Friday, December 28, 2012

Bloggers blog about blogs more than you think...

Lately, I find myself drawn to food blogs much more than ever before. Rather than assert that the blogs are getting better, I’m sure that the shift occurred within me. Through recommendations from friends/ family and the growth of avenues for sharing sites (no, I’m not on pintest yet…and no I don’t need an invite until my master’s degree is complete) I guess I’ve slowly turned into a food-blog follower. Oh, and it’s pretty awesome. There is such a wealth of free information out there – recipes, tips, restaurant reviews, product reviews, etc.—that it is becoming difficult not to follow more and more bloggers. I am finding all of the information invaluable, especially since I have to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet. So many talented writers and experienced foodies are open about their own trials and tribulations with gluten-free living and the food that they have experimented with or discovered. Here are some of my favorite gluten-free food blogs:

But that is not even a complete list of the food blogs that I keep an eye on. Seriously, I could go on. But why am I telling you this? Because the book that I read most recently is the memoir of the woman who writes the Gluten Free Girl and the Chef Blog, that’s why.  Being familiar with her blog, I thought that her book would be a fun read…and it was, but it also impacted me in a way that I didn’t expect.
Shauna James Ahern is pretty well known in the gluten-free world and in the food blog world in general.  In her book Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food the Loves Me Back and You Can Too she allows the reader access to her life lived with celiac disease. Like many of us, she wasn’t diagnosed with celiac disease until adulthood but the signs were there throughout her childhood and adolescent years.   Her explanations of how her family ate when she was young and how she began to define her own relationship with food when she set out on her own were endearing and most likely hold some familiarity for all Americans in the Gen-X and Millennial generations.  But it was her journey toward a diagnosis of celiac disease and the way her life changed afterward that impacted me the most.
                Shauna (I now know so much about her that I feel like we’re on a first name basis) had symptoms and struggles that were so similar to my own before I was diagnosed celiac that the familiarity really resonated with me.  So much so that reading her story helped me to reflect on and understand my own in a deeper way than I have before.  I’m not sure if I fully realized the blessing that having celiac disease has really been in my life. Having an autoimmune reaction to gluten has forced me to take better care of myself. It means that I HAVE to be conscious of the food that I put into my body; there is no such thing as mindless eating for me anymore.  And that I HAVE to advocate for myself in situations that I wouldn’t have before (something I am still working on in some cases).  It has taken patience and time but I feel like it has literally made me a new person, healthier and more stable emotionally and physically.  
                Since there is comfort in solidarity, reading about how Shauna found a “new lease on life” after her diagnosis was interesting and entertaining to me.  Not to mention I learned a lot! I learned things about celiac disease that I had never thought to research before. I learned about a few new foods to be wary of and a few new foods that can be added to my repertoire.  The book is intermixed with some gourmet recipes and inspiring tidbits about life, so it is now properly sticky noted and will remain accessible in my apartment. 
                The bottom line? The book maintains an easy, enjoyable pace and Shauna James Ahern has a background in teaching writing, so there is substance there for sure. This book is a quick, pleasing read about gluten and celiac disease. It is worth a read if you have celiac disease or if you have an interest in learning more about the disease and how it affects the people in your life who have it. It may also be worth a read as just an interesting memoir that gives you perspective on a different walk of life (I can’t really say for sure on that one, because I can’t read the book as a person without celiac disease).  I will definitely recommend it to any gluten-free newbies as a useful way to learn more and to get some insight on their own struggles.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Tale of Gotham City?

Don’t you even try to tell me that the literary classics aren’t relevant today! I’ve heard it all, and I’m not interested.  Come on people, they are called classics for a reason. The themes, the characters, and even the words themselves are timeless. No matter when you pick up a classic, there will be something in it that resonates with you (I promise).  I bet you are wondering if I have a real world example…of course I do. I feel as though I have been unusually blessed in my literary life. I always seem to read the right book at the right time, so that all of a sudden I can understand references and allusions in popular culture. Case in point: reading A Tale of Two Cities right before the newest Batman movie was released.  

