April 2017 Reading Review

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So April fairly whipped by pretty speedily due to a general busy-ness of life and work. It was a pretty good reading month at the same time, but lower numbers than is traditional. (This would be due to a big mix of things, including my vision still having problems. Reading with one eye tends to slow things down, I’ve found.)

(To clarify: I still have my other eye, but the dodgy one doesn’t see very well a lot of the time. Thus the “one eye” comment. I didn’t mean that I was now Cyclops [although I might feel like that sometimes!]. I had no idea how much my reading would slow down due to this.  :-} )

The reads for April included:

So to the numbers:

Total number of books read in April: 5

Total number of pages read: 1,507 pages (av. 301).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction; 0 play.

Diversity: 0 POC (that’s a bit yikes for me.) 2 books by women.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book, 4 owned books and 0 e-books. (Yeah. Good on working on the TBR pile.)

Plans for May is to read, read, read. How glorious is that?

A Curious Mind – Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (2015)

book398Pulled off the TBR shelf after watching a presentation given by Malcolm Gladwell one evening, this was a really disappointing read in the end. I was trying to read only from the TBR pile, and thought that this might scratch that Gladwell itch, but Grazer is nowhere near as good. Although billed as a book about curiosity, this read struggled mightily with that charge and veered more often than not into the world of the vanity project.

Grazer is a Hollywood producer who has put this flimsy book together based on a few conversations between him and his friends, all of whom apparently kept begging him to write this book about one of his main interests. I felt as though he somehow expected his readers to bow before him, grateful for his small nuggets of wisdom about nothing much in particular.

It wasn’t badly written, but there was not enough material here to develop into a book and the material that was there was more about the famous people Grazer had met or who he knew, much more so than the theme of curiosity. (I felt quite badly for Fishman, who, as his ghostwriter, probably got blamed for the whole thing in the end, even though he may not have been responsible for the actual content.)

So, a disappointing read but them’s the breaks. Another one off the TBR pile and just think of it this way: I’ve now saved you a few hours of reading it yourself. 🙂

The End of Year “Best of …” Lists

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So, in the manner of a lot of book bloggers, I have compiled a list of my “Best of…” titles that I’ve read this year for both fiction and for non-fiction. In the same vein, titles on these lists are not necessarily published in 2016 – this is just when they made their wending way into my grubby little mitts and off the TBR pile (for some of them)…

To the lists:

Fiction Top Five:

 

Non-Fiction Top Five:

Just adored this photographically heavy book, and actually read this twice B2B as I enjoyed this read so much. As close to a perfect read at the perfect time as I’ve ever had. Squee.

Not an easy read, but this was a heart-rending experience of Auschwitz and its aftermath by one of its most eloquent survivors. Amazing read.

A more academic read than the usual NF and about the history of the American contemporary frontier. Really an in-depth exploration of an influential part of America’s history and would be interesting for anyone curious about the early days of U.S. history.

Usually listed in the Top 100 Adventure Books, last year I had read and loved Volume I of this heart-racing non-fiction account of an Edwardian Antarctic expedition which went hideously wrong. This volume covers the second half of the journey which went even more wrong than the first bit (if that’s even possible), but it’s written by someone so charming that you forgive them for their unwitting errors right way.

The story of African-American pioneers who move north after the Emancipation Proclamation, and a more forgotten side of early American life on the plains of Kansas. This sent me down a whole other world of rabbit trails learning more about these families who worked so hard to get a better life for them and for their families.

General numbers:

  • Total books read: 56. (Woah. Low for me, but no biggie. Had an interesting year, shall we say.)
  • Total number of Fiction: 25
  • Plays: 2
  • Short stories: 1
  • Non-fiction: 28
  • Books written by POC: 30% (17)
  • Books Owned (%): 40% (rounded up)
  • Total pages: 13, 659

So, overall a good reading year (despite the low-ish total). I think that most of what I’ve read has been really good, with only a couple of stinkers, and I’ve read pretty widely as well. More NF than F which is interesting to me.

In the new year, more of the same! Happy reading!

New Book Pile to Peruse…

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As happens in life, I happened to perhaps/maybe/might have got a *little* busy with the One-Click option and so these particular titles have shown up in my postbox – lots of new titles to choose from this summer and beyond…

To sum up (bottom to top):

  • My Planet – Mary Roach (NF science/nature writing)
  • The Button Box – Lynn Knight (NF social history)
  • The Making of Home – Judith Flanders (NF social history)
  • The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2011) – ed. Mary Roach
  • Between You and Me – Mary Norris (NF – writing/editing memoir)
  • At the Edge of the Orchard – Tracey Chevalier (F)
  • The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander (NF Af-Am history/sociology)

And then one extra title that didn’t make it in the pic as it only just arrived today: Love Nina: A Nanny Writes Home – Nine Stibbe (NF).

