Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Stats and 2013 Favorites

I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of 2013. There were lots of health issues affecting various members in both our families this year and it was near impossible to keep the stress created by all this at bay. I'm hoping for a calmer, healthier 2014 for all of us.

I didn't make it through as many books as I'd hoped to, particularly not as many classics, I didn't use 2013 as a catch-up reading year as I'd planned, I basically became a little sheep and read the same new books everyone else was reading instead of charting my own path, but that's okay. I enjoyed what I read. The older books are still there. Last night I finished Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits--Wendy gave it to me probably a decade back and I couldn't be bothered to read it before now, but it didn't become any less wonderful in the interim.

My reading stats for the last nine years (this year's in bold):

Books Total 74 / 100 / 82 / 101 / 101 / 78 / 81 / 74 / 77
Nonfiction 13 / 5 / 12 / 16 / 15 / 13 / 8 / 14 / 13
Novels 57 / 80 / 66 / 78 / 79 / 62 / 62 / 50 / 47
Short Story Collections 3 / 4 / 2 / 7 / 7 / 3 / 4 / 1 / 8
Library Books 36 / 29 / 39 /26 / 48 / 27 / 14 / 31
Newly Acquired/Read 14 / 21 / 12 / 23 / 32 / 32 / 31 / 24
Newly Acquired/Stockpiled 58 / 78 / 120+ / 113 / 140 / 88 / 141+ / 75+
E-texts Read 12 / 20 / 12 / 17 / 10 / 12
Free E-texts Read 4 / 10 / 6 / 9 / 5 / 7
Just-published books 35 / 30 / 21 / 36 / 55 / 41 / 34 / 33
Classics 7 / 22 / 23 / 21 / 10 / 8 / 23 / 12
Pre-20th Century 1 / 8 / 10 / 9 / 7 / 4 / 12 / 11
Written by women 49 / 38 / 46 / 55 / 42 / 33 / 28

6 authors with multiple books read: Margaret Atwood (3); E.L. Doctorow (2); Jennifer Egan (2); Karen Joy Fowler (2); Doris Lessing (2); Iris Murdoch (2)

8 rereads (in order read): Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut); The Judge (Rebecca West); Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow); The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes); Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood); In the Woods (Tana French); Life After Life (Kate Atkinson); We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler).

My favorites for the year, which you might can guess, since I've already reread them, are:

Life After Life. Kate Atkinson
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Karen Joy Fowler.

Other books I'm very happy I read, in no particular order:
The Pure Gold Baby. Margaret Drabble (just a matter of time before I read it again)
A Suitable Boy. Vikram Seth. (at 1474 pages, this is the longest book I've ever read. While I cannot image reading it again from cover to cover, I am most anxious to read the sequel.)
The Interestings. Meg Wolitzer
The Woman Upstairs. Claire Messud
The Diaries of Jane Somers. Doris Lessing
Tumbledown. Robert Boswell.
The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende
May We Be Forgiven. A.M. Homes.
The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout
& Sons. David Gilbert

Monday, December 30, 2013

Read Scotland 2014 Challenge

Visiting Scotland in May was one of the highlights of 2013, so I was delighted to learn of the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.  Peggy has also set up a Read Scotland discussion board for the challenge at Goodreads.

I'm hoping to reach at least the Highlander level (five to eight books) reading primarily from the following pool:

Letters from Skye. Jessica Brockmole
The January Flower. Orla Broderick
Mobius Dick. Andrew Crumey
The Secret Knowledge. Andrew Crumey
Lanark. Alasdair Gray
The Lewis Man. Peter May
The Heart Broke In. James Meek
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. James Meek
Night Waking. Sarah Moss
Skye. Norman Newton
The Doctor's Family. Mrs.Oliphant
The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow. Mrs.Oliphant
And the Land Lay Still. James Robertson
Girl Meets Boy. Ali Smith
The First Person. Ali Smith
The Whole Story and other stories. Ali Smith
Robinson. Muriel Spark
The Horses. Elaine Walker

Monday, December 16, 2013

I still bear the scars of Middlemarch

'Do you believe in the virtue of compression?' asked a determined academic lady.

