Can You Pls Pass Me the Catch-Up?

catch_upI’m not quite sure what it is, but I seem to be in the midst of a Summer Snoozefest when it’s a bit too hot to really do anything major, and nothing seems to be perking my reading fancy. Fussy, I know. Summer time in Texas is underway and in full swing.

I’ve finished some middling reads, although I’m at a loss to explain why these weren’t great as lots of other people have thought just that.

The first is Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See. I fully accept the blame for this read not being that satisfying as I’d gone into it thinking it was a collection of short stories, when actually it’s a pretty clever complex novel about WWII.

It’s strange how just one expectation about your book read can impact your real experience of actually doing a read, but it can. Ahh well. You win some, you lose some. I’ve read some of Doerr’s work earlier and had thought it was the Bee’s Knees (see The Shell Collector review), and All The Light You Cannot See continues that trend of being extremely well written. He is a craftsman of a writer, to be sure, and so I think that what threw things off was the rather complicated tapestry structure of the plot when I was rather hoping for a more straight-forward short story read that would compliment my Monkey Mind instead of having to, umm, actually work for the plot. :-)

I know loads and loads of Very Important Readers have loved this book, so perhaps don’t take my word for it…

I also finished up Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett. A short novel – perhaps a long novella – this featured a fairly normal Bennett plot of Haves and Haves Nots up in the Potteries, except this one focused more on the theme of religion a fair bit. The role of the church (and the people who attended) was a central theme, but it wasn’t too heavy-handed. Still well written, but again, I think it was me expecting something else when I was reading it as it took forever for me to finish, and that’s usually a sign of trouble for me, Will Robinson.

So now I’m wheeling around thinking about my next read… 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Suggested Summer Reading…. (Part One)

Summer-Reading-Guide-HEROAs a public service to you (and a rather fun thing for me to do at the same time), I thought I’d gather some of the titles that I’ve read over the years and that seem to have a summer kind of feel…

Just seeing these titles brings up memories of outside fun in the sun and reading inside in the cool, so perhaps you may like some of them for your reading choices this season. (The list is in completely random order, btw…)

I’m not sure that some of these would qualify for the traditional “Beach Read” definition, but they’re enjoyable all the same. (I’d read them on the beach, but perhaps I’m weird!)

And, naturally, I’d love to hear your suggestions (even if your summer isn’t here yet).

Books with a child’s perspective (and sometimes coming-of-age narratives) would also make up quite a few of my recommendations. (Who can forget those days of summer when you’re a kid [if you’re a lucky kid])?

So, to start off, I thought I would begin the list with some more traditional summer-focused (perhaps “summer-feel”) books.

Since I’m in America, I’ll start off with Twain’s two great summer books, Tom Sawyer  (1876) and Huckleberry Finn  (1884). Sure, there are “teachable” moments in each of them, but these just remind me of childhood in some ways. (Admittedly, my childhood was nothing like them as I grew up in Bedford, England, but they’re still good to read. Our town did have a lovely river though… )

Oh, and don’t forget the adorable Anne of Green Gables who will charm your socks off.

A more English-y summer selection could be, let’s say, Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) (which I adore) but which has no blog post (pre-blog). Hmm. May have to reread this little gem again over the next few hot months….  It’s as close to perfect a gentle summer read as anything you’ll find.

For a more caper-ish approach to English summer, try Just William – Richmal Compton (1922), which has some really funny scenes  in it regarding its titular character, William, and some of his adventures… (Plus there is a series of books about him… Lots of summer reading ahead!) Compton also wrote some more adult fiction which others have raved about, so you could check that back-list… Good caper novels are also some of those by John Buchan (who wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps et al.)

If you’re more interested in the gently humorous adventures of a particular young bear, then you can’t go wrong with the the Paddington Bear Series as they are set in mostly sunny summers (despite being in England ). Yes, they’re children’s lit, but they are so sweet, and sometimes when it’s 114 degrees outside (as it was the other day), you just want gentle and sweet…

If you’d rather have an arachnid as the star, don’t forget about E. B. White’s delightful (and rather poignant) Charlotte’s Web  (1952).  Sidenote: E.B. White also has several books of well-mannered and pretty gentle essays that are perfect to read on a lovely summer day in a hammock, for example. Try this one for starters: Essays of E. B. White (1977). Reading it is like having a great cup of tea (or glass of iced tea) with an interesting and funny conversationalist.

