I think I'm indifferent to it, it lays me flat again with its originality and heartbreaking-ness.

Feb 12, 2008, 9:37pm Top

Detail Muse

You give me hope for AHWOSG! Perhaps it will make my list and I will attempt it again! I have no words for why I keep losing interest...but your "indifferent" comment fits the bill.

Feb 17, 2008, 10:47pm Top

Yaaaaay, I finished AHWOSG! Sad and clever and absolutely original ... though about 100 pages too long. I recommend it with reservations: it's primarily a memoir about the death of a mom, which is a universally heartbreaking event; most of the author's off-topic segues are actually devices to bring in more about his childhood and losing mom. My feelings of push/pull in trying to get through it reminded me of persevering through Catch-22, then being so glad I did.

I also finished One Minute Stories, a collection of flash-fiction (translated from Hungarian) that I discovered over on eairo's 888 Challenge. My response to the stories ranged from a Huh? (as in What?), to a smile and a nod, to a Huh! (as in ... Wow!).

Feb 19, 2008, 10:38pm Top

Thanks so much for the writer memoir recommendations. I am especially excited to track down a copy of the Patricia Hampl book. I loved Blue Arabesque and A Formal Education but have never come across this one.

I'm also glad to get a recommendation for the Elizabeth Berg. I like her books on audio for driving around town and always linger over Escaping into the Open at the bookstore. I am drawn to title and the cover. Next time I need a book fix I'll pick it up.

Edited: Feb 22, 2008, 4:29pm Top

:( Although I'm drawing heavily from my TBR shelves for this challenge, I'm learning that there are books even there that don't fit me, or don't fit now. I'll add a blurb here about books I cross off my Challenge.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle -- there are too many want-to-reads in this category to force in a should-read. Deferred.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah -- an Early Reviewer, this sums it up. Abandoned.

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg -- undoubtedly much better written than Firefly Lane, but waaaay too similar a story and characters. Deferred.

I Could Tell You Stories by Patricia Hampl -- I enjoyed a couple of the memoir-ish pieces in this collection, but felt little chemistry (or interest) in the essays and profiles. Abandoned.

Feb 24, 2008, 12:08am Top

Too bad about I Could Tell You Stories ... I thought it might have potential for one of my categories.

I haven't read A Wrinkle In Time in decades but I wonder whether the science elements (especially in some of the later books) have held up over time. To me pure fantasy generally holds up better than things like 2001 A Space Odyssey.

P.S. Nice constructive review of Firefly Lane. I signed up for the early reviewer program earlier this month but did ponder for a minute what I would do if they sent a book I didn't like -- now I have a good example to follow.

Feb 24, 2008, 1:08pm Top

I read Confessions of a Closet Catholic last year and if you are looking for a laugh this book definitely had some funny parts. And I would suggest it for a read during Lent as Justine is giving up being Jewish for the Lenten season.

Edited: Feb 27, 2008, 3:42pm Top

I finished several since my last post:

Until the Real Thing Comes Along -- a very soft, quick read about a woman who wants a baby and maybe a husband. One of Berg's fluffier works.

Confessions of a Closet Catholic -- middle-grade novel about a girl who gives up being Jewish for Lent. The writer got a little preachy with a few messages, but it's otherwise a good book for 'tweens. And, as >40 ShannonMDE: says above, good timing to read it during Lent! :)

Not Quite What I Was Planning -- a compilation of short (6-word!!) memoirs -- review here.

These three were a break after AHWOSG. Now I'm ready for something deep again.

ETA link to review

Feb 26, 2008, 8:33pm Top

37: tracyfox
DO take a look at Hampl's I Could Tell You Stories -- especially since you've enjoyed her other work. The compilation is highly rated and I read the memoir-ish pieces a couple times each. I just didn't connect with the others.

Feb 27, 2008, 9:43am Top

I second message 37; the only Hampl I've read is I Could Tell You Stories and personally I loved that book (and want to read all her other books!). But then I'm a big fan of personal essays...

Edited: Mar 28, 2008, 8:52pm Top

After a great start to the year (16 books in 2 months is unprecedented for me!), something slammed on the brakes and redirected me over to my mile-high pile of unread magazines.

After winnowing that, I read The Sister by Poppy Adams, an ARC from Barnes & Noble's First Look program. The tedius dissection (er, discussion at bn.com) of that semi-satisfying novel further stalled me. Review here.

Now I'm making progress on The Power of Now, prececessor to A New Earth (Oprah's current pick) by Eckhart Tolle. And I just started Holes by Louis Sachar which promises to be a terrific read that gets me back into book-reading form.