'Well, yes,' said Amit warily. The lady was rather fat.

'Why, then, is it rumoured that your forthcoming novel - to be set, I understand, in Bengal is to be so long? More than a thousand pages!' she exclaimed reproachfully, as if he were personally responsible for the nervous exhaustion of some future dissertationist.

'Oh, I don't know how it grew to be so long,' said Amit. 'I'm very undisciplined. But I too hate long books: the better, the worse. If they're bad, they merely make me pant with the effort of holding them up for a few minutes. But if they're good, I turn into a social moron for days, refusing to go out of my room, scowling and growling at interruptions, ignoring weddings and funerals, and making enemies out of friends. I still bear the scars of Middlemarch."

'How about Proust?" asked a distracted-looking lady, who had begun knitting the moment the poems stopped.

Amit was surprised that anyone read Proust in Brahmpur. He had begun to feel rather happy, as if he had breathed in too much oxygen.

'I'm sure I'd love Proust,' he replied, 'if my mind was more like the Sundarbans: meandering, all-absorptive, endlessly, er, sub-reticulated. But as it is, Proust makes me weep, weep, weep with boredom. Weep,' he added. He paused and sighed. 'Weep, weep, weep,' he continued emphatically. 'I weep when I read Proust, and I read very little of him."

There was a shocked silence: why should anyone feel so strongly about anything? It was broken by Professor Mishra.

'Needless to say, many of the most lasting monuments of literature are rather, well, bulky.' He smiled at Amit. 'Shakespeare is not merely great but grand, as it were.'

'But only as it were,' said Amit. 'He only looks big in bulk. And I have my own way of reducing that bulk,' he confided. "you may have noticed that in a typical Collected Shakespeare all the plays start on the right-hand side. Sometimes, the editors bung a picture in on the left to force them to do so. Well, what I do is to take my pen-knife and slit the whole book up into forty or so fascicles. That way I can roll up Hamlet or Timon - and slip them into my pocket. And when I'm wandering around - in a cemetery, say - I can take them out and read them. It's easy on the mind and on the wrists. I recommend it to everyone. I read Cymbeline in just that way on the train here; and I never would have otherwise.'

Kabir smiled, Lata burst out laughing, Pran was appalled, Mr Makhijani gaped and Mr Nowrojee looked as if he were about to faint dead away.

--Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Time // 6:20 pm.

Place // My messy, messy upstairs study. I ordered new bedroom furniture and a rug in August, which necessitated the removal of a popcorn ceiling, refinishing a hardwood floor, painting, and, oh yeah, moving tons of stuff that had been allowed to accumulate over the years in the bedroom. Lots of it is still in the study, although the bedroom is mostly finished. Must do something about the excess very soon. 

Consuming // Ginger ale and Imitrex. It's the beginning of migraine week.

Reading // This past week I finished Christopher Priest's The Adjacent and reread Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for book club.This was my pick, and I'd worried that the Fowler would not go over well with some of the readers in this group, but like it they did, and many seemed to have actually followed my advice and not read reviews and flap copy beforehand, and were surprised when Fern's identity was revealed. I've started Nancy Milford's Zelda: A Biography and James McBride's The Good Lord Bird.

Blogging // As you might can tell, I am trying to kick-start myself into blogging again. Last night I posted the same photo of the Prague astronomical clock that I used nine years ago when the blog was a mere week old. I wonder if there are any old-timers still reading?

Watching // We've been rewatching Breaking Bad. I think "Fly" is the last episode we've seen.

Listening // We went to an Eileen Jewell show last month and I've been listening to a lot of her cds ever since. Plus, someone put a Monkees cd in the car and while I like it, I think that someone should switch it out for something else really really soon.

Loving //  That we now have a bed that it's not only comfortable to read in, but it's possible to read in. I broke our old bed years back trying to shift it around to clean under it and it would collapse if you put any pressure at all on the headboard.

Hating // That we're still waiting on bedside tables and a dresser. I want to stack books on them all!

Making // Last minute phone calls to my crew for tomorrow evening's set up at the precinct. There's an election Tuesday!

