So tell me: What are you reading?

It’s November, it’s dark, I have to scrape the effing windshield to drive to the dump, and life is only just barely worth living until March.  So let’s talk about books.

I’m just coming off of a long, ugly stint with Taylor Caldwell’s ridiculous novel Answer As a Man.  Oh, that woman is embarrassing.  What a waste of plot!  I think she took a writing class called “Show, don’t tell,” but someone told her it was Opposite Day.  I’d show you a passage of what she tries to pass off as character development, but not only did I already throw the book away, I dumped coffee grounds on top so no one would fish it out of the garbage.

Caldwell seems to have heavily consulted The Comprehensive Thesaurus of Tedious Irish Stereotypes.  For openers, she turned to the  entry for “bitter old man who loves and hates with equal ferocity,” and proceeded to copy out all the adjectives she thought the reader would understand.  And that, thought Caldwell, made chapter one.   I read the whole thing because — I don’t know, I guess it’s like getting on the merry-go-round.  It’s not as if you’re going to end up somewhere unexpected, but you already paid for your ticket, so you might as well sit there until the ride is over.

Then I picked up Watership Down, and promptly fell asleep.  I don’t know if it was that boring, or I was just too tired, but it fell behind the bed and I can’t reach it now, so that’s that.

Then I picked up Clockers by Richard Price. Okay, now we have a novel.    The narrator understands his characters, and they are real people, who might do anything.  They might be angry at themselves, or feel ashamed, or feel unwarranted pride, or not understand why they do what they do — but it all feels like real life, down to the last detail.

Here’s an early example:  Strike, a 19-year-old low level drug dealer, drinks vanilla Yoo-Hoo throughout the book.  He has a stomach ulcer, and the vanilla cools the pain a little.  This kind of detail tells you so much about the guy:  that he’s a child, that he suffers like a man, that he tries to heal himself, that real medicine (for the body and for the soul) is just not available to him. At one point, he finds himself in a bar, and not knowing what else to order, he asks for vanilla Yoo-Hoo.  The bartender offers him a glass of non-dairy creamer.  This is how the world treats Strike and his ulcer.

This book just bleeds sympathy.  For everyone, even the evildoers.  That’s what a great novel does:  it understands.  That’s what separates Dostoevsky from Tolstoy:  Tolstoy understood, all right, but as I get older, I see his contempt for his characters more and more, and it kind of takes the edge off.  Dostoevsky, though, the reader feels, is on his knees the whole time he is writing.

Richard Price (okay, I’m not saying he’s Dostoevsky or even Tolstoy.  He has really got something, though) doesn’t gush or manipulate or wallow, but the prose cleanly and steadily offers up real people for us to see.   This author is so confident of his skill, he doesn’t need to tell us everything we need to know up front — because when does that happen in real life?  We learn what the characters are capable of little by little, at the same pace as they learn about themselves.  I’m sorry I’m just too darn lazy to pick out passages to quote, but take my word for it, this guy knows what he is doing.

Lots of profanities, obscenities, and violence in this book.  But I don’t think it’s disgusting, and so far, it’s not depressing.   The tone isn’t marinating in that inexplicable, sadistic animus against the reader, like so many modern novels (The Corrections, Geek Love – -why do I read these things??).  I’m about halfway through, and have high hopes (if you’ve read it, please don’t give anything away!).  I have a hard time putting this book down.  Great plot, incredible dialogue, twists and turns, and the author never takes the easy way out — but it’s all so natural.  Really amazing skill.

So what are you reading?  Do you plan to finish it?  Is it a book to be tossed aside lightly?  Or should it be thrown with great force?


  1. I am reading Watership Down, though I admit it’s a bit of an effort. I’m just not feeling overly sympathetic toward any of those little rabbits. Maybe I should just move on.

  2. Just finished “Princess of Glass” by Jessica Day George. It’s YA. I pretty much only read YA these days b/c it is next to the children’s room so I can actually BROWSE there in between requests for help.

    Jessica Day George writes AWESOME fantasy– clean enough for your precocious 10 or 11 year old, fun enough for an adult, and a quick read that you can fit into an afternoon without engaging in child neglect!

    Princess of Glass is her retelling of Cinderella–but you should read her 12 dancing princess book first, and her dragon-slippers series.

    She’s fun, she’s interesting, her characters are good….