Mar 24, 2008, 1:34pm Top

March has been a month of mediocre reading: four 3-star books.

The Sister, a debut novel by Poppy Adams, was an off-Challenge detour that frustrated me with unnecessary cliffhangers and irrelevant diversions. Louis Sachar's Newbery Medal-winning Holes, though well-constructed, seemed more intellectual than emotionally rich. And it’s only because I so believe in Eckhart Tolle's message of being present-in-the-moment (and that I practiced such, while reading, LOL!) that I was able to slog through The Power of Now.

But the biggest disappointment was A Thousand Splendid Suns. I’d read 50 pages last summer then put it aside; read 80 pages more last fall then put it aside. Upon finishing the novel’s four parts now, only Part III seemed to be a “story” -- with a narrative arc -- yet a story wholly unoriginal in content and manner of telling. The rest of the book was more a biography of Afghanistan, sanitized toward the sympathies of Western readers.

Yikes. Now I’m torn between wanting to pick up the best darn book I can get my hands on, and being afraid to taint it with March’s mediocrity...

Mar 24, 2008, 1:46pm Top

Detail Muse, I was just looking at A Thousand Splendid Suns on my shelf this morning, having heard and read so many great things about it. Now I'm glad I left it there and picked up The Blind Assassin instead. What are your ideas for the "best darn book"?

I vote for that, to redeem your Mediocre March somewhat. No one should read five mediocre books in a row! What if it makes you- (gasp!)- start wanting to WATCH TV instead??? Hee hee!

Mar 24, 2008, 1:58pm Top

I second sky's suggestion-get a best darned book. Reading too many bad ones in a row leaves you at risk of getting in a slump, and no one needs one of those. I also want to know what your best darned book is. :)

Mar 24, 2008, 4:56pm Top

>46 sky34:, 47
I love your encouragement!! In that spirit, I've picked (what I think is) the best from my Challenge: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

Edited: Mar 26, 2008, 12:52am Top

Good call, D_M!!!! It's on my list too- it seems to be on everyone's list! Can't wait to hear about your best darn read, and I hope it lives up to the hype. I'll be checking it with you to see!

Mar 29, 2008, 10:35am Top

I agree with sky34 - The Book Thief is an excellent choice! For the first half dozen or so pages I thought I was going to find the style annoying, but I got over that pretty quick and I quickly became engrossed in the story - there are so many vivid characters. It was one of my favourite reads from 2007, and a book I have since loaned to a number of people, all of whom loved it. Good luck with it Detail_Muse.

Edited: Mar 29, 2008, 11:09am Top

>50 valerie2:: valerie2
I have a soft spot for originality but you're right, there's a fine line between clever and annoying. The Book Thief is definitely clever. I'm 100 pages in and loving it, it's got gravity ... keeps pulling me back into more reading time.

Apr 5, 2008, 11:37am Top

Wow. Narrated by Death from WWII Nazi Germany, The Book Thief is clever, playful, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Its 550 pages last long enough to begin to feel like real life: ups and downs, kindnesses and sadnesses. An original and outstanding novel.

And, as Death might phrase it, my March mediocrity flew over the cliff, the bootprint of The Book Thief on its backside.

Apr 6, 2008, 1:52am Top

So glad you enjoyed it - I really hate it when you hit a mediocre reading patch. Last year was a great one for me: although I didn't read a lot of books there was a lot of quality amongst what I did read (including The Book Thief). You have another of my 2007 favourites listed in your challenge books - The Time Traveler's Wife. This is possibly not the type of story I normally would have gone for, but I was looking at it in a bookshop one day when I was accosted by a total stranger who virtually begged me to buy it - she had loved it so much and couldn't help passing on her enthusiasm. I couldn't resist seeing if it was worth the hype, and I'm sure glad I did! Anyhow, when you get around to it I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Apr 8, 2008, 12:28pm Top

Love the bookprint comment! Great news that the book was so good. I'm on vacation next week and I'm hoping that I get the copy I put on hold from the Library in time.

I'm excited about Not Quite What I Was Planning on your recommendation as well.

So...now you have to keep up your Auspicious April! What's next??

Edited: Apr 21, 2008, 8:35am Top

Three more:

Writing Mysteries, a collection of essays by well-known mystery writers. I have a mystery subplot in a novel I'm drafting and wanted an overview of aspects specific to the mystery genre. Gleaned a few good nuggets.

