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It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme now hosted by Sheila over at One Person’s Journey through a World of Books.

I think I’m finally getting out of my reading rut. Being in a reading rut is bad when you’re a bookworm but it’s even worse when you’re a book blogger. Last week I finally read and finished my second and third adult books of the year: A Photographer’s Life by Annie Leibovitz and  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Fingers crossed that I’m able to write reviews this week.

I seem to be on a non-fiction kick so this morning I started How To be an Everyday Philanthropist by Nicole Bouchard Boles. The author gives readers 330 different ways to make a difference without giving money. Another non-fiction book I’m reading is Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison. Spilling Open is Harrison’s collection of pages from her journal. So far I love the pages I’ve read. It makes me want to write more in my own journal.

I just started listening to The Soloist by Steve Lopez on audio. Lopez is a LA Times reporter who becomes friends with homeless violinist, Nathaniel Ayers. I’m listening to it because next month is my city’s The Big Read. March kicks off with a lot of great events that I can’t wait to go to that includes author signings, book discussions, and more.

Later today I’m starting another non-fiction read, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I’m reading this with Joy over at BiblioAddict. Joy is one of my favorite bloggers so I’m pretty psyched to be reading this with her. Another read-along for this week is Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann with Natasha over at Heidenkind’s Hideaway. If you’re not on Twitter, you need to be. Natasha is a bad influence when it comes to books. Because of her I want to read Jane Austen and a ton of art history books. She’s funny and very smart.

So that’s what I’m reading this week. What are you reading?

A Year of Reading Deliberately

Sunday Salon: A Year of Reading Deliberately

Last week I took an unofficial break from from blogging to focus on finals. With school basically over for the next four weeks, I can finally come back to reading and blogging.

Two weeks ago, Michelle from Galleymith, Jennifer from The Literate Housewife, Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog, and myself were all on Twitter discussing our reading plans for next year. Rebecca came up with the great name, A Year of Reading Deliberately. I had been thinking about my reading plans for a while before the discussion. This year a lot of the books I read were ‘blah’, nice but nothing I want to keep on my shelves or buy. They weren’t memorable. I would like to blame this on being a moody reader but I can’t. Thinking about my favorite reads of this year won’t be too hard because the favorites really stick out. Next year I want to read more challenging books. Books that I have ignored because of their pace or subject matter. I want to get out of my comfort zone and pick up books I probably wouldn’t have without it being required reading.

Next year reading deliberately means:

Diversity. I’ve read a few books written by authors of color this year but not enough. Last week I read Chameleon by Charles R. Smith Jr.  It’s the story of a young African American boy growing up and trying to decide his future. I would have missed this book if it wasn’t for Jodie over at Book Gazing.  Next year I want to read more books by authors of color, more GLBT titles, and also more books by non-American authors. I’ve signed up for the GLBT and Canadian Book challenges to help me reach that goal.

Re-reading. Remember picking up a book you’ve read before and reading it again? I do too but it’s been a while since I’ve re-read a book. There have been a lot of times this year where I want to re-read favorites but instead read something new. Next year I plan on diving into my favorite books like East of Eden by John Steinbeck, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld, and others.

Project Fill-in-the Gaps. I started this project earlier this year to “fill in the gaps” of my reading of classics and contemporary fiction. Sad to say I haven’t worked on it much. I’m hoping to read at least twenty of the books on my list. It’s important to me to feel at least a little well-read. Some of the books on my list I’m taking off while others are going to be added on.

TBR Pile. I have a lot of unread books on my shelves right now and I’m not happy about it. Some of my books have been sitting on my shelves for a few years. I love my local library so I ended up reading library books more than the books I own. I want that to change, so next year I plan on using the library less.

Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. Earlier this week Rebecca over at Rebecca Reads wrote a post about being a selective reader. In it she says that she doesn’t know very much about any particular genre. She’s learning a little bit of every genre that’s important to her such as the classics. A few semesters ago I shared a class with a guy whose passion was mythology. He spent much of his time reading and re-reading Greek mythology and its re-tellings. I loved listening to him talk about it. It made  me want to read more mythology myself. So what I want is to be well-read in an area that I enjoy reading. So I’ve picked Pulitzer Prize-winning plays. This year I’ve read about ten plays that won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and enjoyed them all. I plan on reading as many as I can next year.

So this is what reading deliberately means to me. What does it mean to you? Are there any areas in your reading you would love to read more in? If you end up writing a post about reading deliberately, email me or comment below and I’ll add your link to this post.

Other thoughts on reading deliberately: A Literate Housewife * Nomadreader * Carrie * Care * Teresa (Shelf Love) * Trish (Hey Lady!) * Rebecca (Rebecca Reads) * Nicole (Linus’s Blanket) *

books, fiction, reading, reviews

Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

friedmanSea Change (2009)
Aimee Friedman
320 pages
Young Adult
Rating: Re-read

Summary

Miranda Merchant is ready to spend her summer interning at a museum in New York. But when her maternal grandmother Isadora dies, Miranda has to push her plans back and she and her mother travels to Silkie Island to take of Isadora’s estate. While there Miranda finds a strange book at the Mariner, her grandmother’s summer home. The book tells of the legend of the merman who once lived off the coast of the island. These mermen look normal but it’s when they’re fully in the water that you can see their true form.

While on the island Miranda meets Leo, a gorgeous and mysterious native who seems to be everything Miranda needs. But something tells Miranda that Leo is hiding a secret. Does it have to do with the merman legend?

Thoughts

What a great story! I was originally planning on waiting for the read-a-thon to read Sea Change. Last night I glanced through the book and ended up spending the next two hours reading. Miranda is a great character. She’s an intelligent and shy teenager who’s not really into dating and boys. She just tries to stay focused on her passion,which is science, and keep out of trouble. It’s when she meets Leo and also T.J. another boy, that she starts to understand what chemistry between two people feels like.

Friedman’s description of Silkie Island is so believable. I felt as if I was there. You can picture the setting so well, whether it was the Mariner or Fisherman’s Village.

If you’re participating in the upcoming read-a-thon and looking for a short but well-written story, look no further than Sea Change, a light tale about teenage love.

100 shots of short story reading challenge, books, Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Short Works Sunday

sunday salon

This week my reading has been all over the place. Since last Sunday I’ve read essays, short stories, graphic novels, and children’s books but no novels. For the last couple of years I’ve been primarily a novel reader, forgoing short stories, poetry, and essays for longer works. Though I have many novels I need to read before they have to be returned to the library, I’m happy just picking up a book, opening up to an unread story or essay, and digging in. Because of this I’ve been on a plane with Barbara Kingsolver as she tried to fit reading short stories into her busy life in “What Good is a Story?”, watched a family sing during a family member’s execution in Margo Lanagan’s “Singing My Sister Down”, and listened as silence takes over a big city in Kevin Brockmeir’s “The Year of Silence”.

I’m falling in love again with short works.

So now I’m off to read more of the stories I’ve been missing. Below is a list of the collections I’ve been reading from. Take care and have a great week.

01

Do you read short stories? Who are some of your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite collections?

books, reading, reviews

Essay Review: What Good Is a Story?

kingsolver

“What Good is a Story?”
from the essay collection, Small Wonder (2002)
written by Barbara Kingsolver

I have always wondered why short stories aren’t popular in modern America. We are such busy folks, you’d think we’d jump at the chance to have our literary wisdom served in doses that fit between taking the trash to the curb and waiting for the carpool. We should favor the short story and adore the poem. But we don’t. Short-story collections rarely sell half as well as novels; they are never blockbusters. They are hardly ever even block-denters. . .

This is the start of “What Good Is a Story?”, an essay by Barbara Kingsolver, detailing the three months she spent in 2000 as a guest editor for The Best American Short Stories series. Kingsolver had to read  125 short stories before she could pick the twenty best ones. In her essay, Kingsolver explains those hectic three months, why she loves short stories, and what reading means to her.