It is shameful to admit as an English major that I had never read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, not in high school or in college. In fact I was never asked to read any Charles Dickens and didn’t until after I graduated. Needless to say, I’ve had some catching up to do and I’m still working on it. So, I grabbed A Tale of Two Cities off of my shelf and made it one of my summer reads.  The novel took some time for me to really settle in to and I understand why people may struggle with it. Dickens was a master of details, and he takes his sweet time laying the ground work and the character background before the plot really seems to find a comfortable pace.  It makes me sad that people get bogged down in all of that in the beginning of his novels (and most classics) that they give up on them. Because if you can power through all of that and read on, the pay-off is sweet! 
Once the French Revolution truly begins in the novel, it is difficult to put down. Dickens was so thorough in his descriptions of French life before and during the revolution that some scenes seem almost graphic.  The novel paints a clear picture of how the oppressed people became the bloodthirsty oppressors, but does so without any form of black and white judgment. It lets us explore a national revolution with access to the complicated human emotions on both sides. That’s what makes novels like this so prolific. The hope is that a reader will emerge with a better understanding of the horrors that plague the human legacy, so that we can learn not to repeat them; if not as a society or as a race then at least as individuals. A theme like that is absolutely relevant today…just ask Christopher Nolan.
I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities on July 21st and saw The Dark Knight Rises on July 22nd, so I immediately recognized the parallels between the novel and the new movie.  They would be difficult for anyone to miss. Without giving too much away, here’s a few of the obvious:
  • Ripping the rich from their homes and sharing the spoils
  • A bloated “judicial system” holding ridiculous public trials
  • Thin ice rather than the outright, gruesome horror of the guillotine (but same idea)
  • Storming Black Gate Prison = Storming the Bastille    
Now, despite the similarities, it would be incorrect to say the movie was based on the novel or that it was just a reenactment of the French Revolution.  In the movie it was a misguided criminal leading the revolution with no aim what-so-ever at freeing the people of Gotham or moving forward with a new government; that of course is why Batman has to step in and attempt to save his beloved city once again. 

So, when I saw the movie the first time I thought that I may have been overreaching with the similarities. You know how it is…when material is fresh in your mind you somehow find a way to apply it to everything else you see or read.  However, I felt vindicated when I saw the movie a second time (yes, I’ve already seen it twice so feel free to judge me).  During my second watch, I realized that Commissioner Gordon is actually reading directly from A Tale of Two Cities at the very end of the movie.  I knew the words sounded familiar so I double checked the end of the novel and sure enough, there I found a slightly different version of what was read in A Dark Knight Rises.  I wasn’t overreaching the first time I saw it. The classic novel is still prolific in popular culture. And the classics may be more relevant than ever.  I love it!

So, what does it all mean? Pick up a classic novel and you’ll be surprised at how many references to it you will begin to notice (and understand) in your daily life. Hollywood is more well read and on top of allusions than we like to give them credit for. And go see the new Batman movie, it’s worth it.
If you aren’t a Batman fan (do those people actually exist?), don’t worry! There are plenty of other references to this novel in popular culture:

“He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing  in it better than the faithful service of the heart.”  ~Charles Dickens,  A Tale of Two Cities

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Iron Nun? Really?

Yeah…really! Sister Madonna Buder is a Spokane legend. Being able to say, “I saw Sister Madonna running home from the store this morning,” is pretty much a celebrity sighting in the Inland Northwest. Even more so if you discover her patented technique for running while holding a carton of eggs. Sister Madonna is an 82 year old nun who travels the world running triathlons. Actually, not just triathlons…many of her events are ironman distance. That’s a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, and capped off with a full marathon (26.2 miles) run. If you haven’t already picked up on how impressed I am with Sister Madonna, then you need to sense the tone and get on board with me…she’s amazing!

It was really interesting to read about her early years (she grew up in a wealthy St. Louis family) and what led her to become a nun. I can personally say that I have never really thought about the process that leads a person to choose a nun’s life. It was also very interesting to get a look into what a nun might do and where she might go, depending on what order she joins.

Sister Madonna never even went for a run until she was 48 years old, but after that it took over the latter half of her life. Her first competition was Bloomsday in Spokane (an event that I am hoping to run this year) and she slowly worked her way up to ironman triathlons. She has so many stories to share in this memoir about mishaps and triumphs during her race circuits. She has had many “angels” pop-up during her races to encourage her, she has been an “angel” to other competitors, she’s been blown off her bike by the wind, broken several bones, etc. but she keeps going. Basically, if you feel like you need some inspiration you should pick up this book! It’s not that well written but it’s definitely easy to read and the stories she has to tell are worthwhile.

I am in the process of training for a sprint triathlon this summer, which was another motivation for reading Sister Madonna’s book. If she can open the 80-85 age group in the Canada and Kona ironman races (no one that age had ever tried it before) then I can certainly finish a sprint distance tri. I’ll just have to keep that in mind!

