sussabmax's 2009 reading
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I like this idea, talking about all the reading we do. I read a fair amount of magazines, in addition to books, and I like the idea of logging that kind of thing, too. Plus, online reading, which takes up a lot of my time. I read most of my news online, for instance. When I stop to think about how much reading I really do, in addition to all the books I read, it is kind of staggering, really. Oh, and reading to my kids. I don't generally include the books I read to my 6 year old in my Challenge thread, but it is more reading, too. So, I am going to try to keep up my challenge thread and this one for now.
. . . it is kind of staggering
That was my point for including it with regards to the group. We are reading interesting things all the time; they just might not always be in book form.
I think this is a good place to talk about books I abandon, as well. Sometimes I get a couple of 100 pages in before I give up, and that is definitely reading!
So far this year, in addition to the three books I have finished:
1 copy of People magazine, not quite finished yet. I picked this up at the checkout counter at the grocery store, because of the cover story on people who lost half their body weight. I don't want to lose quite half of what I weigh, but I do want to lose a lot of weight, so I was interested. I had no idea, though, that People had so many book reviews! That was a pleasant surprise.
About 80 pages of The Idea of Perfection, by Kate Grenville. I wanted to like this book, which I chose for the Orange January challenge (and also because of many recommendations here), but I just could not get into it. I didn't want to pick it up again when I was sitting down to read before bed last night, so I picked up something else. I may come back to this, though, because I do still find myself thinking about the book and the characters.
A copy of Prevention magazine, to which I subscribe. You can't tell it by looking at me, but I am actually pretty health conscious. I haven't been putting this into practice as much lately, but I am turning over a new leaf, and I subscribed to this magazine to help me in that direction.
Maybe 75 pages of Natural History by Justina Robson. I just couldn't get into this one.Maybe I could have perservered and liked it in time, but it was a library book, and I just took it back rather than renewing. I really thought I would love it, but it seemed to jump around a lot, and I couldn't get a handle on any of the characters. I wasn't excited about picking it up again, so I stopped.
I have also read quite a bit of Captain Underpants, Berenstain Bears and Sam and the Firefly to my son (6) before bed. My daughter (11) and I are not doing a read-aloud right now, but I think we should find one. I like reading with her, too, and she enjoys it as well. We used to do it regularly, but got out of the habit when we moved to the house.
This weekend, in addition to finishing two more Orange shortlist books, I went to my parents' house and read gossip magazines! I would never buy these, mostly because they go so quickly, but they are fun to read since my mom and grandma buy them anyway. I read Woman's World (which always has some interesting recipes), The Globe and The National Enquirer, and now I feel full up on pop culture information, ha ha.
I also spent a lot of time on Change.org reading about various causes that people are voting on to bring to our new presidents attenion, and voing on some myself. I think this is a great idea to get people involved, and learn what is important to citizens.
#3: I had the same experience as you with Natural History - I got it out of the library, tried it, lasted about 50 pages, took it back. It didn't grab me at all, but some people rave about how good she is. And perhaps she is, but I couldn't see it!
>5 timjones: Glad to know it isn't just me! I would have stopped anyway, because life is too short to force myself to read anything, when there are so many good books out there, but I am still glad to know someone else feels the same way. I was so disappointed, though, after reading a lot of recommendations.
>6 aluvalibri: I think I will pick it back up this weekend and try again. I may have just not been in the right mood. I am only giving it another 50 pages or so, though, and if it doesn't grab me by then, I am done.
I am reading a ton of stuff on electricity today, doing training in case our union goes on strike in a few months. I hope they don't, as I really don't know anything about the job I have been assigned to (Installation and Repair for the phone company--or, as we call it around here, climbing poles). It is interesting, though.
>3 sussabmax: I love Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman (not sure I warmed up to Felicity Porceline though)! Just look at the little play in their names:-)
Yeah, the name thing is interesting, but I just want to shake the characters! Surely they get better, right? I just think that fully grown adults with SO many social ineptitudes need to suck it up and do better. Not that I am socially perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but these people are pretty far from perfect. I just think they could be a little farther along the spectrum and still make good points about non-perfection. But, maybe I am not giving them enough time to make the point. I will probably pick it up again if I get through my current book before I need to take this back to the library.
Okay, I was thinking that I would keep my thread over in the 50 book challenge thread, but I can't keep them both up. For one thing, I want to make observations about my reading as a total which don't make sense if books and non-books are separated. And for another, I don't really have time to keep them both up!
So, here is my old thread with the first 5 books, and everything else will be here.
Starting that out:
6. When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson
This is one of the books I am reading for Orange January. I really enjoyed this. The characters were vivid, and I felt like I knew them. I really enjoyed the way the book explored the strong mother character, and how she stunts the growth of her children while trying to do what she thinks is best for them (which is of course really what she thinks is best for her). I was fascinated with the way two of her children have a possibility of breaking away and finally growing up, while the other two seem hopelessly lost. I wanted to shake these people many times, but I cared about what happened to them, except possibly the two youngest adult children. Those two seemed so lost, they weren't interesting in themselves, but they did provide an interesting tension in the story. Great book.
Orange January has been interesting not just for the great books I am reading, but also for what I am learning about the process of choosing books to read. Normally I don't really plan ahead what I am going to read. I finish one book and head the Mount TBR and peruse the choices until one leaps out at me. Sometimes I have a general idea about reading something that I have been wanting to re-read, or a new purchase I am particularly excited about, but generally it is wide open. This month, I pulled a stack of books to choose from as the month progresses. I probably have too many--something like 7 books remain, in addition to my current read and the 6 I have already read--but it is still greatly limited set compared to what I usually have to choose from when I finish a book.
