2017 is a Prime Reading Year for Banjo!
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(picture from Webster Woods Art Park in Port Angeles, Washington)
To the New Year
By W. S. Merwin
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
Hello fellow book fanatics! I am Banjo, aka Rhonda, back for another year of books and camaraderie. I live in Portland, Oregon, with my wife (aka Mrs. Banjo), our dog, Chica, and three cats (Banjo, Francis and Willi). Our daughter (known here as Banjo, jr) is 20, a junior in college, and growing into a really fun adult.
My day job is in geriatric mental health, and I enjoy music, movies, theater and the outdoors, as well as reading. The mainstay of my reading is literary fiction, but I also read a fair amount of non-fiction, and a variety of other genres.
For 2017, I decided that I wanted to be more organized in my reading, and so I have developed several different reading goals. Hopefully this will help me to make a dent in my TBR! Although, there is actually a high likelihood that I will ditch my plans within a few weeks.
I am one of the people who was devastated by the results of the US presidential election, and for a while I had thought of arranging my reading in response. I was thinking of reading more US history in order to better understand recent events. However, then I read a rant on Facebook comparing Trump to Henry VIII, which caused me to realize that the US does not exist in isolation, and I needed to expand my reading goals.
I plan to group most of my 2017 reading into the following categories:
The 2016 New York Times best 10 books.
I have already read three of these (The Vegetarian by Han Kang; Evicted by Matthew Desmond and The Return but Hisham Matar
I thought it would be worthwhile to read the other seven:
Dark Money by Jane Mayer--READ
In the Darkroom by SUsan Faludi
North Water by Ian McGuire Read!
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--READ
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
At the existentialist cafe by Sarah Bakewell
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
The American Author's Challenge. This year I am going to try to be a completist in Mark's AAC.
January- Octavia Butler: Kindred
February- Stewart O' Nan The Good Wife
March- William Styron
April- Poetry Month
May- Zora Neale Hurston
June- Sherman Alexie
July- James McBride
August- Patricia Highsmith
September- Short Story Month
October- Ann Patchett
November- Russell Banks
December- Ernest Hemingway
And I will also try to be a Completist in the Non-Fiction Challenge:
January: Prize Winners Fun Home by Alison Bechdel The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
February: Voyages of Exploration The Old Patagonian Express
March: Heroes and Villains I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
April: Hobbies, Pastimes and Passions
June: The Natural World
July: Creators and Creativity
August: I’ve Always Been Curious About….
September: Gods, Demons and Spirits
October: The World We Live In: Current Affair
November: Science and Technology
December: Out of Your Comfort Zone
Other LT Challenges and reads, which I will try to participate in, though not to be a completist, include:
The Re-Read Challenge Fun Home
The British Author Challenge
The Canadian Challenge
The Reading Globally Challenges
I also want to participate in Atwood April; and plan to start a read for Haruki Murakami in March.
I belong to two, a Lesbian Book Group, which has been good for increasing the diversity of my reading, although not always great for the quality; and a regular book group, that mostly reads literary fiction. The current books for these groups :
The Double by Jose Saramago
Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc
I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
I am planning to do the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:
Read a book about sports.
Read a debut novel. The Mortifications
Read a book about books.
Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South
Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. the Mortifications
Read an all-ages comic.
Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
Read a travel memoir. The Old Patagonian Express
Read a book you’ve read before. Fun Home I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. Objects in the Mirror by
Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. The Double by Jose Saramago
Read a fantasy novel. Kindred
Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Read a book about war. Elephant Company
Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. Fun HomeTherese and Isabelle I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Read a classic by an author of color. The Fire Next TIme by James Baldwin, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey . The Mortifications
Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.
Read a book published by a micropress. Objects in the Mirror
Read a collection of stories by a woman.
Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. Kindred, Underground Railroad
And I am challenging myself to read ALL of the books in my "read very soon" pile. Some of these will also go with other challenges... here they are:
Underground Railroad by Colson Whiteheasd-- READ
To Steal a Kingdom; Probing Hawaiian History by Michael Daougherty
Words Will Break Cement: the Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan READ
Shipping News by Annie Prouix
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi READ
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
THe Mirrored World by Debra Dean
Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
How to be Both by Ali Smith
Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Books Read in 2017:
1. Kindred by Octavia Butler
2. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
3. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
4. The Double by Jose Saramago
5. The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
6. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
7. North Water by Ian McGuire
8. The Peculiar Life of the Lonely Postman
9, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
10, Dark Money by Jane Mayer
11. Objects in Mirror by Kate Carroll de Gutes
12. The Good WIfe by Stewart O'Nan 2/11
13. Therese and Isabelle by Violette leDuc 2/19
14. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
15. Elephant Company by Vicki Croke.
16. The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux
17. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
18. A Little life by Hanya Yanagihara
19. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 3/14
I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.
Thank you for also being part of the group.
Thanks Jim, Beth, Paul, Diana, Anita!
Hoping that everyone is having a good year so far. I have a New Year's Brunch to go to, so will be back to finish setting up my thread in a little bit.
Thanks Katherine and Amber! I am looking forward to the year ahead.
Reading Update and plans for January: I finished 3 books in 2016 which I still haven't commented on, and hope to do some mini-reviews later today.
I have started Kindred, which I read years ago, but don't remember very well. Other books for January include Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; The Double by Jose Saramago for book clubs. I have Lost : A Search for Six of Six Million for the non-fiction book read, and an ERC the Mortifications. Other books in the queue are Dark Money; Homegoing and Underground Railroad
Rhonda, I too felt like I'd been hit in the stomach after the election. I work in a school which has a 25% Latino population and this is the only time I've ever seen an election where you felt like you had to discuss what it might mean for the future with the students. And yes, I thought of making my thread a subtle response and in some ways I will, but I also don't want to give him more power by dwelling on him!
