Laura (lauralkeet)'s 75 book holiday extravaganza (aka Part 5)
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Philadelphia City Hall and Dilworth Park Skating Rink
Source: Curbed Philly
Hello all, I'm Laura and this is my 11th year with the 75 Books challenge. I'm in my mid/late-50s (it’s a transition year LOL), and live in Philadelphia with my husband Chris, our two dogs, and a cat. We have two adult daughters, Julia and Kate. I retired in 2017 and to my surprise am now reading fewer books than when I was working. It’s been a while since I made the 75-book goal, but the people and book recommendations here are the best.
In 2019 I’m trying to make more spontaneous reading choices. My RL book groups will determine two of my reads each month, but I’ve given myself permission to “opt out” if a selection doesn’t appeal. Other than that, I want to let my mood guide me, whether that’s reading books from my TBR pile, making progress on my series, or reading with an LT group like the 75 Books American Author Challenge or the Virago Modern Classics group Reading the 1940s theme.
Besides reading, I spend a lot of time knitting and have a knitting thread in the Needlearts group; stop in and say hi sometime!
My 2019 threads can be found here:
Part 1 (books 1-13) | Part 2 (books 14-30) | Part 3 (books 31-55) | Part 4 (books 56-68)
Books completed (click on “details" to jump to my comments)
69. Disappearing Earth - details
70. The Women of the Copper Country - details
71. Olive, Again - details
72. Spiderweb - details
73. Fenny - details
74. The Alice Network - details
75. Red at the Bone - details
76. Girl, Woman, Other - details
77. Naamah - details
78. The Odyssey (Emily Wilson translation) - details
79. The Captive & The Fugitive - details
80. The Outcast Dead - details
81. Guiltless - details
82. Know My Name - details
83. Tonight You're Dead - details
84. The Magnificent Spinster - details
Active series as of September 1:
The above snapshot is a view of my active series sorted on the "progress" column.
Series completed/current in 2019:
* Matthew Shardlake - April
* Kristin Lavransdatter - May
* Jackson Brodie - July
* Inspector Gamache - October
Series started in 2019:
* Kristin Lavransdatter
* Ruth Galloway
Series abandoned in 2019:
*Inspector Sejer, after reading 12 of 13 books 😢
During my early years on LT I seemed to have no trouble reading 75 books a year.
And then my pace dropped off. Some might say oh, were you busy with work back then? Well, no. I honestly think knitting is the culprit! I learned to knit in 2012 and this new hobby began eating into my reading time, but in a good way. I’m both an avid reader and knitter now.
The difference between my highest year (81) and lowest year (59) is not as dramatic as it appears. When you break it down, it’s about 2 books per month. Last year I came really close to 75. But in 2019, barring some dreadful unforeseen circumstances, I’m going to do it! As of November 1, I’ve read 68 books and surely I can read at least 7 in the next two months.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted about this reading project. I know you’re all on tenterhooks, LOL. Anyway, I’m still moving along at about 10-15pp/day and have read 347 pages (of 936) in The Captive & The Fugitive. As with the previous volumes, the narrative is pretty much an internal monologue. Marcel, having brought Albertine to live with him, analyzes their relationship, his waxing and waning attraction to her, and his eternal jealousy. It seems that once he has something he no longer wants, he no longer gets satisfaction from it. Albertine has been referred to as a captive several times by now (in case anyone thinking the “invalid,” Marcel, was in fact the captive). Marcel frets obsessively over whether Albertine is lying to him about her whereabouts, and whether she perhaps favors women over men. He waffles over breaking up with her, but so far has not acted on this. He’s kind of a creep, really.
Have some happy reads and especially remember (as I kept reminding myself) 75 is only the number between 2 others...
Nice to see optimism regarding 75. Yes, you can :-)
And hello to Katie, Linda, Anita, Joe, Rhian and figs -- I didn't expect a cheering section but I'm delighted to have one!!
>4 lauralkeet: 🥴 That graph lol.
Until this year, I had consistently read fewer books than I read when I was working.
This is interesting. You'd just think it would be the other way around, right? But wow Bonnie, 100. That's beyond my imagination!
Tee hee. I mean, once you have a spreadsheet, you gotta do something fancy with it, right? I have both annual spreadsheets for each year, and a "trends" spreadsheet with just the totals (books, pages, ratings, etc.) for each year. I like to look back on the trends from time to time but this was the first time I did anything with the data.
Source: Library Loan
Disappearing Earth is a mystery of sorts, with an unusual structure more like connected short stories. The setting is also unusual: the Kamchatka peninsula off of far eastern Russia. The book opens with the abduction of two young girls; the reader is given a few details about the kidnapper, but not enough to go on. A typical mystery would then introduce local law enforcement and the girls’ family, and the investigation would begin identifying clues. Instead, each chapter of Disappearing Earth is about a different character, and most of the characters have tenuous links to the mystery. For example, a young woman at university begins to blossom and finds new love, while worrying about how she will handle her controlling hometown boyfriend. There is no apparent connection to the kidnapping; the woman is not even aware of the case. But through these stories, author Julia Phillips creates the world surrounding the girls and their abductor.
For most of this novel, I wondered whether solving the mystery was even the point. I liked reading about the remote Kamchatka peninsula and its culture, as well as the people who experience all of the same joy, sadness, doubt, and fear as people everywhere. However, I wasn’t really invested in the characters who were sometimes interesting, and sometimes annoying or shallow. But Phillips won me over in the second to last chapter, when linkages between certain characters were made clear and the novel moved urgently to a satisfying conclusion.
I recommend this book for its unique structure more than the murder/crime angle.
Source: Library Loan
In the early 1900s, the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company was one of the most profitable copper mines in the United States. But they got there on the backs of their workforce, comprised almost entirely of immigrants, who were seen as expendable by the “real American” mine owner, James MacNaughton. While C&H prided itself on building a company town that provided housing and amenities for its workers, MacNaughton’s top priority was worker productivity. He had little care for the dangerous nature of the work and the inevitable injuries and fatalities.
