November/December Booklog

January 1, 2018

My giant year-in-review post will come along here in a few days, but I want to quickly touch on what I read these last couple of months.

  1. McSweeney’s #50 (5/5) – The did their 50th issue right. I’m not claiming every single element was a home run, but most of the content was. Much better than issue 49.
  2. Spring, A Folio Anthology (3.5/5) – An easy and enjoyable little giveaway from the Folio Society. Nice bits of thematically linked prose and poetry.
  3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (5/5) – Live up to the hype. Reminded me a bit of Garcia-Marquez, which is a high compliment.
  4. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (4/5) – Good, but not as good as her best work. Another entry in the dystopian genre but, well, she really nails the ending, I think. I won’t spoil it, but it’s exactly right.
  5. Vita Nuova by Louise Gluck (3.5/5) – I’ve been slowly reading my way through Gluck. If this was the first thing of hers I’d read, I think I’d be floored, but as it wasn’t
  6. Witch Wife by Kiki Petrosino (3/5) – Some excellent stuff in here, but less unified and somehow more repetitive than her last volume of poetry. I feel like this needed a bit of culling and a little extra material.
  7. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (4/5) – I mostly enjoyed this very much, like all Dickens, it got a bit wordy at times, especially during the last quarter or so. But I’d been meaning to read it for years, and I’m glad I did.

December Book Log

January 1, 2015

This was a really nice reading month for me. I finished eleven books, which ties the most books I’ve ever read in a month. A lot of them were short, though, as I was powering through Shakespeare, which I did finish, so there’s another goal met. December’s list is below. My year-in-review post will be up in a day or two.

1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (5/5) – I taught this book for the second time this year and read it for, I don’t know, the bazillionth time. It’s good. You know. Dickens and all that. I won’t pretend I have new stuff to say about it.

2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (5/5) – I also taught this, but reading it for only the second time, I took a great deal from it. As with all books that I reread, I was able to appreciate the way Tolstoy structured this. Of particular note were the complimentary narratives of Levin and Anna, which play off each other brilliantly. Anna Karenina deserves it’s reputation as one of the greatest novels ever, and I continue to be impressed by Tolstoy’s excellent run at providing the meaning of life.

3. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare (5/5) – Here at the end, Shakespeare has become a bit more uneven. Lots unfinished. Lots of strange choices, but this was great. It does a wonderful job of mixing comedic elements with a serious exploration of redemption. Well done all around. It’s one I’ll revisit.

4. Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (4/5) – It is easy to imagine this as one of Shakespeare’s great plays. The material is all there. The story is compelling. But it is either unfinished or not entirely written by Shakespeare (or, perhaps, just lazily done in places). The poetry isn’t there like it is in his best plays, and so it’s not quite a masterwork.

5. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (5/5) – I remembered this as one of my favorites by Shakespeare, and it still is. Brisk and brilliant, I’ll be teaching it in the new year, and it’s one of few I feel like I can stand to re-read right away. It belongs every bit in the same place as Lear or Macbeth or Hamlet.

6. Henry VIII by William Shakespeare (4/5) – This is a collaboration, and as the collaborations have been generally terrible, I was not looking forward to it. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s fun in a way that none of Shakespeare’s other plays are. And Henry VIII comes with a good story already. This is the only one of Shakespeare’s collaborations that I might someday revisit.

7. Edward III by William Shakespeare (2.5/5) – The last one I had to read. It is such a recent addition to the cannon that it wasn’t included in my complete Shakespeare, and I only found out about it through friend. There are moments of nice poetry, but overall, it is not a good play. No need to ever read it again.

8. McSweeney’s 32 (3.5/5) – A back issue I picked up at a used book store. It was decidedly meh. I’m starting to figure out that whenever McSweeney’s commissions writers to write on a particular topic, they get a couple of great stories, a few okay, and several that just don’t work.

9. Leonard Cohen: Songs and Poems by Leonard Cohen (3/5) – This is part of the Pocket Poets series. There are some very, very good pieces here, but Cohen writes about the same stuff in the same way fairly often and his rhymes are pretty obvious. I like him best when he sticks to unrhymed free verse. In those instances, his creative metaphors and similes really shine.

10. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (5/5) – Cate got me a beautiful illustrated edition of this for Christmas. I really like Jack London, but hadn’t read this since seventh grade. Because he is so often read only by middle school boys, London gets unfairly overlooked. HIs sentences are great and he is able to pack a pretty fierce emotional punch in not that many pages. Having re-read it, this feels like one I’ll revisit with some regularity.

11. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat by John Gribbin (5/5) – This was a great book. I like to read about physics, and no one ever gives a good in-depth treatment to quantum mechanics. This does AND it makes quantum mechanics really accessible. Gribbin is an excellent writer and now I’m going to see what other stuff he has written and maybe read that, too.