Thursday, December 10, 2009

Books. Lots of Them.

Trying to catch up on book reviews I've missed sharing...

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith :: (Okay, I'm actually not quite finished, but...) The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is so refreshing to read. Cultural insight, gems of wisdom, well-written yet simple, humorous, witty. For me, the books are perfect when I'm craving something light and entertaining but don't want to feel as if I'm wasting my time.

Light in the Window by Jan Karon :: Another series for light, entertaining reading without guilt. This is the second book in the Mitford series, and I was determined to just sit back and enjoy. No picking it apart or thinking too much. And that's exactly what I did. Lovely, except I was a little disappointed at the ending. After the author allowed us to partake in so many small details of the romance, why on earth did she leave out the proposal, engagement, and wedding?!!

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly :: An interesting Newberry Medal winner, published in 1928. The Trumpeter of Krakow is set in 1460 Poland. I found the book worthwhile and well-written, but not necessarily a page-turner.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins :: Now this was a page-turner. In fact, I couldn't stop turning pages and finished it in one day. I told Russ that he would like it, but not to start it that evening. He came to bed at 4 am.

An astonishing thing I've learned about myself in the past few years: I enjoy futuristic novels. Even distopian novels as long as there is some hope woven into the story. I've loved The Giver trilogy, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, and Ender's Game. (But LOATHED 1984.) The Hunger Games was recommended by both my friend, Trish, at What Came Down Today and Seth at Collateral Bloggage. I realize that this book will not be many of my readers' cup of tea. Teenage gladiators in a future, not-so-pleasant world. I'm waiting for the second book at the library, but I won't be picking it up until I have a day with no other obligations. (When is that, again?)

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card :: What was I saying about futuristic novels? Oh, yeah, I like them! I read Ender's Game a year or two ago. It was so far out of my box, that I felt like I'd been knocked senseless by a blow to the head. The problem (well, my problem) with reading about times and places so far from my experience is that I have to completely dive in, immersing myself in the experience. I have a difficult time getting started (what with either three million interruptions during the day or a foggy head at night). Then, once I'm in deep, I have a hard time coming up for air (or wiping noses and fixing grilled-cheese sandwiches...). Anyway, I loved Ender's Game, primarily for the way Ender's astonishing leadership skills developed and played out. (The same reason I fell in love with Watership Down, even though it is, shockingly, a book about rabbits.)

A few people have told me that, as much as they liked Ender's Game, the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, was their favorite. While I enjoyed the book, my favorite moments were the ones with Ender....and there just weren't quite enough of those.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde :: Strange, strange story. But I now feel slightly more culturally literate. So, there.

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald :: I read this one aloud to Levi. It was fun to revisit an old favorite from my childhood, and really well-written children's books are even better when read as an adult. This is one of them. We're looking forward to reading The Princess and Curdie.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy :: This was a really long book which I was determined was going to get better, or even get going. It didn't. Sigh.

Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde :: Meh. I enjoyed the author's Highland Fling much more, though neither were a great use of my time.

I think that catches us up to date. I have so many books on my stack. It is growing much faster than I am reading. Upon recent reflection, though, I think I read an average of 2-4 books a year in the early years of my marriage. I weep for that wasted time! Starting book club in 2004 was a huge jump-start to my new reading life. I read almost every book club selection, but only a couple additional books during the year.

It wasn't until I started this blog at the beginning of 2007 and joined a seasonal reading challenge that my reading turned into a life of its own. And this year, even with a lull in the middle, I will have read over 50 books! I'm not reading just to cross books of my list or bump up my numbers, but I'm really proud of what I have accomplished! I've read classics, non-fiction, children's fiction, YA books, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, romances, old books, new books, short books, long books. And it feels good.

My reading list for 2010 is taking shape. I urge you to think about being intentional with your reading. Make a list. Even if it is only 5 or 10 books long. My own list is intentionally ambitious. I know that I won't read every book (I certainly didn't this year), and that I will end up reading several books not listed, but that's okay!

I'll be posting my reading round-up for 2009 as well as my reading list for 2010 during the last week of December. Want to join me?