Enter Annie Clements, the wife of a miner and a natural leader. When a miner is killed while working with the new “one man drill,” Annie mobilizes the women into a force for change. They begin holding daily marches, asking “what price copper?” by calling attention to the many lives lost in pursuit of profits. Their activism built support for unionization, which ultimately led to a strike. The way the strike unfolded, its impact on management and miners alike, and the way in which the strike came to an end, make for fascinating reading, all the more so since the story is told almost entirely from a female perspective.
Mary Doria Russell is known for writing meticulously researched historical fiction, and this is yet another example. Since women’s stories are less well documented, she often had to infer or extrapolate, but the Author’s Note helpfully acknowledges where this was required. Russell’s characters are well developed, and the story is well-paced, especially in its portrayal of the dramatic events which ultimately ended the strike. I can’t say enough about this book: just go read it, already!
I also have The Women of the Copper Country on a library waitlist and am looking forward to it. I've never read Mary Doria Russell because I haven't been attracted to her novels with a Western vibe.
>29 brenzi: Hm, maybe I'll have to give A Thread of Grace a try one of these days, Bonnie.
>30 msf59: Hiya Mark! Disappearing Earth was another LT-inspired read for me. Warbling credit for that one goes to Beth (BLBera).
I started reading Olive, Again yesterday and am lowing it!
>35 BLBera: Oh yes, LT is indeed funny that way, Beth. And sometimes a book is getting so much chatter it's hard to say which person tipped me over into "all right, already, I guess I'll read that!"
My library branch just announced it will be closing for 3 weeks (Nov 15 - Dec 9) to repair their elevator. Nooooo ! They've made arrangements for routing holds to another branch, but their choice was inconvenient for me so I logged into the system and chose a slightly less inconvenient option. I *know* this branch has a lot of physical plant issues that need to be addressed, and they wouldn't close unless they absolutely had to, but this is I think the third closure this year (the first two were unplanned). They've scheduled a short community meeting about it this week; I might go to hear what they have to say. I also think I'll avoid placing any new hold requests until they have reopened. It's not like I don't have any books lying around vying for my attention.
Have a lovely Sunday.
I admit, I hardly use the library, but I'd hate to know it was out of action. I lived in the local libraries as a child and teenager.
Well, in some respects that is what they are doing. Holds are being re-routed to another branch which is just 1.5 miles away, and I think they might also shift some of their other programming there as well. There's a second branch about 1.5 miles in the other direction, and my house is situated between these two branches so while I have a preference, I can actually go to either one.
I thought her two sci-fi ones were good, but wasn't drawn to the western ones. I haven't tried her historical fiction, and this sounds like a good place to start.
Source: Library Loan
In this follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout once again uses a series of connected short stories to bring readers one of the most memorable characters in literature. Headstrong, outspoken, and yet also incredibly insecure, Olive is now in her 70s. Her first husband, Henry, has passed away and Olive has a distant relationship with her only son. She refuses to admit to loneliness, but slowly gives in to overtures of friendship from widower Jack Kennison. Olive learns to love again and initiates reconciliation with her son and grandchildren. In other stories we meet residents of Crosby, Maine, whose lives may barely touch Olive’s but are part of the larger tapestry of this novel. Themes of aging, love, and loss run like a current through this book. I admire Strout’s ability to stir up a swirl of emotions with her evocative writing. Here are just three examples:
When his wife was dying, she was the one who was furious. … And the last thing she said to him was: “I hate you because I’m going to die and you’re going to live.”and this:
As he glanced up at a seagull, he thought, But I’m not living, Betsy. What a terrible joke it has been.
The truth is that Olive did not understand why age had brought with it a kind of hard-heartedness toward her husband. But it was something she had seemed unable to help, as though the stone wall that had rambled along between them during the course of their long marriage--a stone wall that separated them but also provided unexpected dips of moss-covered warm spots where sunshine would flicker between them in a sudden laugh of understanding--had become tall and unyielding, and not providing flowers in its crannies but some ice storm frozen along it instead. In other words, something had come between them that seemed insurmountable.and this:
And it came to him then that it should never be taken lightly, the essential loneliness of people, that the choices they made to keep themselves from that gaping darkness were choices that required respect.There is an arc to the stories in this novel; time passes, and aging continues to present Olive with emotional and physical challenges. Her loneliness--often self-imposed--never quite goes away, but the final story is both bittersweet and uplifting.
Source: On my shelves
Stella is recently retired from her career as an anthropologist, in which she studied societies both in the UK and in more “exotic” climes. When she moves to a cottage in a rural village, she can’t help analyzing the people and their social norms. She learns a great deal through casual conversation with the shop owner and the postman, and has ample opportunity to observe the troubled family that lives just down the lane. Richard, the widowed husband of her university friend Nadine, lives nearby. He seeks her company and offers unsolicited advice about assimilating into the community, but Stella is fiercely independent and keeps him at arm’s length. Not surprisingly, she remains somewhat apart from village life.
Stella’s memories -- of the time at university with Nadine, her career, and romantic relationships -- often occupy her thoughts, and serve to fully develop Stella’s character. The narrative also shifts periodically to the family down the lane, and a situation that is clearly escalating behind closed doors. The problem is, the reader can see what’s coming, which lessens the dramatic effect of the event when it occurs. Penelope Lively is best at character development and creating complex linkages between characters and events. There’s just not enough of that in this novel. It’s a good solid read, but not exceptional.
Penelope Lively is indeed brilliant (imho) in writing philosophical overviews of her characters' lives. For my tastes, I wanted a bit more fleshing out of Stella's incentive to ruralize: what motivated a well-travelled anthropologist to bury herself in such an isolated and perhaps rather less intellectually-stimulating community?
Was there a context that I didn't quite grasp? Perhaps Lively was illustrating what it is like to age and that one has to change societies as you grow older.
