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Club Read 2020

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Edited: Feb 14, 10:21am Top

31 Jan 2020: Will try to post new questions on Fridays!

Log of questions asked:
Question 1: Reading Plans
Question 2: How the political & social climate affects your reading
Question 3: Looking afresh at the ratings of older reads.
Question 4: Unexpected Books that Linger...
Question 5: Abandoned Books
Question 6: Controversial Books
Question 7: Fun & Games
Question 8: Books About Love
22 Dec 2019

Sassylassy has decided to take a break, so I have agreed to take over this for her.

I am a person who is more than comfortable with questions and I'm always asking questions of others and myself. I will have a different style than sassy, but I trust you all will adjust. Anyone with suggestions of questions can send me a note.

Here's to a thoughtful and fun new year! (I'm posting the first question now, but please wait until January to answer, k?)

QUESTION 1: 2019 has come and gone, and we are all looking forward to another year of reading. Perhaps you are finally planning to read that tome that has been on your shelf since 1995, or perhaps you intend to read more history, poetry or science fiction. Perhaps you plan to read the entire Modern Library collection or the complete oeuvre of Italo Calvino or Carol Duffy. Maybe you have planned to read more (or less) of some kind of authors, or books of a specific topic or locale, or maybe you plan to complete a list you have found or created...soooo...

Do you have any specific plans for your reading this year? And how rigid/loose are those plans?

Dec 23, 2019, 10:37am Top

Waiting 'til January, but reserving this spot. I get to answer a question!

Jan 1, 3:18am Top

Fairly definite, as in four large Viragos assembled from different corners of the secondhand book market and waiting for me when I get home, is an assault on Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. Also pretty definite is the concluding stage of my three year mission to boldly go where several famous Club Readers have gone before and read through all 20 of Zola’s Rougon-Macquart novels in order.

Looser, but quite likely to materialise, are my plans to carry on exploring various interesting authors I came across in 2019, including Gerald Murnane and Antonio Muñoz Molina.

I shall, of course, be following the quarterly theme reads in Reading Globally: I don’t know where they will lead, but I’m sure it will be interesting!

Vaguer ideas: maybe a bit more exploring of the obscurer writers in A literature of their own? Maybe another Big Poet Project? Maybe some Beethoven-related reading?

Jan 1, 7:41am Top

I have some very loose thoughts about what I might get to this year. My fiction reading is likely to remain loose but... I could direct my nonfiction reading....

---I have accumulated a few books on female coming-of-age stories so I could finally get to those.
---I have another few books (two anthologies & a companion book) that would continue my interest in the Gothic.
---I could finally get to more of histories by Mary Beth Norton (she wrote the best book on the Salem Witch Trials, imo; and her work provides context for my genealogical work)
---I have a couple of books of literary criticism on Margaret Atwood's writing (but could I read those without re-reading Atwood?).
---There is also a few more early American diaries waiting for me, but then there are so many books that call me from the shelves!

Really, the options are endless. But, of course, I may not direct it at all ....

Jan 1, 8:21am Top

I don't have any big plans this year. I've had several years in a row where I read a large work over the course of the year. I read Proust In Search of Lost Time in 2017-18, and last year I read Pilgrimage. I definitely need a break from that sort of reading.

I use the category challenge to organize my reading. My goals this year are loose - 20 books from 1001 books to read before you die (I like this list because it stretches my reading, is big enough to give me some variety, but small enough to sort through and make progress on); 20 books off of my shelf; 20 new-ish releases; 20 anything else (nonfiction, audiobooks, rereads, etc.).

I'm also planning to join several group reads. 1001 books group has monthly group reads, litsy has a monthly nyrb group read, and lyzard (in the 75 books group) is leading another Trollope group read and I think Lady Audley's Secret later in the year. I try to always participate in her group reads because she is so knowledgable and we have great discussions.

This is my group read plan: All of the February-November group reads will be in the Category Challenge if anyone is interested. Discussion is always better when more join in!

January - The Diviners group read, The Bertrams group read, A House and Its Head group litsy read
February - Wolf Hall reread
March - Bring up the Bodies reread
April - The Mirror and the Light
April-June The Golden Notebook group read
May - La Reine Margot group read
September - The Magic Mountain group read
October - Murder Must Advertise group read
November - The Nine Tailors group read

That probably is more planning than I thought but it's my norm and works really well for me.

Edited: Jan 1, 9:17am Top

No hard goals in particular for the coming year, though—as always—I'd like to read more of what's already on my shelves, especially some of what's been there a while. There are a few books I've moved to the top of the pile. I'd also like to finish up the short story collections I read half or 3/4 of while judging Library Journal's Best Books award for the past two years, at least the ones I really liked.

As you all know, I have no number goals set for this year. Part of that is because I want to spend a little more time reading the periodicals I subscribe to, and trying to stay a bit more current on New Yorkers and NYRB, as well as One Story—I've been reasonably good about that in the past year or so, but would like to keep more up to date. Reading good journalism (and short stories, to a lesser degree) counts as professional development for me, so I'm happy to make that a priority.

I have a few projects that I'd like to try out, though given my crazy schedule I'm not going to make myself feel bad if I don't stick to them. One is to read each day's entry in Peter Furtado's History Day by Day: 366 Voices from the Past, a collection of excerpts from news, journals, speeches, etc. throughout history, tied to each day. And then maybe write/reflect on it if I'm so moved. My knowledge of history is OK but spotty—I didn't learn much in school and whatever I know now has been acquired under my own steam—and I'm always happy to augment that.

Also to that end, a reading project I started probably a dozen years ago but didn't get more than a few chapters into: reading a chapter from Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution every Sunday night. I'm fascinated by the French Revolution and really want to know more about it in depth, and I adore Schama. Plus the book is too damn big to haul around (and the great cover a bit tattered), so this is a perfect bedside book. The side benefit being that it might get me in bed a little earlier on a Sunday, rather than staying up trying to finish every goddamn thing I didn't get to over the weekend, a completely impossible concept.

Non-reading goals include writing more by hand—more letters, more note-taking and journal writing. I do a fair amount already but hand writing is good for my brain, and I want to push that a little further. Plus it gives me the excuse to buy more fountain pens (not exactly sure how that works other than in my head).

Edited: Jan 1, 10:06am Top

I'm reading novellas. Starting with pre-20th century ones. Then, no particular order.

I usually stick with my yearly theme to see if I can get a paper out of it for fall lit conference. After October, it's free-read.

I have so many TBR books it's not even funny. I bought my husband a Kindle so he also has access to the books I have in the cloud. If I croak, at least someone will have access to them.

>6 lisapeet: Like your idea of more hand-writing. I also find this good for focusing. My preferred instrument since 1978 is a black felt-tipped Flair in a Picadilly pocket book. On Epiphany (Jan. 6), I burn everything I've written that year in a big bonfire.

Edited: Jan 1, 11:07am Top

I have many many plans, but I prefer to think of them as possibilities. I have been reading primarily from he 1001-Books-Lists for quite some time and love to use various challenges to select books from the list (ordered by priority):

Finish my day-by-day read of Anniversaries
TBR Challenge (goodreads) - random number selected each month from a list of 24
Big Books Project (goodreads) - first quarter is U.S.A. by John Dos Passos
100 Best Novels in Translation group project (goodreads) - one book a month
nyrb book club (Litsy) - one book a month
In-person book club books - alternates fiction and non-fiction
Reading Europe 2020 (Litsy) - my goal is to read 24 books
1001 Books to read group reads (LT) - one book a month
Historical Fiction Mini-tournament (goodreads) - 9 books put into brackets to be read & voted on over three months

And for entertainment value, I try to wedge the various books read for the above into various reading challenge prompts, such as Reading Women 2020 or Around the Year in 80 books.....

Jan 1, 11:23am Top

I think I would describe my reading plans as rigid

My ambition is to cover the various plays and poetry from the Elizabethan age concentrating on the years 1591/2 I have identified 35 books initially, but this will probably lead to more critical analysis or historical type books.

Science fiction reading is probably light relief especially as I will be concentrating on the year 1951. 25 books identified there.

Then there are books that have been left on my shelves unread for far too long 35 there for this year

That takes me up to 95 books and as I only managed 84 last year I am not hopeful.

Jan 1, 11:55am Top

Always loose plans as speaking of them often derails me. I'd like to aim for 50 books this year but it is unlikely - but let's see how this month goes, if I aim for 4 or 5. I want to finish a (large) number of unfinished books. I would like to read Blake and Tradition and I'd also like to work through more of learn ancient greek.

Jan 1, 12:31pm Top

I have a very few loose plans. I usually get distracted by something which throws everything off. I’d like to read one of the Sue Grafton books each month. I have B is for Burglar on my nightstand right now. I’ll get them from the library. I’d like to read The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning, and the second and third books in The Empire Trilogy by J. G. Farrell. But, I’ve had the Manning and Farrell books on my mental to do list for a couple of years, so we shall see. They are on my bookshelf, so no excuses. Mysteries are my go to when I need light reading. There are some RL things going on right now, so I don’t see my reading veering too far from that genre again this year. I guess I could say that my main goal is to keep reading.

Jan 1, 12:52pm Top

For years now I’ve had no plans, my rationale being that as I don’t have as much reading time as I’d like, I’m better of reading ANYTHING than feeling frustrated that I’m not sticking to my plans. However, I’ve been looking back at old threads of mine, and I see that my most enjoyable reading years were ones where I did have some kind of goal; for several years I was really into my reading-around-the-world project, which has been on the back burner for far too long, but which is still there at the back of my mind. So, cautiously, cautiously, I’m setting myself some loose reading aims for 2020:

1. I want to read some books off my TBR shelf. I need to have a think about whether to attach a figure here.

2. Going back over my old threads reminded me of all sorts of wonderful books I enjoyed, and promised myself to look out other things by the author...but never did. I’ve made myself a little list (actually a ridiculously long list) of these writers, and I want to read at least some books by them this year. (Again, I might decide to set myself a numerical goal here).

3. I’ve said this before, but I’d really like to revive my reading-around-the-world project. I used to track it primarily in the Reading Globally group, years ago, but I can’t keep up with 2 LT groups these days, so I will just use my CR thread.

4. Though I’ve shied away from numerical goals over the last few years, I’m going to set myself a target of 50 books for this year. In 2019 I read 46, continuing a gradual upward trend over the last few years, though still a long way from those heady early LT days (81 books in my first year on LT). I don’t think numbers alone matter all that much, but I want to see how a target works for me now.

Jan 1, 4:00pm Top

I always have grand plans, but I’m never able to manage to follow through. My one goal this year is to finish Rougon-Macquart, which I got more than halfway through many years ago. I am also going to participate in a group read of Proust, another project I got more than halfway through (4 1/2 books) several years ago. I will start over at the beginning. We’ll see how that goes. Both these projects will fit nicely with ReadingEurope, which I signed up for at Litsy (with Liz). And >8 ELiz_M: Liz, I failed about 2 months ago at the day by day reading of Anniversaries, so maybe I should catch up and carry on with that.
My only other goal is to read more of my own books and fewer library books, another goal I’ve failed at for a few years now.

Jan 1, 4:30pm Top

My reading plans for 2020 look much the same as they have for the past several years: have at least 50% of my reading be books I own (and most of that be books purchased before the current calendar year); be more mindful with regards to my book acquisitions; keep up with the reading for my in-person book group; and read more non-fiction.

I have found I work best with more generalized goals/plans like this, rather than identifying a list of specific books I am going to read. Keeping up with my one book group's reads is pretty much my limit as far as specific, scheduled reading goes. On that front, I know that in the first four months of 2020 I will be reading Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince and Other Tales (January); The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery (February, reread); Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (March); and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (April). Two books pretty firmly within my wheelhouse (and already in my library in one form or another) and two that are more of a stretch. Our May and June selections haven't been finalized yet.

I will be trying to keep up with both The Unread Shelf Project and the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge over the course of the year, though honestly that will be more of me looking at what I've read and getting it to fit into the chosen categories. Not really choosing beforehand what I will be reading.

Jan 1, 4:40pm Top

Any solid reading plans I make become onerous the minute it comes to beginning so I'm leaving the plans to people who enjoy them. I do plan to keep an eye on the books I've already brought home, to give them a chance to entice me a second time, but this is an exceeding loose resolution.

Jan 1, 5:41pm Top

I'm not great at reading plans either. I did one the first year I joined CR and stuck to it pretty well, but I enjoy not knowing what my next book is going to be until I pull it at random off my TBR pile.

Off said TBR pile I've a few I'd definitely like to get to (pretty sure I'm last to the party on many of these) - a Jane Austen (which one escapes me), Cold Comfort Farm, The End of the Affair, The Name of the Rose, Ebenezer le Page, Judas (Amos Oz) and The Edwardians (Sackville-West).

In 2019 about one third of my book choices were non-fiction, and I'd like to keep a similar split if possible this year. I have a couple of titles on order at the library to kick me off, and I think I might have requested them to purchase a couple of others when I was doing some late night library site surfing before Christmas. Of course now I can't for the life of me remember what they might have been.... (middle age sucks).

Jan 1, 5:52pm Top

One of the reasons that I let LT slip away is that I made too many plans, and they became chores. Mindful of that, what I'd like for 2020 is to read more. Not more books necessarily, rather more of the time which, of course, primarily means choosing books over my phone.

I'm also hoping to spend some of the current time I spend on other social media here. As I looked back at my reading over the past decade, it was clear that I was most excited about books and reading when I was most engaged here.

Jan 2, 2:07am Top

Like >15 RidgewayGirl:, if I make plans I immediately want to read something - anything - else. So I plan to read more BOMBs (Books Off My Bookshelf, ones I physically own that I bought more than a year ago), and other than that whatever appeals. Year before last I actually achieved my BOMBs (and discards) goals; this last year I failed miserably, reading several BOMBs in the last few days of the year in order to get halfway to my goal. So try again...

Edited: Jan 2, 10:28am Top

Following my themes. New this year is Nabokov. I plan to read his Russian novels at roughly one per month. My other big theme is Dante’s Divine Comedy. I’ll continue working through Willa Cather (I’m running a Litsy group), Shakespeare (with a Litsy group), and the Booker 13-book list. I’m thinking about the Tournament of Books. I could end up reading more James Baldwin this year too. I’m a little surprised how much I miss reading him at the moment, and there is a lot more to read.

Jan 2, 11:32am Top

I don't tend to make detailed reading plans or goals. Last year I hit my Way Too Large books-read goal, but I didn't make that goal until April or May last year when I realized I was naturally reading at the right volume.

This year I want to read authors from 60 different countries (my usual goal is 50 but that's been too easily met for a few years). Like so many of you, I'd also like to get through some of my physical 'owned but unread' books. I don't really have that many, but I picked up very few last year.

Jan 2, 2:08pm Top

>19 dchaikin: Dan, you have always impressed me with your themes & goals. (this will amuse you: a quote from your first thread in the first Club Read in '09: I'm going listless this year. No goals either.)