Anticipating // My trip to Maryland next Sunday to visit Wendy. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad is like a sprawling Russian novel come to your flat screen, or an epic film allowed to unfold at its own pace rather than edited down to three hours so the theatre can cram in an extra showing every day. By saving its best for last, Breaking Bad is quietly pushing the boundaries of this evolving genre.

We can watch “Ozymandias” in a way that generally wasn’t possible in 2008 when Breaking Bad’s “Pilot” first aired. We have virtually instantaneous access to the new episode on demand and on-line. The days of waiting for a re-run are history. We can, if we so choose, watch Breaking Bad like a giant film. Or have random access to any page just as we would in a novel.

 --Allen St. John, "Why Breaking Bad is the Best Show Ever and Why That Matters"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scotland, here I come!

Back in a week. Taking a very much needed vacation..

And hoping to become a more frequent blogger on my return.

What I"ll be reading on the plane: Iris Murdoch's The Book and the Brotherhood. I'm midway through and it fits in my purse and it seems a shame to set it aside for the larger and heavier The Interestings, which is what I'd been intending to take. But I've got two hours before I leave for the airport. Maybe I'll decide to take both.

And both Kindles.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities.

--Claire Messud, talking about anger, the books she loves, and oh, yeah, her latest, The Woman Upstairs.

My copy arrived this afternoon. Can't wait to start.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Paltry reading

This is sad. The entire first quarter was sad and the sluggish reading pace continues. Unless things change I'll probably finish out 2013 having completed fewer books than at any time since 1994.

I think I'm going to have to rethink all social reading commitments until I get a handle on the other obligations that have to take precedent--I'm still back at the Jean Rhys section in Stet and I never even started Doctor Glas for the Slaves back in January. And I think I'm going to need to restrict my reading to books that wholly engage my attention or else I won't get through them at all.


The last few weeks' meager few finishes:

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. James Lasdun. I had a one-night stand on the Double Dog Dare with this one and I do not feel guilty; if I'd known about it beforehand, I would have caveated it in, for reasons I won't go into. I take issue with Lasdun's insistence that Nasreen must be sane so that he can have a "morally engaging antagonist" for "interesting," "literary purposes," but otherwise, I have great sympathy for him for what she's put him through.

The Waterworks. E.L. Doctorow. I read somewhere that this was a tribute to Poe. I enjoyed it more for the period details and was perplexed by the narrator's overuse of ellipses. I don't believe this was a newspaper convention of the time and C. assures me that Poe wasn't overly fond of ellipses either, so I don't know what effect Doctorow was going for here. Read this if you want something literary for Carl's RIP Challenge.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life. Ann Patchett. This was a Kindle single, really more of an essay than a book.

Good-bye to All That. Robert Graves. Dare I attempt The White Goddess now? Er, not anytime soon.

The Imperfectionists. Tom Rachman. For book club. I was the only one who truly enjoyed it, I'm sorry to say. Crazy sad newspaper people amuse me.

The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout.Although I can find where Anne Tyler has recommended Elizabeth Strout, I cannot find confirmation that Strout has ever mentioned reading Tyler. Nevertheless, to me The Burgess Boys reads as if Strout has internalized all the Anne Tyler novels over the years. Spotting these influences, or intentional nods, as I went through this made me deliriously happy. I realize this book isn't working as well for the very people who originally turned me on to Strout back when Amy and Isabelle first came out (i.e., the old Readerville crowd), but I really loved this book.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Well, isn't this special. Now the library doesn't even have a New Books section.

Students complained.

Or so we've been told.