The Zen of Eating, which applies Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path to hungers -- physical and emotional. It was okay; I never connected much with the content. But it's funny, I love the book as a physical object: its simple cover design and pleasing colors, the binding with a spine so crisp and delineated it seemed to have been created with a bone folder.

The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, an outstanding anthology of medical-related stories, essays, and poems, review here.

Edited to clarify -- I did connect with the Buddhist content in The Zen of Eating ... the author didn't connect that content to her eating-premise as fully as I'd hoped she would.

May 4, 2008, 1:44pm Top

Finished an off-Challenge book -- The Song Reader, Lisa Tucker's debut novel from 2003 about two sisters, the older of whom helps people with their problems by analyzing the songs they can't get out of their heads. It was okay; marketed as an adult novel but has a strong YA voice. It begs for lyrics in many places, but songwriters are notoriously tight when it comes to permission to reprint lyrics.

And two for the Challenge:
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, Elizabeth Berg's new short-story collection. The stories are light and fun, generally less emotional than those in her first collection, Ordinary Life, which is my favorite of the 13 books I've read by Berg.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel -- original and enjoyable, though I hadn't expected the magical realism aspect (if that's what the leaps in time and perception are supposed to be). Requires an increasing suspension of disbelief, but rewards with creativity and amusement along the way.

May 12, 2008, 10:29am Top

A yay and a nay from last week's reading. I loved The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s terrifically readable theory of the factors that combine and cause some emerging trends to catch fire and spread. Gladwell’s strength is his ability to separate and illustrate the factors through interesting case studies and repetition -- he turns a complex theory simple, memorable, and applicable.

But Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google?
I disliked the non-substantive content.
Disliked the graphic design.
Disliked the recipes.
Yikes. Review here.

May 12, 2008, 11:03am Top

I love Gladwell's writing style. And I loved his analysis of children's shows, using Blue's Clues and Sesame Street as the case studies-my son was at the age when he was just starting to watch those as I was reading the book, so I've always watched them with an eye to their different styles since then.

He does similar work for Blink that you might like, too.

May 12, 2008, 3:29pm Top

>57 detailmuse: I enjoyed your review, Detail_Muse, and I'm also a big fan of Gladwell's The Tipping Point! I want to read more authors like Gladwell, who make non-fic reading so much fun.

May 12, 2008, 4:32pm Top

Avisann-there are quite a few authors with a gift. Neil Shubin springs immediately to mind-Your inner fish explains palentology and evolution in such an entertaining way, you forget you're reading a book on comparative vertabrate zoology. :)
David Sacks is similarly talented in his treatment of the history of the alphabet in Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of our alphabet from A to Z, and Bill Bryson has tackeled both science and language artfully in Brief History of Nearly everything and Mother Tongue.
More along the lines of what Gladwell does, you might want to try Made to Stick, which is all about how marketing ideas can work.
I'm a pretty heavy consumer of nonfiction, in case you couldn't tell. :)

May 12, 2008, 4:32pm Top

>58 kaelirenee:, 59
Did you see that Gladwell has a new book coming out in November: Outliers.

avisannschild, in the meantime, take a look at Atul Gawande, especially his Complications -- highly readable essays that combine medicine and sociology.

kaelirenee, I just searched Nickelodeon's schedule and have my VCR set to tape Blue's Clues tomorrow and Thursday so I can take a look!

Edited: May 12, 2008, 11:28pm Top

>60 kaelirenee:, 61

Thanks for the recommendations, kaelirenee and Detail_Muse; I'm especially excited to hear Gladwell has a new book coming out! (Wonder if LT will get it as an Early Reviewer book? Fingers crossed...)

Is Complications graphic? I must admit the cover kinda turns me off, but the topic sounds interesting.

Sorry, Detail_Muse, not meaning to be hijacking your thread! :)

Edited to correct my weird spelling of hijacking!

May 12, 2008, 5:09pm Top

>62 avisannschild: Is Complications graphic?

My immediate response was, "Not at all" -- it's focused on process and sociology. But then I opened the book and remembered that the first essay involves a 3-inch needle. :( I flipped through some other essays and, without getting refamiliarized with them, I guess my answer is "yeah, maybe." I'm a hospital pharmacist and recall being engrossed, which means they went deeper than the readily seen stuff.

I was a little less interested in Gawande's second collection, Better (but I don't have it here to look through), so maybe that's one to start with? :)

May 12, 2008, 5:13pm Top

>60 kaelirenee: I wouldn't trust Bryson on the facts, though. I haven't read A Brief History of Nearly Everything, but The Mother Tongue was full of errors. It seemed like he was more concerned with telling a good story than with actually taking the time to find out the truth.

