Friday, February 02, 2007

Book List 2007

1. The Lake of Dead Languages, Carol Goodman
Bleh- Reads like a Lifetime movie of the week. Boarding school girls engage in highjinks involving latin, murder, and greek mythology. Sounds exciting but oh so unrealistic. No likey.

2. Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
Enjoyed this one a whole bunch. A rich and well written examination of chinese rural culture in the 1800's. Glad I wasn't there. Talk about child abuse and woman abuse-- this book shows the Chinese had everyone beat in that category. (Heh- beat)Lots about feet binding so it's not for the squimish. Had a bit of a problem with the friendship between the two main characters. Snowflower was a bit more exalted than she had a right to be, but I'm sure that's not everyone's take.

3. Thirteen Moons
Charles Frazier.
Same guy who wrote Cold Mountain which I loved. But this one? Bleh. I bailed on it half way through which I hate to do but I can only take so much. It's terribly boring. The main character is unbelievable- he can do no wrong. Skip this one.

4. Touching the Void
Joe Simpson.
Another climbing story. This one set in Peru. Two climbers have a bad experience climbing the impossible. What a surprise. Not nearly as good as Into Thin Air. I skimmed it.

5. Cloud Atlas
David Mitchell.
This book has received much attention in the literary world and was a finalist for the Booker but boy, it was a rough one to navigate. Like reading completely separate books at the same time- it's about 3 or 4 different stories very loosely connected. I skimmed a lot ( not ever a good indication) so some of it is just a big blur. Mitchell is an astounding writer but not for me. He's too ambitious, trying to perform acrobatic leaps with writing.Rather like, Martin Amis, but without the shock factor so it's boring.

6. The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion.
You would think I'd be doing backflips over this one cause it's Didion- only one of my favorite writers of all time. But... maybe my tastes have changed. I dunno, it's so very Didion it's a little irritating. So precise. So detailed. And so not very insightful. Her husband dies and her daughter almost dies and we hear all about the details of what happened- her obsessions over the smallest things. But do I look at grief or dying any differently after reading this? No. Maybe if Didion was a bit more spiritual this book would pack more punch. I respect her unsentimental views but the book is rather cold.

7. Envy
Kathryn Harrison

This is my third Harrison. I rather like her- she's a good writer and she revisits interesting themes. Namely psychiatry and sex. I admire Harrison cause she's not afraid, she's a bold writer and explores issues that tumble around in everyone's brain but that most people are afraid to explore cause it's....uncomfortable. This one involves a twin, a birthmark, erotic sex, analysis and betrayal. Liked it a lot.

8. Birds of America
Lorrie Morre. Short stories. Really, a fine writer. Weird and heartfelt, this compilation centers on domestic settings, disease, and, of course, love. Lots of her stories are published in The New Yorker so I'd read some already.

9. Let's Not Go To The Dogs Tonight
Alexandra Fuller.
True story of her childhood in Africa. Reminded me a lot of 'The Glass Castle' (see review in list 2006) but didn't enjoy quite as much. The writing is sort of scattered-- sometimes making it difficult to follow. This is her first book and I wouldn't expect another-- it's her story and now she's told it. Her family was a bit crazy- alcoholic and manic mother, distant and restless father. They live in war ravaged Africa, moving from England and we're never told WHY. Frustrating. The whole story I'm asking myself- "but why are they there?" One speculates that they just love the whole bohemian, sub-par, dangerous, chaotic, filthy, corrupt conditions. Alrighty then. Still, they loved each other. Ja.

10.
Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen.
Read this in two days so that says a lot right there. I didn't love it but it's immensely readable. It centers around a circus that travels the country by train. Lots of evocative detail about the circus life, even if some of it is heavy handed and causes you to roll your eyes a couple of times (are elephants really that intelligent??). The love story is also oh so melodramatic and the ending was kinda unexpected and sentimental. Narrated by a 93 year old man, reflecting on his days of yore with the circus. A solid piece.

11. Suite Francais
Irene Demirovsky.
An important book. And never completed. It was published 64 years after it was written, the manuscript saved by her daughter. Demirovsky, a famous Russian/French author, wrote it during WWII.
The novel is set in France and tells the story of several families- their trials and tribulations during German occupancy. Maybe the translation had something to do with it, but I found it fairy tale-like. I couldn't quite conceive of any of it really happening. It read like a Bronte novel. Interesting the Appendix that contained her notes about the book and the correspondence right before her death at Aushwitz (sp?). She was a Jew (not practicing, was in fact Catholic) and no mention is made of the Jews in the book. So that was a glaring omission that was unsettling.

