September Book Log

October 3, 2018

Four books this month. Not enough, but I’m hoping to pick it up in October.

  1. The Overstory by Richard Powers (4.5/5) – This is one of the big novels of the moment. I was very skeptical for a while because it seemed like a short story collection pretending to be a novel. It isn’t. Everything winds together eventually and wonderfully. The ending is imperfect and just a bit too heavy, but the experience f reading it was definitely worth it.
  2. The Golden Cockerel by Alexander Pushkin (4/5) – I got hold of a wonderfully illustrated little edition of this a while ago. Since, I read The Golden Cockerel by Juan Rulfo. Obviously, folktales wind together. Anyway, there was no real connection. But the Russians are the best and Russian folk tales are always a good read.
  3. Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee (5/5) – I’m teaching this for the first time in several years. Lee is one of the best writers of prose out there, I think. This book does an excellent job of honestly illustrating humanity and the themes present always feel like things worth considering. It’s focus on recent immigrants feels especially relevant now.
  4. The Imagined Land by Eduardo Berti (4/5) – Another from Deep Vellum Press, which continues to be my favorite indie press. This is a story about pre-revolutionary China translated from Spanish and written by an Argentine writer who currently lives in France. Which, yeah. It seems a recipe for things to go wrong, but it was a satisfying read. The first person narration and close-focus of the story were well-executed and to me, at least, it seemed authentic and well-researched.

May Book Log

June 1, 2015

It is about to be summer time, and I’ve managed to stay on track for 100 books this year. It’s totally something I’m trying to do just to see if I can, but so far, so good. Summer broke me last year, though, so we’ll have to see how it does this year. Onward…

1. Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov (3.5/5) – I enjoyed much of this, but Nabakov is awfully indulgent in some spots. There was a 20 page chapter that could be cut more or less entirely without losing anything. It was the first time I’d read Nabokov and not found it to be pretty much perfect, which is nice in a way. Nobody’s perfect. Anyway, it was entertaining. Not perfect, but solid.

2. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Expury (5/5) – Sweet Jesus. I hadn’t read this in ages and I certainly hadn’t read it since having children. I read it to Simone and at the end, I sobbed my way through the last five or six pages. The entire thing is legitmately brilliant and not just for a kid’s book. Like, all adults who haven’t read this as adults should read it because you missed a lot when you were nine or whatever.

3. Waterlight by Kathleen Jamie (3.5/5) – This was a collection of poetry Cate bought a while ago and liked. Some of the stuff in here is wonderfully evocative in the way I want lyric poetry to be. Other bits are less exciting, but that’s what you get with most collections. Certainly worth dipping into.

4. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (5/5) – We all have gaps. Borges was one of my gaps. Other than a stray essay here and there, I hadn’t read him. I shall now make a habit of reading him. This collection is an utter masterpiece. Unique in my experience as a reader. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. I mean, it’s probably not for everyone, because it is very strange in spots, but it’s brilliant, so even if you might not like it, you should probably read it anyway.

5. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (3/5) – This is one that had been on my list for ages. I can now say for certain that I prefer Tolstoy who has well-developed female characters and isn’t completely obsessed with religion the way Dostoevsky often seems to be. Much of this is truly brilliant and I’m glad I read it, but it should have at least a third of it cut out. Possibly as much as half.

6. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (5/5) – I recently bought a fancy edition of this and reread it. It’s my favorite Hemingway. The prose is breathtaking and it’s one of the most moving endings I’ve ever encountered. It was completely stunning the first time I read it, and it remains so. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

7. Reef by Romesh Gunesekera (4/5) – This was on Cate’s list for me this year. Cate always does a good job for me and this is no exception. It’s very much a snapshot novel, but it does a great job showing how people are often oblivious to the rapid change taking place around them. I finished it not thinking it was the best book I’d ever read, but keeps bouncing around my head.

8. Aloft by Chang-rae Lee (4/5) – This was the only one of Lee’s novels I hadn’t read and it is also the only of his books to get truly mixed reviews. I found it very enjoyable, but imperfect. There is something about the main character that doesn’t feel quite true. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book. It is very good. Lee does a great job of conveying very delicate and complicated emotions. He just doesn’t do a perfect job.

9. An Illustrated Selection by William Wordsworth (4/5) – I’d read snatches of Wordsworth over the years, but never a concentrated volume. I enjoyed this thoroughly, though, of course, there were some I didn’t love. Wordsworth is often very calming for me. Anyway, legendary poet and stuff, yada, yada, yada.

October Book Log

November 2, 2014

This was a pretty big reading month for me, including a couple of big books. Generally, I was quite pleased. Most of this year has been rather down for me where reading is concerned, but things have looked up lately. I do need to really pick it up with Shakespeare if I’m going to get through the plays. Anyway…

1. Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee (5/5) – This was a re-read for me and the second book my AP Lit class read. I’ve discovered, through teaching, that it generally takes me three reads before I feel like I really know a book. This was my third read, and as such, I saw all the layers and how they are built by Lee. He is one of our greatest contemporary writers. I never tire of his prose.

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (3.5/5) – I read this to Simone. It was a fun little book. She certainly enjoyed it. I found it fun, but a little wanting at times. Preachy in places. I don’t like children’s books to preach, even if I agree with them.

3. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (5/5) – This was one that I picked up at the bookstore, having heard good things, read the first page of, and then bought. His range is unbelievable. He seems to be able to write whatever and whomever he wants and to do it convincingly. I’ve read two of his books now, and will have to read the rest.

4. Troillus and Cressida by William Shakespeare (2/5) – Blech. This was supposedly a commissioned work. It’s pretty awful. Not one I’ll eve likely revisit.

5. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (5/5) – Re-read this for AP as well. I really like Ibsen. I need to read more of him. I do tire of re-reading plays more quickly than I do with novels, though. I can probably stand to read this one or two more times before I really feel the need to teach something else for a while.

6. Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (5/5) – I’ve read this probably ten times now. I love it. It’s still the most common answer I give when asked what my favorite book is. I found myself this time really appreciating the unity of passion that runs through all the stories. Still, this year, I started to feel I knew it a little too well. I started to notice little structural ticks and other things that become apparent only after reading something many times. I think it is time to rest on it for a while.

7. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (4/5) – Some of the comedies have started to blur together for me, but I did enjoy this one. Other than the rare misstep, Shakespeare has been consistently good or great since getting over some issues early in his career. I’m intrigued to reach the end.

8. Othello by William Shakespeare (5/5) – I hadn’t read this in ages and found that I liked it more than I’d liked it before. Probably one of my favorites now. Iago really is a thing to behold. That kind of evil is generally unrealistic, but that doesn’t make it less engaging, especially when it’s written as well as this.

9. Middlemarch by George Eliot (5/5) – This book and I have a history. It was the only book in my undergraduate English courses that I found myself completely unable to manage. I think I read about 40 or 50 pages and then gave up. Well, 15 years later, here I am finally having read it. And it really was very, very, very good. I don’t know why I had a problem with it before except that I was young and stupid. I didn’t expect Eliot to be so amusing. It is a very English novel, but done very well. I’d prefer this to anything I’ve read of Jane Austen.