Monday, December 27, 2010

My Year of Reading - A List

Oh, how the time does fly! I can't believe it's been almost three months since my last blog post. It's not like I haven't been reading interesting books or haven't had interesting ideas for blog posts. I just haven't been making the time for writing, and I have no excuses for it except laziness and procrastination. Reading is about the only thing that I don't procrastinate in doing.

I read 46 books this year plus half of two others. I could only bear half of American Gods, and I'm halfway finished with Middlemarch, which I will finish in the next week or so. My list is below.

Book club selections
  1. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  2. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
  3. Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
  4. The Hour Between by Sebastian Stuart
  5. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
  6. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  7. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  8. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  9. Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
  10. Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer
Other books I chose to read:
  1. The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black
  2. The Likeness by Tana French
  3. A Mercy by Toni Morrison
  4. Diamond Dust & Other Stories by Anita Desai
  5. Innocent Blood by P.D. James
  6. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  7. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (only read 1/2)
  9. Middlemarch by George Eliot (still reading, half finished)
Kids/young adult books:
  1. Matched by Ally Condie
  2. Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  3. Nothing by Janne Teller
  4. True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
  5. The Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
  6. Burnout by Rebecca Donner
  7. Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald
  8. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  9. Kendra by Coe Booth
  10. You by Charles Benoit
  11. Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson
  12. Pedro and Me by Judd Winick
  13. Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castelucci
  14. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  15. Out of Mind by Sharon Draper
  16. Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
  17. On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover
  18. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  19. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
  20. Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
  21. All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg
  22. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  23. Ruined: A Ghost Story by Paula Morris
  24. Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman
  25. The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks
  26. The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
  27. Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling
  28. Understanding the Holy Land by Mitch Frank
  29. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Hopefully, I'll find the time this week to blog about which were my most favorite and least favorite reads as well as my reading plans for the new year. For now, though, I'm going to bed to continue my reading of Middlemarch, which I'm thoroughly enjoying. Later.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Beautiful Day! (and a few words about reading)

Geez! The time really does get away from me. I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I've posted anything here. I've been doing lots of reading but not much writing about it.

Before I start going on about the books that I've read recently, I have to share what a beautiful day it was here in Houston. Check out these photos from the day. Valerie and I went to the final Astros game of the season, something that has become a kind of tradition for us. Before the game, we decided to eat at Market Square, a recently re-opened park in downtown. It was a perfect day to eat outside and a perfect day for the roof to be open at Minute Maid. To top it off, the Astros ended the season with a win against the Cubs. Yea!!

After the game, I cooked vegetable soup (well, Valerie did add some seasonings, but I did all the peeling and chopping) and baked cornbread. Both were delicious! And we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow and there was enough to freeze too. A satisfying ending to another good weekend in my good life. :-)

Now for those few words about reading. I think that after having read so much this summer that I kind of lost momentum once I started back to work. I have actually read more YA books in the past two months than adult books. But one reason for that was that my book club picked Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, a very long book, to read for our September meeting. I had to put almost everything else on the back burner for a few weeks to get it read, and I still didn't have it quite finished in time for our meeting. I have finished it since then, however.

The novel is narrated by Marion, a twin whose mother died in childbirth. His mother was a nun from India and his father a doctor from England, both of whom were working in a hospital in Ethiopia at the time of the birth. I really enjoyed most of the book, and I thought the book had enough great characters for several books. BUT I was a bit annoyed by the first person omniscient point of view. At times, I read the book as if Marion was relating what had been told to him and could accept that the teller(s) were able to remember their exact thoughts as well as feelings, but other times, especially late in the story when Marion is in a coma, I just couldn't accept his omniscience. In the end, though, I really did like the story that Verghese told.

After their father abandons them and the hospital, Marion and his twin brother Shiva are adopted by two other Indian doctors and have a rather idyllic childhood despite the poverty and political struggles that occur in their adopted country of Ethiopia. Both of the twins become doctors.

Reading this book, I started thinking about other books that I have read about doctors. I really couldn't come up with a very long list. Then I came across a post about five books of doctors novels on A Commonplace Blog. I had only read one of them, Waiting by Ha Jin, but the post included a link to Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, which contains a very extensive, annotated list of books. Thanks to this list, I was able to add a few more.