Ray Bradbury has a couple of strong contenders in this category,  Dandelion Wine (1957) being my favorite. (He also has a sequel of sorts, Farewell Summer  (2006), and it’s almost as good as that first one, but then it gets all weird in the last chapter without explanation, so perhaps a more muted endorsement there.) If you’d like something more challenging, check out Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for a good spec fiction type of read. (Haven’t read his other sci fi titles, but I expect that they are pretty good.)

From English soil, I’d suggest Winifred Foley’s trilogy that starts off with A Child in the Forest (1974), an autobiographical book of Foley’s childhood  of living in a loving but poor family in the forest in Gloucestershire. Marvelous commentary on her life, with some really good and very witty pieces in there as well.

Along those same lines (but with a very different British childhood experience), check out this title, From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties by Philip Oakes (1980) which is another very witty childhood recollection, this time of growing up in an English boarding school.

(Other boarding school stories which are not very demanding reading but would still be fun include Mallory Towers series from Enid Blyton…)

Oh, almost forgot this one: The Railway Children – Edith Nesbitt (1906). (Lots of jolly hockey sticks, how dashingold thing, perhaps a midnight feast or two, and lashings of ginger beer…)

For a great summer read, you certainly can’t go wrong with Laurie Lee’s classic, Cider with Rosie (1959) (pre-blog) followed up with its sequel of sorts, As I Walked out one Midsummer Morning (1969).

For an American perspective of growing up, perhaps you’d like the play, Brighton Beach Memoirs  (Neil Simon (1984), which details the childhood of a funny young man as he navigates those teenaged years on the East Coast during the 40’s…  🙂

(That reminds me: if your community has any local plays, serious or otherwise, they can be really fun to attend and it’s great to see (probably) local volunteers acting their hearts out. Just go with a generous spirit… 🙂 )

Moving into a slightly older age group with the characters’ lives, I’d suggest Seventeen – Booth Tarkington (1914) which covers a gently humorous approach to the tragedies and fragile joys of having your first love. (This is a U.S. book, but the feelings are universal.)

For a complete change of pace but still linking with the topic of coming-of-age/young people, I rather think that Lucy Knisley’s graphic novels have a summer-y feel to them: Displacement and French Milk seem warm-weather to me… Or what about An Age of License: A Travelogue or even her first book Relish?

This leads me to funny (or what I think are funny) books. Have a try at some of these if you’d like to have a good laugh (assuming you have a similar sense of humor as I do):

  • A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson (1998) or any of his earlier works. (He gets crabby and grumpy in the more recent books, but the old ones are still rather fun.)
  • P.G. Wodehouse books are mostly light-hearted summer fun
  • Three Men in a Boat– Jerome K. Jerome (1889) (pre-blog but worth searching out)

The Jerome book is in a diary format with short entries, and if you’re in the mood for some good and pretty funny epistolary (journal/letter format) reading, I can suggest the absolutely gorgeous read, Letters from New York – Helene Hanff (1992).

More diary joy resides in The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside (Alan Taylor (ed.) (2009)) which, just as it says on the tin, covers a whole calendar year of real diary entries about rural living in England from people through history up to the present. An excellent read, and great for picking and putting down, should the summer temperatures affect your concentration…

(You could also try The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diaries edited by Irene and Alan Taylor. More of the same except broader in scope —  a much longer read from a wider selection of sources…)

And Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (2007) had me nodding with agreement as he talks about how the Queen of England discovers the joy of reading… 🙂

Some other authors with lots of titles that don’t particularly need to be read in order (because – summer!) and that are just plain good and perfect for hot days:

And then don’t rule out the older titles for they also can be great. For example, the long novella/short novel, Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton 1911) is a great read packed with lots of things to think about during and post-reading.

