Published by Tamara on 01 Jan 2006
One of my resolutions this year was to read 50 books. Add to that from my 101 in 1001 list to read 20 books off of the Modern Library’s 100 Greatest Non-Fiction Books List and all of the Modern Library’s 100 Greatest Novels List.… I’ve got a lot of reading to do. Recommendations are in bold.
The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams. Just pulled this off the book shelf for my new book to read in bed.
The Brethren by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. I’m loving this so far.
- Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman. (1/1/06) Highly recommend this memoir.
- The Summer I Dared by Barbara Delinsky. (1/12/06) Ok. The only reason I’m not recommending this is because it’s a romance novel and I know most people look down their noses at this genre. But I actually (ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone) liked it, although I couldn’t be more different than the main character. I now want to live in Maine and raise Angora rabbits. Shut up! I do!
- A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. (1/19/06) I liked this book well enough, but it was just a bit too YA for my taste. It struggled I think by trying to play to an older audience, but writing as though this older audience was stupid. I really liked the premise though and won’t be suprised if this book is optioned and made in the next couple of years.
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. (1/22/06) I don’t know if I actually should recommend this book, there must be one on the time period and the situation of women in China that does it better. It felt like a poor man’s Chinese Memoirs of a Geisha. A cheap knock-off. But the description of how women bound their daughter’s feet so fascinated me, it was pretty much all I could talk about all weekend. The rest of the novel falls short of the mark. It felt like it was a short story that got turned into a sloppy novel. The reason I’m recommending it though, is all the ‘lily feet’ descriptions, which is a shame because I think the author really wanted you to be fascinated by the ’secret language’ that women had. Unfortunately she didn’t make the way this language helped these women gripping enough, or important enough to their lives. If you read it, tell me what you think.
- The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas. (2/1/06) I read this book because it’s on the Non-Fiction List and I highly recommend it. He occasionally bogs down in technical/scientific language, but with the ease and aptitude of a talented writer he manages to bring it back to the average readers level. It’s entertaining and moving, much more than I expected from a book ostensibly about biology. I really can’t say enough about it. Read it.
- The Reef by Nora Roberts. (2/4/06) I’m embarassed that I actually read this. It’s terrible. The setting was what sucked me in. Caribbean, diving for treasure…. and blech predictable outcome, easy to find plot twists and AWFUL character development. Why do people read Nora Roberts? She’s awful. And a bestseller. I am very worried about the American people.
- Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. (2/19/06) Yes, this is YA. Yes, I read it in under an hour. I actually got this book from Paperbackswap because I hadn’t read it since I was a kid. If you have a daughter aged 8 to 12 who likes horses, Marguerite Henry in some form should grace their bookshelves, and this is as good a place as any to start.
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. (3/10/06) I picked this one to read because it was short. I have now become one of those annoying people that look at the back of the book, then the spine, to check for plot and ‘thickness.’ This was my introduction to Ms. Woolf, and I have to say I was underwhelmed. She wrote from an interesting place, but basically, reading the introduction by Mary Gordon, I was far more captivated and intrigued. My favorite part of the whole book was in the introduction, where Gordon quotes Woolf’s reasons for writing these essays, “I wanted to encourage the young women-they seem to get fearfully depressed.” ha! It’s funny because Woolf drowned herself… Oh, you get it? Great. I would recommend this to anyone who likes reading about Jane Austen. Fascinating analysis of the conditions under which Austen wrote.
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert O’Brien. (3/11/06) I read this when I was a kid and it blew my mind. I’m always a little nervous when I re-read something that I once loved, hoping it still holds up, but dreading the fact that I was young once… and had questionable taste. This did hold up, and it is quite a treat for anyone who likes books with talking animals. I really love that it has complex characters and themes, and I’m always all about science labs gone wrong.
- The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by Whitsett, Dolgener and Kole. (3/20/06) If you want to run a marathon and don’t have any idea where to begin, this is the book for you. I highly recommend it. It does exactly what it says it will, train you to finish.
- Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. (3/20/06) I cried several times while I was reading this. Louie asked if the baby was dying, and I told him that it was just that she was such a talented writer. It’s so rare that a book can move you purely on the use of the language. Lamott is a gift, and if you know any woman who hasn’t read this book, give it to her immediately.
- The Wings of the Dove by Henry James. (3/28/06) It took me forever to get through this. The final chapters were quite riveting, but I really had trouble with the rest. I kept forgetting who was who, and I’m still not sure who I’m supposed to care about, because Milly seems so daft and Kate so coniving, and Densher? uch.
- Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. (4/1/06) I highly recommend this series. The characters jump out at you and demand you love them. The mysteries are light but the setting is always incredible. Sort of The Mummy meets Jane Austen.
- Marathon The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon. (4/10/06) I’m really glad I didn’t read this before I ran the marathon. I never would have finished my training. Now that I’m done with the marathon and the training, all his advice and warnings and life lessons are terrifying. He’s like, running is dangerous. It can kill you. But running is awesome, it can save your life. I can’t tell if this guy is trying to save us from running, or trying to make running seem just dangerous enough to be cool like riding a Harley, or something.
- Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. (4/13/06) I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast read that repulses, fascinates, excites and entertains. If you have any interest in what happens behind the scenes at a restaurant, read it. If you’d like it to remain a mystery, put this book down.
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. (5/6/06) If you have read any Ian McEwan, you’ll recognize the story line here. This book felt like a clumsy copy of one of McEwan’s works. Hosseini stumbled through the ‘random’ connections of his characters and in one case of point of view change he fell down completely. I don’t recommend it, not because it isn’t a good story, but because McEwan’s Atonement is so much more skillful that I recommend it instead.
- The Cricket in Times Square, Tucker’s Countryside, and Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy by George Seldon. (5/6/06) I saw these on the shelf and realized I haven’t read them in over 20 years. In an effort to clear some bookshelf space, I thought I’d re-read them and see if I still loved them. Of course, I do. I also realized that they would do some kid who’s never read them far more good than they’ll do sitting un-read and unloved on my shelf. The Cricket in Times Square stays with me, but the other two are going to be donated to the Public Library. All three are great stories for kids about friendship and the unlikely alliances you can make with people who aren’t exactly like you.
- Mad Cowboy by Howard F. Lyman with Glen Merzer. (5/7/06) A great fast read that will make you want to become a vegetarian. Which, I’m actually considering. Again. I know it’s crazy, but he really illustrated well all the reasons I became a vegetarian all those years ago. It sucks being a vegetarian. I can’t lie about that. But the cattle industry is destroying our environment and our bodies.
- Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. (5/20/06) I lived with this book for quite some time - leaving it and returning to it. It really begs to be re-read and re-discovered. Aside from the strange racism the author feels for the “Natives” of Africa, there is a real love and care for the place and time. I can’t think of a more powerful book that I’ve read in recent memory. Highly recommend.
- 1984 by George Orwell (5/25/06) I guess it’s kind of ‘obvious’ to like this book. But I have to say, there were a couple of times where I was genuinely surprised and wowed. Once by a plot twist and many times by the language. I should have read this a long, long time ago. But I’m glad I read it now, while I’m old. And can appreciate it.
- Psychic Warrior by David Morehouse (5/28/06) This is the ‘true’ story of a military man who was a part of the highly secret government ‘remote viewing’ program. Remote viewing is spying across space and time. The weird thing about the book is not that the ‘remote viewing’ description is hard to swallow (I’ll pretty much believe anything anyone says about that) but that his writing style is… terrible. I’d love to read the book that is alluded to in this book, by the guy that wrote the JFK book that Oliver Stone based his movie on, but it has never been published. If you read it, be warned. The dialogue is stinky.
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. (6/3/06) It just so happens that this is on the Modern Library Non-Fiction list, and co-incides nicely with the current research I’m doing. It’s an important book to read, to get the historical significance of the ‘treadmill’ of death we’ve stepped on in regard to pesticides and herbicides. I’d venture to say that in another 50 years if the incidence of cancer, mental illness and other debilitating diseases continues to increase exponentially as it has been, we’ll begin to see more and more research about the unrepairable damage we’ve done to the environment, and the havoc it’s wreaking on our bodies. The book is important and well researched, but at a certain point you get it, and you can’t read anymore. But you do, and you marvel at the ignorance of man. It’s amazing. If you have an interest in the history of the chemical warfare we’ve waged on insects, and therefore ourselves, I highly recommend this book.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. (6/4/06) I really wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t get past the feeling that I’ve read better. I’m struck by the feeling that books like Stranger in a Strange Land and Foundation sort of take the world to a more believable place. It’s a book that has influenced many films, obviously, but it wasn’t really my thing.
- Big Love by Sarah Dunn. (6/5/06) Excellent. My mom gave this to me, either for Christmas or my birthday and it was a welcome distraction from all the ‘required’ reading I’ve been doing. It’s the kind of book I wish I could write. She’s got a distinctive voice, a great style, and it’s a charming little book, if a bit predictable. I recommend.
- Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock. (6/17/06) I probably shouldn’t count this in my books read list, but it’s my list so I get to do what I want. I have been seeing previews for The Lake House all week and it reminded me of this book. My sister gave it to me about 10 years ago and I was so taken with it… It’s a simple story told in postcards and letters between two people who are connected in some strange way through Griffin’s art and Sabine’s psychic ability to see it as it’s created. My only criticism of the story is that it leaves you with a ‘to be continued’ ending. Which, fine. But I would have liked a little more skill and finesse in the final letters. I still recommend it.
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. (6/17/06) It is an amazing book. Woolf had a gift that I’m not sure I know how to appreciate. I kind of wish I had taken an English Lit class and this was one of the required books, because while I can appreciate the talent and skill of Woolf’s work, I’m not sure I fully understand the meaning and importance of this work. I did like it, but I don’t know that I ‘get it.’
- Neuromancer by William Gibson. (6/20/06) I don’t know. On one hand I can see how this is the gold standard of ‘cyberpunk,’ and that he basically created a sub-genre of sci-fi that would eventually have tangible echos in the real world, but for some reason I found myself not engaged in the book. By the end I knew what happened, but I dodn’t really ‘get’ it. I’m sure at some point I’ll take another pass at it and probably enjoy it.
- Black Boy by Richard Wright. (7/2/06) The first part of the book is amazing, when he starts talking about his involvement with the Communist Party, I feel like it gets bogged down in details that don’t really mean much to anyone who wasn’t there. I can see, though, why this is a difinitive work of non-ficiton.
- The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club by Laurie Notaro. (7/3/06) This is a fun read. It feels a bit unedited, and like a blog. But if you’re looking for a nice summer diversion, Laurie Notaro will deliver.
- Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. (7/17/2006) I wrote about it here, I’m still a little raw.
- I Know You, Al by Constance C. Green. (7/23/06) I just got back from Arizona where I spent two hours cleaning out my storage shed and driving past my old house. This was one of the YA books I decided to keep a long time ago, and I can’t ever remember reading it. Though, I’m fairly certain the first book in the series, “A Girl Called Al,” rings a bell. It’s a little dated, but I have to say it’s a nice book for an 11 year old. It’s sad to me that these little gems (this one happens to be from the 70’s) fade away, are put in a box in someone’s garage and kind of forgotten. C’est la vie.
- Autobiography of a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro. (8/6/06) Some truly laugh out loud funny moments, and though I might be a little sick of the vignette format of her books, I think she is a delightful read. If you’re looking for something to read while you’re getting a pedicure or lazing around the house in the summer hiding from your parents, this is the book.
- Why Moms are Weird by Pamela Ribon. (8/7/06) I was nervous to read this because I’m such a huge fan of her website and her first novel that I worried I was putting too much pressure on Pamie to deliver a great read. Funny and sexy mixed with bitter and painful it was like a trip home for me, which… is good and bad, but everything I was looking for in this read. I recommend.
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. (8/13/06) I haven’t knowingly read any Joan Didion before, though I’m sure I’ve accidentally read something she wrote for one of the many magazines to which she contributed. This is a relentlessly sad memoir of the year following her husband’s death, but it’s more than that because in that year she is faced with the memory of their life together. It’s quite a beautiful love story and tribute to her husband. I recommend.
- Lake News by Barbara Delinsky. (9/4/06) I wanted something beachy and smutty for the summer and this turned out to be a little tedious, the smut wasn’t quite smutty enough and the rest was a little too “serious.” I have to remember to stick to the classic smut of Danielle Steel or Jude Deveraux in the future.
- Bookends by Jane Green. (9/6/06) I had no idea I read this before until a few pages in, and then I felt stupid because I couldn’t remember what happens until I was a few pages away from the end. It’s a good thing I’m writing these things down now, because this book wasn’t that good and I totally should have read something else instead of re-reading this. Although, it technically was for book club.
- Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. (9/25/06) At first I felt like Gaiman’s style was a little insincere or maybe a little too jokey. It’s like after 9/11 everyone was talking about the “death of irony” when really what happened was the death of sincerity. Something replaced the sincerity in writer’s voices, making any almost touching or ‘real’ moment feel like they were overtly aware of the fact that it was touching or ‘real,’ and that they were in on the joke and the idiocy of the moment. But I was only partially right about that in Gaiman’s book. Ostensibly, while I don’t think he would ever admit to it, this is a book for men, and I think men come to these issues of identity and love and family very differently than women do. It’s sociological. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I’ll clamour to read any more of his work.