Here's my list of doctor novels:
  • Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham.
  • Coma by Robin Cook. I know this is not great literature, but I think this might be one of the non-classic adult book that I read. My mom loved popular fiction thrillers, and I'm fairly certain that I got this book from her when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school.
  • Cider House Rules by John Irving.
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot. I haven't finished this yet and don't see it as a doctor novel, but according to the blog post that I mentioned above, a Dr. Lydgate ends up being a very important character in the novel.
If you can recommend or remind me of others, please do. Now, I think I'll go to bed and read some of Middlemarch. Later.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Who am I kidding?

In the past several years, I've started four writing workshops and finished three, poetry, personal essay, and short story. The short story one, I took this summer. I mostly thought my story sucked, but I didn't think it was the worst one of the group, and I did think that it held promise. Despite that feeling, I haven't even tried to revise it or really tried to write another one since. I have had some ideas about possible plot elements and characters that I've jotted down here and there, but I just haven't made the time to really do anything about any of them.

Things I know
I have to decide that I'm going to be a writer and make time to write. I used to stay up late and blog a lot, but now that I try to go to bed early, I don't blog nearly as much.

I waste way too much time on the computer playing card games while I half watch TV.

I can make all the plans that I want to, but the chances of me carrying them out are very slim.

Of course, I know a lot more about a lot of other things, but I won't bore you with more.

(I started this post early this morning, and I'm finishing it after dinner while I get caught up on Project Runway.)

How can I make my writing work? ;-)
I think I have to create a schedule to make myself find time to write. Last May, when I first started getting up at thirty minutes earlier, at 5:00 every morning , I thought I might have time to write each morning. I don't know what I was thinking because I'm not a morning person, never really have been. I don't really have a regular lunch time or conference period time at work, so writing at work on a regular basis. So the only time left is at night. Thanks to Valerie, I now go to bed much earlier than I used to. I sleep better and more and really feel better most mornings even though I do miss staying up late sometimes. So where does that leave me? I could write from 7:00-8:00 or 8:00-9:00 or 7:00-9:00. Should I start with an hour and add a second hour after a while?

It's funny how I can find all kinds of time to read, but I can't find time to write. I have to make a decision and establish a schedule and make it a habit or give up on the idea all together. For now, though, it's time for bed. Later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Every individual existence revolves around mystery..."

I've been very lax about my daily reading of short stories this summer, but I'm going to try to be better during the second half of my summer vacation. I can't believe it's already half over! I'm feeling the need to get things done for the next four weeks, things that I had planned to do this summer. One of those things was to read a short story every day and tweet/blog about it.

This morning I read Anton Chekhov's "The Lady with the Dog." I'm not sure if I've ever read any of Chekhov's stories or plays before. In addition to being a constant reader, I majored in English as an undergrad and almost completed a masters in literature, so you would think that I had read something of his, but I can't remember ever doing so. My point is I've never studied Chekhov. I have read other Russian writers, and I thought this story pretty typical of nineteenth century Russian literature. (Please, correct me if I'm wrong.)

I enjoyed reading this story, but I wasn't surprised by its outcome. I did, however, find a statement in it that I really liked. Gurov, the main character, is a philanderer, and at one point he thinks "every individual existence revolves around mystery..." I think that a lot of people might disagree with this statement, or at least might be upset by the thought of it as a reality. However, I'm not sure if anyone can ever really know everything about another individual. We all have secrets of some kind, right? Some people like to claim that what you see is what you get, but I'm not sure that is even possible. Don't we all live a persona that we've created whether consciously or unconsciously? What do you think?

I'm going to ponder on this for a while and maybe I'll write more about it later. For now, I need to get some other things done. Later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Giving up on American Gods (#1b1t)

I really don't like to give up on books, but I think I have to give up on this one. I'm not a fantasy fan per se, but I'm not sure that's the problem. I feel like the book is not that well written and it's all pretty obvious. I only chose this book because I wanted to participate in One Book One Twitter. However, ss soon as I saw many of the tweets about the book, I was reminded of why I don't read popular fiction very much. I am an admitted book snob and have no time for obvious questions/comments, but I'm not so horrid a snob as to post snarky comments, at least. Although that might have made my reading of this book more fun. ;-)

I have given American Gods a real chance. I have read seven chapters, so I'm not giving up without a fight. I liked the first chapter and was completely surprised by the grotesque ending of that chapter, so I thought that this book was going to be very interesting and fast paced, but I think the book went down from there. Despite it being a fantasy, there's nothing really new here. Sure, I'm not familiar with all the gods presented, but I am too familiar with some of the motifs and symbols. (Are symbols and motifs the same things? I can't remember right now.) Black birds, gangster type men in black limos with tinted windows, light vs. dark, ambiguously good guys vs. bad guys, etc. Even most of the commentary about American society seems tired.