You'll love Fun Home and if it helps, that person we aren't talking about wouldn't want you to read it. He would prefer it had never been published at all. Makes it even more enjoyable, doesn't it?
Happy New Thread, Rhonda. Looking forward to following you, in your reading life, for another year.
Hope you had a great holiday with the loved ones.
I also have my copy of Kindred. I will be starting it soon.
>25 cammykitty: That must be so hard, talking to the students about the election and what it means. I did read Fun Home years ago, and loved it then, so I am looking forward to it.
>26 scaifea: I am in the same position--- I read Blindness and it was great, but hard. He is quite a writer.
>27 msf59: Sweet picture, Mark! I think that you will really like Kindred
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar
This is a beautifully written memoir about Matar's experiences in trying to find out what happened to his father, Jaballa Matar, a Libyan diplomat, who became a political dissident under Qaddafi. He was kidnapped, held in a secret prison, and disappeared. This book details Matar's attempts to find his father, and also the way that the event affected Matar and his family. It is a heartbreaking story of exile, hope, anger and disappointment, all the more touching because Matar makes it clear that this is just one story of many.
Matar makes it clear just how hard the uncertainty is. "I envy the finality of funerals. I covet the certainty. How it must be to wrap one's hands around the bones, to choose how to place them, to be able to pat the patch of earth and sing a prayer.
Hi Rhonda, thank you so much for stopping by my thread. What a lovely thread topper pic and congratulations on already having one book finished!
Relying on my Irish heritage to leave you the following Happy New Year wishes for you and your family:
Dropping a star, Rhonda! Looking forward to following you this year. That memoir sounds like one for the list.
>30 Berly: Thanks, Kim! We will see how many plans last past MLK day.
>31 lkernagh: Thanks, Lori, for the New Year's wishes. They are apropos, because Banjo, jr is right now planning a study abroad semester in Ireland for the fall, and we are scheming to meet her there at some point.
>32 Crazymamie: Thanks for the star, Mamie! It really is a good book,
And speaking of books, I have two more un-reviewed from 2016.
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
This is a collection of essays, and a few poems, by young African American writers on the subject of race, mostly written in response to the killings of young black men; such as Trayvon Martin. THe essays are all very well written and worth reading, although, because they are written from multiple points of view, the book doesn't hang together as a whole as well as it's namesake, The FIre NExt TIme by James Baldwin, or by the recent long essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me
Some of the well known contributors to this book are Edwidge Danticat; Natasha Trethewey and Isabel Wilkerson. One of my favorite essays was by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah in which she talks about James Baldwin, and visits his home in France.
"James Baldwin lived in this house for more than twenty five years, and all that was left were half a dozen pink tea-cups and turquoise saucers buried by the house's rear wall, orange trees that were heavy with fruit, but the fruit was bitter and sharp to the taste. We see Baldwin's name in connection to the present condition more often than we see Faulkner's, Whitman's, or Thoreau's. We can visit houses and places where they lived and imagine how their geography shaped the authors and our collective vocabulary. By next year, Baldwin's house will just be another private memory for those who knew it."
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power by Robert Caro
I have now finished the fourth of Caro's multi-volume biography of LBJ, and I am mad at Caro now, for not having finished the fifth yet. This is just an awesome political biography, full of fascinating details, and enlightening about how politics works in the US. LBJ was certainly a jerk, but also a genius, and he knew how to get things done. It was interesting, because I grew up always thinking of Kennedy as a big hero, and not that he wasn't, but he would have never gotten the civil rights bill past. The feud between LBJ and Robert Kennedy was interesting, and reflects badly on both men. When I read it, I was sad for the lost opportunity, because the two actually had similar values, both cared about poverty and civil rights. If they would have worked together, think how much could have been accomplished.
>33 banjo123: Banjo Jr is going to Ireland!! My oldest did her Fall semester there and LOVED it! I didn't get a chance to visit her there, but you guys should go if you can--I still want to. : )
And two reviews already--great job!
>4 banjo123: I wanted to me more organised in my reading last year, and now this year I am just aiming for reading. In general....just read lots of books. ;)
>12 banjo123: ooooh, some goodies in there! Just Kids and The Shipping News for starters. I also really need to read Wolf Hall soon....I gave it a half hearted attempt 2 years ago, and abandoned. But I hear it really kicks in once you get hooked.
Lovely new place you have here.
I love all your lists and challenges. Your topper image struck a chord as I am (still) reading The Long long life of trees - gorgeous pictures of many, many trees (but very British - she needs a companion volume I think).
Ooh, a trip to Ireland. Sounds wonderful.
>33 banjo123: That seems like a wonderful excuse to go visit. One you should not pass up. Besides, you can engage in that wonderful parental right of embarrassing your child.
>36 Berly: Hi Kim! I forgot that your daughter studied in Ireland... I am glad to hear she had such a good time. Ireland looks so pretty, I think it'd be fun to visit. I hope that Banjo, Jr really does it... we wanted her to study abroad, but she has put it off til Senior year.
>37 Ireadthereforeiam: I am like that as well, alternate between lots of plans, and then giving up and just reading on whim. I will have to see how this year goes.
>38 charl08: Thanks! I don't know of any really good tree books that cover North America comprehensively. But it would be a fun idea.
>39 Oberon: Yes, I think if she actually gets to Ireland (she still has to apply to the program) we will definitely need to go and embarrass her.
>40 BLBera: Yes, Beth, hooray for meetups! I think you really should come to Oregon.
>41 arubabookwoman: Hmm I found the first part of Master of the Senate kind of hard to follow, actually, so many characters and Senate rules. But after the first bit, it reads easier, and Passage to Power was actually the easiest to follow, I think because I was more familiar with that time period.
