Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Top 10 of 10

I started a preliminary list of my top books for 2010 since we've hit the halfway point. It's a separate page, so if you just read this in your google reader click here to see what I've got.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Poisonwood Bible

I first read The Poisonwood Bible back in 2007 .

This is my review from back then:

"I had been told to read this book several (5!) years ago after seeing a movie about the ill-fated Lumumba and being interested in the history of the Congo during that period. For whatever reason, I never got around to it til a recent trip when I had to time to do some reading. Wow. I should have read this book years ago. The history is really interesting as the story of the Price family envelopes you. Any time a book gets you to feel so much emotion, its a good one. So if you've been like me, having this book on your to-read list, get to i

I reread it recently and still loved it. It is one of my all time favorites.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Last year I picked up a graphic novel for the first time. I actually picked it up on accident. Evan and I were in DC at the Air and Space Museum. We popped into the gift shop as it was closing. I saw Laika by Nick Abadzis and grabbed it. I didn't pick it up to look at it for a few months and when I did, I thought, "Ooops." But since I already owned it, I figured I'd try it out. Little did I expect, I really enjoyed it.

Since then I've read several graphic novels. Maus by Art Spiegelman came highly recommended. I thought it was wonderful.

Another book that was also suggested was Persepolis. It's the author's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, the Iran/Iraq War, and the years following those events. It's the story of an independent intelligent young woman trying to be herself both in the process of growing up and in the middle of an Iran that is politically and socially limiting. To me, it was also the story of her relationship with her wonderful parents. I loved them.

The book's setting of Iran during this time period was so interesting. The politics aren't described in great detail, but social issues certainly are. The stringent guidelines that were placed on society weren't surprising since I knew some about Iran, but still very intriguing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sleepover Friends

Lovely Little Shelf has a Friday Flashback feature that highlights a book read in childhood.

I recently found a copy of the Sleepover Friends book Kate's Camp-Out in the free bin at the library. I remember loving this series as a kid. I picked it up and read it quickly. It's another childhood series that's out of print.

They are simple books that revolve around a group of fifth grade friends that have sleepovers every weekend. Between the Sleepover Friends and the Babysitter's Club I always wondered why I didn't have a similar group of friends that did things like that. It makes more sense now. Did anyone have something like these groups?

One passage in the book made me gasp though:

"I could stand to walk off some of this breakfast," Stephanie said, licking cream cheese and jam off her finger, "before it collects on my hips."

Eeek! This is a 5th grader saying such things.

Besides that, I thought it was a cute book about friendship.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book T-shirts

Thanks to my friend Jacki, I bought this fun book t-shirt.

This shirt is no longer available, but woot does have this book shirt.

I've also been eying these two, which are both on Cafe Press.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Made in America

I'm a big fan of Bill Bryson so I picked up this book with great hopes. Despite lacking some of the usual Bryson humor that I really enjoy, I still found this book to be fascinating and well worth the read.

It's really a social history of the United States that uses language to show new inventions or ideas in society. I found it really interesting how new some of the words we use are. I also really enjoyed hearing how and when words first appeared on the scene.

One downside of the book is that Bryson wrote it in the early 90s. The book needs to be updated with all the new words we've had since then. Bryson talks about MS-DOS, but of course doesn't touch on the net, friending people, blogs, etc. Some sections are fine as is. Reading through the book and seeing the sections that need updating reminds you how much has changed in society in only the past fifteen years.

It's a great non-fiction book that's easy to read, but still has lots of information about history and culture.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

So You Want to Be President?

Oh my goodness this book is funny. I'm sure some of my enjoyment of it comes out of my interest in political science, but I'd recommend it to anyone who wonders how in the heck idiots turn in to the people running the country. I laughed out loud so many times, both at the ridiculousness of the book, but also at its crazy being so close to reality.

One of the funniest sections is merits to being qualified for President. Some of those merits?

-Shot a man in a duel (but not just to watch him die)
-Penchant for stovepipe hats
-Cartoonishly large ears
-Starred in a movie opposite a chimpanzee
-Having a very embarrassing sibling
-Having had "other priorities" at a time of war

Another good section is the one on Tim Russert, which sadly no longer applies.

