- Fizzy Thoughts: January 2009

Quick post

Friday, January 30, 2009

Congratulations lilly! You're the lucky commenter this week...you get to choose a book from the book closet, so let me know if you see something you like!



Weekly Geeks 2009-03

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For our assignment this week, Ali posed a set of questions about classic literature:

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don't get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

I would say I'm ambivalent about the classics. Too much time spent in school, I guess. I want to read what I feel like reading, not what someone has deemed worthy of being read. And what I feel like reading is usually a book published in the very recent past (usually within the last 10 years). I honestly can't think of a single classic (over 100 years old) that I truly love. I will confess that Jane Austen leaves me cold (both the books and the movies), although if we move into classic children's literature I do have a few books that bring back very fond memories (The Secret Garden and all of the Anne of Green Gables books).

The thing about classics is that often, there is an assumption that everyone knows what happens. Even if you haven't read the book you probably know the basic premise of the story. Which can be a bit of a downer if you actually want to read the darn thing. Alternately, there is often the assumption that you know what the book is about...so there are all sorts of references to classics that can go right over a person's head. It's a lose-lose situation.

2) A challenge, should you choose to accept it: Read at least one chapter of a classic novel, preferably by an author you're not familiar with. Did you know you can find lots of classics in the public domain on the web? Check out The Popular Classic Book Corner, for example. Write a mini-review based on this chapter: what are your first impressions? Would you read further? (For a larger selection of authors, try The Complete Classic Literature Library).

A challenge? Okay, Ali. I accept your challenge of a chapter and I'll raise you a section. Because I just happen to have Anna Karenina on hand (long story), and well, it really doesn't have chapters. It has eight parts, divided into somethings...whatever they are, they're too short to be called chapters (at least for the sake of this challenge). Since I can't read only two pages for a mini-review, I'm going for Part 1 in its entirety.

Anna and I got off to a shaky start. Oblonsky seemed a bit too fond of saying "ay ay ay" and "oh oh oh" (pages 2-3) and then on page 13 it was a bunch of "ah's." Despite this less than stellar vocabularian (yes, I'm making up words) start, the dialogue mellowed (a bit) dramatically and improved (quite a bit) in terms of qualifying as dialogue and not just "oh woe is me" sentiments and the book actually got interesting. Although I was starting to despair that the title character would never appear. I guess if a book is 800 plus pages, the author can be forgiven for taking 60 pages before introducing the person the book is supposedly about.

One of my favorite things about the book (so far) are the notes that the translators included at the end. They explain some of the more obscure Russian terms and the references that would have made sense in 1877, but that are beyond this modern girl. Since I loved the few Russian history classes I took in college, these notes are a bonus.

Currently I'm on page 77 and *gasp* enjoying it. What is drawing me in is the glimpse into a society and way of life that is long gone. This book is appealing to my inner historian. I'm definitely reading to the end of Part 1, then I'm going all out and finishing the book. At least I hope so.

3) Let's say you're vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don't find her a book, she'll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?

After Myrtle and I have a little chat about how she could have possibly forgotten a book, I'd ponder the appropriateness of Olive Kitteridge (hmmm, maybe not the best choice for crotchety Auntie M) or The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (that one just might shock the socks right off of her). Then I'd buy her something more "classical." Maybe something by Wally Lamb because it would be a) complex and b) long. Or something gothic in nature, such as The Thirteenth Tale or The Shadow of the Wind.

4) As you explore the other Weekly Geeks posts: Did any inspire you to want to read a book you've never read before—or reread one to give it another chance? Tell us all about it, including a link to the post or posts that sparked your interest. If you end up reading the book, be sure to include a link to your post about it in a future Weekly Geeks post!

Hey, don't push it. I'm already reading Anna Karenina. I'll be damned if I'm jumping into The Count of Monte Cristo. Melissa and Jackie suggested Dracula, which I think is a fabulous idea, and more my speed.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marjane Satrapi
341 pages

Dewey had damn good taste in books. This is the second book I've read for the Dewey's Books Challenge, and the fourth book I've read this year that she reviewed on her site (neither An Abundance of Katherines nor The Ha-Ha are on my challenge list), and they've all been fantastic. I've been trying to space out my challenge books, but considering how good these first two have been, I wouldn't be surprised if I rush into the rest fairly soon. Or maybe I'll just do the challenge twice. Is that allowed?

Persepolis was my introduction into the world of graphic novels, and in this particular case it's a "memoir-in-comic-strips," as Powells puts it.

Satrapi was a child during the Iranian Revolution, and the first half of Persepolis (note: I read the Complete Persepolis, which combines the two books) tells the story of her childhood under an increasingly oppressive regime. Although it is told in comic strip format, this is not a light-hearted story. In fact, the story gets increasingly darker as Satrapi moves into her teenage years.

Satrapi is an outspoken little girl, and as she grows older her liberal parents decide to send her to Austria to attend school, both as a way to ensure a more complete education, and to keep her safe. The second part of Persepolis focuses on her years in Austria and her eventual return to the country she loves but has a hard time fitting in to.

At first I was a little unsure of the format. But it only takes a couple of pages to get into the simultaneous reading of the text and looking at the art. The book is illustrated entirely in black and white. In fact, some of the panels are very dark, with either the walls and furniture in black, or in this case, a crowd of veils:

I found the darkness of the panels to be reflective of the darkness of the story. And isn't it amazing how much emotion can be conveyed with a few brushes of a pen?

Persepolis has inspired me to hunt down and finally read Maus, another graphic novel that I've somehow avoided for many years. Thanks to Chris and Robin for hosting this challenge and expanding my reading horizons!


The Year of Living Biblically

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically
A.J. Jacobs
audio book
6 hrs, 15 minutes

This was my very first experience with audio books, and I must say, it went a lot better than I expected. (My second experience isn’t going so well, but that’s another story for another time.) This wasn’t a book I had ever planned on reading, but my local library sucks, and the selection of non-fiction audio books was…well, let’s just say it was lame and move on.

I decided to start with a non-fiction audio book for reasons that escape me at the moment, but that I’m sure made a lot of sense (to me) at the time. Something about no dialogue, and maybe being easier to follow. And it was. Easy to follow. I didn’t find myself spacing out like I expected…unless I’m reading I have the attention span of a gnat, or whatever that something is with a very short attention span.