Hmm. Mostly nonfiction, I see. I’m into facts right now. 🙂

Any reccies to start with?

<Rubs my hands with glee at thought of lots of good reading this summer>

April 2016 Reading Review

April

Credit: Kathy Bell, kbella photography.

And there goes April in my rear view mirror….. WHOOSH!

April fairly whizzed by and although I was aware of time passing, I don’t really know remember much about the month. Perhaps that is what makes it so notable – that nothing notable happened. 🙂

Book reading is still on the slow(er) side of things for me (carrying the trend on from December of last year). I’m not a person who runs solely on data collection, but I am interested to see any trends or anything, and 2016 is so far the “Year of Not Reading As Much As Usual”.

The reasons for this are varied, but I can explain most of April’s comparatively slow progress on my ongoing health crappy issues. On the upside, these are sorting themselves out day by day, but progress can be excruciatingly slow for someone impatient (comme moi) and it’s been an exercise in learning patience, control (or the lack of it), and acceptance.

Oh, and editing an engineering text book which has been time-consuming but strangely and addictively fun. (I don’t claim to be normal. No sirree, Bob.)

On the flip side, I did get to go to Mexico with D. and spend a gorgeous long weekend there so April was nothing to sneeze at too much, thank goodness.

To the books:

I read the following titles (with links to reviews):

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere – Z. Z. Packer (short stories) – fantastic collection of short stories. I am notoriously picky with my short stories, but Packer hit every one of her selection out of the park and I loved this read. Gushy but true. The fact that there was no proper blog post about this haunts me, but life goes on and that neglect is truly not aligned with how good that read actually was. I will definitely be picking up more of her work in the future.

No Idle Hands (social history of knitting) – Anna Macdonald (NF). Good solid book which does exactly what it says it will do on the outside of the tin. May have been more of a timing issue for me.

Humans of New York: Stories – Brandon Stout (NF). This was really a book that I dearly wish that I had done myself as it hit the target on so many levels whilst I was reading it. Attention has been in short supply so since this is a graphically heavy book, this was very pleasing to me. I adore the idea of “everyone has a story” and Stout takes this to the nth degree with this project, and I really admire his photography skills. Here’s the blog if you’re curious,  and I highly highly recommend a read of this project. I read it three times back to back. (Excessive? Perhaps. Enjoyable? Very.)

Brooklyn – Colm Toibin (F). Another book that was the perfect read at the perfect time. One of those sentinel experiences when everything converges into perfection: the writing, the book presentation, the narrative arc, the characters… There was not one molecule of this read that did not make me happy and I’m wondering if the rest of his work is as stellar. (Nothing like a little pressure of the first read being magnificent, is there? Cross your fingers.)

Happenstance – Carol Shields (F). 80% read but a DNF in total. Why (do I wail to the gods), why did I waste resources on this read? Waaaah. One good thing: it’s now off the TBR bookshelf and out of the house. Note to self: No more Carol Shields. (I’m sure she’s very wonderful as a human being, but her fiction leaves something to be desired (for me at least).)

Total number of books read in April: 4. (A bit low for me, but April is historically a really busy month for me in my non-reading world.)

Total number of pages read: 1,398 pages (av. 350).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 2 fiction / 2 non-fiction

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 4 library books and 0 owned books. (However, there was a clean-out of the shelves which resulted in three large grocery bags of books going to the FoL sale. I’d say that was progress.)

For May, any plans? Scale back my expectations a bit with regard to book numbers etc. and just go with the flow a bit more. Pick up some more fiction with the caveat of also putting it down if it’s not the great experience that I’m looking for. (Must remember to resign membership in the “Complete the book” club.)

Oh, and my wonderful and lovely mum (in England) had her 80th birthday on May 03.

So life is coming along, it’s almost summer (for us here in the Western Hemisphere), we don’t have the really high temperatures just yet (which I love), and things are good. I hope that you can say that your world is good as well.

Lots of New Bookie Goodness

So, as with any serious bookie household, there have been some new additions to the shelves. Thought you’d be curious to see which titles made it across the threshold…

Newbooks

(Above, bottom to top):

  • The Best American Travel Writing 2015 – Andrew McCarthy (ed.) (NF)
  • A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman (F)
  • The Lonely Girl Trilogy #2 – Edna O’Brien (F)
  • The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide (F)
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Kondo (NF)
  • Girls in Their Married Bliss Trilogy #3 – Edna O’Brien (F)

(Not pictured: The Country Girls trilogy #1 – Edna O’Brien (F) Already gobbled up this volume and trilogy #2. This weekend, I have to find out what happens to these naughty two Irish women in the final volume…)

And then, be still my heart. There is the Kris Kringle FoL Book Sale coming up soon at the library… I know, I know…. but still! I see an editing of the TBR bookshelves in my future.