Happy New Year, Rhonda! Sorry for the late greeting, but I've finally finished with my Christmas and New Year's Day work stretch and now have time to make the rounds.
I agree with your assessment of The Fire This Time. I found it to be uneven, with some good essays and many trivial ones, and overall it paled in comparison to Baldwin's searing nonfiction writings.
One of these days I am going to get to Caro's LBJ series, though probably not this year.
Happy New Year, Rhonda. What an amazing book plan you have put together for this year. I'll be looking forward to reading your reviews.
I read the Caro books awhile back and still think them the best biographies I have read. It completely changed my idea of LBJ and gave me a real understanding of how the Senate works.
I hope you are keeping warm. I can't believe the arctic cold here in the NW.
>33 banjo123: Rhonda - I will almost certainly be around in that part of the world in Autumn. A short hop across the Irish sea for a meet-up would be great.
Hello reading friends! Sorry that I haven't been around; we had out of town guests, which was fun, but busy. Then this morning I woke up with a cold and headache. I rested most of today, so hopefully tomorrow I will have more energy. (especially because I have to go to work.)
I did finish two books--Kindred and Fun Home and am almost done with The Mortifications
>43 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I was still glad to have read The Fire This Time; but it's reassuring to know that you had the same overall impression.
>44 Oregonreader: Jan, can you believe this weather? You were the one who actually piqued by interest in the Caro books. Thank you!
>45 The_Hibernator: So far Kindred is my favorite book of the year!
>46 PaulCranswick: That would be so exciting, Paul! Definitely an inducement to make this trip real.
Hi, Rhonda! Hope you had a good weekend. Good review of The Fire This Time. I have been trying to find that one on audio.
I think Ward has a new book of fiction coming out this year.
Sorry to hear that you too are down with the cold. I think I'm going to take some Tylenol soon and just crash out on the couch. You seem to be very productive, Rhonda. I am supposed to get my hair cut on Thursday ( and it needs it ) but if I feel like this tomorrow , I'll have to cancel my Thursday appointment. Ugh.
>48 msf59: Hooray for new fiction from Ward! I thought Salvage the Bones was amazing.
>49 vancouverdeb: I need a hair-cut as well, but have been too lazy to schedule it! I think my cold is getting better... but I did skip the symphony tonight, and I think I will skip my book group tomorrow, and stay home with a brandy.
>51 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! I am feeling a little bit better. There is a chance of a snow day tomorrow, which I would not mind.
Hope you're continuing to improve-taking it easy sounds like a good move. I've not read any Baldwin, but he keeps popping up in other books - Teju Cole wrote about his time in Europe in his new essay collection, so I would like to.
>53 charl08: Thanks, Charlotte! I read most of James Baldwin's works when I was younger, I think I would like to do some re-reading this year.
We are in the midst of a snow emergency here in Portland, and schools and workplaces have been closed. For me that's been good, since I could stay home and baby my cold. I pretty much lay around yesterday, did a little reading, and I am feeling a bit better today, although unfortunately I seem to have developed a mild case of pink-eye.
The weather has been harder on some other people in my city; there have been a number of power-outages, and tragically, four homeless people have died of exposure.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
This a a time travel novel by Octavia Butler, the woman who brought the African American experience to Science Fiction. Dana is an African American woman and writer, married to a white man, and living in 1976 Los Angeles. She finds her self pulled back, to a plantation in Maryland, where she meets and interacts with some of her ancestors, both black and white. Butler does not spare details in describing the horrors of slavery, but the most effective thing that she does, is to show how living and growing up in this culture shapes both blacks and whites. Dana and her husband both visit the past several times, spending time there both together and separately. The experience tests them as a couple and as individuals.
I read in an internet article that Butler wrote this book in response to a Black Power individual who had made a comment disparaging African Americans of previous generations who were passive in face of slavery and racism. Butler's book shows how hard it is to judge those of the past by our standards today.
This book was written in 1979, and it holds up well. The writing and character development are quite good, and I thought the plotting was top-notch.
>56 msf59: I read quite a bit of Butler before, including Kindred, I think, but it was in the 80's when I read a lot of Science Fiction. All I remember from that time is a general feeling of the books.
>57 scaifea: Thanks, Amber, I think that it's a light case... fingers crossed because in this snowstorm, I don't think I could get to the doctor's office.
And I have more books to review.....
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
I loved, loved, loved this book the first time I read it, right when it came out. So I was looking forward to the re-read, but, darn, it didn't hold up as well as I'd hoped. It's still a good book, and I loved the interplay between text and art-work, but this time around, it seemed overly-intellectual and self-involved. Oh, well. I will still give it four stars, for honesty, and for a fresh way of using words and graphics to create a intimate and crystal-clear picture on a dysfunctional, yet very interesting childhood.
Hooray for Fun Home! It still remains one of the best GN memoirs I have read. And that is sayin' a lot!
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
I got this book from Early Reviewers, as I was intrigued by the plot. It involved a Cuban family, in which the mother takes her twins, Isabel and Ulises, to the US as part of the Mariel boat lift of 1980. The father refuses, and stays in Cuba. The book takes us through a long separation, Ulises growing to manhood with a love for the classics (allusions to the Odyssey) and fine cigars; Isabel becomes a nun; Soledad, the mother, has a career, and meets another man. And then the book takes us back to Cuba, and a difficult reunion.
I really liked this book at first, it has a lot going for it, larger than life characters, strange plot twists, and an affinity to classic literature from the west and from Latin America. However, at some point, the book became a bit of a slog for me. Not to go into details, but one of the themes of the book is the division between body and spirit. Palacio uses descriptions of illness, sexuality, and squalor to highlight this. This theme did not resonate well for me, but I looked up an interview with Palacio, and found our that he is very Catholic-identified. I think that the book has a number of Catholic themes, which did not so much work for me, but might work for someone with a Catholic background and a tolerance for lots of sex.
