8.31.2012

Reading life review: August

Number of books read in August: 7
Number of books read in 2012: 92
Complete list here.

What Alice Forgot (Liane Moriarty) Fiction. If, on the eve of your fortieth birthday, you suffered a memory loss that essentially erased the previous decade of your life, how would you reconcile your older and younger selves and the gulf of experience (failing relationships, changes of heart, defining friendships, hurts, sorrows, triumphs, etc.) that separated the two? That is the question at the center of what proved to be a pleasant summer novel.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) Fiction. With the Misses.

Fly Away Home (Jennifer Weiner) Fiction. I'm actually a fan of Weiner's capable chick lit, but this was a disappointment.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home (Carla Rifka Brunt) Fiction. All of the hackneyed expressions apply: graceful prose, memorable characters, and a heartbreaking narrative. I loved it.

Three Sisters (Anton Chekhov) Play. With the Misses, in anticipation of the Tracy Letts/Ann Shapiro adaptation at the Steppenwolf.

The Island of Doctor Moreau (H.G. Wells) Fiction. With the Misses. A fascinating "companion" to Frankenstein, no? Our discussion touched on such topics as irresponsible "fathers," scientific fervor v. ethics, and the nature of being human.

The Year of Learning Dangerously (Quinn Cummings) Non-fiction. One's initial impression of the narrator is that she is a wry, bright, and often socially awkward introvert (in other words, someone many of us would understand well and probably like), but more than once, an unappealing arrogance seeped into in her "voice." (Consider, for example, the chapter on the Christian homeschooling conference.) And is this a memoir masquerading as a survey of homeschooling methods? Or vice versa? It is not a fully realized version of either, so for this reader didn't succeed as either.

8.01.2012

Reading life review: July

Number of books read in July: 19
Number of books read in 2012: 85
Complete list here.

The Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker) Fiction. I loved this quiet work of post-apocalyptic fiction, even if others didn't. There is something about summer reading for me, though: It's more... forgiving.

The Group (Mary McCarthy) Fiction. Robin at 52 Books challenged folks to read a NYT bestseller from the week and year they were born. As it happens, The Group was #2 during my week. It was a dated but compelling read.

 ■ Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Joshua Foer) Non-fiction. This was our audio accompaniment for our ill-fated trip to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Related entry here.

Amped (Daniel H. Wilson) Fiction. Entertaining if thin sci-fi from the author of Robopocalypse, which I enjoyed last summer.

■  Happy Endings Are All Alike (Sandra Scoppetone) YA fiction. My Chapter 8 -- "Him She Loves: Romanced, Rejected, Affianced, Dejected" -- choice for Girl Detective's "Summer of Shelf Discovery" reading project. Related entry here.

■  Falling for Hamlet (Michelle Ray) YA fiction. I wanted this to be better than it was. Sigh.

A Thousand Cuts (Simon Lelic) Fiction. "But trust me. Being bullied: it bites." Quite possibly the best book I've read this year. Related entry here.

The Tale of Paradise Lost: Based on the Poem by John Milton (Nancy Willard) Fiction. With the Misses. This abridgement has both fans and foes. I will simply say that it's serviceable.

■  The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need (Andrew Tobias) Non-fiction. Rudimentary but helpful.

■  Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age (Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell. Non-fiction. A repetitive retread of the same ol' "feed your mind, eat right, exercise" advice you've heard before. Neat bit of synchronicity, though: Tony Buzan, whose memory empire is featured in Moonwalking with Einstein, penned the introduction.

Things We Didn't See Coming (Steven Amsterdam) Fiction. I know I've heaped superlatives on this month's reading, but Amsterdam's collection of related short stories set in utterly recognizable and believable post-apocalyptic world was, in a word, brilliant.

Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? (Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D.) Non-fiction. Read this as "research" for a piece You know what? This book actually frightened me. Apparently, some teenagers are really quite awful. Note to self: You won the parenting lottery. Thank you, LCpl M-mv and Misses.

■  Pariah (Bob Fingerman) Fiction. Gratuitously violent and crass. Cardboard characters. A thinly explained "twist." The illustrations were the most compelling aspect of this otherwise mediocre bit of zombie fiction.

■  The Paleo Diet (Loren Cordain) Non-fiction.
■  The Primal Blueprint (Mark Sisson) Non-fiction. Others have probably already observed that these seem like a rehash of Atkins. If, like me, you're late to the low-carb discussion, The Paleo Diet was the more readable text. Sisson's presentation was repetitive and poorly organized.

■  How to Retire Overseas (Kathleen Peddicord) Non-fiction.
■  Where to Retire (John Howells) Non-fiction. I keep returning to this topic, making new and improved (tentative) plans, running the numbers with all sorts of scenarios in mind. It's not so much that I read such books as pore over them, adding notes to my "Retirement" file, daydreaming, and reading sections aloud to Mr. M-mv.

■  The Outsourced Self (Arlie Russell Hochschild) Non-fiction. Related articles here and here. The Time Bind and The Second Shift fascinated me, but this one... not so much. It may be partially my fault, though: I've been reading it in fits and starts for about six weeks.

■  Epic Fail (Claire LaZebnik) YA fiction. Loosely patterned on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this was almost painfully cute.