Thursday, September 23, 2010

Booking Through Thursday--Current

Here's this week's Booking Through Thursday question:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

(I’ve asked this one before, but, well, it’s not like the answers stay the same, and darn it, it’s an interesting question!)

It's a simple question, but always interesting--a snapshot of what people are reading right now. I always ask it at cocktail parties, and when I meet someone interesting, and when I email my cousin...

My answer is, I'm reading a bunch of stuff right now. I'm reading My Hollywood, by Mona Simpson, which makes me cringe because of its resemblance to my own life. I chose it because my good friend recommended it, and because it's about my town. I've also just started Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those books I just can't put down, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. I chose it because I loved his The Corrections, and I have been waiting (forever) for this one to come out, and because I'm planning to force my book group to read it. And I'm also reading, slowly, Ten Poems to Change Your Life, by Roger Housden, because I love poetry and I don't read enough of it.

What are you reading right now? Why did you choose it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Salon

The Sunday

This morning I finished a really interesting book, Ideas of Heaven, by Joan Silber. It was recommended to me by someone (a lovely woman who works with my husband) who had studied with Ms. Silber. The book's cover says the book is "a ring of stories", which is an apt description. It's one of those books of stories that are connected, a construct I am coming to really appreciate. This book is really cleverly done. The stories are all linked in some way, and the last story connects to the first, making it a "ring", as the cover says. I loved the writing, and the way the writer takes us all over the world and all through time with these stories, yet keeps them accessible. I'll have to write up a review soon.

I am planning to read Mona Simpson's My Hollywood next--I'll crack it open tonight after the kids go to bed. I probably wouldn't have picked this one up on my own, but a friend I trust recommended it, and said it was a quick and enjoyable read. I have to see what Simpson's Hollywood is like, as I live very near Hollywood myself(my neighborhood is sort of south of Hollywood and west of Koreatown). I'm betting my Hollywood is nothing like her My Hollywood, but I'll let you know.

And then on to Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, Oprah's choice (ah, the symmetry) for her book club, which will most likely be the choice for my book group as well. One of my go-to bookish friends really loved it, so I'm really looking forward to starting it soon.

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Booking Through Thursday--Day and Night

Today’s Booking Through Thursday question is suggested by Mae.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I just read and read, day and night … it was there I began to divide books into day books and night books,” she went on. “Really, there are books meant for daytime reading and books that can be read only at night.”
- ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera, p. 103.

Do you divide your books into day and night reads? How do you decide?

Wow. When I read this, I realized this was one question about reading I had never considered before. I love The Unbearable Lightness of Being, where the quote is from, by the way.

While I've never categorized books into day books and night books before, there are certainly books I have read far into the night. There are also books that I put down at night because they are too scary to contemplate alone late at night. They might not be traditionally "scary", but they might prompt me to think about uncomfortable things, things I don't want to think about at night, like our insignificance in the universe--stuff like that.

On the other hand, because it was a page-turner that sucked me in, I read one scary book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, until far into the night, because even though the subject matter wasn't something I want to think about at night, I just couldn't put the book down. So there are definitely those books that transcend day and night, because you just keep reading them, through night and day and night again.

While I can see why people might want to read "safe", comforting sort of books at night, and read books that take them out of their comfort zone during the day, I don't think I am truly one of those people.

What is the difference between your day reading and your night reading?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sunday Salon--Back in the Saddle Again

The Sunday

I'm finally ready to blog again, after a crazy-long unintended vacation from the whole thing. It's not that I haven't been reading, it's just that I didn't have much time to spare to think about what I had read. But now that all three kids are back in school and I've had about five minutes to myself, I find myself finally reflecting on what I read over the summer.

When I was a kid we used to travel to the UK to visit my relatives, every other year or so, and while I was young I developed a soft spot for British literature. This summer I did a bit of a British literary tour, sort of by accident. I just got on a roll, you know how it goes.

I read Nick Hornby's novel Juliet, Naked. I always love Hornby's sense of humor and his style, and this novel did not disappoint. This one is about an aging rock star who has gone incognito, the obsessed fans who write about him on the internet, and the girlfriend of one of those fans, who doesn't see what all the fuss is about. Hornby creates really accessible and sympathetic characters, and the budding friendship/love relationship between retired rocker Tucker Crowe and Annie, girlfriend/ex-girlfriend of obsessed fan Duncan is subtle and really satisfying to read. The whole thing is tinged with sadness, but it's the understandable sadness of people who look back on their lives and have some regrets, but who are also trying to be true to themselves now.

Then my sister-in-law lent me another British novel, One Day, by David Nicholls, which I had never heard of before. Like Hornby's book, it was a page-turner. The book has a gimmick--it checks in with the characters on one particular day each year, over a period of twenty or so years, so it's a snapshot of their evolving relationship on that day. I so enjoyed the book's sense of humor, the snappy dialogue, and I'm a sucker for books about star-crossed relationships, so it was a lot of fun. I wasn't a huge fan of the book's (perhaps gratuitously sad) ending, but I'm not going to spoil it for you, and it didn't spoil the book for me, so...I'm keeping my mouth shut.

Then I hopped over to Ireland and read two books by Patrick Taylor in the "Irish Country Doctor" series. I read An Irish Country Doctor, and An Irish Country Village, the first and second books in a series that includes several more novels about a country doctor set in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Now, when I was a kid I was a big fan of James Herriott's books about being a vet in Yorkshire, so I knew I would probably like these books. I don't think they are quite as good as the Herriott books, but I enjoyed their gentle humor, the medical anecdotes and the evocation of the atmosphere of that particular time and place in Irish history.

So this next book was set in France, Britain and mostly America, and it was written by Australian superstar Peter Carey, so it sort of qualifies as a continuation of my British theme. My book group chose Parrot and Olivier in America as one of our summer reads, so I took it on vacation with me. It was a fascinating book, and talk about atmosphere--Carey is a brilliant stylist, and his descriptions of late 18th century America, as perceived by a French aristocrat (a la de Tocqueville) and his down-to-earth British sidekick Parrot, are amazing. All the books I read this summer had humor as a hallmark, and this was no exception--I love Carey's eye for the absurd, and his fabulously unreliable narrators, both definitely on display here. I'm really looking forward to discussing this with my book group in a couple of weeks.

I'm hoping to convince the ol' book group to read Jonathan Franzen's new book, Freedom. While on vacation in Cape Cod last month, my sister-in-law and I tried to get a copy of Freedom from a local bookstore, only to be told that it wasn't out yet. We had both heard that President Obama had taken the book on vacation with him, and we found out from the bookseller that he had an advance copy! I was so annoyed because I thought I was going to be able to read it on the beach.

Okay, I'm ending with a weird picture of my new running shoes. There's a book out there called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall, that tells the story of Mexico's Tarahumara indians, and of the joys and benefits of barefoot running. Friends tell me the book is really inspiring and very entertaining, so I plan to get a copy. But just talking about it with friends inspired me to buy some running shoes that approximate barefoot running. So far I have only used them once, and I've been advised not to run too far in them at first. After the first day, my calves are a little sore, so we'll see how it goes next time...

But aren't they funny looking?