The Year of Living Biblically is just what the title says. The author decides to devote one year to following as many of the Bible’s commandments as he can squeeze in. And we’re not just talking about the Big 10. Prior to his biblical year, Mr. Jacobs read through the Bible and copied down every commandment that was mentioned. Things like Don’t Wear Mixed Fibers, Don’t Shave, Blow a Horn at the Beginning of Every Month, Give Thanks, Stone Adulterers, Write Biblical Things on Your Door Frame, and Wear Tassels. Obviously, I’m simplifying a bit (because the only time I’ve ever read the Bible was for a Bible as Literature class in college), but you get the idea.

I’m not going to go into details, because the book is pretty much what it says it is. I’m glad I didn’t actually read it, because it’s not really my type of thing, but it was entertaining to listen to. The author is the narrator, and he did a good job. He also did a good job of sounding like a total dweeb. The thing that sticks most in my mind about this book is that I would hate to be married to the author. It had to have been a total pain in the ass to live with this guy for the year! Also, this is the same guy that wrote The Know-It-All, about his experience reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. I know that because he mentioned it constantly…so constantly that I now refuse to read it.

I've decided that audio books are a great entertainment for the drive to and from work. Just think of the thousands of hours of books I've missed over the years! Okay, that's depressing, so let's not. But I have about 50 minutes a day, 4 days a week to devote to listening to audio books, and I'm thinking non-fiction is the way to go. That is, if my library system can get it's shit together and stock some decent titles. (Care and Eva...they don't even have Possession! I was crushed!!)

So, suggestions?


Sunday Salon

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Today's Sunday Salon is brought to you by the word hortatory.

Marked by exhortation or strong urging: a hortatory speech.

Why hortatory? Because I'm reading Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Why Virginia Woolf? Because I'm not afraid.

Okay, lame joke. Interesting word though...at least now that I know its meaning. But don't worry, I'm not going to use this post to illustrate the word.

Yesterday I spent 8 hours in a car (down to Orange County to drop off a van for my cousin and visit my granny and the rest of the family, then back in the car for the trip home). I will confess to being in a bit of a pissy mood about the trip because I was bemoaning all of the reading I could've accomplished with 8 hours in a car! Unfortunately, on the trip down I was my brother's co-pilot, and I felt rude abandoning him for a book, especially since we were in a 1987 VW Vanagon that neither one of us had ever driven, and with a radio that didn't work (my bro loves music like I love books...if he had music to listen to I would've been reading). On the trip home, I was my mom's co-pilot, while my brother listened to his iPod in the back seat. Normally my mom doesn't like it if I read while she drives...she doesn't want me to drive, but she does want me to provide entertainment. Imagine my surprise when at 4pm she asked if I brought a book along. Since that sounded like tacit approval for reading, I quickly jumped into The Ha-Ha and proceeded to read until it got dark, which came all too soon, especially since the book was unexpectedly engrossing.

My reading this week has been all over the place. I started the week by trying a few different things. Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver only lasted a few pages before I decided I was too confused by fact versus fiction and abandoned ship. Making War to Keep Peace was a little too heavy on the war, which tends to piss me off, so that one went in the reject pile as well. Books should not raise one's blood pressure. An Abundance of Katherines was more successful (and easier on the BP), as was Persepolis (no review yet, but let me just say this book is so worth reading). I'm a chapter into Islam and two chapters into Queen Isabella (despite the fact that after the Eleanor experience I vowed no more Alison Weir). This morning I finished The Ha-Ha, which was so excellent that Islam and Queen Isabella no longer sounded appealing. Then I decided to give A Room of One's Own a try. The only reason I even have this book is because I bought a bunch of books for a history class that I never took, and this one stuck around. I also have Practical Magic sitting on the arm of my chair, although it hasn't been opened yet. I'm surrounded by an interesting mix of books at the moment...a mix that reflects my scattered reading habits of late.

A note on A Room of One's Own: I read about 1/3 of the book before I even got to the words of Virgina Woolf. Because first there was a Preface, then a Chronology, and then an Introduction. It's things like this that make me avoid classics...just give me the author! But that is a whole 'nother conversation, for later this week when I actually write my Weekly Geeks post.


An Abundance of Katherines

Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Abundance of Katherines
John Green
September 2006
272 pages

Colin just got dumped by his girlfriend Katherine. Since this was the 19th Katherine he had dated (and been dumped by), he obviously has a thing for Katherines (although with that track record, maybe he should be more receptive to dating other names?).

In an effort to take Colin’s mind off of his misery, his best friend Hassan decides a road trip is in order. So off they go. And they end up in Gutshot, Tennessee, living in a pink palace and working for the owner of a tampon string factory (only John Green, I tell ya). In his spare time, Colin works on a math theorem that attempts to predict who will be the dumper and who will be the dumpee in a relationship. And he can do this because he’s wicked smart, a fact I forgot to mention earlier.

Then there’s more relationship stuff followed by a teachable moment. The end. If you want to know the teachable moment, read the book. Especially if you happened upon this post because you have to write a report and you haven’t read the book. This ain’t no Cliff Notes. Or Spark Notes. Or whatever they’re called these days. So go away and read the book.

This is book #2 that I’ve read by John Green. It was good. Funny. Entertaining. But not as good, or as funny, or as profound as Waiting for Alaska. Because that book was awesome. Still, An Abundance of Katherines is worth reading. I still have Paper Towns left, so we’ll see how that one compares to the awesomeness that was Waiting for Alaska. Then I’ll be done with John Green’s novels, so he better get busy and publish some more.

Oh, and I must confess…I skipped the appendix. Because math? It’s boring.


No comment

Friday, January 23, 2009

My commenting this week has been practically non-existent. I’ve been reading everything that pops up in the Google Reader, as well as all of the comments that appear via gmail, but I just haven’t been able to respond. Also, the blogging has been pretty pathetic, too. I think my words went on vacation and left my body behind. The nerve.

However, you all have continued to leave lots of marvelous comments, for which I am eternally grateful.