Jan 2, 2:37pm Top

>21 avaland: 🙂 Thanks for that. I could possibly write an essay on how I got from there to here.

Jan 3, 12:58pm Top

>22 dchaikin: And we all might possibly read it!

Edited: Jan 5, 3:32pm Top

We all jumped on that last question, didn't we? An easy one. Those of you who haven't tackled it yet, should feel at liberty to continue to post about it. That question was a warm-up exercise and now I'm going to give you something to 'feel the burn', so to speak (I'm not going to always post questions this frequently, it will settle down as we move through the next few months, I promise)


Our respective nations’ political and social climates seem agitated, to say the least (some more or less than others), although we may not all share the same issues or intensity. Brexit, impeachment, immigration, nationalism, the effects of climate change, healthcare, the rights of women or indigenous peoples…the list seems both endless, acute and often distracting.

As readers, how is your reading being affected by this? Are you reading less? more? or differently? Are you using books to escape and sooth more often? Or, perhaps you are reading more nonfiction? If so, are you reading by topic? or by author? Are you reading history or thoughtful essays to maintain perspective, or do you prefer the latest book that speaks directly to an issue? Are there books you currently can’t read? Are books too slow a medium to be useful guide as to what is going on in current events?

Edited: Jan 3, 1:57pm Top

Feeling the burn... (well, I mean, I’m not against him, but I’m actually referring to my brain engine.).

In sum, I’ve had a complete loss in faith in the world. I lost my optimism and confidence and comfort. Much worse than in 2000 (and again in 2002 when we invaded Iraq) because it’s not just global warming or nuclear annihilation I’m worried about, things hard to imagine, but I’ve discovered many of my family, neighbors and coworkers are awful and irrational in a way I can’t really deal well with trying to understand. I can deal with extreme religion. But the open racism, xenophobia and animosity towards compassion are just strange monsters that I guess I chose not to see before. And now I see them clearly. And the willful ignorance is simply outside of my world context. Faced with irrational anger, I have no idea what to do.

How that impacted my reading is that, as far as I can tell, I’ve had to fight to find a reading mindset, to not get distracted, to find some focus. And so my reading is now in the context of an effort to separate my mindset from the world in order to read. Whereas before I tried to read with the world, now I try to block it out in order to read. (I feel I should add a pause before acknowledging that, yes, this all actually helps me to stay on plan.)

Jan 3, 1:47pm Top

I am an escapist reader. I very rarely want politics or social commentary in my reading. I read a lot of classics, nonfiction about long-ago times, and even the contemporary fiction I read is often historical fiction. This isn't to say I don't like learning from my reading or that it doesn't broaden my world view, but I don't like reading books that are too obviously a commentary on the times we live on. It's too close, too personal, and too raw.

I also live in Washington, DC and often work at the White House so I see plenty in my work life. I really don't need it in my reading life too. I find the state of world affairs depressing, politics in my home country abysmal and embarrassing, and I definitely read for a respite from politics, close-mindedness, environmental concerns, inequalities, abuse, etc.

I do keep up with the news separately, but not in my book reading.

Jan 3, 1:59pm Top

I don't think politics affected my reading choices last year, however with the Brexit situation in England I found I was spending far too much time on the news sites. The election in England (it was the last time I will be eligible to vote) has settled the Brexit issue. There is no going back for me. Britain has taken away my right to be European (something which I have aways felt passionate about). I have made a New Years resolution not to get so involved with the news "let them get on with it"

I am far more concerned with the climate change issue but feel a bit like a voice in the wilderness. We are doing all we can to reduce our carbon footprint, but people around us just think we are over reacting.

I have to say I feel a bit like Dan >25 dchaikin: I feel out of step.

So looking on the bright side and disconnecting with political events will give me more time to read and how important is that?

Jan 3, 2:37pm Top

This is such a loaded question, Lois. I’m like Jennifer, I want to avoid anything political in my reading. I do watch the news in the morning while eating breakfast, and I see some things on Twitter. I stay away from Facebook as much as possible, because I’ve found that I can’t have any respect for the views of half of my friends and relatives. My relatives in Ireland think we’ve gone completely mad.

Therefore, as you’ve all seen, I read a lot of mysteries and crime novels. They are my escape from reality. I like historical fiction and the classics, but I have little desire to read anything about our crazy world today.

Jan 3, 5:13pm Top

I have always been an escapist reader - I don't _like_ arguments, so I try to avoid politics/religion/etc in my reading. I read a lot of SF - which often has references to current events, or events which were current at the time of writing, but I try to ignore them.

One book I read a few years ago probably had a lot more impact because of when I read it - Infomocracy by Malka Older, read during the 2016 elections. It's all about elections, and the tricks people use to control and modify voting and the views that drive it. I don't _think_ it was written specifically for the US elections...but I kept seeing things that linked to current news, new discoveries about how the elections were being manipulated. I hated it, but I did finish the book (wanted to know what would happen in that world!). I haven't gone on to read any more by the author, though, because that was a very unpleasant experience.

So my current reading has not particularly been affected by what's going on, because I've been carefully avoiding anything that might relate. Which is normal, for me.

Jan 3, 5:52pm Top

I’ve never really been a reader who looks for books that are very specific to the present moment: I don’t know whether that is escapism or a quest for perspective. Recent events haven’t changed that pattern very much, but I have certainly been investing more time in reading the newspaper lately, and not taking much pleasure in what it told me.

I have noticed that I keep seeing things in old books and in the history of earlier times that seem very relevant to the things we are experiencing now. Perhaps that’s the sort of thing Gerald Murnane means when he says that the page is a mirror, not a window... And it’s not always easy to decide whether or not it’s comforting to know that it’s not in the least unusual for humans to develop irrational hatreds, throw away treasured rights and freedoms, or elect politicians with no obvious abilities beyond the knack for communicating with a crowd from a podium.

Jan 3, 6:12pm Top

I am an escapist reader. I like to read real science, but no politics, and no religion that will make for a fight. I have been ashamed of American politics much of my adult life. I became an adult in about 1968, and it was a difficult time to be young. My parents, who were liberal in my childhood, became reactionary in my teens, and were pro Vietnam and pro Nixon at that time. When I was young I could and did read almost anything, but now I avoid anything that makes me think of any harm to children. It is too easy to think of my own in their place. I like to read Regency romance, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and lots of paranormal stuff. I lived in a haunted house as a child, and was quite bothered by it. I don't want to encounter the same things again, but I like to read fantasy about it. I assume I was just misled by the events in my childhood, and that none of it was real--despite how hard some of it was to explain.

Jan 4, 7:11am Top

I’ve just been reading Alan Bennett’s 2019 diary in the LRB, and admiring the way he manages to maintain his cheerful pessimism in the face of things falling apart, the more so since he has to deal with the usual problems of old age at the same time, declining health and disappearance of his contemporaries. He’s clearly well aware of the things that are going wrong in the world and ready to speak out against them, but there’s no hint of despair. Something to aspire to!

Jan 4, 8:01am Top

>32 thorold: Interesting note, and I just read an article on the difference between hope & optimism that seems to relate.

Edited: Jan 4, 7:21pm Top

>24 avaland: Q.2. I don't think politics now is directly affecting my reading, as I have been out-of step with popular opinions much of my life.

I think reading for me is sometimes an escape and sometimes a way to stimulate my brain/dig deeper into ideas that interest me or experiences that are different than mine.

I do, however, have to limit listening to the news, or I get quite depressed. I want to know what's going on, but I feel quite powerless to effect any change, or even find a way for those of us who disagree to listen and speak to each other respectfully on a level larger than the personal.

I have a friend, who I will be having dinner with tomorrow, who says she thinks that people voting for Trump are just stupid. She doesn't have any other way to view their decision that makes sense to her.

I don't think 1/2 the country is stupid, and I wish there was some way that those of us on the "left" and the "right" could sit down and hear and understand our opponents world view. Because while we fight each other and call each other names, the people who manage the country and manage the businesses are busy taking care of themselves and not the country or the environment.

Sorry about the rant. I find the situation frustrating and don't know what I, or anyone, can do to mend things.

>33 avaland: Interesting article. It reminds me of a quote I like from an article on Maria Popova's Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org/)>

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

>32 thorold: I love the phrase cheerful pessimism!

Edited: Jan 5, 2:24pm Top

Re hope:

I think writing and reading are essentially acts motivated by hope. There are still people out there who want to tell us stories about ourselves and to try to explain something about the human condition. And nobody would bother telling stories of they didn't think there were others who wanted/needed to hear them. Stories transcend barriers among people separated by distance, culture, time, and class. Reading certainly makes me feel more connected to the larger stream of humanity and not entirely stranded in whatever dreck is floating by at this moment in current events.

On the other hand, no one ever accused me of being a Little Mary Sunshine optimist. As a chronic cancer patient, I get tired of positive thinkers who tell me to replace my chemo with CBD oil and a gratitude journal. I'll do that as soon as someone drops a house on these people. I recommend Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided as a return to rational thinking.

Edited: Jan 5, 5:39pm Top

My reading, myth, faiths, poetry seem a good response to any events - the realest response to them that people have, that need to be connected to what we do or we risk having to learn again or worse -- and also if we are open to adapt in their spirit.

Then read this https://www.waltermagazine.com/art-and-culture/verse-reading-the-news-and-thinki...

confessional - maybe.
unwanted, maybe
clarifying, maybe


Edited: Jan 5, 5:33pm Top

>35 nohrt4me2: I like your observation of stories, very well-said.


To be honest, many of the answers here have been far more acute & confessional than I expected and those answers suggest that the political climate is casting a very broad shadow indeed. I hoped I phrased the question in a way that invited any reader to answer; I did not wish to assume everyone believes/thinks/feels as I do.

Since I don't believe in asking others to answer a question if I'm not also willing to answer it, I'm going to answer. I read the news in the Washington Post each day, and pick up more on public radio and on select discussion shows. BUT, I took a look over my last four years of reading and I do not see any major changes. Other than a couple of succinct David Cay Johnston books; the second section of the Mueller report, a small volume by Timothy Snyder and the audio of Madeline Albright's book on Fascism, there has been no significant overshadowing of my 'usual' reading topics. My nonfiction has continued to be around women's lives and issues, race & related history, early New England history, psychology and a bit of science, literature and popular culture. My fiction is varied, a bit of everything, what ever appeals.

All that said, while I don't feel I have changed my reading, I do find current issues making a home in a great deal of my fiction and calling out to me from within the nonfiction, too. Maybe one can escape it, I'm doubtful, especially not popular fiction. I read a book in 2018 on Scandinavian crime novels, which focused on the work of several very prominent authors, and it was all about how the issues of their day were worked into the story. It's still true of most of the crime novels I read. And tell me that dystopias and science fiction are not about today's issues? Hmmmm, all of my nonfiction seems to have some indirect relationship to the things that concern us now (books on empathy, evil, the end of childhood, the Chibox girls...and don't get me going on the Puritans). It can't be coincidence, can it? (I suspect a subliminal urge to see the sun without looking directly into it...if you catch my meaning)

With regards to most of my fiction, Jean (norhrt4me2) in post#35 above has articulated what I have not been able to, so I will repost and embolden her paragraph here in case you missed it. I think this is why I am hopeful.

I think writing and reading are essentially acts motivated by hope. There are still people out there who want to tell us stories about ourselves and to try to explain something about the human condition. And nobody would bother telling stories of they didn't think there were others who wanted/needed to hear them. Stories transcend barriers among people separated by distance, culture, time, and class. Reading certainly makes me feel more connected to the larger stream of humanity and not entirely stranded in whatever dreck is floating by at this moment in current events.

Keep those answers coming (and I promise a nice light one for the next question, ok?)

Jan 5, 6:09pm Top

Very interesting question. I may not do it consciously, but subconsciously I very much do avoid books that are fictionally or non-fictionally related to our big world issues, and often gravitate towards novels about the things that are most important to me - family, love, everyday life.

Two reasons why, I think. One is that current world issues scare the bejesus out of me and there's very little I can do about them beyond putting my x on the voting slip when I get the chance or trying to do my small bit on the green front. I read the news online most days in the morning, and that's as much fear as I can cope with. The rest of the day I stick my fingers in my ears and try not to hear any more of it. Just when you think the world can't get any greedier or more intolerant or more full of hatred, some other piece of joy emerges as breaking news.

The second reason is that I find myself believing very little of what our politicians and journalists tell us these days. News does not feel like news any more - I can no longer find a trusted path to the real facts. Although I didn't consciously realise I was doing it, now I can see that if a book is going to be political I prefer it to be after the fact - much after the fact - when there's a far greater chance of what I read bearing some historical resemblance to what actually happened. Most likely I was too naive for years in my acceptance of the daily news as a truth, but I do think the level of spin in politics has gone completely crazy in recent years.

>25 dchaikin: Dan, I feel for you when you say that politics of late in the US have made you discover sides of people around you that you are finding hard to understand and accept. In NI we've lived with those types of thoughts for a very long time about our neighbours and work colleagues, and it's a horrible way to exist. That's the one positivity I can take out of current times - despite how shambolic, embarrassing and shameful our local politicians continue to be, I see a new tolerance and positive embracing of real change emerging from many local people here. We're beginning to trust one another enough to start becoming inquisitive rather than judgmental about our differences. There's still a long way to go (I don't know how we'll ever get rid of our politicians who wish to remain entrenched in the past), but I have more hope than I did before.

Jan 5, 6:29pm Top

>38 AlisonY: That's really nice to hear, your last paragraph. Some positive energy out there.

>35 nohrt4me2: Appreciating the sentiment here. Thanks for posting that for us.

Jan 5, 7:10pm Top

As the queer mother of a teenager I feel anxious almost all of the time in our current world. I personally have struggled with prioritizing reading or, perhaps more accurately, focusing on reading.

Because of the emotional response they cause, I also cannot seem to read the kind of literary novels that I once did and feel really guilty about that. I'm trying to find a way to read lighter fare and enjoy it for what it is.

Jan 5, 8:32pm Top


I've given up on making any plans. I want to make some progress in the series I am reading and probably start a few more but besides that, I am planning to just read what catches my eye.


I was born in the last decade of the Cold War, on the Eastern side of the wall. I grew up in the middle of history changing daily - from the collapse of the Soviets, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the Yugoslavian wars and the financial collapse of the whole region I lived in -- including hyperinflation back home that wiped out any security to 9/11 which proved that it is not just Eastern Europe where bad things happen. Through high school, my geography textbooks had to be supplemented every few months - because they were incorrect -- in the parts about the closest countries. So books became my escape. I still rarely read about these times - I do pick up a book now and then but as a whole, the topic is still too fresh and painful. It was the newspapers and magazines which made sure I was uptodate back then... and things had not changed much.

So these days I read a few magazines and some newspapers - just to keep in touch with reality. For a few years I listened to a news podcast (or 3) but at some point last year I realized that while it may be good journalism, I am not always in the mood for it. Books on the other hand? I stay away from the current affair ones - way too close and way too wordy most of the time. I am not hiding my head in the sand - not exactly anyway but I would rather read fiction or a properly written article. Or another non-fiction book.

