May 31, 2015

a year(ish) of books ...

Well, since it may be awhile before I figure out a new way to blog with pictures now that Windows Live Writer (Microsoft blog editor) and Blogger (Google) aren't cooperating, and since I'm way overdue for a book list ...

Most recently:

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.

YA Fairytales:

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.

Graphic Novels:

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.

Photography books:

Life of a Photograph by Sam Abell - enjoyed.

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton - such an awesome photo project.  totally enjoyed.


Krista Heiser said...

If you enjoyed The Giver, you should give the other books in the series a try. There are four total. The middle two seem somewhat unrelated to The Giver at first glance but book #4 ties everything neatly together.


MiddleDude said...

In the vein of graphic novels, I personally have to recommend Duncan the Wonder Dog. As much a portrait of a dark and frighteningly real world as it is a tragic and devastating story, it definitely needs to be read through all the way to fully comprehend. It's definitely not a happy book, but it is certainly an excellent one.

I the vein of not-graphic novels, the Mallory series grabbed me immediately (well maybe not "immediately". being dumped into the middle of the story with no introduction is a little difficult, but twenty pages in I started to get a handle on the characters.) So far, all the books in the series have been riveting page turners all with interesting characters and intriguing narrative.

~ MiddleDude

Rhonda said...

I LOVE your book lists and reviews. I haven't read as much as I'd like this year but I have an aggressive summer reading list. It remains to be see if I will have time to accomplish it though.
So far this year I haven't been disappointed in the books I've read, which include: The Book Thief, Unbroken, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Blood of Olympus, and When Jesus Wept.
My summer list includes To Kill a Mockingbird, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Penderwicks, and All The Light We Cannot See. If I manage to finish those, Merritt is begging me to read the Maze Runner series. Merritt will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird with me for part of his AP English homework. He has to pick 2 other novels as well, which are loosely looking to be Fahrenheit 451 and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. So I may add to my list to read those with him too. We'll see :)

Skeller said...

Krista - thanks for the recommendation. I've read the whole series :-). The Giver & Son were my favs.

Middle Dude - thanks for your input!! I'm glad we've got the mutual love for Mallory goin' on :-D. And I'm glad you dug into Duncan and understood it way better than I did; I'm not to proud to admit that its themes kinda flew right over my head :-}.

Rhonda - your summer list looks great!! I remember reading/enjoying Penderwicks on a roadtrip a long while back. TKAM is an all-time fav, forever and ever, amen.

Life with Kaishon said...

You are my cuppa.

After reading your incredibly written post, I can only respond with this 1 short and simple sentence: I liked Anna Karenina also.

We are reading The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Hwneiquez. I am 0% done.

Josephos Rex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josephos Rex said...

* Fantasy dragon book (kind of spoiler) with the Inklings as the heroes from the real world -- Meh. Amateurish.
* The Fountainhead -- Love-hate. Still have 100 pages to go, but I won some book money for that lame essay I wrote.
* Neil Gaiman's Sandman series -- As with Cross Game, got cut off halfway through it and would have no idea what's going on if I returned. Fascinating mythological mash-up concept and very well told, dark story with sometimes eerie/nightmarish illustrations. Good respite for Great Books readers.
* The Shining - gripping until the feel-good, hopeful ending that the movie wisely erased.

School books (i.e. the only books from August 2014 onward)
* The Iliad - How I wish I'd spent a little more time on the nonstop killing stretches and the funeral games -- OK, I actually just skipped over those parts almost entirely. Fagles is great reading.
* The Aeneid - Also skimmed a bunch, but I think I like Virgil's tightness of narrative over Homer's meandering, 24-book gorefest. His proportion of character development to killing is much higher on the character development side.
* The Republic - wish I'd had the time to read more closely, but alas, I had to devour much of it overnight. Socrates builds the ideal state and destroys all self-determination or free thought in the process.
* Nichomachean Ethics - Honestly don't remember that much. A good supplement to the Republic.
* Augustine's Confessions - Interesting memoirish tome with lots of sexual temptation, theological inquiry, and other topics of interest to college students. It all goes downhill around Book 9 and especially in book 11 when he starts rambling about how Time is constant, all around us, always now. BOYHOOD!
* The Prince - Great stuff. Often gets a bad rap from people who think Machiavelli is advocating tyranny, but he actually has a lot in common with Libertarian principles.
* The Divine Comedy - got a little tired by the time I made it to Paradiso, but otherwise great. Don't read the Mandelbaum edition.
King Lear - not my favorite tragedy of Shakespeare. King Lear loses his marbles halfway through, Edgar pretends to lose his marbles and acts like a jerk to his father, and everything just gets very hard to follow.
* Much Ado About Nothing - probably my favorite comedy of Shakespeare. I never realized what a pervert Pedro is.

Eva Domkowski said...

I appreciate this so much!

I did not grow up in a family of readers. Consequently, I never developed a love for literature...until I had children. I'm grateful to be home educating them because it has given me the opportunity to read books I should have read when I was younger. I finished reading aloud the first part of Pilgrim's Progress this spring. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this to my kids and the conversations that followed. Such a highlight for us.

I have told them that my hope for them is to not grow up like I did. I want to instill in them a love for books in order to grow their minds and their hearts. :)