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teelgee goes for another 100 in 2008

50 Book Challenge

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Jan 1, 2008, 7:40pm Top

Here we go...

Jan 1, 2008, 8:40pm Top

I'm here to cheer you on!!

Jan 1, 2008, 9:13pm Top

Wow, 100!

Go lady, GO!

Any ideas which ones? Then again, I don't need ideas cause my TBR pile is already too big. :)

Jan 1, 2008, 9:14pm Top

You can do it! You can do it! You can do it!

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:12am Top

And for my #1 book:

1. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. This one has been taunting me from my TBR shelf for months. It was just the right time to read it, as I'm waiting for my Early Reviewer book to arrive and don't want to get caught up in anything much longer or more intense. A very enjoyable read. It started out quite dark but lightened up about 1/4 of the way in -- meaning the characters came to life, the story gelled. Maguire takes the fairy tale magic out of the story but adds in another kind of magic. I'm fascinated by his technique of sympathizing with the characters we know as evil from the old fairy tales.

This book measures up to Wicked imo - the others of his I've read haven't.

Jan 4, 2008, 10:01am Top

If you read a book every 3 days all year, that will come to 122!

Jan 4, 2008, 12:42pm Top

Yeah, well, I don't see War and Peace read in 3 days.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:15am Top

2. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. Wonderful book! This is a very circular novel, going back and forth in time and place. Sometimes a little confusing about who and when, but mostly Lively handles this adroitly. There are some scenes that are told from multiple perspectives, which is a fascinating technique, as each person sees and hears something a little different and, of course, brings their own opinions to the scene.

A poignant story of love, war and family, beautifully rendered in a unique style.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:16am Top

3. The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell. I love Vowell's writing. This is a book of smart, funny, poignant essays, about politics, family, history, New York, Montana, popular culture. She has a remarkable way of stating strong opinions and yet keeping an open mind; you just know she could dialogue with anyone.

Vowell can clearly express, for example, how really bad Bush is for the US (and the world) without coming right out and saying how really bad Bush is for the US (and the world). I aspire to be her. Or at least to write like her. At the very least, I wish I'd had her for a history teacher.

This is my second Sarah Vowell; I listened to the audio version of Assassination Vacation last year, which is also stellar. She's moved onto my Favorite Authors list.

Jan 5, 2008, 2:57pm Top

You are already so far along, and I haven't even started my new thread! Will be watching with interest ...

Jan 5, 2008, 3:00pm Top

kambrogi -- I've had lots of time off since the 1st and have pretty much devoted it to reading! Good to "see" you here on my thread!

Jan 5, 2008, 3:17pm Top

#7 You planning to read War and Peace this year? That's more like a 3 week read! :)

Jan 5, 2008, 4:36pm Top

War and Peace AND Anna Karenina. I always have multiple reads going though, so I'll sneak some shorter ones in there for bus commutes, travel, etc. And I don't dare take a hard cover War and Peace to bed with me, if I fell asleep reading I'd give myself a skull fracture!

Jan 5, 2008, 6:57pm Top

lol Well, I'm impressed! Just don't injure yourself. Maybe I'll read one of those Russian novels this year too.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:47am Top

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I struggled to finish this highly overrated little novel. It was so repetetive and just not very interesting. Simple and sweet, yes, but just did not live up to its reputation for me.

Jan 6, 2008, 4:56pm Top

I've posted a possible problem on the main group thread, teelgee. I think you were snookered by the translation, which in my opinion is not a good one.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:50am Top

5. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I loved this book until the last 20 pages or so. Very strong writing, kept me totally engaged with the mystery and the characters. But it just fell apart toward the end, especially with the main character, Jackson.

I will read more of Atkinson (this was the first of hers I've read), I did enjoy the writing.

Jan 9, 2008, 7:20am Top

teelgee: I loved Moon Tiger and found that Case Histories rallied at the end despite a bad patch. A friend of mine once reviewed The Alchemist by saying that she would rather "chew on a piece of cow dung" than finish it.

Jan 10, 2008, 1:28pm Top

Teelgee, I think The Alchemist is just perfect for some people (especially young people), but I agree with your take on it (as I agree with you on most books)! Did you notice that we have the same favorite novel?

Jan 10, 2008, 1:37pm Top

Huh, I really liked The Alchemist, but I listened to it as an audio book and the reader was very good, so maybe that had something to do with it...plus the fact that I'm really not at all hard to please when it comes to fiction :)

Jan 10, 2008, 2:35pm Top

#20 scaifea: I think listening to it did make a difference. You probably then got some of the rhythm. One of the problems I had with the English format of the book was that it was written like a straight sort of story, whereas the Portuguese was formatted far more like poetry.

I was 65 when I first read it, and was struck by the dream-like quality of the book. I'm not particularly fond of the subject matter, not being much into the woo-woo line, as we used to say on Whidbey Island for New Age kind of stuff. I just loved the imagery and way it was written and "sounded" to me in literary Portuguese.

It's a very popular book in Latin America where I think it's appreciated for its mystical qualities. Several of my Panamanian friends adore it, but they are also deeply religious people so...maybe it appeals in that sense.

Ironically, it's out of print in Portuguese--not surprising, as Brasil is not a nation of readers with the illiteracy rate so high. So I can't get a copy.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 11:52am Top

6. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. This was a quick enjoyable read. I think I would have liked this book more if the narrator hadn't been first person, it was just bugging me all the way through. I liked the descriptions of painting techniques and the city of Delft. Chevalier has a nice way with words.

It was purely coincidental that my first read of 2008, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, had a very similar theme -- young working class woman hooks up with master Dutch painter and has opportunity to explore her artistic skills in 17th century Holland.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:16pm Top

7. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. At one point I almost threw this book across the room. I really wanted to love it, it had come very highly recommended. I found it quite boring for the first third, a bit more interesting in the second third, and maddening in the last. She redeemed herself on the last couple of pages in terms of the maddening part, but that did not make me love the book.

Jan 14, 2008, 12:40pm Top

Wow teelgee! I really enjoyed Hotel du Lac. Different strokes for different folks, huh?

Jan 14, 2008, 12:47pm Top

I know you did, lindsacl -- that's why I thought I would too! Maybe I was in a bad frame of mind for it.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:17pm Top

8. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I loved this movie; I loved this book. Rich and yummy. The book is a bit darker and more complex than the movie. This is my third Harris book and she has also moved to my favorite author status.

ETA: I was bothered that Harris chose to use the term "The Black Man" as the symbol of fear, the thing to run from. I cringed every time I read that. I'd think she could be more creative and less pejorative re: black men.

Edited: Jan 16, 2008, 6:16am Top

I have read Chocolat and Five Quarters of an Orange - and I loved them both. What Harris books have you read? I am hoping to score her next book (the Chocolat sequel) through Early Reviewers...

(Edited for touchstones)

Jan 16, 2008, 11:57am Top

Me too, mrstreme! That's partly why I read Chocolat. I've also read Coastliners, which is a delightful book, and Five Quarters...

Jan 16, 2008, 12:52pm Top

She's also one of my favourite authors. Holy Fools and Blackberry Wine are both very enjoyable reads too.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:19pm Top

9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Post-apocalyptic tale of a father and son just trying to survive as they travel south to find .... well, they don't really know what.

Compelling, disturbing, sad, poignant. I almost dreaded reading this, but then I couldn't put it down. The relationship between father and son was really beautiful, given the circumstances.

Jan 17, 2008, 4:28am Top

The Road is a wonderful book. Very moving. I loved it.

Jan 17, 2008, 6:02am Top

Wow -- Chocolat to The Road -- you must be suffering whiplash! I really must read The Road. Onto the wishlist.

Jan 17, 2008, 6:12am Top

I loved The Road too - one of my favorite books last year. I just read that they're making it into a movie. Not sure how that will work....

Jan 17, 2008, 9:43am Top

Add me to the "loved The Road" camp! Glad you enjoyed it, teelgee.

