26 December 2006

May your days be merry and bright...

And may all your holiday bookstacks be taller than you can handle.

22 December 2006

Oh, there's no place like...

Live from the airport! I am on my way home for the next ten days, where I anticipate reading a lot. I didn't fulfill my own goal to finish all my review books before today, but que será, será. I'm not missing any deadlines by bringing them home, although they add to my luggage (review books + gifts = a 50-pounds-exactly bag, and lucky it was).

What do you want to read, if you're facing at least a little vacation time? Have you gotten, or are you hoping to get, a special book for the holidays?

20 December 2006

Great Books? Well, some of them are just OK.

News flash! Our children no longer read the classics! Siena College took a list of 30 "Great Books" and surveyed freshmen and faculty on whether they had read these classics. The article goes on to (unfairly) pick on an English professor who includes books by Julia Alvarez (living Hispanic female) and Ernest Gaines (living African-American male) in her Great Books class. In the footsteps of pages turned I decided to look at the list myself and do some fessing up.

So I've read 18 out of these "Great Books," which I consider to be pretty good. I'm not sure, though, that we need to make room for WAR AND PEACE and MOBY DICK in high schools. Plato's REPUBLIC, on the other hand, would have been good, and I can think of several books I was made to read -- DELIVERANCE, HOUSE ON MANGO STREET and THE SHIPPING NEWS, for instance -- that could have been replaced by works of more merit. But don't take my word for it; after all Britney Spears has me beat on the Greeks.

1. The Works of Shakespeare -- I've read most, but not all.

2. The Declaration of Independence

3. Twain, Mark, Huckleberry Finn

4. The poems of Emily Dickinson -- Selections

5. The poems of Robert Frost -- Selections

6. Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Scarlet Letter

7. Fitzgerald, Scott F., The Great Gatsby

8. Orwell, George, 1984

9. Homer, Odyssey and Iliad -- I complained a lot about having to read THE ODYSSEY in ninth grade, but I think it's worth it.

10. Dickens, Charles, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities -- I read GREAT EXPECTATIONS on my own, though. We did read A CHRISTMAS CAROL in middle school -- gotta love those amendment exempt private schools [although I celebrate Christmas, so at the time it didn't bother me].

11. Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales -- I think we might have skipped some of the minor ones.

12. Salinger, J.D., Catcher in the Rye

13. The Bible -- Selections, although by then I had already been exposed to it in church, so I thought reading the Bible in school was silly. I'm sure my ninth grade English teacher made a very good argument as to why the Bible is so crucial to Western Literature, but I probably just rolled my eyes and wrote in my journal, "Yeah, whatever." Sorry.

14. Thoreau, Henry David, Walden

15. Sophocles, Oedipus

16. Steinbeck, John, the Grapes of Wrath

17. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays and poems -- Selections, but not until college did I read him in any depth.

18. Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice -- And oh, how the boys complained...

19. Whitman, Walt, Leaves of Grass

20. The novels of William Faulkner -- Now here's a place I always thought was an Actual Hole in my education. When I took American lit in high school, we had a semester of it, but because the semesters were not equal in length, people who took the class in the spring read one more book than we in the fall did. That book was AS I LAY DYING. I feel like I've made up my Faulkner deficit from reading that book, plus ABSALOM, ABSALOM!, GO DOWN, MOSES and THE SOUND AND THE FURY, but none of that happened before I got to college.

21. Melville, Herman, Moby Dick -- Not in school. Not, I think, really necessary for people to read in school.

22. Milton, John, Paradise Lost -- Just selections.

23. Vergil, Aeneid

24. Plato, The Republic

25. Marx, Karl, Communist Manifesto -- Some excerpts.

26. Machiavelli, Niccolo, the Prince -- Excerpts.

27. Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America -- Excerpts, although I do own it. Points for trying?

28. Dostoevski, Feodor, Crime and Punishment

29. Aristotle, Politics

30. Tolstoy, Leo, War and Peace -- But no one made me, I spent most of the second semester of my freshman year reading this.

19 December 2006

Kaavya and Jayson rejoice?