Jan 5, 11:43pm Top

I feel depressed and helpless about the political situation. I fear it will get worse, not better, and I am so frightened that Trump will be reelected. (Voter suppression, anyone?) I am most disheartened by the failure of the Republicans to provide any type of brakes/restraints on our corrupt president. Most days I want to go to my room and shut out the world.
But I don't. For some reason, I feel compelled to learn about all the horrors that are being committed. I read the newspaper every day (either the NY Times or the Wa Post or both) and I watch a bit of TV news (usually MSNBC). I do not ever look at Twitter or Facebook. And since the election of 2016, I've found myself regularly reading books to try to understand what happened to cause the election of Trump and also to track his "high crimes and misdemeanors." I think I've read at least a dozen such books since the election, and they sometimes wind up on my best reads of the year lists.
Shortly after the election, I rationalized that many people may have voted for Trump because he promised change, and "draining the swamp," and for that they could overlook his immorality. So I gave them the benefit of doubt as to their motives. But with all we know now, his supporters can no longer have that excuse, and I am no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. There are a couple of people in my family who voted for Trump. I love them, and continue to have a relationship with them, and we have agreed not to talk politics. Other than them, I pretty much am not willing to engage with anyone who supports Trump. There is no arguing with someone who considers the NY Times or the Wa Post "fake news," or who takes Trump's bald-faced lies as fact. Most of all, I am appalled that not one Republican politician has been willing to stand up to Trump on his lies, incompetence, corruption, and heinous acts.
Sorry to be so brutal and political here.

Jan 5, 11:52pm Top

>42 arubabookwoman: I quite agree with you about most of what you said. But I'm not willing to lose hope in the people who have drunk the kool-aid. I have a dear sister who is dramatically Republican, and believes much of what Fox News reports. We have agreed not to talk Politics (or Religion) for the love we cherish for each other. Still, she is a bright woman. I do not understand.

Jan 6, 12:01am Top

>43 sallypursell: That is my problem with the two people in my family who voted for Trump. They are very bright, so I cannot understand why they supported him. (Although I have my suspicions, and they are not pretty)/

Jan 6, 12:09am Top

>44 arubabookwoman: I suspect I can understand what you suspicions may be. I think that is unlikely of my sister, because I hold her sense of right and wrong in great esteem, but fear of "the other" has a long history with human kind.

Edited: Jan 6, 2:25pm Top


It's good to see everyone's passionate, involved responses. Just being reminded we're not alone is a big plus.

When reading books, I mostly read science fiction and fantasy. The younger generations of authors there are strongly engaged in opposing the Trumpian tendencies of the world; it's like reading the news in a different register. I greatly admire these writers, but sometimes find them difficult to read, partly because of that echoing of my Twitter feed (or so it can seem). So in the past year I've been reading older books that I've had around the house. Maybe that's escape.

I read the Washington Post, and Twitter provides links to many more worthwhile articles than I have time for. Lois and I buy nonfiction books on politics, but I do worry that if they go unread for 6 months or a year they'll be out of date.

Edited: Jan 7, 11:36am Top

BTW: In case anyone is moved by this question to read more about current events, we'd love to see you over on the Reading Globally theme read on "The Rise of the Far Right in the 21st Century" that has just started : https://www.librarything.com/topic/315092 </Unashamed plug>

Edited: Jan 11, 9:58am Top

The past week here in "Questions" has been interesting. Perhaps I should lighten things a bit. I don't expect to be coming up with questions this frequently all year, nor do I expect the questions to be as the last one was. I'm planning a mix of questions from the playful to the probing, and likely not more than one question per week, at best. And not all questions will be appropriate for every reader. Since we are all being so so active currently, here is something a bit lighter:

Question 3. Go to your LT library and note the number of pages (of books) and calculate from that figure what page if roughly the numerical middle. Bring up your middle page, and moving towards the lower page numbers, answer this question:

What are the first five books you gave a 4.5 or 5 star rating to? Please list, for our benefit. How long ago did you read these books and do you still feel they deserve your stellar rating of them?

Example: my library is 182 pages, so I went to page 91 and found 1 book given 4.5 or 5 stars. So, I went to page 90, 89...etc until I found a total of five. If you don't rate your books, you may have to sit this one out.

(edited to correct spelling)

Edited: Jan 8, 3:11pm Top

Q3: I think this depends on what sort order you happen to have used last, and whether you had a big back-catalogue of books you haven’t re-read since joining LT, and all sorts of other uncontrollable factors. But I think I see what you meant...

I had things sorted by date added, and that way the mid-point is still well in the back-catalogue area. The first five star ratings as I scroll through are from a full Jane Austen re-read, about five years after I catalogued them. And giving Jane Austen five stars is a bit measly, so I won’t count that...

It looks as though the first book I added and gave five stars to was a memoir called Boomer by a railway worker, Linda Niemann. Good, but not really a five-star read, I probably hadn’t worked out where to click at that time...

Next were two novels that really did deserve it, Austerlitz and La vie, mode d’emploi; then Michael Tolliver lives, which perhaps didn’t quite, and, wouldn’t you know it, another book on women in the railway industry, Railwaywomen by Helena Wojtczak, where I’m happy to defend my rating (I seem to remember she got an award for “self-published book of the year”).

These were all in summer 2007.

(For those who review when they rate, another, simpler, way to do this would perhaps be to list your reviews in ascending date order.)

Jan 8, 3:10pm Top

I think we need a sort by instruction. I’m guessing by entry date.

Jan 8, 3:23pm Top

My catalog is sorted alphabetically by title (not sure why, I don't remember choosing that and it seems it would make more sense for me to sort by author name). Also, all of my nonfiction defaults to a certain section because I think the dewey catalog number also factors into my catalog sorting. So there won't be any nonfiction.

Halfway through the pages is the K and L section.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones, 4.5 stars (read in 2016)
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigirid Undset, 5 stars (read in 2008 and reread in 2019)
L'Assomoir by Emile Zola, 5 stars (read in 2017)
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith, 4.5 stars (read in 2016)
Life and Fate by Vassily Grossman, 4.5 stars (read in 2014)

I would stand by the excellent rating that I gave all of these books except for The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. I remember very little about it. It was published in 2016 and I think I tend to over-inflate ratings for newly published books that I think people should read. Whoops. I read my review for it and it jogged my memory a little. I do remember that the writing was skillful and the topic interested me, but it probably deserves a 4 star rating instead. My star ratings are usually pretty emotional and reflect how I feel immediately upon finishing a book. That's one reason I don't use my star ratings when creating my year-end best books lists. I often put books on that that didn't get 5 stars and sometimes leave off highly starred books.

An interesting exercise!

Jan 8, 3:40pm Top

Q3: Sorting by entry date (newest first) and using All Collections, 26 pages (100 per page), so back to page 13 and going back

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North - 4.5 stars, read 2015-04-11
Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link - 5 stars, read 2015-03-19
All Star Comics - Archives, Volume 0 - 4.5 stars, read 2015-06-07
The Bone Tree by Greg Iles - 5 stars, read 2015-05-27
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, 5 stars, read 2015-05-30

Read only collection, sorted by date read (latest first) - my default sorting, 1303 books, median is mid page 7 and starting from there and going towards the newer ones:

The Line of Polity by Neal Asher, 4.5 stars, read 2016-06-20
The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria, 5 stars, read 2016-06-24
Hunter of Worlds by C. J. Cherryh, 4.5 stars, read 2016-06-30
The Case of the Dangerous Dowager by Erle Stanley Gardner, 4.5 stars, read 2016-07-03
The Faded Sun: Kesrith by C. J. Cherryh, 4.5 stars, read 2016-07-04

Looks like I had a very enjoyable early summer here...

Looking back, I am still happy with my ratings on all of them (if anything, there are a few 4 stars in between these that could have been 4.5). Some of them (All Star Comics and Gardner) are that high accounting for how old they are - yes, they may not appeal to the modern mind sometimes but I enjoy them so... One probably won't be that high (Hunter of Worlds) if I have to rate it again - based on the rest of Cherryh I had read since then, that one is closer to 4 than 4.5....

Edited: Jan 8, 6:04pm Top

My 'Your Books' mid-point takes me to the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. These were all marked as 5 stars.

Fledgling by Octavia Butler - Should probably be 4 1/2, but I did really enjoy it.

The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough - Again, should probably be 4 1/2. It's very good but maybe not every single word is necessary.

Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome - 5 stars absolutely justified. I will not accept discussion.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - Probably 4 1/2 if I read it today. I have re-read it once and I do still think it's extremely good historical fiction.

The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander - 5 stars forever, and another I won't accept discussion on.

I've gotten a little more stingy about star ratings as the years have gone by. Though part of me still feels like, if I absolutely loved a book despite recognizing the flaws, that's worth 5 stars.

Jan 8, 8:00pm Top

My midpoint was page 154, but I had to go back to page 152 to get my first 4 1/2 or 5 star read. I don’t give out a lot of 4 1/2 or 5 stars. I found lots of 4 stars along the way, but it took me until page147 to find five 4 1/2 or 5 star reads. They are:

Sorry by Gail Jones read 2018 4 1/2 stars
The Emperor of All Maladies read 2012 4 1/2 stars
The Member of the Wedding read 2015 5 stars
Journey Into The Whirlwind read 2014 5 stars
The Path to Power by Robert Caro read 2012 5 stars

Edited: Jan 8, 8:35pm Top

I left my default sort, which was entry date. Half way took me to 2010 and a slew of children’s books (my kids turned 6 and 4 that year). These are the first five I found (took several pages, beginning at page 149)

First Come the Zebra - Lynne Barasch - 5 stars, no memory
My Dog May Be a Genius : Poems - Jack Prelutsky 4.5 stars - Prelutsky is fun, but I don’t remember this one specifically
Lost and Found - Oliver Jeffers 4.5 stars - same as above, great children’s book author, no memory of this book.
Desert - J. M. G. Le Clézio 4.5 stars (2010) - I adore Le Clézio and haven’t read him in ages...
Library Lion - Michelle Knudsen 5 stars - I do remember this one. Was a great hit with the kids (um, and us parents).

Thanks Lois - Fun
>53 mabith: - Great list. I think I liked that book on the Iliad a lot...but I only gave it 3 stars.

Jan 8, 9:50pm Top

My list is automatically ordered by date entered so that I can stay no top of my TBR and not let things pile up. Some books slip by but I've been doing quite well in reading books as they come in these days. Well, at least the English language books. French books I tend to buy in bulk when I go to France so I buy knowing I won't read them all right away. And Japanese books, well, there are bookstores all around me so it's hard not to pick up a book here and there and then become lazy.

Back to the topic at hand though, out of 28 tabs, I didn't have to stray from the middle, tab 14, to get my 4.5 and 5 star reads.

Ayako Miura : Lady Gracia: A Samurai Wife's Love, Strife, and Faith -5
John Steinbeck : The Grapes of Wrath -5
Natsuo Kirino : Out - 4.5
Seishi Yokomizo : Le village aux huit tombes - 5
Victor Hugo : L'Homme qui rit -5

I still agree with all these ratings. The Miura was an excellent account of women during the samurai period while also enlightening the reader on the spread of Christianity in Japan. Steinbeck was an excellent read. And the Kirino and Yokomizo were two very good mystery novels that were impeccable with the story, mystery, and entertainment value they gave. And then that Hugo. Yes! Hugo! L'Homme qui rit highlights Hugo's dark humor at his best. What a fantastic book that was.

Edited: Jan 8, 10:31pm Top

I confess I stopped adding and rating books a few years ago, but FWIW:

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
The Martian Chronicles
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Except for the Woolf book, yes, I'd say they're still all 5 stars. I only liked the Woolf book because it made Virginia look petty and neurotic. Isn't that shameful?

Interested in why you asked us to start in the middle.

Edited: Jan 9, 6:12am Top

My library contains only books I physically own. It's 14 pages. Here's what I found on page 7:
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson
Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
They all date from 2012.
It is possible I would give fewer stars to The Yellow Wallpaper and Feet of Clay if I read them today.

Jan 9, 4:32am Top

I looked at my default sort, which is by date read...but when I went to my middle page (54), I was well back in the not-yet-read books. So that wouldn't work. Switched to entry date, and my books are:

Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey 4.5
The Silvered by Tanya Huff 4.5
Stinz - Horsebrush and Other Tales by Donna Barr 4.5
Necessity's Child by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 4.5
Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio 4.5
War Maid's Choice by David Weber 4.5 (it was right next to Agatha! Couldn't stop there).

They're all _good_ books, but The Silvered is the only one I'm sure I'd give the same rating today. The rest would be 4s, I think. Or not - maybe just after I'd read them I'd love them enough to give the extra half-star; I don't have that feeling now, though. Read from 2012 to 2015.

Amusingly - all SF (not surprising for me - note that that's speculative fiction and embraces both science fiction and fantasy) and two graphic novels (Stinz and Agatha).

Jan 9, 5:09am Top

Q3 - sorting by entry date I'm skewed as when I joined LT in 2015 I uploaded all of my physical books on in that year, so my halfway point is still 2015. Nonetheless, I don't think it matters.

My top 5 on that page are:

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner: 5 stars - yep, I still stand by that. I remember a real sense of place and feeling like I'd just got back from a relaxing mini break.
This is the Country by William Wall: 4.5 stars - I remember very little about this, and keep confusing it in my head with an Ardal O'Hanlon book I read. I seemed to be surprised I enjoyed it so much at the time.
Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf: 4.5 stars - it's Virginia Woolf, so of course it's brilliant.
HhhH by Laurent Binet: 5 stars - I remembering loving this, and again being surprised that I loved it so much. I think it would surprise me again in a good way, but I wonder would it still get the coveted 5 stars.
Licks of Love by John Updike: 4.5 stars - now I'm surprised I gave this such a high rating, as I usually don't like short story collections, and from my review I thought the Rabbit novella included in this fell a bit flat as Harry Angstrom was now dead. This finished off my run of the Rabbit series, so I suspect there was an extra half star in there for nostalgia's sake.

Like others, I think I was more generous with my star rating back then. Most of these should probably come down by half a star, except for Brookner and Woolf.

Edited: Jan 9, 3:07pm Top

With a library sorted by date entered, my midpoint, as noted prior, was page 91 of 182, books being entered in March of '07, and it took me about 10 pages to find five rated that highly. I had joined LT 6 months prior in Oct of '06 and was still entering the last of the books (came across a slew of cookbook entries). I found five and excerpted any reviews I attached.

1. Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones 4.5 stars
THEN: "Again, another bloody brilliant work by Jones whose intelligence and lyricism shines throughout." NOW: I don't remember much of this book, which doesn't mean it no longer deserves the 4.5 rating. This may have been the first Gail Jones I read and I went on to read many more (and the two most recent are "in the pile."

2. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta 5 stars
THEN: "There is much crammed into this book's 200 or so pages. Moving, fascinating and thought-provoking, I couldn't put it down." NOW: Hmm. 13 years ago is a long time. I don't remember very much about this one either. I was endeavoring to read a lot of African lit back then (oh, what a wonderful literary explosion there's been since then.... This book is an early African classic, I stand by the rating.

3. Selected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy. 4.5 stars
THEN: "Duffy has her own quirky voice, a great sense of humor, and writes accessibly. She has a way with language that just delights me.a" NOW: I think this was my first Duffy collection and I'd probably push that up to a 5 star rating now with no pretense of being unbiased:-)

4. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter 4.5 starts
THEN: "Set in the 19th century, Nights at the Circus is a brilliant, baroque and often bawdy tale of a famous winged woman aerialist told in prose so 'exuberant', you'll wish you could take it off the page in great gobs and rub it all over yourself." NOW: OK, that review was the ravings of a true fan girl, ha ha. I was in the process of reading everything by Carter I could get my hands on. I stand by the rating.

4. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter 5 stars
THEN: Too bad I didn't write a review for this one. NOW: I stand by the rating.

Jan 9, 4:01pm Top

>62 avaland: What happened to the missing half-star for Nights at the circus?

Edited: Jan 9, 5:30pm Top

OK I have 37 pages, my arithmetic has never been great so I am going back to page 16

5 stars Of Mice and Men/Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
I still remember how much I enjoyed Cannery Row and Steinbeck's writing and so I am happy with my rating

5 stars Kokoro by Netsuke Soseki
I had completely forgotten this book but after reading my review I want to read it all over again. Unfortunately it's not on my bookshelves and I am wondering if I lent it to someone. I am not going to be able to get to sleep tonight https://www.librarything.com/work/11734/details/116609527

5 stars The New Machiavelli H G Wells
This was when I was reading through all of H G Well's novels and this was one of his best, but again I had to read my review to find out what it was all about. Perhaps it got five stars because it was relatively better than some of Well's other efforts.

5 stars Responsibilities and other Poems W B Yeats
Oh yes I remember this fairly slim book of poems. It was the first collection of W B Yeats that I had read and I was amazed. I can still remember some of the poems. This has obviously made an impression.

5 stars The Prussian Officer and other Stories
This was a re-read for me of my favourite author. I know all these stories backwards they are just like old friends.

I found this exercise a very interesting experience and so I have a new reading project to read one of my reviews every day - don't panic I am not going to do reviews of my reviews, because I am not sure where that will lead me.............

Edited: Jan 9, 7:57pm Top

5 stars - The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book - read in the late 1990s
4.5 stars - Beowulf (Seamus Heaney) - read in August 2013
5 stars - On Love - read in Jul 2009
4.5 stars - The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories - read in August 2015
4.5 stars - Ulysses - read in spring of 2012
4.5 stars - Underworld - read in Jan/Feb 2018

I might knock 1/2 star off Underworld, but I stand by the rest.

Jan 10, 11:20am Top

I don't give many 5 stars, but these are the highest from my 2014 list, which is half way for me.

Off the Menu--4 stars
Days of Wine and Roquefort--4 stars
Joyful (Return to Sugarcreek)--4.5 stars
Deception (The Grace Mysteries)--4 stars
Miss Julia's Gift--4 stars
Hopeful (Return to Sugarcreek)--4.5 stars
Cakes and Ale--4 stars
A Christmas Memory--4.5 stars

Looks like I was reading mysteries and Amish fiction, which I still read! Plus a few others thrown in, probably for the 2014 Challenges. I have been an LT member for almost 10 years, hard to believe!

Jan 10, 4:27pm Top

My middle page is number 16; moving backward toward newer entry dates we have:

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick 4.5 stars
Was by Geoff Ryman 5 stars
The City & The City by China Mieville 5 stars
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts 4.5 stars
Grazing the Long Acre by Gwyneth Jones 4.5 stars

The first one I reviewed this past year, the rest much longer ago. I think I've become a bit less generous with stars lately. I would still hold to these ratings, insofar as I remember the books. The Ryman and the Mieville in particular are just amazing, in two quite different ways.

Jan 13, 8:52am Top

NOTE: Now that you are all warmed up, I'm going to settle down to roughly a weekly question, alternating types and weight of the questions. Not every question will be for everyone, of course. Next one will drop just before the weekend. Thanks, all.

Jan 14, 8:31pm Top

Wow, I have been very bad about keeping up with this thread and answering the questions! I thought I had at least done the first one, but apparently not. So:

Question 1:

My main goal for the year is to keep up with the one-in/two-out system I've been using to reduce my ridiculous out-of-contol TBR. I've had good success with that for the last couple of years, and I'm hoping that'll continue. Although I am starting the year with my ledger a good ways in the red. Oops.

I'm also doing the ROOT (read our own tomes) challenge again this year. I lowered my goal for that a little last year, thinking I'd hit it easily, but last year was a comparatively thin reading year for me, so I only just met it by the end. This year, I'm lowering it even more, down to 50 books, where books have to have been on the TBR shelves as of Jan 1, 2020 to qualify. This challenge makes for a nice reminder to keep reading some of the books I already have, rather than always getting distracted by shiny new things, but I don't want to feel pressured by it.

Otherwise, I have no goals at all. A few books and series I'm really hoping to get to, but nothing concrete.

Question 2:

There are times when current events and the general state of the world stress me out very badly, and during those times my reading can suffer. I sometimes find myself having great difficulty concentrating on whatever I'm reading and end up flailing around trying lots of different kinds of books, hoping to find the one that will magically take my mind off of everything, and usually failing.

I hate that experience so much that far too often I end up avoiding it by just avoiding the news altogether, sticking my head firmly in the sand and refusing to pay attention. And then I feel very, very guilty about that, because ignoring things doesn't make them go away, and now I'm failing to live up to my responsibilities as an informed citizen. My impulse, then, is to use books to solve that problem, because my impulse is to use books to solve every problem in my life. Which, last year, just led to me reading a couple of books about the Trump administration which just depressed me without actually telling me very much I didn't already know. I don't think I'm going to repeat that experience this year.

Question 3:

OK, sorting by entry date and delving 25 pages in takes me back to 2007, and, in fact, page 25 features both books that I bought in 2007 and ones that were already on my TBR shelves when I joined LT that year. Which would seem to mean that half my library has been acquired since I signed up for this site. I'm going to try not to dwell on that fact too long.

Anyway, the results are:

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr., 5 stars, read in 2007

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman, 4.5 stars, read in 2010

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, 4.5 stars, read in 2007

PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by Frank Warren, 4.5 stars, read in 2007

The Character of Physical Law by Richard Feynman, 4.5 stars, read in 2011

I haven't re-read any of those since, but those star ratings still seem right to me. Well, PostSecret has maybe lost some of its fascination for me, although I still do keep up with the website, and I had kind of forgotten rating it that highly. It probably did deserve it though. The other four books, I still remember very well and still feel very positive about.

Jan 14, 9:19pm Top

Mine are by date entered and a mix of read and unread. Star ratings generally are in comparison to other books I've read in the same genre.

These are all from 2009:

Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby - 4.5 Stars

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - 5 Stars

Columbine by Dave Cullen - 5 Stars

American Salvage* by Bonnie Jo Campbell - 5 Stars

The first few books in the Three Pines series by Louise Penny - 4.5-5 Stars

I stand by these numbers, I think. I don't remember the Hornby specifically, but I love him generally.

Sort of sadly I just finished the newest Three Pines mystery and reviewed it today - I'm no longer feeling the same amount of love.

*tagged as a recommendation from none other than avaland!!!

Jan 15, 7:45am Top

I'm also behind on this thread, and have been thinking a bit about Question #2.

As a journalist, even though my beat isn't straight up politics I do need to stay informed about the machinations of the world and particularly U.S. administration on a general scale. I'm also interested in them (else I wouldn't be a very good journalist)—but I don't consider myself a news junkie, don't watch TV at all or streaming news online. I get most of my info from the NY Times and Washington Post, long form articles at places like the New Yorker and NYRB and Atlantic, and then tend to leave it there other than individual articles that catch my interest. So I do like taking deep dives into current events via books from time to time. Not so much current event politics—any book on that subject is going to be necessarily dated (or else squeezed out so fast there are errors or shortcomings), but about the media or civic topics. I've been reading more about racism and white supremacy in the U.S. over the past few years, since my middle-class white girl education has been so limited; immigration; tech; media manipulation. I also really like reading history and thinking about how then relates to now, because it all does...

I enjoyed the conversation around hope, and how it differs from optimism and how it's a necessary mindset for dark times like these. I know Krista Tippet isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I've gotten a lot along those lines out of her On Being podcast. She's got a collection of podcasts and transcripts on the subject, "Hope Is a Muscle," that make for good reading/listening when you need a dose of non-dire thought.

Edited: Jan 15, 7:51am Top

#3: Out of my middle page of LT books, #30, my 4.5 or 5 star ratings are:

Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini - 5 stars
Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer - 5 stars
This Is Not an Accident: Stories by April Wilder - 4.5 stars
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld - 4.5 stars
Thunderstruck and Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken - 5 stars

These were at the end of 2013 or the beginning or 2014 and yeah, I'm good with those ratings. I remember that as being a really super reading year—I was in grad schol and gobbling up all sorts of new to me stuff.

Jan 15, 8:30am Top

>70 nancyewhite: Oh, thanks for the nod, that's good to see she gained a reader. I managed to get rebeccanyc to read that first collection and she later recommended to me the next work Campbell produced (which reminds me that I should look to see if Campbell has anything new!)

Interesting that your "love" for the mystery series has faded some. I was disappointed with the last Peter Robinson "DCI Banks"read a few years ago, after what? 20+ enjoyable reads. I don't think I would reevaluate my experience with those older reads based on the more recent one (and perhaps I just don't care for Banks aging with me...)

Jan 17, 5:07pm Top

Question 4.

We expect the "great" books—classics & prize-winners—to linger in our minds long after we finish reading them. Similarly, a very popular book or a scandalous read may live a long time with the help the reading populace and or the media. But…

Tell us about a book you read at some point in your life, which fits in neither of those categories, yet has lingered—revisiting your mind from time to time over the years.

Jan 17, 7:53pm Top

Q4: There's this fantasy novel, which, described, sounds utterly formulaic - a quest, to deliver something to a mysterious place. I don't think it sold much, and I've never found anything else by the author. It is possibly the richest, most complex, deepest thing I've ever read. The Eye of Night, by Pauline J. Alama. And trying to think how to describe it now, I'm finding myself scratching for more than the feel of the book - most of the story has disappeared, but the feel of it has been with me since I first read it. Time for another reread, I think.

Edited: Jan 17, 8:30pm Top

Lisa Bright and Dark John NeufeldYA novel about a girl suffering from mental illness, desparate to get her parents to listen, to help her. Its her friends who do. I was about 15 when I first read it and while my issue wasn't the same as hers, it was like a salve to a wound. Read it many times as a teen, and was surprised that they were not many similar books out there about mental illness and teens, until I discovered I never promised you a rose garden. Still it was years and years before people started talking more about it and more books coming out about it. I know it saved my life back then, hope that the ones that are out now are helping others like me

Edited: Jan 17, 11:30pm Top

The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin. Domestic thriller about an exhausted woman with a colicky newborn. Oops, that the on an Edgar Award in 1960, so maybe it doesn't count.

Jan 18, 6:54am Top

Q4: I keep thinking of things and then deciding, “no, that’s a classic in its own field.” Or, “I love that book no-one else has read because the author is someone who played an important part in my life.” Maybe I’ll think of something later...

Jan 18, 8:23am Top

OK - so this is not the best book I've ever read by a long shot, but the question was about a book that has lingered with you over a long time....

When I was teenager, I read Waiting for The Beatles: An Apple Scruff's Story by Carol Bedford. Although it was the '80s and Beatles mania had passed, musically I was a big Beatles fan (still am - who doesn't like The Beatles?).

The Apple Scruffs were hardcore Beatles fans who were so named because they waited with devotion (/delusionment) outside the Apple Studios and other Beatles haunts in the hope of of seeing or speaking with their favourite member of the band. Carol Bedford was in her late teens and in the midst of Beatles hysteria, and after seeing them in concert in the States decided to hot foot it across the pond to be closer to her beloved George Harrison (correct choice in terms of favourite Beatle, Bedford).

I don't know what it is about this book, but 30 odd years on I can still remember it so clearly (right down to them stealing a pair of Paul McCartney's dirty underpants). In reward for their patience the Beatles were eventually on first name terms with this group of crazy super fans, and although the adult Bedford had clearly moved on from her teenage hysteria and become a reasonably well adjusted adult when she wrote this memoir, you could tell she didn't regret a single day of the time she spent shivering on steps in the rain 'Waiting for the Beatles'.

No doubt a big factor for this book sticking with me is the age I read it at. I loved Sixties music with a passion, and what could be better than marrying my love of Beatles music with a story of crazy teenage obsession.

I still have it, and would be intrigued to read it again to see what I think of it all these years later. Mind you, I've just clocked that used copies on Amazon have a starting price of £68; perhaps I'm not that attached to it...

Edited: Jan 18, 10:25am Top

>78 thorold: I like your thinking - a book by an author who meant something in your life....seems that could work under this question....

We, of course, all have personal responses to any book because we are different people, but classics & popular books have a certain common response also. My aim with the question was to try to find lesser know books that we personally responded to, enough to carry the memory of it forward.

Jan 18, 12:56pm Top

I could probably select a lot here, but some are considered classics (A River Runs Through It, for example). Back in roughly 2005 I was read through random literary journals, including a 1997 issue of The Missouri Review. There I read a story by Jesse Lee Kercheval about her summer camp in 1969, and was just carried away by the fragile teenage paradise in and out of that time. I remembered it well enough that I went back and read the whole magazine in 2012 and hunted down and read her memoir with the story included, Space : A Memoir (where she changed the story!! Weakening it in my very biased opinion). Anyhow, great memoir. I happen to have loved that entire magazine. I should go back and look all those authors up. I never listed them.

Jan 18, 1:48pm Top

When I was a child, I read a series by Carolyn Haywood about a girl named Betsy. Betsy's Little Star was the first one I read, followed by Betsy's Busy Summer and Back to School with Betsy and then the rest. I own most if not all of the series. They were later republished with modernized covers, although I still like the old versions the best. They were just family stories about kids doing kid things. Maybe they remind me of a happy time in my life.

Jan 18, 5:09pm Top

Still thinking about my choice, but
>79 AlisonY: I've got to read that book!!! I lived in London and was there when the Apple studio opened (on Baker Street I think I recall). I hung out there at least twice with a couple of my friends hoping to see a Beatle, but alas it never happened. And George was "mine" too.

Edited: Jan 18, 5:57pm Top

>78 thorold: I'm having the same issue. It may not be a broad classic but it's a more niche classic.