Christopher Morley is a US author, but if you’ve not heard of him, never fear. He’s available on Project Gutenberg and elsewhere, and for just a plain good read of a book about the joys of books and reading, look no further than Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop . *Perfect* for bookie people, these may very well bring tears to your eyes as they are so gorgeous…

English author, T. H. White, is more known for writing about King Arthur and his men, but he does have a gorgeous and poignant back list title called Farewell Victoria (1933) which is a novel following the life of an older character who is struggling to keep up with the process of time at the turn of the twentieth century. (He wasn’t the only one, naturally, as there were/are whole generations with the same struggle.)

I’ll make a break here, but watch out for the non-fiction-heavy book list of suggested summer reading coming soon.

In the meantime, what are your recommendations for some hot weather reading?

ETA: I’ve just noticed that this list of recommendations has very few POC authors or topics in this. I’ll get that addressed soon as there’s a ton of good reads in that category as well…

Monday Check-In.

rio_new

Wow. Another week goes by and only one post up. Life is still keeping busy, my eye is still messing around (making reading tricky), and work continues on its crazy pace. I hope this slows down soon as I miss my reading, writing, and blogging. And you, of course.

limpet

Limpets (of which I speak in this post.)

Of course, another part of all that no-blogging thing has been, naturally, the Olympics from Rio. The Olympics (or Limpets as my family would call them) have rather taken over my world since, as a former collegiate swimmer, I’m addicted to watching just how incredibly fast these new generations are. It’s amazing how the technology and techniques have evolved over the past *cough* thirty years, and it’s even more spectacular how fast the times have become. It’s also pretty darn cool to see the Great British team of swimmers doing great. (Naturally, I’m proud of the USA swimmers as well, but GBR has a lot of my heart.)

GBR_swim

Actually, I love watching all the aquatic events so am thinking that when coverage moves on to a different sport, my Limpet viewing will go down. So Limpet viewing along with really HOT temperatures outside has led to us being house hermits the past few days. (Got loads of stuff done IN the house though as there is a lot of fluff that goes along with TV coverage. It’s good fluff, but it’s fluff nonetheless. 🙂 )

(It’s also really convenient when we’re all in the same time zone for watching the coverage. Australia was a bit trickier (for us in US) but probably worked much better for some of you out in the global community!)

As I now hold an elected office on campus (go me!), I will be spending next Saturday in graduation ceremonies so preparing myself for that. It’s the first time I’ve been in the Stage Party (i.e. out in the open with the bigwigs up on stage) and since you are in view of the thousands of graduates and families, there’s no phone-playing allowed. Also no naps. There may be some undercover day-dreaming if it’s conducive to that but I think that, for most of the time, I will be looking proudly at each of the graduates who traipse across the stage. It’s a HUGE deal to have a graduating student for the majority of families who will be watching the ceremony, and I want and need to respect that. We have a lot of First-Generation students so the experience means an awful lot to an awful lot of people so I’m looking forward to seeing an awful lot of happy faces. 🙂

(Holding any elected office at all, even it’s dog-catcher, is totally outside my experience and comfort zone, but thought I’d try this time around. I won (weird) and it’s keeping me really busy, but it’s also really fun so far.)

I did actually finish up a book. (Woah. I know.) It was Mary Roach’s latest book and was, as usual, a witty and fascinating read. Review to come with that.

straight_outta_compton

And then saw the movie “Straight Outta Compton” about the early hip-hop movement. I don’t really have any/much knowledge of this music genre so it was fascinating learning about the early beginnings of this music and NWA. (Not a big fan of their lyrics, but in terms of music, their story is remarkable and led to much googling down various rabbit holes over the weekend.)

So – with the hot outside temperatures, we don’t really want to go outside much (we’ve had enough of the endless heat at this point of the summer), so there’s lots of indoor time. You won’t believe how clean my bathtub is now. 🙂

How’s your summer or winter coming along? Are you as sucked into the Olympics as we are in our household?

 

Umm. Hi there. I’m back.

shiningWell, goodness gracious me. That was a rather long absence there. Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to leave you hanging…

Work has become slightly nutty which has led to me being tired and easily lured by the call of the Netflix sirens instead of settling into the adventures of the printed word. I bow my head in shame at such temptations, but I plan on being back on-line now. As an added (and slightly irrelevant) fact, it’s also been really really hot which can sap the energy right out of you.

Add to this the fact that we are also now the guardians of a new young dog and there’s been not much time for literary pursuits.