Jan 17, 2008, 11:29am Top

Definitely a feast to famine whiplash, kambrogi. Literally. I'm having a hard time deciding what to follow up with now, started a PG Wodehouse last night after finishing The Road, but it wasn't quite right. Maybe I should take a day off! ;o)

Jan 17, 2008, 6:21pm Top

Oooh, I felt the same way after finishing The Road! I didn't feel at all like reading anything for a day or two. Then judylou suggested I read something entirely different, and I think I chose a romance or something else light, and that did the trick. The story stayed with me, though, a long time. I want to reread it again sometime.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:21pm Top

10. Come to Me by Amy Bloom. The first Bloom book I read was Away, an Early Reviewer novel from last summer. I liked her writing style a lot, so grabbed up this book of short stories when I spotted it at the library sale. Very enjoyable - some recurring characters through some of the stories. Quirky, eccentric, sometimes mentally ill characters, relationships that are challenged, some likeable characters and some not so much. The stories are well put together, dialogue works well. I don't read short stories often but always enjoy them when I do. It was a good choice to follow The Road.

Jan 19, 2008, 7:46am Top

teelgee: I'm enjoying your reading list very much - you have some of my favourites here.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:22pm Top

11. Light on Snow by Anita Shreve. Excellent book. Shreve is a poetic writer. This is the first of her novels that I've read (I find some of her titles off-putting; they sound too much like romance novels). The 12 year old narrator in this story is very believable and the story itself is quite compelling. I liked that it is unpredictable and that the emotions are so vivid.

Jan 21, 2008, 11:16am Top

I have read a lot of Shreve in years past, but it was a while ago. If recollection serves me correctly, I loved Sea Glass and Fortune's Rocks. They are connected so not necessary, but helpful, to read the one published first first.

By the way, as a bookseller for 18 years at an independent, I just wanted to thank you for speaking out on our behalf on TeacherDads challenge thread.

A number of local businesses here in Milwaukee just started a local business alliance, so again, I thank you on thier behalf too!

If you haven't read a lot of Bill McKibben's work, I highly recommend him. And you may have noticed that I am on the Michael Pollan bandwagon now!

PS knowing you, you have read everything these men have written, but I didn't look at your library to check.

Jan 22, 2008, 12:27am Top

Thanks, alphaorder! Actually, I haven't read any of McKibbens books, though I've read many articles by him - he seems to show up in just about every magazine I read. We heard him speak a couple of years ago at our environmental lecture series here in Portland and he was fabulous. I so admire the work he's doing.

And, you're welcome for my speaking out for the indies! I don't think folks realize the impact on local economies when they shop at the big box stores. In the long run, it's not a bargain, but it's so hard to show that in real numbers that we can grasp.

Thanks for the Shreve recs too.

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 5:50am Top

I have refrained from getting up on my economic soap box on the issue of small, independent bookstores. Outside of services they render that the big ones don't--special orders, etc--the demise of the indie bookstore reflects in microcosm what's happening to the US economy overall--the consolidation of business and industry in the hands of a few and the resulting driving down of income and standard of living for what's left of the middle class. Same thing that's happened to family farms, for example.

I had access to a WONDERFUL small bookstore on Whidbey Island in the US--The Moonraker. I hope it still exists. Bought all my books there from Josh when she was actively managing, I remember when Nancy came in part-time and when I left, anyway, was pretty much running the store--the conversations, the recommendations, the fun of looking over Josh's specialty sections. And the teenagers they started out as part-time who became knowledgeable and involved. These were not bored people handling a cash register and who were just marking time until they could get a better job.

OK, off the soapbox! You can tell I have a bit more time than usual lately! :-)

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 8:21am Top

Here, let me step up on that box, with a word or two on the bookstore topic. After 30 years in business,The Tudor Bookshop is closing its flagship store. We lost the branch in our village a few years ago, and I've never stopped missing it. It puzzles me why people who love books should have to be educated about the "evils" of the big chains. I mean, shopping for books isn't the same as shopping for cereal, diapers and tires.

Oh, teelgee, would you like your thread back?

Jan 22, 2008, 10:51am Top

No, no! Please, continue. I will be jumping into the Anna Karenina shaped hole for awhile anyway, so I probably won't have much to report here for awhile.

Jan 22, 2008, 1:40pm Top

#43: How about a little 'live and let live' camaraderie round here, eh? I love that you love independent bookstores, but I prefer not to have to defend my choice to frequent the other kind of bookstore and I prefer not to be 'educated' about my opinion (which is just that, I think: an opinion).

teelgee: Sorry for butting in on your thread. As it's yours, you're free to tell my chain-store butt to get outta here :)

Jan 22, 2008, 4:29pm Top

All are welcome here. Encourage discussion.

Jan 30, 2008, 7:53pm Top

I am so happy that someone felt the same about The Alchemist, it was painful! Didn't mean to change the topic!

Jan 30, 2008, 11:54pm Top

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. Early Reviewers book. I'm not counting this in my books read because I couldn't bear to finish it. Awful tripe. After I read the first few chapters I had to skim the rest. For this I waited to start Anna Karenina.

My review

Jan 31, 2008, 7:54am Top

Good to see you back teelgee! I was watching your thread for your latest read, but wont take this one as a rec. So now that you are reading Anna Karenina, I guess it might be a while. Good luck. I started it in 1989 - I think I got half way through - and then life got in the way and I put it down. Wish I hadn't. Would need to start all over now...

Jan 31, 2008, 9:56am Top

Hey thanks, alphaorder - yah, I missed posting on my thread, so thought I'd post the pan of the year (already) for me.

I'm well over half way through A.K. and if I get some good chunks of reading time this weekend, I may finish it. I love it. Then it's on to an Early Review book (Gardens of Water, which looks yummy) and then I'll be occupied by Russians again with War and Peace. Gotta love winter reading!

Jan 31, 2008, 3:03pm Top

Well, I'll add my voice to the chorus of people who loved The Road by McCarthy, but I have to add a note about The Alchemist too--I read this the summer before I started college. Our University sent copies to all incoming freshmen as our first assignment to sort of unify the campus. I read it quickly, and didn't care for it, but didn't hate it. Then, the author came to speak to us, and Oh did he make an impression. To a group of incoming college students, he got up and essentially told us he hadn't known what to do with his life, and he wrote this story as a sort of self-help therapy thing for himself for the heck of it. Then, for some reason (which he said, literally) people like it so much they were willing to pay him to go around talking about it. So, out of luck, he said, he got a career out of something he didn't really mean to do, and never did have to figure out what he wanted to do with his life since he was getting paid for nothing much. I don't know what the teachers were thinking at that talk, but all of us students were horrified.....

Jan 31, 2008, 3:22pm Top

#51 whitewavedarling, that was really interesting background info about The Alchemist. Thanks!

Edited: Jan 31, 2008, 4:42pm Top

Yes, thanks for that. I've read some articles by Coelho and have really liked them, so I was expecting to fall in love with the book. I tell ya, my expectations get me in trouble every time!

Jan 31, 2008, 5:15pm Top

>51 whitewavedarling: - I think I may know where you go to college. I stumbled on them in iTunesU and downloaded the author talk for The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. I'm not going to say which school, in case you feel that tells too much about you, but I thought it was a cool idea. (Of course, I could be totally wrong about the school and there may be others that do the same thing. I still think it's a neat idea.)

Feb 2, 2008, 12:23pm Top

I know at least two universities my daughter has attended (she's now working on her Ph.D.) have a program where all freshmen are supposed to read the same book before the first semester starts. As a Teaching Assistant, she's had to read whatever that selection is for five years, now, so she can discuss it with her freshman composition/rhetoric classes. How she wishes she could have some input into the choice!

Feb 2, 2008, 2:31pm Top

Do you know what the books have been, laytonwoman? I'm curious what entering freshmen are reading these days.

Feb 2, 2008, 8:29pm Top

Counting down -- less than 100 pages left of Anna Karenina.... determined to finish it tonight!!!

Feb 3, 2008, 1:29am Top

They do the same thing where I teach, though I admit I didn't get around to reading the last two since I haven't been teaching freshmen comp. lately. The books we've had in the last few years are Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr, and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:26pm Top

12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Thoughts to follow.

Feb 3, 2008, 12:31pm Top

Just a comment on the independent bookstore issue. I live in a small, working class town where there are few options. There's a Waldenbooks at the mall, which I rarely frequent, because they don't carry the kinds of books that I enjoy or need for my research. And there are three used bookstores downtown--but, of course, buying used books is also considered politically incorrect. There's a Borders about a 30-minute drive from me that I do frequent; and as far as I know, they will do special orders for their customers. If I get to DC, which I do about every 2-3 months, and I have extra time, I try to get to a few independent bookstores. But most of the time, I have no choice but to shop online at B&N, Amazon, Overstock, BookCloseouts, Daedalus, etc.

