Saturday, August 13, 2011

Catching Up

I dropped off the face of the earth for a while, but didn't stop reading! In my hiatus from the blogosphere I have completed two books from my list and several others not on the list.

I've read and listened to some great books from off the list that I'll share first and I'll post separate posts about the two from my list:

  • Room by Emma Donoghue
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (my first read of King's shorter pieces)
  • World and Town by Gish Jen
  • The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell (becoming a favorite author)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • What's Left of Us by Richard Farrell
  • Finny by Justin Kramon (a debut novel from a promising new author). 

I also read and liked but didn't love One Day by David Nicholls and Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.

And I really couldn't get into Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo (wanted more on the flood, less on the anarchists), The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (his research seemed mostly based on men and not all that impressive at that), and True Prep by Lisa Birnbach (don't bother).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Completed: The Brooklyn Follies

Two down, ten to go! I read Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies last week. Up until about a year ago, I'd never heard of Paul Auster. Then his name started popping up everywhere. I got The Brooklyn Follies through my online book swap, Paperback Book Swap, so I could try him out.

It was a very quick read in part because it was so entertaining. I really liked the book. If you haven't read Auster, I would describe his style as a fair amount of Richard Russo mixed with a bit of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series and the farce of Toole's The Confederacy of Dunces mixed in.

This story is told from the perspective of Nathan Glass, a 60-ish man recovering from cancer and a divorce who has recently moved to Brooklyn to pick up his life. It is set in 2000-2001. You can tell from the tone of his interactions with his daughter and the nature of his divorce, that he is a bit prickly, was not a great husband, sometimes thinks too highly of himself,  and could seriously benefit from some introspection and soul searching.

Nathan's life in Brooklyn becomes interesting when he wanders into a used bookstore and is reunited with his favorite nephew with whom he has lost touch for many years. Through the nephew he develops other relationships and his world expands. Nathan reviews the incidents and relationships in his life with humor and openness and ultimately becomes a better person.

Auster weaves a good tale with plenty of humor and drama, love and relationships, quirky but lovable characters and ultimately provides a sensitive portrayal of the frailty of humanity. I will read more of Paul Auster.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Completed: Kristin Lavransdatter

This week I finished reading Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath. This is the first book in a trilogy by Sigrid Undset and she won a Nobel Prize in Literature for this book in 1928. The Wreath is set in Norway in the Middle Ages and the main character is Kristin Lavransdatter, a girl in her early teens. The book tells the story of  Kristin's growing up, her betrothal to one man and her falling in love with another. Despite her youth and the time, she stands up to her family and follows her heart.  The detail about life in the Middle Ages in Norway is wonderful. Undset creatively describes the dress, architecture, customs and mores of the time.

I read this book because several people in one of my Goodreads groups wrote that this is one of their favorite books of all time. The book appealed to me for its coming of age themes and I am also half Scandinavian. However, while it was good and enjoyable to read, I was not as bowled over by it as others. It certainly kept me interested enough to finish, and I enjoyed the historical element of it. Still, it struck me as a well-written historical romance novel.

Will I read the other two books in the trilogy? I'm not sure. Without giving anything away, the ending of The Wreath was not completely as expected, so I am definitely intrigued and leaning toward picking these up at some point. But I won't race out to read them immediately.

I started Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies and it reads very quickly, so look for my review of that one soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The List

Wow, picking 12 books with two alternates for the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge was trickier than I was expecting! I picked 12 easily and then kept coming across books on my shelves that I didn't have on the original TBR list, so kept changing my mind throughout the week.  But I am ready to commit and here is the final list in alphabetical order by author's last name. I do not, however, promise to read them in this order.

  1. The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
  2. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
  3. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
  4. Justine (Part I of the Alexandria Quartet) by Lawrence Durrell
  5. Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire
  6. In the Woods by Tana French
  7. The Beautiful Thing that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  8. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
  9. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  10. A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
  11. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
  12. Kristin Lavransdatter I: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset

  1. Far Bright Star by Robert Olmstead
  2. Possession by A.S. Byatt

So where did these come from? Kristin Lavransdatter is one that I started to read a few weeks ago and since it met the criteria, I added it to the list.  War and Peace is a crossover from another 2011 challenge and will be read throughout the year. Wallace Stegner is a favorite author of mine and I have two of his books in the TBR stack, so wanted to get through one for this challenge. I've wanted to read Paul Auster's work for quite a while and haven't gotten to it. I heard about the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell in a lecture presented by Jim Leach, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and I was intrigued. (The Quartet consists of four novels all about the same place, events and time, but each one is written from a different character's perspective.) The remaining books I've gotten recommendations for or have read good reviews about and then there they sit on the pile.

I'll be updating this page as I get through the challenge. I don't anticipate being able to complete more than one of these per month, since I have a book group with completely different titles I have to read for, and I teach a college class. I'm looking forward to completing this project and clearing through some of the book rubble that exists in my house!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Starting the Journey

I admit it. I'm a book nerd. I read a lot and I read about reading a lot. I get Bookmarks Magazine, I read blogs, I read articles about books, I read book reviews. I listen to book related podcasts, I track my reading on Goodreads, I professionally facilitate book discussion groups and I participate in book discussion groups.

This week I read an article in Salon by Laura Miller, encouraging her readers to become better readers. She urged us to read more challenging books and to reach out of our reading comfort zone. Ms. Miller went on to discuss the annual January emergence of reading challenges and lists quite a few for 2011.

I'm always up for a challenge. After all, I'm the one that after graduating from high school felt I had missed reading some of the standard high school required reading and set out to create my own reading list for that summer before college.  I read Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, A Separate Peace, Catcher in the Rye, Of Human Bondage and a few John Steinbeck novels.

I've already joined a War and Peace read-along group on Facebook which starts in February and last for the rest of the year, so I wasn't sure I was able to take on another reading challenge. But then I saw the 2011 TBR Pile Challenge on Laura Millers list of reading challenges.

If there was ever a reading challenge I need, it is this one!  I have 100 books on my To Be Read list (TBR) and that is no exaggeration - I have it on an Excel spreadsheet (remember - book nerd!). In fact, I may have missed adding a few titles as I have acquired them, so in fact it is probably more than 100.

The challenge has been created by Adam of the Roof Beam Reader blog. By January 15, 2011, participants have to select 12 books and two alternates (in case a couple are unbearable to finish), post them on a blog and submit reviews as they are read. The only stipulation is that they must have been on the TBR pile for a while - no book published after January 1, 2010 can be included.

"Piece of Cake!" says the woman with 100+ books sitting around the house to be read. If nothing else, this challenge will help me create some room on the nightstand for some additional books, right?!

Come along for the journey. It should be an adventure. Join the challenge yourself. You've got the rest of the week to make your picks and post them on Roof Beam Reader!