I think the last straw was the scene where Shadow is grabbed by some men in a black truck in a restaurant parking lot and then he's in what seems like an interrogation room being questioned about the gods. The two men, Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone, doing the questioning are wearing dark suits and have dark hair and shiny shoes. This scene just seemed and felt a little too Men in Black to me, and I've never even seen the whole movie. I did finish that chapter and read one more, but now I think that might be as far as I care to go with this book.

I'm kind of sad about giving up on this book because so many people, including friends of mine, really admire Gaiman's work, and I want to share in that admiration. So, I'm not giving up on the author completely. I'll try at least one of his other books before I give up on him altogether. And maybe I'll read another chapter of American Gods here and there and eventually finish it. I haven't removed the book to the bookshelf yet or even removed the bookmark from it, but I haven't picked it up to read in several days. I have read other things this week instead. I started three different books Footnotes in Gaza, Never Let Me Go, and Middlemarch. I'll probably finish at least two of those next week. So for now, I'll say goodbye to American Gods and One Book One Twitter. Later.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Toni Morrison made me cry

When I finished reading A Mercy this morning, all I could think was "WOW!" I got up from the dining room table and walked into the living room to get my phone so I could tweet that "WOW!" As I was typing out the tweet, I just started sobbing. I mean crying really hard. I cried for at least five minutes before I could get myself under control. I haven't had that kind of visceral reaction to a book in a very long time.

I love Morrison's work. She is one of my two favorite authors, but I was still stunned by the beauty and sadness of this short novel. How could she say so much in less than 200 pages? I'm a relatively slow reader, but I read this book very fast, starting it yesterday afternoon. It's a real page turner. She interweaves several stories in this novel about a small group of slaves and their owners in seventeenth century America. There is one central thread that holds the stories together, but I never felt impatient when it was interrupted to tell one of the other story lines.

This novel is on its surface a story about slavery, but its also an indictment of religiosity. Both the Papists and the Protestants are shown to perpetuate not just the use of slaves but the racism that allowed it to exist. In addition, the novel is about identity, jealousy, and cruelty, which is too/most often the result of jealousy, I think.

I just kept wondering how people could be so cruel to other people. How does a group of people ever come to believe that they are automatically superior to another group of people and that the proof of their superiority is in the color of their skin? Even the benevolent wife of the benevolent slave owner becomes cruel in the end, which reminded me of Frederick Douglass's Narrative and his descriptions of the dehumanizing effect of slavery on the slave owner. Morrison touches on this idea in Beloved also.

At one point in the novel, someone says or thinks something like "we don't shape the world; the world shapes us." If that's true, then what kind of sad, cruel world do we live in? I'm not trying to be a Pollyanna here. Are humans inherently cruel? I don't understand why someone would ever be cruel to another human being, and I know that I've been guilty of cruelty at some point, probably more than one, in my life. Whether my cruelty was consciously intended or not doesn't change the fact that it happened. Whether I felt my actions provoked or reasonable doesn't change anything either. Maybe that knowledge is one reason this book affected me so.

I've read most of Morrison's works more than once, and I feel like I should read this one again very soon. I wish that I was still teaching AP Literature because my students would be reading this book in the upcoming school year. Now, I'm going to go to bed and read, but I'm not sure what I'll read because I think that no matter what I read tonight, it'll be a disappointing after having just read A Mercy. Later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer of Short Stories 2

I started this repeat project kind of late, but I'm planning to read one short story each day for the rest of my summer vacation and tweet and/or blog about the stories. I will at least tweetthe author and title of each one. Last summer, I read several whole books of short stories and some other random ones, which is my plan for this summer too. I started reading Anita Desai's Diamond Dust last week, but I wasn't sure then if I was going to repeat the daily reading and didn't keep it up all week. This week, I decided that I had enjoyed the reading and the structure of doing it last summer and should do it again.

