kac522's 75 Books and Endless Cuppas in 2016

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kac522's 75 Books and Endless Cuppas in 2016

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Modifié : Juil 25, 2016, 10:49am

Welcome to my 75 Books Thread for 2016. I never thought I would be able to read 75 books in a year, but I surprised myself in 2015 with 75+. So here I am, hoping to repeat in 2016.

I often read in the evening after dinner, with my evening cup of tea: hence my theme.

In 2016 I plan to loosely participate in several challenges (American Authors Challenge, British Authors Challenge, Canadian Authors Challenge, DeweyCAT Challenge and WomanBingoPUP). I'm keeping a challenge thread with my "rules" (or lack thereof) here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/226538

On this thread I'm keeping track of my books in chronological order, as well as my ROOTs (aka TBRs) ticker. My definition of a ROOT is a book that was on my shelf (or my NOOK/tablet) prior to December 31, 2015. Here's my ROOTs count:

I also plan on reading two large books during 2016: Moby Dick, which I started in 2015, and am continuing with my library's group read through August 2016; and Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. I hope to post occasional updates to those books in this thread.

Thanks for stopping by, and Good Reading in 2016!

Modifié : Jan 2, 2017, 2:15pm

Books marked with a * were memorable; books marked with a ! are TBRs (ROOTs) from before 2016.



1. The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob by George Eliot *!
2. How To Understand Israel in 60 days or Less by Sarah Glidden
3. Spinoza: A Life by Steven Nadler *!
4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. Ru by Kim Thuy
6. George Eliot: The Jewish Connection by Ruth Levitt !
7. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
8. Sailor and Fiddler by Herman Wouk
9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee *


10. Famine, Affluence and Morality by Peter Singer *
11. Crooked House by Agatha Christie !
12. Marriage by Susan Ferrier
13. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato
14. The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys


15. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou !
16. I. F. Stone: A Portrait by Andrew Patner !
17. Graveyards of Chicago by M. Hucke & U. Bielski
18. The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot by Gertrude Himmelfarb *
19. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
20. Ordinary Love by Jane Smiley
21. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy *!
22. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie


23. Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings, ed. James Brabazon !
24. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
25. Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret Sullivan *
26. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
27. Plotted: A Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff *
28. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy *!
29. Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield *


30. Outwitting History: the Amazing Adventures of Man who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky
31. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
32. Impressions of Theophrastus Such by George Eliot !
33. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth !
34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville *!
35. The Provincial Lady in London by E. M. Delafield *
36. Choosing Civility by P. M. Forni !
37. Felicity by Mary Oliver
38. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck *
39. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes *
40. No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh !


41. How To Speak Brit by Christopher J. Moore
42. In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
43. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie
44. How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language by Simon Horobin *
45. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte !
46. My Love Affair with England: A Traveler's Memoir by Susan Allen Toth !
47. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller !
48. English Country Houses by Vita Sackville-West
49. Audiobook: The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester, read by Simon Winchester
50. The Provincial Lady in America by E. M. Delafield *
51. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, Volumes 1-3 !


52. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
53. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope *!


54. Milwaukee by Bernice Rubens
55. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
56. The Great Lakes by Pierre Berton *
57. Plainsong by Kent Haruf *!
58. Audiobook: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, read by Colleen Winston
59. Blue Willow by Doris Gates


60. The Provincial Lady in Russia by E. M. Delafield
61. Audiobook: The Great Bridge by David McCullough, read by Edward Hermann
62. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
63. The Stranger by Albert Camus; transl. by Matthew Ward
64. Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith
65. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler, transl. by Charlotte Collins *


66. Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction by Jenni Calder !
67. The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E. M. Delafield
68. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli, translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
69. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
70. Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee *
71. Audiobook: Emma by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson !*