At first I thought I would rebel against this limit. I thought I would struggle to settle on something, and lose time choosing, as I often do, or long for something outside the stack. Actually, though, it has been great. It is much easier to choose from a limited stack, and there is still plenty of choice. I am thinking I may keep the short stack idea up after January, although I will choose my stacks differently, I think. I could choose books from prize lists, I suppose, or genres, but I usually like to have more variety. The only problem I am having with Orange January is that almost all of these books are general fiction, not usually my biggest category. But, I could compile a stack of books that isn't necessarily limited by type. I could just pull a stack of books I think have been on the TBR list too long. I think I will try that in future months.
Oh, that does sound interesting, beeg! I will have to see if I can find that in the library. I like unreliable narrator books, although it can be hard to do them well.
7. Alias Grace
I really enjoyed this one, especially the ambiguous ending. I really like this type of novel (when it is well done), where an author takes a real story and fleshes it out in fiction. Of course, there is no way to know so much about what the real Grace Marks thought, but the skeleton of the story is put together using articles and books from the time (mid-nineteenth century; Grace was convicted an accessory to the murder of her employer).Very interesting, and well done.
Other than that, I have mostly been reading training slides, still. That, and the brochure for the Y, which I joined with a friend last night. Exercise, here I come! I may have to try audio books again.
Hi Sussabmax. I liked Alias Grace for the reason that you mentioned. You might also enjoy Henry and Clara by Thomas Mallon, which is a fictionalized, historically-based account of the couple that sat in Lincoln's box the night he was shot.
You might also like a wonderful book I just read which is inspired by real murders in 1880s Ontario, told subtly, called The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan. I talk a little bit more about it on my thread.
Oh, I should have checked this site before I went to the library tonight! I will keep these suggestions in mind, thank you. Because, goodness knows, I don't have enough to read already, ;-).
8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Wow, I had totally forgotten what a wonderful book this is! I picked it up this month because there is some kind of movement to read it as a community here, with multiple discussion groups scheduled (although I think I may have missed them all). Also, NPR had someone on who was talking about having grade school kids read it, and how people want to shelter their children from this sort of thing, but she thinks kids can handle it, and anyway, they take different things from the book than adults do. So, I thought it would be good for my 11 year old daughter to read. I haven't given it to her yet, but I am looking forward to discussing it with her.
This is such a great book. I don't have anything to say that hasn't been said before, many times, but I am just in awe of the way Lee writes a book that works on so many levels, and is so very compelling. The whole situation was so tragic, it could have been very difficult to read (and in some ways it was), but it was also so charming that I had difficulty putting it down. I am so glad I read this again.
I also read my new copy of Prevention magazine this week. I am getting serious about working out again, and I find this sort of thing helps--reminders about how much good exercise does for you. This issue had an article on 10 good reasons to move, which reminds me that exercise isn't just a chore, but it is helpful in many ways. Good motivation.
I went ahead and renewed The Idea of Perfection when I went to the library this week. I didn't get to it before it was due, but I am not ready to completely give up on it yet. We'll see if I get through it this time.
#17: I read To Kill a Mockingbird as a set text at high school - I didn't enjoy many of our set texts, but I still remember how much I enjoyed this book. I must read it again!
I'm really looking forward to seeing what you make of The Idea of Perfection in the end (if you get that far!) I read it a year ago and I loved it, particularly the warts-and-all characters, although in the case of Felicity whatsit it was love to hate, obviously. I'd even go further than aluvalibri and say that I liked it MORE than The Secret River...!
Okay, you are all making me feel bad for not liking The Idea of Perfection. I picked it up again, but I am just not at all excited about it. I perservered through To Say Nothing of the Dog, another recommendation from here, even though I spent the whole time completely confused about how anyone could really like that book, much less love it. I found it a bit infuriating! I tried to pick TIOP up again yesterday, but I have been dreading picking it up today, so I know I am not going to read it. I have a Wendy Wasserstein book also due at the library on Tuesday, and I don't want to miss that.
I only have one book to add from last time. I had a training class last week that was not at my usual work location, so I had to drive rather than take the train. I lost an hour a day of reading time! I don't want to do that again--I just never seemed to have any time to read, and I hated that.
9. One Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I love Amy Tan. She is a beautiful writer, and her books are interesting stories. But her stories share a lot of commonality. All of her main characters seem to be women who are half-Chinese, who have trouble with an older, more Chinese relative (usually her mother, but in this case a much older half-sister), don't have children, and have troubles in their marriages. I tend to find these marriage troubles kind of irritating, actually. The woman involved seems way too prickly and self-centered in these situations, and not willing to compromise. They almost seem to prefer a relationship that is not completely happy. I do love her books, I just wish that she would turn her immense talents to some other characters, rather than re-writing the same character (herself, no doubt) into slightly different situations.
>20 sussabmax:, Amy Tan suffers from the Anita Brookner syndrome.
P.S. Does anyone know why some touchstones work and others do not? Or why some touchstones work some of the time but appear to go on walkabout at other times? Inquiring minds want to know.
P. P. S. sussabmax, I am sorry you do not like To Say Nothing of the Dog. I found it amusing. If the Wendy Wasserstein book is her last novel about the pediatrician, well . . . I finished it but wished I had not bothered to waste the time.
>20 sussabmax: Life is too short to read something you aren't into or don't like (no matter who else likes it). The Nancy Pearl rule is the first 100 pages, minus your age. If it doesn't do anything for you at that point, might as well move on.