“The real battle in life is conquering self.”

~Sister Madonna Buder, The Grace to Race

If you're looking for a quick intro to the Iron Nun, watch this:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oh charmer!

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am in love with John Steinbeck. In fact, if he were still alive I believe that I could make him a very fitting fourth wife. I would encourage his literary talents and polish his Nobel Prize metal weekly. The fact that he died nearly 20 years before I was even born is probably a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be. If I can’t be with him in real life, I will have to be content in getting to know him more through his literature. I’d like to eventually read all of his works, which is why I chose The Pearl for my next book.

Although this is just a short novella (less than 100 pages), it shouldn’t be counted out among his other great work. It can’t necessarily stand up against comparison to say The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden but it has its own merits due to Steinbeck’s true talent as a writer. The Pearl is a folktale turned parable in which the main character’s life is ruined by just the prospect of great wealth, which a great pearl he has found could bring him. The short story packs a powerful view of the downfall of “the American dream” and the contrast of strong community ties versus a life of wealth. The morals of the story are not unfamiliar by any means, but they are ideas that we could stand to be reminded of as often as possible.

The true beauty of this short book was in Steinbeck’s use of music throughout the work. Yep, I said music. You usually don’t think of music underlying the scenes of a book because you just can’t hear it. Not to mention, music can be an extremely difficult thing to express in words. Movies have the musical theme thing locked down, but who would have thought that books can incorporate music too? But Steinbeck did it so well! You can almost hear the calm sustaining music of the family as they go about their morning routine. Your heart almost skips a beat when the song of evil begins to take more and more of a hold in the lives of the main character and his family. Just like a movie, without the music underlying the action this novella would be so much less powerful.

It’s impossible to conjecture whether the musical element would have worked so well if the novel was written in a time before movies. Maybe we need that framework, in which music compliments images and words, to really appreciate The Pearl. Even if that is the case, Steinbeck did a phenomenal job with this book. I can only assume it’s because he was a genius.

"A plan is a real thing, and things projected are experienced. A plan once made and visualized becomes a reality along with other realities -- never to be destroyed but easily to be attacked." ~John Steinbeck, The Pearl

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Just give in to the Hunger already!

Chances are you’ve heard the recent buzz about The Hunger Games. The three book series has become wildly popular and the first movie is scheduled to hit theaters later this month. It’s become a big deal….so what? I am always amazed by some people’s reactions to any fad that hits society. I know many people who will avoid something simply because it’s popular. Does it make us cool to say we aren’t giving into the latest craze? Maybe. But here’s my advice when it comes to books that quickly become wildly popular… give in to it. That’s right, pick up the book and give it a read. You will gain one of two things from this:

1. You will see that the book became wildly popular for a reason and was worth your time.


2. You will be able to silence the misguided fans of the book with an informed rebuttal on why the book is crap (if there’s one thing I hate, it’s people who say a book is stupid without ever having read it).

Either way you win. You especially have no excuse for not picking up The Hunger Games because it’s young adult literature; it won’t take a lot of effort or time to read.

Oh and also….The Hunger Games is awesome! It became wildly popular for justified reasons.

I gave into the fad last fall and found myself reading all three books in about a week. Since then I have pretty much recommended the series to anyone who will listen (or in this case read). The problem was that as I started recommending the books to friends I got jealous when I saw them reading. I seriously would look upon them with envy (one of the seven deadly sins…oops) and as we would talk about the books I was sad that I wasn’t immersed in Suzanne Collins’ dystopia version of future America. Obviously the only solution was to reread the book, and with the release of the movie on the near horizon, there seemed to be no better time than the present. So, I reread The Hunger Games.

Let me start by saying that rereading a favorite book is one of the greatest pleasures in life. You already know that you like the characters and you are invested in the plot, so on the second (or third or eighth) read you can feel free to really revel in the details and the writing. You can explore the characters at a new depth and take your time getting to know the world. It’s the best.

In this go-around I really focused on the main character, Katniss. It struck me that she is what has made the series so successful. Suzanne Collins wrote the character Katniss extremely well. If you think it’s easy to write a teenage girl as your main character and make her not only believable but likeable to millions of people, you should try it sometime. Katniss is strong and intelligent but she is also vulnerable in many ways. In the face of the horrible Hunger Games she is able to maintain her humanity and even has some characteristic teenage emotion without going over the top. Readers don’t just sympathize with her, they empathize with her. That is the sign of good writing, even if it is young adult literature.