Tomorrow I’ll be trapped in a car for most of the day, so no internets for me. :-( Hopefully I’ll be here on Sunday, both in body and with words.

In the meantime, because you all are so generous with the comments, it’s time for the weekly drawing (or random number generating):

Here are your random numbers:
Timestamp: 2009-01-23 18:55:29 UTC

Which is Ramya! Woo-hoo! Yipee!! Snoopy dance!!!

Congratulations Ramya...I still feel guilty for not commenting on your lovely blog lately, but hopefully you'll forgive me. Let me know if there is a book you'd like from the book closet!



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Since “Inspiration” is (or should) the theme this week … what is your reading inspired by?

Lots of things:

This means you. In fact, my tbr pile is all your fault. I find plenty of interesting books by reading everyone’s blogs.

Technically, they’re people too. :-) But I’ve been known to pick up a book by a particular author just because I’ve enjoyed their previous work.

I like travel memoirs. I’ll go on binges with these books, especially when I have a hankering to be an ex-pat. Not that it would happen, but I can dream, right? Or live vicariously through others.

This is hard to explain, but I’m guessing you know what I mean. I like variety, and depending what I’m in the mood for, my reading tastes vary. Also, when I'm browsing through a bookstore, my mood affects what I end up bringing home.

Cover art
I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover. There have been plenty of books purchased because their covers caught my eye.

I'm sure there are other inspiring things, but that's what popped into my head for now.


Teaser Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

"I smelled my grandma’s bosom. It smelled good."

From The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. Page 150.

And let me tell you, Teaser Tuesday is not easy with a graphic novel. I had to count frames (or whatever they're called), instead of lines.


Ex Libris

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Anne Fadiman
November 2000
176 pages

First of all, there is nothing common about Anne Fadiman’s reading habits or bookish knowledge. Good grief. Her vocabulary is light years beyond mine, and the description of her home library led to a bad case of book envy.

However, if I move past the title, this is an enjoyable collection of essays. Fadiman is the author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which I just realized is the same book I hear about frequently at Child Welfare Services trainings, because it deals with cultural issues and different perceptions about the provision of adequate medical care. However, that has nothing to do with the book I read, other than the fact that they share an author.

Fadiman grew up in an incredibly literary household. Her father was a well-known literary critic, her mother a World War II correspondent and author. Many of the essays talk about how her parents fostered a love of reading and learning. Fadiman reflects on the family playing along to the College Bowl game show, building castles with her father’s books, and growing up surrounded by books.

Other essays discuss obscure words, reading out loud, reading obsessions (hers is Arctic exploration), You-Are-There Reading and fountain pens. Fadiman writes about merging libraries, and the year her husband gave her a trip to a used bookstore as a birthday gift. They came home with 19 pounds of books. As with most essay collections, some selections are better than others. Fadiman occasionally gets a little too literary and obnoxiously over-educated. But overall, this is an enjoyable and entertaining collection.

And quite unexpectedly, I discovered the origin of the name of Chris’s blog. Did you know that the line "stuff as dreams are made on" is from The Tempest? Yeah, well, I didn’t.


Weekly Geeks 2009-02

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thanks to anunfinishedperson for this week's post, and to Joanne, for the inspiration for this week's post:

For those who have been with the group, either from the start or joined within recent months, what does being a member mean to you? What do you enjoy about the group? What are some of your more memorable Weekly Geeks that we might could do again? What could be improved as we continue the legacy that Dewey gave us?

I enjoyed reading the posts of various Weekly Geeks for quite awhile before I actually jumped in and joined the fun. My first time was last September, when we did the quote-a-day activity. Originally, for me, Weekly Geeks was a challenge. It was a weekly event that made me think, made me put a little extra effort into my post. It also challenged me to meet new bloggers, since part of Weekly Geeks was to visit the blogs of fellow geeks. Since Weekly Geeks has always had a very fluid membership, often I was visiting different blogs every week. I've added many new blogs to my reader as a result of Weekly Geeks.

Now, in addition to the above, it's about community. It's a way to honor Dewey, who brought so much to the book blogging community. And it's a way to stay connected to fellow geeks and again, to meet other bloggers. In fact, my Google Reader was very busy adding new subscriptions as I read last week's posts!

My favorite Weekly Geeks seem to be the one's that involve pictures. Although pictures weren't required, Fun Facts About Authors usually included pictures. I also enjoyed seeing people's book photo tours.

As for what could be improved, we'd love to see your suggestions for weekly themes! Care and Sheri have both recently sent in suggestions, so don't be shy! If you have an idea for a weekly post, please email weeklygeeksadmin at gmail dot com.


Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Alison Weir
346 pages

I finished Eleanor. Yay me.

This book really should have been titled Eleanor, who lived in the Middle Ages and who was wife of Louis, King of France, and then wife of Henry II, king of England, and mom to lots of kids, but especially Henry, the Young King who never got to be king, and Richard the Lion-hearted, and King John. Because let's face it. She may have been an important woman, but there's not a whole lot in the historical record about her (other than she endowed this abbey and she begatted that kid and she bought some tapestries). So her story could have been told in oh, about 50 pages. The rest is just filler, in the form of men. Most especially men named Henry and Geoffrey and John. I kid you not. There were so many Geoffrey's running around it was incestuous.

So big disappointment. I was all excited to read about a strong female historical figure. Unfortunately, I mostly got dead white men. And much as George W. would prolly disagree, dead white men do not good history make. Oh...excuse me...my politics are showing.

To further confuse matters and make the story even more stultifying, most of the characters seemed to be distantly related. An example:

  • Eleanor married Louis, king of France. Louis already had two daughters from a prior marriage. Eleanor gave him two more.
  • They got divorced, for many possible reasons. The official version was that they were 4th cousins. A fact they conveniently forgot when they got married.
  • So then Eleanor married Henry, future king of England. And also her cousin. Third, I think. And Louis remarried, too. I forget who. I don't think they were cousins, although there's a good chance they were. There seemed to be a lot of that going on.
  • They all had more kids.
  • And then one of Louis' daughters gets engaged to one of Eleanor's sons.
  • They would have gotten married, except King Henry had an affair with her and she had a kid. Or two.
There's a whole lot of ick going on there. Oh, and I almost forgot! There's a rumor that Eleanor had an affair with Geoffrey (Henry's dad Geoffrey. Not to be confused with Henry's brother Geoffrey. Or Henry and Eleanor's son Henry. Or Henry's illegitimate son, also named Geoffrey.) before they were married. She did her future father-in-law. As I said, a whole lot of ick going on. Although I think Henry bonking (and impregnating) his son's fiancee takes the cake.