It is the novel about the pediatrician, Elements of Style. It's an easy read, and sort of interesting, but kind of pointless. I'll probably go ahead and finish it, because it is a quick read, but it is not what I was expecting. I am finding it kind of interesting, because I just moved from a more wealthy area to what I consider a more normal area. They have nothing on New York City wealth, but it is the same type of thing, and I didn't really notice until I moved away quite how crazy they are! I mean, I didn't have one of those big houses and all that wealth (I lived in a very nice apartment in the area), but I saw these people at school events for years, and I thought they were relatively normal. Not so much. The way that really rich people, or even relatively rich people, act is just weird. Weird marriages, weird social activities, weird competitions. I am so glad I moved!
urania --What's the Anita Brookner syndrome -- I've only read Hotel du Lac and wasn't particularly impressed.
sussabmax --I do like Amy Tan -- I've learned more about Chinese social history from her than probably anywhere else. And she always draws me in with her quirky humor. I recently finished Saving Fish from Drowning -- there is a troubled marriage, but it's secondary here. The narrator is a ghost -- a tour guide who had carefully planned a trip to China and Burma for her friends and died before they got started. She can't rest while the tour goes on. It's kind of a ship-of-fools tale, but I found it intriguing.
>24 janeajones: Jane - The Anita Brookner syndrome is a disease that causes authors to return to the scene of the crime over and over and over again. They're fixated on the same story. Because I ;ove to quote myself so much, here is a copy of a post I made last summer on Virago Modern Classics:
So to return to the question, what do I think of Anita Brookner? Funny you should ask. Every time I read a new Brookner acquisition, I ask myself the same question. Here are my latest musings on your question, although by no means my definitive response. Brookner has essentially rewritten the same novel (at the rate of almost one a year) for the last twenty years, so in a certain sense she writes to a formula. Almost all of her novels (Lewis Percy is one of the exceptions) feature an adult female protagonist, either quite young (just making her “debut” onto the great stage of life) or in late middle age. Regardless of age, the protagonist nearly always feels herself alone, isolated from others even in the midst of a crowd, and certain that the parade either has or will pass her by without her having affected the world in a discernible way or having achieved a meaningful sense of self. She is an insignificant bit player, a wallflower in the drama of her own life. She knows or thinks she knows (I’ll return to this point later) that others have some “charms for the easy life.” These “others” know how to get what they want (the man, the attention, the career, the self-assurance, the family) – all the things that elude her. She also assumes – somewhat ahistorically I might add – that she is a woman born at the wrong place and time, that a generation or so earlier she would have fit in or managed to find a place. In my opinion, this time never actually existed (or a least not in the way she envisions it). As someone excluded from the great drama of life, she is a voyeur, and (this is the interesting part) one finds oneself drawn into a kind of voyeurism as well, peering not at the protagonist herself but at the author lurking beyond the margins of the texts. I, at any rate, feel I know Brookner (the biographical fallacy), yet on closer examination I realize that neither the protagonist nor the author has revealed very much about herself. On the one hand, I want to say the protagonist is the author; however, on closer examination the author is always an opaque presence.
Brookner is an art historian, so I think I will extend the art metaphor a bit further here. As a writer, she uses an extremely limited palette of colors. One could interpret this choice as either formulaic or a demonstration of extreme discipline. Certainly, she has developed as a stylist over the years. She has much more control over her medium than she did when she first began to write, even though the plot line has remained essentially unchanged. Her writing reminds me a bit of the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. He, too, uses a limited palette of colors and paints the same scene repeatedly. The bed on which the now famous Helga is pictured is also the prop for a painting of his dog. That room and that bed appear in hundreds of his paintings. Is Wyeth trite or sublime? I can’t make up my mind. Let me say merely that I feel annoyed when I look at his paintings. On the one hand, I do feel as if Wyeth’s work reveals some great insight, "Christina’s World" for example; on the other hand, I feel as if the artist is laughing at me for confusing sticky sentimentality with art - back to the dog again. I like that dog, but I am suspicious of the coziness, the charms for the easy life (again) that the picture seems to promise. The idealist in me wants to embrace that vision of life; the suspicious hermeneutist in me says, “Hmm, what family romance are we writing here? Life doesn’t work this way however much we might want to believe in this particular idyll.”
But to return to Brookner, two (or maybe three) things interest me about her work. I’ve always been fascinated by writers who return compulsively to the same question over and over again. John Irving is one writer who comes to mind. All of his novels keep picking at the same question: Can the abandoned, wounded child ever be healed? Where does this child find grace? I think he finally answers this question (for himself at least) in his latest novel Until I Find You. I’ll be curious to see if he ever writes another novel, and if he does will he keep on growing and developing as an artist or will he essentially stop where he is now. If I were the gambling sort, I’d bet he starts writing under a pseudonym in order to free himself of the baggage and expectations that have built up around his work and his persona. When I read Brookner, I sometimes toy with the idea, that she uses a pseudonym to write novels that are most decidedly “improper.” In the “unofficial,” totally fictitious biography I have created for her, she writes wildly erotic novels, with lots of heavy breathing, heaving breasts, etc. I could go on, but I’ll be discreet. But, in another “unofficial” and totally fictitious biography, I imagine that she is very much like the heroines of whom she writes – prim, tidy, maintaining decorum at all costs, and keeping the stiff upper lip even though she knows that nothing but loneliness and isolation will ever be her lot. Elements of her official biography would appear to bear out this judgment. She rarely gives interviews (more opacity there). Look at the jacket photo of her, the same one for twenty years. She looks so very prim and buttoned up. However, she was the first female Slade Professor at Cambridge. She certainly hasn’t been standing on the margins, waiting like a lonely puppy to be invited inside. And can a highly educated woman honestly believe these days that others really do have some charm for the easy life that has evaded her grasp? I don’t buy it. Furthermore, in reading one of her rare interviews, I was amused by the following comment: “I'm a middle-class, middle-brow novelist. And that's it. It amuses me” http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,429694,00.html. And that comment brings me back to my paranoia about Wyeth. Either his work is quite good, or he’s a middlebrow artist and amused.