Maybe my situation represents the outcome of "big chain" shopping. But my guess is that this town just never could support an independent bookshop, because people either don't read much or aren't willing to pay for books that they can get at the library.

Feb 3, 2008, 12:39pm Top

#55 We also have an "Academic Day Book" that freshmen are supposed to read and discuss in groups during Fall Orientation. The problem is that they never read it and they skip the groups. I chaired the committee for several years. (We used The Reader--which got me a lot of calls from parents--and A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing.) The last year I was chair, we decided to use an essay instead of a book. Same result. This year, they asked the students to attend a session where they were to watch an episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days and then discuss it in small groups. Same result. It's time to give it up.

Because of academic freedom, we haven't made it mandatory to teach the selected book in freshman comp. And I'm not sure it would change anything if we did. The kids are too busy moving in, exploring the town, and making new friends to care about a book discussion in the fall, and over the summer, they are too busy working, spending time with friends they won't be seeing for awhile, and having fun to be bothered with a reading assignment.

Edited: Feb 4, 2008, 11:00am Top

#56. Terri, here is the list for the last five years. (She has asked that I not mention her name or school in connection with this post so it doesn't come up in anybody's search.)

2007: In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, Norman F. Cantor

2006: Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Laila Lalami

2005: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon

2004: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

2003: The Color of Water, James McBride

She and I are in complete agreement that The Color of Water is the only one of those books that makes any sense to include in a program like this.

Herewith some of her cranky comments on the subject:
"I often think the book chosen is not worthy of the program. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was all right and students responded to it, but Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits was fairly bland and students didn't really respond. I heard from other instructors that In the Wake of the Plague was less than appropriately scholarly for its subject matter. I want to see them pick something that will really challenge the little monsters--like Trainspotting (would be rejected for length, difficulty, and subject matter) or The God of Small Things (ditto the length and probably subject matter) or Lolita (ditto ditto). But no. It must be short. It must not offend anybody. I ask you: how do you make eighteen-year-olds "life-long learners" who are "ready for the world" if you won't suggest that they read something that might offend the poor dears (or their parents)."

The choice for next fall's incoming, however, is better: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah

Feb 4, 2008, 1:01pm Top

tellgee - I felt the same way did about The Alchemist came to me highly recommended by a few people and I struggled through it. I couldn't understand what all the hype was about it. To each their own, right?

Glad to know though that I'm not alone. People often look at me funny when I say that I didn't like it.

Feb 4, 2008, 2:43pm Top

#62 We also did The Color of Water about 10 years ago. Other books we've used:

Same Time Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
--Can't remember a book that bored me more, so understand the students' responses.

The Hot Zone
--This was a fairly big hit because the authors came to campus, and the movie came out about the same time.

A Lesson for Dying by Earnest Gaines
--Not much interest in this one.

Edited: Apr 18, 2008, 5:26pm Top

My thoughts on Anna Karenina

===========(CAUTION, SPOILERS AHEAD):===============

I really loved this book. I thought it would take me a few weeks to read, but I ate it up and read it in a week and a half. I got quite involved in the story.

There were parts I found fairly dry and boring; and the last section I could have lived without – a lot of Levin’s (or rather, Tolstoy’s) navel gazing and philosophizing. It didn’t add much to the story. It also seemed the book was more about Levin than Anna; I often wondered why she was the title character.

The characterizations were amazing; I felt the characters were true all the way through. There were a few things I was confused about, I had to make leaps every so often – e.g. Vronsky at one point was struggling to make ends meet, then suddenly he’s extremely wealthy. And his feelings for Anna – at one point he was obviously losing interest in her, then he was madly in love with her again (which isn’t so odd in relationships, I suppose, but it felt incongruous here). And Anna’s second pregnancy was pretty much ignored for a long time – I suppose that can be explained by the Victorian milieu, but I found it frustrating, I wanted more information about it.

I was clueless about the electoral process when they had the provincial voting (I suppose I could have done some research on it) and found that part pretty uninteresting.

The scenes leading up to Anna’s demise– her mood changes and descent into madness - were brilliant, I could just see it coming.

I’m so glad I read this – I’ve been intimidated by the “big” Russian books, thinking they’d be too dense or gloomy or unreadable. Now I can "graduate" to War and Peace without the intimidation factor but instead with anticipation.

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:30pm Top

13. Lean Forward Into Your Life by Mary Anne Radmacher.

The author is known for her greeting cards and posters - and the book is rather like standing at the card section of the pharmacy and reading a bunch of inspirational cards. The prose in each section is chaotic; she has some wisdom but has a difficult time getting it across the page other than bumper sticker-sized chunks. 2 1/2 stars, 'cause it's pretty.

Feb 6, 2008, 5:17pm Top

Congrats on finishing Anna Karenina! That's quite an accomplishment! =)

Feb 6, 2008, 6:02pm Top

Thanks! talk to me in a few weeks when I'm into War and Peace!

69sahorsb First Message
Feb 6, 2008, 6:39pm Top


Laytonwoman3rd: I found your post really interesting from the point of view of a recent graduate from the UK. Just to say that I found it a little surprising that 'Trainspotting' (great Edinburgh novel) was rejected on content grounds: can't believe that a uni would be so backward-looking. Surely such a title would be the perfect way to engage freshman, no? It certainly seems to me slightly more inspiring than plying them with the likes of 'The Curious Incident...' which, though on the one hand highly innovative and on the other terribly moving, was originally a book written for primary school children!

As to suggests teelgee, my suggestions from what I've read over the past month would be the following:
1. Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov (no need to qualify this really: great surrealist Russian literature)
2. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino (a good example of the Oulipo tradition in full flow)
3. A Life's Music - Andrei Makine (Beautiful novella which demonstrates charicterisation of great depth and warmth)

Feb 6, 2008, 8:26pm Top

Thanks for the recs, sahorsb.
#1 I read a couple months ago - need to re-read at some point with a different frame of mind.
#2 Read years ago. Should re-read this one too, I'm sure I'd have a whole different take on it now.
#3 sounds very interesting, thanks!

Feb 6, 2008, 9:26pm Top

#69 As I mentioned above, I got a lot of calls from parents as chair of a simillar freshman reading program over, of all books, The Reader. These kids are starting university, but their parents were calling me with comments like, "I don't think that subject matter is appropriate for an 18-year old young man." They couldn't get past the affair of a teenager and an older woman to consider the important issues the book addresses. Apparently a lot of them were still censoring their children's reading material. Scary.

Feb 6, 2008, 9:50pm Top

#69 sahorsb; Just to clarify, no one actually rejected Trainspotting--it never came up. My daughter just thought it would be an excellent choice for the program, but that it would never pass muster. And what cariola said in #71 echoes other observations my daughter has made about parents' reactions to books their "children" might be asked to read over the summer. Once the kids are on campus, this problem is less prevalent, because for the most part, their parents don't need to know what they're reading. It almost makes you wonder why they sent their kids to college in the first place.

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:32pm Top

14. Gardens of Water by Alan Drew. This was the second Early Reviewers debut novel I've had the privilege to read (the first was The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which was outstanding). Gardens of Water was a beautifully written story of a Muslim family torn apart by the devastating earthquake in Turkey in 1999. Before the earthquake, there were already rumblings of change and discontent, especially with the 15 year old daughter, Irem.

The book brilliantly weaves themes of religion, family, gender, politics, Christian imperialism (missionaries take advantage of the tragedy and proselytize to the children in the tent city) into the story. It kept me on the edge of my seat in a few places; Drew does a fine job of escalating the emotions and creating tension.

There's a nice interview with the author at the back of the book; he's a humble guy!

I would have appreciated a glossary of Turkish terms. There were a few places where even the context didn't help and I'd be interested to know what some of the foods and religious references were.

All in all, a very fine book. 4 stars.

Edited: Feb 9, 2008, 12:26am Top

Digging to America by Anne Tyler. I can't count this book either; after the first 100 pages, I skimmed the rest. There was nothing about it I liked. Almost every scene revolved around a stupid party (I lost count at the eleventh party). Characters were flat. Story mostly uninteresting. Blech. One star only.

Feb 9, 2008, 5:55am Top

If I gave 100 pages of my life to a book, I'd count it!