12. Revolutionary Road
Richard Yates.
A reread. And even more outstanding than the the first read. This book blows my mind. Every single sentence rings true- a constant clear bell. Yates captures the inner voice of his characters so painfully well, you feel guilty for reading it- like you're peeping in on someone's most private thoughts, until you realize, well those are your thoughts, too. Set in the 50's, it spans the ages because people have always been.... well, the same in a lot of ways. It exposes the the most difficult side of marriage. The ugly, horrific, regretable, fake side, so it's not for the faint-hearted. These are not people who are dealing very well with shattered dreams, you might say.

13. I Capture the Castle
Dodie Smith.
An English writer who wrote this in the 50's. I enjoyed this- a bit Jane Eyre-ish, but of course, not as good. Told in the unsentimental voice of a 17 year old girl, it tells of her family's life in the ruins of a castle. 'Enchanting' is the best word to describe this book. Young love and likeable characters keeps you turning the pages. Appreciated the ending- so very British. Stiff upper lip and all.

14. Cold Comfort Farm
Stella Gibbons.
I guess this is a sortof classic and people adore it but I'm not one of them. It's a bit silly and satirical. Written in the 30's. Gotta get off this kick of reading these 'old' books.

15. Falling Man
Don Delillo.
Delillo is pretty much a genius, I guess. His writing is so spare and vague and touches on such big issues as terrorism, political intrigue, economics, etc. that he has got to be pretty dang smart. But it's a challenge to read him. This book centers around the 911 tragedy and how it affects some particular people, namely a NYC couple who seem to over analyze everything to the point that you just want to slap 'em.
But, I liked it. I think.

16. When We Were Orphans
Kazuo Ishiguro.
Can't get enough of Ishiguro. Such an original, clean writer. Historical and a bit odd, (as all things asian seem to be) this book is set in the early 1900's in England and Shanghai. The prewar era. Christopher Banks is a social-climbing detective who is trying to rid the world of evil and is investigating his parents disappearance in Shanghai. Sound odd enough to you? A bit of unreality about the whole thing but very readable.

17. Blood Meridian
Cormac McCarthy.
Bloody book. Blood and more blood. A bit too bloody for me. Wild west cowboys go a huntin' for indian scalps in Mexico. Desolation, death and blood- that pretty much sums up this book. It's actually difficult to tell what the heck is going on half the time. McCarthy doesn't believe in quotation marks or grammar- partly to reveal the ignorance of the cowboys i guess, but still. Did I mention there's lots of blood?

18. Case Histories
Kate Atkinson.
An immensely entertaining read- full of mystery and humor. Atkinson is great at character development- and there are lots of characters in this one, but not to the point of confusion. A stark look at murder and the aftermath and how it affects people. I'll read the book that follows this and continues the story of the main character, PI, Jackson Brodie.

19. Why the Tree Loves the Axe
Jim Lewis.
A very strange book but pretty well written. It's difficult to feel much empathy for the main character because the reader is kept at a distance by means of a vague and fast moving plot. Okay, so what's it about? A young woman trying to find herself, I think. She lives in a place called Sugartown, Texas but then kills a cop so moves back to NYC to find her exhusband with whom she was a bit crazy then she goes somewhere upstate NY and lives with a bunch of criminals who are somehow portrayed as revolutionists. Yeah, that's it. Like I said, strange. Hated the ending.

20. A Spot of Bother
Mark Haddon.
Same author of 'The Curious Incidence of the Dog in the Night'. Another laugh out loud funny story. Gotta love the Brit's humor. It's a bunch of family squabbling and a poor guy going mad and love affairs and such. Loved it. Especially the parts about George's madness. Would be a great movie with the right script.

21. Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert.
The book of the moment, everyone raving about it so I succumbed. I loved it. Makes you feel like you haven't done much with your life, but whatever. Funny and inspirational and deeply moving and ...oh, just about one of the most powerful books ever. Makes me want to go run off to India and meditate in an ashram and sell all my possessions and fly through the sky. Seriously.

22. The Omnivour's Dilemma
Michael Pollan. Took me forever to read this book but I did. Can't ever think about food the same again. Mind-boggling stuff about the industrial food industry. Did you know that cows shouldn't be eating corn? It makes them sick! And here we think that corn-fed beef is the shit. hahahahaha. Oh well, We should all just hunt for our meat. Go out and shoot an elk or something.

23. Best Practices for Gifted and Talented.
Boring text I had to read for my job- bleh. It is interesting to note, however, that GT students don't get the treatment that special ed gets in this country. They're just as 'special' and yet people don't care about educating them properly. As the money has declined for GT programs so have the number of students getting a doctorate. What does that tell you?

24. Johnny Tremain.
Okay, forced to read this one too for my job. I'm leading an advanced book group for the 5th grade class. Thought I was really going to hate this book- fiction but based on the American Revolution or some such nonsense- the whole Paul Revere thingy- but it was definitely readable and I hope the students actually read the book so I don't have to feed them the answers to questions.

That's it for the year. A pretty good one for reading. My favorite was A Spot of Bother- for entertainment value.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

  • Edit-Me
  • Edit-Me