>24 janeajones: That was actually the book I had in mind (Saving Fish from Drowning). I know the marriage wasn't the main focus of that book, but it ended the same way--they came through a harrowing experience, realized how much they meant to each other, and then went back home to...sort of patch together half of a relationship? Refusing to fully commit and actually live together, but still a couple. Although, maybe I am remembering SFFD incorrectly. But when Olivia and Simon do that at the end of this book, I was irritated and remembered that she had done it before.
Again, don't get me wrong, these are still wonderful books, and I wish I had an eighth of the talent that Tan does. I just think it would be interesting to see her do something different. And I am not terribly sympathetic with this particular character trait. I wish her characters would grow a bit more, not just come to an accomodation that still allows them to be so selfish while having something of a relationship still. These men are very patient with her protaganists, and I just don't think that many people are that patient, male or female. Most people want their partners to commit or move on, not hang out in limbo for years.
>25 urania1: Some excellent points in there. There is something interesting in seeing these issues examined repeatedly. When you take the works of authors like this as a whole, it is fascinating to see how they are working to understand these things. And these are some big issues, so I certainly wouldn't expect them to come to an understanding of them with one book. I am just a bit impatient with Tan's characters, because I find them selfish. And I am not the give everything to others type--I just don't think it is fair to get into a relationship with someone, expect them to understand you totally and be completely faithful, and then withhold your full commitment to the relationship. And, in Tan's books, that seems to be the happy ending she creates--these half-relationships. I think it is what she wants in her life, or what she has managed to find, so she justifies it (although of course I have no idea if this is true). I just don't think it is a satisfying ending to a story, or a satisfying way to live a life, so I find it frustrating.
10. Elements of Style by Wendy Wasserstein
Practically the whole time I was reading this book, I thought it was enjoyable enough, but kind of pointless. Then I got to the end, and realized I had been reading The Great Gatsby all along, and it became absolutely fascinating! The more I think about this book, the more I like it. I love the way Gatsby was transformed into a woman, and the relationship between the Gatsby character and the rich heiress transformed into an idolatry/friendship. I love many things about this book that I can't talk about without talking about the end, but suffice to say the end totally makes the book. There really is great genius here that is easy to miss. I borrowed this from the library, but I think I will have to go out and buy a copy for my own library.
Edited to try to fix touchstones
11. The Likeness by Tana French
I am in love with Tana French, I think. Her books remind me of the early Kate Atkinson stuff, with sort of fuzzy lines between reality and vaguer concepts. This book works as a straightforward mystery, with reasonable people. But it is also a fascinating look at identity and belonging and choosing your own life. I cannot wait until French writes more.
12. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Mark Bittman
This was a quick read, with nothing terribly new to me. Still, it is nice to see someone talk about just how much impact industrial meat farming has on our environment. I also like seeing people who are not vegetarians, and have no intention of becoming vegetarians acknowledge the fact that we eat far too much meat on average in this country. I like that he points out that if we want to improve conditions for meat animals, we have to reduce consumption, because the only way to continue production at the current level of demad is to continue to be cruel to those animals. And there are lots of good recipes in the book, which is nice, along with sample menus for 4 weeks.
ETA: I also read a lot of used car descriptions this weekend, since my car broke unexpectedly on Friday. My old car is a 1994 Ford Escort Station Wagon, worth about $500, and the last time I repaired it, I decided that it wouldn't be worth it to keep fixing it. So, I am not even messing with getting it towed to a mechanic (the engine was smoking when I got home), I am just going to have the Salvation Army tow it away, once I convince the kids to clean it out. In the meantime, I bought a (comparatively) enormous 2000 Ford Windstar. I am very excited about this--plenty of room to drive friends with us, and haul furniture (when I have money to buy it again :-)), and generally spread out a bit. The gas mileage is not as good as my little Escort, but it's not bad for the size of the vehicle. I am really liking it so far, although I have to get used to backing up such a big thing.
I have also been reading a lot of information on tourism in Chicago, because I am taking my children up there for a long weekend this coming weekend. We are really excited! The kids will be flying for the first time, and we are going to the Field Museum and the Shedd Acquarium, and an awesome-looking vegetarian diner, and going to a snow festival, and other things we haven't settled on yet.
13. Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
I really like Charles Stross. I am so glad that I recently discovered him, and that I discovered him after he wrote many books (unlike Tana French above, who has only written two books so far, and now I have to wait for more!). It may make me out of date, but it means I can go to the store or library and pick up more books right away (or as soon as I can justify the expense--because who am I kidding about the library?).
This was Stross's first novel, and it was very good. I liked the ideas, and the way he refuses to completely demonize his antagonists, even when he clearly disagrees with them. I like the way he thinks through what non-human societies might be like, and the true implications of a massive culture shock. Good stuff.
This weekend I read many plaques and exhibits at the Chicago Art Institute, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. We all (my kids and I) learned a lot, and had a lot of fun doing it. Our feet were sore, but we feel more cultured (well, not my 6 year old son), and closer as a family. Loads of fun!
congrats on the new car, and yay for Chicago, it's on my list of places to visit again someday, as there is still so much I want to do (besides shop the magnificent mile).