>60 msf59: Mark, you should make a list of your favorite GN memoirs! What else is on the list?
Rhonda, I'm sorry you are not feeling well. But hopefully, you can stay at home and rest with no guilty feelings. It would be too stressful to try to get anywhere on our icy streets. I am spending my days reading and talking to my dog. I'm hoping to get out tomorrow afternoon.
>61 banjo123: I got that through LTER too and I also had higher hopes in the beginning that just weren't borne out. I said at the time that I would have been more interested in reading the book that it could have been instead of the book it ended up being.
>62 banjo123: Ooh, that would be a tall order, Rhonda. I will have to give that some thought.
Sorry, you are under the weather. Sending healing vibes.
>63 Oregonreader: Thanks, Jan! I ended up working from home today, and I am feeling better, but still pretty puny. Reading and talking to the dog sounds about what I am good for.
>64 ursula: Sounds like we had similar feelings, Ursula. I would be interested in reading his future books, perhaps, because there definitely was something there.
>65 msf59: Think away, Mark! and thanks for the healing vibes.
Great comments on your reading, as always, Rhonda. After seeing yours and Ursula's comments on The Mortifications, I think I'll pass on it and wait for his next one.
The Double by Jose Saramago
My book group is reading this, and I will be interested in the discussion. The woman who proposed it had read it before, but wanted to re-read it. Now I am curious about why she wanted to re-read it; I liked the book, but it's a bit gimmicky. I thought that Blindness (the other book by Saramago which I've read) was a much stronger book. In the double, a math teacher is watching a movie on video, and discovers that one of the bit players is his double. He becomes obsessed with finding out who the double is and meeting him, and feels threatened by his existence.
Saramago's writing style is unique, but one gets used to it quickly, and it's not hard to read. The story is told by a unknown narrator in a humorous, sometimes arch tone. At times I found the book a little too odd, and I could not understand why the two men (math teacher and actor) acted as they did. I think part of it might be a European thing? It seemed like they were always making things more complicated than they needed to. The story, in one sense, seemed a bit slight for a novel. But the ending was powerful and it did make me think about identity and uniqueness.
Congratulations on Banjo Jr heading to Ireland for a semester! Sorry to learn that you have been hit with a cold. That darn cold is being overly friendly with too many people here on LT! Hope you are feeling better soon.
>72 BLBera: I will let you all know how the discussion goes! Though we do have the problem in the book group, of some people will stop reading the book if they don't like it, and that's not so good for discussion.
>73 lkernagh: Yes, this is the peskiest cold. I am better, but still pretty funky. And it's still all icy here, so not really conducive to outings.
Today is Banjo, jr's last day at home, before returning to college after winter break. We will miss her, but I think that she is ready to be out of here (very politely, though).
Reading-wise: I am finding The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million very interesting. My only quarrel is that the print in my copy is small, and some of it in italic, and my eyes do not like it.
It is a pesky cold, Rhonda. I find it kind of lingers on and leaves me with a quite a bit of fatigue. Sorry about your lousy weather. Ours has been bad, but has shaped up recently. I hope yours gets better fairly soon. Sad about the people dying of exposure. Sadly it happens in Canada, not so often in my city, but with the low temps in some areas, sometimes there are not enough shelters.
It must be a mixed feeling day, with Banjo Jr leaving to go back to college. However, I have a sister with a son , aged 26 and he is going to university in the UK. He's working on his PhD and though he enjoys coming home, according to my sister, he gets bored pretty fast. Two weeks at home over Christmas was all he could take :) My sister said that she and her husband felt that they had to entertain him and take him places. Funny feeling, that.
Rhonda--sending you lots of get-well-soon mojo. I am so glad to see the rain come and the snow go!!! It was fun in the beginning, but everyone in my house has cabin fever at this point. I wasn't planning on reading Butler, but Kindred sounds awesome and now I have to go find it. Thanks!
>75 vancouverdeb: Thanks, Deb, I am finally on the other side of the cold, thank goodness. And apparently our weather is turning to rain, which we are glad for.
That's interesting about your nephew... I can see feeling like we needed to entertain....
>76 Berly: Thanks, Kim! You will love Kindred
The good thing about all the snow and sick, is lots of reading time. I finished another one...
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn
This is the story of Mendelsohn's attempts to find out more about six family members (his mother's uncle and his wife and daughters) who were killed by Nazi's in a small Polish town. The rest of the family had emigrated to the US, or Palestine, but this uncle had gone back to Bolechow, Portland, and had a butcher shop there. The family had very little information about what happened to the family, and Mendelsohn spent five years interviewing people and searching documents in a variety of countries: Australia, Israel, Denmark, Poland, in an attempt to reconstruct as much as he could of their lives and deaths.
Mendelsohn writes like old men tell stories; starting on one topic, and then veering off to two or three other stories, before circling back. He talks about his family history, the time he broke his brother, Matt's arm, the story of Cain and Abel, and then circles around back to his investigations. Mendelsohn had been close to his grandfather, who he describes as telling stories exactly like this.
I loved how much respect Mendelsohn had for the people he interviewed. He clearly really likes older people.
The story itself was interesting, and very affecting. It was hard to read, at times, because it was graphic in describing the horrors of the Holocaust. And those horrors mean more when personalized, to one family, or to one 16 year old girl.
I found you! And starred you!
Sorry you're under the weather and that you all have been hit with outlandish weather! Take good care and I look forward to a meet-up sometime this year!