However, according to the book, they did all celebrate Christmas happily together on many an occasion. Details of the celebration were not provided. I shudder to imagine.

I read this for the World Citizen Challenge. And boy do I feel wordly. If anyone has a less incestuous recommendation for my next history selection, I am open to suggestions.

Seriously. Because I can be serious, you know. Well, almost. This is one of those typically staid and serious history books that I try to avoid. The kind that give history a bad rap and make people dread the subject. If you like your history served up with a side of ivory tower seriousness, then this is the book for you. If you're more of a historical fiction, Maus taught me more than I ever learned in high school type of learner, than skip this baby.


Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiit's Friday!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just the facts today.


Random.org chose #60.

#60 is bermudaonion.

Who I believe knows the routine. :-)

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go here.

Oh, and congratulations to Kathy!!!!!


Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water
Nicole Seitz
March 2008
296 pages

Meh. The best thing about this book is that it was a quick read. Of course, it was quick because I didn't linger on any of the words or passages. And I'm going to give away a bit of the plot, so don't read this review if you ever plan to read the book.

Set on St. Anne Island, a fictional South Carolina coastal island, the story centers around Honor Maddox. Honor has arrived on St. Anne's, depressed and broke. After her rescue by a bunch of Gullah nannies, she is turned over to the Duchess, an eccentric widow with plenty of room in her big house. She takes in Honor and the two opposites proceed to become BFF.

Then suddenly, jump forward a few months. Honor is in the hospital and her sister Alice is reading a letter Honor wrote to her, recalling her past mistakes and the happiness she found on St. Anne's. Of course, Honor dies and Alice follows in her footsteps to find happiness on St. Anne's. Big surprise.

I found the characters shallow. They didn't seem fully developed and I would have liked more information on their background. The story skipped back and forth between time and narrators. I was able to follow it initially, but the switch to Alice reading Honor's letter was jarring. I also thought the Gullah nannies were there just to add some local culture...why did they all have to be nannies? And why did they have to speak with such thick accents, when the other (white) characters had none? This bothered me. I also saw the childhood sexual trauma from a mile away, so there were no surprises there. And the ending was way too trite. And wow, I'm being pretty harsh. But the book was a disappointment...good thing it was a library book.

However...Amy loved it. So if you'd like to read the total opposite of my review, go read Amy's.


Sing! Sing a song...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

But, enough about books … Other things have words, too, right? Like … songs!

If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

  • What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
  • Why?
  • And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?

You don’t have to restrict yourself to modern songsters, either … anyone who wants to pick Gilbert & Sullivan, for example, is just fine with me. Lerner & Loewe? Steven Sondheim? Barenaked Ladies? Fountains of Wayne? The Beatles? Anyone at all...

About 5 or 6 years ago, when I worked in a different office that was not organized like a Dilbert cartoon, I could listen to the radio or CDs. In the morning I had a tendency to play Metallica CDs, or some other head-bangerish music, because I happen to like that kind of noise, and it helped to wake me up (at the time, I started work at 6am). So one day a co-worker comes into my office, listens for a moment, and then says:

"Let me get this straight. You used to be a teacher. And you drive a Honda. And you listen to this?"
I guess the music didn’t jive with the otherwise conservative image he had built for me.

So yes, I like loud, obnoxious music, preferably music with no socially redeeming qualities. I also refuse to listen to rap. And country. And opera…no can do on the opera. In regard to my obnoxious music habit, I can very easily block out the lyrics and rock out to the beat.

Except…my very favorite-tist musician is Dave Matthews. Not a lot of opportunity for head banging there. This is probably the only music where I pay attention to the lyrics, although even then I don’t think any of the songs especially speak to me. But I do love Gravedigger, and Grace is Gone, and Two Step, and Old Dirt Hill, and I could go on, but I won’t. Let's just say I have a ridiculous amount of space on the iPod devoted to the Dave Matthews Band.

I always feel vaguely like a Dead Head when I confess to liking Dave Matthews, because let's face it, the man most likely plays stoned most of the time. And as much as I'd like to see him live, I'd probably end up with a contact high if I went to a concert.

Any other DMB fans out there? If not, can we still be friends??


Library Loot

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Since I am bound and determined to give audio books a chance, last Saturday I went to the library for the first time in a very long time. In fact, it had been so long I couldn't find my library card (what an embarassing thing for a reader to admit). So I had to fork out a buck. Not that I'm complaining...libraries are a fantastic deal.

However, my local library always disappoints me. It's small, and last Saturday it was filled with pre-teens running around calling each other butt-head, or some other equally un-charming thing. And while I was standing in front of the new book section there was an elderly man heavy breathing in my ear. He probably had emphysema and couldn't help it, but it wasn't quite the ambiance I wanted. And the audio book section was fairly disappointing. I ended up with:

The Year of Living Biblically, Thank You, Jeeves, and The Passion of Artemesia. I'm not sure I'll listen to them all, but that's what I got.

I also came home with a book:

The book was a bust. I read it, but it wasn't anything great. I'm currently half-way through The Year of Living Biblically, which for a visual learner is amazing. I'm listening to it in my car, which I think is the only place I can do audio books. For 25 minutes on my way to work, and then again for the drive home, I'm a captive audience.

So now that I have a shiny new library card, I'm hoping to make the trip to the library a more frequent event. However, I think I'll need to drive into the big city (hah! that would be San Luis Obispo) and hope they have a better selection of audio books.


my reading hodge-podge

Did you know that expiation means atonement? I should have, because I was reading Eleanor of Aquitaine and I got to page 45 and there in my own writing was a note by expiation. Atonement.

