One of my favorite things about being unemployed
(besides the choosing between which pajama pants to wear, oh rapture)
is the free time to read read read read read.
I love books, people.
When I lost my job in August, I started haunting the Inglewood library–
just went through the stacks,
authors I love,
authors I’ve never heard of,
titles that just grabbed my attention…
It’s lovely, really.
I haven’t explored the Sierra Madre library yet,
mostly because Laura’s books have been around.
But….she’s moving out. To get all MARRIED. And STUFF.
And her BOOKS,
the BOOKS that I haven’t gotten my HANDS ON YET?
They’re going WITH HER.
What are you thinking?!?
So, Sierra Madre Library?
I’m coming, and I’m taking your good fiction with me.
I’ve been keeping a semi-regular list of books I’ve read since August–
Have you read any of these? What were your impressions or criticisms?
1) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
Sadder than I expected. Blunter than I expected. Well-written. A good time capsule of New York before World War II.
2) A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
Hi, Jane, your bitterness against Christianity is showing…
3) A Pale View of Hills, Kazou Ishiguro
4) An Artist of the Floating World, “”
5) The Promise, Chaim Potok
6) The Gift of Asher Lev, “”
7) A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe
“Bonfire of the Vanities” is a much better version of a similar story; felt like Wolfe was repeating himself in this novel. However, it is a still intriguing condemnation of the current meritocracy and those who live in it.
8 ) O. Henry Memorial Award Short Story Collection
9) Ya-Yas in Bloom, Rebecca Wells
10) Pandora, Anne Rice
11) Dance, Dance, Dance, Murakami
12) Sputnik Sweetheart, “”
13) The Inimitable Jeeves, PG Wodehouse
14) Darkness at Pemberly, Daphne DuMaurier
15) The King’s General, “”
16) The Glassblowers, “”
17) Classics of the Macabre, “”
18) Great Stories of Mystery and Suspense, ed. Reader’s Digest, 1981
19) The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty
20) 55 Short Stories from the New Yorker, 1940-1950
21) Rising Sun, Michael Crichton
22) Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya
23) Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisnero
24) Duo & Le Toutounier, Colette
25) The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimoore Cooper
Great adventure, lousy prose. Telling someone to duck should not take a paragraph of speech.
26) Daughter of Fortune, Isabelle Allende
27) Falling Angels, Tracy Chevalier
28) The Adventures of Robin Hood, Creswick
29) Carrie, Stephen King
Got him published for a reason. Powerful, horrifying, and sad.
30) The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon, “”
31) A Live Coal in the Sea, Madeline L’Engle
32) A Severed Wasp, “”
33) Pearl, Tabitha King
34) Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackery
35) Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon
Ugh. BOO. Who decided that Pynchon is God’s gift to America? His prose is dreadful, his characters floppily nonsensical, and his plot fails to take off. Ever. Yuck.
36) Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck
Oh, Steinbeck. You’re so much better when you’re not writing about drunks.
37) Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
38) The Bonesetter’s Daughter, “”
39) Outliers, Malcom Gladwell
40) Blink, “”
41) Stories Not for the Nervous, compiled by Alfred Hitchcock
42) Stories for Late at Night, “”
43) In the Woods, Tana French
44) The Likeness, “”
I have never wanted to enter a world so badly since reading the Narnia books when I was eight. Tana French is a genius.
45) The Thief of Time, Terry Pratchett
46) Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
47) Enchantment, Orson Scott Card
Ben bought this for me after a very disappointing viewing of Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”. We discussed the need for good faerie tales, and for Anderson getting over his father-figure issues. “Enchantment” is a lovely retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”, set in Russia, complete with the eminently terrifying Baba Yaga.
I can’t wait to read this one to my children.
48) Peony, Pearl S. Buck
Interesting language—very formal in style. But I like it. It doesn’t have quite the same pull as “Good Earth”, but it’s still intriguing, and Buck is excellent at painting characters.
49) Disobedience, Naomi Alderman
Follows the return of an ex-Orthodox Jewish woman to her British hometown after the death of her Rav father. Was fantastic until Alderman decided to turn her book into an ode to lesbianism. Lost focus about halfway through novel—do we discuss Judaism? Feminism? British-ness? The Torah? A bit of a let-down, really.
50) Secrets of a Fire King, Kim Edwards
A lovely collection of short stories, but they are all tragedies. I appreciate Edwards’ iced-tea prose, but I do wish girlfriend had put a few bits of sunshine into these stories.
51) Velocity, Dean Koontz
Meh. The usual fare. Scary, but the fear never gave me nightmares. Two dimensional characters don’t have that penetrative ability.
52) Correlli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
Lush. Gorgeous. Heartbreaking. The first third is a bit confusing, but de Bernieres pulls all of his loose threads together with a masterful hand. I had no idea that Italy invaded Greece during WWII; the love of a conqueror for the conquered is an old story, told beautifully here. I was a bit off-put by the ending; a tad abrupt, but still wonderful.
53) Passage to India, EM Forster
Makes me think I should read “Kim”. Oh, British colonialism, would we have any stories without you?
54) The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti
Oh, good Lord. Valenti has a soapbox, and she’s not afraid to use it; namely, she feels that the “purity myth” is solely the fault of WASP men, and that blaming “the patriarchy” is an effective method of getting her point across. Some parts of the virginity debate do need to change—for example, girls should not have more weight placed on their purity than boys. Valenti misses her opportunity to have a honed argument—she chooses to bludgeon her reader with rants against men and purity balls (she reaaaaaally hates these) instead.
55) The Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
I love this book. I was first introduced to the film in 9th grade English by the marvelous Mr. Chessman, and I never forgot the beauty of Africa portrayed in it. The book follows the life of an English-speaking child in South Africa, just prior to Apartheid, who makes it his ambition to be the welter-weight champion of the world. Courtenay’s writing is sweeping, glorious, and hard.
56) Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver
Had a hard time with this book. It’s a continuation of the poignant “The Bean Trees”, which is not a bad plan, really, but I simply couldn’t agree with some of the philosophies in this novel; namely, that a Native American tribe has the right to take a child away from her adopted mom, simply to keep the child in that tribe. I’m just…not okay with that notion.
57) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
58) The Return of Sherlock Holmes, “”
59) Secret Windows, Stephen King
Stephen King is a good writer of fiction. He is an *astonishing* writer of essays. I love his looks into the psychology and art of writing; I love his critiques of other horror/sci-fi authors; he is concise, insightful, and brilliant in these essays (this book also includes one of the first stories he wrote when he was a kid…whoa).
60) The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
An interesting take on the very, very brief story of Dinah in Genesis 34. Diamant is a decent writer, and I love imagining the stories behind the undetailed Hebrew narrative of the Old Testament, but I do take issue with her blatant misrepresentation of Joseph in this book (there were *some* good men during that time period; there’s no sense in re-writing their characters in order to make the women of your narrative look better in comparison).
That said, still a good read.
(at least, the ones I can remember…):
Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion; Jane Austen
Generation X, Shampoo Planet; Douglas Coupland
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare
Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
Anne of Green Gables Collection, LM Montgomery
Matilda, Esio Trot, Roald Dahl