*bangs gavel on table*
I hereby call to order this meeting of the Penelope Lively Appreciation Society! Sandy, I agree she is a brilliant writer. After reading a few of her books, I ended up buying without question when I found copies in used bookshops. Spiderweb was one such acquisition. You raise a very valid point about Stella's motivation for moving to the village, which was not clearly articulated. If indeed Lively was exploring ideas about aging, she could have fleshed that out further as well.
I would be interested to know -- from both you and Beth -- which one of Lively's books is your favorite?
I'm like you, Laura. When I see Penelope Lively's books at the bookshop where I generally have trade credit, I buy them. I have 3 unread, since a library cascade keeps happening around here (I wonder how that comes about? Oh yeah, BBs!)
Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir
How It All Began
City Of The Mind
Perfect Happiness (in progress as a re-read, because I never wrote a review)
Next to Nature, Art
Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived
I had to read City Of The Mind twice to really appreciate it ~ more complex than I originally realized.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites is a top notch fave of mine, re-read at least three times, now. The title is different in the UK, for those who wondered if this is different to Ammonites and Leaping Fish.
I've been looking for Beyond the Blue Mountains so I don't have to rely on the public library's copy. They (the PL) have become dreadfully cavalier about discarding books if they're not checked out much.
Not that I'm saying BtBM suffers from that, but other classics in the literary genre have been sent to the library book sales which I refuse to attend (I can't stand mob scenes and I don't like library copies anyway for my personal library).
Edited to add that, no I don't have Moon Tiger or The Road to Lichfield. Too difficult for me to read; plus the topics were very distressingly close to the bone to enjoy. I do appreciate from others that they are excellently written.
I discovered Lively through Moon Tiger, when I was on a quest to read all of the Booker Prize winners. I have a special fondness for it since it led me to a now-favorite (or favourite!) author.
Us Canjuns, eh?
I've never seen Cleopatra's Sister in the library so I could read a bit of the narrative (I call it "tasting the story" to decide if I want to take the book home). After reading some reviews. I'm still not so sure that I want to go through the angst of Howard and Lucy's situation. Some types of suspense and danger feel too real to me, or I identify too closely with the situation and I seem unable to cope with the story. A sign of excellent writing of course.
>63 SandyAMcPherson: I couldn't resist the poke, Sandy. 😀 And I like your phrase, "tasting the story."
I like the sound of Making it Up. She has a knack for exploring connections, or consequences of actions, and showing how they ripple out like a stone dropped into a pond. I've often reflected on my own life and thought, what if I'd done B instead of A?" I can imagine Lively's own ruminations, expressed through her excellent way with words, would make for good reading.
That's exactly why I like reading Lively's work. It has illuminated many situations, in my own life where I am amazed how I leapt down the fork in the road without even considering looking for a different choice.
I'm determined that Making it Up be on my Christmas WL and maybe I won't have to scour bookshops all over Western Canada for a copy...
(And yes, touchstones totally used to defeat me until someone told me how to find the right one.)
I suspect >66 BLBera: may have forgotten to check that the right one appeared. I've done that many times: commented and then noticed later that I had to do an edit... or else some eagle eye like RD posts the correct touchstone. I hope Beth wasn't taken aback at my post.
I know there are plenty of fans of The Crown around here, so please indulge this little bit of shameless promotion. My daughter Kate, an entertainment writer, had advance access to Season 3 and is writing recaps of each episode (with spoilers). They are all in one post so you can read about each episode as you watch: The Crown Season 3 Binge Club
Dancing Fish and Ammonites and Moon Tiger both of which I absolutely loved.
I have How It All Began on the shelves but have not yet read it.
The meeting is making me think I'll join in the acquisition frenzy. Heh.
I am sitting here this very moment watching an episode of season 2 of The Crown. I am a huge fan; P and I are making our way through the first two seasons in anticipation of season 3 which I believe "dropped" yesterday.
>72 lauralkeet: Very cool. I'm also bookmarking it although I want to avoid the spoilers. :-)
LitHub's lists are interesting and comprehensive: best novels, best translated novels, nonfiction, essays, poetry, you name it. So far I've only looked through the list of novels and, like many such lists, it's full of books I've read and books I've never heard of.
Have a look and let me know if anything stands out for you.
>77 lauralkeet: Well, I've read five of the novels on that Best of the Decade list, have 2 more on my shelves, and a couple on my wishlist. Still there are some there I don't recall having heard about, so guess what I'll be doing...
>77 lauralkeet: I love this. I really like Lit Hub. I have read 12 of the first 20 and I am tickled to see Goon Squad leading the pack. Love seeing Train Dreams & The Overstory on there too. I have read 10 on the second list. Homegoing should have been on the first list and closer to the top, IMHO. I may have put News of the World higher too. Where is A God in Ruins, A Brief History of Seven Killings & A Constellation of Vital Phenomena? Just askin'...
Both that and the fact that my reading is always a couple of years behind due to reading speed and availability of books here my stats against the list is pretty dismal:
Translations Owned 8 Read 1
Non-Fiction Owned 4 Read 1
Memoirs Owned 1 Read 1
Poetry Owned 0 Read 0
Short Story Owned 3 Read 1
Debuts Owned 4 Read 0
Best of Best Owned 15 Read 4
So of the 95 books I own 35 and have read a mere 8.
Particularly sad on the poetry list. It will of course be a good source for me to go and look for and buy new books!
I will be - of course - doing my own lists. Based on my own reading before the year is out.
I am happy, although not surprised, to see My Brilliant Friend on the translated list.
Paul, you make a good point about the "Americanised" nature of these lists, which is unfortunate but come to think of it, most of LitHub's content seems aimed more at the American reader. I love the idea of making your own lists!
I really appreciate, any ALA help, my friend. It should be a great time.
We are, after all, a country with a population an order of magnitude smaller!