After I held the book up really close to my eyes to verify that yes indeedy that was my writing, I thought, "Crap. I just re-read 45 pages. 45 boring pages." I don't know what bugs me more...that I don't remember reading it in the first place (not to mention not remembering the definition of expiation), or that I can't bring myself to give up on this book. So far there hasn't been much Eleanor, although for a woman in the 1100's that's fairly common. 45 pages in and she's already married to Louis VII of France and has given birth to a daughter (Marie). And she's about to go on Crusade. I'm hoping for a little more action in the coming chapters.

My reading choices are really out there at the moment. Since I barely read any non-fiction last year, I'm trying to introduce a little change in the reading line-up this year. I'm currently reading State by State and Eleanor of Aquitaine, although I have to put them down frequently for a hit of fiction. Except the hit usually turns into a whole book (which would explain why the yearly totals are currently fiction 6, non-fiction 1). I'm also trying to listen to an audio book in my car. It's actually going better than expected, although for someone who is practically an atheist The Year of Living Biblically could be considered an odd choice. But it's made me laugh a few times, so it's not a total bust.

How about you? Have you switched up your reading habits this year?


Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
"You, who have never even been to a Packers game wearing a gigantic wedge of yellow foam cheese on your head, much less added your name to the list of 74,000 people waiting for season's tickets?"
"Yes, me," I imagine myself saying, smiling, always smiling, because that is the state determined social contract among us, and perhaps adding that such a wedge (a cheddar-swiss hybrid, if you've never seen it) took up a precious amount of room in my New York City closet for a long time."

from State by State, edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey

And for your amusement, here I am at a Packers game with my cheesehead:


Looking for Alaska

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looking for Alaska
John Green
221 pages

This is my first book for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge, and it was totally awesome (do I sound like I'm reverting to teenager-hood? I don't mean to.). So awesome, in fact, that I ran out and bought John Green's other books. And I can't wait to read them.

Technically, this is a YA book. But other than the fact that it's about teenagers, it doesn't read like a YA book. Actually, I'm not really sure why I said that, since most YA books these days don't read like the stereotypical YA book. Not that I'm trying to stereotype them.

Looking for Alaska is about a group of friends at a boarding school. Pudge (his real name is Miles) is our protagonist, and this is his first year at Culver Creek. The Colonel (his real name is Chip) is Pudge's roommate. He introduces him to cigarettes and Alaska. Alaska (and her real name is Alaska) is a sexy, experienced girl with a reputation for pranks. She also has a roomful of books:
"I call it my Life's Library. Every summer since I was little, I've gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read. But there is so much to do: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I'll have more time for reading when I'm old and boring."
The novel starts of with a Before section. It is 136 days before. Before what we don't know, until a little more than halfway through the book, when it's After. And I can't tell you anything else about the book, because that would totally spoil it.

Well, I can tell you that it's a Printz Award winner, if you like that sort of thing. And that this is way more than just a story about life at boarding school. I especially loved the character of Dr. Hyde ("I have a first name, of course. So far as you are concerned, it is Doctor.") and his religion class.

Anyhoosie, this is one of those books that you have to have faith in. Or you have to have faith in me. Because I highly recommend it, and it is totally worth reading without knowing anything about it. Like totally. And I swear that's the last time I'll say totally tonight.

On a sort of related note, I'm hosting one of the mini-challenges for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. My idea was to have people write their reviews using Dewey's review format. However, her site is down and I don't have the questionnaire she used. Does anyone have it?? If so, can you pleeeeeeeeeeese share it with me?


Glory days

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lu and Care both mentioned that they will be starting jobs as substitute teachers in the very near future.

Did you know I used to be a substitute teacher? I do believe I've mentioned it numerous times because, let's face it, I am much happier now that I am not a substitute teacher. I will admit to a bit of bitterness. I substitute taught for three and a half years, and I spent a half year on contract as a history teacher after a teacher passed away mid-year. Then they interviewed candidates for the position and I didn't get hired. They hired a coach, instead. So yeah, I have lots of not so pleasant memories when it comes to teaching.

Anyways...not that it's my intention to scare Care and Lu off of their new career path, but really, when the sub is there, the kids all turn into possessed demons. You did too, don't try and deny it. Of course, I'm talking about middle school and high school. The younger kids could be perfect angels for all I know.

So, here are a few substitute teacher stories to shock, appall and amuse you. (Care and Lu, maybe you shouldn't read these after all.) Keep in mind that at the time I was a fairly innocent 23 year old, who looked like one of the high school kids. And I was teaching at the same middle school and high school that I attended...so all of the teachers knew me. On the bright side, I got a lot of work. On the dark side...

1. 8th grade math.
Some highly creative genius twined staples together so that they resembled a piece of barbed wire. Then they left it on the chair for me to sit on. Holy crap did that ever hurt! Not that I let them see my pain.

2. 8th grade math.
Same teacher, different set of juvenile delinquents. One young man didn't like my attempts to control the class and called me a bitch. I'm fairly certain he really thought I was a bitch after he got suspended for that little outburst.

3. 8th grade leadership class.
Yes, leadership. Remember when almost all the boys wore baggy pants belted very low on their non-existent hips? So the class assignment was to finish some sort of artistic project (the details are blurry) and then tack it up on the wall. So there he is, standing on a chair, back to the room (thank gawd), when his friend comes up behind him and pantsed him. Only problem is, he both pantsed and underpantsed the poor kid, who then unintentionally mooned the whole class. Good thing he had quick reflexes.

4. 7th grade science.
Just like it's important not to show pain, it's equally important not to show fear. Remember that. Because science classes come with icky things. Like snakes. I once spent the better part of a morning with a snake wrapped around my arm to prove that I wasn't scared. For once, the kids thought I was cool.

5. High school peer communications.
Peer communicators are very handy with spit wads. They nailed me right in the middle of the forehead. I had to leave the room I was so pissed. It wasn't a good day.

6. 11th grade history.
One boy (who incidentally was the son of a teacher...watch out for those kids!) took the hall pass to go to the restroom. 15 minutes later he returned with sodas for all of his buddies. He tried to convince me that they came from the soda machine in the locker room, however I knew he had left campus and drove to the mini-mart down the street. At the time, they did not sell plastic bottles of soda in the soda machines. Dipshit. And no, I don't mean that in an affectionate way.