Edited: May 21, 2008, 2:22pm Top

Yippppeeeeeee, I finished This is Your Brain on Music -- an engaging 70-page overview of music theory followed by 200 pages of blah blah blahblah, review here.

I also finished Michael J. Fox's memoir, Lucky Man. It greatly exceeded my expectations and I would have been happy to spend another 200 pages with him. Review here.

I feel like celebrating with some fiction!

Oops, edited to fix Lucky Man link

May 21, 2008, 2:36pm Top

Zoe: Yeah, he's definatly more journalist in his handling of facts than researcher. He tends to regard apocraphal stories as factual. But if you remember that, he's a good story teller.

May 21, 2008, 3:15pm Top

Detail . . . I read This is Your Brain on Music over Christmas, and Lucky Man just this last weekend. I agree 100% with both of your reviews. Are we the same person?

May 21, 2008, 4:50pm Top

>67 Nickelini: -- LOL! I looked at your profile just to see :) btw I like your use of a ticker for a really long book. I keep wanting to squeeze Pillars of the Earth into some category here ... if I do, its 973 pages deserves a ticker!

Edited: Jun 27, 2008, 10:50am Top

I discovered You Are Here by Katharine Harmon on an LT thread. It’s an eclectic collection of geographic and intellectual maps created to orient people to their interior and external worlds.

It diverted me to two other, off-challenge books. One of the maps (a blueprint-style rendering of the TV town of Mayberry) led me to Mark Bennett’s TV Sets: Fantasy Blueprints of Classic TV Homes. And next to that on the library shelf was Sitcom Style, photographs of the sets of famous TV homes by Diana Friedman. Fast and fun to flip through.

edited to "tame" the touchstones

Jul 9, 2008, 10:02am Top

Testimony by Anita Shreve (to be released in October) examines the precipitating factors and aftermath of a sex scandal at a private Vermont high school. Perhaps my favorite novel by the author to date.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is part agriculture primer, part history lesson, part memoir. It should be required reading about how today’s food is grown and sourced.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris’s sixth collection of essays, seems more reflective than previous but still has laugh-out-loud passages and good portions of the quirky Sedaris family. Readers who enjoyed his French lessons in Me Talk Pretty One Day, will like his Japanese lessons here.

Edited: Aug 14, 2008, 11:10am Top

Well I must have been confident by being on-track at the halfway mark ... because I've had about two months of rebellious, off-Challenge reading! I've considered substituting some of them into my lists, but I still want to read everything that's already there :) So I figured I'd at least keep a running list in this post in case I need them late in the year...

The Sister by Poppy Adams (***) -- gothic-y thriller. Review here

The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker (***) -- coming-of-age story of a teenage girl and her older sister who helps people interpret their lives based on the songs that run through their heads

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan (***) -- what are the effects on family, friends, and a town when a girl goes missing just weeks before she’s to leave for college? Review here

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (****) -- light, epistolary historical novel. Review here

So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz (****) -- a day in a marriage, with subplots. Review here

Sitcom Style by Diana Friedman (****) -- photos of sets from popular TV sitcoms. Review here

TV Sets by Mark Bennett review (****) -- floorplan bluprints of homes from popular TV series. Review here

Eat This Not That by David Zinczenko (***) -- suggests do-eats and don’t-eats from the menus of dozens of chain restaurants. Since some outlets still don’t make nutrition info available, this book has some gasp-worthy entries.

Powers of Ten by Philip Morrison and Phylis Morrison (****) -- a series of photographs that move -- each photo by a power of 10 -- from the outermost places in space to the innermost, sub-atomic particles in the human body.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink (****) -- overview of left-brain (logical) vs right-brain (creative) thinking plus ways to develop right-brain skills. Review here

Added August 14
More fiction
The White Mary by Kira Salak (***) -- intriguing jungle trek; review here

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale (****) -- clever and fun; review here

More nonfiction
The Naked Cartoonist by Robert Mankoff (****) -- examination of the mind’s creative process, specifically cartooning, with illustrations

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (***) -- listened to the audiobook: what to eat when “good” and “bad” foods are changing every day; review here

Aug 14, 2008, 11:24am Top

I updated the previous post to add some more off-challenge reads, but -- woohoo!! – I finally got back to reading some that do “count” here :)

What Now? by Ann Patchett (****) -- part memoir, part commencement speech

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (****) -- inspirational memoir

Journal of a Novel by John Steinbeck (****) -- Steinbeck’s daily letters to his editor over the course of writing East of Eden in 1951, is a terrific, long look into the writer and writing process. It’s in my “I’ve Started and Want to Finish” category -- I began it back in 2003 while I was reading East of Eden. Luckily, I remembered enough of Eden to make Steinbeck’s references here meaningful, but I highly recommend reading the two in close proximity. I think a similar book is available from Steinbeck's writing of The Grapes of Wrath.

