I guess all those books I've read over the summer aren't going to blog themselves. Problem is, I've read 27 books since I last wrote about one. That's great and all, but it makes for an intimidating round of catch-up. It's like when you run into somebody whom you haven't seen in years, and they ask you what's new, and you're like, "Oh, nothing. Just EVERYTHING."
So here's what I'm going to do to make this enterprise less scary for myself. Today I'm going to list all the books I've read, with mini-reviews. Maybe I'll get to longer reviews someday, maybe not. I am, after all, a fey creature, prone to vapours and whimsies, as ephemeral as a unicorn fart. But if there's a particular book you're especially interested in, let me know, and I'll do my best to bump it to the top of the list of things to write about. (Note: 50 Books management is unable to define in clear terms what "do my best" actually means.)
Espresso Tales, Dream Angus
by Alexander McCall Smith (#17-18)
Do I have anything new to say about Alexander McCall Smith? Dare I repeat myself? Simply put, McCall Smith is my go-to guy for stories that give me a sense that there is an order -- a gentle order -- to the universe. Unrealistic? Probably. Who cares?
A Curtain of Green and Other Stories
by Eudora Welty (#19)
This is Welty's first collection of short stories, published in 1941. If these are just the first, I can't wait to read the rest. And can I just thank all you folks who pimped Welty to me way back in the day?
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
by Kurt Vonnegut (#20)
I was feeling sad after Vonnegut's death, and wanted to re-read this, his most optimistic and redeeming novel. I was still sad afterward, but it was okay.
The Line of Beauty
by Alan Hollinghurst (#21)
For some reason, this book made me think of The Great Gatsby and Evelyn Waugh's Mayfair novels and Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children. In other words, it was pretty good. There's a movie, isn't there? Worth seeing?
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris (#22)
This, to me, is Sedaris's most wistful collection of stories, and my favourite to date. It's funny, too.
by Martin Amis (#23)
Reading Amis's circa-1987 thoughts and stories about nuclear weapons and the Cold War was, strangely, anthropological yet relevant. As interesting as the stories are, the introduction is even better. I don't usually push introductions on people, but you really should read Amis's forward to this book.
Vinyl Cafe Diaries, Home from the Vinyl Cafe
by Stuart McLean (#24-25)
After Martin Amis finished scaring the living shit out of me, I needed to read some stories that were the literary equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. If you tend to disparage this kind of reading... well, bully for you. I'm made of more fragile stuff.
by Haruki Murakami (#26)
I wanted to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. I ended up reading this. It was okay, but it felt kind of like I was reading a treatment for a screenplay. This is a trait I've noticed in other contemporary novels, as if the writer were already planning two steps ahead to when their publisher sells the movie option for their book. Or maybe I'm just projecting my own cynicism. Maybe the more innocent explanation is that TV and movies have moulded how some writers create stories. Or maybe I just got a bad translation.
Shooting an Elephant
by George Orwell (#27)
Don't tell anybody, but I think I have a crush on George Orwell. I could read his essays every single day for the rest of my life and never get bored. Plus, I think if he were alive today, he'd either be a blogger himself, or at the very least he'd be a huge blog advocate. I have proof.
Youth in Revolt
by C.D. Payne (#28)
I read this years ago, and while I didn't love it quite as much this time around -- due, no doubt, to the fact that I am now somewhere between an old biddy and a fuddy-duddy -- I still enjoyed it. It's sort of like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole meets Portnoy's Complaint.
Arthur and George
by Julian Barnes (#29)
This novel surprised me by being one of the best new books I've read this year. Oh, and look: I guess it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, too. Those people are S-M-R-T.
A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, An Acceptable Time
by Madeline L'Engle (#30-34)
I was sad to find out that L'Engle recently passed away, but I was glad that I finally got to read the entire Wrinkle in Time series. They're a bit cheesy and New Age-y (the power of love and forgiveness seems to save the day a fair bit) -- and yes, there are unicorns -- but that's what makes them so sweet. Enjoy them before we get even further away from the '60s.
Freddy the Detective, Freddy Goes to Florida, Freddy and the Space Ship
by Walter R. Brooks (#35-37)
I don't know. I just like stories about talking pigs, okay?
Season of the Witch
by Natasha Mostert (#38)
This was given to me, and I kind of worried that, what with the smoldering hero and the hot ladies and the occult stuff, it would be like a poor woman's version of an Anne Rice novel (which is tough, since sometimes Rice herself writes the poor woman's version of her own novels). But then the book redeemed itself by being like a cross between a poor woman's Anne Rice novel AND a poor woman's Umberto Eco novel, and somehow the combination worked. I'm not too proud to say I pulled a nigh all-nighter to finish it.
Diary of a South Beach Party Girl
by Gwen Cooper (#39)
What can I say? When you're on a roll with the chick lit, you're on a roll. This novel is a diary. A diary about a girl. A girl who likes parties. A girl who specifically likes parties in South Beach. (Cryptic titles are so passe.)
by Curtis Sittenfeld (#40)
I seem to be rocking the blank-meets-blank trope today, so why stop now? Prep is like Catcher in the Rye meets, er, something not unlike Catcher in the Rye but more contemporary and written by a woman. Maybe A Complicated Kindness? Maybe?
The Dharma Bums
by Jack Kerouac (#41)
We had just come back from a fantastic camping trip and I realized that I needed to re-read this story about camping and hiking and Buddhism and enlightenment. Pretentious? Holy crap, yes. But compelling nonetheless. Side note: You know you're getting old when you start developing fond, forgiving, maternal feelings toward Kerouac characters.
by Charlotte Brontë (#42)
I know Jane has her haters out there, but for the love of god, I have no idea why. An undergrad professor came thisclose to ruining this book for me, thanks to his obsession with what he termed the sadomasochistic qualities of Jane and Rochester. It's taken almost fifteen years, but fortunately I've bounced back. And while I'm providing the running commentary on my age as it relates to the characters in the books I'm reading, I should mention how disorienting it was to realize that I'm two years older than Rochester is at the beginning of the story. Maybe I'm just developing fond, forgiving, maternal feelings toward EVERYONE.
by Carol Shields (#43)
I spent way too long trying to read Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day Before, before I realized that I needed less whimsy, not more, swirling around in my fevered brain. Thank god for Carol Shields. Her stories about regular folks encountering minor-but-important crises and crossroads in their lives have a roundness that may not be exactly true to life, but at the same time have their own internal truth. Plus, quilts!
Done! Whew. That felt good. And remember what I said (unless senile dementia has struck you since you first started reading this post back in 1973): if you want more on any of these books, fire me a comment!