72. Audiobook: Lady Susan by Jane Austen !*
73. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood !*
74. Much Ado About Nothing by Wm Shakespeare !
75. A Story Larger Than My Own ed. by Janet Burroway !*
76. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West *
77. Putting God Second by Rabbi Donniel Hartman
78. March by John Lewis *
79. In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough


80. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston !
Two short stories: "Amy Foster" and "The Secret Sharer" by Joseph Conrad
81. March, Book two by John Lewis *
82. How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
83. The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs by Andrew Gant !*
84. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
85. Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope !
86. Pafko at the Wall by Don DeLillo
87. The Professor by Charlotte Bronte !*
88. March, Book Three by John Lewis *

Jan 2, 2016, 5:31pm

Hi Kathy, happy readings in 2016!

Jan 2, 2016, 5:32pm

Welcome to the 75ers, Kathy - great to have you here! :)

Jan 2, 2016, 8:04pm

Welcome back!

Jan 3, 2016, 1:15am

>3 FAMeulstee:, >4 lyzard:, & >5 drneutron: Thanks for the Welcomings! I must say I never thought I would achieve this goal, but here I am (semi-retirement has helped). I will try to keep it up in 2016.

Jan 3, 2016, 7:12am

Welcome back!

Modifié : Fév 5, 2016, 2:57am

Now that 2015 is officially done, here are my most memorable books from the past year:

Interestingly, the audiobooks (on the whole) were outstanding. My best were:

--Middlemarch read by Juliet Stevenson--far and away the best audiobook I have ever listened to.
--The Eustace Diamonds read by Simon Vance--I had read the book first, which left me with a "meh." But the characterization and dialogue by Vance made the book shine.
--Loved McCullough reading Truman.
and constantly amazed by listening to Guns, Germs and Steel.

Actual reading was good, but it's hard to find a stand-out book. Some of the best were, in no particular order:

--Re-reading A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
--The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
--Re-reading Silas Marner by George Eliot--better every time I read it.
--The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith--a wonderful memoir of a Cornish childhood
--Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
--How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
--Two Worlds: an Edinburgh Jewish Childhood by David Daiches
--Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

I enjoyed being introduced to these authors, and I hope to read more:

Kazuo Ishiguro: A Pale View of Hills
Molly Farrell: The Rising Tide
Fanny Burney: Cecilia
P. G. Wodehouse: Quick Service
Iris Murdoch: Jackson's Dilemma

Now to my first summary for 2016.

Modifié : Jan 6, 2016, 6:25pm

1. The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob by George Eliot

Type: Fiction: short stories
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP square 4; ROOTs
Format: Paperback, owned by me

These 2 stories were very different in character, but both extremely interesting. The first is a probing psychological story about a man who has visions of future events. The second is more of a fable about a man who justifies his dishonesty to suit his goals.

Both stories deal with concepts of what is "truth" in different ways. They both had such interesting character studies, as only George Eliot can do. They were short, easy reads, and a great way to start the New Year.

Jan 4, 2016, 3:08pm

Happy New Year, Kathy!

That's a new Eliot for me. I loved Middlemarch, and also surprised myself by liking Silas Marner.

Jan 4, 2016, 9:20pm

>10 jnwelch: I'm hoping to get to George Eliot: the Jewish Connection for the January RandomCAT--only 1 other person has it on LT. Daniel Deronda is another good one.

Definitely the highlight of my reading last year was the audiobook of Middlemarch. Juliet Stevenson is magnificent. Her characterization of Mr. Casaubon is spot-on. She's also recorded all of Jane Austen's novels (except P&P) for Naxos.

Jan 5, 2016, 11:30am

>11 kac522: Arrggh, Casaubon! Unforgettable character. Go Dorothea!

Modifié : Jan 6, 2016, 6:25pm

>12 jnwelch: My feelings exactly, Joe.