7. 11th grade history.
Imagine it...two buddies, bickering before class. They take their seats, which just happen to be at the two farthest points from each other. The one kid is sitting right under my nose, his friend is in the far corner. The bell rings, the class goes silent just as the fed up kid yells to his friend "Lick my balls!" I had never even heard the expression before. Trying not to look a)embarrassed b)appalled c)impressed I calmly asked "was that really necessary," he apologized and we went on with class.

So there you have it. Four years of teaching, and those are my most treasured memories.

What's the worst thing you ever did to a teacher?


Weekly Geeks 2009-01

Saturday, January 10, 2009

For this week's Weekly Geeks, Terri asks us to:

In the spirit of the amazing community building that Dewey was so good at, tell us about your favorite blogs, the ones you have bookmarked or subscribe to in your Google Reader, that you visit on a regular basis. Tell us what it is about these blogs that you love, that inspire or educate you or make you laugh. Be sure to link to them so we can find them too.

I have 87 blogs currently in my Google Reader, and I'm really sorry, but I'm not going to tell you all why I love you. If I did, we'd be here all week!

Instead, I'm going to mention a few of the bloggers that I've had the pleasure of working on the new Weekly Geeks site with. I could have focused on Canadian bloggers, or Slow Travel bloggers, or bloggers I've met in real life, or a million other different groups depending on my whims, but since today is our inaugural post at the new site, I thought it fitting to talk about a few of the bloggers I've been geeky with for the past few weeks.

Ali - Ali got us all going on the Weekly Geeks yahoo group, so hats off to Ali. She's hosting the wonderful Diversity Rocks Challenge, which I'm supporting in spirit. And I really like how she is always incorporating music into her posts with the inclusion of play lists. She has a wonderful blog and I'm glad I got to know her a little bit through Weekly Geeks.

Kim - although I am not participating, Kim is hosting the very popular Blog Improvement Project, and I've really enjoyed reading everyone's posts. And I love reading about what she's been reading...Kim's got some interesting books on her blog. Just recently she reviewed Brisingr and The Story of Sushi in the same post. Beat that.

Joanne - Joanne is our button maker extraordinaire! Besides her mad button making skills, she has a beautiful blog (not to mention an awesome screen name). I adore her eclectic taste in books and her sense of humor...and her commenting! I totally suck in comparison...please don't give up on me Joanne!

Chris - I always seem to see Chris in the comments of other blogs (usually referring to Chris as (other) Chris...or is she referring to herself?). Since I kept running into her, I finally added her to my Google Reader. Her blog is a nice mix of books and humor and other stuff. I like other stuff. And I know that sounds totally vague, but I'm sure there are some of you out there who totally understand what I just said.

Terri - Okay, yes I'm jealous of her retirement. But I try not to let that distract me from enjoying Terri's blog. And she stepped up to the plate and wrote the very difficult first post for the new site. Thank you, Terri...you chose a fitting tribute to Dewey.

Just as there are many other blogs in my Google Reader, there are other bloggers involved in Weekly Geeks. It has truly been a collaborative effort, and one I'm proud to be a part of!


Lotsa love

Friday, January 09, 2009

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my mom, and Hamburger, and Elmo, and Mike Wazowski and my Uncle Bob...oh wait, I don't have an Uncle Bob.

Yes, it's awards time again. And my acceptance speech sucks.

Many of these awards I received last week, so I won't be doing the whole she-bang this time. But I do want to say thanks to all of the wonderful people who think I'm deserving of such goodness.

First, Melody gave me the Butterfly Award:

Thank you Melody.

And from both lilly and Beth I received the Premio Dardos Award:

I just love that little typewriter. Again, thank you both.

And thanks to April for the Kreativ Blogger award:

And finally, there's a new kid on the block. This lovely poppet is from Joanne:

I love poppets! Thank you, Joanne...mwah!


the return of the book closet

It's been a couple of weeks since I've done a book closet post, so I'm way overdue! The closet was looking a little sparse, so I took a few weeks off to build up the stock. It's still looking a little sparse, but it's better than it was.

So...I added up all of the comments since the last giveaway (for guessing the identity of Mike) and the guru picked a number. #18 to be precise. Which is Beth, from Beth Fish Reads.

Congratulations Beth! If you see a book hiding in the closet that interests you, please email me and I'll send it your way.


World Citizen Challenge

Last year I read very little non-fiction. Which is okay, because I lurve fiction beyond all else (well, except for Hamburger, but he's not exactly a literary genre). But I do like to expand my horizons occasionally. So I decided to join Eva's World Citizen Challenge. I am going for a major, unless I decide to be a college dropout, or I get ambitious and decide to try for a post-grad degree, which given my history (hah! unintentional joke there) isn't likely to happen. In other words, I'm keeping my options open. For now, this is the list, although to be honest I've started Eleanor of Aquitaine and it's about as exciting as watching grass grow, so there may be some changes in store.

Making War to Keep Peace: Trials and Errors in American Foreign Policy from Kuwait to Baghdad, Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Queen Isabella, Alison Weir
Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir

Memoir (travel writing)
Shadow of the Silk Road, Colin Thubron
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown, Paul Theroux

The history selections were heavily influenced by the fact that I already own those two books (holdovers from the failed attempt at a master's in history). I have a few other choices available though...although they're fairly esoteric, too. And okay, maybe my list is a little heavy on travel writing, which might be stretching things. But I believe there is a great deal to be learned from travel memoirs. And besides, it's my favorite category in non-fiction.

On that defensive note, I'm off to start my challenge. Thank gawd I've got all year to finish!


Weekly Geeks Announcement

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Psst, pass it along...

Weekly Geeks is back!

Well, almost.

Starting this Saturday, January 10th, Dewey's Weekly Geeks will resume at a new website, weeklygeeks.com. So come check out the new site, grab a button, mark your calendars, add us to your feed reader and get prepared to join the fun!

Oh, and if you would tell all of your friends, that would be spiffy. Thanks.


The Best?

It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?