First things first, here’s the new addition to the family:

nova

She is a ten-month old German Shepherd who was living in horrible conditions when we got her. Thus, she has one or ten issues that we are working with (such as some serious other-doggie-inflicted PTSD) which along with the typical puppy stuff has kept our hands full. Her name is Nova, and so we’re hoping to call her… wait for it…. Super Novae when she does something super-terrific. (It’s all baby steps right now.) Despite the challenges, she has a good heart and is slowly learning that we and the outside world are not out to kill her just yet. (She’s not yet convinced about the cats so she takes a very wide berth around them in general.) She is a sweetie so far.

For the television temptations, we’ve been sucked into Broadchurch, an excellent murder mystery BBC series, finished up Peaky Blinders, got caught up with Orange, started up with HBO’s new series, The Night of…, and watching John Oliver, Bill Maher and Samantha Bee have lots of fun with the craziness of both the political parties’ national meetings. I’m not sure about you, but I can only take so much political coverage as the whole thing stresses me out, to be honest. I’m hoping that this November’s elections don’t mirror the Brexit situation.

Oh, and saw a New Zealand-ish movie the other day called “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople” which was fun to watch and just an extremely nice change from the loud explosion-filled movies which seem to be the Hollywood trend over summers. (This has no explosions, no car chases, and no one dies whilst at the same time being a thoughtful, poignant and funny coming-of-age film.) Highly recommended if it comes your way.

And then reading? Oh yes, that. Well, I’ve been catching up with some magazine reading (way behind on my copies of The Atlantic) and even a book here or there. There’s been some (pretty dreadful) leadership book reading for work, just finished an enjoyable read of “Carol” by Patricia Highsmith (after really liking the movie of the same name), gave a presentation that combined some of my photography with suggestions of summer reading (Lizzy-style) for a large group in town, and then been floating around in the Lazy River at this place:

lazy

This is actually our university pool complex and so we’re really lucky to have access to this whole place. (It’s part of the fitness center on campus which is where we work out all the time.)

So this summer so far has been a rather schizophrenic mix of lassitude at home and crazy workload at work, but you know what? It’s almost August and I’m back in the literary mix now. Hooray!

BTW, here is the book list that I developed from that photo/reading presentation in case you’re curious:

Summer Reading List

  • From Middle England: A Memory of the Thirties – Philip Oakes (1980) NF
  • The Haunted Bookshop – Christopher Morley (1919) – Project Gutenberg F
  • The Interrogative Mood: A Novel – Padget Powell (2009) F
  • A Bear Called Paddington (and rest of series) – Michael Bond (1958) F
  • The Thirty Nine Steps – John Buchan (1915) – Project Gutenberg F
  • 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff (1970) NF?
  • Servants: A Downstairs View of Twentieth Century Britain – Lucy Lethbridge (2013) NF
  • Diaries of a Provincial Lady – E. M. Delafield (1930) – Project Gutenberg (Australia) F
  • Stoner – John Williams (1965) F
  • Anything by Miss Read (with two series: Thrush Green and the Fairacre novels) F
  • Ethel and Ernest: A True Story – Raymond Briggs (1998) NF/GN
  • The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – Sun-mi Hwang/Chi-Young Kim (trans.) (2013) F
  • Diary of a Nobody – George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith (1892) – Project Gutenberg F
  • Anything by Robert Lacey (non-fiction history about England et al.) NF
  • Remember, Remember (The Fifth of November): The History of Britain in Bite-Sized Chunks – Judy Parkinson (2008) NF
  • The Queen’s Houses – Alan Titchmarsh (2014) – BBC production NF
  • Anything by Mary Oliver (U.S. poet: nature, accessible, thoughtful) Poetry
  • Coasting: A Private Voyage – Jonathan Raban (1987) NF
  • Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England – Judith Flanders (2003) NF
  • Fortnight in September – R. C. Sheriff (1931) or August – Gerard Woodward (2001) F
  • A Gift from the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1955) NF
  • Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey (2014) F
  • The Campaign for Domestic Happiness – Isabella Beeton (1861)  Project Gutenberg NF
  • Anything by Michael Dirda (books about books) NF
  • Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison – Piper Sherman (2013) NF/Memoir
    • Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing – Ted Conover (1999) Memoir NF
    • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander (2010) NF
  • Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee (1959) NF/Memoir
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque (1929) F
  • Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe (2013) NF/epistolary
  • Modern American Plays – Bennett Cerf (1961) Drama
  • American Notes for General Circulation – Charles Dickens (1842) NF
  • Any NF by Mary Roach (witty clever microhistories)
  • Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym (1977) (but all her stuff is good) F
  • All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot (any are good but best in order) F
  • Mapp and Lucia series – E. F. Benson (1920’s/1930’s) Project Gutenberg (Australia) F
  • The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – Alan Sillitoe (1959) F
  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004) F