- Amy’s Answering Machine by Amy Borkowsky. (9/27/06) I just found this sitting on my bookshelf. I think it was in a pile of books from our group garage sale that didn’t sell and I guess at the time, I thought it looked interesting. I put it up on Paperbackswap and it was immediately requested, so I, of course, had to read it. It’s slightly amusing, but for me, with a mother who doesn’t return my calls, it’s more of an insight into my friend’s lives than my own. I’d imagine her stand-up/show surrounding the tapes would make me laugh more than the book.
- Predator by Patricia Cornwell. (10/1/06) I got this for Christmas or my birthday either last year or the year before and hadn’t gotten to it. I used to really love the Kay Scarpetta mysteries, but this one felt like lazy story telling. Something about the passive tense Cornwell uses or present tense. I can’t put my finger on it, but it felt like it needed another polish. And Jesus, Cornwell, we get it. You like Hummers. It is gross. Get those ladies driving Priuses. Stat.
- Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. (10/7/06) Oh boy, this reading list is getting stupid. Or, I’m getting stupid. I don’t really know why I thought that this would be a good read, but I think someone recommended it. Obviously it is someone I should no longer take recommendations from. Too bad I can’t remember who it was. Anyway, it’s weirdly written with strange insights from secondary characters. Anyway, I don’t recommend it. I’m mad that I read it and wasted the time.
- Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. (10/24/06) It took me a while to finally sit down and devour this. I was reading it in scrips and scraps here and there. It’s a testament to her amazing faith and her talent at writing that she can almost get someone like me to believe in God. I recommend it.
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. (11/06/06) My sister had this on her list, so I took a gander. I really like the distopic future of LA that she takes but once they get on the road I think the Earthseed stuff gets a little wearing. It’s good, but not my favorite.
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. (11/07/06) This was a book club selection and I had heard great things so I was a little nervous that it was too hyped for me. I devoured the book in two days and it had me sobbing a little bit at the end. I think it was a subject that could have so easily veered into “A Very Special Lifetime Movie” territory but it really didn’t for me. I recommend.
- The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. (11/13/06) I wrote about it here.
- When Character was King A Story of Ronald Reagan by Peggy Noonan. (11/25/06) Noonan does a good job of putting Reagan in a good light. I think history will generally agree with her. She does however irritate me with the constant jabs at the Clintons, and the Democrats. But, what do you expect from a Republican? I imagine a Democrat would do the same.
- Animal Inn #5 Adopt-a-Pet by Virginia Vail. (12/09/06) I probably shouldn’t count this as one of my books read, because it took me all of an hour to read it. But it’s my list, my rules. It’s one of the YA books I brought back to LA with me from my childhood home. I remember why I liked it back then, 13 year-old-girl as main character, she loves animals, wants to be a vet, has a horse of her own - all things I totally either related to or wanted as a kid. I’m probably not keeping this in my library, so I wanted to re-read it before it goes.
- Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress. (12/29/06) This was another book club selection. I missed the book club meeting for this one, so I’m not sure what the ladies thought of it. Despite the seemingly disjointed story-telling (it bounces between Peejoe’s story in Alabama during the George Wallace/Martin Luther King, Jr. standoff and Lucille trying to make it in Hollywood) I really enjoyed it. If you see it laying around, you should pick it up and give it a try.
- Night by Elie Wiesel. (12/30/06) I went through a period where all I was reading were memoirs about the Holocaust. After having been to both Auschwitz and Birkenau in the summer of 1994, I thought I had enough, but this book has been talked about a lot recently, probably because of Oprah. I used to wonder why there was no resistance, but now that I’m older, I can kind of understand and it’s horrifying.
- Winter of the Owl by June Andrea Hanson. (12/31/06) I loved this book as a kid. It’s one of the many horse stories I read, and wished was happening to me.
- The Artist’s Way I got to week eight about 10 weeks ago and just stopped. It was sort of during the heart of the marathon training and I was exhausted all the time. I decided sleep was more important than writing, which is a stupid thing to decide. There will never be a time in my life that I’ll be able to look back on and think, “I wish I’d slept more.” Oh well. I’ll pick this up again. I know for sure. Just can’t get to it at the moment.
- Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works by Leslie A. Duram. I’ll go back to this possibly, but for right now it’s just too much.