Monday, March 18, 2013

 Unless the froth of craziness whipped up by a particular family member (see: six-word memoir) extends even further in the coming weeks or months, and I am hoping it cannot, the worst coming from that direction is at an ebb. At least for now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"He'd always imagined distant stars as worlds 'where no animals were suffering' "

I didn’t know Walt Rave, but for years I saw him walking our Takoma Park neighborhood and swinging his fox pelt on a chain. ¶ I would learn that his cause was the ethical treatment of animals, though he still appeared intimidating. When I read of his death from a house fire in 2011, I immediately imagined a graphic narrative to encapsulate his life. ¶ I contacted two of his closest friends, Fred Hunter and Chris Nordby, and I started culling information and sketching. The more I learned about Walt, the more he stood out as an individual: a Vietnam War veteran who had been a tree surgeon, a nude model and a worker in Takoma Park’s tool library. He stuck solid to his principles against cruelty, even when he may have come across as unbalanced. ¶ Such utter conviction seems rare, and it is hard to capture even in black-and-white. ¶ Being, like Walt, an artist, a Navy veteran and a cat lover, I now find it unfortunate that I never stopped to chat with him once in a while.

--   Art Hondros, "Fox Guy" Had to Teach Us

(Disclosure: Art Hondros has been a writing buddy of mine for more than 20 years and I'm thrilled to see his multi-page comic strip in the Washington Post Magazine.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

The curse of the classics

Reading fiction is not a rationalistic act of enlightenment. Like life itself, reading novels has no definite final outcome, except The End. We are always changing throughout this campaign of page turning and our literary memories shapeshift too. Every book we read in some way nudges our stubborn psychological DNA into reaction and affects our impressions of the book we read before and the one we shall read after.

I have an aversion to being told what I should like or dislike so I abandoned reviews, critical consensus and the judgment of others long ago. For my answers I go where I always have - to second- hand bookshops. Meandering, you browse free of any concepts of canons and frantic opinions; the novels are refreshingly free of any order and the browser is exposed to a book display of random chance rather than of cultural weight, media promotion or the latest fad. The full variety and the exhilaration of all that humanity has written down can be right there. Or just Harold Robbins' complete works and 13 copies of Goldfinger. It is up to each of us to conclude which books we should not be reading. We might be missing out on something important, so we cannot trust anyone but ourselves. Let us not say we should celebrate a few select books. I say: profusion, abundance, read more, more, more!
--Alan Warner, The Curse of the Classics

Monday, March 04, 2013

What happens to people in novels?

--All right, that's enough of that. Didn't the two of you get started on this new thing he's going to work on while I wasn't here?

--Of course, Valentine said, his tone returned to its agreeable level, with an ingratiating edge to it as he turned to Brown and went on, --We decided to write a novel about you, since you don't exist.

Recktall Brown did look startled at that. But he recovered immediately to take off his glasses and turn his sharp eyes on Basil Valentine. --We're going to get down to business right now, he said.

--Brown doesn't exist, you must admit, Valentine went on. --He's a figment of a Welsh rarebit taken before retiring. A projection of my unconscious. Though a rather abiding one, I must confess.

--By God, Brown said, --if you don't settle down and be serious. . .

--But my dear man, I am being serious. I am the only person in this room who exists. You are both projections of my unconscious, and so I shall write a novel about you both. But I don't know what I can do with you, he said, turning to the other chair.

--With me? He almost smiled at Basil Valentine. --Why not?

--Because, my dear fellow, no one knows what you're thinking. And that is why people read novels, to identify projections of their own unconscious. The hero has to be fearfully real, to convince them of their own reality, which they rather doubt. A novel without a hero would be distracting in the extreme. They have to know what you think, or good heavens, how can they now that you're going through some wild conflict, which is after all the duty of a hero.


--What happens? In this novel?

--What happens? Basil Valentine turned his full face.

--To me. The cab jolted to a start.

--Why, to you? Good heavens, I haven't the faintest notion. Valentine laughed shortly, looking ahead again. --I was about to say earlier, of necessity. . . but tell me, when you were a child. . . .

--Necessity, yes. Yes, a hero? John Huss. . . .

--Huss? Hardly, today, eh? John Huss? Someone's said, you know, anyone who accepts a martyr's part today is a coward. And you? what happens to you? he went on hurriedly. --I suppose you. . . well, let's say you eat your father, canonize your mother, and . . . what happens to people in novels? I don't read them. You drown, I suppose.

--That's too romantic.

--Novels are romantic.

--As though, death could end it?