Why Read? Reading is a sage way to bump up against life. Reading may be an escape, but it is not escape from my own life and problems. It is escape from the narrow boundaries of being only me. Reading in some wonderful way helps me find out who I am. When she was a young girl Patricia MacLachlan's mother urged her to "read a book and find out who you are." And it is true that in some way reading defines me as it refines me. Reading enlarges my vision of the world; it helps me understand someone who is different from me. It makes me bigger on the inside. We tend to see the world from our own perspective; it is good to see it from the eyes of others. Good literature helps me understand who I am in relation to what others experience. Far from being an escape from reality, good literature is a window into reality. I read to feel life.

~Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Woman's Soul


Skeller said...

Hunger Games, eh? Ok, I've got that one sitting around here somewhere (Eldest Dude read it).

I just finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet (which I'm pretty sure I got off one of your lists this year). Perhaps my favorite book this year. (or maybe closely tied with Little French Girl and The Glass Castle). Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Heather said...

You inspire me, Heidi... thank you!

Heidi said...

Susan~ I was thinking of you as Twilight was added to our book club list for this next year. I get to be culturally up-to-date. :) (Actually, I did already watch the 1st movie, but...) I loved Hotel when I read it early this year!! I'm glad you loved it, also!

Heasleye said...

Just a quick note regarding the Mitford wedding...there is an entire book for all those details. "A Common Life" is the wedding story. :)


jodi said...

glad to hear your similar-to-mine thoughts of maeve binchy. i have a friend who loves all her books, but that one,,, i just couldn't get into.

now, have you read "tending the heart of virtue"? (how classic stories awaken a child's moral imagination). that's the book that prompted me to read "the princess and the goblin" and i just couldn't make the connections about the symbolism. admittedly, i'm so tired these past oh, 15 years or so, that bed time reading doesn't lend itself well to thought provoking pick-apartism (and apparently has sucked my vocabulary dry. i really must get more sleep).

hope you know what i mean--i so enjoy your book posts. my list is so long! (and right now i'm watching-and enjoying- bleak house episodes on my laptop before bed. thanks to YOU)
be blessed-
jodi (pa)

Heidi said...

Elaine~ Well, that's helpful. :) There was the first chapter of the next book in the series (These High, Green Hills) which began after they were married, so I was assuming she completely skipped it. Nice to know there is a whole book about it. :)

Jodi~ I don't express myself well at all when it comes to that stuff. I just know that I loved the book, I love George MacDonald (and trust his writing and theology), and Levi loved it. I haven't read Tending the Heart of Virtue, but it doesn't surprise me in the least that they would include anything by George MacDonald.

Seth said...

The side stories in Speaker for the Dead definitely did detract from the Ender-focused-content, but I just love the Ender/Human interaction. I recommend looking for the Audio Renaissance version of it.

I just got Catching Fire and am deliberately reading in measured amounts. After all, Book 3 isn't out yet...

Skeller said...

oh dear. don't tell the choclit club that *I* read those books [wry & embarrassed grin!]. and the movie? I couldn't stand it.

nonetheless ... enjoy! ;-)

Mon Cheri said...

love the quote at the end of your post. She has a way of summing it up perfectly-it's what I've always felt but can't put into words.

Skeller said...

hmmmm. Started Hunger Games yesterday. Finished it about an hour ago. Yup, bad mama points to me. Good thing I don't often read books like that (and really, I don't have an appetite for too much of that genre). Definitely a page turner. Parts I liked. Parts I didn't. Hate that it follows that current trend of not being a "complete" story in itself, ends really with just a "pause" in the action. Which means I have to get the next book. sigh.

Heidi said...

Susan~ Yeah, I can't do a steady diet of those books, either. A couple a year works for me, though. It drives me *crazy* when the story doesn't end at the end of the book. I think that is why I have trouble with series in general. I don't want to spend months on the same characters and story line... Just to warn you, Hunger Games is a trilogy and #3 isn't out yet.

Skeller said...

yup. I just discovered that this evening. I dropped by Barnes & Noble after Trader Joe's and thumbed thru #2. I'm not too proud to admit (shhhh!) that I peeked at the last page. As soon as I discovered it was barely (and I do mean barely) a "pause", I had no problem putting that book back on the shelf and walking out without buying it. I have a huge aversion to unfinished serial books. Certainly there's no hurry to read it tonight (while I still remember #1), if I have to wait 11 more months (by which time I'll have completely forgotten #1&2) for the real finish.

Oh well. At least it was fun to discuss various points of the book with Eldest Dude today...
And I did enjoy the book itself (lest I give the impression otherwise with all my grumbling ;-) ).