Wow! You've gotten a lot of reading done. Yes, I can see why you said the characters in The Double were making life to difficult for themselves. After all, unless the double claims to be you, why would it matter? Twins deal with that all the time. I used to know one twin but not her sister and she warned me that her sister hated people who mistook her for the other and would be very rude, and of course people have heard stories of twins switching places... but if two people have separate lives, no problem until you go stirring it up. Right?
Sorry the Bechdal didn't hold up. I can see why you would call it self-involved.
The Lost: A Search for Six sounds like a riveting read. I will look for it. Great comments, Rhonda.
I hope you continue to feel better and hope for a March meet up.
Hi Rhonda - I've had The lost: a search for six of six million waiting patiently on my shelves for far too many years, poor thing. Thanks for this discussion - I think I'll see if I can dig it up and add to the 'Read Sooner than Later' pile!
>79 EBT1002: Hi Ellen! And hooray for meet-ups. The weather and my cold are both better now.
>80 cammykitty: Thanks, Katie! So far 2017 has been good for reading. The Double was odd, but I was thinking about it tonight, and it does have a lot of good parts as well. I really liked the narrator.
I still think Fun Home is a good book--just not as awesome as I remembered.
>81 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! A march meet-up would be great.
>82 muddy21: Yes, the "read sooner" pile! Mine has extended into two different rooms. But The Lost: A Search really is good.
Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy Fun Home as much the second time. I read it a few years ago and loved it, but I wonder if I'd like it as much now. Often where we are in life has such a big influence on what we think about the things we read, doesn't it? I've been meaning to read Are You My Mother?, which I haven't got around to yet.
And thanks for the review of Kindred; I've seen that on tons of must-read-lists but it's a bit difficult to get a hold of it over here. Sounds interesting, though.
>78 banjo123: That is a sure fire book bullet for me, Rhonda, as it is a subject that I always feel impelled to read.
Have a lovely weekend.
>84 PawsforThought: Hi Paws! That is really true, reading really is an interaction between reader and writer. Are You My Mother? really is not as good, I am afraid.
>85 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! It really is a good book.
It's been a nice weekend so far. Today we went to the Portland Women's March, which was amazing; 100,000 people and completely peaceful. Banjo, jr went to the march in New York. It was inspiring.
And I have been getting some reading done! I have a couple books to review, but later. Tonight I am tired.
It's so inspiring to see the photos of marches from all over both the US and the rest of the world. Gives me a little bit of hope for the future in an otherwise bleak world.
I'd have loved to participate in a march, but the closest one to me was in Stockholm and that's a whole days travel one way and I have work.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda! Hooray for the parades. It was so good to see many of my LT and other bookish friends taking part in this important, peaceful protest. I am not sure I have ever seen the left, organize this well. We NEED to keep it up.
The North Water by Ian McGuire
This is a thriller about a serial killer who is on a whaling ship. It is well written, well plotted, and I think that the historical facts are well-researched. I read it as it's one of the NYT best reads of 2016; it probably wouldn't be my choice, as I am not into thrillers. Also, the parts about killing animals (seals, whales, bears) was difficult to read, and I am not normally squeamish about those things, so skip this book if animal cruelty is a trigger.
However, if you like thrillers, and historical fiction, this is a good one.
The Peculiar Life of the Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
This was an Early Reviewer book; it is a novella by a French-Canadian author, with a little romance, a little poetry, and a bit of an eerie world-view. It was a fairly easy read, and I think that people might like it if they liked The Little Paris Bookshop or The Elegance of the Hedgehog. For me, I did not like it. It was too creepy to have the postman open other people's letters and try to take on someone else's life.
Rhonda, loved the picture of the March. I'm down in California caring for my sister or I would have been out there with you. It is amazing to have so many women worldwide joining together. It gives me hope.
Rhonda--Glad you had fun on the march. My daughter also went! Proud of both of you. : )
>87 banjo123: There was a march here in Bristol too (and all over the UK). I didn't make it but quite a few friends did and said it was a very positive event. I've deliberately not followed the news about *him* but I was reassured to hear the inauguration was half empty seats.
>95 Oregonreader: I agree. I was thrilled that it was world-wide and also glad to see a lot of men at our march here in San Diego (and I imagine everywhere).
>97 Berly: That's great that your daughter went! It was neat to see so many young women there.
>98 eclecticdodo: Pretty much everyone I know who marched found it very positive, except for the getting soaking wet in the rain bit. And it was touching to realize that people all over the world were marching in solidarity.
>99 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks, Reba, exactly.
Great picture of the Portland March, Rhonda! I've been thinking of ordering myself a pink pussy hat from Etsy. Thanks for marching. Even in Vancouver and around the world, there have been marches. I'm going to skip The North Water . Too much whaling , sea stuff and likely animal killing my for tastes. I like a good thriller and I enjoy historical fiction, but no thanks to sea stuff.
>102 banjo123: I think almost everyone has seen Lubachs video by now, Rhonda, and if not: watch it, as it is great ;-)
Rhonda--Potential Portland Meetup with BLBera (Beth)! Come check out the thread!
Super-cool, Kim---looking forward to it!
I have been off of Library Thing (I seem to spend my internet time obsessively reading news... not good for my blood pressure) However, I have gotten some good reading done, and will be back with reviews, hopefully soon.
Rhonda, I'm on a news fast right now and feeling a little better. I love the video. It's therapeutic!
>106 Oregonreader: Jan, I don't think I can handle a news-fast, but I am trying to spend less time on the news.
The weekend has been busy... we went to the coast for Mrs. Banjo's birthday with some friends. Unfortunately, Oregon was hit with an ice storm the day we were supposed to leave (Friday) so we left Saturday instead. Then, on Sunday, there was another snow-storm coming, so we came home early to avoid icy roads on the pass. It rained the whole time we were there, so most of our time was spent inside, playing games. Very fun and relaxing, but I had been hoping for more walks on the beach.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I was worried that this book would be a disappointment, as it has gotten so many great reviews, and often those books can be a let down. Also, I wasn't sure about the idea of the Underground Railroad being a real railroad. However, I ended up really liking the book. It won't make my top ten, but a solid 4 stars, for sure.