    Really, good, solid fantasy— I think in a few years she’ll be up their with Wynne-Jones and McKinely, and maybe even Yolen if she keeps at it.

    I’m waiting for my husband the Librarian to bring me “Behemoth” by Scott Westerfield home from the library.

    Also, I’ve been enjoying John Scalzi’s Scifi…..

    I prefer my ‘heavy’ reading to be non-fiction. We don’t watch much non-“PBS-Kids!” TV in this house, so novels fill the void that my friends fill with “The Office” and “Mad Men.”

  3. I’m reading I Believe in Love, by Fr. Jean d’Elbee, and The Professor’s House, by Willa Cather.

    Unfortunately I’ve only given myself reading-time when I’m settling down to bed lately, so I can’t tell you much about the second book. I’ve been falling asleep about 1 page in each night. I need to sit and read on the couch today.

    I Believe In Love is inspiring me spiritually. I’ve read it while at Adoration some, so I haven’t fallen asleep. But I’m about halfway through and have allowed it to sit for a couple weeks, so I’m in danger of completely losing the flow and forgetting what it was all about. Got to pick it up again today.

  4. Currently reading “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. It’s an interesting story, with some charming folktales and cultural differences. The language is sometimes quite stilted as if it were transcribed directly from a tape recording.

    Before that, I read, “So Much for That” by Lionel Shriver – a much more compelling read (stayed up till 3 a.m. to finish it). It has a significant amount of medical drama (mesothelioma, familial dysotonomia, and a botched penis enlargement), so if you don’t like that stuff, it would either disgust or bore you.

  5. Every year I re-read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. It’s not his best work, but it’s funny. And it helps me keep the Christmas mayhem in check. As for anything deeper than that…I’m working on it. I didn’t realize that things like reading would be sacrificed while I am the stay-at-home-single-mommy on weekdays. And weekends we are trying to do everything together since Daddy is away at work all week. Reading time…on my list to carve out time for.

  6. I saw the Spike Lee movie Clockers and I have to admit I liked it—a lot. I never considered reading the book.

    I am reading The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. I’m still debating whether I want to finish it because I just feel like something really dark and depressing is always just around the corner.

    My husband is reading Jung Chang’s memoir, Wild Swans. I have been picking it up and reading it in fits and starts, and what I’ve read is incredible. It is the story of 20th century China told through three generations of women in Chang’s family. The book has been out for years, but this is the first chance we’ve had to read it.

    • I just read The Children’s Book and found it very disturbing, yet in the end oddly conservative. By following her fabian/socialist/free-thinking and free-loving folks and the wreckage they made of their lives, I don’t know how the reader could not be convinced that the old, boring moral codes of Christianity might not be the better road to happiness, even here on this earth.

      • I agree completely about the Children’s Hour.

        I also read Wild Swans. Chang is a wonderful storyteller the memoir read like a novel. She is just amazing.

        • Still not sure about the Children’s Book, but I’ve been reading Wild Swans along with him now. We live in China, so there’s so much about this book that helps put more pieces into the puzzle that our lives are. In some ways we see how the pendulum has swung severely away from the time of Jung’s childhood and how much hasn’t changed.

          It’s not an easy book to read in the middle of the geography, that is for sure!

  7. The best book I read recently, which I would have swallowed whole had I had the emotional strength and literal time, was David Grossman’s _To the End of the Land_. Actually, I thought of you when I was reading it, Simcha. Grossman is an Israeli author and he’s so powerful with words. His adult fiction (including this) can be difficult to get through – again, on an emotional level. I started with his young adult fiction, which is also excellent. I recommend _Someone to Run With_. Right now, I read a lot of cookbooks – but I’ll pick up a novel again sometime. Maybe even _Clockers_.

  8. I’m very unsophisticated and very sleep deprived. I love YA fiction and Terry Pratchett. The last book I read was Eoin Colfer’s latest, Artemis Fowl: Atlantis Complex. I love his quirky style and equally quirky style. I have trouble concetrating on more serious lit when any one of my three gremlins might (and do) go off every thirty seconds or so.

    • i am waiting in the hold-line for this one at the library…hurry hurry!!!