I've never read any of Desai's work before this book. I have read her daughter's Booker Prize winning, The Inheritance of Loss, and I bought Diamond Dust when I attended a reading by both authors a couple of years ago. Today, I read the fifth of the nine stories in this book, "The Man Who Saw Himself Drown." I'm not sure I completely understood the story. The story started out with a third person narrator, detailing the movements of an older man on a business trip. After dinner one evening, he goes for a walk and eventually sees a drowned man being pulled out of the river. It's him. Most of the rest of the story is told from the drowned man's spirit's(?) point of view. At first the man doesn't believe he has really died. I can't decide if this story is just a bittersweet story about death or if it's a story about the connection or disconnection between body and spirit. I'm not a very spiritual person, and I think that might be hindering my perception of this story. I guess I'll just have to keep thinking about it for a while.

I am enjoying Desai's writing. In this story I was really struck by a couple of passages, one of which I think might hold the key to the story. But first, this one from the beginning of the story when the man enters his hotel room: "He tossed his briefcase into the armchair--there, now the room knew someone had entered it and made it his own--went into the bathroom to wash." I love the idea that a hotel room is always waiting for life--it only lives when it's inhabited. Kind of makes me feel sad for hotel rooms. :-) And I guess in a sense hotel rooms are kind of sad, temporary dwellings. Maybe Desai is comparing the hotel room to a body inhabited by a spirit. Hmmm.

The key passage in the story, I think, is this one from the end of the story after the man has accepted his death:
It seemed to me that by dying my double had not gifted me with possibility, only robbed me of all desire for one: by arriving at death, life had been closed to me. At his cremation, that was also reduced to ash.
Maybe the story is about the death of the spirit and how once it dies a body can't go on living. At the beginning of the story, the man was exhausted with his life, his work life at least, but maybe that was the beginning of the death of his spirit. I don't know. Maybe I'm trying to hard. Maybe I should just enjoy the story and let it's meaning percolate in my brain whether I ever come back to it or not. I'm going to go read something else now. Later.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer reading plans

Not surprisingly, I've missed at least a month of Monday missives. I could give some excuses about moving, end-of-school-year stress, and even having a bad sinus infection this week, but they would just be excuses. I've thought about blogging lots of times, but I've just been lazy about doing it. Once again, I'll make a vow to try to post more regularly. I don't work in the summer, so I should have plenty of time for blogging.

So even though I'm half way through the second week of my summer vacation, I thought I would lay out my reading plans. I finished Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson today. If I hadn't been sick for the past few days, I probably would've finished it faster. I'll write more about it later, but I need to let my thoughts gel for a while.

I am currently reading Innocent Blood, one of P.D. James's older books, and Diamond Dust, a book of short stories by Anita Desai. Before the summer started, I intended to have a second Summer of Short Stories, and I even read one on each of the first two days of my summer vacation, but I didn't tweet or blog about them. Maybe I'll kickstart that project tomorrow. In addition to these books, I started a few books at work before the school year ended:
I plan to finish all three of these, and read many more, including some/all of the following:
I also brought home several young adult books to read this summer, but I won't list them now. All this writing about books makes me want to go read. Later.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Breaking the Fast - The Monday Missive

The plan was to not buy books, except for book club books, before May 25, the release date for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Aside from the book club exceptions, I've actually kept my fast very well until tonight. But the fast breaking is really not my fault. Rebecca Reads is doing a Milton in May read along featuring Paradise Lost. I've never read Paradise Lost, despite having a BA in English and almost having a MA in Literature (I did all the course work but never wrote the thesis), and I've always felt like I should have read it. So I couldn't resist the temptation to join the read along. Plus I thought that surely either Valerie or I had an old copy of Paradise Lost on our bookshelves, but all I could find were some excerpts in a couple of anthologies. Not to be deterred in my quest for enlightenment, I decided that buying a copy, especially one from Half Price Books, was a valid exception to the book buying fast. A read along selection is almost like a book selection, right?

If I had stopped with one book, I wouldn't have felt as bad, but I decided to buy another book, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This book wasn't just a splurge though. I discovered One Book, One Twitter on Friday or Saturday, and I decided to join in when I saw what book had been selected. I have a reader friend in real life who loves Gaiman's work. Last year, when it was my turn to make the book club selection list, I asked her to recommend a Gaiman book for me to include. Guess what book she suggested--American Gods! How could I resist taking part in One Book, One Twitter? Besides it's almost like being in a book club, so it's not like I just blatantly violated my fast, right?