On reading during this hectic time,

. . . all of us have to work reading into our busy lives. The best tales can stand up to the challenge-and if anything can, it should be the genre of short fiction. . . If we lived in silent white rooms with no emergencies. . .we probably wouldn’t need fiction to help us explain the inexplicable, the storms at sea and deaths of too-young friends.

On choosing the stories that she did,

With a pile of stories on my lap I sat with this question, early on, and tried to divine for myself why was it that I loved a piece of fiction when I did, and the answer came to me quite clearly; I love it for what it tells me about life. I love fiction, strangely enough, for how true it is. If it can tell me something I didn’t already know, or maybe suspected but never framed quite that way, or never  before had sock me so divinely in the solar plexus, that was a story worth the read.

I don’t know about you, but that is very true for me. I don’t want to read anything predictable or something that I already know. Many of the books I’ve read lately have uncovered to me lives I don’t usually think about. Reading this essay reminded why I picked up this book the very first time. I enjoy Kingsolver’s writing. It’s accessible and tells me something that I knew but couldn’t put into words myself about reading.

I won’t give you any more quotes but if you’ve enjoyed any of Kingsolver’s other works, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this amazing collection of essays. Or if you haven’t read Kingsolver before but enjoy a mixture of the personal and the political, this book may be for you.

Other books you may enjoy:
A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock

books, Uncategorized

Currently reading: Three Bags Full

swann

Three Bags Full: A Sheep Detective Story (2005)
Leonie Swann
Translated from the German by Anthea Bell
344 pages
Flying Dolphin Press

This is what I’m reading right now and it’s one of the funniest books of 2009 so far. When shepherd George Glenn is murdered, it’s his flock of sheep that comes to the rescue to try and find the killer. Three Bags Full is different from anything I’ve ever read. The sheep are great characters. There’s nineteen sheep in all and every one have a personality very different from the others. With Miss Maple, the smartest sheep, Mopple the Whale who can remember anything you tell him to and is always hungry, and Sir Ritchfield, the lead ram, the flock set off to try and understand humans and their ways while finding out who murdered George.

There are plenty of literary references such as Othello, the black ram with a mysterious past, Melmoth the Wanderer, and more. The reader figures out what happens along with the sheep and the sheep’s observations keeps the reader wanting more. I’ve spent most of my free time this week reading this book. I can’t believe this is Swann’s first and only book out right now.

Maple knew them all; she had seen the younger sheep grow up; she herself had grown up with the older sheep. When she was still a lamb the escapades of Ritchfield and his twin, Melmoth, had kept the flock all agog. It was so long since Ritchfield last mentioned him that Maple had thought he’d forgotten him. Now she felt uneasy. The air was perfect: a cool wind blew off the sea, the meadow was fragrant. All the same, the whole place suddenly smelled of death, new death and old, almost forgotten death. Maple began to graze.

fiction, It's Monday, reading, Reading Journal

Reading Journal: Currently Reading

Yesterday I started reading Marilynne Robinson’s debut novel, Housekeeping. The novel is the story of Ruth and her sister, Lucille, as they’re raised first by their grandmother, then her sister-in-laws, then by Sylvie, their eccentric aunt. According to the back cover,

Ruth and Lucille’s struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

While reading Housekeeping I’ve learned that this is a book to read slowly. This book is lyrical, so well-written. I’ve been keeping a pencil with me every time I continue the story because of the beautiful passages I want to go back to later on. Like this passage,

If heaven was to be this world plunged of disaster and nuisance, if immortality was to be this life held in poise and arrest, and if this world purged and this life unconsuming could be thought of as world and life restored to their proper natures, it is no wonder that five serene, eventless years lulled my grandmother into forgetting what she should never have forgotten.

Originally published in 1980, Housekeeping was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. It didn’t win though Robinson later won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for her second novel, Gilead.