And for a complete change of pace, I've finished a book that you recommended on your thread:

2. How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

Type: Memoir; graphic/cartoon book
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP square 19: autobiography/memoir
Format: Paperback, from Chicago Public Library

Israel has to be one of the most difficult topics to discuss dispassionately. I rarely discussed it at all until recent years, when, in my 40s, I discovered that I was part Jewish. That was 20 years ago, and it's still a topic that brings up all kinds of conflicted feelings.

Glidden's graphic memoir of her trip to Israel with Birthright Israel attempts to grapple with this topic. Intense, conflicted, and moving are the best ways to describe this little book. I can completely empathize with her emotions, her skepticism and her confusion. I can't say I've changed my opinions, but my view is broader. The watercolor drawings are really quite good, and I particularly liked the maps.

My only quibble is that sometimes you'd turn the page and it was a completely different topic. I think I could have used a bridge or explanation or break between these sections.

Jan 7, 2016, 5:56pm

Glad How to Understand Israel worked for you, Kathy. My wife, who has been there, really liked it, too.

Jan 10, 2016, 6:03pm

Hi! I'm encouraged to see that Middlemarch made your top reads list. I'm planning to read it for this year's BAC. I'm not sure I'll have enough listening time to do the audio version.

>13 kac522: My Mexican SIL is in her late 40s and found out from DNA testing that she has a small but significant percentage of Jewish DNA. That's the first indication she's had of Jewish ancestry.

Jan 10, 2016, 6:47pm

>15 cbl_tn: I hope you enjoy Middlemarch; it's not for everyone, but it has so much to offer. Actually, each time I pick up an Eliot book, whether new to me or a re-read, I am always surprised at the depth of her work.

My discovery of my Jewish roots was following up on what my mother had told me--she thought her mother (my grandmother) was Jewish, but she didn't know if it was true. So I did a ton of genealogy research, and was able to confirm that my grandmother's parents were both Jewish immigrants from Romania (different parts) who married in Chicago. That was 20 years ago, while my mother was still alive. Two years ago I had a DNA test, which confirmed that I have 28% Jewish ancestry; the rest is all British Isles (Ireland & England). Been an interesting genealogical journey these last 20 years!

Jan 10, 2016, 6:51pm

>16 kac522: That's interesting! Since my SIL has Spanish ancestry, some of them were probably marranos.

Jan 10, 2016, 8:24pm

>17 cbl_tn: Most probably. I'm almost finished reading Spinoza: A Life by Nadler. He discusses the life of Portuguese Jews in 17th c. Amsterdam. Many of these were marranos who fled Spain for Portugal, and then Portugal for the Netherlands.

Modifié : Jan 13, 2016, 1:55pm

3. Spinoza: A Life by Steven Nadler.

Type: Nonfiction; biography
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): Dewey Challenge (Feb); Nonfiction Challenge (Jan); ROOT
Format: Hardcover, from Chicago Public Library

This exhaustive biography covers every known aspect of Spinoza's life. It encompasses background information on Amsterdam's Portuguese Jews, society and politics in 17th century Amsterdam, and the state of philosophy and religion at the time. Nadler covers what is known (and assumed) about Spinoza's life, relying often on surviving correspondence.

Spinoza was excommunicated from the Amsterdam Jewish community at age 24, before he had written any of his famous works. From this point on his main friends and contacts were non-Jews in the community of philosophers and thinkers in the Netherlands. Nadler covers the basic concepts of Spinoza's writings and philosophy. Years ahead of his time, Spinoza believed that God and Nature were one and the same. His critics considered him an atheist. My only minor criticism of the book is that it ends abruptly with Spinoza's death--I would have appreciated a chapter on Spinoza's legacy--for Amsterdam's Jews, for his fellow philosophers, and for philosophy in general. Well worth the time and effort put into completing (and understanding) this biography.

Note: I'm considering this book a "ROOT" even though it's a library book because I've had it sitting on my shelf since at least May 2015. My library allows 15 renewals, and I renewed it 15 times :( It took me that long to tackle the book, but in the end, was worth it.