Aug 28, 2008, 9:35pm Top

Two great weeks of reading!

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison (****) -- audio version of the terrific Asperger's Syndrome memoir by Augusten Burroughs's brother. Robison apparently reads his own work in the abridged version, and I think his voice would have added a whole new dimension to the book. But I wanted the unabridged version and Mark Deakins does an outstanding job with the reading, I'll seek out more of his work.

Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger (***) -- interesting Freakonomics- or Malcolm Gladwell-wannabe, but a bit incoherent; review here

My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher (****) -- my July Early Reviewer snag -- surprise, chick-lit can be terrific! Review here

And, off-challenge, there was Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron (****) -- nice memoir of a cat, a librarian, and a town; review here

I'll update my progress ticker when the source website stops being wonky!!

Sep 4, 2008, 8:13pm Top

Oh, Bravo! I just finished The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille and loved every one of its 626 pages! DeMille is smart and hilarious -- and trusts his readers to be, too, when he makes a passing reference on one page and comes through with a joke about it 300 pages later. Rather than his usual thriller, this 1990 novel explores the changing upper-class Gold Coast of New York's Long Island, and is an homage to The Great Gatsby. I read it in preparation for DeMille's latest, The Gate House, coming out in October.

Sep 6, 2008, 2:16am Top

DeMille's been on my TBR list for eons. Thanks for inspiring me to move it up to the top. The Gold Coast it is, right after my Anne of Green Gables cozy re-reading fest!

Dewey and Husband's Sweethearts are up there too...plus an ARC or two...where will I find the time?

Edited: Sep 22, 2008, 8:14pm Top

Finished The Poisonwood Bible, excellent! I'd started it twice before, years ago, but this time had the pleasure of reading it with an LT Group.

Now I'll go back to a couple that are in process -- The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (great so far) and The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell (quite confusing so far).

Hope to finish one or both of them before Saturday, when I'll start I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in honor of Banned Books Week, September 27 - October 4, 2008.

edited to fix banned books link

Oct 3, 2008, 9:01am Top

I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for Banned Books Week. Maya Angelou gets perfectly inside the mind and voice of her tender-hearted young self. Parts are disturbing -- rape and racism -- but they inspire the reader to empathy and action, and they're interwoven with passages full of adventure, love, and hope. I want to look up Angelou's other memoirs and continue on her life's journey.

Oct 13, 2008, 3:43pm Top

Two 4-star reads:

Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe, a seafood companion to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma; review here; and

The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan (author of Marley & Me, which I have not read) -- a heartwarming and highly readable boy-next-door memoir about growing up in 1960s-70s suburban Detroit and, decades later, facing parental health declines; review here.

Edited: Oct 24, 2008, 10:11am Top

Finished my late-arriving June ER book, Schooled (***), review here.

Oct 28, 2008, 7:35pm Top

Read The Gate House by Nelson DeMille -- a sequel to his 1990 Gatsby-meets-the Godfather novel, The Gold Coast. This was not my favorite of his works, but I always enjoy a long DeMille novel. Review here.

Oct 30, 2008, 8:06am Top

Finished Maya Angelou's latest, Letter to My Daughter (****) -- she has only a son, so the wisdom here is intended for her figurative daughters of the world. The essays are very short and there's lots of white space and blank pages, so it adds to only about 90 pages of content. But some of it is stunningly powerful, perfect as a gift book that the recipient can reread whenever they need inspiration.

Edited: Dec 5, 2008, 8:54am Top

For the Challenge, I finished the YA Dope Sick (***) by Walter Dean Myers and an EarlyReviewer, The Music Teacher (****) by Barbara Hall (see review).

Off-challenge: Maureen McCormick's ("Marcia Brady") memoir, Here's the Story (***) and Zoe Heller's next novel, The Believers (****).

With 10 to go -- and an upcoming vacation -- I'm optimistic about finishing.

Nov 18, 2008, 10:21am Top

Finished The Situation and the Story (***) for my On Writing category, review here.