--Have it your way, there is a step after death then. Valentine sat back and clasped his knee with folded hands. --After all, my dear fellow, you are an artist, and nothing can happen to you. An artist does not exist, except as a vehicle for his work. If you live simply in a world of shapes and smells? You're bound to become just that. Why your life, the way you live. . .

--Yes, I don't live, I'm . . . lived, he whispered.

Valentine turned to see him gripping his face in the breadth of a hand, whose finger-ends had gone white at the temple. --But, do you know how I feel sometimes? The hand dropped to clutch Valentine's arm, and Valentine looked up into the feverish eyes. --Like. . . as though I were reading a novel, yes. And then, reading it, but the hero fails to appear, fails to be working out some plan of comedy or, disaster? All the materials are there, yes. The sounds, the images, telephones and telephone numbers? The ships and subways, the. . . the. . .

--The half-known people, Valentine interrupted easily, --who miss the subways and lose each other's telephone numbers? Cavorting about dressed in the absurd costumes of the author's chaotic imagination, talking about each other. .  .

--Yes, while I wait. I wait. Where is he? Listen, he's there all the time. None of them moves, but it reflects him, none of them. . .  reacts, but to react with him, none of them hates but to hate with him, to hate him, and loving. . . . none of them loves, but, loving . . .


The cab swerved suddenly.

--William Gaddis, The Recognitons

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Have I mentioned before that I'm a mathematical genius?

Of course not. Because that would be a baldfaced lie.

I am so mathematically inept I somehow thought I would be finishing 20 years of tracking my reading at the end of 2013 instead of realizing that the 20 years ended on December 31, 2012.

In case you've forgotten or weren't reading the blog back when I wrote at length about my Book-Woman journal, I've kept a list of all the books I've read dating back to January 1993.

During that 20 year period I completed 1657 books. The first five years I kept track I averaged 68.2 books per year. Now that the kids are grown my average over the past five has improved to 92.2 books. My overall average is 82.85 books per year. I think that's a pace I should be able to maintain for the next 20, although I'm certainly off to a slow start this year.

As you can tell, my reading tastes have remained fairly stable. I still read primarily literary fiction with some classics mixed in.

L. has been under doctor's orders to walk a lot every day, which means we have to go to the mall in the mornings when it's too cold to be outside. Our first morning there, before he'd realized it was better to keep me out of the bookstore altogether, I pounced upon a gorgeous peacock feathers journal with gilt-edged pages and a ribbed leather spine--quite a different vibe from the funkiness of the Book-Woman journal, let me tell you. But it seemed time to transition to a new journal since the pages are falling out in the old and I'm worried about losing them.

I'm going to try a new approach with the new journal. I'm going to record more than just the name and author, with a line drawn to separate the months, a practice I started in the late 1990s. I'm going to note the year of publication, whether it's a reread, and I'm going to attempt to list the stories and essays I read as well, particularly if they aren't from a collection that I'm working through. Considering how seldom I watch a movie or tv show, perhaps I should track those as well.


Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

(I wrote this back in October and left it sitting in draft.)

I've been reading The Weird Sisters with my hometown friend A. for the past several days. She wanted us to read The Constant Nymph, but I said I had to read a book for book club first.

The Weird Sisters did not go over well with either of us.

Excerpts from my first email:

I read the first two chapters last night. I'm very much in the do-something-unusual-with-the-narrator's-voice camp, so I should be enjoying the first person plural much more than I am. The girls don't seem united enough to warrant it. Maybe that will change, but it may have worked better to let each girl have her own first person chapters, at least in the beginning.

I'm having difficulty believing in these characters. A bunch of New York lawyers aren't going to prosecute the HR employee who was stealing money? Yeah, right. Rose doesn't want to move to Oxford with her boyfriend (is she INSANE?)? I'd buy that she wanted to, but felt obligated not to once she found out about her mom's cancer and her boyfriend went anyway, but as it is, all the author's doing is pushing her characters around.
Maybe I'm still reacting against all the initial hype this book received, but if it weren't for the fact that you're reading it and my book club is reading it, this is a book I'd have abandoned by the end of the first chapter. I don't want to workshop a novel in my mind when it's too late for the writer to consider my advice.