It's a good thing that I have all summer for the Gaiman book because I still need to finish The Year of the Flood and read the next book club selection, The Hour Between by June 13. I also want to read at least one more YA book before school is out for summer vacation--only 22 days left! And, oh yeah, Valerie and I are moving into our house on the 15th. In the meantime, we have to paint the master bedroom, give the entire house a good cleaning, and hang some window treatments. Whew! I think I have to go to bed now and read myself to sleep. Later!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Missed Missive & Some Reading/Book Notes

This house is the reason that I failed to post my Monday Missive last night. Valerie and I closed on this house late yesterday afternoon, the first home purchase for both of us. It needs a bit of work, mostly cosmetic, thank goodness. Still, I'm very excited if a bit daunted by the reality of owning a home. It's going to be quite a change. I've lived in apartments for the past eighteen years, and I hope that I can handle being responsible for maintenance and upkeep. Plus I'm not much of a DIY-er. I never even painted a wall in any of the apartments that I've lived in, but I'm going to have to learn how to paint soon, very soon.

After the closing, we spent some time at the house making plans and noticing things like the weird placement of light switches that we hadn't paid attention to previously. Then we went to toast our purchase on the rooftop patio of our friend's Midtown townhouse. The weather has been so perfect lately, last night included, that I'm not sure what I enjoyed more, the satisfaction of being a co-homeowner, the champagne, the company, or the location and the view. It's not a rooftop patio with a view of downtown, but our house does have a good sized backyard and a small patio that Valerie and I are going to improve and enjoy as often as possible.

Enough about the house, let's talk about books. I'm still reading The Year of the Flood, but my reading time has been too sporadic lately. I don't feel like I've been able to focus on the story enough to become really engaged with it. I'm hoping that I can find some quality reading time later this week and this weekend. Of course, I have other books waiting to be read. Killing time before our closing appointment, we picked up copies of our book club's next selection, The Hour Between by Sebastian Stuart. I don't think I had ever heard of this book before seeing it on the list for book club. Blurbs on the cover compare it to A Separate Peace, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and Catcher in the Rye, all of which I like, so I'm looking forward to reading it.

At work today, I started reading All the Broken Pieces, a novel in verse by Ann E. Burg. I'm not sure why I picked it up; it wasn't one of the ten books that I have stacked on my desk to read. Maybe I'm trying to make amends for not celebrating National Poetry Month like I have in the past. Maybe I just wanted something that I could read fast. I spent most of the day giving teachers twenty-minute breaks from TAKS administration, but for two consecutive twenty-minute periods, I got to be the bathroom monitor, which gave me some reading time. I got about half way through the book. The poems tell the story of teenager Matt Pin, the son of a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier, who was airlifted out of Vietnam during the war and adopted by an American couple. I'm not a big fan of novels in verse, but I am finding some of Burg's poetry to be quite beautiful. I wish I hadn't left the book at work so that I could quote some of it here. I'll post more about this book when I'm finished, and I'll include quotes in that post.

Okay, I think that I'll go to bed now and read The Year of the Flood for a while. Later.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Monday! Time for another missive.

Posting two Mondays in a row! I'm off to a good start in my effort to blog more regularly. Too bad for my reader(s), I don't really have much to blog about tonight. I spent most of last week in San Antonio, attending the Texas Library Association. It was a very busy 3.5 days, giving me little time for reading. I did finish Ruined, a YA book by Paula Morris that I had started the week before. It is a ghost story set in post-Katrina New Orleans. I thought the book was really good until the overly convoluted twist at the end. The ending didn't completely ruin (no pun intended) the book for me, but it made me feel less enthusiastic about it.

I about 100 pages into Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, another work read. It's the story of a boy listening to cassette tapes recorded by a high school classmate just before she committed suicide. The protagonist is one of thirteen people who did something that contributed to her deciding to kill herself. The narration alternates between the girl and the boy. I know that some of my students have read it, and all agree that it is so sad. If it's really that sad, one or more of my students will probably catch me in tears at the circulation desk later this week.