(Maybe I should not say anything... now the population on Talk is going to suggest 'that for which I have no time' ~ making a list)...
Now I'm going back to see what this Lit Hub thing is. I have news for them though; this decade isn't over until the end of 2020.
>86 SandyAMcPherson: I agree with you about Canadian writers being overlooked, Sandy. My own knowledge of CanLit is pretty weak overall, but I've read some good stuff and know that it deserves more recognition.
>87 LizzieD: this decade isn't over until the end of 2020.
Well ya know Peggy, I wondered about that. Shouldn't a decade begin with the year ending in "1," not "0" ? I guess LitHub just jumped the gun.
And I have duly noted your hearty recommendation. You have never steered me wrong, and *Dance* remains one of the most memorable works I've ever read.
I'm a fairly big fan of Canadian authors and have read some little known writers and enjoyed them immensely. I just picked up Elizabeth Hay's memoir All Things Consoled. I loved her Giller Prize winning Late Nights on Air. I also recently acquired Wayne Johnston's First Snow Last Light, the last book in his fabulous Newfoundland Trilogy. There are many other little known Canadian authors I follow and love. I don't know why they aren't as well known as they should be.
My totally enjoyable romp in this summer's CanLit reading was Michael Skeet's A Tangled Weave. I have the e-book from Early Reviewers. There are certainly some flaws in the execution of the plot, but I was quite happy to motor on through. It was fun.
I read the first book in this set afterwards because I wanted to understand Book 2's premises. I thought the themes in this pair great ideas and hope he has a third coming out. Each of the books are bound to be quite different as a supporting character takes over as protagonist.
OK, that was a bit off-topic. Back to my perusal of the book lists.
*whispers* Sssh ~~ I don't think I'll be racing out to read any of the 2019 Giller books. Just going by the synopses (if that's the correct plural). Although Ian William's win with Reproduction actually sounds very intriguing.
Don't worry Sandy, your secret is safe here. I'd hate for the authorities to come storming in and revoke your passport or something.
>94 vivians: ooh, it looks like we have ourselves a little group read! Woot!
Source: My Virago Modern Classics collection
Ellen Fenwick, aka "Fenny," accepts a summer position as a governess working in Italy for an English family. The setting is magical, and having become quite fond of the child in her care, she accepts a permanent position with the family. The novel opens in 1933 when fascism is just beginning to take hold, but the expatriate community is in a state of both ignorance and denial. The first part of this book takes us up to 1939, and Fenny’s life is filled with new experiences, personal growth, and heartbreak.
Then the book shifts abruptly to 1945 and beyond. Lettice Cooper provides minimal detail on how Fenny spent the war years; I can only guess she wanted to focus on the life of an independent woman before and after the war. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to buy into the post-war section (roughly the last third of the novel). New characters were insufficiently developed and the plot felt rushed. Some aspects were predictable and others seemed preposterous. This book got off to a good start, but ultimately fell short of my expectations.
The Captive and the Fugitive, Vol 5 of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, is really two books in one volume. Although I don't plan to "count" this book until I finish all of Vol 5, I'm happy to report that I've now read through The Captive (559 pages). Like the previous books in this work, there's a lot of internal monologue and not a lot of action. In a nutshell, our narrator Marcel keeps his girlfriend Albertine in his parents' apartment and is constantly battling jealousy over lovers she may or may not have now,or have had in the past. He dithers over whether to stay in the relationship or break it off, and behaves in a creepy and controlling manner with her. Meanwhile, another major character, the Baron de Charlus, gets his social comeuppance and is effectively banished from his slice of society.
The Captive ends with Marcel deciding to
The Fugitive is 373 pages long and I'm hoping to finish by the end of the year. I've been reading 10-15pp/day, so that's still achievable at this point.
The fellows all sound like utter creeps.
New York Times Notable Books 2019
I've only read 6 of the fiction titles (counting my next book, Red at the Bone, which I'm sure to finish this year), but I think that's slightly more than in recent years. I feel like I've been paying more attention to LT recommendations this year which has led me to reading more new books.
>104 norabelle414: ooh, yes I really like that one too Nora.
>105 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I really fell short in the nonfiction department and there's lots of interesting-looking nonfiction on the list as well. Yeah, I'm not worried about finding something to read.
>108 PaulCranswick: always happy to contribute to your TBR, Paul.
I do love the NPR list at the end of the year as well.
I have 9 of these (read 1), including Samantha Power’s The Education of An Idealist which a friend has bought me for xmas at my request (not to be read until then!). She (Samantha, not my friend) appeared in a docu about the Obama years, and made an impression, as I don’t doubt she does everywhere.
>102 lauralkeet: Wow! Terrific list. Funny, I feel like I keep up with the new books through the year, (thanks to LT and my many ARCs) but then I see a list like this and I am brought back to reality. I have read 8 of the fiction titles, but it blows me away how many I had not even heard of. I just finished The Revisioners, which I recommend to you. Only 5 of the NF, including Midnight in Chernobyl, which I am nearly finished with and has been outstanding. I also have The Yellow House lined up for December. Whew!
>112 msf59: Mark, I know what you mean about being brought back to reality by these lists. When I'm with some of my RL book club friends whose lives have not been touched by LT, I feel like I'm much more "in the know" about literature. Lists like this keep me from getting too cocky, I guess.
And Happy Thanksgiving to you, and all others here who are celebrating! I'm in the midst of cooking today but will be popping in from time to time.
And thanks for the 100 Notable books list by NYT.
Happy day after. Hope you have lots of leftovers!! 1) Because they are yummy and 2) because then you'll have more time to read! : )
Source: On my Kindle
I finished this book a few days ago, and with the busy-ness of the Thanksgiving holiday I haven't felt like writing a review. I enjoy learning about little-known parts of history like, in this case, a woman-led spy network during World War I. Sometimes the fictional characters inserted into the history seemed a bit of a stretch, and there were a few too many coincidences placing them in the right place at the right time. But they kind of grew on me, and the author's afterword explained some of the choices she made, which left me with a better impression of the novel as a whole.