Plus, now that I'm in the third chapter, I'm royally pissed that she's not indicating the books that the characters are reading. Tell me the title or the type of book they're reading, Eleanor Brown, or are you too afraid that your readers would rather go read those books instead of your own.


When The Weird Sisters first came out I was most definitely intrigued; it sounded like just my thing and the only reason I had for not buying it immediately was that I didn't like the texture on the cover (I'm funny about things like that). Then Jeanne, whose opinions I trust, cancelled out all the over-the-top gushing everyone else had been doing. When my mother-in-law decided she wanted me to download The Weird Sisters to our shared Kindle account I did so without ever intending to read it myself.

I consider myself a generous reader. I don't expect perfection in the books I read; I am often surprised at how negative others can be toward a book that I've quite enjoyed due to one singular aspect or another that in my mind more than neutralizes all its other shortcomings.

But being a generous reader means I typically quit reading the books that I can tell early on that I'm not going to get along with and then I settle in with something I know is going to work for me. I kept on with the Brown and I nitpicked the generous hell out of it.

Now I did like the parts where the first-person plural narrator wrote about how important reading was in their lives; how perfect for showcasing here where I take note of the reading lives of fictional characters! But outside those fillips and the cardboard father's incessant quoting of Shakespeare, the reader is told more about the middle sister Bean's wardrobe, makeup and handbag collection than the books the characters are actually reading. This book could have used a pink cover.

Plus,one of the sisters feels she's come down in the world when she's offered a librarian's position (despite the fact that she doesn't have the requisite MLS degree!). And no one from this family of readers ever sets foot in the college library where presumably there would be a wider, deeper collection of reading material to draw from. No one takes advantage of the joys of ILL.

And I was appalled when Brown had Bean's Southern roommate Daisy address Bean in the second person plural. Misspelling y'all as ya'll I could have made allowances for in a bless-her-heart let's-blame-it-on-the-copy-editor kind of way, but as God is my witness, I'll never go hungry read a second book by a writer too dumb to realize y'all is the contraction of you all.

Friday, March 01, 2013

What I've been reading lately

There's been so much real life in 2013. Unless the froth of craziness whipped up by a particular family member (see: six-word memoir) extends even further in the coming weeks or months, and I am hoping it cannot, the worst coming from that direction is at an ebb. At least for now.

As is my husband's cancer. Hurray for negative surgical margins!

This is what I've been reading when I've been able to read:

Breakfast of Champions. Kurt Vonnegut. Since I reread this on the heels of my reread of The French Lieutenant's Woman in late December, I couldn't keep from wishing that Kilgore Trout someone would write a story where Vonnegut and Fowles are observed discussing how they are going to put themselves into their own stories to observe their characters. Perhaps they could pop into each other's books to further their discussion and spy upon one another's characters as well. C. says I should write this story, but I don't have the wherewithal for such at the moment. Someone else do it and then let me read it, okay?

The Eustace Diamonds. Anthony Trollope. What fun. And parts were set in Scotland, too.

Small Island. Andrea Levy. My choice for book club. Turnout was small, but the book was well-received, even by those who were unable to attend, because real life happens to them, too. I had trouble focusing at the beginning, but became totally absorbed in the second half. I've passed the book on to CP, who is taking it slow, because of Hortense's tendency to be a pill.

The Uninvited. Liz Jensen. Whoa. Now I have to read more Liz Jensen as soon as the TBR Double Dog Dare is through. Why have I never heard of Jensen before now?

The Judge. Rebecca West. A second read for a discussion at Goodreads.

Life After Life. Kate Atkinson. Loved this and look forward to reading it again once my physical copy arrives. Is it ultimately a book about the transmigration of souls within parallel universes? It seemed very appropriate to spend my time with Ursula, looping through her lives, reliving the same scenes and conversations, while I was sitting in L.'s hospital room as he was coming off anesthesia, asking me the same questions over and over again.

Brazzaville Beach. William Boyd. Books do wait on us, but if we allow them to attain mythic proportions in our minds in the meantime, we may find ourselves a tad disappointed when we finally get around to them.