I still think a lot about 1941: The Year That Keeps Returning. Likewise, it's a pretty recent book but Know the Mother is very short (flash?) fiction, which isn't usually my thing. That book devoured me. I feel like you could teach a three hour class on every piece in the book. It's an incredible work.

Edited: Jan 19, 7:52am Top

I read in 2002, when it first appeared in the US, Australian author Kate Greenville's 1999 novel The Idea of Perfection. It's a reasonably light novel that is both comically entertaining and thought-provoking. I have now read it at least four times because the whole "idea of perfection" pops back in my head frequently (which is why I've read it four times...it's a loop of some kind, ha ha) Why DO we value perfection?.

(of course, now that I write this, I remember that this won the Orange Prize in 2001 which I assume was after it was published in the UK, and it may have been the book that got me hooked on the Orange Prize which was not generally known in the US at that time, even in bookstores. The book world was not yet globalized by social media! but, damn, I tried to handsell that book to readers. Then along came LT in 2006...and the rest is history).

So, maybe, I've broken the rules I set...but my defense is that it was NOT a bestseller in the US. It was LT that brought so many more US readers to that book & the Orange Prize.

Jan 19, 11:04am Top

>85 avaland: The Idea of Perfection is a really good read! I don't recall her other books being as good.

Jan 19, 11:48am Top

>85 avaland: I thought the historical fiction The Secret River was excellent, the others books slightly less so.

Jan 19, 1:09pm Top

>83 arubabookwoman: oh you would love it then! It must be out of print given the ridiculous prices on Amazon (may be cheaper where you are, though).

Jan 19, 6:06pm Top

I can't really think of any particular work that meets this criterion--since when I do, fifteen more swim into mind.

Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. Is that a classic? I don't know.

The Inverted World by Christopher Priest Pretty well-known to sci-fi fans.

So many more.

Jan 20, 9:38am Top

For the sake of naming something, I looked through my books sorted in ascending order of number of copies...

One name that came up was Odette Keun, whom I came across by accident in a secondhand bookshop long before the days of Wikipedia. Dutch by passport, Turkish by birth, French by inclination, mistress of H.G. Wells, if she were alive today she’d obviously be leader of the English Conservative Party, but back in the 1920s she was a radical left-wing activist in the Caucasus, annoying the Russians and the British equally. A shameless self-promoter, perhaps not a very good writer by any objective standard, but her books are great fun and totally offbeat.

Jan 20, 10:10am Top

>90 thorold: Another one, along with Dorothy Richardson?

Jan 20, 11:04am Top

>91 ELiz_M: ...and Rebecca West and Amber Reeves, as well as quite a few others who weren’t famous writers at all.

Jan 20, 11:28am Top

um Rebecca is a very famous writer (incidentally another mistress of Wells)

Edited: Jan 20, 3:57pm Top


Jan 20, 1:33pm Top

>94 cindydavid4: Yes, West is definitely the best-known of them. There’s a nice article about Amber Reeves and her subsequent career as a writer by Margaret Drabble — she sounds like someone it would be interesting to explore further: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/apr/02/featuresreviews.guardianreview33?C...

Jan 20, 2:31pm Top

>90 thorold: I'm glad you found something to write about! Interesting pick.

Edited: Jan 20, 4:27pm Top

Oh I do like Margaret Drabble, would like to read that (I don't know as much about Amber Reeves as I should)

Speaking of other mistresses of Wells, one of my fav English (actually Australian) Writers is Elizabeth Von Arnim. You'll recognize first her novel Enchanted April and might know her Summer of my German Garden She writes some really delightful semi biographical stories about her life as a young wife in 1900s Germany, her garden, dogs and other tid bits. Shes a writer I turn to when I need my mind to just mellow (but she's no shrinking violet, very much independent, manages her horrid husband remarkably well. Anyway, well recommended

Edited: Jan 20, 3:57pm Top

Oh! I had discovered her through a book called Christopher and Columbus, about two teenage girls (half German) who are sent to the US by their Uncle just before WWI. Great hijinks ensue.

Jan 20, 4:06pm Top

>74 avaland: For me it'd be any of a number of books I read before age 15 or so, mostly science fiction of course. Let Galactic Derelict by Andre Norton stand for all.

Jan 20, 4:09pm Top

>95 thorold: thanks for that article, ok, new author to explore, many new books to find (as I looks sheepishly at the stacks of books I received or perchased over the holidays. I'll get to you I promise) Looking forward to it!

Jan 20, 9:40pm Top

I was having trouble thinking of childhood books that weren't classics, since I think most of the ones that really stuck with me fall into that category to some degree or another. But one book that's been on my mind, actually, is Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs, which I read just before I got my first dog. It's not any kind of exhaustive piece of nonfiction; more like an extended essay, but very lovingly written and I've come back to parts of it over and over. The hardest bit, if you know anything about the author, is at the end where she notes that the sad part about the dog-human relationship is that the human is almost sure to outlive the dog—but in fact Knapp's dog outlived her, because she died of lung cancer at 42, when her beloved dog Lucille was still alive. Between that and the way she describes her relationship with Lucille, it's pretty much guaranteed to make me cry at least a little whenever I read it—and lord knows if I were to pick it up now, so soon after losing my last good good dog, I'd probably be a mess—but it's still always worth rereading bits and pieces for me, just because of all that love in it.

Jan 20, 10:06pm Top

>101 lisapeet: Knapp's memoir of her alcoholism is also good.

Jan 21, 6:34am Top

>102 dukedom_enough: It is indeed. Drinking: A Love Story—I read that years ago.

There's also another memoir by Gail Caldwell about their relationship, Let's Take the Long Way Home, that I have on the shelf but haven't cracked yet. Dogs feature heavily in that one too. This might be the year to read it, actually.

Jan 22, 10:06pm Top

I'm gonna chime in here with a series I ran across in high school, the "My Friend" series by Jane Duncan, found in the adult section of my public library. Published in the 1960s and early 70s, they're autobiographical fiction about a woman who grows up in the highlands of Scotland in the early 20th century, they are light entertaining reading. They cover the protagonist's adult life more than her childhood, but all contain amusing stories from her childhood.

I sought them out in public libraries as I moved through my twenties, then they dropped out of sight, and out of print, and I discovered a few years ago that Macmillan republished them in electronic format. This meant I could acquire them, and I've enjoyed them overall 30-40 years later. I think my favorites are My friends the Miss Boyds and My friends George and Tom.

Jan 22, 10:24pm Top

I have two books that come to mind. The first is Silk by Alessandro Baricco which I had read long before it was every picked up as a must read by the English-speaking market. The love letter in that book is what has stuck in my mind all these years.

The second book was a book in middle school that I don't remember the title of at all. I was already reading classics like Les Miserables back then so this book stands out like a sore thumb. I think it would be classified as YA now, or maybe even middle grade?, which is a genre I totally skipped when I was young as I went straight from reading Nancy Drew to reading classics. It was a book about a kid (I think latino) and him dealing with experiences related to a gang. Maybe someone dies? I don't know. I had read it for I don't know what reason but when the Scholastic fair came out I immediately bought a new version of it as it had marked me so much and I wanted to own it. I never reread it but I still own that pristine never been opened book. I also never read another book in the same genre or reading level/genre. I went right back to reading classics. I wish I could see what it was to get the title but it is at my parents house which I might go back to in May but I'm not sure.

Edited: Jan 23, 6:58am Top

>105 lilisin: I've really enjoyed some of Baricco's other books, but Silk just didn't work for me: it struck me as no more than cheap romantic (and orientalist) clichés dressed up in fancy typography. Maybe I read it in the wrong mood (or I was too old...).

Jan 23, 7:21am Top

>205 Oh, yes, the Baricco was lovely. The other book was not The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, was it?

Jan 23, 9:01am Top

>106 thorold:
I definitely have heard that critique and wonder what I would think if I were to read it now.

>107 avaland:
I wish I knew!

Jan 24, 8:38am Top


What is the last book you abandoned for any reason? Give us three adjectives that might describe the part of it book you did read. Where in the book did you abandon it? Why did you abandon it? Is there any chance you will return to it?

Jan 24, 9:28am Top

Hmm. Set aside or abandoned? Sometimes settling a book aside is permanent. I read half of A History of London in December and I liked it. But it was really dense with detail and slow and it’s about 1000 pages. So I set it aside Jan 1 to focus on my themed reading. But I still expect to come back to it.

Adjectives: dense, slow, overly detailed (but also really interesting, and topics are broadly relevant in world history)

Jan 24, 9:51am Top

Q5: The last book I set aside without any clear intention to finish it was a couple of days ago, the top book on my library pile, Arthur Herman’s The idea of decline in Western history because it turned out not to be about cowboys after all because I realised somewhere around the end of chapter one where it was that I’d come across the author before: he’s the villain who tricked me into reading the ridiculous How the Scots invented the modern world. A book that starts out quite sensible but then descends into nonsense about a third of the way through. Even though the opening chapter looked quite sane, I didn’t want to get caught out again. Three adjectives: smooth, plausible, unchallenging. I might give it another chance if I finish the rest of my pile with time to spare.

Jan 24, 12:22pm Top

Last one was the Crawdad one that is so popular - disbelief (as in I could not imagine a child being able to survive that enviroment) emotionally manipulative (yes yes it was all so sad, ok, we get it) and just irritating (characters and plot and repetitive writing). Quit when she meets Chase and I think I can figure out quickly how this will go.

Jan 24, 12:37pm Top

I'm sure I've abandoned a book, but I don't remember one. I have the bad habit of reading to the end no matter what.

Jan 24, 1:17pm Top

Wow! Somehow I just found this thread. I'll provide some short answers:

Question 1 -- Reading plans: I don't like to employ reading plans, but I do use a book selection system or two! I have a 3-way cycle. I read a book that's already in my house, then I allow myself to go out and buy a book to read, then I read a book off my "short list" (books in series I'm in the midst of and other books I've purchased with the intent of reading "soon" rather than immediately). Every once in a while my wife sticks a book in front of my face and says, "Read this." Being Mortal was the last such. Anyway, I enjoy the rather random reading path that these systems lead me down.

Question 2 -- I mostly read to get away from such issues, though I must say that no matter how much time I spend reading, I still spend too much time not reading and, hence, paying attention to the world around me. Occasionally I do read books with political themes and I very much enjoy the kinds of histories that give backgrounds into current issues.

Question 3 -- I have too many books in my library that I haven't read yet and, so, too many unrated books.

Question 4 -- Hmmm. I might have to come back to this one. The only book coming to mind is On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss. I guess any book by Dr. Seuss would be considered a classic, and yet I find that most people have never heard of this one. My mother read it with me when I was very young and it quickly became a favorite. It is all about thinking outside the box and not becoming a slave to convention. It's about all the letters (in English) that come after Z. "I'm telling you this 'cause you're one of my friends, but my alphabet starts where your alphabet ends," and "When you stop at the Z, you're stuck in a rut, but on beyond zebra, you're anything but." I do think about those lessons all the time. All the other books coming to mind that have influenced me over a long period of time, are classics. I'll give this extremely interesting question some more thought, though.

Question 5 -- Just last week I put down Little Women. Like many folks, I'd decided to read it because the reviews for the new movie version are so positive, and I wanted to see that already having the book under my belt. But I hadn't realized it was 500 pages long (in my Signet Classics edition, anyway), nor that is a book very clearly written for children (as opposed to "young adults"). I put it down at page 140. It was just too hard a push for me to take on straight through. The idea of forcing myself to read another 360 pages was just too much for me. I think I'm going to try to read it, still, maybe 50 pages at a time between my other reading. Or maybe not.

Jan 24, 1:43pm Top

>111 thorold: Cowboys...too funny!

>114 rocketjk: Glad you found us!

Edited: Jan 25, 10:54am Top

Can't Buy Me Love by Martin Humphries was the last one I abandoned. I stopped after the first ten pages or so. Adjectives: trashy, trashy, and trashy. I don't read books with lots of swear words, and the beginning was full of them, in addition to weird and unlikeable characters and sexual situations. I even went to the end and read the last chapter, and still was not interested in reading it. I will not pick it up again--it is gone from my Kindle e-reader.

Jan 24, 4:18pm Top

My reading plan for 2020 (actually for January-August) is Russian civilization & thought. This includes Russian fiction, poetry, philosophy, and theology (all in English translation, but originally written in Russian). Also includes history of Russia & any countries formerly in the Soviet Union. I finished Dosteovsky's Notes from a Dead House earlier this week, as my first book of the year.

This plan will be interspersed with other books (art history, fiction, creative writing) when I need something lighter.

Edited: Jan 24, 10:55pm Top

Q5: I hadn't abandoned a book in quite a while until a week ago: England and Other Stories by Graham Swift. I stopped reading half-way through, and only made it that far because I really wanted to complete the book for Paul's British Authors Challenge. But the stories were, frankly, boring, and the characters were not sympathetic or likeable. It just seemed like a chore to go to the next story.

I flipped through the second half of the book, and the only one that I read in the second half was the last story (from the title) "England", which had a bit of a plot to it and a couple interesting characters. Best of the lot. I'm not sorry I didn't finish it. And I even have a signed first edition. Off it goes to the library sale.

Edited: Jan 24, 10:57pm Top

>117 SplendorofDelight: Love your plan. Do you have a thread here somewhere?

Edited: Jan 27, 10:43am Top

>114 rocketjk: heh, there is a reason why its considered a children's classic :) I tried to reread my copy, ended up going on to little men and read my fav chapters. Its not one Id recommend for most people not YA, but YMMV

ok well, I have a hot off the press example of a book I am abandoning -Pachinko Things were going rather splendidly for a few hundered pages, then suddenly felt like I was driving through mud. Couldn't get passed the middle section (and I do not force myself to finish a book. Once Im done, thats it) I loved the history; I knew very little about Korea, let alone that it was occupied pre WWII, and what conditions its people suffered through (as well as those who emigrated to Osaka) The two main characters were complex, multifaceted, and I was eager for what was to come. Well, why abandon it?

-inconsistent: with the plot, characters and style. "The themes of change, of discrimination and hatred, of the slow destruction of key aspects of Japanese/Asian society, of women's and men's roles, of sex, of work and the identify work confers, were all interesting, but as with so much of this novel, they were addressed unevenly. " (amazon review)

-repetitive. I can take only so many times of explaining what shirt someone wore, or descriptions once again of where they were or why they were doing something. There is a section when the main character goes into a shop for groceries, and we are introduced to the owner, followed by a family tree and various anecdotes, for about two pages before we actually got back to the dialogue. The book itself could have been cut a hundred pages if a good editor welded a sharp knife

-unwieldly The book starts out pre WWII, and continues through 1990. too many characters too much plot, just too much of everything. Again, the book needed a really good editor. If she stuck with the two parents, allowed them both sometime to interact (They both die off rather quickly I thought) with additional characters perhaps stoppling after WWII, it would have worked better

I do enjoy a multi generational saga or two, but this wasn't it. Think I'll reread House of Spirits or Joy Luck Club or Gilead happy reading!