Feb 9, 2008, 2:00pm Top

We should start a group somewhere to keep a list of books we've started, gotten a good ways into, and then gave up on in either disgust or ennui. :) This year, because I've been branching out from my usual choice of reading material, my list of abandoned books would rival in number the list of books I've actually finished.

Feb 9, 2008, 2:01pm Top

(What happened to Anne Tyler? Her books used to be so good . . . )

Feb 9, 2008, 2:02pm Top

#76 Special Topics in Calamity Physics would top my list for the year so far.

Feb 9, 2008, 2:09pm Top

Hey, I liked your idea and started a thread (but not a group) for Abandoned Books:


Feb 10, 2008, 12:35pm Top

I read Digging to America because I usually like Anne Tyler's books and because my daughter is from China. But I must say, I wasn't really interested in these characters.

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:33pm Top

15. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. Shreve has just moved to my favorite authors spot. This was such a well written book; parallel stories a century apart. Jean, a photographer, is researching a double murder that occurred a century ago on Smuttynose Island off the coast of New Hampshire. She discovers the journal of the survivor in a museum in nearby Portsmouth. Meanwhile Jean is living through her own family crisis that sort of oddly parallels the lives of the Smuttynose family of Norwegian immigrants.

One of those books I couldn't put down. 4 stars.

Feb 11, 2008, 7:48am Top

You're fortunate because there many great Shreve to go! I wasn't as taken with her most recent novels, but the ones she wrote in the '90s are terrific.

Feb 11, 2008, 7:48am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Feb 11, 2008, 9:35am Top

teelgee, you will have to read Fortune's Rocks next. It is excellent!

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:35pm Top

16. Amish Grace : How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald Kraybill, Steven Nolt and David Weaver-Zercher. This is a study on the response of the Amish to the horrific school shooting in their community in October 2006. The three authors are "experts" in Amish culture, i.e. they have spent years researching, writing and teaching about the Anabaptists. They were used as a resource by the media to the tragedy, as many Amish people don't talk publicly.

In our culture of revenge and blame, it seems remarkable that a community could forgive the perpetrator so rapidly; but as the writers point out, forgiveness is an ingrained part of Amish culture, a daily practice that is sorely missing from mainstream America.

The book is well researched and reads fairly well (though there is a lot of repetition throughout - possibly because there are 3 authors, but a good editor would clean it up). Lots of very good info about the Amish and the Mennonites, a bit of history and overview of the structure of their society.

=====I've been MIA only due to being engrossed in War and Peace. I'm enough into it now that I'm able to do some side reading that would have been too distracting at the start of the tome! I'm reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food : An Eater's Manifesto this weekend and will move on to The Translator : a tribesman's memoir of Darfur soon after. =============

Feb 17, 2008, 10:48am Top

teelgee, I just finished The Translator this week, and I think you will be moved by this memoir. It's a quick read but very impactful...

Feb 17, 2008, 11:13am Top

How did you like Pollan's book? I read an interview by him and I would never have read this book, but it sounds interesting?

I was mesmorized by The Translator, I had not idea...don't know where I've been!!!!

Feb 17, 2008, 11:46am Top

Oh, I've been thinking about reading Amish Grace. I live about an hour's drive from where the tragedy occurred, and there are quite a few Amish and Mennonites here as well. (The local grocery stores all have hitching posts.)

Feb 17, 2008, 11:49am Top

I'm in the middle of Pollan right now and am LOVING it!!! I would definitely recommend it to everyone.

Cariola, do read Amish Grace if you get a chance, I think especially with your geographic location you'd appreciate it a lot. It's very thought provoking.

Feb 17, 2008, 3:43pm Top

>88 Cariola:, 89: Amish Grace is now on my TBR pile for the same reason ... !

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:37pm Top

17. In Defense of Food : An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan.

This is a really important read for anyone who eats a "Western diet." Pollan writes a harsh critique of what he calls "nutritionism." The food industry + science + media = a really messed up food system and a large percentage of very unhealthy people. Pollan's biggest critique is the deconstruction of food - scientists have tended to study components rather than whole foods. So we end up with the oat bran craze and the soy craze and the low fat craze, ad infinitum. This western approach to food, as Pollan outlines it, also imo contributes to the vast array of eating disorders in the US.

The response of the healthcare industry currently is to normalize chronic diseases such as diabetes - whole industries are cropping up (and gaining financially) to support the growing number of diabetics, rather than get at the problem at its root. (I heard advertised today the Diabetes Expo in my town - like a home and garden show for diabetics with all the latest gadgets.)

Bottom line: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. What passes for food in the US is making us sick. Pollan advocates for a common sense approach, getting processed foods out of our diets, eating locally and seasonally as much as possible.

Highly recommend. Consider this required reading for health professionals, nutritionists and anyone who eats.

Since the touchstone isn't working, here's a link to the book.

Feb 18, 2008, 7:27pm Top

#89 Thanks, I just added Amish Grace to my wish list.

Feb 19, 2008, 5:55pm Top

I totally agree with you on In Defense of Food: an eater's Manifesto! I really enjoyed that book, even though it wasn't really a lot of new information for me. For a lot of people, though, I am sure that it would be an eye-opener. I loved the way he points out that enjoying food is actually important to eating healthy, and that people don't enjoy the fatty, sugary foodlike substances as much as they think they do. And I liked the emphasis on eating as a social activity, and on cooking your meals.

Feb 19, 2008, 7:19pm Top

sussabmax -- thanks for your comments. There wasn't a lot of new info for me either, he just connected some dots in a very succinct and accessible way.

Yes, the social eating is an important piece -- I am SO guilty of eating at my desk, eating on the run -- and having lots of eating guilt. Pollan has inspired me to pay more attention to those things and also to eat more plants!

Change has to be an individual decision, because the food industry has such a stronghold on our culture via politics and media, it is impossible to change that.

Feb 19, 2008, 11:04pm Top

thanks for the review on In Defense of Food, teelgee. I think I should pick this one up. Wow 17 books - you ARE roaring right along!

Feb 19, 2008, 11:37pm Top

Re: The Partly Cloudy Patriot -- Thanks! I keep meaning to "read something else by that Assassination Vacation woman" so I'll put this on my wishlist. My TBR shelf overfloweth.

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:39pm Top

18. The Translator : A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari. Like A Long Way Gone : Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, this is such an important book for westerners to read, but so painful and difficult. I didn't know much about the genocide in Darfur - Daoud Hari tells his story with such straightforward simplicity, compassion and subtle humor - I just fell in love with him! I can't even process everything I read. Perhaps more later after I absorb it awhile.

I've gotta read something light now!

War and Peace progress report: I'm on Volume One, Part Two, about 130 pages in (only 1,100 more to go!). It's very slow going for me but I am enjoying it!

Feb 20, 2008, 6:19am Top

ooh, goodie gumdrops, teelgee!
An ARC of In Defence of Food recently landed on my desk, and I wasn't sure whether to take it home or not. Well, I did, and promptly forgot about it!
Thanks for reminding about it with your excellent review!

Consider this required reading for health professionals, nutritionists and anyone who eats.
fnar fnar!

My word, you are going like the clappers this year, aren't you!

Feb 20, 2008, 10:58am Top

I have a copy of The Translator and I never seem to get to it. I really need to work that in. And also, I need a copy of War and Peace! I want to join in the group read, but I have been trying to stay out of the bookstore for a while. I have bought 25 books so far this year, and only read 15--I was trying to catch up somewhat. I've actually stayed out of the bookstore for a couple of weeks now, which is a long time for me. I may have to break down, though, and get that book. I also want to get a copy of The Stand and re-read that, another long one. I am not sure what those will do for my goal, but they will certainly raise my average number of pages per book!

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:41pm Top

19. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. This was such a refreshing read after the last few heavier ones. Although, it's not all lightness -- there's an underlying sadness to the aging lonely people trying to find a place of comfort in their last years. It was reminiscent of Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn.

I'd watched this movie recently so there weren't a lot of surprises, but the character of Ludo was a bit darker, and we get a peek into more characters' lives and thoughts in the book.

I'll be looking for more of Taylor's work, I very much enjoyed her writing.