 

Reading Review – October 2015

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In the past month, work has slowed down (thank goodness), and thus my head space has expanded so that I can read things that aren’t work-related. This is a big relief in many ways, and I’m happy to report that I’ve been really enjoying what I’ve been reading over the past few months. 🙂

Future plans: Work on completing my so-far under-the-radar Century of Books project. This is an on-going reading focus where I am reading a different book/different author (no repeats) published in each year of the twentieth century (so any titles published within 1900-2000). It’s very casual and rather fun – it’s also expanded my reading as there are some years which are not as bountiful as others, publishing-wise so I have been stretching my reading muscles. I’ve pretty much done 1900-1940, but then have quite a few gaps in the later years. Anyway, quite a fun reading casual thing…)

Anyway, back to reviewing. In October 2015, I read the following:

  • My Mortal Enemy – Willa Cather (1926) F (no blog post)
  • Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments – Michael Dirda (2000) NF
  • Curtains – Agatha Christie (1973) F (no blog post)
  • From Middle England – Philip Oake (1980) NF
  • So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Endures – Maureen Corrigan (2015) NF (post to come (maybe – although really good read))
  • Modern American Short Stories – Philip Van Doren Stein (1943) F (post to come)
  • The Railway Children – Edith Nesbitt (1906) F (maybe a post to come)
  • The Queen’s Houses – Alan Titchmarsh (2014) NF (post to come)

Total number of books read in October: 8 (hooray! Reading slump over and more free time to boot.)

Total number of pages read: 1837 pages (av. 230 pages)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 F and 4 NF.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 5 library books and 3 owned books. 1 e-books this month. (Total of 26 books off TBR this year.)

Speaking of the TBR pile, I had started a low-key book buying ban a few weeks ago, but I’ve fallen way off that track lately. I have got some new corkers though – expect a post of my new titles to come in the near future.

“I shall read all night and day. I’m a book-drunkard, sad to say.” – L. M. Montgomery.

Modern American Short Stories – Philip Van Doren Stern (ed.) (1943)

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In this short story collection first published in 1943, there were 19 stories from the 1920s and 1930s by authors with whom I was familiar (Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck), some with whom I had only a name familiarity (Ring Lardner [one of Fitzgerald’s buddies], Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Katherine Ann Porter) and then some who were new to me (Jerome Weidman, Sally Benson et al.) and one whose story I just couldn’t finish.

(You get three guesses. Oh, OK: it’s you, Hemingway with your Snows of Kilimanjaro).

Specifically, I enjoyed the following, most of which are available on-line if you’re so inclined:

  • Profession, Housewife – Sally Benson (1938)
  • You were Perfectly Fine – Dorothy Parker (1929)
  • Babylon Revisited – F. Scott Fitzgerald (1931)
  • The Happiest Man on Earth – Albert Maltz (1938)
  • Going Home – William Saroyan (couldn’t find the date published)
  • The Night the Ghost Got In – James Thurber (1933)
  • Young Man Axelrod – Sinclair Lewis (1917)

Published towards the end of WWII, this collection of short stories seems to be poignant and innocent in some ways. (Not surprising when you realize that some of them were written not too long after the carnage of WWI or within view of the outbreak of WWII). Several of the stories seemed to be rather sad in some ways — as though the authors had seen too much or experienced too much — and there’s a general feeling of this lost innocence. However, there’s also an edge that seems to warn readers that these authors are not to be taken advantage of, either.

After reading a great book of lit crit on The Great Gatsby, I especially liked reading something from Ring Lardner (friend of F. Scott’s) and a few of his other writing friends, although Hemingway (never my favorite at the best of times) was not a good addition, not only as I happen to find him annoying as a human being and as a writer but also because he was mean to Fitzgerald during his lifetime. Fitzgerald may have had his issues, but overall he seemed to be a pretty sensitive and gentle writer so I see no reason for Hemingway to be so shitty towards him. No need to be mean, is there?

Some good quotes for you:

There were a few Tommies that showed minute and white against the yellow, and far off, he saw a herd of zebra, white against the green of the bush.”

(HEMINGWAY/Snows of Kilimanjaro)

(Disclaimer: This was the one sentence of the few that I read and really enjoyed. Just sayin’.)

 It had been given, even the most mildly squandered sum, things most worth remembering, the thing that now he would always remember – his child taken from his control, his wife escaped to a grave in Vermont. (FITZGERALD/Babylon Revisited)

The Ghost that got in our house on the night of November 17, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstandings that I am sorry that I didn’t just let it keep on walking                  and go to bed.                                                                    (THURBER/The Night the Ghost Came.)