I was going to do a post on this last week. But then I decided not to, because my favorites change on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. Now here I am, one week later, thinking about it all over again. So these are the books (as of this one moment in time) that I remember as being particularly fun or enjoyable reads (not necessarily great literature, but fun...because, you know, I'm all about the fun):

Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl
Peony in Love, Lisa See
Belong to Me, Marisa de los Santos
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen
The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry
Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Last Queen, C.W. Gortner
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

Ask me again tomorrow and I'm sure the list would look quite different. If I were in a more thoughtful, serious mood, I'm sure books like The Septembers of Shiraz would make it onto the list. Maybe it made it on to your list?


Shelter Me

Shelter Me
Juliette Fay
January 2009
448 pages

First, let's get the bad out of the way. I initially liked the cover. But then I read the book. Janie, the main character, has curly hair. And the house is in town, not in the country. If you're going to put the characters on the cover, get it right!

Okay, now that I've gotten that off of my chest, on to the book. Which I liked.

We first meet Janie LaMarche in April, four months after the sudden death of her husband. With two young children, Janie is struggling to deal with her grief and the demands of a baby girl and a young son who is confused by death of his father. Despite the sad circumstances, this story is not a total downer (although I did cry a few times). The charm is in it's characters. Janie is bitter smart-ass, yet I found myself pulling for her as she wades through her grief and constructs a new life for her family. The rest of her family, and the new friends that she finds through her grief, are equally compelling.

If you like Marisa de los Santos and her books (Belong To Me, Love Walked In) then I'd recommend Shelter Me. I'm not really sure why these authors are so appealing, or even why they remind me of each other. Maybe it's because the situations they construct are things that could happen to any of us. The books are a slice of life, the characters you and me.

This one is going in the book closet, which will resume it's regularly scheduled appearance this Friday. I'd suggest you grab it, if you get the chance.


The Hour I First Believed

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Hour I First Believed
Wally Lamb
November 2008
752 pages

You know how there are some authors you avoid, but you don't really know why? Despite the presence of She's Come Undone on my bookshelf, Wally Lamb is one such author for me. And I'm sorry Wally. Truly. Because you rock.*

I was actually a bit intimidated by this book. The 752 pages had me cringing, especially since this was my inaugural foray into Wally Lamb territory. However, I blew through this baby so fast I was trying to slow myself down.

Caelum Quirk and his wife Maureen move to Littleton, Colorado in the 1990's to start over. Caelum is a high school English teacher, Maureen a nurse, and they both find jobs at Columbine High. On the fateful day of April 20, 1999, Caelum has returned home to Connecticut to be with his dying aunt. Maureen, however, is present in the library during the Columbine shootings. Although she survives, Maureen is irrevocably changed by the events of that day and the things she heard.

The Quirks end up leaving Littleton and returning home to the family farm in Connecticut. There, Caelum tries to help Maureen recover while simultaneously uncovering family secrets and trying to come to grips with his own past.

There is so much more to this story than this quick synopsis. I was amazed by Lamb's ability to weave together so many seemingly disparate threads. When I first started I was wondering where he was going with the story, but after about a hundred pages I just sat back and enjoyed watching everything unfold.

The other thing about this book that initially disturbed me was the presence of Columbine and how Lamb uses an actual event as the catalyst for his story. I wasn't sure I liked how he took a national tragedy and made it his own. But in the afterword he addresses this very issue:

The depth and scope of Harris and Klebold's rage, and the twisted logic by which they convinced themselves that their slaughter of the innocent was justified, both frightened and confounded me. I felt it necessary to confront the "two-headed monster" itself, rather than concoct Harris- and Klebold-like characters. Were these middle-class kids merely sick, or were they evil?....Why all this rage? Why all these deaths and broken-hearted survivors?
Of course, at 752 pages, that means there's plenty of time to nitpick a few other things:
  • All of Caelum's tragedy is a little too much...I mean, good grief, can't the guy get a break?
  • Jesse and Velvet, while analyzed in depth in earlier chapters, are short-changed at the end.
  • And Lizzie Quirk - I could have done without her life story, especially that late in the book.
However, despite my complaints, I really enjoyed the book. I'm now looking forward to reading his other books. Not right away though. I think a Wally Lamb marathon might be a bit much.

*Also who rocks is Book Club Girl, who sent me this book. Dude, it's a signed first edition. How cool is that? Anyhoosie, Wally Lamb will be on Book Club Girl On Air on January 27th. More details to be found here.


Sharing the love

Monday, January 05, 2009

When I revamped the blog I lost all of my cool awards I had posted in my sidebar. Oh sure, I could hunt them down again, but I'm lazy.

Lucky for me, people still like me, and I have three new awards to brag about.

This first one means a lot, since it is from Dar, one of the bloggers I most admire.

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you. (Thanks again, Dar!)
3. Award up to ten other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

I'm going to keep this short and go with Joanne at The Book Zombie and Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made On, because they both have eclectic taste and I'm convinced they're both very cool people with very cool blogs.

Back before Christmas, Wrighty bestowed this one on me:

  • Mention the blog that gave it to you.
  • Comment on her blog to let her know you have posted the award.
  • Share 6 values that are important to you.
  • Share 6 things you do not support.
  • Share the love with six other wonderful blogging friends.

Whew, this one takes some thought.

Six values that are important to me:

  • Humor
  • Silliness
  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Freedom
  • Cooperation

Six things I do not support:

  • Intolerance
  • Snobbery
  • Bullying
  • Inconsideration
  • Taking yourself too seriously
  • Ethnocentrism

Sharing the love with six bloggers who for me are the antithesis of ethnocentrism (and who might have already received this...sorry for any duplication!):

And finally, eons ago Veens gave me this one:

At last count, I have 81 great buddies..that's the number of blogs in my Google Reader.


I'm dedicated

Hmmm, I'm not a Literate Good Citizen. Guess I need to sign up for Eva's World Citizen Challenge!

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

How about you? What kind of reader are you?


Anansi Boys

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman
334 pages

When this book first came out, back in 2005, I bought it immediately because I thought American Gods was brilliant and I was so excited there was a sequel (only it's not really a sequel...you could very easily read these books independent of each other). Then I never got around to reading it and it sat, unread, on the bookcase for three years. Three years! I know, I know. How could I?

But then The Graveyard Book and came out I renewed my infatuation with Gaiman. So Anansi Boys started calling my name, and this time I listened.