Edited: Jan 25, 11:20am Top

I have abandoned almost everything by Ayn Rand (though I forced myself through Atlas Shrugged and Anthem so I could better articulate my hatred for her books). Over-written, overwrought, arrogant (only three adjectives??)

Jan 25, 3:02pm Top

>121 nohrt4me2: Tell us how you really feel....:-)

Jan 25, 3:36pm Top

>Q5 I recently abandoned Kerstin Ekman's Under the Snow. Adjectives: light, comic, hard-to-follow. Really, the book is probably fine but it suffered terribly because it immediately followed my reading of Ekman's excellent first translated book, Blackwater. The abandoned book was also crime novel set in very northern Sweden, but this book featured a character who was always making light of things which bugged me to no end because I was trying to pay attention to some of the other characters and bits about Sámi culture ....

I am of an age now that I no longer feel guilty for abandoning books*. Life. Is. Too. Short. If a book isn't doing anything for me, I move on. But there are some that I will go back to (sometimes it was just the wrong time for a certain book).

(*True confession: there is one book I feel a bit guilty about abandoning. I will not ever be able to go back to JCO's A Book of American Martyrs because that was the book I was reading when the 2016 election went down. It will be forever associated with that election. Fangirl guilt, I suppose.)

Jan 25, 5:05pm Top

I rarely abandon a book but just after Christmas gave up on the unnamable which is the final part of the Samuel Becket Trilogy. I had struggled through the first two parts, but every time I tried the third part it sent me to sleep. I still have the book on my shelves and next time I feel the adrenaline coursing through my body I might try again

Jan 25, 6:35pm Top

I lied. I recently abandoned Shoal of Time, because the library insisted I bring it back. Of course, I do plan to go get it again, and finish it, because it is part of my Hawaii project.

Edited: Jan 26, 2:51pm Top

Last one I have recorded as abandoned on my thread last year (though I don't always write them down) is The Plateau by Maggie Paxson, and next to it I wrote "but would like to read A good place to hide (Peter Grose) and Village of secrets by Caroline Moorehead."

My recollection is not that I wasn't enjoying the book, but that it was due back at the library, and I knew I wouldn't get back to it.

Jan 26, 3:39pm Top

Ooh, I'm thinking of abandoning a book. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost. A woman working in a carnival is visited by a vampire, and then rescued by Vlad Țepeș himself, who naturally can't resist her.

I suppose it is some kind of female fantasy that a man(?) can't resist her and that women in his past never mattered the way she does, but how impossible to believe. Oh, I believe in true love, because I have it, but I think there are probably multiple men in the world I could have made a wonderful life with. Don't get me wrong--my husband is spectacular. I had a supervisor once who had gone to high school with him, and she said once, "I always wondered who Clay would marry. He's dreamy."

Anyway, the description of the guy/vampire is hardly as fabulous as that, although I am asked to believe that women all fall for him, without exception. I can't tell you how many women have told me that they have had crushes on Clay at one point or another, but it is not without exception. For that matter, I had the same feeling once upon a time. On the night we met, I opened the door of my apartment, and he was there with my boyfriend. I had the instant thought, "Oh, this is the right one, but this kind never wants me." It took me some months to convince him. I found out later that Clay didn't know that he was so handsome and charming. Just like a book, only it is usually the woman. Please forgive my digression, it seemed pertinent.

Edited: Jan 28, 9:08pm Top

The last book I abandoned was Gigi by Colette in 2018 which has four short stories in it. I only read the first two because by the second story I was annoyed and bored and thought best not to force myself to struggle through the last two stories. So my three adjectives are boring, beyond, belief. Okay, not really an adjective but the book is not even worth the effort of coming up with adjectives. I will most definitely not be returning to finish this.

Jan 28, 1:40pm Top

Question 4:

I was having a lot of trouble coming up with an answer for this one, and then I suddenly remembered the book from my childhood that totally qualifies: The Adventures of Calico Cotton. Which is obscure enough that I can't even find it on LibraryThing! It was a story about a girl, the eponymous Calico Cotton, who flies on a kite to a fantasy realm with a holiday theme, and frees it from a curse.

It was a kids' book, but it was a proper full-length novel, and I was very young to be reading such things. Six, maybe? My parents bought it for me at a flea market. I remember asking for it and them having a debate about whether it was too old for me. But apparently some expert or other had told them it was good to encourage me to read above my age level, so I got to take it home. I remember it making my head hurt a little, because of the amount of concentration it took, but I loved it (even though, looking back on it now, I doubt it was all that great), and I read it over and over. No doubt it was fairly formative in my life-long love of fantastic fiction.

Question 5:

I don't remotely recall the last time I abandoned a book I started. Sometime in my chidhood, I guess. Because I'm terribly, terribly stubborn that way.

Oh, wait, I suppose maybe Frederik Pohl's The Age of the Pussyfoot counts. I accidentally left that one in a hotel room in Carlsbad, New Mexico, so I never got to finish it. If I'd been liking it more, I probably would have just got a new copy, but I remember it being kind of meh. Still annoyed the heck out of me to lose it, though.

Jan 28, 2:02pm Top

>129 bragan: I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read that Pohl title. I've only read one or two Frederik Pohl novels, but I've never heard of that one! (and there are three reviews for it here on LT!)

Jan 28, 2:22pm Top

>130 avaland: The title was by far the most memorable thing about it, really. Well, unless it got a lot more interesting after the point where I lost it.

Jan 28, 5:16pm Top

>128 lilisin: Hee collette is an acquired taste. I only knew her from the movie GIGI, which actually was pretty good. Wasn't till I saw the movie about her Colettee that really got my attention Another story of a young girl married to an older may who encourages her to write stories, then of course claims them as his own. Turns out she had more than her share of ball. Wrote lots of stuff but her writing is so of that time (1900) that honestly I can only take a bit at a time. Pretty amazing story, see if you can catch the movie

Jan 28, 9:11pm Top

>132 cindydavid4:
Yes I’ve seen the movie with Kiera Knightly and I liked it. I also didn’t hate her book Cheri when I read it. But I did find Gigi dreadfully boring. Don’t even remember what it is about.

Jan 29, 6:07am Top

Oh I did love Cheri, also the book where she talks about her childhood. Never read Gigi - I believe you tho!

Edited: Jan 29, 9:11am Top

>129 bragan: >130 avaland: >131 bragan:

I read that in its original magazine appearance, in Galaxy IIRC. Remember being impressed that the protagonist had a quarter-million dollars, but that after centuries of inflation that would only keep him for a few weeks

Jan 29, 9:29am Top

I don't abandon much. There was something non-fiction that I quit last year, even though I was six hours into the audiobook, but I can't recall what that was. I also stopped A Stranger in Olondria quite early because the writing style was bothering me. A couple people I follow on LT have loved the book though, so I'm intending to give it another go eventually.

Jan 29, 11:05pm Top

I haven't _quite_ abandoned this book - I'm still thinking I'll go back to it. But the longer I am away from it the less interested I am in getting back in...The Immortal Storm by Sam Moskowitz. It is supposed to be a history of early SF fandom in the US...and I suppose it is, sort of. But what Moskowitz is interested in is the petty squabbles between various people and groups - this group claimed to be the true whatever, and these people didn't like it so they formed their own group to do the same thing "better", and argue argue this group "won" and the other one dissolved/was absorbed/moved away, rinse and repeat. Yawn. Horribly sexist and racist, in the dismissive mode - one active fan is described as the "only" black man involved in fandom, (aside from these people and those people and the other ones - described in the same paragraph, but I guess Moskowitz liked his line about only too much to remove it while he proved it wrong...). I think it's possible that two women have been among the hundred or so people mentioned so far - hard to tell, since at least one person I thought was a woman based on their name turned out to be (described as) male (the son of someone). No one has been identified as female, that I recall. And so on, and so on...It's a huge book, too (an ebook, so I'm not sure how many pages, but I had read what felt like a couple hundred pages and was less than a third through. Though that may be a function of what a slog it is to read, as well). Maybe I'll go back, skim it (hard to do in an ebook, but better than trying to read the whole thing) and hope there are some more interesting parts later on.

Jan 30, 3:41am Top

gawd that sounds frightful!! Back in the 80s, Sharon McCrumb did a blistering satire on the con fan community in a book that I think was called The Bimbos of the Death Sun. It really was hilarious (the main character was supposed to be based on Harlan Ellison). But is this non fiction? I don't think Moskowitz was trying for laughs and giggles here. Id not even bother looking for interesting parts, suspect it just goes down hill quickly!

Jan 30, 7:43am Top

Looking through my book list here, it seems I abandon a lot of books by mistake—put them down and forget to pick them up. That in itself would be a good reading project if I needed one, finishing them up, because most of them were good and I liked them but life just intervened and my memory is clearly on the short side.

The last book I abandoned on purpose that I went to the trouble to list here was Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being—nothing strongly against the book, but I just wasn't feeling it and since it was a library book I just didn't end up renewing it to finish after about the first quarter. It wasn't a bad book, though, and I'd consider picking it up to try again someday, but I remember feeling very strongly it just wasn't for me at that time.

Jan 30, 8:53am Top

>137 jjmcgaffey: >138 cindydavid4:

Moskowitz's critical and historical writing on SF is also problematic, but he read everything and apparently scholars of early SF must deal with him.

I saw him speak at the 1989 Worldcon. He spent a lot of his time insisting that someone (Frederik Pohl?) had been a communist.

Jan 30, 9:35am Top

from the above link:

" Along with Forrest J Ackerman, he was the most significant twentieth-century American collector of sf books and memorabilia, describing his extraordinary library in "Anatomy of a Collection" (in Science/Fiction Collections: Fantasy, Supernatural & Weird Tales, anth 1984, ed Hal W Hall). Tragically, his library was dispersed after his death. In memory of his sf collecting activities, First Fandom has since 1998 presented, irregularly, the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award for excellence in sf collecting. PN/JC"

an interesting aside

Jan 30, 12:08pm Top

Yeah, that (all of the above) was why I wanted to read it. Deep dive into early SF fandom...I just have a hard time with his focus(es). Heh, I have heard of Bimbos of the Death Sun (I think there's a sequel too) but have never read it - maybe I should, while dealing with The Immortal Storm. Might take the edge off... Though if McCrumb was aiming at con fans, that's a later generation - Moskowitz described, shortly before I quit, what he called the first meeting solely for entertainment (as opposed to the "business" of running groups, trying to control groups, dealing with adversary groups...); they watched a movie on a projector. I doubt it really was the first one, possibly the first documented one. Anyway, as far as I got, he's well short of the first con (1930s, I think, when I quit).

Jan 30, 12:26pm Top

>139 lisapeet: I didn’t like A Tale for the Time Being - but the audio was terrible (read by the author) and might have influenced my opinion.

Jan 30, 1:15pm Top

>109 avaland: Question 5

I rarely abandon books (I set them aside and I eventually get back to them).

The one I did abandon though was Red Queen - derivative, badly written and predictable. Part of my review: "fan fiction with no original idea whatsoever that is masquerading as a YA novel"

and I stand behind every word of it. Full review here if someone is interested: https://www.librarything.com/work/15130278/reviews/116799607

People seem to still be gushing about it and I just cannot see it... Since then I did toy with the idea of actually finishing it but... no amount of a great ending will fix the issues early on and from some reviews I scanned, it finishes exactly as one would expect based on the first 10 pages so... still not sure why it and the whole series is so popular.

It has the distinction of the only book I had made a decision not to finish in a decade... and I had read some pretty bad ones here and there.

Jan 30, 3:31pm Top

>142 jjmcgaffey: there was a sequel, and it was really bad. Yeah, this would have been 80s or so.

Jan 30, 5:42pm Top

I've tried three times with The Secret History, but I've never managed to get past the first couple of chapters. However, it's definitely a case of never say never. It feels like a challenge now.

Jan 31, 10:09am Top

>146 AlisonY: If you didn’t like the first two chapters, you’ll probably hate the rest :-) My feeling was that it got worse as it went on...

Jan 31, 10:58am Top

Q5: abandoned books.

Last one I abandoned was The Moon and the Other by John Kessel. I liked it pretty well, but kept getting distracted by other things - mainly Twitter. But who knows, maybe I'll get back to it someday?

Jan 31, 11:50am Top

Question 6 : Controversial Books (inspired by a conversation on kidzdoc's thread)

There have always been controversial books, and there are so many ways that books can be controversial. Some or all of the content might be offensive to someone/s in some way. A book might challenge norms. Nonfiction content may not be true or, an author might have misrepresented herself. In 1955 when first published (and to this day), Lolita remains controversial. The Da Vinci Code angered Roman Catholics. David Frey’s “memoir” Million Little Pieces became controversial when it became known he fabricated parts of it. In 1988 The Satanic Verses offended Muslims. And certainly since our LT days books like The Slap, a novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, and now American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins have been, for different reasons, controversial. Controversy isn’t always universal, something controversial for one person or region, might not be for another. And there is nothing like some controversy to sell books!

Have you read a book or books that might have been considered controversial? Does the book being controversial add to or detract from the book’s experience?

Edited: Jan 31, 2:21pm Top

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. 160 years of controversy is pretty good. The first edition is reputed the most readable, and is the shortest. An excellent presentation is one edited by James T. Costa, called The Annotated Origin: A Facsimile of the First Edition of On the Origin of Species. Costa’s margin notes illuminate a lot of the more difficult ideas or points and add many interesting thoughts as well.

It’s a great book regardless of controversy. But yeah, the controversy adds to the experience.

Jan 31, 3:20pm Top

Q6: “Controversial” should mean that this is a book people argue about. But most of the books that get tagged “controversial” on LT don’t really meet that criterion. Most are simply books people disagree about, or books people used to argue about a long time ago.

Typically there is one set of people who consider the book unacceptable because it goes against a core element of their beliefs, and another set who see nothing wrong with it because they don’t share that particular belief, and neither side can find enough common ground with the other to have a meaningful discussion. See The satanic verses, On the origin of species or And Tango makes three. Or there was an argument about it when it first appeared, but nowadays there’s an overwhelming consensus one way or the other (Chariots of the gods, Lady Chatterley’s lover).

Do people actually argue about books still, outside seminar rooms and the columns of literary journals? Even on LT, it’s quite unusual to get into a detailed argument about the content of a book. There are one or two brave, strong-minded individuals and a few trolls here who are prepared to throw down gauntlets, but most of us seem to be better at shying away from possible fights...

...Hang on a minute, am I trying to provoke a controversy about whether there is such a thing as controversy?

I suppose one test for controversy is whether you would ever change your mind about a book because of someone else’s arguments, or whether you could change their mind. For me, I know that one type of dilemma that often worries me is when I know something unpleasant about the author’s beliefs or personal life (the “Wagner-problem”). Knowing that she had an affair with a married man obviously isn’t going to stop me reading George Eliot, but what about Robert Burns making a serious attempt to get a job as overseer on a slave plantation? Or Dickens mistreating his niece? Or Patrick O’Brian abandoning his family, name, and earlier publications to start a new life as a fake Irishman? Or all the writers who expressed anti-Semitic views, voted Nazi, or failed to stand up for their Jewish colleagues? Or people who wrote lovely radical books in their youth and turned into bigoted conservatives in later life...?

