Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - (bookclub selection) I'm not sure why it took me nearly 50 years to read this masterpiece. Maybe it's because I had a vague knowledge of the sad ending, and I'm kinda a fan of "happily ever after", but whatever the reason was, I'm glad I got over it and finally read Anna. Tolstoy does two things I tend to hate when modern writers do the same (I mean, we're talking major literary pet peeves here): 1) he allowed the narrator into numerous characters' heads so that the first-person-ish perspective might change from one paragraph to the next; and 2) he would build up a storyline (with one group of characters; note: this is a Russsian novel, so of course, it's kitted out with about a billion characters, all with long names and shorter nicknames that you might not intuitively associate with their longer name. oy.), build that storyline right up to a suspenseful moment, and then switch to a whole different place with all different characters. But unlike most modern writers, Tolstoy does it with panache. And I didn't mind one bit. LOVED.
Father Elijah by Michael O'Brien - a few years back I read Island of the World (also by O'Brien) which I counted amongst the best books I'd ever read. Father Elijah was not my cuppa. Maybe because "apocalyptic" literature isn't my "book language" in much the same way that fantasy genre isn't my favorite. Or maybe I would have been let down by any modern book after having just read Anna Karenina; but, for whatever reason, this book just felt clunky, YA-ish, simplistic, and unrealistic. Don't think I'll be reading anything else in his Children of the Light series.
A Good Man is Hard to Find, a collection of short stories by Flannery O'Connor (bookclub) - LOVED. Dark, moody, deeply ironical, certainly no happily-ever-after to be found here. O'Connor fits a whole lot of story into a sparse number of words. Her settings and characters, though oft called "grotesque" Southern "gothic", are authentic feeling and anything but shallowly drawn. This isn't "feel good" reading, but it is GOOD READING.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor - a book to make your heart cry out against injustice... (Little Dude's class is reading this right now, so I grabbed his copy when he wasn't reading). a must read.
and now, after this most recent group of books, I feel deeply in need of something light, carefree, delightful, and full of happily-ever-after!!!
[More] Book Club selections:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - a re-read for me, and an all-time fav.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes - HILARIOUS, abeit, perhaps overly long-winded. For me, the translation mattered. I was not connecting to the translation by Smollett. From the library I grabbed more selections. I liked editions translated by both Raffel and Grossman; I decided upon Raffel. Don Quixote is pure slapstick. And, I found its appeal to be surprisingly timeless. Must admit, I much more enjoyed the first half (first "book"), than the last half (second "book" - they were written 10 years apart) where I found myself skimming heavily.
The Tragedy of Puddnhead Wilson by Mark Twain - short, pithy murder-mystery-trial. 'Twas good. Best part for me: clever maxim foreshadowing each chapter's events.
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated by Sheila Fisher - I can't say I really enjoyed this book, but I'm glad I read it. I used the Selected Tales edition that had the original middle-English and Sheila Fisher's modern translation side by side. The surprise for me for this book (which was written in the 1300s, btw) was how many feminist-women's-rights issues were addressed - fascinating!
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan - check it off the "to read" list. but I don't remember much of it.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - started out severely snarky and funny and somewhere along the line seemingly became the melodramatic style it was formerly mocking. it was just ok for me. not a fav. After our discussion, our bookclub watched the Disney version of Oliver Twist. Don't make our same mistake - the movie was all kinds of awful and changed the story in ways that were unforgivable.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - I have respect for Louis Zamperini and for Laura Hillenbrand's research and documentation, but .... [whispering really really softly] I didn't like this book.
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale - meh.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - pretty good.
Goose Girl by Shannon Hale - really good, escapist "beach" reading. (though I wasn't overly fond of the sequels in the series)
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale - this was a no brainer because I tend to really enjoy [both well-known & lesser-known] fairy tales expanded. but I kinda hated this one.
Other modern miscellany:
The Care and Handling of Roses & How to Be an American Housewife, both by Margaret Dilloway - enjoyed.
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole - hated.
The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen - deftly told story of freed slave who becomes a union spy (based on true story)
The Giver by Lois Lowry - re-read. super excellent still. quietly and sparingly told narrative of future dystopian society questioning whether "safety" is a preferred value to freedom/choice.
Dreaming of Spies by Laurie King - latest in the Mary Russell series. Absolutely LOVED.
The Property by Rutu Modan and Jessica Cohen - a great first introduction to graphic novels. I loved seeing how the story played out visually. Loved the themes and how the possibilities overlapped between older & younger generations. My only tiny disappointment was that the story felt abrupt, too short, a little rushed, finished altogether too soon. overall: liked
Cross Game by Mitsuru Adachi - (all 8 volumes!!) LOVED. To the moon and back. That is, LOVED once I finally figured out HOW TO READ RIGHT TO LEFT. Firstly, figuring out back of book to front of book. Then right page before left page. And then, FINALLY (stupidly of me) right to left within the conversation bubbles - duh. it's amazing how confusing a story can be when you're not reading things in the correct order. Plus strange-ish names. Plus manga characters all looking remarkably similar until I figured out the "thing" that distinguishes each one as being that one. A truly delightful story. Two families. Baseball. Love. Middle Dude LOVED too. College Kid likes, but is yet to finish the series.
Bone by Jeff Smith - Middle Dude and College Kid both really liked this 1350 pp tome of a graphic novel and thought I might like it, too. And maybe if I had a greater appreciation of fantasy I would. But I don't, so I didn't. It did have some comic moments and I certainly have appreciation for any author/artist who can tell such a lengthy story primarily thru imagery - quite a feat.
Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell - enjoyed.
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton - such an awesome photo project. totally enjoyed.