Feb 24, 2008, 3:35am Top

#97 Thank you for your Darfur comments, so many have commented I am keen to get hold of it. As for War and Peace - very well done so far and forgive me if I have bored you with this info already! Did you know there is an LT group reading it and there is also a Yahoo group - le tme know if you would like further information about either of them.

Feb 24, 2008, 10:39am Top

juliette07 - I started the LT group! LOL!

Feb 24, 2008, 12:17pm Top

How stupid can I be =) . I am *so * sorry - please forgive me! LOL Julie

Feb 24, 2008, 2:13pm Top

Oh silly pea, no reason to be sorry. There are a bazillion things to track on LT, I can't imagine that would be one of them. I have no idea who starts most groups I travel on! I haven't even been active on the War and Peace threads cuz my reading of it is soooooo sloooooow right now. Anyway, glad you stopped by! Come again soon!

Edited: Feb 29, 2008, 10:39am Top

Wow! This is a terrific thread -- so diverse and exciting! Teelgee, your reading is going like gangbusters, and it is so fascinating. I like that you post your reviews right here -- somehow, that makes them easier to read as one goes along. I have already added three of these books to my wishlist!


Do you think In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto is better than The Omnivore's Dilemma? I have been meaning to read the latter for ages -- I have read interviews/articles with/by Pollan, and really like his ideas.

I read an interesting article about how a government study decades ago drove us toward obesity, even though it was suppressed by the meat industry. As I remember it, the study suggested we eat less fat, so the packaged food industry started substituting sugar, and our diet after that was always unbalanced and faddish. Does he mention this study? I think George McGovern headed it up.

Anna Karenina: Loved it. I read most of my big Russian novels when I was in the Peace Corps -- they went fast when I lived in the jungle and had limited entertainment! I should reread now, when I can be a little more critical.

#60 Cariola: Having lived outside the US so long, I don't really know all the issues involved in the independent/big chain bookstore controversy, however was surprised to hear that used book stores are not PC, either. How come?

I always enjoy Anita Shreve, but she is on my B-list, because I never seem to take away any universal truths from her books, whereas I always do from Anne Tyler (even Digging to America) -- funny, huh? No one can say where a book goes after it leaves the author because it has a separate life with each reader. So cool! (Btw, I met Shreve's ex-brother-in-law, and he told me she had published but never made any headway with her books until Oprah chose her. Good for her to hang in there, and good for Oprah to give her a boost.)

Edited: Apr 19, 2008, 5:42pm Top

20. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. Audio. What an interesting story. Krakauer does an admirable job of weaving together McCandless' story (what little is known of it) with some parallel history and other stories of the wild, including his own.

Feb 29, 2008, 1:19pm Top

>106 teelgee:, I haven't read the book, but the film will be released on DVD next week (March 4). I'm hoping to get it from Netflix at some point.

Feb 29, 2008, 1:22pm Top

106 I bought this book a few months ago. I picked it up once but then put it down for some reason.....oh wait, I lost it for a bit (it was eaten by my couch). I should probably pick it up again and finish it.

20% of your goal achieved....and in the 2nd month of the year. kudos on your progress. =)

Edited: Feb 29, 2008, 9:10pm Top

I really enjoyed listening to this one. I don't do audiobooks often, I have to be so attentive, but for some reason this story just drifted along nicely.

ETA kambrogi - I'm not ignoring your questions! will respond soon.

Edited: Apr 26, 2008, 10:33am Top

21. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. Thoughts to follow.

Mar 8, 2008, 8:15am Top

teelgee: I am thoroughly enjoying your reviews. Thank you.

Mar 8, 2008, 10:11am Top

My War and Peace progress:

Mar 8, 2008, 10:22am Top

Well I have been following a few tickers on LT but this is a first for War and Peace -I love it =) How are you enjoying it? (the book I mean!!)

Mar 8, 2008, 10:33am Top

I'm quite loving it, juliette! My progress is slow because most of my reading is in the evening (it's not an easy book to haul around!) and I tend to get sleepy. So some nights I'm lucky to read ten pages. And I have other books I'm dipping into as well. I'm happy that I'm finally reading it, though, and finally understand what all the fuss is about!

Mar 8, 2008, 10:41am Top

I think that you are making pretty good progress. Especially when compared to me. =)

Mar 8, 2008, 10:42am Top

Good thing it's not a race, eh?

Mar 8, 2008, 10:46am Top

hmmm.....do I sense a hint of challenge in your post?? ;-)


Mar 8, 2008, 10:51am Top

No! I was being perfectly serious, really! I don't need any more challenges in my life right at the moment. Somehow, competitive reading seems an oxymoron, like competitive yoga!

Mar 8, 2008, 10:53am Top


I was just kidding with you.

I'm sure that once I start to devote more time to W&P that my progress will increase exponentially. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

competitive yoga? Sounds dangerous!

Mar 8, 2008, 10:56am Top

#118 Couldn't agree more - it is such a wonderful work that you need to take it at your own preferred pace. Some people will love a little challenge - others not! I had to go for it single minded and rarely read more than one book at a time. At one point I 'found' a friend and we were reading together and had a wonderful time posting back and forwards. We are still in touch!

PS - just saw the other tickers on the W and P!!!

Mar 8, 2008, 12:04pm Top

I love your W&P progress ticker....slow and steady, eh?

Edited: Apr 29, 2008, 9:26am Top

22. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Hugo is an orphan who lives and works within the walls and tunnels of a Paris train station. He keeps all the clocks oiled, wound and working. He has a knack for mechanics and an interest in magic. And he has a fantastic secret - a mechanical man that, when fixed properly, will write an important message for Hugo. Or so he believes.

What a delightful, beautiful book! This is a finely illustrated kid's book that any adult would find wonderful. I consider it a graphic novel, though it probably doesn't fit a strict definition of one. The writing is good, the illustrations are fabulous and the story kept me interested from the beginning. Great afternoon read.

Mar 9, 2008, 5:23am Top

Oh that sounds so typical of many so called childrens' books. There are so often truths and experiences that we as adults would do well to learn from - imho =)

Mar 10, 2008, 7:43am Top

That last one definitely went on the wishlist, Teelgee, but I am still waiting for the W&P in paper -- it will be a long wait, I wager.

Mar 11, 2008, 12:39pm Top

Hit my 22nd book today...we are still neck and neck...this gives me confidence that I might actually make 100 books this year. =)

Mar 12, 2008, 2:39pm Top

I am taking War and Peace with me on my camping trip this weekend, so I think I will make some real progress! A good long chunk of time to read is just what I need. Although, I usually do a lot of reading laying in bed at night (we use a friend's pop-up camper), and that is hard with a book this size. I am sure I will find a way around that, though--my goal is to finish it during the trip, and maybe read another book, too. I'm only somewhere around 280, though.

Mar 12, 2008, 4:01pm Top

That's handy -- you can use it as a camp stool too! Enjoy! I have some good chunks of time coming up in a couple weeks and hope to get close to finishing by the end of March.

Mar 13, 2008, 12:32pm Top

Well I am certainly smiling with thoughts of you guys camping with War and Peace - have a lovely time and enjoy it =)

Edited: Apr 26, 2008, 10:25am Top

23. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Historical fiction. 1665-66, English village struck by the Plague. The point of view is Anna, a widow with two small children; she works for the village rector and befriends his wife. Anna is a very strong character. There is much loss and sadness in this book. It is so well written, the language authentic to the time, the story compelling with some good surprises.

Brooks is an excellent writer and I look forward to reading more of her books. 4 1/2 stars.

Mar 16, 2008, 10:14pm Top

I wholeheartedly agree with your take on Year of Wonders. I read it a few years ago now but still remember it fondly.

Mar 18, 2008, 1:56pm Top

Just wanted to drop a line to say I've been enjoying your reviews and have noted several books down on my newly-created TBR list. I know I'm way late, but thought I'd add my two cents to the incoming freshman reading discussion. My college had us all read Candide, though no one tried to verify that we had done so. Then we had a 'discussion' about it (that's in quotes since, as I recall, it was more of a lecture), and were supposed to go as a class to see a live production of the same. Unfortunately, the production closed right as the school year started, so we ended up seeing Les Miserables instead- I think the idea was that we could contrast the best of all possible worlds with the worst of all possible worlds, or something like that.

Congrats to Teelgee on finishing Anna Karenina (I love that book) and making so much progress on War and Peace (which I've always meant to read and just picked up at the library sale for 25 cents- woot!). While you're cruising with the Russkies, have you read any/much Dostoevsky? He's probably my all-time favorite from that bunch.