While enjoying my second read of this book I was able to pinpoint the characteristic in Katniss that makes her so relatable…her inability to be scripted. Throughout the series various constituents attempt to tell her how to act in front of crowds and cameras, but she just can’t do it. Even when she thinks she is pretending, there is real emotion behind it. It’s so refreshing to read a character who has no idea how to be anything but a truly honest and genuine version of herself. Katniss also has her priorities in order. She values her family as well as the dignity and freedom of others over her own fame and fortune. All of these qualities make for a relatable character and provide the centerpiece for a bestselling series. I’m glad that young people, as well as adults, are connecting with such a worthwhile character and books that propagate important values while shedding harsh light on the course our society seems to be on.

So if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for? I just wrote an entire blog post about them while trying to avoid any spoiler details…I did that for you! The movie will be released on March 23rd, so there’s still time. If you have read the books, read them again. Or at least the first one before seeing the movie. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Still not convinced? Maybe this will get you motivated to read the books:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Worldview Follow Through

Well hello there blog! What’s that? You feel as though I’ve been neglecting you lately? I want our relationship to be open and honest, and in that vein, I will tell you that there is someone else I’ve been spending time with. His name is Grad School. But it doesn’t mean anything, I swear! I would much rather spend my time with you. Maybe if the two of you just meet, you will see that it’s just a passing fancy….

I rarely allow my reading-for-pleasure life and my reading-for-grad-school life mix, but there are exceptions to every rule. In this case, I read a book that was worthwhile and interesting and I want to share it. Since it’s my blog, I do what I want. I read the book, The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. as part of an Organizational Ethics class. The book places the opinions of opposing worldviews side-by-side using the lives and writings of two very intelligent and outspoken historic figures. Sigmund Freud represents the atheistic worldview and C.S. Lewis represents the religious side of the dichotomy.

The problem with reading this book, of course, is that it is pretty much impossible to read without some sort of bias. Every single person will approach this book with leaning towards one worldview or another and with preconceived notions of each. I know that I read this book without objectivity. With that being said, I found a great deal of what Freud wrote and believed to be outlandish.

Freud’s contributions to the field of psychology and to science in general are undeniable. I find many of his theories to be seemingly legitimate (his notion that childhood shapes us, the importance of our dreams, etc.) and the psychoanalysis practices that have been built on his life’s work have a valuable place in our society. However, I can’t help but find some of his theories to be over the top. After reading more about his life, in this book, it seems that his central subject in the development of his theories was himself. For example, he had inappropriate feelings of love toward his mother so he assumed that was true of everyone and began to look for it in his patients…hence the Oedipus Complex, developed by Freud. It seems like most of his theories were developed in that way and that seems like an unsound scientific practice. You need to have facts to arrive at conclusions, not develop conclusions and then mold facts to support them.

I also learned that Freud was a deeply troubled man. He struggled with clinical depression most of his life (which he often treated with cocaine), he was superstitiously obsessed with his own death, and he struggled to maintain both friendships and professional relationships. If Freud is one of the best examples that the atheistic worldview can come up with, that makes is even less appealing to me.

Furthermore, based on the examples in this book, I don’t think that Freud was ever thoroughly convinced or at peace with his own atheism. He seems to struggle with the question of God his entire life. In fact my favorite quote about God, from this book, was written by Freud when he was a young man: “Science of all things seems to demand the existence of God.” This statement was sent to a personal friend in a letter but he later denied that he had ever swayed in his atheistic views. He also made a great effort to categorize believers as unintelligent and delusional. To me that signifies unrest. If you are secure in your atheistic beliefs, why would you need to put down the people who oppose your worldview? It seems childish to me. In all, this book made me sad for Freud. He never reached a sense of peace in his life or in his beliefs.

C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, seemed to have a full, contented life after his conversion to Christianity. The interesting aspect about Lewis is that he was also an atheist until his 30’s and seemed to be on a similar life path as Freud was. Lewis was unhappy and withdrawn before his conversion with bouts of depression marring his life. After he became a Christian people said he was caring, warm, and lively. He became one of the greatest advocates for Christianity in the 20th century and his writing is still very impactful. I really enjoyed reading more about his viewpoints the way he tackles huge questions in such a simple and elegant way. It’s worth saying that Lewis wasn’t blind to the devastation and travesties that have been committed in the name of Christianity. He didn’t think that theists are perfect people and atheists are idiots. He had a personal relationship with God that was well thought out (from an academic perspective) and the positive influence of that relationship was evident to those around him. This book convinced me to spend some time reading Lewis’s writings as a means of understanding my own beliefs better but I don’t want to ignore the writings of atheists either.

