December 30, 2010 @ 11:34 am | Filed under: Books
What was your favorite read of 2010?
Or *a* favorite, if you, like me, have a hard time committing to One Most Favored Favorite.
I’m hopeless at naming favorites. In grade school I always had to give valentines to everyone in the class lest someone’s feelings get hurt.
I was going to write a list of “Ten Books I’m Really Glad I Read This Year.” But in looking over my 2010 book log, I see hardly any titles I’m not glad I read. Even if I didn’t care for a book, I’m happy I read it. I learn as much from the books I don’t like as from the books I do.
Some books I’m super especially happy I read this year (I would put an extra heart sticker on their valentines) include:
Scrawl by Mark Shulman. A funny, wry, touching YA in the voice of a high-school boy who hides his intelligence behind acts of petty thuggery. The price he pays for narrowly escaping a juvie sentence is to write a journal during a month of detention under the watchful eyes of his guidance counselor. This journal is the book, and it’s a treat to get to know Tod as he slowly reveals himself on the page. I’d hand this one to any parent or teenager.
Memento Mori by Muriel Spark. Tart, wry, ascerbic, all those words that make your mouth quirk. My first taste of Spark, and I loved the pucker.
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Unset. Has been on my TBR list for over a decade. Made three attempts at in years past. This time, after reading Sally’s post that mentioned the new Tina Nunnally translation, I finally sank into it and it was a gorgeous, lyrical, heartstabbing experience. Afterward I was eager to dive into the next book in the trilogy, but the CYBILs were looming and Franzen’s Freedom had just arrived from the library after months in the queue. So now I have the next leg of Kristin’s journey to look forward to.
Feed by M.T. Anderson. Everything that already alarms you about our tech-addicted world will alarm you all the more after reading this book, but in a good way. It felt like an important cultural-literacy read to me, and I immediately passed it on to my 15-year-old despite mature content (ahem) and strong language.
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. It troubled me, consumed me during the reading, fascinated me in an entirely uncomfortable way. Like Byatt’s Possession, I’m finding that this one won’t leave me alone, even now, months after I read it. I can hear its footsteps creaking the floorboards in the attic of my brain.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. All of you who said I’d love it, you were so right. Reminds me, now I can finally read the Noel Perrin essay on this book in A Child’s Delight (which is where I first heard of Capture).
Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis. Two teenage girls drive cross-country with their feisty grandmother. (Had me at hello.) Turns out Mare (grandma) was a private in the African-American regiment of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II, and her stories put us right there with her. Fascinating, engaging, full of warmth and candor. Loved it.
Argh, this post is KILLING ME. I keep scrolling down my book log and thinking “Oh! I need to add that one! And that one! And that one!” Can we just consider this a part one? More to come? If I am not too busy reading? Because I have a whole bunch of new stuff about to come into the library…
Dodie Smith, Feed, I Capture the Castle, Kristen Lavransdatter, M.T. Anderson, Mare's War, Mark Shulman, Scrawl, Sigrid Unset, Tanita Davis, YA novels
May 12, 2010 @ 7:51 pm | Filed under: Books
I Capture the Castle.
Read it. (You said I should.)
Loved it. (You knew I would!)
Shall we talk?
One afternoon when we were having tea in the garden, [Father] had the misfortune to lose his temper with Mother very noisily just as he was about to cut a piece of cake. He brandished the cake-knife at her so menacingly that an officious neighbour jumped the garden fence to intervene and got himself knocked down. Father explained in court that killing a woman with our silver cake-knife would be a long, weary business entailing sawing her to death, and he was completely exonerated of any intention of slaying Mother. The whole case seems to have been quite ludicrous, with everyone but the neighbor being very funny. But Father made the mistake of being funnier than the judge and, as there was no doubt whatever that he had seriously damaged the neighbour, he was sent to prison for three months….(I can remember the cake-knife incident perfectly—I hit the fallen neighbour with my little wooden spade. Father always said this got him an extra month.)
Dodie Smith (1896-1990) was an English novelist and playwright. I was quite surprised to discover that she was the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Now I’m imagining that plot (I only know the Disney version) told in her irresistible prose, and I’m dying to read it. Are all her books as captivating as I Capture the Castle? Where has she been all my life?
May 5, 2010 @ 1:19 pm | Filed under: Books
I went almost the whole day yesterday undecided about what book to read next. I know, the horror, the horror.
I usually have one nonfiction book and one work of fiction going at once. I’m quite happy with my current nonfiction read: the highly recommended Crow Planet. But I need a novel too, always. You understand.
OK, I’m being imprecise—I actually do have a novel going—but it’s the nighttime-read-on-the-iPod-in-the-dark novel, and I can’t read on the iPod outside in the back yard while the kids are playing, which is my best reading time. (The current iPod read is Cory Doctorow’s Makers. Am not far enough into it yet to have opinions.)
Now, yesterday was a fiercely busy day—the Malaysian chicken was delicious, by the way—and the terrible void in my soul caused by Failure to Commit was only a dull ache in the background until it was time for me to dash off to a dentist appointment. There was bound to be waiting-room time, and the iPod wasn’t charged (mea culpa), and OH NO, THE PANIC. Hastily, with no time to dither over options, I grabbed two novels off my To-Be-Read bookcase. Yes, the entire bookcase is filled (two rows deep) with the books I’m willing to read: I’m wanting to read: I’m waiting to read.
The problem, you see, is never a dearth of options. It’s the abundance of them.
The two promising titles I grabbed yesterday came readily to hand because they have been beckoning from the queue for months and months now. In fact, here on this blog, more than once, I have announced my desire to read each of them. If I stopped writing about meaning to read them, I could probably have read them both by now. This post alone is probably costing me a chapter.
I never claimed to be sensible.
As chance would have it, one of the two books (neither of which I cracked at the dentist’s office, by the way; astonishingly, there was no wait) was, I discovered later, a title mentioned enthusiastically in the comments of yesterday’s Maudly-books post, over and over again. It also drew a great many cheers on Facebook—including remarks by more than one friend who said she first heard about this particular book from me, and read it, and did indeed adore it—thereby proving my thesis of two paragraphs ago.
This book? I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I read about it (but not too much) in Noel Perrin’s A Child’s Delight, and ordered a copy based on Perrin’s recommendation. Over two years ago.
I know it was over two years ago because when I finally curled up with Capture after dinner last night, I found a business card tucked inside: the card of a young woman employed by Vienna Beef of Chicago, whom Scott and I met on the San Diego-to-Atlanta leg of our trip to Barcelona in April 2008. It seems I Capture the Castle was the book I took with me for the trip.
It seems I didn’t spend a lot of that trip reading.
Actually, I did read on the way home from Spain—two books about Gaudi. It was a cathedral, not a castle, that captured my heart.
But last night, I did give myself over to I Capture the Castle. Only a chapter: then it was time for LOST. Besides enjoying the charming voice of the narrator, much commented on by lovers of the book, I find myself mightily intrigued by this business of her father, a fine writer, suddenly ceasing to write. I assume we’re going to find out more about that.
(Don’t tell me.)
So, whew, with profound relief I put yesterday’s agony behind me. For another few days, until I finish this book.