Chicago is tres fab. I love it and go there all the time. If you're a book lover, you must get down to the Seminary Book Co-op, THE best bookstore anywhere. If you're in the U of Chicago area, you should also visit Medici's a wonderful pastry and coffee shop there. In addition to the Co-op, the area has a plethora of other book stores. It is book lovers heaven. Speaking of book lovers heavens, has anyone visited Hay on Wye?
sussabmax--I've only read one book by Charles Stross--Glass House. I had never heard of him and picked it up because the premise sounded interesting--sending undesireables from the future to an environment set up as a suburban American town in "dark ages"--the 1950's--and see how society evolves. Is there any other Stross you recommend?
Stoss' the atrocity archives is a v. enjoyable conjoining of HP Lovecraft w/ espionage & computer hacking.
I've been reading his Merchant Wars series. I wouldn't call it great fiction, but it is interesting.
We avoided the Magnificent Mile, beeg, because we were spending enough money already! Plus, the kids wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I would have. We avoided bookstores for much the same reasons, plus all the weight to carry on the plane.
33> The only other Stross I have read is Accelerando, and I really liked that one, too. I plan on reading more, though, so watch this space, ;-).
I forgot a book:
14 (but really 13). Him, Her, Him Again, the End of Him by Patricia Marx
Marx is a really good writer, but I am officially too old for this crap. I just don't find neurotic 20-somethings with massively huge self-destructive streaks interesting anymore. I mean, the guy was an @$$hole! Why should I care about her obsession with him? It's just evidence that she is a moron, after all. And her parents, doing her job for her--no wonder she is such a mess. Serves them all right. I wished something much worse would happen to her, force her to grow up a bit. The book was very funny at times, though.
15. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
Fun fluff. I had this on my desk at work, and picked it up when I finished Singularity Sky. This was compulsively readable, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn't life-changing by any stretch of the imagination.
I just had a thought, wonder if there is a travel club like LT? my problem is finding someone to travel with. I've done a ton by myself, but having a buddy or two would be nice.
(oops, not Live Journal, LibraryThing)
We really want to do more traveling, beeg. We had such a good time on this last trip. But, it always comes down to money--how can I buy books and travel? Actually, there are lots of ways we could cut down on our budget, I just need to be more disciplined about eating out, mostly. And lattes. We will have to work on that.
I went on another short trip for a training class this weekend, so I got a bunch of reading done. I had to go to the bookstore and buy some more stuff to read! So, I have three more to add. At this rate, I am thinking I may even pass my 100 book goal, but there are still plenty of busy times coming up this year.
16. Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
This was really good. I liked the way that Hornby did not make everyone happy and fulfilled by the end. A book that starts out with people getting ready to commit suicide should not end with happy and fulfilled people, especially if the book ends only 90 days after it starts. Ending up in a place where you can acknowledge that life is still hard, and the bad things that made you want to kill yourself are still there and are still truly awful, but resolving to work on finding a way to live with them anyway is far enough to come in 90 days. Also, that's much more realistic than the pollyanna alternative. Choosing to live is quite enough an accomplishment, there is no need to add happiness in so quickly. I like the suggestion that happiness is now a possibility in the future, but not a certainty. That's enough to be getting on with.
17. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Very thought-provoking. Really, I am not sure how I feel about either of the main characters. My thoughts on this one are still kind of jumbled, but I did like the book.
18. Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
A good, fun mystery of the amateur noble detective sort. I suspect, from the praise that Sayers gets, that these books get better as they go along--this was good, but hardly earth-shattering. I will keep reading the series, though.
Edited to fix a typo.
sigh, I miss Lattes, invested in a nice Gaggia and burr grinder so I could make my own. I'm a spender by nature, so I'm doomed.
I really enjoyed A Long Way Down too. Except the language was a bit "rough." Cursing I mean. That took me a while to get used to.
19. Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross
A continuation of Singularity Sky, in a way. Some of the same characters, definitely the same world, but a different story. This one was definitely interesting and I enjoyed it. I love the way Stross treats all of his characters as individual people, not as cliches or stereotypes, and not using male or female as defining characteristics. His women can kick @$$ without his men having to be all emasculated; it just depends on the individual. I love that. Plus, I enjoy the stories, which are complex and satisfying.
20. Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed
I am not sure how Reed manages to sound slightly hysterical and still tell a good story that you want to read. I really love the way Reed captures the parts of our society that are so contradictory when it comes to weight. You are terrible if you are overweight, but also if you are underweight. People want to be thin and see thin people, but they want to eat. And the way we look sure does border on religion for some people. Sure, it was over the top, but not that much. A lot of the stuff in this book was frighteningly plausible. Thanks, Lois, for sending it!
>43 sussabmax: You're welcome. The exaggeration is laughable, isn't it? well, if it wasn't so close to the truth.
Yes, I think you got it, Lois. It's hysterical, but real life is a bit hysterical about the whole weight thing, so it is not that much of an exaggeration.
Some more books:
21. Enclave by Kit Reed
I am not sure I entirely got the point of this book, but that's all right. I have to say that I love that Reed did not explain everything at the end. There was enough explanation to feel like a satisfying end to the story, and enough left unexplained to leave me thinking. Thanks again, Lois!
22. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb
This latest installment of the Eve Dallas mysteries was actually very sad. Sure, these books are formulaic, but the characters are believable, and they grow from book to book, but not too fast so that you can't believe in it. I liked this one, even though it made me tear up more than once (not really why I read this series!).
23. Run by Ann Patchett
Fascinating look at what it means to be a family. I loved the characters. I loved the way Tip and Teddy, two black boys adopted into a white family, feel completely a part of their family, even as they recognize totally different things about how the world works as they move through it.