Mar 19, 2008, 9:30am Top

Thank, Kplatypus -- I haven't read Dostoevsky yet, Tolstoy and Mikhail Bulgakov are the only two Russian writers I've read so far. I'll need to take a break from Russian lit after War and Peace but plan to give Dostoevsky a try in the not too distant future. What would you recommend starting with?

Mar 19, 2008, 3:07pm Top

Depends on your style, really. I read Crime and Punishment first- the storyline is easy to follow, it's not too long, and since there aren't that many characters, it's easier to keep track of who is whom. The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite, but it's a lot longer, with more characters, and therefore potentially harder to read/get into if you're not used to his style. The Idiot could be good- not as widely read, but a great book. Not so much The Devils or The Possessed (same book, published under different names)- definitely good, but much harder to follow, largely due to its discussions of Russian politics. Granted, I was only 16 when I read it, so maybe it would be easier now. His short stories (The Gambler, Notes from the Underground, etc though I suppose Notes is more of a novella) are also easy ways to get started with Dostoevsky, but I feel like they don't showcase his skills as well as his full novels do. Your mileage may vary, of course.

And now I realize I've rambled for a bit longer than I intended. I just love Dostoevsky and wish more people gave him a shot. He can be hard to get into, esp if you're not used to Russian names/nicknames/culture, but he's well worth the effort, IMO. Sorry for taking up so much space! Enjoy your break after the laudable achievement of completing War and Peace but come back to the D-man one of these days.

Mar 19, 2008, 3:38pm Top

I'll second the nomination for The Brothers Karamazov!

Mar 20, 2008, 9:15am Top

I thought The Idiot was a fascinating read, so I always recommend that one since so many people seem to skip over it....

Mar 20, 2008, 10:16am Top

I started with Brothers Karamozov and so far it's the only Dostoevsky I've read (though The Idiot is sitting on the TBR pile as my next crack at him.) I've also read "The Heavenly Christmas Tree", a heartbreaking short story by him.

The only tough thing about Dostoevsky (and Russian writers in general) is the tendency to give everyone 500 alternate names, but if you've made it through War and Peace, I'm sure you'll be fine. :)

Edited: Apr 26, 2008, 10:23am Top

24. Life Class by Pat Barker. I rarely read war stories, so it was a bit unsettling to find myself so occupied in the ugliness of battles and the aftermath of them (this one and War and Peace). Barker’s novel of historical fiction snuck up on me; I started it several times and abandoned it for one reason or another, but this time I stuck with it, as she comes so highly recommended by several people. I did like the book quite a lot; it was an interesting comparison of one person who’s mired in the war while another is at home enjoying a social life and trying to ignore the war. And how utterly war changes one’s perspective and life and the effects it can have on art and relationships.

The book starts out quietly, at the Slade, an art college in London. There are hints of a pending war, but Paul, the protagonist, is mostly concerned about the direction his art is taking and wondering if he should stick with it. His art lacks passion. He will remedy that after working for the Red Cross patching up wounded soldiers at the front in Belgium.

There were some unresolved pieces in this novel and I think it could have gone a bit deeper. Barker’s writing is engaging and, when I feel ready to read more stories of war, I will give her Regeneration Trilogy a try. It’ll be awhile, though. 3 1/2 stars

Mar 23, 2008, 6:47pm Top

@129: I want to thank you for your review of Year of wonders. I picked it up because of what you wrote and I loved it. I'll be following your thread for more great recommendations.

Mar 23, 2008, 9:31pm Top

Oh good, marvas, I'm glad you loved it. I think it will be one of my favorites for the year!

Mar 24, 2008, 7:43am Top

Ok, I haven't read it yet, but everyone who has is raving about Brooks's People of the Book. She did come to our shop and gave an incredible presentation about the history that went into the novel, so based on that, I highly recommend it. The only reason I haven't read it yet is that other books keep getting in the way. It seems that it might be a good backyard read for me this summer, if this snow ever stops!

Mar 24, 2008, 10:00pm Top

#135: I loved The Idiot too.
You are going great guns, teelgee. Enjoying watching your turtle plod through W&P. I keep eyeing my copy but there it sits. Maybe in the summer.

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:12am Top

25. At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor, published in 1945.

This is the second Taylor book I've read (see message #100) I love her writing - simple on the surface, but so packed with tension just underneath and exploring the pros and cons of social norms in very compelling stories.

This novel takes place during WWII - the war plays an important role in the book as it dictates what most of the characters are doing, but it too lives just under the surface; it is not often a subject for discussion even though Roddy is a member of the RAF. Julia, his unconventional wife, boldly pushes the envelope with her speech and behavior. Oliver is their precocious 7 year old son, a bibliophile often relegated to his bedroom. Eleanor, Roddy's cousin, lives with them; she has been in love with her cousin for years and doesn't approve of Julia.

They are living temporarily in Mrs. Lippincote's house, fully furnished with all of Mrs. Lippincote's photos, dishes, letters, knick knacks - temptations for the inquisitive Julia - and a locked attic full of clothing. Mrs. Lippincote's daughter appears unannounced every so often, a bit like the madwoman in the attic, to retrieve items of clothing - but we only get one glimpse and one brief visit from the title character herself.

Each character in the novel explores their own personal world, rarely communicating with each other the truth of who they really are and what they really desire. The women particularly (and young Oliver) go through significant changes in their world views and make some surprising decisions about the course of their lives.

A fine book by an underrated British writer. (4/5)

I am so right on schedule, 25 at the end of the first quarter!

Mar 27, 2008, 1:37am Top

Well done Teelgee - your list is very interesting.

Mar 27, 2008, 1:41am Top

#142 Thank you - I really enjoyed your review of At Mrs Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor. It sounds a compelling read. I may well read it.

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:09am Top

26. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. You don't want to know much about this book before reading it - even the tags can be spoilers. I'd never read anything by Ishiguro before; now I know what all the fuss is about. He's brilliant. I won't even reveal what the story is about, because part of the wonderfulness of reading it is peeling the layers of onion -- he teases the story out so slowly and carefully and masterfully. Very compelling and well written. (4/5)
Edited to attempt touchstones again.

Mar 31, 2008, 1:45am Top

teelgee ~ it sounds like you have become an instant Ishiguro fan! I highly recommend Remains of the Day. It was the first of his I had read and it remains my favourite (no pun intended ;)

Mar 31, 2008, 3:08am Top

Yup, it's sitting at the library waiting for me as we speak. I'll probably pick it up tomorrow.

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:07am Top

27. The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. Slim volume of one- and two-page explorations of human qualities and emotions. Gendler personifies each one and describes what kind of person each might be.

Included are some unique line drawings such as this:

Courage has roots. She sleeps on a futon on the floor and lives close to the ground. When she walks it is clear that she has made the journey from loneliness to solitude.

and this:

Whimsy is not afraid to be outrageous but she is basically shy. She has trouble keeping her shoelaces tied but in every other way she is as practical as your next door neighbor. She has all kinds of books and she arranges them on the shelves by the color of their cover or how the titles sound next to each other

Intelligence knows how to use words to make music …he thinks in black and white but he dreams in color.

This is a sweet little book that is good to have handy when you need a little perspective on your feelings or behaviors. (3.5/5)

Apr 1, 2008, 9:47am Top

Thank you, teelgee, that is the right book for me right now!

Apr 1, 2008, 1:10pm Top

Sounds like a cure little book.

Apr 1, 2008, 4:07pm Top

Those drawings are slightly Thurber-ish...

Apr 1, 2008, 5:28pm Top

Yes, LW3, that comparison is made on one of the cover blurbs too.

Apr 1, 2008, 7:13pm Top

1st quarter wrapup:

1. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
2. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
3. The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell *(NF)
4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
5. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
6. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
7. Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
8. Chocolat by Joanne Harris *
9. The Road by Cormac McCarthy *
10. Come to Me by Amy Bloom (short stories)
11. Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy *
13. Gardens of Water by Alan Drew (Early Reviewers copy)
14.Digging to America by Anne Tyler (didn't finish it; hate is a strong word, but...)
15. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
16. Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Kraybill, Nolt and Weaver-Zercher
17. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan * (NF)
18. The Translator by Daoud Hari
19. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
20. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (audio)
21. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat *
22. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick(graphic novel) *
23. Year of Wonders: a Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks *
24. Life Class by Pat Barker
25. At Mrs. Lippincote's by Elizabeth Taylor
26. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro *
27. The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler

* = best of the quarter

Apr 1, 2008, 8:59pm Top


Edited: Apr 1, 2008, 9:23pm Top

I agree with #154: Wow!! That's incredible- when did you find time to read all of it? It's an average of a book every three days, like #6 said!