Jan 13, 2016, 1:58pm

>19 kac522: Huh. Surprisingly, I have Spinoza: A Life sitting on a shelf, since pre-LT times. And I haven't read it. Nice to have such books brought to my attention on random occasions.

Jan 13, 2016, 2:02pm

>20 qebo: I was fortunate to hear Nadler speak last year, and he was very good, and made a lot of these concepts much easier to understand in his talk. Too bad it took me almost a year to read his book! Some years ago I read Rembrandt's Jews which was a bit more accessible (for me, anyway) than this biography of Spinoza

Modifié : Jan 14, 2016, 2:54am

4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Type: Fiction
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): American Author Challenge (July)
Format: Paperback, Lincolnwood Public Library

Steinbeck packs a lot of punch in this novel (novella?). The dialogue is true, the images of light and sound are ever-present, and the story is dark. The male characters are fleshed out and believable, but the one female in the book is negative and stereotyped--I have a hard time getting past that. I've read a couple by Steinbeck and I was hoping this might change my mind about him, but it just solidified how I feel.

Jan 14, 2016, 4:51pm

My husband is Jewish (I'm not), and 3 of our 5 kids have gone on the Birthright Israel trip and loved it. Neither my husband or I have been to Israel. I'm going to get the Birthright book for the kids though.

Jan 14, 2016, 10:14pm

>23 arubabookwoman: Sarah was very conflicted during the whole trip, and yet, it meant so much to her that she did this book. And I read it in two sittings, so it's not like a huge time investment to read it. I think any young person could relate to it.

Modifié : Jan 15, 2016, 2:21am

5. Ru by Kim Thuy

Type: Fiction
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): Canadian Author Challenge (Jan); WomanBingoPUP
Format: Paperback, Chicago Public Library

Told in one-page memories, this is the story of a Vietnamese refugee to Montreal. I enjoyed the writing and the small pieces, but I wish they had been a bit more chronological (rather than by subject or random), to make the story flow better. But it's also part of the fabric--the "stream" or "ru" is not always smooth. The overall tone is poetic and pensive, without resentment--much like the mother in this book. I'm glad I read this.

Modifié : Jan 18, 2016, 2:00am

6. George Eliot: The Jewish Connection by Ruth Levitt

Type: Nonfiction: Literary criticism; Zionism
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT; WomanBingoPUP; RandomCAT (Jan)
Format: Hardcover from my library before 2009; purchased at a used book sale

Disappointing. The author rambled, was disorganized, quoted lengthy passages without footnotes, and generally did not substantiate her claim that George Eliot's book Daniel Deronda had a significant impact on the birth of Zionism. She comes to all kinds of conclusions about Eliot and Judaism with little basis in fact. I can see why there are only 2 copies on LT!

Jan 19, 2016, 11:45am

>26 kac522: Ha! I'll make sure to miss that one.

Jan 19, 2016, 9:13pm

>26 kac522: Yep. I'll take a pass on that one as well.

Modifié : Jan 19, 2016, 11:57pm

>27 jnwelch: & >28 kidzdoc: Thanks for stopping by, guys. I have another book I picked up from the library The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot that actually has footnotes and looks like it might seriously deal with the subject. So all is not lost.

But I have a couple of other books ahead of that. And I got side-tracked tonight watching one of my favorite programs: "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates. I love the way he does that program; I learn something every time I watch, no matter who the featured guests are. And tomorrow night it's my beginning gee-tar lesson at the Old Town School of Folk Music...so reading's not on the agenda for the next couple of days...

Jan 20, 2016, 12:33pm

Good luck at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Kathy. Great Chicago institution.

Jan 23, 2016, 2:43am

Hi there! I didn't realize there was someone else out there reading Clarissa this year! What is your method for tackling it?