The biographical blurb says that Warner is writing professor at Clemson. I'd love to take a class from him. (Well, if I wanted to take anymore classes, which I don't really.)

Well worth the read. Pick it up to get yourself in the 2010 election spirit!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Mystery at Lilac Inn

The lilacs have been beautiful here this year. I love them.

I decided to celebrate them by reading The Mystery of Lilac Inn.

I have an old copy of this Nancy Drew book. It was one of the books revised between 59 and 87. Since it was an early book in the series, it would have been rewritten in the early 60s. The old story still has a Lilac Inn in it, but the story is different from the current Mystery at Lilac Inn. You can read about the different versions of the earlier books by checking out Nancy Drew Sleuth, a great website of all things Nancy Drew.

The original story wasn't too dated, but the language used certainly was. Hannah Gruen, the Drews' housekeeper, leaves to visit her sister so Nancy is in charge of finding a fill-in. Neither the "Negress" nor the "Scotch lassie" were hired. Though it was seemingly because of their poor housekeeping skills rather than other factors. To a modern reader, it's so weird to see these descriptions added in. There's such a I'm-above-these-people sense about Nancy. She knows she has a high place in society. No we're-all-middle-class feelings from her! Also, Nancy accompanies her friend to the glove and millinery departments of a local store.

I love 1930s Nancy. She's so fashionable!

Based on the book's cover, the illustrations in the book, the other Nancy Drew books listed at the back of the book, and the end papers (which blogger is NOT working with me on) my book looks to have been printed between 1937 and 1940. It's in fairly good shape considering who knows where it's been during the past 70 years. It's one of the oldest Nancy Drew books I have in my collection.

The end papers, which I tried 3 times to get to load correctly:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Funny Line

I recently read J. Maarten Troost's Getting Stoned with Savages. It was an ok book, but it gave me a good laugh when talking about the local language in Vanuatu. The Pope is "numba wan Jesus man." So funny, but also rather descriptive.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Botany of Desire

Goodreads Summary: Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?

While the description of the book talks more about evolutionary aspect of these plants, it also focuses on environmental and economic issues.

The past couple years I've really been thinking about the food we eat. Just a few years ago, I would have said, "Organic? Huh? High-fructose corn syrup? What?" After reading Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire, and other books taking about food and the food business (Can You Trust a Tomato in January? by Vince Staten and Bananas by Peter Chapman), I'm thinking about the quality of our food as well as the cost of it (environmental, health, etc.) much more than I ever have.

We only buy organic milk. My husband could drink four gallons in a week. (This is an exaggeration, but only slight.) This summer, for the first time, we're getting a CSA share. I'd love to grow some of our food, but we have a tiny yard that the dogs take over and Wyoming has a growing season about two weeks long. (Again, an exaggeration, but it's nothing like what I grew up with in Georgia. My daffodils didn't bloom til mid-May and it's not unheard of to have snow in June.)

I understand why agriculture has grown into big business, but it doesn't make me feel good about what I am eating. If you are all interested in these food issues, check out any of the books I mentioned above. I especially enjoyed The Botany of Desire and In Defense of Food.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP

I love this cover. The book wasn't half bad either!

It's chick lit so you know how it's going to end. However, it was exactly the kind of light beach read type book I was looking for. It was a very quick read for me. I didn't want to put it down.

I got sick of chick lit a few months ago. I read Holly's Inbox, which I thought had every chick lit cliche (main character with a crappy job and money problems, supportive friends, embarrassing parents, crappy ex, etc.) Holly's Inbox was a warmed over Bridget Jones's Diary.

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP did have these standard chick lit devices, but it still felt interesting and unique. Plus, I'm a sap for a happy if somewhat unrealistic ending.

I let a friend borrow this, and a friend of hers who obviously didn't know what a WASP is was rather confused as to why she was reading about wasps. Ummm.

I've got several more chick lit books to read. I sadly have no plans for the beach this summer, but if it ever warms up enough for the outdoor pool to open (they close the pool if it's not 65+ degrees) I'm feeling better about picking them up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Madonnas of Leningrad

I need to think of a name for the category of books, both fiction and non, that make me very glad to be living here and now. This book would definitely be a part of that group.