Edited: Jan 31, 4:03pm Top

>151 thorold: Interesting points, though in your last paragraph you seem to be making a distinction between controversial books and controversial authors. Would every book penned by a controversial author (in particular I'm referring to an author whose behavior, as opposed to his or her work, may be deemed controversial) automatically thereby be considered a controversial book? If so, would the controversy be about the book itself or about whether it is or is not acceptable to read books by controversial (when by "controversial" we mean people who act/speak reprehensibly) authors?

Other than all that, two books that come to mind for me are Naked Lunch and On the Road. The former I would think of as controversial not because of the obscenity trial that surrounded its publication, but because some people consider it a sly and subversive classic and some people consider it garbage. The latter because of the many folks who no longer feel that the book holds up and decry Kerouac's attitude towards women.* Others still adore it.

I love Heart of Darkness, though there's a strong school of thought that it is a racist tome.

* Also, see Roth, Philip :) (One of my very favorite authors)

The controversy I wish I had instigated has to do with an incident that occurred when I was in 8th grade. That year, my junior high English teacher was a veteran educator who was on the conservative side. The was circa 1968. We were told to go to the junior high school library and check out a novel on which we would do a book report. Any novel of our choice to be found in the school library. We would then have quiet reading time for the rest of the period to give us a start toward that book report. So I went to the junior high library and came back with Catcher in the Rye. I sat down at my desk, opened the book, which I'd heard of but didn't know much about, and started reading. After about a minute, I heard my name called sternly. I approached the teacher, who told me, glowering, "I will not have you reading that book in my class. Go back to the library and get another." I complied, but not happily. I have no memory of the book I took out instead. Looking back on this incident, I have always wished that I had marched to the principal's office rather than returned to the library. I picture myself demanding, "This book is in the South Orange Junior High School library. Am I allowed to read it or not?" Oh, well. My missed chance to begin my rebellion against authority! I did begin soon thereafter, however.

Jan 31, 4:19pm Top

Don't know if this counts, but we read the unexpurgated/unbowdlerized version of Huckleberry Finn to our kid when he was 10 because the school was debating whether to adopt the censored version or ditch it entirely. If kids do not know about the n-word and its history, they are doomed to repeat it.

I used to read a lot of what passed for revolutionary diatribes in the olden days. It would be interesting to re-read Soul on Ice or The Dialectic of Sex to see what they say to me now.

Jan 31, 4:59pm Top

Ok! so the way the question is phrased I am assuming that before you read a controversial book then you will know it's controversial. Having said that you will probably know why it's controversial and I am speaking personally here, I would then find out a little more about the controversy and so would have some preconception of; not only what the book was about, but also my probable reaction to it.

For example American Dirt. I have read the comments on Darryl's thread and have seen that some people say the author is not able to paint a true picture of the situation even if she had wanted to. It also seems evident that she didn't want to, as she was much more concerned about making money by pandering to already popularly held views. If I now wanted to read that book then I would be looking for evidence one way or another to substantiate or not the comments that have been made about it. So in this instance probably the controversy would add to my reading experience.

By the way I am not going to read American Dirt for the same reasons I did not read 50 Shades of Grey because I am pretty certain I would be offended by the sheer audacity of some authors who are able to fool most of the people most of the time, laughing all the way to the bank.

Jan 31, 5:26pm Top

>152 rocketjk: controversial books / controversial authors
— Yes, that gets unclear. I suppose there’s a whole spectrum, from authors whose reprehensible character seems irrelevant to the content of the works (e.g. a murdering mathematician) to those whose books are meant as an expression of their reprehensible views (political theorists, for instance). And novelists could come anywhere along that spectrum.

I will not have you reading that book in my class.
— How crass and stupid! But then again, we had an English teacher who encouraged us to read Von Däniken, because he was controversial, without appreciating that he was an unscientific crank. Teachers aren’t immune to human failings...

Jan 31, 5:51pm Top

>155 thorold: "Teachers aren’t immune to human failings...

Amen! And I forgot to add in my tale, above, that I read Catcher in the Rye in English class just a couple of years later. What a difference a teacher makes!

>153 nohrt4me2: Yes! I'd say that counts precisely and is a great example of a book that remains controversial for exactly the reason you've brought up about it. (Oh, yes, I read Huck Finn in the same great class in which I read Catcher in the Rye. God bless the great Mr. Krasner!)

Edited: Jan 31, 6:11pm Top

I gotta say, I love Mark’s idea in >151 thorold: of trying to provoke a controversy about whether there is such a thing as controversy. I wish I had thought of that.

Adding to what he says about arguments and disagreements, I’d suggest another element is outcomes people associate with a book. In the U.S., Darwin is a prime example. When people show up at a school board meeting because the agenda includes teaching evolution or not, they aren’t there to argue about a book. The concern is outcomes it helped create, i.e. teaching ideas that run counter to literal interpretation of Genesis. Darwin disappears; the decision dominates. Does that make the book itself still controversial or irrelevant?

Whether arguments or disagreements, obviously it’s needful to have queries and then replies that may be answered in their turn. The willingness to do that can be hard to come by, as I think anyone’s experience attests. Reminds me of a time a young man with obvious evangelical intent approached me and said, “Can I ask you a question?” An irresistible reply is “You just did. And without getting my permission first, I might add.” It’s one of those things that can be funny to recount later, if told to the right audience. But it’s also the sort of thing that stops conversations, whether argument or otherwise. As well as being kind of an ass to the holy.

Edited: Jan 31, 6:28pm Top

>154 baswood: Hey, I'm just here to get a conversation going—a little kindling and throw the match—you all can throw whatever logs onto that fire you like. It's all interesting :-)

Feb 1, 2:06am Top

Hmm. I believe I've read some books that I knew were controversial at the time I read them...and (as far as I can recall) my general opinion was "this is such a badly-written book, why is anyone worried about it?" (unfortunately, I can't come up with any titles at the moment). I have also read books that I later learned were controversial (Huck Finn, for one), and generally enjoyed them. Perhaps if I'm looking for controversy I don't pay enough attention to the book? And if I'm reading and enjoying a book, I'll ignore most controversy (at least, until I've finished the book).

I have generally avoided reading books that roused huge kerfuffles in recent times - A Million Little Pieces, Three Cups of Tea, I'd include American Dirt though I haven't yet had an opportunity to decide not to read it. This is partly because I don't think I'd enjoy the books in the first place, and I don't care enough about them (the author, the subject, the whole thing) to want to bother getting involved, even peripherally, in the kerfuffle. I do tend to avoid controversy in general.

Edited: Feb 1, 3:14pm Top

When I was little, I had a library card that kept me in the children's section.
My big sister, bless her heart, introduced me to a much broader range of books. Nothing was banned in my family. In HS I was in AP English and had to have a pass to get into the libraries controversial books that were locked up. Don't remember what they were, but Im sure I finished them off rather quickly.

Some people take material and turn it into controversy, to control what people read, see or do. Its one thing to discuss this material after its been read or watched. Its another thing for people to blindly demand that it be banned, just because its controversial.

cool link from the American Library about banned books. Provides lists of challenged books by year as well as listing specific types of books: childrens, YA books, Classics and books of diverse content.


Feb 1, 11:19am Top

The books I recall most vividly include In the Night Kitchen because of its illustrations. I heard that some librarians or teachers added drawings to cover up the naked little boy, but I do not have personal experience with that. Another that drew a lot of attention was Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret and other Judy Blume books also were controversial in their time, when I was a beginning teacher. These books were surreptitiously passed amongst my students. When I was in library school, we also discussed and read banned books during a YA Lit seminar, which was one of the best courses I took. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things was one I recall from that course.

Feb 1, 2:26pm Top

There is certainly crossover between books that are considered controversial—especially those controversial because of content—with those of "banned" books. I tried to word the question to be less about censorship (and the reading of forbidden fruit), then to broaden it a bit more to include all manner of controversies.

For example, last fall there was some talk, a bit of controversy began by a review in the New Yorker (I think*); about whether author Edna O'Brien, a 88-year old Irish woman, should be able to speak in the voice of a pubescent Nigerian girl, a victim of the Boko Harem kidnappings (paraphased from the Atlantic review, link below).

I had ordered the book ahead of publication, mostly because I enjoyed her previous book, but caught a whiff of the controversy before it arrived. I decided then to read a small nonfiction booklet on the subject of the Boko Harem Kidnappings by Nigerian author Helon Habila prior to beginning the O'Brien perhaps because of the controversy (but I've also read all of Habila's fiction, so why not this?). I had no problem with O'Brien's (powerful) book. Ironically, it was the Habila book I read because of the controversy! And having now read some of the reviews and commentary, I think it seems like a lot of fuss & bother.

*I'm not actually sure that was the original source of the controversy. Here are some links if you wish to read more.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/14/edna-obrien-is-still-writing-about....(near the end of the article)




Edited: Feb 2, 4:04pm Top

Enjoyed this conversation, but for me a tricky question because I'm get annoyed at the prompting of controversial books. First, I don't like being told what to read or that I should read something. And second because these books come in two types - bad books that I have no interest in reading, and good books that I might read anyway, but...not because they're controversial. Which all means I prefer to be in my own little tunnel when controversial books come around.

Having said all that, banning books is never a good idea, but failed effort at control. First, it censors, and second it promotes exponentially, thereby backfiring whatever the original stated purpose was. (The true purpose is fear/manipulation-of-fear and control - I refer to banned books, not explicitly controversial books.)

My response to Cummins in along the lines of Baswood's - it bothers me that she and her publishers get to laugh all the way to the bank. It bothers me that an apparently bad book was promoted so heavily, and that the controversy around it has heightened sales. But, am I banning it from myself by choosing not to read it? Am I suggesting banning from you by suggesting it's terrible? I haven't read it. I'm not going to.

off topic rant warning. I wrote this all below and then realized it was a big rant and not really on topic. But it feels good to get it off my chest. So, I'm posting. But, I'm leaving this little warning so you can skip.

That all bothers me less than a really uncomfortable somewhat recent memory this brings up. I saw a FB posts from neighbor about inappropriate books assigned at school (one was a Marget Atwood - so, red flag, censorship.) Anyway, following back to the source, this one local mom started the commotion. And get this: (1) she hadn't read either book (2) the books weren't actually the ones assigned, so she hadn't checked and (3) the teacher allowed alternate books, so if she had checked, she didn't have anything to yak about. But, the worst was that she eventually acknowledged she had a religious motive and never apologized for freaking out tons of parents (on both sides), and forcing the school to answer questions of the freaked out parents. She just spazzed on fb and blamed the world. And that is my world in suburban Houston where stupid-uninformed-controlling is acceptable and happily supported by others blindly driven by the same fear of the world and (in this case) their child's high school age sexuality and using their religion as an excuse. hmm. sorry, rant (yes, I just realized). It's just really hard to express how much this depressed me and undermined my confidence in the world.

Feb 2, 6:02pm Top

Cummins book may be dreadful. I don't know, and it's not something I'm interested in reading just now. She has been accused, as far as I can see, of some sort of "inauthenticity" that presents an incorrect picture of Mexico, Mexicans, Mexican culture, and Mexican Spanish. Those are fair criticisms. But I have also heard charges of cultural appropriation and complaints that she does not have the "lived experience" cred's to pull off a work like that, and those latter charges bother me a bit.


Rodgers and Hammerstein never set foot in Oklahoma before writing a musical about it in what apparently passes in New York City for hick dialect.

George Eliot was not married when she wrote Middlemarch, arguably a study of marriage.

Gore Vidal didn't live in early America or know Aaron Burr, but he puts words in the mouths of real historical people she didn't know. (Ditto Lin Manuel Miranda writing about the.same people in Hamilton.)

John Steinbeck didn't have a mentally challenged friend when he wrote Of Mice and Men.

Richard Wright was not a white person when he wrote Native Son in which there are white characters.

Anne Rice didn't know anyone in the vampire community.

And so forth.

I'm not going to argue the value of the works above, but they have, at one time or another, been beloved American works.

I think it's always useful to assess works against current social norms and values, against current aesthetic values, and against what the author's own aims seem to be (to satirize, to effect change, to present an accurate picture). Vigorous argument is good. And no assessment is ever the last one.

Feb 2, 6:55pm Top

>162 avaland: But I have also heard charges of cultural appropriation and complaints that she does not have the "lived experience" cred's to pull off a work like that, and those latter charges bother me a bit.


I remember reading an article several years ago (maybe Hannah Arendt?) being outraged that people who are not Jewish dare to write about the Holocaust. i am Jewish, and after all this time still don't get what the problem was. If the book itself had glaring inaccuracies, or if it were antisemetic itself, I'd agree that the author was wrong. But I have read books about the subject that have been written by non Jews, that moved me, and a different look to the topic. I don't think the ethnic, religious or national background matters as long as the subject matter is handled with respect.

I dunno, maybe im in the minority. I know that members of other minorties get really upset by it. I don''t get it but I respect their view. But could someone please explain to me why this such a contentious issue?

Feb 2, 8:37pm Top

>164 nohrt4me2: >165 cindydavid4: It’s a little more than that. It seems a question of quality and honesty in promotion. Great writing, without inaccuracies in writing and promoting, no major controversy (and no sales ... ) But also it seems there are several “lived experience” writers who are writing good works and aren’t getting this kind of promotion.

(Having said that, I could do without most Holocaust fiction from anyone who wasn’t part of that era, who doesn’t have a strong nonfictional tie.)

Edited: Feb 2, 11:47pm Top

>166 dchaikin: Yes, David Bowles has been making these arguments.

In my view, you can criticize what's on the page, but Cummins is not responsible for publishers who fail to promote talent by other deserving authors.

Bowles's implication that Cummins's Latina heritage is too dilute to allow her to write about Mexican migrants strikes me as off-base. The problem isn't her ancestry, it's that she hasn't done her homework.

Feb 3, 12:19am Top

The argument I've seen, that resonates somewhat, is that if (person from "winning" culture) writes about (experience of "losing" culture), it obscures, limits, or supersedes the voices of the people from the "losing" culture. If a male writes about the experiences of females (or any other pairing you can think of), there's nothing directly wrong with that assuming he's done his homework - but if because his book was published a book on a similar theme by a woman doesn't get published, that's a problem.

That is an assumption - that there is/was/will be a similar (within the bounds of publishing's opinion) work that doesn't get published. But as long as the assumption is that white males write and sell better than others (which is still painfully powerful in traditional publishing), it's a circular problem - white males are published, so they sell better than people whose work isn't published, so publishing prefers white males, so.... Now that self-publishing has become much more mainstream, it's less of a problem than when the choices were traditional or vanity publishing.