Other suggestions from around the world:

  • An Unnecessary Woman – Rabih Alameddine F
  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker F
  • Going Home to Nicodemus – Daniel Chu and Bill Shaw NF
  • Praisesong for the Widow – Paule Marshall F
  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates NF
  • We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie NF
  • March (two volumes) – John Lewis/Nate Powell NF/GN
  • Once Upon a Quinceañera – Julia Alvarez (2007) NF
  • Into the Beautiful North – Luis Alberto Urrea (2009) F
  • The Devil’s Highway – Luis Alberto Urrea (2004) NF
  • Sozaboy – Ken Sawo-Wiwa (1985) F
  • The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native Peoples in North America – Thomas King (2012) NF
  • Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese (2012) F
  • Anything by Atul Gwande NF/Medicine
  • Like One of the Family – Alice Childress (1956) F
  • So Long a Letter – Mariama Bâ F
  • Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit – Leslie Marmon Silko (1997) NF/Essays
  • Embers – Sandor Marai (1942) F
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995) F

 

Summer Reading List 2012

It seems like every summer, I search for a project to do and perhaps complete by the time September rolls around. I already have the habit of focusing on more of the classics during the hotter months, and the D and I usually have a movie focus – one year were all the Star Wars movies, another were all the Star Trek movies, last year were the Harry Potter movies (but could only stomach two of them as they got a bit b-o-r-i-n-g for moi – no disrespect intended for the HP fans out there).

So, with all this summer list talk on the bookie blogs around the interwebs, I thought I would put together a very “light-hearted-no-pressure –only-read-if-I-want-to” list of books that have been on my TBR pile for a rather long time and at the same time, be rather fun to read.

Here is the list that I tossed together. The caveats are as follows (not that I am picky or anything…) :

  • I don’t have to stick to the list
  • I don’t have to finish any of them
  • Once they are off the list, they’re out of the house

Join Me – Danny Wallace (non-fiction) – finished this one September 2012. (Does that still count as summer in the Northern Hemisphere?)… Good read, btw.

Steve Jobs bio (non-fiction)

Proof of Love – Catherine Hall (Fiction). Good book, I think, but wrong time to read this. No fault of the author and not the topic though. Just timing.

Moscow Stories – Loren Graham (non-fiction) – tried reading this, but the author had some very strange ideas about things so I put it down. (July 2012)

A classic of some description (probably fiction) – Read M.E. Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret.” Read July 2012.

Anthology of short stories (whatever flings itself into my hands from my shelves) (fiction, obviously). Read July 2012.

Book on something Victorian-ish (whatever flings itself into my hands from my shelves) (non-fiction). Tried (I really did) with the Chicago brothel book, but boy. Boring. Sorry! August 2012.

Book on something medical-ish (perhaps Emperor of Maladies or book on Level 4 viruses at CDC) – whatever flings itself into my hands (non-fiction)

The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (non-fiction)

Freebie choice (mainly bc I can’t remember what’s on the home bookshelves right now)…. Most likely something fiction-y to balance out all the non-fiction on this list! Ooh. How about this one:

The Country Diaries: A Year in the British Countryside – Alan Taylor (ed.) (non-fiction) – this is turning out to be best read a small piece at a time as opposed to churning through the pages. So more of an ongoing project, me thinks. Read August 2012.

So – I think that gives me quite a lot of latitude from which to choose and (BONUS) are all on the TBR shelves right now which means, that when I’ve read them, off the shelves they go… (Just in time for the big October Friends of the Library book sale in October… tee hee.)