Modifié : Jan 23, 2016, 6:05pm

>31 ursula: Well, originally I counted all the letters and it seemed somewhere under 600 letters (I think 560-ish). So I figured if I read 2 letters a day, I'd finish the book in 280 days: roughly September or October. I rather liked the 2 letters a day; I'd stay in the story, but not get overwhelmed, and I would have reading time for other stuff.

Problem is I've already fallen down on that plan--I'm only on Letter XIII, when I should be almost done with Volume 1 (about XLVI). I just finished another book, so I may go back to Clarissa tonight and get closer to my goal.

What's your method? And how do you like it so far? At this point, I can't quite figure out if Clarissa likes this guy or not, or if she's just opposing her family to be independent.

Modifié : Jan 23, 2016, 6:21pm

7. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill.

Type: Nonfiction: memoir, reading
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP; BAC January
Format: Paperback from my library; gift from my husband January 2016

This book was uneven for me. I loved the chapters where she analyzes books and authors; she spends time on both Anita Brookner and Thomas Hardy, who I think should have more attention. But the chatty bits, about famous authors she met, didn't do anything for me. Perhaps if one of these was among your favorite author, it would be interesting, but I just found it name-dropping, which she denies. I have never read any of Hill's fiction, and I read this for the BAC Challenge.

Jan 24, 2016, 2:07am

>32 kac522: I also looked up how many letters there were (the number I saw was 537), so I figured if I read 3 letters every two days it would take me the whole year. So today I should finish letter XXXVI. I think it took me a few letters to decide that I think Clarissa is playing a long game here and is maybe a master of getting what she wants. I think a lot of how I end up feeling about it will depend on what sort of character she ends up having ... so I figure I'll know around July or so, haha.

Jan 25, 2016, 10:31pm

>Every other day is not a bad idea... consistent, but not a chore. I read 4 Letters yesterday, so I think I'll skip today!

By the way, do you live in Italy? My son & DIL & grandkids live in the Milan area.

Jan 26, 2016, 1:34am

>35 kac522: Yeah, it gives me the option to read 1 or 2 a day, or skip a day and do 3. It hopefully means I won't ever feel really pressured to be reading it. The format doesn't lend itself to doing like I did with Proust - 11 pages a day, every day for the year. I would be totally lost leaving off in the middle of letters (or letters-within-letters, especially).

I do live in Italy. I'm in Padova, which is about 2 hours by train from Milan.

Modifié : Jan 26, 2016, 1:56am

>36 ursula: I'm trying to learn a little Italian, but at my age it is very frustrating and I'm not retaining much. But my son does speak to the kids in English, so they can understand me. They live in Bussero, which is NE of Milan, near Gorgonzola. My DIL is on LT, too. She grew up in Milan and her parents own a neighborhood bakery.

Haven't been to Padova--actually, besides Milan, I've only been to Geneva (the aquarium), Cremona and Lago Maggiore on short day trips. Cremona is a lovely little town.

Jan 26, 2016, 2:28am

>37 kac522: I spent a day in Milan with my son in June, but that's the only time I've been there. Learning Italian at my age (44) is not that easy, either. :) But living here makes it, if not easier, at least easier to have reasons to practice and keep at it. I thought we might go to Genova with my daughter on her recent visit, but we didn't end up heading out that way.

Jan 26, 2016, 5:42pm

Hi, Kathy. I'm following with interest your Clarissa experience. (Yours too, Ursula!)

Modifié : Jan 26, 2016, 8:30pm

>38 ursula: arrrgh, of course I typed GENOVA as the city we visited (not Geneva) but my little tablet just didn't believe me and wouldn't obey.

I am in awe of you, Ursula, to be able to function in Italian. Today I am ready to throw in the towel, and I'm only in class! But it's all sounding like gibberish. It's amazing how easy it is to "turn off" the Italian going on around me. It takes great focus to try to figure out what is being said.