Dec 5, 2008, 9:04am Top

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (****) -- an imaginative time-travel love story told in snapshot/vignette form in alternating viewpoints. I was “meh” about it until very late in the book, and was disappointed that its setting in Chicago seemed superficial (detailed references to streets, mostly) rather than used substantively/thematically.

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh (****) -- a good primer about book publishing; for beginning to intermediate writers.

Page After Page by Heather Sellers (***) -- an okay introduction to the writing life for very beginning writers; I was frustrated that the author kept restating points (usually three times), not trusting her reader to be paying attention.

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice (audio) (***) -- explores how the 7-year-old boy Jesus might have come to know the story of his birth and purpose in life; terrific historical aspects as well, and the audio-reader captured the child voice beautifully. I’m already looking forward to reading the next in the series, Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana but since I’m new to Anne Rice, I want to read (vs listen to) that one.

Santa Responds by Santa Claus (**) -- definitely for a specific audience, see review.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (****), review forthcoming. This was one of the best EarlyReviewer books I’ve read, so I might substitute it in for one of the more forgettable titles in my “Discovered on LT” category.

Dec 5, 2008, 9:52am Top

So I’m headed on vacation to gaze at the ocean. And while most girls would obsess over what clothes to pack, I’m far more interested in choosing what books to take! :)

Six remain to be read for this challenge, and five of them made it into my suitcase (the carry-on, mind you; I can’t risk them in lost luggage):

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens -- I’ve seen most film versions but haven’t read the book (nor -- gasp! -- anything by Dickens)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith -- I read this in childhood but can’t remember a thing about it; am looking forward to seeing what comes back as I re-read

Labor Days ed by David Gates -- I love stories set in workplaces, and this is an anthology of work-related short stories and novel excerpts

Letters to a Young Doctor by Richard Selzer -- a surgeon’s personal essays; Dr. Selzer is forerunner to today’s Atul Gawande

Fingerpainting on the Moon by Peter Levitt -- about artistic creativity

Of course, I’m still debating about a couple more to take…

Dec 20, 2008, 1:08pm Top


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (*****) -- coming-of-age novel with terrific early-1900s America detail.

Letters to a Young Doctor (*****) -- a surgeon's essays, written more toward doctors/health-care workers (which I am) than the general public; I liked these as much or more that Atul Gawande's.

Labor Days (***) -- workplace-based stories; I liked all of the short stories but felt too thrown-into the novel excerpts (which far outnumbered the short stories)

A Christmas Carol (****) -- honestly, I think my mind was more populated by the numerous film versions I've seen than by Dickens' words as I read them; I probably should have a go at another Dickens novel before I claim to have "read" him :)

Two to go!!

Edited: Dec 28, 2008, 9:03pm Top

Finished Flash Fiction (****) -- an anthology of very short stories (each generally fewer than 750 words). The stories were imaginative and well-executed, of much higher quality than I'd expected. Some were by well-known writers (Francine Prose, Stuart Dybek, Raymond Carver, Bret Lott, Julia Alvarez, David Foster Wallace, Jamaica Kinkaid, Bruce Holland Rogers, John Updike, Tim O'Brien, Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood).

Three days and one book to go!

Dec 30, 2008, 6:34pm Top

Woo hooooooooooooooooooooooo!

How appropriate is it -- that I complete my challenge by posting Message #88?!

Finished Fingerpainting on the Moon (***) just now -- a book that encourages a spiritual approach to creativity. The irony of my trying to speed-read a Zen-practice book isn't lost on me :)

The hardest parts of my 888 Challenge?
2) reading 64 books; my previous high was 48 in a year, and I admit that I have nearly a year's worth of unread magazines heaped in 3 towering piles; including off-Challenge reads, I actually totaled about 80 books in 2008.

1) keeping my emphasis on reading from my TBRs; I wavered a hundred (a thousand??) times, but finished today with the proprotion at exactly 50% (32 books)

*raises martini glass in a toast* :)

Jan 3, 2009, 10:17am Top

Congratulations, detailmuse! Especially for taking so many from the TBR!! :) *Clink* I am toasting you, also!

Jan 3, 2009, 11:21am Top

All those unread books on our shelves are some of the hardest to get to with all the new ones out there so congratulations on reading so many.

Jan 3, 2009, 11:47am Top

>89 billiejean:, 90 Thanks!! Wouldn't you know, my 999 is already full of TBRs. But many are newer TBRs, and this time it's "voluntary." And of course, it's also only Jan 3 ... :))

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