11.28.2012

Reading life review

Number of books since last review: 7
Number of books read in 2012: 132
Complete list here.

The Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick) Fiction. Between and during numerous appointments today, I read Quick's debut novel, which features a likable if troubled narrator. The story was both sad and sweet but not too much of either. More, the characters who served as Pat's support system were good people. Recommended.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Agatha Christie) Fiction. A reread, this time with the Misses. *possible spoiler alert* This is, of course, the grandmother of the "unreliable narrator" plot twist, but what is truly remarkable is how well it holds up, even on rereading. Excellent.

Dracula (Bram Stoker) Fiction. With Mr. M-mv and the Misses; we all thoroughly enjoyed it. With such a slow, methodical build, though, we were somewhat surprised by how hasty the resolution seemed.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me (Ellen Forney) Graphic memoir. Not as deftly handled as Alison Bechdel's work.

 ■ Bedbugs (Ben Miller) Fiction. Began as one sort of novel and gradually became an quick, entertaining horror story.

Stay Close (Harlan Coben) Fiction. Meh. Should have been more entertaining than it was.

My Ideal Bookshelf (Thessaly La Force, editor, Jane Mount, illustrator) Non-fiction.

In progress:

The Misanthrope (Molière) Play. With the Misses. In anticipation of The School for Lies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Moby-Dick (Herman Melville) Fiction. Completed Chapter 13 of 135. The Misses and I are doing the Moby-Dick Big Read, a chapter a day, so we'll be on this into 2013. We're also enjoying Matt Kish's wonderful art book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page.

Here Comes Trouble (Michael Moore) Memoir. Listening to this compelling, author-narrated memoir while riding my bike each morning. (The bike is mounted on a trainer in the garage for the winter.)

Physics for Future Presidents (Richard A. Muller) Non-fiction. With Miss M-mv(i).

Shine (Lauren Myracle) YA fiction.

Quiet (Susan Cain) Non-fiction. 

The End of Your Life Book Club (Will Schwalbe) Non-fiction.  

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 2 (Conor McCreery) Graphic fiction.   

11.26.2012

Seven things

Magnificent Octopus has tagged me with seven bookish questions:

1. What book (a classic) do you hate?
Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy). You know, it's really rather unfair of me, too, I'll freely admit that. I read the book for a graduate course in Victorian literature at Temple University. Spring semester 1988, I think. Class met in the early evening at one of the satellite campuses. A lot of eager English lit types, the sort who turn in single-spaced papers with quarter-inch margins in order to say all they feel compelled to say while remaining within the professor's strict weekly two-page response requirement.

The week we were to discuss Tess, he opened as always, with a leading question about our response to the novel. For whatever reason, the class was silent, almost guiltily so. Didn't they read it? I wondered. He asked again. The absence of pseudo-erudition became most uncomfortable. We can sit here all night, people, the professor sighed.

Well, I offered with a light laugh and a glance around the room, that Angel is rather a slow one, eh? Who knew he'd be such a pill?

I was being a smartass. The lone journalism major among this set of English prof wannabes, I turned in papers according to conventional standards -- double-spaced, one-inch margins -- and I actually read the books. Every book. Every page. Of course I realized that Angel was a creature of the conventions and limitations of his time, but wasn't it fun to call him out on his double standards from the relative comfort and social tolerance of the late 1980s?

I guess not.

The professor spent the next two hours using my remark to demonstrate how utterly "some people" missed the point of the novel, how "limited" readers are when they can only frame their responses from their own experience, and so on. And my classmates? Who hadn't even read the feckin' novel? What a bunch of sycophants they turned out to be: Oh, yes, professor. Some people. So limited. How foolish.

They had nothing to say about Tess or Angel or Victorian mores. No, better to talk about a reader's flippant comment than the actual text, especially if you haven't read said text. I remember it all as if it happened last night.

I hate Tess of the d'Urbervilles because isn't it much more acceptable to say you hate a book than to say you hate a person?

2. To what extent do you judge people by what they read?
Where once I judged -- sharply! -- what people read, now I am often just so grateful to see that people read at all.

3. What television series would you recommend as the literariest?
"LOST" comes to mind simply because of the number of books referenced, but if by "literariest" you mean "like a good book," then I recommend both the Wallander series featuring Kenneth Branagh and the Sherlock Holmes series featuring Jeremy Brett.

4. Describe your ideal home library. 
Mine.  


5. Books or sex? 
Both, of course.

6. How do you decide what to read next?
The book chooses me. Oh, I can acquire and stack and list and plan and organize and commit, but the book chooses me.

7. How much do you talk about books in real life (outside of the blogging community)?
More than most readers have an opportunity to do, I suppose, since I am steering two readers through high school, but less than I would like. In a perfect world, it is what I do all day long: Read. Talk about what I'm reading, what others are reading. Read about what I'm reading, what others are reading. Write, often about reading. Read some more. Sleep.

Pages Turned, Girl Detective, Semicolon, would you folks like to answer the same seven questions?

1. What book (a classic?) do you hate?
2. To what extent do you judge people by what they read?
3. What television series would you recommend as the literariest?
4. Describe your ideal home library.
5. Books or sex?
6. How do you decide what to read next?
7. How much do you talk about books in real life (outside of the blogging community)?

11.08.2012

Reading life review

Number of books since last review: 7
Number of books read in 2012: 125
Complete list here.

Teaching Hamlet and Henry IV, Part I (Peggy O'Brien) Non-fiction. Technically, this belongs in my September review, but I neglected to include it. Folger's "Shakespeare Set Free" series is a wonderful resource.
Each book includes:
• Clearly written essays by leading scholars to refresh teachers and challenge older students
• Effective and accessible techniques for teaching Shakespeare through performance and engaging students in Shakespeare's language and plays
• Day-by-day teaching strategies that successfully and energetically immerse students of every grade and skill level in the language and in the plays themselves—created, taught, and written by real teachers
The Essential Voter's Guide (TIME) Non-fiction. And technically, this belonged in my October review. It was so utterly forgettable, though, it's no wonder that I forgot it. What a disappointment! The slim volume is simply a collection of rather dated articles on the candidates, their families, and their campaigns. Discussion of the issues was superficial, at best. What were you thinking? you ask. Really? I was just hoping for a survey to complement some of our discussions.

Sweet Tooth Vol. 5: Unnatural Habitat (Jeff Lemire) Graphic fiction. This volume collects Issues 26 through 32.

Black Watch (Gregory Burke) Play.

The Birding Life: A Passion for Birds at Home and Afield (Larry Sheehan) Non-fiction. It would be easy to dismiss this as a coffee table book, what, with its large format and sumptuous photographs. 'glad I didn't make that mistake.

Watership Down (Richard Adams) Fiction. This was my third pass through this deceptively simply novel. As Sawyer says, ""Helluva book. It's about bunnies."

One for the Books (Joe Queenan) Non-fiction. The much linked and shared WSJ article "My 6,128 Favorite Books" (October 22) was adapted from One for the Books. Since books about books and the reading life are some of my favorites, this was a delight.

In progress:

Dracula (Bram Stoker; fiction) Completed Chapter 10 of 27. With the Misses. We'll be done by November 20, after which we'll tackle The Misanthrope (Molière), in anticipation of The School for Lies at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Moby-Dick (Herman Melville; fiction) Completed Chapter 4 of 135. The Misses and I are doing the Moby-Dick Big Read, a chapter a day, so we'll be on this into 2013. We're also enjoying Matt Kish's wonderful art book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page.