Every time you think you've got the latest in plagiarism at your disposal, someone goes forth and tops you. A Swedish book critic was recently fired for panning a book in the newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad. So what? She was panning a book that was never published. On behalf of my quarter of Swedish heritage, I am sorry for inflicting this nonsense on the world. (Via Edrants.)

18 December 2006

Books I read recently, in haiku form.

#102. David Mitchell, BLACK SWAN GREEN
Thirteen's hard. Secret:
I like hobbits, poetry.
Wonder what that means.
#103. Heidi Julavits, THE USES OF ENCHANTMENT
Kidnapped, or did she
Fake escape from Boston 'burbs?
Add witch metaphors.
#104. Michael Lewis, TRAIL FEVER
'96: Gore's liked,
Dubya's drowned out, Nader's fresh.
Attack ads still run.
#105. Kate Muir, LEFT BANK
He cheats. She's a bitch.
Kid runs away. Pretty Paris can't
keep him from nanny.

13 December 2006

And the challenge with the best name is...

The Chunkster Challenge! Read at least one book over 400 pages in the first six months of 2007. I remember from finishing A SUITABLE BOY this year how satisfying a very, very large book can be to complete. I'm going to aim for three, and perhaps I can do more -- Doris Lessing's THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, Cathy Kelly's WHAT SHE WANTS (which I just had checked out but was too daunted to actually crack open) and Susanna Clarke's JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL (Michelle of overdue books is doing this one too).

Have you read a very large book you enjoyed? Share, please. (One of my favorite books, ANNA KARENINA, is a chunkster -- and I swear I'm not being pretentious, I've read it three times and recommend it to pretty much everyone I know.)

12 December 2006

It's the final countdown...

We're getting closer and closer to the end of the year and the year-end lists are coming out. Unfortunately for all of you, I am nowhere near deciding what my favorite books were this year. I hope, however, that I come up with superlatives as -- well -- superlative as this list does. Still, to give myself something to update later on in December, for what it's worth, here are

Statistics for my 101 books read so far this year:
72 were for pleasure
29 were for reviews (a personal best!)
42 were nonfiction, 58 fiction, 1 by Hunter S. Thompson (a genre all his own?)
Of reviews only, 10 were nonfiction, 18 were fiction
41 of those were in the first six months of the year (school used to take a huge toll on my reading time... yet I still miss it)
36 were library books -- I can't believe I remember this, but I have a pretty good memory for book covers, which I guess helps. Seems pretty low until you take out the 28 review books, which means almost half the books I picked up this year for pleasure were library-owned. Let's hear it for your local library! Hoo rah!
18 I purchased during 2006 (bad! bad! And those aren't even the only books I bought this year.)
1 I bought and then returned
16 books read in November, the highest month (cold weather + traveling over Thanksgiving break)
4 books read each in February and March, the lowest months (not counting December)
8.41 average books per month
0.2765 average books per day

And on the nightstand I have
4 books to review
3 From-the-Stacks challenge books (which I want to finish before January 1st, even though I know the challenge goes on longer)
59 library books ETA: Oops?

So in theory if I only read those books, I will top out this year at 113 -- not my best performance but not my worst either. Frankly, if I crack 100 books I'm pleased. I know it's a lofty goal, but for me right now (being childless and not in school) it's doable.

Of course there's the matter of me having seen more movies than books read this year -- but that's another post.

11 December 2006

How cool...

Is Will Self? Not only is he a major walker, but his work space looks like some kind of Post-It wonderland. These photos of it are mesmerizing.

08 December 2006


Yesterday I finished my hundredth book of the year. The book was Steve Almond and Julianna Baggotte's WHICH BRINGS ME TO YOU, an amazing novel-in-letters that I recommend you all go out and buy, beg or borrow.

In other news, next week there is a book sale at work, and I am already prepared to swear off the sale and then in a moment of weakness grab at least 5 books. Maybe I can get some Christmas shopping done while I yield to temptation? I have a stack of eight books to donate to the sale, so if I'm savvy I can come out ahead. (It benefits the Friends of the Emmaus Public Library, so I know at least my failure is another person's aid.)