Oh, I forgot to add, I have been spending a lot of time reading a really interesting discussion of women in math on an email list for families with gifted children. It has digressed into women's (and men's) roles in the family as well, and I am really enjoying seeing this particular cultural war play out in a group where pretty much everyone is very educated and thoughtful. People are really discussing the issues around career choice and family choices and listening to what others are saying, or at least not attacking people for different beliefs. People are discussing the relative merit, real or perceived, between various career choices, or choices around income. I don't always read everything on this list, because it is high-volume, but this has been worth my time, and it's enough time that I thought of mentioning it here.
Oh, and I have been catching up on Broadsheet, Salon's women's issues blog. Lots of good reading there. And, of course, reading about the JonStewart/Jim Cramer non-war, which is amusing.
>46 sussabmax: how interesting. Is the group mixed gender also? or mostly women?
Mostly women, but not entirely. There is at least one stay at home dad posting on the list, a few dads that work more traditional jobs, and several mothers who posted about their husbands taking time off from their careers to stay home with the kids. And there are some stay at home mothers that think that mothers staying at home is the only thing that makes sense. One of the things I found most interesting was the discussion around the value of staying home versus working, and the people who seemed to think that women not always choosing the highest paid career that is available to them means that they are choosing something less worthy, as if income is the only way of judging the best career choice. As if choosing more flexibility and family time is a weak choice, made more often by women because they are weak, rather than starting a conversation about how we value different considerations in our society. Of course, then other people did start that conversation, so that was interesting.
24. Ghost in Love by Jonathon Carroll
Just what I needed, Lois--another author's books to buy! I am out of bookshelves again, but it doesn't seem to be stopping me from buying (or acquiring from wonderful people) more.
I really enjoyed this book about people taking charge of their own fates. I liked the characters a lot, especially how they were whole people with good and bad. I did NOT like Danielle's choice, but then, people do make choices I think are bad all the time.
Hmm, I am not generally a fan of authors who always have a certain animal in their books, but he doesn't seem to be weird about it, at least in this one. I will keep an eye out for him, thanks!
LOVED this! It is so nice to see a realistic portrayal of the psychopathology that would accompany anyone dressing up in a masked costume to go out and impose their morality on society. I mean, I enjoy superhero comics, I do, but they are not very realistic. This was a fascinating, gritty story that takes the concept of superheroism and shows it's connections to vigilantism, and takes that to the limit.
While the role of the women in this book was problematic at best (they were all about the sex with the male heroes--either as a distraction or a reward), the male characters were very well drawn. I loved the way Dan Dreiberg seemed to be so much more normal than the others, even though you know he regularly partnered with the craziest character of them all, Rorshach. When he and Rorschach finally get back together and go out adventuring again, and he talks about how good it is to get back to the brutality of it all, it comes as a shock, even though it really shouldn't. The comic book within the comic book was gruesome and compelling as well, keeping me reading and building quite a bit of tension.
Overall, not something I am planning to let my 11 year old daughter read any time soon, but definitely something I will read again. I was surprised at how dense this book was--I thought I would breeze through it, but it took me quite a while to get through. Between the art, the dialogue and the supplementary material (excerpts from one of the hero's memoir, crime reports, newspaper articles, etc.), there was a LOT of information in this book. It was well worth the time it took to try to get it all, but I am sure that I missed some. That's why I made sure to buy my own copy rather than borrow it from a friend.
Hubby is currently rereading this. I imagine he will post when he finishes. I will send him over here to read your review. . .
My husband and I bought Watchmen, and he lent it to a friend before I could get my hands on it. And there it languishes. I am looking forward to it, when we finally get it back . . .
I'm still rereading it. It's more violent than I remembered - I remembered the actual violent events, but not the detail with which the violence is drawn. Overall I'm less impressed this time, at least so far. Still, a good book.
The more I think about this, I can see more flaws, but I love the way it makes me think, so I am feeling forgiving, ;-)
26. Agatha by Kathleen Tynan
I was having trouble settling on anything after Watchmen (because that was so intense), so I started one book, then read some short stories from a Charles Stross collection (Toast), and then finally picked this one up. I had read this a while ago, and I remember it being interesting, but kind of forgettable. It was an interesting take on what might have happened when Agatha Christie disappeared in 1926, but nothing terribly heavy. I may have to go out and read some more about the actual occurrence now.
And I am totally still ahead of pace to read 100 books this year! Go me!
27. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maquire
Third book in the Wicked series. I loved Wicked, struggled through Son of a Witch and was really glad to find I enjoyed this installment. It seemed that Maquire's writing had gotten much heavier and hard to get into for a while. That made me sad, because I love so much of his stuff. I mean, I know it is supposed to be more nuanced and darker than the fairy tale, but Liir was SO unlikeable, it was hard to care about him at all. The Lion, on the other hand, was definitely flawed, but more understandable. And the story just flowed better. It made me want to go re-read Wicked and Son of a Witch, although it is unlikely I will be able to work them in anytime soon.
I read part of an Early Reviewer book, too, but it was terrible, so I didn't read much (Nothing But Trouble (PJ Sugar Series #1) by Susan May Warren). I didn't know it was a Christian lit book when I requested it, but I could have forgiven that if the writing wasn't so dreadful. It suffers from that occasional bane of genre writing--the complete lack of editing or writing skill, because people will read it anyway since it is in the genre they want. I can think of no other explanation for such immature writing from an author of 18 (!) published books.
>57 sussabmax: I read Wicked, then the four Maguire novels that followed and now I seem to have no interest at all in his work. Hmm.
Yes, I thought about A Lion Among Men for a long time before I bought it. I did enjoy it, though.
28. This is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams
I really enjoyed this nice melding of science fiction, mystery and high stakes thriller. I loved the character Dagmar, and I liked the ending of this. Very realistic, not tied up in a neat bow. Very interesting.