May We Be Forgiven. A.M. Homes. I've been reading about, but not reading A.M. Homes for a good 15 years or so, sure that she would prove to be too dark or too extreme for me. Either this is Homes' All the Pretty Horses or my tastes run even darker than I thought, but I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

Toby's Room. Pat Barker. Now my appetite is set for reading Robert Graves' Good-Bye to All That.

Ragtime. E.L. Doctorow. I guess it had been 34 years since I'd last read this. I remembered some of the people in it, but had totally forgotten the plot. How typical of me.

And I'm reading William Gaddis' The Recognitions with Wendy. At the pace we're taking, we should finish around the end of April.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Ten, Make That Nine Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten: the tweets of Steve Martin by Steve Martin

by Wendy

Subtitle should read: the funny tweets of Steve’s followers or guess U had 2 B there. (Sorry, Steve, I'm still a fan, just not attwicted.)

Monday, January 07, 2013

The TBR Double Dog Dare

I am committed, folks, to making it all the way to April this time round. Of course, last year I found The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction on the New Books Shelves at the library in late January and mentally said the hell with any silly dares that might require me not to start such a book immediately, but this year, this year I have a strategy: I will not take casual strolls through the New Book Shelves, or at least not on a daily basis, and particularly not when I'm bored.

Plus, I have caveats: Book club choices, anything to do with Iceland and Scotland that I might need to absorb before traveling there midyear, anything already preordered from a library or a store that has yet to make its way into my hands. That means I get to read the new George Saunders, the new Liz Jensen, and possibly, the new Kate Atkinson, if the universe decides to play nice for a change and send my autographed copy early, which I doubt it will, knowing the universe like I do.

Otherwise, all reading between now and April falls under the dictates of the TBR Double Dog Dare and my Eschew the New! guiding principles. I'm reading what's already in the stockpile and ignoring the rest.

I spent New Year's Day rereading Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (a high school favorite) and started Anthony Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds over the weekend. (I should have read Phineas Finn first, I know, but I'll have to loop back for it.)

I have some book club commitments after that, but then its on to Brazzaville Beach, a book I've wanted to read ever since I read a local review for it back in 1990. Back in those days, I was too poor to buy but a scant few of the books desired and online library holds didn't exist; this book and I never crossed paths. And now I've had a stockpiled copy for eight years. Time to read it.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

You say you want a resolution

On New Year's Day I was still trying a psychic mind trick on the universe that would grant me a mulligan for the entire month of November, which I'm still harboring a few issues over missing, but now that that's obviously failed, I'm willing to move on. Forward!

2013! Nothing against you personally, but I'm going to do my best to ignore most of what you have to offer me until 2014, because I really need a catch-up year where my reading is concerned. It's going to be Eschew the New until the cows come home on December 31, 2013.

I'm going to read heavily from my Fill in the Gaps list and my Classic Club Challenge list and I'd like to mark the three Wilkes County titles off my Some Dark Holler list.

I'm also horrified by how little nonfiction I read last year and would love to read at least 15 from the list below:

Payback. Margaret Atwood
The Way the World Works. Nicholson Baker
How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne. Sarah Bakewell
The Passage of Power. Robert A. Caro
At Day's Close: Night in Times Past. A. Roger Ekirch
Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber 
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. Stephen Greenblatt
Why Orwell Matters. Christopher Hitchens
Votes for Women. The Virago Book of Suffragettes. Joyce Marlow, ed.
Destiny of the Republic. Candice Millard
The Return of the Chaos Monsters - And Other Backstories of the Bible. Gregory Mobley
The Map of My Dead Pilots. Colleen Mondor
A Collection of Essays. George Orwell
Nixonland. Rick Perlstein
Monster of God. David Quammen
The Song of the Dodo. David Quammen
Spillover. David Quammen
Iceland: Land of the Sagas. David Roberts
Hallucinations. Oliver Sacks
The Braindead Megaphone. George Saunders
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded. John Scalzi
The Life of Elizabeth I. Alison Weir
The Essential Rebecca West.
The New Meaning of Treason. Rebecca West
A Train of Powder. Rebecca West
The Essays of Virginia Woolf, v. 6

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...