Hmm, still not much of a review, but it's all you're gonna get LOL.
Amazon kindly sent me an offer: spend $20 on eBooks, get a $5 credit towards more eBooks. And I kindly took them up on their offer!
Dancing Fish and Ammonites was inspired by all the Penelope Lively love upthread. The Lymond Chronicles is a "box set" (beautifully packaged in an invisible digital box, I suppose), containing the first three volumes in this series. Again thanks to LT chatter, Bonnie and I will be reading this series beginning in January.
Now, what should I spend my $5 credit on? I have 21 days to decide ...
Source: Library loan
Red at the Bone is a beautiful, moving portrait of a family. Iris gave birth to her daughter Melody when she was only 15 years old. When the book opens, Melody is making an entrance at her Sweet Sixteen formal. Through short, lyrical chapters set in different points in time, we learn about Iris’ early relationship with Melody’s father, Aubrey, and Iris’ dogged determination to pursue a college education despite the responsibilities of motherhood. We see Iris’ parents, Sabe and Po’Boy, moving from disappointment in Iris’ pregnancy to deep, abiding love for their granddaughter.
Jacqueline Woodson writes with a poetic style that flows effortlessly across the page, delivering a story packed with emotion whether describing the love between two people, or the tragedy and loss the family faced over the years. Just beautiful.
The bar is open! I'm throwing a little party to celebrate reading 75 books for the first time since 2011. French 75 cocktails for everyone!
And thanks for celebrating with one of my very favorite cocktails :)
I loved Red at the Bone, too.
Can you pre-order a new release, like Return of the Thief? Or does the credit have to apply to an immediate spend?
I just bought (used but like-new) A House Unlocked and had a wee peek at it this afternoon when I'd finished The Bedlam Stacks. I'm going to save it for later because of aforementioned library holds. It was published in 2001 and this copy is a hard cover with a pristine dust jacket!
^Congrats on hitting our magic number, Laura! Yippee! I am not sure I will get to Red at the Bone before year's end but I would like to. I have also had an ARC of The Alice Network for a long time now. I may try to bookhorn that one in as well. I hope you had a good weekend.
ETA- I also have a copy of Dancing Fish and Ammonites. Let me know when you are going to read it.
>124 SandyAMcPherson:, >126 SandyAMcPherson: Thanks Sandy! And to be honest, I probably don't really need help figuring out how to spend my credit. It does have to apply to an immediate spend (not a pre-order). But I have a list of books I've seen around these threads that I'd be interested in buying (vs. getting from the library), so I'll throw a dart at it and make my selection.
>125 Berly:, >127 msf59: Thanks Kim and Mark!
And I am embarrassed to admit I totally missed the 75 connection. Duh.
But now, I really want to have a French 75 again soon!
I need to warble long and loud about the 2017 Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey. My husband and I decided to take a Coursera course on Greek and Roman Mythology (syllabus). The Odyssey is the first book in the course. The professor uses the 1996 Robert Fagles translation, which we have on the shelves, but we also bought this new one. It is beautifully written and reads almost like a contemporary novel. Here are the opening lines from each translation:
Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.
But he could not save them from disaster, hard as he strove--
the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all,
the blind fools, they devoured the cattle of the Sun
and the Sungod blotted out the day of their return.
Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,
start from where you will--sing for our time too.
Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered on the sea, and how he worked
to save his life and bring his men back home.
He failed, and for their own mistakes, they died.
They ate the Sun God's cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.
Now, I read The Odyssey ages ago, even before the Fagles was published. I was young and reading on my own without an instructor or secondary sources to guide me. I remember that it was a bit of a slog. This experience is completely different, and absolutely delightful. Wilson is the first woman to translate this work and was recently awarded a Macarthur Fellowship. Count me as a fan.
Count me in as a ~ now if only someone would rewrite some of Shakespeare's plays this way,
I'd finally feel edgeukated.
>148 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy. I, too, could use a little help with Shakespeare! I enjoy reading his stuff but it takes a lot of concentration. I find attending a play (or watching an adaption) a bit easier once I get into the language.
She is working on an Iliad translation, and said a year or so ago that she expected it to take about 5 years. Can't wait!
>154 msf59: Hi Mark, and thanks for the rec!
A book podcast I listen to, Overdue, did a long series of episodes discussing Wilson's translation in detail, and since they are Philly-based they recorded an in-person chat with her at the end. It's very fun, especially because the hosts approached it as casual readers.
>157 laytonwoman3rd: You might've heard about the French75 from Katie, Linda. She's the one who
Congrats on reaching 75 -- and with a wonderful book, too!
And thanks everyone for the enthusiasm about achieving my reading goal!
>146 lauralkeet: Oh my, thank you for posting those two opening sets of lines. I have the Emily Wilson edition and have not yet decided when I will read it. It's so cool to see those translations side-by-side. And your Coursera course sounds interesting. I have looked at those and just can't do them while I'm still working. BUT --- in 32 months or so I will be looking for things like that to keep my mind engaged!
Adding to the hearty congratulations on reaching 75 books this year!
"Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can."
I understand your reluctance to start the Coursera course. For what it's worth, it's packaged in bite-sized pieces. There are 10 "weeks" of content (but of course you can take as much time as you want), and I think only 2-3 weeks deal with The Odyssey before moving on to other works. Each week is made up of several lectures, which tend to be only 10-20 minutes long. I'm finding it a nice companion to my reading, watching the relevant lectures after reading a chunk of the book.
Source: Thanks to Vivian (vivians) for passing this along to me. Next stop: Mark (msf59). LTers are the best!
Girl, Woman, Other was completely unknown to me until being nominated (and then winning/sharing) the 2019 Booker Prize. And it’s one of the most interesting and inventive books I’ve read this year. Bernardine Evaristo explores the many ways of being a black woman today through twelve memorable characters, each living a very different experience in terms of socioeconomic class, nationality, education, gender identity, sexual freedom, marriage, and so on.