As for adult books, I did start Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood. Finally! I'm only about fifty pages in--so far, so good. On Friday, I saw Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games trilogy. Several times during her presentation and during the Q&A, I was reminded of the how much I really liked The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake. Collins never mentioned Atwood's works, but I can't help but think that she has probably read at least The Handmaid's Tale, which I think I need to re-read sometime soon.

This week is pledge week for the local NPR station, and I can only listen to so much of the begging. (Just so you know, I'm a sustaining member.) I decided to listen to Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, which I downloaded for free a while ago. My commute is only about thirty minutes, so it will take me a while to listen to the whole book. Even though I've only listened to the first track, I'm already curious to know more and to see what happens.

Okay, I'm going to bed and read for a while. I'll try to blog something more interesting next Monday. Have a good week!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back to Blogging - Monday's Missive

Damn! Where does the time go?I have no excuse for not blogging; I have just been lazy about it. Of course, I have been reading, quite a bit actually but mostly YA books. However, since my last post, there are a couple of adult books that I've read that I realy want to write about, Motherless Brooklyn and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I'm going to attempt to start a regular schedule of posts. For now, I'm going to plan to post a Monday's Missive every week. I figure if I can make that a habit for a while then I'll be ready to add some other regular features. I'll count this as my first Monday Missive, but I might post something later about the poetry reading I'm attending tonight. Later!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Computer problems & Classics Circuit

Posting from iPhone.

I think my hard drive is going out. I spent a long time last night just trying to get Windows to load. By the time I got it to load and backed up in case problem recurred, it was rather late. I thought I would finish up and post before going to work. Well, guess what? My computer won' t load Windows this morning. Argh!!!

So I'll have to post from work, which means my post on Alain Locke's The New Negro wil not be here until later in the morning. Luckily, today should not be too busy in my school library. Sorry for the delay. Please come back for my post.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The First Book for 2010 & Some Plans

I finished On Beauty by Zadie Smith on Sunday. Actually, I read all day trying to finish for that night's book club meeting, but I had to read the last twenty or so pages after the meeting. If I had read on Saturday instead of running errands and watching the Cowboys win, I would have finished with no problem. I do sometimes put other things before books and reading, especially the Cowboys at this time of the NFL season. :-)

Since I was reading the book for the second time, I wasn't too concerned with not finishing. This month's host lives only a few blocks from us, so Valerie and I were able to walk to the meeting, and she reminded me of the final events as we walked. It's been a long time since I have re-read a book that I wasn't teaching. I usually won't vote yes for a book club selection that I've already read, but I loved White Teeth, Smith's first novel, and On Beauty the first time so I wanted to see what other members thought about her writing.

I blogged about On Beauty the first time I read it. It was just as good on a second reading, and I refuse to think that I'm swayed by how friendly she was when I saw her read here three years ago. I love Smith's use of language. In my previous post, I talked about some of the passages from the book, but this time, I'll limit myself to just one, one that I can't seem to forget for its precise and perfect imagery:
"From here she could see the strangely melancholic format of Jerome's text, italics and ellipses everywhere. Slanted sails blowing on perforated seas."
What a great image!

Everyone at book club enjoyed the book, and we had a really good discussion, but I forgot to bring up one point. When I read the book the first time, I didn't like the Levi character very much. Levi is the bi-racial teenage son of the main character, a rather hapless professor Howard Belsey. When I first read the book, I thought that Levi was perhaps the one misstep in the novel. I thought his use of street lingo wasn't authentic. This time, I thought he was one of my favorite characters, and I see that his street lingo isn't supposed to be authentic. He is trying very hard to be real, to be black. His attempts make him a very funny yet endearing character. I think he might be my favorite character in the whole book. Despite his pretensions, he is in many ways the most honest and least political character in the book and that makes him very likable to me.

I can't wait for Smith's next novel, and I'm going to put her recent essay collection Changing My Mind on my to read list. Speaking of my to read list, I do have some reading plans for 2010, but part of my plan involves not buying any books, except for book club selections, until May 25. So, it'll probably be a long time before I read Changing My Mind.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Next, the final installment in Stieg Larsson's trilogy, will be released on May 25, and I'm going to try very hard not to buy any books until then. Instead of buying new books to read, I'm going to read books that I already own. Some of them I've owned for a very long time. Some that are definitely in line to be read, but not necessarily in this order include:
And who knows how many more. I read 38 books last year, 10 of which were young adult books. Man, all this talk of books just makes me want to go read. Later.