In this book the protagonist, Cora, is escaping slavery on the Underground Railroad, and in the process, makes stops in various communities that represent different hardships that African Americans have had to endure post-slavery, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. So the book is more conceptual than factual, which I initially worried would be confusing, but Whitehead managed to make it flow. Also, he was able to make Cora feel like a real, three dimensional person, as we saw her move through her journey.
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Well, I read this because it was on the NYT list of the best books of 2016, and I am really glad I did. The right-ward turn this country has taken makes much more sense now. Also, I feel better about my fellow-citizens who have turned to right-wing candidates, now that I understand how much corporate money was spent to make this happen.
But, depressing, and hard to see how things will change, as long as the few with money are allowed to use it to influence government and avoid taxation, with few or no restrictions.
Kate Carroll De Gutes: Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear
For my Lesbian book-group. This is a nicely written collection of essays that cover the author's marriage and divorce, and also her struggles with elder-care for her mother and father. She is a local writer, so the setting is familiar, and I really enjoyed the book.
>111 Berly: Kim I think the snow came up here to Seattle--we've had about 12 inches overnight and over the day today. Luckily, it's supposed to warm up soon, so it probably won't stay around long.
>109 banjo123: I've had Dark Money on my wishlist since it came out, and with everything that's happened since Trump's election I was wondering if it was even still relevant (with much worse things to worry about). Sounds like it is still a very important book!
>109 banjo123: (and >112 BLBera:) I agree that Dark Money sounds like something I should read, too. Even without reading it, I am reminded of the Stalwarts who were so much in power in the 1870s. Their "reign" was brief but, with what little I actually know about them (having especially read Destiny of the Republic) reminds me of today. It's hard to imagine how the power that is so securely manifested among a very few billionaires can be shaken loose.
I have heard about Objects in the Mirror somewhere. It sounds good and I always love when our region is featured in good lit.
>107 banjo123: A full-on news-fast would indeed be hard. I feel like I need to keep up because things are changing every day, sometimes every hour (it feels like). But after the first week or so, I'm definitely trying to pace myself.
I hope your week is off to a good start, Rhonda!
Hi, Rhonda! Sorry, to hear about all your cruddy weather. I just talked to my sister in Salem and they haven't had it as bad. More rain.
Dark Money sounds good but I may have to hold off a bit. Our current political environment is stressful enough.
>111 Berly: I was so happy not to be snowed in today. Hooray!
>112 BLBera: Thanks, Beth. I think you'd like Objects in Mirror and it's short.
>113 arubabookwoman: I know! I wondered about the relevance to Dark Money, but I found it to be helpful background.
>114 EBT1002: Yes, it was fun! At one point she had a detailed description of The Primary Domain, scene of a number of memorable dates, back in the day.
>115 msf59: This weather is so unusual for Portland, Mark.
January Wrap-Up/ Feb. Plans:
January was a great month for reading! 11 books read. 7 fiction, 5 are non-fiction . My favorite for the month was The Lost: a search for six of six million
For February I have planned:
War and Turpentine
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan
I have a book by Paul Theroux for the non-fiction challenge, but can't recall what it is.
My book club is reading Elephant Company
And hopefully some more from my TBR piles! I think I will wait, though, to read these before planning on any others.
I read The Good Wife last year and thought it was very well done. Happy Tuesday, Rhonda!
>105 banjo123: obsessively reading news. Aren't we all? I'm realizing that one of the things I want in a politician is someone I trust enough so I don't feel the need to look at the news all the time. - When you want a break from it, just tell yourself the man is a master manipulator and he's making the headlines to distract, divide and control us. If his media viewership drops, he'll be a very sad boy.
Looks like January was a good reading month! Wishing you a good February as well.
Rhonda--I am enjoying our more "normal" temperatures and the thought of sun on Sunday. : )
>118 Crazymamie: Thanks, Mamie! I finished The Good Wife. and wasn't crazy about it. But it was well written.
>119 cammykitty: Thanks, Katie! So far February is not-so-good reading-wise. But I still have time.
>120 Berly: The weather has been SO nice this weekend! We took a little walk with Chica, this afternoon, at Oak's Bottom. Very nice.
I realized I have been remiss in 2017, no pictures of pets in my thread! Here are Chica and Willi.
I finished The Good Wife, and will review soon. My other book was War and Turpentine; which is beautifully written, but very literary. As a result, after 54 or 5 pages, I keep losing track of what's happening. So, slow reading. I am on page 152. I don't mind the slow reading, but it was due back at the library today. I returned it and will put it back on hold.... In the meantime, I need to read a book group book, Elephant Company. Unfortunately, the early reviews by Mrs. Banjo are not that good; so not looking forward to it. I did start my lesbian book-group book Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc. I like it, but it reminds me of Colette and for me, reading too much at a time is like eating too many chocolates.
I kind of want to pick up something else that's appealing, and not hard to read...
Rhonda, I just discovered Stewart O'Nan and read Last Night at the Lobster. I was impressed with his writing and will pick out more. I'll be looking forward to your review of The Good Wife.
Alas, my news-fast didn't last long and I'm back in full misery!
>123 Oregonreader: I think I may have picked the wrong O'Nan-- this didn't wow me.
Sorry about the full misery! It's hard to avoid. I am trying to calm myself by doing regular political actions (phone calls, postcards, rallies). One of my neighbors had a postcard party, and that was fun.