>39 lyzard: Liz, I thought reading Cecilia would prepare me for Clarissa, but I'm finding Richardson's language a lot less accessible. But I'm just as frustrated with this heroine as I was with Cecilia, if that's any consolation ;)

Thank you also for the Heyer list. Unbelievably, I have never read Georgette Heyer. Even more unbelievable, I think my mom had many of her novels. When she died, I gave them all away (along with all the Trollope except for The Warden, which I kept because it was the shortest!). Ah, only 10 years ago, but I am now only beginning to appreciate the literary wisdom of my dearly departed mother!

Jan 26, 2016, 9:13pm

I rarely get rid of books, and usually regret it when I do, so sympathise entirely.

Burney's accessibility is one of the qualities that make her an important writer; Clarissa is in all respects a much more difficult book, although (as I always say, ask Lori!) even if you struggle with it you will be glad after the event that you read it.

Modifié : Jan 26, 2016, 10:13pm

>41 lyzard: My mother had so many books in her house: I probably took 10-15 boxes myself, my siblings another 10, and we donated 25 boxes! She had one room alone (my old bedroom) for all her mysteries. She would have loved LT. And we won't even talk about the playbills from every performance (she went to London every year for a month of attending plays), the hundreds of CDs, the china, the yarn.....it was all so well-organized, it never looked as much as it really was.

Modifié : Jan 26, 2016, 10:56pm

it was all so well-organized, it never looked as much as it really was

I wish I could say that about *my* collections! Your mum sounds great, a real LT-er in spirit!

Modifié : Jan 26, 2016, 11:50pm

>43 lyzard: Indeed, she was. I found lists, lists and more lists of actors, plays, CDs, lyrics of songs, reviews of books; all typed on her old Word Processing machine (she never made it to the computer--she was actually afraid she'd spend too much time on it). Like you, she had to have the complete series of everything...you were the daughter she should have had, instead of me coming to all this so late!

Jan 27, 2016, 12:17am

>40 kac522: Ha, I didn't even notice that it said "Geneva", I was expecting an Italian city and so I read an Italian city. :) It does take a lot of concentration to keep it in focus and understand. I used to be absolutely exhausted when I would go out in town because I would be straining all the time to read the signs, listen to the conversations around me, etc. The practice was vital but wow, it's tiring after not long at all. How long have you been studying?

Jan 27, 2016, 10:52am

Nice to see you racking up plenty of posts Kathy. Your mum and I would have gotten on like a house on fire by the sounds of it.

Jan 27, 2016, 10:09pm

>45 ursula: I'm in 2nd semester Italian, which I'm taking as audit (no grade). My son has lived there since 2005, and I've visited most years (although the last time was 2014), but not much sank in on the visits. Reading is so much easier than listening and speaking. I can figure out signs, but I have no idea what people are saying beyond ciao. I'm sort of venting here because I had a difficult time in Tuesday's class, but I will probably try to stick it out.

Jan 27, 2016, 10:16pm

>46 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by Paul. I'm about a thousand posts behind in your busy thread, but I'll get to it eventually.

My mom was an interesting and interested person, especially all things British. She was born in Chicago, but her father (my grandfather) was born in Bristol. In the last 10 years of her life we worked on the family tree, and she was able to meet some distant UK cousins.

Jan 28, 2016, 10:02am

>48 kac522: That is interesting Kathy. I ought to check more carefully as to whether I have relatives (almost certainly distant now in the States). I do have them in Australia and Tanzania and have recently got in touch with those branches of the family via FB.

Jan 28, 2016, 2:49pm

My mother was born in Bristol! Perhaps we're related?? :)

Jan 28, 2016, 3:13pm

>50 lyzard: See, you were just TOO much like her...her grandparents were William SNARY and Lizzie SPRATT from Bedminster...SPRATTs were from St. Mary Redcliffe; owned a pub (The Rising Sun) across from the church...other names on the SNARY side are OLPIN, BROOKS and MISSEN; other names on the SPRATT side are BROWN, WYATT and GOUGH. Plus both of my grandfather's parents came from families of 13 children, so I've got lots of other married-in names in there, too: (SHELLARD, TAYLOR, WARD, MONKS, FRENCH, GREGORY on the SNARY side; JARMAN, LOVELL, WILKINS, RONALDSON, MEECHEM on the SPRATT side). Anything look familiar?