The novel is structured as a set of linked short stories, each describing the life of one woman. The stories are presented in groups of three, with direct connections between those women (e.g.; mother-daughter, or childhood friends). Additional connections emerge as the novel moves towards its conclusion. I was so immersed in the rich detail of each life story, that I didn’t see these additional links until they were made plain, making for many pleasant surprises. The epilogue tied up the one remaining loose end -- that I had completely forgotten about -- in a most satisfying way.
>174 msf59: Mark, at about the time you posted this message I was at the post office sending the book! I left you a PM before seeing your post here.
Source: On my shelves
Naamah, a feminist reimagining of the Noah’s Ark story, is the kind of thing I normally like. Take a well-known tale, tell it from a woman’s perspective, and challenge the patriarchal view of the original story -- and I’m in. When done well, as in Madeline Miller’s Circe or Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, these books are a joy to read. Sadly, Naamah doesn’t measure up and I had to abandon it.
The book started off well. Naamah is a pragmatist, making sure the ark is built to withstand what is to come. She questions a God who would decide to wipe out the civilization they created. She advises her sons and their wives not to have sex on the ark, because they don’t know how long they will be living there and the ark is no place to raise a child. It’s difficult enough dealing with animal reproduction.
But soon, the story becomes disjointed, with too many threads and, dare I say it, too much sex. I like a good sex scene as much as the next person, but the author seemed to rely heavily on these scenes to keep the reader engaged. Between these scenes and Naamah’s strange encounters when swimming in the waters, I lost the will to go on.
The Outcast Dead
Although this episode in the life and times of Ruth Galloway is not one of my 4 or 5 star reads, it contained no eyeroll scenarios, which I was quite happy to do without!
>182 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, that's a series that used to catch my eye, and yet I never acted on it. It probably falls into the "so many books ..." category now especially with your comments about the books becoming "sensational and pointless." Fortunately I'm not lacking for reading material.
Source: On my shelves
I can't believe how quickly I zipped through this book, thanks entirely to Emily Wilson's amazingly fresh translation. As a work, The Odyssey has been reviewed to death and I have nothing new to say. I'll just direct you to my comments upthread (>146 lauralkeet:) for a sense of the translation. If you're thinking about reading this book, it's worth springing for this translation vs. whatever dusty tome you might have on your shelves.
Source: On my shelves
The Captive and The Fugitive are the fifth and sixth parts of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. In The Captive, our narrator (also named Marcel) keeps his mistress Albertine in his apartment like -- you guessed it -- a prisoner, tormented by jealousy over lovers she may or may not have now, or have had in the past. He dithers over whether to stay in the relationship or break it off, and behaves in a creepy and controlling manner with her. I don’t want to reveal plot points, so will simply say this situation is resolved at the end of The Captive. In The Fugitive, Marcel has to deal with the consequences of this resolution.
Alongside this predominant storyline, other now familiar characters appear and either suffer socially or find their status elevated. The pompous and flamboyant Baron de Charlus gets his comeuppance and Marcel’s childhood love, Gilberte, makes an advantageous marriage.
Like the previous books in this work, there's a lot of internal monologue and not a lot of action. Proust analyzes, in depth, the feelings and motivations of Marcel and others at various levels of the social hierarchy. I have one volume left to read and am interested to see how this all wraps up.
I can pretty much guarantee that I'll be buying the Emily Wilson translation just from what you've said and from reading the first few lines. I am still buying way more than I'm actually reading. I haven't read the Fagles one but bought it in Switzerland 10 years ago and have it on the bookshelf. (And I like the part of the Fagles translation I read, but I think it needs more uninterrupted time that I have had for the last decade!)
Last night we went to a "Bibliococktails" thing at the Rosenbach -- essentially a literary-themed cocktail party held about once a month. This month the literary theme was Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. We mingled, had nibbles, listened to a recording of Thomas reading the story, and indulged in the evening's specialty cocktail:
Snow Every ChristmasIt wasn't too bad, but the Laphroaig kind of overpowered the drink. Rum-laced eggnog was also on hand, so we enjoyed a bit of that as well.
0.5oz Fino Sherry
0.75oz Lemon juice
0.5oz Vanilla syrup
Ho ho ho!
Left a message --- where you probably fell asleep on those cushions waiting for quilt photos, back about 2 weeks ago!
>192 laytonwoman3rd: I need to watch the TV special, Linda. It's readily available, I've just never gotten around to it. Thomas' reading was lovely. And I agree with you about the cocktail. But since admission to the event included two drink tickets, I wasn't going to complain. 😀
>193 EBT1002: I know you can't wait for vacation, Ellen. I'm glad you have some good reads queued up.
Source: On my Kindle
Another fine Ruth Galloway mystery. Ruth unexpectedly finds herself in the limelight, appearing in a television program about the burial site of a notorious Victorian murderer. Meanwhile, the police are investigating a series of child abductions, one of which strikes perilously close to home. Ruth has no professional connection to the crimes, but cares deeply about the people involved. This book is rich with character development. Ruth continues to juggle work and motherhood, always questioning whether she’s doing it right. Her brother Simon comes for a visit and the reader gets more insight into Ruth’s family. The police force includes a new member, Tim, a recruit from the Blackpool force featured in the previous book, requiring everyone to adjust to shifting team dynamics. But perhaps best of all, detective Judy Johnson takes center stage and begins a new storyline with interesting potential for future books.
If you like mysteries that emphasize characters over the crime, you’ll love the Ruth Galloway books.
You hit all the high points without having to use spoiler tags. Something I seem to rely on quite heavily when I'm chattering away about the RG saga.
>197 sibylline: You'd love it, Lucy!