The Madonnas of Leningrad is set in both 1941 Leningrad and present day America. The protagonist survived the siege of Leningrad while working at the Hermitage protecting the paintings and other works of art. In the present day, she's suffering from Alzheimers and in her mind travels between the present where she's lost and her experiences in Leningrad.

The more I read, the more amazed I am at how awful we (people) are to one another. The book spends most of the time in Leningrad focused on the museum, but does talk about some of the horrors of every day life. The thought of millions of people starving and freezing to death is so overwhelming. I'm almost at the point that I really don't want to read about these things anymore.

There is plenty of praise on goodreads for this novel. I liked it, but didn't feel OMG about it. There were a few things that I thought, "Huh?" Sometimes I need things to be blatantly obvious before I get them though.

The book was interesting in both its exploration of a woman with Alzheimers and the setting of the siege of Leningrad.

I love etsy.

I bought this bookplate stamp for myself today. I was thinking about how often I hand out books and how I do like to get them back. I don't care how long they are gone, but I want to be able to pass them on to someone else! Hopefully this will help a bit. (FYI: My stamp will have my name, not some unknown Rubin family's.)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Last Night at the Lobster

I saw this book at a bookstore one day and was attracted to the cover. I didn't buy it, but when I was browsing the audio book section of my library I picked it up.

The audio version is only about four hours long, which is the perfect length for me. I get bored with audio books that are really long. I apparently need instant gratification, so a book that I can listen to in just a few hours fits the bill.

As you might guess from the book's title, it is about the last night that a Red Lobster is open. Corporate has decided to close the restaurant and Manny, the manager, is trying to hold everything, both personal and professional, together.

O'Nan's portrayal of the characters was outstanding. I really connected with them, even though the book was short. In many cases, characters in books seem either good or bad. The characters in this book were real. It was a wonderful slice of life of average people just trying to get through the day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I hate it when...

... I read a book that I feel like a failure for not liking.

Sadly, I feel this way about The Member of the Wedding. It was a slog through the first 60 pages, then I decided life is too short for books I don't want to read. My edition of the book has great recommendations on it from the New York Times and Time magazine, but this book simply isn't happening for me.

Oh well. On to the next book!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy.

Super at Super Librarian has given me an award!

I'm supposed to tell you seven things about myself and pass the award on. I'm going to do the first, but skip the second. I've got several book blogs on the upper right. Check them out!

Since this is a book blog, I'll share seven bookish things.

1) I start books while I've got three others started. Right now, I have ten books in progress.

2) I prefer trade paperbacks. Hardcovers take too much room on my shelves, and mass market books are too small to hold and read comfortably.

3) I love sharing books. I'm always handing books to people. I need to create a check-out list because I don't know where so many of them are. It doesn't bother me though, I just want people to read them! I want to hand them out like party favors.

4) My husband teases me about reading, calling my books "nerd factories."

5) Even though he teases, he's a great sport about my addiction. He built me these bookshelves earlier this year. Right now, they are overflowing. I have a shelf from Ikea that I love and think I need another one.

6) I'd rather be sitting in my reading chair with a good book, a basset, and a glass of red wine than just about anything else.

7) I love reading, but have absolutely no desire to write.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

High School Summer Reading

My high school has a summer reading program. I am always interested to see what they choose.

Fortunately for them and sadly for me, their picks have improved SO much since I was there in the 90s. I can only remember a few: This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff, All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Burmese Days by Orwell, and The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. I liked Burmese Days, but none of the others. We also didn't talk about them once school started so to me it was somewhat of a useless activity. There were a bunch of books to choose from, but nothing new or notable. They all felt like old books, half of which would have been on the summer reading list my dad had when he was there in the 60s.

I love the choices this year.

Students are required to read either The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, or The Last Child by John Hart. I've never heard of The Lost Child, but I think The Help and Outliers are easy to read books that make you think. What better for a summer reading program?

Then, they can choose an extra book for some kind of extra credit/pat on the head/whatever. Some of those options: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (my husband read and really enjoyed), Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay, The Pat Conroy Cookbook (part of the assignment is to cook! LOVE it), American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel), and Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson.

I've read several of the books they've chosen and am thrilled with the others. Do you think they'd mind having an alum in the discussions? I couldn't pick just one though!