      I am currently re-reading some Anne of Green Gables stuff. I love those novels. I can’t even fully explain why…I must have read them a million times since my first exposure in 2nd grade. I tend to crave them when I have big, family changes in my life…they make me feel cozy. Nursing a newborn I HAVE to re-read the whole set of books…right now we just bought our first house and moved in over the weekend…I think that must be why I’ve wanted to read them yet again.

      Anyone know what the deal is with the Steig Larson books…”Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and all that? I feel like EVERYONE I see out in public is reading one of those books.

      I love to read….I thought after having kids I wouldn’t be able to read as much, but I find that nursing and reading go perfectly together…esp. for nap and bedtime 🙂

      • I read the whole Anne series to my husband. Okay, we skipped parts of Anne of Ingleside, but we both cried when Matthew, Ruby Gillis, baby Joyce, and Captain Jim died.

        I have them practically tattooed on the inside of my head.

  9. “What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures” a collection of essays by Malcolm Gladwell. (How do I underline?) Interesting & technical, same conversational style, but not as gripping for me as “Outliers” and “The Tipping Point.” So far, I’ve learned about Ron Popeil’s drive for perfection, the hunt for an alternate flavor of ketchup, and nonconventional investment banking techniques (which I don’t fully understand.)

  10. I’ve just finish Stieg Larssons second Millennium book. They’re pretty violent but as mystery/thrillers go, very exciting. And I can’t help thinking that the heroine is a poster child victim of society’s attitude towards women and children (and especially girl children). Although sometimes I catch myself thinking “are there really people who have sex lives like this?!”

    Anyway , I’m waiting anxiously for the third at the library.

    • I had the same thought while reading the first two books – “Who has this kind of sex life?” I also wondered how so many of the women in the books managed to be in excellent physical shape by working out twice a week.

      Still, I enjoyed them. They made me really crave coffee, though!

  11. I read Blackout & All Clear by Connie Willis last month. Time travellers from 2060 Oxford travel to WWII Blitz. She’s a very good writer but the story could have been edited by forty percent without suffering. Some scenes are hilarious and touching; others make you want to bang your head on the wall–if this character dithers and frets one more time about xyz I will go insane!

    I also read WWW Wake by Robert J. Sawyer which was I recommend more than Willis’ books, except that it’s part one of a trilogy that hasn’t been finished yet. When it comes out next March 2011 or so then try all three together. It’s the story of a blind girl who undergoes a procedure to restore her sight and ends up being able to communicate with an artificial intelligence growing in the world wide web instead.

    In November I’m trying not to read any fiction since I am limping my way through NaNoWriMo, trying to write my own novel. However, I have a big pile of things to read after I finish. Sigrid Undset’s “Master of Hestviken” series, William Gibson’s “Zero History” and Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cryoburn” are at the top of the pile.

    • I’m reading a Connie Willis too, To Say Nothing of the Dog. I love it, it’s a hilarious Victorian romp. I agree that the characters dither far too much, but it’s an enjoyable sort of dithering. Before that I read Doomsday Book, also by Connie Willis, which I thought was an excellent novel. Frightening, haunting and intense. It’s about a time traveler who goes back to the Medieval Period and gets caught in the middle of the Black Death. It’s very good. Melanie did a good review of Connie Willis’s stuff on The Wine Dark Sea. Here’s the link:

      I highly recommend both books, especially Doomsday Book. I haven’t read Blackout or All Clear but I’m moving on to those next.

      • Thanks for this – and for the link. I loved (loved, loved) the Doomsday Book, but it’s never occurred to me to read any of her other books. (Duh!) So I’ve just added To Say Nothing of the Dog to my library list, and I’m going to put Blackout/All Clear on my Christmas wish list.

    • I’ve also just finished Blackout and All Clear. I’ve seen that complaint about them, that they were too long and tedious. In fact almost everyone on Amazon seemed to feel that way. I guess I’m the lone voice of dissent. I loved the characters and the suspense and the dithering didn’t bother me really. At least I thought it served a purpose in the plot and was in keeping with the characters. Anyway, I thought they were perhaps my favorite novels so far this year.

  12. I’m back to re-reading A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. One of the best books I’ve ever read. I have to close it a lot to savor a sentence or paragraph. If I’m out and about with it (yes, I’m that lady sitting alone at early dinner, reading a book) I always get a few people, usually men, who stop and say it’s one of their favorite stories. It’s really delightful.