The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan
This book follows a young, pregnant wife whose husband is arrested, and convicted of murder and spends 26 years in prison. It's well written, but I could not find much sympathy for the characters. It didn't seem that either husband or wife expressed the kind of horror and remorse that I would expect in the face of a pretty nasty crime. An elderly woman was killed by being bludgeoned over the head. Then they tried to burn the house down to cover up the crime. Our young wife is convinced, without any evidence, that her husband's accomplice was the one responsible. It's really hard on her, being separated from her husband, and raising their son alone, for all those years. It would be hard, but I couldn't figure out why she stuck with him.
Hi, Rhonda! Hooray for Chica and Willi. They make a fine team.
Sorry, your O'Nan fell short. Was this your first?
>126 EBT1002: Hmm... maybe I will try another O'Nan. And hopefully Francis and Banjo will show up here sometime soon.
>127 msf59: Thanks Mark! It was my first O'Nan. I think it felt a little too much like an issue novel to me.
But no worries. Now I am reading The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux and he writes like a dream.
Hi Rhonda - I LOVE Theroux's train books. I think Patagonian Express was the first one I read, and I was hooked.
>129 BLBera: I am loving patagonian express as well. I haven't read anything by Theroux before, and I am pleasantly surprised.
QUESTION: I had planned to host a March Murakami read. I think that this could be a lot of fun, but now am wondering, is this the right timing? Are people interested in participating?
Rhonda, I just recently read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and was blown away. I couldn't put it down. I had never read anything by Murakami before. I would be interested in participating whenever it happens. I plan to read more of his work at some point.
This month I had my first experience of Stewart O'Nan and was impressed.
I have read only one Murakami so far and need to get to something of his. I would try to join, Rhonda.
Have a great weekend.
Hi Rhonda. My copy of Dark Money has arrived--hope to get to it soon.
Looking forward to seeing you at the Great Portland LT Meetup in a few weeks!
Well, I think I will wait and do a Murakami month in May, or maybe June. I think that it would make for good discussion.
>131 BLBera: Beth, I am excited about our great meet up!
>132 Oregonreader: I haven't read The Wind Up Bird Chronicles yet,it's high on my list.
>133 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! The weekend was good, but went fast.
>134 arubabookwoman: Hooray! It will be an epic meet-up.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
I had been meaning for some time to pick this up, and I did so for the Obama' reading challenge. It's just a great essay on race and America, a very good companion to Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me. Sad how much is still the same.
Here's a passage I liked:
“To accept one's past - one's history - is not the same things as drowning in it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”
I've just bought my first Baldwin as part of a birthday haul. One of the reasons I picked it up was because of the Teju Cole book of essays - he talks about Baldwin a lot.
I love the quote.
I'm not a Murakami fan, but maybe a month of enthusiastic LTers will convince me (it's happened before :-)
I can't wait, Rhonda! I don't think I've read that Baldwin, in any case, I'm due for a reread if I have.
>137 charl08: I haven't read anything by Teju Cole --- it sounds like I should.
>138 BLBera: It's a good time for a re-read.... and it is short.
I have a couple more reviews to do, although my favorite book for February is The Old Patagonian Express and I want to wait to review until I can gather my thoughts. I have started Homegoing, which I am enjoying so far.
Therese and Isabelle by Violette Leduc
I read this for my lesbian book group. The book has an interesting story. It was first written as the opening section of Leduc’s novel Ravages which was published in 1955. This was the first part of the novel, and was an erotic description of a love affair between two schoolgirls. It was too shocking for the publishers, and to Leduc's dismay, the book was published without it. Bits and pieces were published over the years, but it wasn't published as written until 2000, when it was published in French. It was published in English in 2012.
The writing is beautiful, and you really feel the intensity of adolescent sexual awakening. The only problem for me, is the book has little else in the way of plot or character development. But still worth reading, and I will be interested to see what the book group thinks.
Elephant Company by Vicki Croke
We read this for my other book group, really it is not that well written, and I wouldn't recommend reading it. But I did learn one interesting thing. The book is about an Englishman who trained elephants in Burma, and led an elephant brigade during WWII. The elephants helped build bridges and other things. At one point, he was leading a group of about 30 elephants, and a bunch of refugee women and children. They were trying to leave Burma to escape the Japanese, so were trekking out, with the Japanese behind them, attempting to cross over to India (at Assam). They reached a point where there was nothing ahead of them but a steep escarpment. They could not go back, because of the Japanese army, and elephants, of course, can't climb rocks.
They ended up carving a staircase into the rock (it was soapstone) which took 2 1/2 days, and then they were able to persuade the elephants to climb up the staircase. Pretty amazing, but now that I've told the story, you can skip the book.
That is amazing. I didn't know elephants could manage stairs.
And thanks for one I don't need to read!
>136 banjo123: Yay for the Obama read and I do love that quote. And I am in for Murakami May or June.
>142 charl08: Pretty crazy, stairs. But a good one to skip.
>143 Berly: Thanks, Kim! Baldwin is so quotable.
It's been a busy weekend, and I haven't had time to catch up with reviews, or to reflect on February's reading. I did finish another book A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara which I have mixed feelings about, as I found it wonderfully written, but emotionally manipulative. I am now reading Words Will Break Cement for the non-fiction read. I have The Confessions of Nat Turner, just in from the library, for the AAC, and All the King's Men for the Obama Read Challenge.
Yikes! It's been a busy week. Banjo, jr was home for spring break, and we kept busy with movies, a play and a basketball game. Now she is gone, and I need to catch up on chores, sleep and LT.
I am going to try to do quick reviews on the books that are overdue, to get back on track.
And hey, next week, LT meet-up!
The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux
In 1979, Theroux travelled by train from Boston to Patagonia. He explains that travel writing should be about the travel, and so this book is all about the train and his stops along the way, and not, at all about Patagonia. He explains in depth the disadvantages of airplan travel, where really there is not sense of journey: “You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.”