29. Touchstone by Laurie R. King
Awesome book! I love how King wrote a traditional spy thriller that had such strong female characters, while still really fitting in the genre. The main FBI guy was totally believable as a 40 year old man in 1926--he wasn't a feminist by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, he was able to recognize intelligence and strength in the women he encountered as well as the men. And the story was fascinating, too, so it was all around great. I haven't read any of King's mysteries, but I did read a fantastic dystopia she wrote under a pseudonym (Califia's Daughters) which I really loved, so on the one hand I wasn't surprised to love this one. On the other hand, though, they are totally different genres, so it is even more impressive.
I am falling behind on the pace, but that's the way it goes. I have been very busy at work, since our union may go on strike, and I am switching jobs internally. I have been spending lot of time with friends to combat stress, and that generally means less reading, although I do have one friend that I sit and read with.
30. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Wow. I read this in one day, because I couldn't put it down. I did see the one twist coming, but I think I was supposed to see it. The characters in this book were very complex and real, although more than a bit decadent and sex-obsessed. Definitely recommended.
"Actually, there are lots of ways we could cut down on our budget, I just need to be more disciplined about eating out, mostly. And lattes. We will have to work on that."
Oh my gosh, maybe we were separated at birth? This is exactly my problem, too!
I recently read Wicked and was advised by a coworker that Son of a Witch was really good. I bought it, but haven't gotten to read it yet. I think right now I'm craving things that are more serious, which is strange for me, haha.
A Reliable Wife sounds good, though! I'm adding it to my wishlist :)
I read a really intriguing review of A Reliable Wife somewhere (of course I can't remember where) and added it to my Wishlist. I'm glad to get a real-life reommendation as well before I buy it.
Katie, I bet we are not alone. Darn coffee shops! And restaurants that do the cooking and cleanup so we don't have to! Like I said, I didn't like Son of a Witch as much, but I think you might. I thought that Liir was too unlikeable, but since you liked the first half of Lost, and I thought Winnie was too unlikeable in that, SOAW may be more your thing.
Nancy, it really is a great book. Very thought-provoking and it really investigates the darker side of family relationships, along with the more wholesome and loving sides. Of course, I hate to recommend so glowingly, because what if you hate it? But, if the premise sounds interesting to you, I don't think you will be disappointed. It is very well done.
I am going to come back with thoughts later, but both of these books are Early Reviewer's, so I want to think about what to say a bit more. I wanted to get them out here, though, since I finished them last week:
31. Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg
I was a little worried about this book. The topic sounded fascinating, but investigating a real life mystery can turn out to be unsatisfying. It can turn out that you don't find much information, or an unskilled writer can fail to show why anyone outside the family should care about this family's mystery. This book, however, avoided those problems admirably.
Luxenberg finds out about his institutionalized and now dead aunt when it is almost too late for him to follow up on the mystery. Most of the people who knew his aunt are already dead, or very old. But he has to investigate, because he can't believe that his beloved mother lied to him all his life. And she didn't just omit to mention her sister, she actively told everyone that she was an only child. He has to find out why she lied.
One of the things I really loved about this book is how close the author's family is. Luxenberg is very skilled at showing this through anecdotes that show how close and loving they actually are--demonstrating rather than telling. I found the investigation of why a women who loved her family and valued closeness and honesty within that family would tell such a lie very compelling. The way Luxenberg wanted to know his real mother, and still loved her despite being uncomfortable with what he found was very touching.
The larger story of institutionalization in the US in the early to middle 20th century was well researched and told as well. I appreciated the contrast with today's treatment of the mentally ill, and the exploration of how the differing methods of treating the mentally ill are all rooted in the attempt to treat them humanely. The different methods have trade-offs that are difficult to reconcile: institutionalization severly limits the rights and freedom of the mentally ill, but today's emphasis on the right of a person to choose to be treated or not probably contributes quite a bit to the large homeless population in our country.
The portions of the book that deal with the Holocaust were the most difficult to read. No one was attempting to be humane there, or at least very few people were, and they had extremely limited influence. This information definitely led to a greater understanding of the situation in Luxenberg's family however, and I was glad to read the story of Anna Oliwek, who overcame incredibly large obstacles to survive the war.
This book is highly recommended. My only problem with it is not a fault of the book, but of the printing--my copy was missing several pages. I will have to search out the finished copy to read what I missed, although what I had was enough to feel that I understood the story.
32. The Last Bridge
Short version: I really liked both of these, a welcome change from my last Early Reviewer's book. Longer version to come.
ETA review for Annie's Ghosts
I still need to write a review for The Last Bridge, but I thought I would do a quick update.
33. The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
This was a fun book, but not as good as the other books I have read by Stross. Still, I will be picking up The Jennifer Morgue, the sequel, sometime soon.
I also read about 150 or 200 pages of Dhalgren, but I have put it aside for now. It is a very '70s book--the first 100 pages or so seem to consist of the main character wandering around and having sex with strangers. More power to him and all that, but I just don't find that interesting. I am not a prude, but this is not erotica, so I don't see the point. After that, other things seemed to be happening, but I found myself not particularly caring, so I picked up my latest Early Reviewer's book, The Unit (can't get that touchstone to work...), instead. Maybe I'll come back to Dhalgren when I am done with that.
34. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
This was an Early Reviewer's book. I really enjoyed this alternate perspective on a dystopic future. I find it difficult to talk about this book, because the ending is so important to the meaning, and I hate to give it away. So, suffice to say that this book really explores important concepts in sociology and psychological control of people, even when what they are being asked to do is clearly not in their own best interests. The sense of desperation in this book is truly haunting, and the exploration into what it is we value about the people around us, and what happens when we start declaring certain classes of people disposable, is thought-provoking. Holmqvist is a subtle writer, refusing to make her points by banging them into your head, which I appreciate.
35. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois
I really enjoyed this collection. I took my time with this one (really messing with my pace!) so that I could savor the stories a bit. It was well worth the time--several of these stories introduced me to authors I feel I should know better. Just what I need--another list of books to hunt down!
Thanks for the review of The Unit. I clicked 'reques'/'un-request' about 12 times on this one trying to decide if it sounded like something I would like. It sounds like it is just a hard book to describe. I will keep an eye out for it.
It is a hard book to describe, Jane. It was very good, though, I would definitely recommend it.
36. Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich
Very fun. Definitely not literature, but a quick, easy, funny read, with very well-drawn characters. Very similar to the Stephanie Plum books, but different, too.
37. Entombed by Linda Farstein
I think I picked this up at a charity book sale at work, which would explain how I ended up with a book late in a series. I really enjoyed this one, and will probably need to search out the earlier books. Just what I need, another set of paperbacks to buy.
I got very slow on pace in May (only 3 books completed!), but summer is here now and it is picking up again. I read a few things in between, too--many stories from a Joyce Carol Oates collection, a lot of stuff online, some magazines, and some other book that I started and didn't finish that I can't recall right now. I also joined FaceBook, which is a terrible time-waster! Too many games, too many friends! Well, not the too many friends part, you can't have too many friends....
I have some books to add here, but I am thinking I must be forgetting something. I need to update more often. The 100 book goal is looking less and less possible, but we will see.
38. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson
I like this much more than I feared I would. I am not a religious person, or new agey, or given to much thought at all about the afterlife. I found this compelling in a totally non-preachy way, though, and I am glad I read it.
39. The Children Star by Joan Slonczweski
I really don't understand why Slonczewski isn't more popular than she is. This is the second book I have read by her, and it is amazing. She has an incredible talent for world building, creating credible societies that really are different from each other, not just on a superficial level. Amazing book. This is another author I discovered through LT, and it makes me so glad to be here!
40. The Exile Waiting by Vonda N. McIntyre
I really enjoyed this one, too. It was nice to read two science fiction books that were totally satisfying (I would say two in a row, but I suspect that there was one or more books in between these that are just not coming to me for some reason.) I found all of the characters very interesting and real, and I loved the way McIntyre was able to take seemingly separate stories and bring them together.
41 and 42. Death of a Travelling Man and Death of a Poison Pen by MC Beaton
Fun books that I borrowed from a friend while on vacation. She had them checked out from the library, and I read them right after she did, because I could tell they would be quick. They were funny, I liked the characters, and the mysteries were clever. Not great literature, but I think I will seek out the rest of the books in the series. I will try the library, though.
I am very close to the end of two other books, but it still seems that I must be missing something.
I have also been reading lots of game instructions, because we took some games with us while we were camping. Ancient Civilizations, Rat-a-Tat-Cat, washers and bean bag toss--good times. I just realized that I finished the novelization of the first Star Wars novel as a read aloud to my son, so I guess I can count that. I wouldn't have read it left to myself, but it was a whole book that I read. I did like the movie, but I am not fond of books that are novelizations of movies--they never go much beyond what is in the movies, and I just don't find them all that successful as books.
I've been looking through my catalog here, and I have come to a few conclusions:
* I am woefully behind in adding books to my catalog. I need to break out my cuecat, look through my shelves, and add all the missing books.
*Part of my problem with my reading rate this year is that I have started a lot of books that I did not go on to finish. Some of them are really good books that I clearly was not in the mood to read at the time, I am thinking. Some of them, I think just got misplaced. I hate it when I start a book and don't finish it, because I find it hard to pick it back up later. I don't want to start at the beginning, because I have read it already, but I don't remember well enough to start where I left off. Very frustrating.
* I have some books that I will probably never read. I have looked at these books many times, determined to get rid of them, but I keep thinking maybe I am wrong. Maybe I will read them someday. But I am thinking now that I should get rid of them. There are too many books that I really want to read to keep hanging onto these books that I don't think I will like.
Still, sometimes I really do come back to a book that I couldn't get through the first time only to discover that I really do love it. Maybe I should give some of these one more chance and then get rid of them.
43. A Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Just beautiful. I don't know how he does it.
44. The Glass Harmonica by Louise Marley
Another vastly underappreciated author. How come I didn't hear about her sooner?
45. Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling
Fun book. Different from Sterling's more cyberpunk offerings.
46. Before I Say Goodbye by Mary Higgins Clark
Okay, I admit it, part of the reason I read this was to pump up my numbers. I knew it would be fast. Still, I enjoyed it. You can tell Clark doesn't put as much effort in these days, though. A lot of conversation was much more formal and polished than any real conversation ever is.
And, I knew I forgot to add one here:
47 (but really more like 40). The End of Overeating by David Kessler
Very interesting book, similar to many other things I have been reading. Good information.
Just catching up on your thread. Hope the reading is going well. The Glass Harmonica looks interesting. I've always wanted to play on a glass harmonica. Nearly got to borrow one once, I was going to use it in an improv piece on a concert. (Oh well, I'm young yet.)
Medellia, according to the book, the glass harmonica has a bad reputation for making people crazy! I think it really was the lead they used in the glasses back then, though, ;-).
Lois, I still prefer science fiction, even if it is hard to find good new stuff...
48. The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross
A paranormal, mathematical, geeked out take on the spy thriller. Loads of fun, although very technical at times. I lvoe Charles Stross!
49. The Furies by Suzy McKee Charnas
I picked this up at a used bookstore and went ahead and read it even though it was the third book in the series. I think it probably would have been a bit enriched if I had read the first two first, but it was still an excellent read.
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