Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Which I Attempt to Catch Up on Two Years of Reading. (Can It Be Done?)

So I looked over at my sidebar to figure out where I left off my annual book count, and realized I haven't updated the bloody thing since December 2007. 2007! I've lost two years! I thought I'd only lost one, but two! And dude, I can barely remember my own kids' birthdays or what I had for dinner last night.* I can't remember what I read two years ago.

Lest we all expire from suspense, I can assure you that I did reach 50 books in '07. I just can't recall what those last few stragglers were. I hope they were good. As for 2008 and 2009, I can make a few deductions based on cross-referencing the messy stacks on my nightstand against my documented reads:

A lot of Bill Bryson's books. I love Bill Bryson. He makes me laugh. Reading half of his bibliography was part of my campaign to stave off a rotten case of November blahs. It was a marked contrast to what I read during the previous November, The Death of Ivan Ilych. Please, please promise me you will never do this, because -- and I say this without hyperbole -- that was the worst month of my life. If you must read Ivan Ilych (and I'm not saying you shouldn't, because it's great), wait till July, or at least May.

Oh, and speaking of Bryson, I finally read A Brief History of Nearly Everything and loved it. I can't wait for the sequel!

I finally read In Cold Blood, after stalling for, what... two years? It was chilling, but it was also really interesting. And it didn't scare the beheebus out of me the way I had dreaded.

I can't not read everything by Nick Hornby. Sometimes I'm kind of disappointed (A Long Way Down, How to Be Good), and sometimes I'm happy (High Fidelity, About a Boy), but read them all I must. I was a little worried about Hornby's recent novel, Slam, because I tend to prefer his earlier books, but Slam was wonderful, insightful, and totally heartwarming in a classic Nick Hornby kind of way. The main character is the most lovable character, next to Marcus from About a Boy, that Hornby has ever written.

Also from the "Finally Read" files: Freakonomics, which was fun and interesting, though I was kind of choked to find out later that a lot of Levitt's findings have since been debunked. Thanks for nothing, Levitt.

I know I went on a Murial Spark bender at one point, though I can't track down all the titles now. It doesn't matter, though, because you don't need specific recommendations for Spark. She's pretty prolific, so just grab every one of her novels that you find at the used bookstore and read them all.

I also went on separate Jane Austen and Carol Shields benders. How do I know this with such certainty? Because I do this every year.

I re-read the entire Little House series. I had planned just to read Little House in the Big Woods, mostly because I love the chapter about the sugaring-off party, but wouldn't you know it? I got sucked right into the Ingallses' lives. And let me tell you what: it sure put my petty little problems into perspective. Because you know what's worse than realizing you have a few competing work deadlines? Painstakingly building your house by hand in hostile territory, then being told by the government that you've built it two miles from the wrong side of a boundary and having to move out and leave it behind.

I read Miriam Toews' latest novel, The Flying Troutmans. It was okay, as her novels tend to be, but I guess I'm waiting for another A Complicated Kindness. You can do it, Miriam! I believe in you!

Oh, god, I just remembered that I read The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I say this with authority: this novel is the reason why the phrase "WTF?" was invented. Though the problem may have been me. Once upon a time, I think I used to be smarter.

Er, I know there are more books than these (many more! Insomnia is my friend!), but I'm kind of drawing a blank. I'll let you know if I remember anything good.

Next up... writing about the books I've read so far in 2010: The Year I Resolve to Be Better.

*After much struggle, I did remember what I had for dinner last night. But it took an alarmingly long time.


Ashley said...

Great list! I might check some of those out.

I don't think I could remember all the ones I've read... which is kind of sad cause my list would be WAY smaller.

Laura said...

Yeah... you know how you said that Ivan Ilych is for summer? I know for a fact that I read it in fall, because the philosophy class I took it for was the *only* class I had that day on September 11, 2001.

...Actually, except for the timing, the class was pretty good...

jagosaurus said...

I love Bill Bryson's books. One of my favorites is one of his earlier books, The Mother Tongue, which isn't promoted as much, perhaps because it was published by someone other than his current published. I don't know.

I'm currently consuming and consumed by Conquest of the Useless. Werner Herzog is my imaginary boyfriend, and I will be very sad when I am finished with this book because it is magical and crazy. Examples:

"At night the rivers have a fever. Yet onions are lying on the table."

"Death is wearing a tuxedo and singing into a 1950's microphone."

"Has anyone heard rocks sigh?"

Sycorax Pine said...

Argh. I know how hard it is to dig yourself out of a "I haven't blogged/recorded my reading/reviewed anything" hole. Sigh.

But isn't "In Cold Blood" phenomenal? Last year, when I was teaching a course on "Documentary across Genres," we started with "In Cold Blood" by way of examining how non-fiction functions *novelistically*. My students adored it. We followed up with a viewing of "Capote," to ask ourselves what the line between non-fiction film and documentary film was.

God, that course was fun to teach.

Anonymous said...

I love Bill Bryson and went on a Bryson Bender a few years ago; after several books in a row I needed a palate-cleanser, though. Instead of witty, I was finding him insufferably twee. I may have to pick him back up! A Walk In The Woods and The Mother Tongue are my favorites.

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