Charles "Fat Charlie" Nancy is the son of a god. Not that he knows that. Fat Charlie has always been embarrassed by his flamboyant, prankster father. So embarrassed that he moved to England to avoid him. However, when Mr. Nancy dies, Fat Charlie returns to Florida for the funeral. While there, he learns of the possible existence of a brother he never knew (or maybe just forgot) he had. Supposedly, if he wants to see this mysterious brother, all he has to do is tell a spider. Yeah right, thinks Fat Charlie, and he returns to London.

Only thing is, Fat Charlie does pass the message along to a spider, and before you know it, the mysterious brother, Spider, has appeared and taken over Fat Charlie's life. Havoc ensues. Fat Charlie learns a few things about life and his father and himself. Spider learns a few things, too. Everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

Obviously, being a Gaiman book, there's much more too it than that. It's got humor, and woo-woo stuff, and the backing of a great imagination. I'd have a hard time not liking anything Gaiman. But it's not my favorite. I think American Gods will always remain my favorite, simply because it's the first of Gaiman's books that I ever read, and I was floored by the world he created. Anansi Boys is set in that same magical world, but it lacked a certain sumthin' sumthin'.


Without a Backward Glance

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Without a Backward Glance
Kate Veitch
July 2008
368 pages

It's Christmas Eve 1967, in Australia. Rosemarie McDonald tells her children she's running out to buy some Christmas lights for the tree. And she never comes back.

Forty years later the McDonald siblings are all struggling with issues. Deborah, the eldest, is a bit of a control freak. She has let her job dominate her life, and is increasingly distant from her husband and child. Robert deals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and is trying to stop it from taking over his life. James has settled for friendship over passion in his marriage. And Meredith, the baby, is an alcoholic. Additionally, their beloved father, Alex, is slipping into dementia.

Then unexpectedly, James finds their mother in England. Rosemarie is now Rose, a successful seamstress with a happy marriage. Rose's reappearance will affect all of the siblings, although to different degrees.

I really enjoyed the characters and the story. I was surprised it was set in Australia, as that seems to be something I never caught in all the reviews I read of this book. Since I like me a foreign setting, that was a pleasant surprise. However, it seemed that the reappearance of Rose coincided with the resolution of everyone's problems. By the end of the book everything had been wrapped up quite tidily...granted, not everyone gets a happily ever after, but it's darn close.

Veitch also painted Rosemarie as a total bitch in the beginning of the book. However, the older Rose was a much more sympathetic character. It's evident that suburban motherhood was not for her, yet I also found it a bit odd that someone who never really apologizes is so easily accepted back into the family. When it comes right down to it, I think I would have liked the book even better if Rose had never returned. Or been edited out.



Mike Wazowski is in the mail!

You may have noticed that the polls seem to have disappeared. That was an unfortunate side effect of the blog redesign. At the time, Oliver was in the lead, but Mike Wazowski had just overtaken Dill for second place. And since Rochelle and I were planning a last minute campaign for Mike Wazowski, I have no doubt that he would have won.

In other words, I like Mike, and I was determined to cheat do whatever it takes to see that he won.

I think he likes the name, too. Because I ordered Hamburger's new desktop the day before I ordered Mike Wazowsi, and the desktop was expected to ship on 1/8 and the laptop on 1/13. Obviously, Mike Wazowsi can't wait to meet me.

And no, I'm not naming the desktop.


The 2009 Book List

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Books read in 2009:

Without a Backward Glance, Kate Veitch
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
The Hour I First Believed, Wally Lamb
Shelter Me, Juliette Fay
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
Looking for Alaska, John Green
Trouble the Water, Nicole Seitz
Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir
An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs (audio book)
The Ha-Ha, Dave King
Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
Thank You, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse (audio book)

Church of the Dog, Kaya McLaren
How Right You Are Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
Dream Homes, Joyce Zonana
Dreams Underfoot, Charles de Lint
Stiff, Mary Roach
Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
Fool, Christopher Moore
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
a boy of good breeding, Miriam Toews
Reading in the Dark, Seamus Deane
Company of Liars, Karen Maitland
Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay

The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister
The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen (audio book)
Cold Rock River, Jackie Lee Miles
The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
Paper Towns, John Green
The Laws of Harmony, Judith Ryan Hendricks
In the Castle of the Flynns, Michael Raleigh
Words in a French Life, Kristin Espinasse
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman
The Onion Girl, Charles de Lint
A Long Stone's Throw, Alphie McCourt (audio book)
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Lewis Buzbee
Open Me, Sunshine O'Donnell

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon
Madapple, Christina Meldrum
World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler
Population: 485, Michael Perry
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
Precious, Sandra Novack
Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (audio book)
A Thousand Voices, Lisa Wingate
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Adichie
Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden

Foreign Tongue, Vanina Marsot
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
Caspian Rain, Gina Nahai
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, Eve Brown-Waite
Fragile Eternity, Melissa Marr
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Reif Larsen
Lipstick Jihad, Azadeh Moaveni
The Flying Troutmans, Miriam Toews
Firmin, Sam Savage
The Gangster We Are All Looking For, le thi diem thuy
The Lost Legends of New Jersey, Frederick Reiken
Bound South, Susan Rebecca White
The Lost Hours, Karen White

Little Bee, Chris Cleave
The God of War, Marisa Silver
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Widow's Season, Laura Brodie
Bitter Sweets, Roopa Farooki
Into the Beautiful North, Luis Alberto Urrea
North of Beautiful, Justina Chen Headley
Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs

Brother, I'm Dying, Edwidge Danticat (audio book)
The Walking People, Mary Beth Keane
Girl Overboard, Justina Chen Headley
Kinky Gazpacho, Lori Tharps
The Angel's Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Cellist of Sarajevo, Steven Galloway
Mudbound, Hillary Jordan
The World in Half, Cristina Henriquez
Small Town Odds, Jason Headley

The Earth Hums in B Flat, Mari Strachan
The Weight of Silence, Heather Gunderkauf
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
The Well and the Mine, Gin Phillips
The Rest of Her Life, Laura Moriarty
The Favorites, Mary Yukari Waters
The Magicians, Lev Grossman
Last Night in Montreal, Emily St. John Mandel
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (audio book)

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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