I loved his writing, with a sly sense of humor, and loved the descriptions of his tavel, and of the South America he went through. It was interesting to get a snapshot of South American countries in 1979, and think about what was ahead for these countries. Just really an enjoyable book for me.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda! Hooray for a Meet-Up! I hope I can make it out there next year, to see my PNW pals!!
I hope you enjoy Nat Turner. I thought it was excellent.
>147 msf59: Thanks, Mark. That's nice to hear a good review for Nat Turner. I haven't really started it yet.
For my March reading, I am pretty far on Words will Break Cement, and I am liking it. However, my book group meets next week and we are reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings I am hoping to finish that one today or tomorrow, because Mrs. Banjo need to read it also. (it's a couples book group) Nat Turner is after those. I have All the King's Men for the Obama read, but that's looking doubtful.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Gyasi has written a good first novel, and it's an interesting story. I have to confess, though, that I went into this one with high hopes, due to good reviews from other LT'ers, and the fact that Gyasi was impressive when I heard her speak, and in the end this book was just a little thin for me.
Gyasi is from Ghana, and came to the US as a child. This book follows the descendants of two Ghanaian half-sisters. One girl becomes the African wife of a slave trader. The other girl is sold into slavery and and shipped to the United States. Gyasi was given the idea for the book when she toured one of the slave castles on the coast of Ghana, and realized that the Slave traders had African "wives" who lived with them upstairs, while the slaves where kept in horrific conditions in the dungeons.
The book follows the descendants of the two women alternately, with each chapter the story of a different descendant, thus taking us from the early days of the slave trad up to the present day. I felt that this simple structure kept the book feeling a bit thin, but it was definitely a good read. I did wonder a bit about not having a central main character that went through the book. I felt that this perhaps reflected a more African notion by being the story of a community rather than an individual.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This book is about four male college friends, and their subsequent relationships/careers/etc. in New York City. The center of the book is Jude, who was the victim of horrible childhood trauma, including physical and sexual abuse, how that effects him in adulthood, and how his friends (and others) relate to him. Frankly, the abuse piece was too much. It felt like abuse voyeurism, and I was disappointed in Yanagihara.
>150 banjo123: I am impressed that you managed to get through that one, Rhonda. For a book that was shortlisted for all the major awards it certainly has the habit of putting off its readership. Not sure that I will be rushing towards my copy.
>151 PaulCranswick: I should be honest and say that I skimmed large portions of this book. Also, I actually liked some things about this book---the structure, with differing points of view and over lapping time periods was interesting.
I avoided this because of the abuse theme and because I found the previous book (also with a strong abuse theme) such hard work. The previous book was interesting in quesrioning cultural relativism and apparently based on a real case of an anthropologist (not sure if you have read it, sorry). Not an author I approach lightly.
I posted here earlier, or thought I did. But it's not here. Sigh. Let's try again.
Rhonda--Really nice review of some hard books...which I am not going to read just yet!! ; )
Can't wait to see you this weekend! Is Mrs. Banjo coming? I hope so. Tell her Hi! for me. And Happy Monday to both of you!
>146 banjo123: I'm pretty sure Hubby has a copy of that. Sounds like I should find it and read it.
>153 charl08: hi Charlotte! I did read The People in the Trees and it was hard, but interesting. But after this one I don't think I will read any others by Yanagihara unless she picks a different theme.
>154 Berly: Yay for meet-ups! See you soon.
>155 RebaRelishesReading: Yes, you should read it. With all the travel you do, it's bound to be interesting.
>156 ursula: Good point, Ursula. It's interesting how differently people can feel about the same book.
>158 BLBera: Beth, so sorry to have missed the meet-up.
This week-end has been less than stellar. I have mostly spent it coughing and resting. Bleech. And I missed the epic LT meet-up! Double blech! Today I am a teeny bit better, but still not up to reading much.
Sorry to see that you have not been so well, Rhonda.
I trust that a bit of rest will see you back to normal.
Happy Sunday, Rhonda! So sorry to hear you missed the Meet-up. It sounded wonderful. I am so glad to hear folks are coming in from out of town. How great is that? I hope to make it it to Portland, early next year.
Sorry, you are feeling under the weather. Are you still getting some reading in?
Another one here to wish you better. Missed you and Mrs B yesterday. Next one!!
Oh, dang, Rhonda - I'm sorry that you missed the meet-up! And I hope you're better soon!
I'm so sorry to hear you are sick, Rhonda. Maybe the occasional days of sun we are getting will improve your spirits if not your health. I missed the meet-up as well. I had a family/time conflict. It looks like we missed a fun day.
Feel better soon, Rhonda. There seems to be a lot of stuff going around right now.
Rhonda--I hope you are feeling better. I too am sorry you missed the meetup. It was great fun. We are thinking of repeating it sometime in the summer in Seattle--maybe you can come to that.
Happy spring, everyone, and thanks for the get well wishes. I am better today, but ended up staying home from work , a good call as I still wasn't worth much. But tomorrow should be way better.
>160 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul! I am working on it.
>161 msf59: Mark, the annoying thing is that for most of the weekend I was too puny to read. I spent time either sleeping or playing TypeShift, which could become a new obsession. I did do a little reading today, though, so hopefully the mojo is back.
>162 EBT1002: thanks, Ellen
>163 Berly: Oh thanks, Kim. Next time I will take extra vitamins ahead of the meetup.
>164 scaifea: Thank you, Amber!
>165 Oregonreader: The sun is so nice, Jan! I do love spring.
>166 BLBera: Yes, it's been a buggy year.
>167 arubabookwoman: Thanks! A summer jaunt to Seattle is definitely possible.
>168 banjo123: Did you make it back into work today? I hope you're not too wiped out
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