Source: On my Kindle
In this third installment in the Sandhamn Murders series, Viveca Sten has hit her stride. Sandhamn is a small island in the Stockholm Archipelago, a popular summer destination with few year-round residents -- an unlikely setting for so much violent crime, but then that’s the way these series usually work.
The investigation is focused on remains found in the forest several months after a young woman’s disappearance. Detective Thomas Andreasson is on the case, and the circumstances behind the crime require assistance from other experts in Stockholm. Thomas’ friend Nora Linde is on the island with her sons, and the case serves to occupy her thoughts with something other than the relationship crisis that hits her at the beginning of the novel.
There’s also a parallel storyline of a boy and his abusive father, set nearly a century earlier. This is interesting in its own right, with plenty of dramatic tension. The connection with the present-day murder investigation is a believable twist integral to solving the crime. And just as things are wrapping up, Sten drops a huge cliffhanger that guarantees I’ll move swiftly on to the next book.
A new author for me, too. Probably a series to start in 2020.
>201 SandyAMcPherson: Yay!
>202 katiekrug: I bet you do, Katie -- I got the first one in one of those Amazon promotions where they offered something like a dozen free books. The first Sandhamn was one of them.
FWIW, the first Sandhamn book is a good introduction, not amazing, but now as you can see the series is growing on me.
Know my Name | The Magnificent Spinster | Tonight You’re Dead
A couple of days ago I started reading Know my Name, a memoir by Chanel Miller, the victim of sexual assault by the "Stanford Swimmer" in 2015. It is amazingly well written and deserves all of the accolades it has received. But it is INTENSE. I can normally push my way through difficult content but despite being repeatedly drawn to this book, at the halfway point I've realized it is weighing on me.
I decided it would be better to read it in smaller doses, alternating with something light and easy. Yesterday I started The Magnificent Spinster, which has been on my shelves for yoinks. It's interesting but not the brain candy I crave right now.
My best option appears to be the next Sandhamn novel, Tonight You’re Dead, which I'll start later today.
A winter solstice is the moment in time when the Earth's tilt away from the Sun is at its maximum and the Sun's maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. Thus the ice crystals form magical lighting effects ~
Sundogs and a sunrise on the Winter Solstice
>206 laytonwoman3rd: I thought about Thirkell, since I have a few of her books on my shelves but then realized I would be reading out of sequence which just would. not. do.
>207 EBT1002: I just love the Ruth Galloway series, Ellen! I'm glad you do too.
That said, Tonight You’re Dead is serving its purpose!
Or in other words, Happy Christmas! And have a great New Year as well.
I'll be lurking here more than posting over the next couple of days, and then joining the craziness that is the new 75 group for 2020.
Hello to new visitors Joe, Ellen and Paul! I hope the holidays have been good to everyone. My daughters arrived Saturday evening and we've been enjoying family time. We had our annual Christmas Eve brunch at a French bistro-style restaurant that is bustling and fun any day of the week and even more so on Christmas Eve. I'm terrible about getting family photos taken so I was happy our server was willing to oblige. After brunch we went skating at City Hall where they have an outdoor rink from November through February, and in the evening we went to a Candlelight Christmas Eve service.
Christmas Day was spent opening presents and eating too much. Chris and I don't usually give each other books at Christmas, since we buy plenty of them throughout the year; however this year I gave him a cookbook I knew he was coveting and he gave me a knitting book from my Amazon wishlist. Yay!
This afternoon we're going to see Little Women. My daughters will return to NY either Friday evening or Saturday.
I want to see Little Women but I might have to go by myself. I did see the new Star Wars on Christmas Eve, so The Wayne "owes" me (except not really because I enjoy the Star Wars movies...).
The 2020 Group is up!
Everyone else: what are you waiting for?!
Best wishes this holiday season!! See you in 2020!
Source: Library loan
In January, 2015 a young woman was sexually while attending a party at Stanford University. The assailant was a first-year student on a swimming scholarship. The victim, Chanel Miller, remained anonymous until recently, known to the public only as “Emily Doe.” Know my Name is Miller’s deeply personal account of the assault, the aftermath, and the legal process that finally came to an end in 2018.
This is one of the most intense and emotional books I have ever read. Miller writes with a strong, authentic voice and doesn’t mince words. She begins by describing her experience waking up on a gurney after the assault, her body’s condition, and the gradual realization of what happened to her. This is horrific and difficult reading, made even more so by Miller’s candor about the impact of this traumatic event on her mental and emotional health and her relationships with important people in her life.
While reading this memoir, I was compelled to keep going, but the emotional impact was palpable. I had to force myself to take breaks, reading smaller segments in order not to be overwhelmed. That this happened to me, a reader with no personal connections or experience, says a lot about what it must have been like for Miller, and what it must be like for any victim of sexual assault.
In the latter part of the book, Miller turns her attention to more recent cases of sexual assault involving high-powered public figures like Harvey Weinstein and the 45th President of the United States. She describes the evolution of public discourse and opinion, and her hopes for the future. It’s worth noting that Miller has twice been recognized as one of Glamour’s women of the year: first in 2016, as Emily Doe, and again in 2019 as herself. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Chanel Miller, and hope she continues to be a voice for change.
Gerwig also introduces a sort of "meta" element of a story within a story, as it becomes clear Jo is writing the book that becomes Little Women. And the entire cast is terrific too!
Know My Name sounds intense. I want to read that. It sounds like it might be a good choice for the women's memoir class I sometimes teach.
I just found out there was a PBS/BBC series made recently that I'd like to check out. Have you seen that one?
>241 brenzi:, >242 BLBera: Know My Name is an amazing memoir, worth reading if you think you can handle the subject matter. Beth, I think it could make for very interesting classroom discussion, although it's scary/sad to think there could be someone in the class who has lived through similar trauma and would be unable to take part.
>243 japaul22: great analysis of Little Women, Jennifer. I read the book once in my teens and again as a young-ish adult (translation: years ago), and I remember enough to know the movie was reasonably true to the book but not enough to identify the lifted dialogue. That's pretty interesting. I really liked Florence Pugh, who played Amy. I think she's a relative newcomer so I hope we see more of her.