  13. I am also reading At Home, alternating with To Say Nothing of the Dog. Both fun. Watership Down is a favorite of mine, but it doesn’t really get rolling until General Woundwort enters the picture.

  14. I’m reading street signs, stupid vanity license plates, stupider bumper stickers, and the speedometer, which rarely touches the speed limit. That’s my life in a turtle shell.

    Stupidest bumper sticker of the week: “Fur Baby on Board” (in the shape of a paw print).

    • Two words for you: audio books! Check your local library, which probably has them on disk and may have a system where you can download them for free to a cheap MP3 player.

      • Sage advice. I’ve got some discs that are intended to learn me something, but they don’t learn me nothin’ because I tend not to, um, actually listen to them.

  15. I’m reading Born to Run, the true story of a journalist discovering a hidden stone-age tribe of superathletes in Mexico, and it’s awesome.

    But here’s what you need to do: go buy Endurance by Alfred Lansing. It’s here: It reads like a novel, but it’s better than a novel because it’s a true story. I’m telling you, you will be so glad you read it. Every page explodes with awesome.

  16. I’m reading Agatha Christie. I’m a big mystery fan, and I probably read one of hers about once a month. It’s good before bed reading.

    I’m reading My life with the Saints by James Martin. He’s a pretty wonderful writer.

  17. I fall asleep twenty minutes after I start reading, so I tell myself I’m doing real reading by reading fairytales. I got a nice collection of Russian fairytales back in July and recently bought a book of Jewish ones!

  18. I became the 7th grade Book Bee team captain, because I was the only one willing to slog through Watership Down. It drove me crazy with it’s “rabbit language”. I’ve read plenty of books that have their own peculiar word usages, but that’s the only one that I had to keep flipping back to the glossary to figure out what the hell was going on.

    Lately, I’ve been doing my yearly re-read of some of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series….good sci-fi/fantasy (although it has some mature themes, especially the books written later in her career). Right now I’m finishing a re-read of Jurassic Park, which is one of those books that really changed how I see a lot of things.

    I just don’t have the brain power to read anything new right now, so I’m thinking I might start re-reading some Meg Cabot (maybe Size 12 Is Not Fat) or Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs. Both are a lot of fun but a little risque at times. Harper’s books are especially funny because she’s from Kentucky, so there are a lot of in-jokes for Kentuckians like me.

  19. Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo yet? Or even more enjoyable and made me laugh, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie? I adored that book. I also read recently The Help, Forgotten Garden, and The Thirteenth Tale, as well as Parenting Your Adult Child (Gary Chapman, Ross Campbell) and Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel, the latter of which is one of the best parenting books I have ever read, and let me tell you, I have read a LOT of them.

  20. I’ve been re-reading The Man Who Was Thursday. I re-read a lot, because I’m almost frightened to try new books. I was a lit major in college. I internalize books too much and have an overactive imagination. But, with all the good criticism I’ve been hearing about Connie Willis, I think I might give her stuff a chance.

    The thing about Thursday, though is that it never gets old. You actually see the complexity of the universe more clearly (and then, not so clearly) throughout. I love it.

  21. The Man Who was Thursday rocks. Any Chesterton fiction rocks, as a matter of fact. I read almost all of his fiction to get my through last winter, including the Complete Fr. Brown mysteries. I’ll have to see if there’s anything I missed. The Flying Inn is my favorite.

    Right now I’m on a Jane Austen binge- I am all astonishment! She’s fabulous; one cannot over-praise Pride and Prejudice. Even men love it if they give it a chance. She’s extremely intelligent and witty, and it makes a very interesting blend that has truth behind it, not vulgarity.

    Speaking of which, made the mistake of reading some David Sedaris last winter, too; a gift from a very liberal friend, I think it was “When you are Engulfed in Flames” or somesuch. Funny but SICK, you know? Also in the garbage w/ the coffee grounds. 😉

  22. Oh, for lighter reading check out “The Three Martini Playdate” by Christie Mellor. Laugh your a$$ off funny. And good advice to boot. Seriously, I give a copy to all my over-zealous first-time parent friends to calm them the heck down.

  23. Yeah, I find David Sedaris funny for a couple of chapters, and then I start to feel almost physical pain because so many of his characters are so messed up. Sort of… funny funny funny OH CRAP these are supposed to be real people? How awful!

