Saturday, December 31, 2011

8 for '11

Provided I finish the book I'm reading before I head to a New Year's Eve party this evening, I will have read and listened to 107 books in 2011. Last year I posted my 10 favorites. This year I read many fantastic books and eight of them stand out from the rest. In no particular order, they are:

The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the Storycorps Project by Dave Isay
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

What are your favorite books from 2011, and what do you plan to read in 2012?

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What was the best book you ever got as a Christmas present?

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

More WWII Historical Fiction

Since my trip to London last year I've done a lot of reading (fiction and nonfiction) about what it was like to be British during World War II. I've read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Winston Churchill: Statesman of the Century, The King's Speech, The Very Thought of You, The Postmistress,

Since I'm liking this stuff so much, The Report by Jessica Francis Kane was recommended to me and I borrowed it from a friend. It's based on an actual civilian tragedy in 1943 in the East End. One hundred and seventy-three people were killed while entering the tube station at Bethnal Green during an air raid when one woman tripped and members of the crowd were crushed against each other. The Report centers around the report written by a government official concerning the event, and the government's refusal to release that report for fear of what it would do to Londoners' morale. The book takes place both during March 1943 and 30 years later when a child affected by the tragedy is working on a documentary exposing the truth of the accident.

Though Kane's work is historical fiction, she drew heavily upon real primary sources to write the story. The characters are complicated and memorable, and show true, honest pictures of humanity. The story is a real one which makes it both wonderful and terrible to read. 

Side note: I've read the book and seen the movie of Ian McEwan's Atonement. I kept thinking back to the movie scenes in the tube station during the Blitz when I needed a visual.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Book Club 2011

Last night my book club met for our last meeting for 2011. The book up for discussion was rated by all who attended as a fantastic read. I have not been able to put down Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. Now that I've finished it, I'm sorry I don't have more to read about this American missionary family with four daughters in 1960s Congo.

I'm still turning the book over in my head. It's a dense one, filled with literary references (I made some of my own comparisons as well), clever plays on words and invented words, politics, cultural misunderstandings and a family with the kinds of complication relationships that just seem to me to be so difficult to navigate, yet throughout everything the family presses on. We know it's not going to be a pretty story from the get-go. Each awful thing that happens to the family was a blow to me as the reader but kept me hanging on for more.

Well, that is, until the last 75 pages or so. I was all set to give this book one of the few five star ratings on Goodreads that I've had all year. If only the book had ended before I'd had to read too much about the sisters' adult lives! A couple of book club friends agreed with me that if we each read this book again, we'd stop reading at the exact place we felt the book should end and skip the rest so we get out of it exactly what we want next time. Have you read this book? What was your reaction?

As a side note, last night was the second Christmas book club party where we celebrated by making mandarin lanterns (a bit blurry, but still festive). Here's mine:

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

O'Connor Movie in the Works

One of my favorite Flannery O'Connor short stories, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," is going to be made into a movie! Here's the scoop.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

100 Books Read So Far in 2011

I, along with several of my reader friends, set ambitious reading goals for 2011 in Goodreads' 2011 Reading Challenge. Last year I read about 90 books, so I decided to make this year's goal an even 100 books. At an average of two books a week, I wasn't sure I could get there but knew I could get close. It turns out that I got there quicker than I thought, having finished the 100th book on December 5. It's a satisfying milestone, reached easier than I thought due to a multitude of audiobooks listened to in the car and counting the books I build in time in my work schedule to read for professional development.

When I knew I was getting close, I really wanted to make that 100th book a memorable one (i.e. not one for work or one I felt I wouldn't have anything to say/blog about once I'd finished). I chose well. About a month ago I was meeting with a client in their conference room where three out of four walls were floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for employees to borrow. The client offered to let me borrow any book that looked interesting, so I left with one that I'll return to them later. It seemed particularly appropriate. I read Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, a delightful (and short) book about the thing Quindlen loves best, which is also the thing I love best.

Quindlen's comments about how some fictional characters felt more real to her than people she knew, how as a child she'd rather have read all afternoon than played outside, how some banned books really are the best books and how the face of reading might change in the future. Once I got to this part, I noted that the book was published in 1998, several years before I'd even heard of e-readers, but Quindlen knew then that reading would be changing.

It's always reassuring to know that there are others out there who read and enjoy it as much as I do. I'm happy to have read 100 books, and I look forward to fitting in a few more before 2012 begins.

What have you read this year?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Changing Face of Libraries

There is just no way I could read everything I read without public libraries. I am lucky to live where I have good access to the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. I frequent libraries all across the metro area (Fulton and DeKalb Counties) when I'm between meetings for work and tired of having to buy a cup of tea to have access to Wifi and a good place to work for a couple of hours. It's unfortunate that in an economic downturn, library funding is among the first to be cut. (Attention government officials: During hard times, people need libraries to search for jobs. Keep this in mind!) It's an interesting time for libraries in light of changes being made due to the economy, e-readers and other technology. C.M. Rubin and Molly Raphael sum it pretty well here. Take a look.