Regardless of the opinions a person might bring to this book, I think it is a very worthwhile read for anyone. If nothing else, it persuades you to look at your own past and your own values to get a sense of how your worldview has been shaped. I think that’s important for every person. We shouldn’t just become complacent about our beliefs but need to take a daily, active role in reaffirming or questioning what we believe. That way, if nothing else, at least we can defend them when challenged. And I don’t mean that we can get heated or irrational and rage about our beliefs. I mean that we can have a structured, calm discussion with the people around us.

"There are no ordinary people. [No one ever talks to] a mere is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors...your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses." ~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reading is not Believing

When I look back on my adolescence, I can clearly identify two major historical events that shaped my generation: the 9/11 attacks and the Columbine High School shootings. Both were emotionally jarring and sudden. Both made us feel vulnerable and chaotic. Both changed our country. But since I grew up in Aurora, Colorado the Columbine shooting felt literally close to home. We were 30 minutes away from where it happened, when it happened. I was only in the 6th grade but the proximity made us feel like it could have been at our school. To this day, I find it hard to comprehend. That’s why I picked up this novel, The Hour I First Believed, I thought it was about the Columbine shootings. I knew it was fiction but I was interested to see what details would be included and what approach the author, Wally Lamb, would take. The problem is that this book wasn’t really about Columbine…I think that’s why I mostly hated it.

In this book, Columbine was just an interesting incident in the character’s lives. It’s almost as if the author googled “tragic national trauma event” and chose the one that would best sell his book. I wanted a book that did Columbine justice; a book that dealt with the event and the aftermath. Instead, it feels like Wally Lamb read enough headlines and police reports to do a decent job of hitting the major details of the shootings. Once the shooting was over and his characters had sufficient PTSD symptoms, Lamb moved them back to their family farm in Connecticut and continued with his book. He plugged in a distinctive, book selling tragedy and then moved on to the book that he had really set out to write. Lamb didn’t do Columbine justice. In fact, the first 283 pages and the last 440 pages felt like completely different books. The downside is you are stuck with the same unlikeable characters for both parts of the novel. Both parts of the book were hard to read but for different reasons. Part one was emotionally difficult because of the retold details of the Columbine tragedy. I will warn you right now that chapter eight will especially wreck you; it consists entirely of quotes and excerpts from conversations, journals, and videos that Klebold and Harris left behind. Chapter eight was literally heart breaking to read.

The second part of the book was difficult to read because I was bored and annoyed. I didn’t like a single character in the book and Lamb kept throwing in random issues, histories, and plot twists. So much so that it was overwhelming. It wasn’t enough to have your characters deal with the aftermath of Columbine? You (I’m speaking to Wally Lamb directly here) had to layer in abortion, alcoholism, narcotic addiction, vehicular homicide, hurricane Katrina, women’s prison rights, the history of German beer, suicide…and on and on? The reader doesn’t have a chance to process whatever newest crap Lamb has piled on before he’s on to another, loosely related, issue. It felt like the author has a lot of topics he wants to address, but rather than write more than one book he found ways to layer them into this book. It didn’t work for me. The second half of the novel was extremely reminiscent of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski , except I liked that book much more.

For me it comes down to Lamb’s essential catch 22: I picked up this book because it was advertised as being about Columbine and then hated it because it didn’t deliver. However, if the book wasn’t advertised as being about Columbine I never would have picked it up. Lamb knows how to sell his books. After this experience, though, I will be extremely reluctant to pick up another Wally Lamb novel.

"That's the funny thing about mazes: what's baffling on the ground begins to make sense when you can begin to rise above it, the better to understand your history and fix yourself."

~Wally Lamb, The Hour I First Believed

Monday, January 9, 2012

What do Edith Wharton and Joey Tribbiani have in common? Pretty much nothing...

Am I the only one who is really getting back into Edith Wharton? Oh…I am the only one? Well in that case, I’ll just start this whole thing over…

Let me tell you why you should really be getting into Edith Wharton. I’ll go ahead and start by saying that she was a genius. Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and her writing is prolific. In her novels, she explores late-nineteenth century American society with a raw and honestly critical view. Wharton gives us a glimpse into the dysfunction and cruelty that was inherent in upper class men and woman of the time. And why should we care about late-nineteenth century society? Because those customs and those socialites are our heritage; our social stigmas, traditions, and absurdity are a direct ancestor to Edith Wharton’s subject matter. She may just give us a lens through which we can understand ourselves.