    I liked Watership Down. I think I read it in grade seven or eight. Haven’t re-read it recently, although (like lydia upthread) I generally re-read twenty books to one new read.

    I’ve just finished the third novel in Tad Williams’ Shadow series (Shadowmarch, Shadowplay, Shadowrise) and the concluding book is due out in seven days and I’m trying to rationalize why we need to buy it in hardcover. My husband and I are both big fantasy readers and we really love his stuff, particularly the series that starts with The Dragonbone Chair. Anyway, the Shadow series is quite good high fantasy, with characters that don’t stand around making speeches and being heroic- they’re stuck in a (for them) normal world that’s turning into a nightmare, and are trying to cope.

    Oh, I just bought the new Nigella Lawson cookbook, Kitchen. I think that should count for reading- I tend to read her cookbooks instead of actually trying recipes. Kitchen’s a lot of fun, and has more big-pot-of-food stuff and fewer elaborate plated meals. My kind of cooking.

  24. Ooohh I LOVED the 13th Tale!

    Also, if you were a McCaffrey fan as a kid, I HIGHLY recommend Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series— dragon riders for ADULTS.

    (Honestly, I don’t think Dragon Riders of pern can really be said to have ‘mature’ themes. Sure, the characters have sex, but they all seem to have the personalities of 15 or 16 year olds!)

  25. Just finished _Girl in Translation_. Not amazing, but “good”…the end felt rushed. _ Peony in Love_ is in the van’s cd drive and I’m back to reading for work…YA/Preteen fiction…but I keep wondering about the book in someone’s post that features a “botched penis enlargement.” What am I missing?

    For Eoin Colfer fans: read _Half Moon Investigations_ You will not be disappointed and you’ll be laughing out loud.

  26. Checking in as another person who finds good children and YA literature with an emphasis on fantasy so much less stressful than trying to read most “good” adult books with frequent interruption.

    I just re-read the first two books in the Little House on the Prairie series and am going to get the rest. In the last few years I’ve read and enjoyed, the Artemis Fowl Series, Harry Potter Series, Chronicles of Prydain, The Lost Years of Merlin, Inkheart, Tamora Pierce (too liberal for my kids but I enjoyed them), Luxe–somewhat fun but a little too bitchy for my taste, The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix and a bunch of others I can’t remember.

    In adult books I prefer non-fiction these days but did re-read several Jane Austen books and also some cheesy faux regency brain candy novels. Started a book called
    “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality”–very graphic pornographic scenes were described–I would recommend avoiding it unless you have a very important reason why you wish to understand the porn industry and its potential ramifications. “What We Need: Extravagance and Shortages in America’s Military”, “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror”, “Why the Rest Hates the West: Understanding the Roots of Global Rage”…obviously I have a little bit of a military/terrorism theme going.

    • Yes. The Abhorsen Trilogy is good. Also Skellig, by David Almond- a story about a boy with a sick baby sister who moves into a new house and discovers a sick winged creature in the garage, a creature with a taste for beer and Chinese food.

      Favourite YA:

      Robin McKinley
      Garth Nix
      Michael Ende
      Ursula K. Le Guin

  27. I am toward the end of re-reading the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. I read the first book as a Junior in high school, and have re-read that one many times. But just got up the gumption to re-read the whole series (she takes about 4 years to come out with a new book). There are 7 books and they are each at least 900 pg. I love them! They are a combination of sci-fi/romance/history. I think they are unfairly categorized as romance, but I actually think they are very well researched historical novels with a touch of sex (some of them are more graphic in that area than others). I actually had to get a kindle because my wrists were hurting from holding the book up after reading at night!

    I’m also reading Little Girls Can Be Mean. It is good, but I’m much more interested in the fiction book right now.

    • My husband got me the latest Outlander book for my last birthday. He calls them “Timetravel historical romance smut”, and requests that I not read the medical stuff out loud.

  28. I just finished A Song for Nagasaki by Paul Glynn, it’s a biography of Takashi Nagai, a Catholic convert, doctor, scientist, who survived the explosion of the atomic bomb over Nagaskai. His wife died in the blast. He wrote many bestselling books about the dropping of the bomb and interpreted the event in a sort of mystical way through the eyes of his Catholic faith. What a beautiful story of love and redemptive suffering. From the sweet romance with his wife Midori, a cradle Catholic who prayed him into the Church, to the beautiful words he left for his two children as he was dying of cancer, this book made me cry many times.

