Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Reading Report: November 2011

Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in that House by Meghan Daum
Once upon a time, I took a creative writing class. I don't know if I was good. I know that I've always wanted to write, but I procrastinate and I don't think like a fiction writer. Not bad. Not impossible. Just not right now. I'm at peace with my blog where I spew and some people read. One day, all this typing might shape me into a paid writer, but I'm not honing my craft. ANYWAY, in that class we read My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum who was dating the ex-husband of the professor. They were friends. I fell in love. I could write like that. The prof is now on Facebook; she linked to Meghan's LA Times column; I follow and read occasionally; and I found out her book was coming out. And I had to read it. Result: it's a personal look at Meghan's own experience with the Real Estate bubble, growing, growing, then bursting. She's self-depricating, humorous and understandable. I wouldn't make the choices she did (cause I'm frugal doncha know). But I feel her desire.

The Changing Academic Library
CLASS BOOK. Not my fav, but I did read all of it even though the class didn't require it. (It left off half a chapter!?!) I'm totally an academic librarian. 

Heat Rises by "Richard Castle"
I love Castle. I love Nathan Fillion. And while neither Castle nor Nathan Fillion wrote this book, I still love the meta-ness of reading a book by a fictional author. AND the ghostwriter keeps putting in Firefly easter eggs. Expect little, love much.*

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I didn't like this book to start. The pictures were creepy and the story was scary. I would read it before bed and then read something else before I actually needed to sleep. But then it got all fantasy and awesome and the pictures made sense and it was really cool. So I say read it, keep reading it, and if you don't root for Jacob at the end, you can hate me. But you should also know John Green wrote the blurb. Squee! I didn't til I had finished the book and realized I should have never doubted.

Then I was sad and read Romance novels.** (They helped. I like happy endings. I really like happy endings that I know are going to be happy. I also like books that I can count in hours not days.)

Contesting the Sacred
And in the middle, I finished one of my pilgrimage/liminality books.*** It was actually pretty cool. One of the chapters was about the people who live and work in pilgrimage sites. They're either really devout or really cynical.

Estrella's Quinceanera
I decided to start working through my Top ____ Books. I recently added the Top 100 YA Books for Feminist Readers, and this was on it. I wish I knew about this book last Spring when I was putting together my Latino book talk. It's such a great look at how we try to escape our cultural identity, but we don't have to deny it to become our real selves. I think that's going to be my favorite Top ____ Books list.

The Handmaid's Tale
This was on the BBC Reads list and seemed familiar. Published in 1986, it's a dystopic novel about a totalitarian society where feminine roles are divided into classes of women: Marthas--the housekeepers, Wives--the hostesses, and Handmaids--the child-bearers. The Handmaids take the name of the man to whom they are assigned; for example, the narrator is Offred. It's a really interesting critique of the backlash against the feminist movement of the 1970s. As someone who gladly claims an identity as a feminist even as I choose to take on some very traditional gender roles, I also found the book unsettling. I'm glad I read it; I'm glad it's over.

Mike and I listened to this novel in preparation for seeing the musical after Thanksgiving. I have read the book, but it was years ago and I didn't really like it. Given developed appreciation for books that I don't necessarily like**** (see above), I thought it was worth a new look. And I did like it better. I feel for Elphaba even though she's very hard to like. The love story between her and Fiyero was beautiful. When Mike was driving, I read along with the audiobook on my ipad to help me pay attention and stay awake. (I listen to mildly interesting talk to help me fall asleep--and this fits that category.) I think I'll actually check out the other 3 books in this series.

Book vs. Musical--I like the music of the musical, but I think it changes the point of the book. The musical really seeks to retell The Wizard of Oz so that all Dorothy's characters become Elphaba's characters; the book on the other hand points out that there's a different perspective going on. It doesn't have to all make sense and line up neatly, but recognize your point of view is not the only valid one. I like stories that remind me it's not about me. Or better, I need to hear stories like that. :-)

At Large and at Small by Anne Fadiman
Once upon a time, this magical little book called Ex Libris came into my life. I don't remember how or why, but I read it and it was the first time I almost followed through with writing an author. (I have distinct memories of Mike and I trying to find her email address via this new thing called "Google".) I fan-girled hard. While I was doing some research for a class I'm developing, I found out Anne Fadiman wrote a non-fiction book in my field. And that was the end of my research; it went on my syllabus. (I'm still trying to decide--it's huge and the class is only 8 weeks long.) And I once again started googling Anne Fadiman... and discovered she had another book of essays. And this was it. While it wasn't the rush of undying devotion I had with Ex Libris (which was all about booklovers), I still really enjoyed her writing style and discovering the genre of the familiar essay. It's personal yet scholarly and nerdy. I could totally get behind a genre like that. So I definitely recommend Ex Libris and if you fall hard like I did, read At Large and at Small to continue to get your fix. She also edited a book Rereading: Seventeen Authors Revisit the Books they Love. That's going on my list, even though I don't know any of the authors.

And we made it to the end of November. At this writing, I'm slogging through The Adventures of Augie March because I love the name Augie. However, I'm thinking I'll give it to page 100 and then decide if I want to put it down. It's a Top ____ Book (Times Top 111 Books of the English Language), but why read it if I don't like it.

Also for those who care, I'm within 10 books of breaking 200 books read this year. W00T!

*I was going through old drafts and I found this post where I thought I had become a high-brow reader. HA! Double HA! HA! I'm glad I never posted that pretentious thing.

**Told ya.

***Yay! I can read hard things.

****It is worth noting that I did probably start that old post in the sense that I could enjoy reading the non-fairy-tale-ending novels considered classics even though they didn't make me happy.


Alli (One Pearl Button) said...

Your reading list is so inspiring! I need to get some good novel time in over Christmas. I'm ashamed to say that Divergent arrived from the library and had to be returned before I could sit down with it even once. Crazy time of year!

The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favorite books. It's unsettling, but so engrossing.

brnh said...

Thanks, Alli! Some of us take awesome pictures and create cute tutorials, some of us read massive amounts of books. :-)

However, Divergent is great. If you can get it again, it would be a good over Christmas read. (Well not Christmas-y...) You could always read the Choose Your Own Adventure novel posted every Monday at ... It's been really fun.

kinfare said...

I thought about the same thing re: Miss Peregrine. It's been about six months since I read it, and it's stuck. For me who can hardly remember what I did last week, this says something. :) Wicked, too, for that matter, and it's been years since I cracked that one.

But, here's my point. Thanks for passing out new reading direction. It's good to have trustworthy judgment!

brnh said...

Glad to help add to the reading list. I'm pretty committed to giving books a fair chance. I like it when they surprise me even after I've written them off. :-)