In The House of Mirth specifically, it’s the cruelty that strikes the reader. Wharton’s characters (Mrs. Dorset, Mrs. Trenor, Mrs. Fisher, etc.) are the original Mean Girls. Each chapter provides you with at least one opportunity to utter the phrase, “Oh no she didn’t!” Their gossip and aptitude for stepping on people to advance themselves literally ruin the main character’s life. This cruelty is set among social traditions that were intact over a century ago, but it’s not at all difficult to translate them to today’s world. People still gossip. People still use other people as means to an end. People still ruin other people’s lives without considering the consequences. In fact, if I could make this novel a required read for every teenage girl in America, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. We need to learn from our history and shed light on what we do to each other in the name of social advancement.

The main character, Lily Bart, was easy to relate to (for me anyway); a single 20-something woman who is feeling the pressure to marry rich. Landing a rich husband will mean stability and a constant flow of the finer things in life. However, she feels the pull of her more intellectual, independent side as well. Lily gets so close to happiness (either with a rich husband or the intellectual love of her life, Lawrence Selden) so often in the book but manages to ruin it in one way or another, every time. She’s not a stupid character. She understands the implications of her actions. It is the internal struggle that keeps her from achieving her goals, because she can’t be sure what goals are the most important to her. Of course, having the “Mean Girls” (and men) completely ruin her reputation multiple times throughout the novel doesn’t help. Poor Lily just wants stability, but she’ll either have to settle in a loveless marriage or settle for a frill-less life.

As a 21st century reader, you want Lily to stand up to those ho-bags , get them back with the gossip she has, tell her man that she loves him, and live her life above it all. But there are social conventions (and a lack of resources) holding her back. That’s the part we struggle to relate to. Most of us grew up as empowered women who are encouraged to stand up for ourselves and not tolerate injustices. In many ways, we may just have Edith Wharton to thank for that kind of thinking.

Having already read The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome (both Edith Wharton novels), I knew better than to expect a happy ending to The House of Mirth. I also knew that this novel was written in the vein of The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy which pretty much told me where things were going. Without ruining it more than I already have, I will just suffice to say that I consider this novel to be what I call a “freezer book”. A book which reaches a point (or many points) that is so frustrating/upsetting/sad/etc. that you just have to put it in the freezer to get some space… à la Joey Tribbiani:

And now, a social tip from Mrs. Edith Wharton:

"It is almost as stupid to let your clothes betray that you know you are ugly as to have them proclaim that you think you are beautiful"
~Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 -- A Year In (Literary) Review

Now that we are well established in the month of January in the new year of 2012, I can confidently say that the count is in. I officially read 21 books in 2011 (complete list below), not including the numerous textbooks/articles/journals/etc. that I read in conjunction with my graduate classes, of course. Sadly that count is lower than my 2010 number, which was 23, but it’s still a reputable number. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for education and employment the list below would be much longer. I am constantly looking for a way to rid myself of those burdens but am having little success (the graduate school issue will fade in time but the employment thing looks like it is here to stay). So here is my 2011, a glimpse at me past year in books:

1. Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon ---January 13, 2011
2. Day After Night by Anita Diamant ---January 22, 2011
3. Night by Ellie Wiesel ---January 23, 2011
4. World War Z by Max Brooks --- February 25, 2011
5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens --- April 17, 2011
6. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel --- April 23, 2011
7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot --- May 8, 2011
8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman --- May 27, 2011
9. Born to Run by Christopher McDougal ---June 10, 2011
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling --- June 24, 2011
11. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway --- August 3, 2011
12. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares --- August 7, 2011
13. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas --- September 7, 2011
14. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins --- September 11, 2011
15. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins --- September 14, 2011
16. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ---September 16, 2011
17. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts --- November 12, 2011
18. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares – December 4, 2011
19. The Social Animal by David Brooks --- December 15, 2011
20. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – December 17, 2011
21. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen --- December 22, 2011

*Dates reflect the day I finished the book

I’m not the resolution type, not even a little bit, but I hope to read more in 2012. I have a few books on the near horizon but I am always open to suggestions and cannot wait to see where my reading list ends up. Happy New Year to all, and to all a good read!

(no need to comment on how corny the last sentence is, I am fully aware)