    Oh and he also experienced a miraculous healing through the intercession of St Maximilian Kolbe, whom he had met when Kolbe was in Japan. He didn’t even know Kolbe had been killed; but was inspired to pray for his intercession and a wound he’d incurred in the explosion miraculously stopped bleeding.

    I don’t usually like to read biographies because often they are so dry, like a history text; but this book read like a great story. I’d love to read more books by Nagai; but sadly only two of his works have been translated into English.

  29. I have to recommend “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It is historical fiction. It is an epistolary novel (one written entirely in letters). It is LOVELY! I loved it. My mom and dad loved it. My sisters loved it. (My husband hasn’t read it because his big stack of non-fiction hasn’t yet allowed him the time, but I think that he would love it too!) The characters are quirky and sweet but real. It is set in London and the Channel Islands just after WWII so you learn a little history without trying too. The only downside, and this is tragic, is that Mary Ann Shaffer passed away in 2008, which is why her niece Annie Barrows helped wrap up the book. My dad actually called to get on me for not warning him before he did a google search as soon as he finished for all of her other works, only to find that this was her only book and she’d passed away. So now I warn everyone. Although this is her only book, she was an editor and librarian for her adult life and she clearly knew her craft. I’ll stop gushing now and go write down all of the interesting books others have mentioned. Happy reading :o)

  30. You all READ??? When??

    Anytime I am reading, it’s for the kids’ school, or a recipe for dinner, or Dr. Suess!

    I read Watership Down about 30 years ago. I will NOT be re-reading it…the fire should have come sooner!

  31. I’m another woman nursing a newborn and going through books like crazy. This baby isn’t a great sleeper, so I am getting lots of quiet reading time in the middle of the night.

    Here are a few books I’ve enjoyed the past five weeks:

    The Woods by Tana French – murder mystery, page-turner, not too deep but not too shallow.

    Let the Right One In (I forget the author’s name). It was a good book, but very very dark. Definitely NOT a glamorous vampire novel.

    No County For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy – I re-read this one. I freaking love it.

    Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman – I’m a Gaiman fan, and I really loved most of these short stories. Did the Matrix rip him off???

    Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman – I’m a Gaiman fan, but I hated these short stories! They were too cynacle (I am so tired that I can’t even spell this in a way that spellcheck can fix) and left me feeling like the world is full of terrible people doing terrible things.

    A Tale of Two Cities – it’s been a while since I’ve read this, and I am loving it. I’ve been reading a lot of modern-ish books lately, and it is striking how un-cinematic the writing in this book is. It’s hard not to think that most of the books coming out today, no matter how great they can be, are still dumb compared to a master like Dickens.

  32. Ken Follet – World Without End.
    Its got a lot of the usual anti-Catholic claptrap but if you can get beyond it, there’s a pretty good story. He turns the lives of four ‘average’ medieval children into an epic arc.
    Its not for younger readers (under 20’s) because his ‘New church’ agenda is so icky, but it is a fun read for the smells and sounds of an imagined Cathedral town.

  33. I’m reading:

    1) Randall Sullivan’s “The Miracle Detective” for the eighth time in six years. More people should read this book, and if you want to know why I will tell you but it will require me to get very excited and rant and rave at you for like 9 hours.

    2) JK Huysmans’ “Against Nature” – this is a weird, weird book, but incredibly entertaining.

    3) St. Therese’s autobiography – she’s quite endearing, but also makes me feel like a great big jerk at times – speaking of which, where has The Jerk gone off to?

    4) Benedict Groeschel’s “Spiritual Passages”

    … I think to think of it all as one large and unwieldy book with many authors and many covers.

    • I loved The Corrections too! It is amazing how differently books can affect people. I didn’t mention it before because I didn’t want it to taint my love of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! They are VERY different books ;)!

  34. I’m reading a book called The Godforsaken Sea. It’s about a CRAZY solo sailing race through the Arctic waters called the Vendee Globe:
    I do plan on finishing but I also skip large swaths of text that’s really technical about boats and stuff. I love reading books about sailing, though. William F Buckley has written some interesting ones on the topic as well.
    Also, I’m reading a bio by Katherine Harris about St. Therese. I told my husband that it made having a future saint as a child seem like more work than having “normal” children. Sheesh.
    My daughter and I have been reading the original Pinocchio–kinda a downer.
    Hmmm, ever read any Wallace Stegner? Crossing to Safety is good.
    Also some Wendell Berry.
    Obviously, I’m reading many books in fits and spurts. That’s how I roll.