Personally, I have much less problem with American Dirt than I do with A Million Little Pieces or Three Cups of Tea, because the latter two claimed to be memoir and non-fiction and turned out to be pretty much purely fictional. Cummins has not, as far as I'm aware, claimed that American Dirt is her own experience. If she didn't do her homework, that's a separate problem and would be equally a problem if she _were_ Hispanic (but without personal experience of being an immigrant).

Hmmm...lots of "problems" in that comment. But I don't feel like going through and thesaurus-ing all of them...

Feb 3, 9:52am Top

Question 3: Midpoint and ratings

At first I thought I would have to sit this one out, as I have only ever rated one book. Then curiosity got the better of me, just to see where the middle would fall. Unlike others above, my books are sorted alphabetically by tag, then by alphabetical author within the tag and then by century for some kinds of fiction.

Anyway, with 147 pages, I wondered what the middle would be. Going for page 73, it was Fiction France, with an all Zola page. The transition to Fiction Germany was at about page 73.5


Question 5: Abandoned Books

Abandoning a book is something I cannot bring myself to do, although one of this year's reading resolutions is to be able to break that habit.

I do think Dan's point in >110 dchaikin: above is a good one, in that setting aside a book is perhaps a polite way of abandoning an author. Putting the book back on the shelf would be really rude though!

I would say that most of the books I wish I had abandoned were books from my previous book club.

Feb 3, 12:02pm Top

>165 cindydavid4: re: O'Brien. I imagine we differ on that last count. Because I suspect she does have the "lived experience,"—at its core, but I'll not argue the point.

>169 SassyLassy: Glad to see you here!! I salute your inability or refusal to abandon books. I will be interested to see if you are able to break the habit.

Feb 3, 2:45pm Top

>169 SassyLassy: I haven’t suffered Inwood to be reshelved yet! 🙂 He sits on a coffee table in our living. I’ve promised him the next time I have 30 free hours of reading time, they’re his.

Edited: Feb 9, 5:00pm Top

QUESTION 7: Book Chains. From your library (or books read) can you find five books which connects from one to the other? Here's an example:

Becoming by Michelle Obama (title is one word verb) —> Waiting by Ha Jin (National Book Award winner) —->Them by Joyce Carol Oates (Set in Detroit)—>The Turner House by Angela Flourey (features a house!)-->The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

The first book connects to the second because they both feature doctors, the second connect to the third because they are both National Book Award winners...etc. Got it?

Here's two more examples (I couldn't stop myself...)

Middlemarch by Eliot(features a doctor) —> The Citadel, by Cronin (features coal-mining town)—> Bakers Towers by Jennifer Haigh (published in 2005)—>Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living by Carrie Tiffany (female Australian author) —->The Secret River by Kate Grenville.

I wanted to see if I could do it with nonfiction (this one goes in a circle!)

Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England by Carol Carlsen (Devil is in the title)—> The Devil’s Cloth by Michel Pastoureau (French author)—>The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Fernand Braudel (covers family structure) —> Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society by Mary Beth Norton (same author )—>In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton (witchcraft in N.E.).

One could go crazy, but let's keep it to just five books in any chain. Points for creativity!

Feb 6, 5:06pm Top

Fun: List Five Books comes to CR! :-)

A boring cycle of Author -> title: (I’d like to find one that loops, but I’m not awake enough now...)
How to write a sentence by Stanley Fish
Who was Oswald Fish? by A N Wilson
Joe Wilson’s mates by Henry Lawson
Company for Henry by P.G. Wodehouse
P.G. Wodehouse: a literary biography by Benny Green

Feb 7, 10:15am Top

I had to take a look at my bookshelves for this one! Thanks for getting my brain in gear today.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse
Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden

Edited: Feb 7, 10:58am Top

>173 thorold: Oh, that was clever. Imagine what you can do with you are awake!

Edited: Feb 7, 11:34am Top

>175 avaland: Still trying to imagine it. Late afternoon after a long winter beach-walk doesn't really give maximum alertness. Here's one that loops, but it's contrived and in three languages (because the translated titles of those books don't work...):

Das Mädchen, mit dem die Kinder nicht verkehren durften by Irmgard Keun
Sous Lénine: notes d'une femme déportée en Russie par les Anglais by Odette Keun (no relation; Under Lenin)
Under the net by Iris Murdoch
Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter by Peter Handke (The goalkeeper's anxiety...)
Desire and anxiety : circulations of sexuality in Shakespearean drama by Valerie Traub

...and with a little bit of a stretch you could translate the first title as "The girl with whom children weren't allowed to circulate" and loop round from the fifth to the first.

Feb 8, 7:52pm Top

Here's a tired effort from my list before I go to bed. You get my theme....

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Autumn by Ali Smith
Cold Spring Harbor by Richard Yates
Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback
Cygnet by Season Butler (damn - had to go with the author for the last one)

Feb 9, 9:56am Top

Playing with multiple combinations, but have at least come up with a sentence, adding only connectors:

The Last Perfect Revolutionary was Slouching towards Bethlehem in August 1914 when Something Happened: an Explosion in a Cathedral.

Edited: Feb 9, 10:52am Top

Starting from the last book I finished:

House mother normal
Why be happy when you could be normal
Too much happiness
The man who knew too much
The man who went up in smoke

(BTW, there's a very long-running L5B thread that does something rather similar to this: https://www.librarything.com/topic/305062 )

Feb 9, 11:07am Top

I like the island Manhattan. Smoke on your pipe and put that in.

Tales of Manhattan by Louis Auchincloss
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle
Britain's Kings and Queens by Sir George Bellew
The Swing Voter of Staten Island (The Five Books of Moses) by Arthur Nersesian

Feb 9, 1:48pm Top

Just silliness and fun

A Comedy of Errors
Being Wrong
Being mortal
Life and Death are wearing me out
How to be both

(Shakespeare, Kathryn Schulz, Atul Gawande, Mo Yan and Ali Smith)

Feb 9, 4:26pm Top

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts, his novel of 1940s Russian science fiction apparently coming true in 1980s Russia. The "blue" connects to:
Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, featuring the planet Mars. The planetary connection goes to:
Big Planet by Jack Vance, a tale of adventure on a distant planet, where people travel by tramways fitted with sails catching the wind. The "wind" connection:
The Wind from Nowhere by J. G. Ballard, a disaster novel about an unending worldwide windstorm. The disaster connection:
The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder (I owe a review of this one) in part about the disasterous Russian interference in elections around the world. The Russian connection then takes us back to Yellow Blue Tibia.

Edited: Feb 10, 9:50am Top

Trying to find title - author links as in >172 avaland: and >173 thorold:

Something Leather by Alasdair Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada by Nancy J Turner
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
William Dampier: Buccaneer Explorer by Gerald Norris

This one doesn't link back to the first book either, but I do like the idea of a buccaneer in something leather, à la Johnny Depp

ETA to add 173 which I meant to have as well.

Edited: Feb 9, 5:01pm Top

>178 SassyLassy: Now there's an interesting exercise.

>181 dchaikin: Points awarded for outside-the-box thinking.

>183 SassyLassy: Points!

Edited: Feb 14, 10:31am Top

Question 8: Books About Love

It’s Valentine’s Day! That means an opportunity for a love theme. Please share your brief recommendations of 1 - 5 books about love or any related sub-topic.* As we are all avid readers, perhaps we can keep the mention of old classics to a minimum?

*We have sex in fiction as a future question.

Edited: Feb 14, 10:38am Top

The Good Anna by Gertrude Stein. Love for animals, love for friends, love for friends, love for women. Novella length. Read here. https://archive.org/details/threelivesstorie00steirich/mode/2up

Feb 14, 1:06pm Top

Essays in Love by Alain de Botton. I would never have discovered this book if it were not on the 1001-Books-to-Read-Before-you-Die list. I may have read this at exactly the right time, but I loved it! A fictional(?) work, written in the style of essays, it describes the arc of an unsuccessful relationship. I loved de Botton's sense of humor and must have underlined a quarter of this work full of charming (to me) bon mots.

"Every fall into love involves the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping we won't find in another what we know is in ourselves, all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise, and stupidity."

"Whatever the pleasures of discovering mutual loves, nothing compares with the intimacy of landing on mutual hates."

"If we locate beauty in the eye of the beholder, what happens when the beholder looks elsewhere?"

OK, I'll stop now.

Feb 14, 1:20pm Top

This will require some thought...not sure I have an answer.

Feb 14, 1:33pm Top

The first book that comes to mind for me is a sad one, Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans. It's been years (decades!) since I read it (in my teens and twenties I devoured Kerouac's entire output), but I remember this book as his most consistently well-written: the very sad story of a passionate love affair ruined by jealousy.

Probably not exactly appropriate for Valentine's Day, though. I'll be back of I can think of something cheerier!

Edited: Feb 14, 3:10pm Top

I'm going to mention two that I've read relatively recently:
  1. An American marriage (Tayari Jones)
  2. This is how you lose the time war (Amar El-Mohtar.)

Interestingly, both are epistolary novels. And while neither ends happy-ever-afterly, I would argue that there is love between the parties involved.

Since you didn't specify romantic love, there are two that come to mind from my favorite reads last year that I say fit:

  1. A tree grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (love in a family)
  2. Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis Romantic relationships are treated here, but it is mostly a story of a group of lesbians (maybe some bisexual women as well) in Uruguay in the mid-20th century and how they support one another and make space for their relationships.

Feb 14, 4:14pm Top

Here's three short books about love:

Jamila by Chingz Aitmatov -- a lovely short love story (that feels a bit like folklore) set in the Kyrgyzstan countryside.

Léon & Louise by Alex Capus --A love story set in France that spans two world wars and where the lovers are more apart then they are together. At the time I said it was "captivating and nimble, without sentimentality and syrup, and often makes one smile or chuckle."

Sky Burial by Xinran. Has anyone NOT read this? Technically nonfiction, published around 2004, about a young Chinese woman (a doctor) searches in Tibet for her dead husband, a doctor & solider) ...for 30 years...


And to be a bit contrary:

One of my favorite books, A Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol Oates. Victorian satire about the five marriageable daughters of the Zinn family as told by an uptight, prudish, older woman narrator. How many books have you read that begins with a kidnapping via hot air balloon? You can read my review for it on the book's page, but here a line from the publisher: "...a compelling, hilarious, and magical anti-romance—Little Women by way of Stephen King."

Edited: Feb 14, 4:19pm Top

>190 markon: I have An American Marriage on my short-list TBR and will be reading soon. I've been looking forward to it.

Edited: Feb 14, 4:58pm Top

First one I immediatly think of is Far Pavillions by M.M. Kaye. Its an older book, but I have reread it several times over the years and it is not dated in the least. Kaye does an excellent job of describing India of that era (similar to Kim), and the romance is so natural, so well written.
Its among my top favorite books.

Edited: Feb 14, 5:33pm Top

deleted double post

Feb 14, 5:31pm Top

Q8: Books about love.

Glass Houses by Laura J. Mixon

I read many books where there's a romance, but where the love interest is not the main story; it's something the protagonist is doing in addition to some adventure. Here's one such, from 1992. In a near future where global warming brings super hurricanes to New York City and makes the nights swelteringly hot, Ruby earns a precarious living as remote operator of the 8-foot-tall, humanoid, salvage drone she calls Golem. She becomes involved in the suspicious death of one of the world's wealthiest men, and ends up having to solve the case. Ruby is desperately in love with her girlfriend Melissa - who does not return the feeling as intensely. An excellent noir thriller.

Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin

My only non-sf example. The romantic doings of various wealthy young people in Boston. Distinctive for having no particular angst or conflict that I can recall, just improbably pleasant characters finding their ideal partners. OK, OK, I was in graduate school when I found this, and needed a break. Soothing.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Epistolary novels are the best, right? Red and Blue are the time-travelling prime operatives of rival organizations seeking supremacy over every timeline. It's the duty of each to write the other out of existence, out of ever having existed. They start to leave messages for one another, taunting at first, and then... Read this now, or read it when it lands on the 2020 Hugo Awards ballot as it no doubt will.

Protector by Larry Niven

Another sort of love is love for our children and grandchildren. Wouldn't we do anything for them? In this 1973 novel, humans are descended from aliens who settled Earth millions of years ago. With access lost to a particular plant, we cannot reach the ultimate stage of the human lifecycle: incredibly strong, intelligent beings who are absolutely devoted to the propagation of their descendents. Then the plant comes again to Earth, and one human becomes a protector, ready to commit genocide to keep his progeny safe. You'll never think of those three little words quite the same way again.

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

With minimal exposition, Wilson brings to life a world where spears coexist with superscience, and a royal prince must choose between the man he loves, who is a foreign warrior, and the marriage to an aristocratic woman that his family has planned for him. Wilson has published way too little fiction and I want more!

Feb 14, 5:43pm Top

>190 markon: Ha, we both picked the same title.

Feb 14, 6:08pm Top

Q8: from what I read in the last twelve months or so, the ones that stick in my mind as interesting love stories are:

Berta Isla by Javier Marías — a woman whose husband comes back after being presumed dead

Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde by Bettina Von Arnim — 600 pages of (mostly) fantasy love letters between the Calamity Jane of German Romanticism and a middle-aged, married poet. Much, much more fun than it sounds.

Amours de voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough — a totally crazy Victorian epistolary verse novel about a holiday romance in the middle of the Roman revolution.

Feb 15, 1:28am Top

Recommended books about love...

I didn't think I would have much and now I can't narrow it down to only five

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
Why: Well, the title tells you it's a love story, and maybe hints at a surgically altered theme...also, it's a really fun book that's hung around a bit.

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
Why: a beautiful love story, until it isn't beautiful and a nearly perfect book...one classic

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante
Why: Oh, it is kind of a bitter love story - between friends and more sexually driven, extra-marital kind. And it can, maybe, sweep the reader away.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
Why: a dirty love story, but still quite beautiful and another that can sweep the reader away...but, oops, maybe another classic

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Why: A mother-daughter love story with a very dark twist, and the perfect title for the theme...but now I have maybe three classics.

Shosha by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Why: If Shosha were normal, this could actually be a normal love story, but she's a bit different making us wonder about our narrator. It's a beautiful book...well, that's how I remember it.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Why: This is actually the only regular love story on the list - two regular married adults. The only question is would I even like this book now. I really really liked it then. Probably by far the weakest book on this list, no?

If I had to take two out to make it five, I would take out Ferrante and Morrison as they're the least on theme.

Feb 15, 1:52am Top

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, which I read years ago but which lives on in my mind as a beautiful love story between two of the most prickly characters ever.

Feb 15, 6:08am Top

>199 rachbxl: How could I have forgotten that one! It's one of my favorite books! Harley Savage and Douglas Cheeseman!

Feb 15, 6:19am Top

>200 avaland: I knew you would react to that one!

Edited: Feb 15, 12:11pm Top

Their Eyes Were Watching God is my immediate first choice. I love how it talks about different kinds of love too.

Others that come to mind, Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Group: Club Read 2020

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