Source: On my Kindle
I am really enjoying this series! The plots and character development just keep getting better. This time, Thomas Andreasson finds a link between two seemingly unrelated deaths and before you know it, he’s dealing with a potential serial killer and racing to find them before more lives are lost. There are also flashbacks to the 1970s in the form of diary entries, which allows the reader to know just a little more than Thomas does. Alongside the mystery are some interesting developments in both Thomas’ life and that of his friend, Nora Linde, who also contributes her characteristically minor but essential tidbit to the investigation. I’m looking forward to the next one.
>236 lauralkeet: Excellent review and that is definitely going on my wish list.
Like you, I have joined the 2020 75ers, of course!!!, but I won't start my new thread until Wednesday.
>247 EBT1002: Yes Ellen, do go see it! And I can't recommend Know My Name highly enough. I know you deal with campus sexual assault issues so it will "land" on you in some different ways.
Source: On my shelves
At seventy, Cam decides to document the life of her dear friend Jane Reid (the eponymous spinster), who has recently passed away. She decides to write it as a novel rather than a biography, since there are gaps in her knowledge of Jane’s life. So The Magnificent Spinster is a novel-within-a-novel, revealing as much about Cam as Jane. The two met when Jane was a young teacher and Cam, one of her students. Jane was an inspiring teacher and mentor, and also friendly with Cam’s mother who volunteered at the school. Later, their relationship evolved into a close friendship, with each woman supporting the other through life’s journey.
I’m not sure what to make of this book, which I picked up on a whim several years ago and left to languish on my shelves. The premise is interesting, but ultimately I wasn’t as fascinated by Jane as Cam was. May Sarton used major political and world events to anchor her story (both world wars, the Spanish Civil War, McCarthyism, the Kennedy presidency, and so on), but I grew weary of the characters’ diatribes on the state of the world.
In the end, this was a “just okay” sort of read. And now it’s no longer languishing on my shelves, so there’s that, I guess.
I wonder if the story would have "felt" different had you read it at the time you acquired the book?
This is something of a rhetorical question, of course. However, it is also a situation I've been encountering and I'd love to bounce my analysis around with folks who come up with very similar descriptions after reading a languished book.
I wearied of characters in a recent book (When Will There Be Good News?) to the point I didn't even add it to my library catalogue. Admittedly, it sat on my TBR shelf for a very long time *and* I hadn't read the preceding novels in the series. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps there's a "best by" date about certain books. That the time to read a particular author, title, or series passes and (for me) ~ I've moved on to other interests/preferences, ruminations or something.
It kind of bothers me that I go off a book and maybe I'm just reading it at a transient difficult time for whatever reason. I hate abandoning a potentially good read. Does this make sense? Or do I just need more coffee this morning?
The Magnificent Spinster is not contemporary fiction, but I remember acquiring it because of a podcast or blogger or some such singing the praises of May Sarton. I didn't ask myself "what is the best May Sarton novel for me to read?" Instead I grabbed the first one that presented itself to me.
So yeah: I agree with you. But have another cup of coffee on me, just in case. ☕️
Looking back on 2019, I’d say it’s been a pretty great year of reading. Not only did I achieve 75 books for the first time since 2011, I actually achieved a personal best of 84 books read this year. That’s an average of 7 books per month, but July and December were the high points, with 10 and 9 books respectively. March and April clocked in at 5 each. And I have no idea why these highs and lows happened!
I also feel pretty good about the quality of my reads, which is way more important than the numbers. On average, my books were about 340 pages long. 76% were books written by women (just a bit higher than normal). 33% of my reads were library loans, up from only 13% in 2018 when I was still figuring out how to work within the Philadelphia library system (faithful visitors will be familiar with my litany of complaints about slow hold fulfillment).
I can’t resist a good graph
My ratings skew towards the high end, averaging 3.7 every year since 2011. Only two of my 2019 books earned a 5-star rating, which I save for those truly “unforgettable” books. More often than not, these 5-star reads are also books that made me cry! As you can see, my book ratings cluster around 4 or 4.5 stars. Like many 75ers, I think this comes from being part of this community, where we value really good literature. The recommendations and discussion here have led me to great books I never would have found on my own, and made it easier for me to abandon books that just don’t cut it.
My Top 5 of 2019 includes the two 5-star titles, and three 4.5-star books that came closest to achieving 5-star status:
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
And that’s a wrap! I'll be hanging around here today in the event anyone wants to chat about year-end stuff. See you next year on my 2020 thread!
>255 katiekrug: the quality of your reading at the end of the year is way more important than the number
Absolutely! i was only managing to let go of the unsatisfying reading towards the last third of this year. I think discussions on talk helped with that.
>256 SandyAMcPherson: And I'm happy to have found another graph fan -- Hi Sandy!
>257 japaul22: Hi Jennifer, I just starred your 2020 Club Read thread so I can do a better job of following your reading in the new year!
On the subject of reading quality, I totally agree it's more important than the numbers (I came to terms with that over the past few years, when I was nowhere close to 75). I could do a better job abandoning books. Right now I tend to abandon a book if it's going to be less than 3 stars. But I wonder, if I took a really close look at my 3-star reads, are there ones I should have just put back on the shelf?
Jennifer, also makes a really good comment about better knowing one's reading preferences. LT conversations have really helped me with that, and I'm now much better at absorbing media buzz critically before choosing books. Funny thing though, there are still toooo many books out there waiting to be read!
>260 brenzi: *takes a deep bow*
>261 BLBera: Thanks Beth, we clearly have similar taste in books.
>262 msf59: Mark, is Know My Name narrated by the author? I would be impressed if she did, because I think it would be very difficult to do without losing it. The book is sooo intense but well worth reading. I look forward seeing your "best of" list.