  35. I’m Reading The Hunt for Red October.

    Two things: The technology is old hat now, quaint, even, and everybody knows about this stuff — but when the book came out, it was an introduction to a world that only a privileged few understood, and the tech was cutting edge.

    Most important, though, are the scenes with the President, a man who understands who he works for and who his enemies are. He’s a former prosecutor who knows how to fight with sharks, how to trick and trap them.

    I can see either Bush in the role, easily.

    I cringe to think of the current pResident. Obama would have not only returned Ramius and his officers to Russians along with the sub, but probably would have thrown in one of our own boomers to apologize to the Russians for American having forced them to build such a thing during the Cold War.

  36. I thought I was the only one who threw away books! If I am so outraged by the awfulness, I feel it my duty to destroy the garbage. Censorship smensorship, I’m doing my moral duty. Now if it’s just ok, I’ll leave it on a bus, in a doctor’s office etc. If it’s good, it’s mine to lend out at will, but please return.

    As the mother of a 12 year old and a 10 year old who also love to read, I find myself rereading old loves and discovering new YA.
    Just finished Dies Drear. Just started Treasure Island. Looking forward to the Hunger Games trilogy. Am beside myself with joy at the prospect of falling in love all over again with Miss Anne Shirley the moment my daughter opens the set on Christmas morn.

  37. Two books I’m not reading:

    City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff Vandermeer. It’s a collection of fantasy set in the rococo city of Ambergris. After one chapter/story, I find it hard slogging: the author (and I) get lost in the intricately detailed city and its inhabitants without actually, you know, telling a story.

    Similar complaint for Haruki Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. There may be a translation problem here, but I don’t think so. Like many manga and anime (which this is not), it reflects the Japanese taste for weird locales in which weird characters do weird things for no real reason without actually advancing a plot. It’s all about the mood of the characters and the texture of the settings, the feel of the thing.

    Oddly, the reason I’m reading it is because the setting inspired perhaps the greatest anime of all time, <Haibane Renmei, a transcendent story of friendship and redemption. It’s very quiet, dreamy even, and the plot doesn’t really kick in until about half way through the 13 episode series. One of the great beauties of the thing is the way it reveals its mysteries, at least those which are revealed. Be patient with it, although if you are not at least a little intrigued by the first episode, it is probably not for you.

    Avoid spoilers, even screenshots, like the plague. And rewatch it at least once; things you won’t notice the first time through glow with meaning and foreshadowing the second. I recommend the adequate English dub for the first viewing, and the the subtitled Japanese performance for the second.

    It has a gorgeous score, unlike anything else I’ve heard. If you absolutely must have a taste, watch the opening and closing clips on Youtube.

    The original four-DVD is out of print, and copies go for hundreds of dollars. A blue ray edition just came out, but it is also overpriced, and the transfer is a bit too hard edged. It used to be on Youtube, but it’s been removed for the BD release. Good luck, but it’s worth searching out.

  38. I loved “Elegance” by Kathleen Tessaro. From the first pages, when the main character and her husband are going to meet his mother and they develop a code for when she can’t stand another minute (using potato in a sentence), this was a laugh out loud story.
    I also loved “The Sixth Lamentation,” which is the story of a monk who used to be a lawyer, and a Nazi war criminal who comes to his monastery looking for sanctuary, and a former resistance fighter who is dealing with a horrifying secret as she is dying. I love war stories because of the way desperate times bring out the best in some. I also loved War of the Rats by David Robbins. It’s based on the amazing story of the siege of Stalingrad (this book is way better than the movie–which was very good “Enemy at the Gates”).
    For chicklit, Year of Wonders is amazing (about a village in England where, when the plague was rampant, the villagers decided to isolate themselves to avoid spreading the contagion). It is penned by a talented journalist, who wrote this book after visiting a place in England where this actually happened. I say chicklit, because the women characters represent the heroes of the story and the men are the minor players.

  39. Watership Down is probably the most exciting book i have ever read. no really, i love it. i’m trying to read sherlock holmes stories. they’re a lot of fun.

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