Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Amazon user CLS is my new hero

NOT reading: Decision Points "by" George W. Bush

While searching for something else on Amazon, I noticed that ex-monster-in-chief George W. Bush's new book Decision Points is the top seller or the top search or something on there. Yes, I know, it's pathetic, but that's not the point. I perused some of the comments on the book and I have a new favorite person in the world for the day. Catherine aka "CLS" on Amazon, I don't know who you are, but you totally rule. Why? Because the thread she started in the Decision Points forum is: "Why isn't the title Decider Points?"


Sunday, November 21, 2010

How Many Books Will I Read in 2010?

now reading: American Women Activists' Writings ed. by Kathryn Cullen DuPont

I'm disappointed with the number of books I have read this year. I had even toyed with the idea of making 2010 the year I read 100 books! Instead, I have been an all-over-the-place reader and not accomplished anywhere close to that. As far as I can see there are two main reasons for this.

One is that I have been reading books to review them for work or do a little work-related research and while I like them, I usually do two or three of those at once, while also having a leisure read going, and all three just get jumbled and slowed down. The other main reason is that Brian and I live in a studio apartment in Chicago right now (since February). I actually like the layout, as studios go, with the bathroom, closet, and kitchen all separate so it's kind of like a 2.5-room studio. But it is a studio, and I do like to read books in quiet, which means that I don't do as much reading as I would if we had a separate room where I would not hear the news/sports/music or whatever else is going on. Basically, I only read when Brian is either also reading or not here or when I take the extra physical-but-also-mental step of having to create quiet in order to read instead of just starting to read. This might not make sense, but trust me - we read (and write!!!!) more when we have "a room of one's own."

Anyway, I believe I have read only 34 books this year so far! They are:
  1. Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis
  2. Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin
  3. Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  4. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  5. The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Last Year by Jay Parini
  6. Introducing Feminism by Cathia Jenainati
  7. Dirty Diplomacy: The Rough and Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror by Craig Murray
  8. The Life of Andrew Jackson by Robert V. Remini
  9. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  10. Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds by Stephen Kinzer
  11. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  12. After the Second Sex by Alice Schwarzer
  13. En el tiempo de las Mariposas by Julia Alvarez
  14. Martin Van Buren by Ted Widmer
  15. Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time by Freeman Cleaves
  16. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  17. Video Night in Kathmandu: and Other Reports From the Not-So-Far East by Pico Iyer
  18. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed America at Century's End by Sara M. Evans
  19. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  20. Chicago: Lonely Planet City Guide by Karla Zimmerman
  21. The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher
  22. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  23. John Tyler: Champion of the Old South by Oliver P. Chitwood
  24. Betty Friedan: Her Life by Judith Hennessee
  25. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  26. Writing in an Age of Silence by Sara Paretsky
  27. The Talbot Odyssey by Nelson DeMille
  28. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  29. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
  30. Le Petit Nicolas by Jean-Jacques Sempe
  31. I Will Fight No More Forever: Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War by Merrill D. Beal
  32. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  33. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America by Walter Borneman
  34. Women Who Run the Show: How a Brilliant and Creative New Generation of Women Stormed Hollywood by Mollie Gregory
And the question is, (how) do I now revise my goal? It would be an extremely difficult thing to read 65 more books in addition to the one I'll finish tonight or tomorrow between now and December 31st, unless they were all picture books or maybe the entire Magic Treehouse series or something. Should I revise down to fifty? Sixty? Forty? (Forty doesn't seem at all ambitious enough, but I might actually be really busy during December as it happens.) Unless someone gives me a much better idea, I think I am going to revise the goal down to fifty, and a few of them might be young adult books which happen to be on my list anyway, just to make things a tiny bit easier on myself.

This blog entry has been brought to you by Goodreads, which ably keeps track of my books in the order I read them. I love that web site.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

50 Books You Should Shut Up Until You Have Read

So, recently on Facebook a friend tagged me in her post of that list that's been circulating for a couple years with the intro, "The BBC thinks most people have only read 6 of these 100 books; how many have you read?" This has led to an unprecedented number of comments about books, the list, and which books should be on the list. I had no idea so many people wanted to jabber about books with me! My little ol' Literary Supplement blog has been here the whole time! I should also point out that there is no evidence that particular list was actually the BBC's list anyway; rather, it is probably a random internet bastardization. Such is the way of the world. Anyway, I half-jokingly said I'd make my own list of fifty books and as luck would have it, the serious half has won out. Off the cuff, spontaneously, what the heck, this list is nothing close to complete or definitive, but is nonetheless....

Fifty Books I Think Everyone Should Read
  1. Aesop's Fables
  2. The Divine Comedy by Dante
  3. Macbeth by Shakespeare
  4. Candide by Voltaire
  5. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  8. The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe (and a collection of his stories)
  9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  10. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  11. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  12. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  13. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  14. Cimarron by Edna Ferber
  15. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
  16. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  17. The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon
  18. Jubilee by Margaret Walker
  19. Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron
  20. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  21. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  23. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  24. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  25. The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas
  26. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  27. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  28. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  29. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
  30. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  31. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  32. Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker
  33. Julian by Gore Vidal
  34. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  35. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  36. The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey
  37. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
  38. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  39. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  40. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
  41. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  42. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  43. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  44. Holes by Louis Sachar
  45. Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins
  46. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
  47. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  48. Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin
  49. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  50. Going Nucular by Geoffrey Nunberg
There. Now, how many of those have you read?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

James K. Polk, #11

now finished:
Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America by Walter R. Borneman

One of my favorite things about this book is in the photos section in the middle: the first picture of a president's cabinet, taken in 1846. It's so exciting to think about how new and exciting daguerrotype and photography were for them! After reading my first ten president bios, and flipping through a few reprints of painted portraits in this Polk book, there it was: a photo of the Cabinet. Which, by the way, included Mason, Marcy, Walker, Bancroft and a man named Cave Johnson (the Tennessee peeps had some fantastic names during this period of U.S. history!) James Buchanan was also in Polk's cabinet, but he was absent on picture day.

I liked this book, although it wasn't really a bio that takes you into the life of Polk so much as the expansion of the country and how his presidency related to that. Still, it was interesting, and I got enough into him to be very, very sad when he died a mere three months after leaving office. He had a diary going on, and his last entry was back in Tennessee with Sarah at their house where they were planning to kick it and relax and retire, and he's "arranging my library of books in presses which I had caused to be made to hold them." The last entry. Thirteen days later, he's gone, and Sarah is a widow for forty years.

He did irk me a lot during his presidency, basically just marching into Mexico and saying, "We want this land, so we're going to occupy it and take it, 'K, thanks." The United States is so not entitled to California, Arizona or New Mexico. AT ALL. The ranting "why don't they speak English" anti-illegal alien voices in the Southwest need to take it down a notch, for real, and read this book.

Texas is a whooooole other story.

"In politics," writes Borneman, "when the going gets tough, it's time for a road trip." He includes lots of information about Polk's travels, including back and forth across Tennessee. That was another really interesting part of the book for me, the growth and influence and people of Tennessee. There was Andrew Jackson, for starters: Old Hickory liked Polk, mentored him, and helped him get elected. The Tennessee governor and other campaigns involved visiting the eastern, middle, and western parts of Tennessee, which each had its own politics, people, ideology, lifestyle, and so forth.

The Baltimore 1844 convention and the way Jackson's/Polk's people worked out the nomination for Polk and not for Van Buren was nothing short of amazing. For that part alone it would be worth reading this book.

All in all, a good read. Still greatly enjoying my little prez bios project!