Apr 1, 2008, 10:20pm Top

WOW squared

Apr 1, 2008, 10:26pm Top

Probably would have been a few more if I hadn't spent the last month and a half reading War and Peace (see message 112 for my turtley progress). But thanks for the Wows! I have lots of reading time, evenings and weekends - no youngsters to take care of, etc. Still, it kind of amazes me - I never used to read this much before LT!!!

Apr 2, 2008, 12:23pm Top

WOW cubed!!

Did any of us read this much or broadly BLT (no not a sandwich ...) before Library Thing =)

Apr 3, 2008, 8:43am Top

Wowditto. What a great list - lots of delicious titles.

Edited: Apr 3, 2008, 9:45am Top

Amazing -- good on ya', Teelgee! I have had a Kazuo Ishiguro book in my TBR pile forever -- it will be my next read after seeing what you had to say. Thanks.

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:06am Top

28. What's for Dinner? by James Schuyler. Odd little novel published first in 1979 and republished a couple of years ago. Not really my cup of tea. Lots of dialogue. Strange little family and mental ward vignettes. (I gave it a strong 3 stars.)

Apr 4, 2008, 7:56am Top

Thanks for taking my suggestion and giving it a try. I hope the three stars wont keep you from other recs from me...

Apr 4, 2008, 9:11am Top

Oh of course not alphaorder! I didn't dislike it but it won't show up on my favorites for the quarter. When I first started reading it, I thought it had been recently written, so was surprised to read the blurb on the back that said it was republished. It is sort of timeless in that way. It also had a very British feel to it, the language, etc.

Apr 4, 2008, 7:59pm Top

Wow, great list!

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:03am Top

29. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am in love with this author. (4.5/5)

Edited: Apr 24, 2008, 12:01am Top

30. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. I have such mixed feelings about this book. Written in 1938, it follows an extraordinary day in the life of the otherwise drab Miss Pettigrew. She is desperate for work when she shows up at the flat of Miss La Fosse, a singer/actress, mistakenly looking for a governess position. Miss Pettigrew gets caught up in a whirlwind of activity far outside her experience, and at each conflict that arises for Miss LaFosse and her friend, Miss Dubarry, Miss Pettigrew saves the day in spite of (or maybe because of) her lack of experience in social affairs.

It is difficult for me to disengage from my feminist self and read a book like this in its historical context -- a story where women use all their cunning and play games to win a man. There's also a fair amount of racism in the novel that made me uncomfortable.

It is a charming Cinderella tale with a lot of action and a bit of suspense. (3/5)

Apr 13, 2008, 1:26pm Top

Teelgee, I have just been berating myself for this response to literature these days, even the latest offerings. I have never had trouble putting things into their historical context before, but suddenly I find I have no patience for racism or sexism, even when it is appropriate to the story, the voice, the orientation, the historical period, whatever. I seem to have lost my objectivity.

Apr 13, 2008, 5:18pm Top

Interesting review, teelgee. I have a similar problem with "disengaging" so will probably stay away from this one. There's a new film out as well -- I wonder if it's just as old-fashioned in its portrayal?

Edited: Apr 13, 2008, 5:33pm Top

I saw the trailer for this movie, and I thought it looked really funny. But this is the same woman who just watched "Enchanted" and thought it was the best Disney girl movie in a decade (since "Beauty and the Beast").

Apr 13, 2008, 5:38pm Top

alphaorder -- snow in April? when do you get to the sunny backyard? I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- my niece is in Telluride, Colorado. I'm not sure the snow ever goes away there.

Apr 13, 2008, 8:28pm Top

It's not as though there were no redeeming qualities to the book - but so much was based on appearance and clothing and money and getting the man and putting up with behavior from men that is inappropriate and women fawning and fainting over men. I'm just not tolerant of that so much!

Apr 15, 2008, 11:37am Top

Personally, I just don't find that type of story interesting. I understand that society was different then, but it could be handled in a more complex manner. Acknowledging that women have no choice but to fit themselves into a restrictive society is one thing, but portraying women who really focus on getting a man like it is the be-all and end-all of a fulfilling life is just sad. Because even if you really believe this is true, it isn't enough, and it makes me sad to think about what these women will do when the wedding is over, they've hooked their man, and there isn't another goal to reach. Plus, I think that a lot more women were chafing under that system than literature of the time makes it seem.

That's why I like Jane Austen--those books are generally about women getting married, but they address the issues of surviving within society without compromising on all of the heroine's principles, or settling for an advantageous marriage that makes her unhappy.

Edited: Apr 23, 2008, 10:18pm Top

31. Unless by Carol Shields. This was a great antidote to Miss Pettigrew! Strong feminist writing - a very introspective novel in defense of women writers in particular and women's lives in general. Review will follow soon.

Apr 17, 2008, 8:13am Top

Oh yeah, I really liked Unless. Have you read any of Shields' other work? I've read The Stone Diaries which I enjoyed as well.

Apr 17, 2008, 9:02am Top

I liked Unless too. I am a fan of all Shields' work, except for Larry's Party.

I, too, am in love with Kazuo Ishiguro.

Apr 17, 2008, 9:16am Top

Interesting comment, Amanda. Having very much enjoyed the two books mentioned, I've often looked at Larry's Party in bookstores. But I always put it back on the shelf. Guess I should continue to trust my instincts on that one!

Apr 17, 2008, 9:24am Top

I read The Stone Diaries years ago and don't remember much about it; feel like a re-read would be good. I also read Larry's Party and didn't think much of it.

Apr 17, 2008, 10:49am Top

I have to agree with Teelgee's comment - Carol Shields writing is enjoyable but a few weeks later I don't remember much about the book. I don't think she is in the same category as. say Atwood or Munro, IMO. I though Larry's Party was her weakest, and the Stone Diaries good but not great in any way.

Apr 17, 2008, 11:40am Top

I think she is an excellent writer, but her books tend to really depress me. I loved her commentary on women writers in Unless -- it opened my eyes to a major shortcoming in the much-touted book, How to Write a Damn Good Novel.

Apr 17, 2008, 12:03pm Top

That's funny--I read The Stone Diaries years ago, and remember that I liked it, but that's about it. I thought it was just me. I do have Unless and Larry's Party on my shelf, though--I guess I'll go for the former first!

Apr 17, 2008, 12:05pm Top

It's not unusual for me to not remember much about any book! It goes with the wasted brain cells.

Apr 17, 2008, 12:39pm Top

Hi teelgee, Just checking in with your lists, etc., after a while away. A couple of things . . .

My wife and I just saw the movie Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day and we both loved it. The story's a bit improbable, but the acting and storytelling well make up for that. In terms of the sexist elements, don't know about the book, but the movie seemed to be trying to show the social handicaps and limitations the women were working under, not glorify or laugh them off. The woman who had to try to win a man she didn't really love in order to keep her business going was shown to be determined to succeed in a tough business but well aware of what her efforts were costing her. In other words, although I don't want to overstate the case, there was more than a hint of the tragic in the situation. All, this, of course, within the context that the movie is a comedy. "Capra-esque" is a word thrown around too much, but I would apply it to this film. At any rate, the movie stars Francis McDormand, who I will watch in any move at any time.

My Crime and Punishment story: In 1986, nine years after graduating college, I decided to go back to school to study creative writing. Upon getting into the English literature/creative writing program at San Francisco State, I prepared for my move from New Orleans to SF to start my new life. During my last week or so before this move, I suddenly fell into a panic. "Oh, my goodness," I thought. "I am going into a English lit MA program and I have never read Crime and Punishment! I am going to be exposed as a fraud in ten seconds flat!" So the last thing I did before moving to SF was to read Crime and Punishment. Of course, I got through three years of grad school and, since I never took a Russian Lit class, no one ever mentioned Crime and Punishment to me one time. But at least I had it read!

