The October Country – Ray Bradbury (1955)

October Country…that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. 

Seeing as it’s October and thus the month of Halloween, I thought I’d dig around and see what kind of slightly-horror book I could read to join in the fun. I am a complete wimp when it comes to scary novels but I can do Bradbury since he rather feels like spec fiction more than true horror. (I really enjoy spec fiction when the world in the novel is almost the same as the one we’re in, but just with a little twist and a piece of lemon.) 🙂

Obviously, when you read Bradbury’s work, especially this one written between 1945 and 1955, it’s going to be a really white-people experience with little in the name of diversity, but that’s ok. You know that going in, for the most part, so it’s not too jarring. That was the country back then and writers tend to reflect the times in which they live and write. 

Bradbury is a very good writer. He knows how to utilize language and structural techniques to make each story excellent examples of technically superb fiction-writing, and I usually typically look forward to reading one of his titles. And this was that similar experience for me. Flawless writing, each short story an excellent example of the short-story format. That’s not to say that I really liked every story in the collection: as in any selection of a writer’s work, there are going to be personal hits-and-misses, but this was overall one of those perfect-reads-at-a-perfect-time. I love it when that happens.

Each story is a little bit spooky in a world that’s just a little bit off-kilter, but nothing too scary. There were definitely one or two that got my heart racing a little bit, but nothing too terrorizing. Like I mentioned, it’s mostly speculative fiction way more than horror, so if you’re ok with that, you’ll get on with this collection. 

Stories ranged widely in subject matter, from domestic situations gone awry to poignant encounters with funhouse mirrors and strange poker chips, and as Bradbury’s second short story collection, it was a true reflection of his writing style.

I enjoyed it and I’m glad that I read it during October when the weather (at least here in Texas) is finally starting to behave like it’s autumn in terms of outside temperatures and the leaves turning colors. Luckily, Bradbury has a big oeuvre from which to choose my next read… I’m thinking “Something Wicked This Way Comes…” at some point. 

Books for a Windy Day…

wind_pic

With this extreme windy weather we have been having in our corner of the world, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of books that revolve around wind in some way.

  • Winnie the Pooh books have some adventures that revolve around wind (e.g. Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day)…
  • Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History – Erik Larson
  • One Dead in the Attic: After Katrina – Chris Rose
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (dirt and wind combined)
  • Chasing the Monsoon – Alexander Frater
  • The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum (tornado)
  • The Children’s Blizzard – David Laskin
  • Seasons on Harris: A Year in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides – David Yeardon
  • The Worst Hard Times – Tim Egan (Dust Bowl)
  • A Strong West Wind – Gail Caldwell (memoir)
  • Little House on the Prairie series have some windy incidents in them…
  • Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer (high wind on mtn)
  • Sahara – Michael Palin (travel writing)  (desert gets windy)
  • Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans – Dan Baugh
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Graham
  • Five Days in Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital – Sheri Fink (on TBR and looks great)
  • The Great Storm (Galveston hurricane) – Lisa Waller Rogers
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader – Elinor Pruitt Stewart
  • The Worst Journey in the World (Antarctic) – Aplsey Cherry Garrrard
  • Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell (haven’t read this one yet…)
  • Lasso the Wind: Away to the West – Tim Egan (on TBR)
  • The Boy who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwanba and Bryan Mealer
  • The Wind – Dorothy Scarborough
  • Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (not really about wind, but it has it in title)
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Expury (wind plays a role – flight)
  • The Cloudspotter’s Guide – Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Amazon suggests The Secret Garden classic as a “book about tornadoes” – this has one in it? (It’s been a while since I have read that one…)

Any others that you might recommend?…

My Summer of Classics Volume II

For some reason, when summer arrives, I feel as though I want to do a project of some kind. I don’t feel this way during any other season, but when summer’s here, it’s Project Time. One summer, D and I watched every episode of “Sex in the City”; another summer project was watching all the “Star Wars” movies, and then all the “Star Trek” movies.  I think it’s something to do with all the Summer Reading Lists that get published and promoted, combined with the idea of long books with complex story lines or just with the reputation of being a “hard to read” classic.

It was also triggered by walking by a display of books at Barnes and Noble. It was a selection of “Required Reads” for local school districts, and as I viewed the titles, I realized that I had a big hole in my American Lit reading… And now, the project has expanded to worldwide.

Last summer’s project was quite successful; I ended up reading 22 classics in the end. (Obvious authors omitted):

  • Wuthering Heights
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Night – Elie Wiesal
  • Tom Sawyer
  • Huckleberry Finn
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula
  • A Christmas Carol
  • The Warden – Anthony Trollope
  • East Lynne – Mrs. Henry Woods
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • House at Pooh Corner
  • Legend of Sleepy Hollow
  • Mill on the Floss – Eliot
  • Silas Marner – Eliot
  • Lark Rise to Candleford – Flora Thompson
  • O, Pioneers – Willa Cather
  • Cry, the Beloved Country

I thoroughly enjoyed reading through these, and being able to mentally check them off my Classics reading list that is always milling around my brain at some point or another. With summer at this point already, I am not sure that I will have such a long list by the end of it, but I think it will still be fun.

Classic Books I have read this summer (so far):

  • The Old Wives’ Tale – Arnold Bennett
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

Actually, that is a bit pitiful seeing as it’s almost the end of July, but what can I say? I have been on a non-fiction craze for the past few months… I have been reading about Victorian and Georgian history – does that count?!

So, are there classics that you just adore and think I should read toute suite? I can let you know that I believe I will get hives/allergic reaction if I force myself to read a Russian guy, but apart from that, the sky’s the limit. I do adore Victorian lit by female authors, but am open for almost anything. (I have read Beowolf, but not The Odyssey or Iliad. No Bible please.)  And it would be great to hear of some non-Western canon titles as well if you know of any…

 

The Halfway Point

With July 01 being the halfway point of 2011, I thought it might be a good time to evaluate where I am with my reading plan(s). Don’t fret – I don’t have anything set in stone or unattainable or can’t be changed (or dropped) if it doesn’t end up as much fun as I had anticipated. I am just being an anal-retentive book nerd.

Here’s the numbers:

Total number of books read:  54

Number of library copies:  24

Number of copies I own (and thus have got out of the house):  29 – more of these than library so far!

Authors of color: 9    (Hmm. Would like to get this number higher by end of the year)

Oldest book read (pub date):   1908.

Fiction:  36. (Just more than 50/50 Fiction/Non-fiction. Not bad.)

Best book so far:  The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence (Canadian author)

Top Five Titles so far:

The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)

The Gentle Art of Domesticity (Jane Brocket)

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (Gail Tzemech Lemmon)

 Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation (Elissa Stein and Susan Kim)

Left Neglected (Lisa Genova).

Reading goals for rest of the year:

  • Read more authors of color and/or in translation
  • Increase the % of books I own that I read (vs. library copies)

What about you? Do you set reading goals? Track your reading? Or is this way too complicated?