Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reading Deliberately

We are one month into 2010 and I have been talking and thinking a lot about what I am going to read this year and have come to the conclusion that I want to read a little more deliberately. There are numerous books that I really have intended to read for sometime that I just somehow have never gotten around to. I usually read more classics, more "literature" and at least one or two nonfiction books. Here are books that I really want to make an effort to read in 2010. This should still leave me plenty of room to read spontaneously as well as read my book club books.

2666 by Roberto Bolano
Gold Bug Variation by Richard Powers
New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Castle by Franz Kafka
Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Winters Tale by Mark Helprin (re read)
Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Lost City of Z by David Grann (nonfiction)

There are also books that I really want to read that will fit perfectly with some challenges that I intend to participate in.

Shriek and Finch by Jeff Vandermeer - Once Upon a Time
The City and the City by China Mieville - Once Upon a Time
Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - RIP
Master and Margarita by
Mikhail Bulgakov - RIP
Wild Sheep Chase by
Haruki Murakami - Japanese Literature
Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr - SF
Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi - SF

In addition, while I don't think I can join the Art History Reading Challenge, I love reading their reviews and would love to read at least one book about art, either fiction or non-fiction, this year.

I also love reading books about books, so I would like to read at least one book about books, libraries, reading, writing or book collecting.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Housekeeper and the Professor

by Yoko Ogawa
U.S. Edition 2009

This is the charming story of an elderly mathematics proffessor whose memory only lasts 80 minutes. He quickly goes through many housekeepers until he meets the housekeeper of the title (no names are used in this book) who brings her son, whom the professor nicknames Root because his head is flat and resembles the square root sign. Although the professor doesn't remember them each day they are able to connect as Root shares his love of baseball with the professor and the professor teaches them the elegance of mathematics.

It is beautifully written and although the premise sounds depressing it was not in the least. My husband read it as well and absolutely loved it.

This was my last read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3. I also read All She Was Worth. I didn't get to the Tatoo Murder Case or Wild Sheep Chase but hopefully Bellezza will host again and I can read them then. Once again I enjoyed the challenge and especially reading everybody's reviews, so thanks Bellezza for hosting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Review Round Up

There are four books that I didn't get to review in 2009 so here is a short post about them.

Lucky One I read for my book club. Lucky One, by Nicholas Sparks, is about a veteran that returns from Afghanistan to search for a women in a photo he found there. Now I know there is a reason why I have never read Sparks books before. One book club member said it was a Harlequin romance but other members objected and said that Harlequins are better. I don't know about that but the only thing I liked about the thing was the dog.

Cane River was also a book club selection which I did not have high hopes for but I was actually pleasantly surprised. It is not great literature but at least it was entertaining and I found the characters engaging. And I found its Civil War era focus on French settlements of both slaves and gens de couleur libre interesting.

Martian Chronicle by Ray Bradbury was also a book club selection and my favorite of these four books. It was also only the second sci fi book the book club has read in its entire 10 year history. While it was certainly dated this was also part of its charm - a real time capsule into what the concerns of the late 1940s - 1950s were all about. It is really a set of linked short stories and as in all short story collections, I liked some better than others. I especially liked the ones that focused on the Martians. There was this wonderful one with a glass or crystal house with water flowing through it, and I wished there were more stories about the Martian's way of life before people from Earth showed up. My favorite was Usher II about censorship in which a man builds his own Poe inspired mansion and gets revenge on the Moral Climate Monitors in the style of horror masterpieces. I agreed with my other book club members that it didn't really fit in this story collection but I still liked it.

Venus on the Half Shell was not a book club book but I have two friends that have been raving about this book for years and so even though it is out of print I tracked a copy down to see what all the fuss was about. I had first become aware of this book back in the late 70's when I was trying to track down and read all of Kurt Vonnegut. Back then there was no internet to easily find things and I had to rely upon my local book store. Venus was then published under the author's name Kilgore Trout, one of Kurt Vonnegut's characters, and there was speculation that Venus was written by Vonnegut. Apparently now it is determined that this book was actually written by Phillip Jose Farmer. In any case, the main character zooms around in his space ship visiting different planets and having numerous amorous encounters. Although it was Vonnegutesque, I found that each story seemed to be simply an excuse to discuss a topic of interest. Lets go to a planet to consider women's rights or aging etc. I didn't find the stories or characters particularly well written or interesting.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bookmarks Magazine Jan/Feb 2010

Here is what looked interesting in Bookmarks Magazine, as well as several that I was reminded that I had been meaning to read.

God Father of Kathmandu, John Burdett - S
Last Night in Twisted River, John Irving - S

Freedom, Daniel Suarez - SF
**read Daemon first
Blackout, Connie Willis - SF
Far North, Marcel Theroux - SF
Inverted World, Christopher Priest - SF
Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk
**read My Name is Red and Snow first
Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Peter Ackroyd
Invisible, Paul Auster
**read the New York Trilogy first
The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
Generosity, Richard Powers
**read Gold Bug Variations first
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, Allison Bartlett - NF
Lit, Mary Karr - Memoir
**read The Liar's Club first
Ayn Rand and the World She Made, Anne Heller