In fact, I recently reread Crime and Punishment. I like it a bit better than the Brothers Karamasov because of its more straightforward storyline. I enjoyed The Idiot very much, too, but not as much as either of the others.

Hope the long post is OK.

Apr 17, 2008, 12:53pm Top

The stone diaries is one of my favourite books ever. So beautiful and sad. I just finished Happenstance and I loved that too. These are both beautiflully written slices of life. There's a quote, can't remember where I heard it, that says: film is like real life without the boring bits. Shields writes about real life but she leaves the boring bits in, the in-between moments; waiting for a bus, making a meal, sitting on a plane, in Shields's writing these moments, when nothing much happens, are full of meaning. It's why the characters become almost real people, it's also why it can be so hard to explain what her books is about and maybe to remember her books. But for me it is why she is a brilliant writer.

Edited: Apr 26, 2008, 10:06am Top

32. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. Wonderful book; more review coming later.

Edited: Apr 28, 2008, 2:47am Top

33. In the Wake by Per Petterson, the author of Out Stealing Horses, one of my favorite books last year. This preceded ...Horses and was the first book of Petterson's to be published in the US.

The theme of the complexity of father-son relationships is explored in this novel too. Petterson accomplishes a chaotic troubled narrative all the way through a first person monologue. Arvid is a 43 year old writer finally, after six years, facing the grief of losing his parents and two of his brothers in a tragic boating accident. It takes his Kurdish neighbor, with whom he only shares three common words, to point out Arvid's heartache.

The language is not as starkly beautiful in this novel as it was in ...Horses. But the rambling nature of Arvid's monologues and thoughts are true to the process he's going through and Petterson handles it well. There are a few translation problems and some editing oversights, but all in all, a very fine read. I plan to seek out more of Petterson's books. (4/5)

Edited: May 2, 2008, 4:41pm Top

34. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. Short stories. Exquisite. More to follow. (4.5/5)

Apr 28, 2008, 7:48am Top

Am I correct that you have read Interpreter of Maladies but have not yet read Unaccustomed Earth? You are in for another treat!

Apr 28, 2008, 9:45am Top

Sorry for butting in....just had to say that I was not a fan of short stories. I bought Interpreter of Maladies at my favorite used bookstore because it had been so revered on LT. I took it with me on a week end of grandmothering when I knew I couldn't get involved in a novel and fell in love with the stories. I still haven't finished them as I didn't want them to end. I am so delighted that Lahiri has another collection out.

Apr 28, 2008, 12:06pm Top

Yes, alphaorder, you are correct. I've ordered Unaccustomed Earth from Daedalus Books and it should be here soon. I am falling in love with short stories! I've been reading them at least once a month for the Sunday Salon.

Uh, Donna, you are NOT butting in! Love to have comments on my thread. Nice to see you here!

Apr 28, 2008, 12:25pm Top

cricky...you have pulled ahead of me in our non-race by one book. Must try to find time to buckle down and finish the one I'm reading so we can be all even again. =)

I'm behind with my April reading. I figured that I'd have to read roughly 9 books per month in order to make my 100 book goal. I've only read 5 so far this month...and with only a few days left I'll be lucky to get one more in before the 1st. Ah well...there is always next month. I'm going to Aruba for a week....so lots of beach time reading for me. =D

Apr 28, 2008, 9:13pm Top

oh you are hard on the resolve to be more frugal in my book buying, teelgee. You have made Lahiri sound so irresistable. Short stories work beautifully for work lunch hours.

Apr 30, 2008, 11:08pm Top

I have never been a fan of short stories but am going to give Lahiri a try as well. How is War and Peace going?

Apr 30, 2008, 11:31pm Top

My War and Peace progress:

Going. Still. A bit at a time. I can't seem to settle in and read more than 10-20 pages at a sitting. Maybe that's why the short stories are so appealing right now!

May 1, 2008, 10:49pm Top

Cheering you on - Teelgee. You are nearly at 1000 pages which is a real milestone.

My 16 yo daughter is reading it now, and she is three hundred pages in - she asked me when the story is going to start and wishes he did not discuss war so much!!!

She read a quarter way through the older translation also and says the Prevear translation is much better.

May 2, 2008, 8:28am Top

go little turtle go!!

then please come and recesitate my little fish. he seems to have been distracted by something and has been treading water for eons!

Edited: May 8, 2008, 10:21am Top

35. Wild Life by Molly Gloss. I thought this was fantastic. Thoroughly engaging story, wonderful strong female protagonist, good writing.

The story is told via fictional journal entries, snippets of a novel in progress, magazine articles and essays written by the protagonist Charlotte, a very strong, independent woman living in Southwest Washington in the early 1900s. She embarks on an amazing journey into the forest to search for a lost child. Imaginative and compelling. Part of the charm of this book for me is the location - my home ground of the Pacific Northwest, the forests and rivers and mountains. Gloss includes some fascinating history about the area and about logging, which was already beginning to have extreme adverse effects over 100 years ago.(4/5)

May 8, 2008, 10:00am Top

Oh, now I have had to put Wild Life on my wish list and move Interpreter of Maladies up my TBR pile! I thought I had read the latter, but it was something else similar. I tend to turn away from short stories, too, but am ready to do this one next!

Edited: May 9, 2008, 8:34pm Top

36. The Gathering by Anne Enright Review to follow. I was not fond of this book but she is a good writer. (3/5)

May 8, 2008, 1:28pm Top

I just finished my 36th book today too. =)

May 8, 2008, 4:02pm Top

Spooky. So I figure you'll either read a book a day on vacation and smoke me, or you'll be so busy chasing those cabana boys you won't give a hoot! And then I'll charge ahead in the non-race!

May 8, 2008, 4:44pm Top

I plan on doing lots of both!! Because you'll be retiring soon and the balance will shift in your favor.

May 8, 2008, 9:48pm Top

The turtle cheering team PomPom girl reporting for duty. Go turtle go! Give me a W! Give me an A! Give me an R! Whaddya get? WAR! I'll spare you the spelling of "and Peace"...you get the point.

May 9, 2008, 12:41am Top

Seeing there is an unofficial race - I would just like clarification about the book 'value' of War and Peace - how many books does it count for, Teelgee?!? I think it is only fair to let Irisheyz77 know this information.

May 9, 2008, 1:27am Top

I think it's a good 4 books worth. She's reading it too...we are quite well matched! I think I'm a bit ahead of her there though - I just tipped over into the 1,000+ pages.

Looks like I'm going to have to start a second thread already, I've broken my 200 post rule. Ah well, maybe after the next book.

May 9, 2008, 11:57am Top

I read and had to lead discussion on Lively's Spiderweb with my library book group, read it at least twice to get the most of her her writing but it was well worth it. I have Moon Tiger so was happy to see your post on it

May 9, 2008, 11:57am Top

I read and had to lead discussion on Lively's Spiderweb with my library book group, read it at least twice to get the most of her her writing but it was well worth it. I have Moon Tiger so was happy to see your post on it

Edited: May 17, 2008, 10:37pm Top

37. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. This sequel to 84 Charing Cross Road finds Helene at last visiting London, a dream come true for her. The book is a journal of her weeks of visiting old friends and new and near-sacred sites, such as Stratford on Avon and St. Paul's (John Donne's) Cathedral. She is easily awed by such places.

The stories are told with her dry wit. The beginning of the book felt a little stilted, but she got into a groove. Not quite as entertaining as 84 but still a delightful read. (3.5/5)

Edited: May 11, 2008, 2:50pm Top

May 11, 2008, 7:33am Top

I am reading War and Peace too, but as teelgee mentioned she is a bit ahead of me. But I will catch up with her there eventually!!!!

I'm also reading Middlemarch, so how many books would that count for? 2?


Edited: May 11, 2008, 2:25pm Top

I like the book covers on your thread;-)

Personally, (and it might be my desktop publishing experience) I think it adds character and visually breaks up all that text. Imagine a comment like that from a obsessive reader of books with have no pictures! (ok, well, my copy of Cranford did).

>209 Irisheyz77: if Middlemarch counts for two, then all the books under 250 pages count for half books:-) *slinks back to 75 book challenge group*

Edited: May 11, 2008, 2:53pm Top

Thanks avaland, totally stolen idea from marise!


Didn't want the Thread Police coming after me, I heard there was a warrant out.

Group: 50 Book Challenge

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