Jan 28, 2016, 4:10pm

No, 'fraid not - Richards and Pimble are the names we're looking for.

Modifié : Jan 31, 2016, 1:07pm

8. Sailor and Fiddler by Herman Wouk.

Type: Nonfiction: memoir
Completed: January 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction challenge (biography/autobiography); January RandomCAT
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

Wouk provides a little memoir of his life through his writing: how he came to his books, his models for characters, his triumphs and failures. Hard to believe he started out in radio, writing for Fred Allen--anyone out there remember Fred Allen? At age 100 (and still alive today), this is a man with a very long memory, who has kept journals since 1937! It could have been a bit more introspective--I read it in one evening and it seemed to rush through his contacts, his houses, his travels. I am only familiar with the movie version of The Caine Mutiny and I have Marjorie Morningstar somewhere on the TBR. Will have to get to it one day.

Modifié : Fév 5, 2016, 11:54am

9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Type: Fiction
Completed: February 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP--a book made into a movie
Format: Paperback, from the Chicago Public Library

Re-read this for my book club in conjunction with our Go Set a Watchman discussion. (I read Go Set a Watchman last fall). This is clearly the better book of the two. It captures the South, childhood and growing up so well. And it is the story of Atticus Finch from a child's perspective: certainly idealized, but it is a better story than the Atticus Finch of Go Set a Watchman. My own feeling is that the two books started life as one very long book, and Lee took out the adult Scout parts, creating a bigger-than-life father that inevitably would never stand up to reality when the 26-year-old Jean Louise of Go Set a Watchman returns home. Still TKAM is a great book on its own, and the 2 books generated a lively discussion in our group. If you haven't read it lately, it's worth re-visiting.

Modifié : Fév 5, 2016, 12:33pm

Now that February is alive and kicking, time for the January Recap:

Best books of the month:

The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob by George Eliot
Spinoza: A Life by Steven Nadler
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Interesting new-to-me books/authors:

Ru by Kim Thuy
Sailor and Fiddler by Herman Wouk

These books were disappointing:

George Eliot: The Jewish Connection by Ruth Levitt
Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill

Challenges completed:

AAC--July--John Steinbeck
BAC--January--Susan Hill
CAC--January--Kim Thuy
WomanBingoPUP--filled 6 squares
Nonfiction Challenge--Biography/Memoir--Spinoza, Howard's End is on the Landing, Sailor and Fiddler
Dewey Challenge (100s)--February--Spinoza
RandomCAT--Uniqueness--George Eliot: The Jewish Connection

Modifié : Fév 5, 2016, 12:36pm

February Plans:

2 carry-overs from January--I'm hoping to read:

1. CAC--January--Robertson Davies' Fifth Business (first book of the Deptford trilogy)

2. Dewey Decimal 000--I have a couple ready to go, either I F Stone: a Portrait (he was a journalist) or Outwitting History

For lyzard's Virago Group Read:

Marriage by Susan Ferrier

For my Book Club:

The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

For The Challenges:

BAC--February--have several Christies on the TBR; just have to pick one (or two)
CAC--February--if I read one, it will probably be a Leacock
Nonfiction--February--History--again, several on the TBR--maybe A. N. Wilson's London
RandomCAT--It Takes Two--Probably The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, which I've had on my shelf for ages

For the February AAC, I've read Russo, and didn't particularly like him. Plus, I want to read some authors of more diverse backgrounds. So in honor of Black History month I have a boxed set of Maya Angelou's books, and will try to finish at least 2, if not all 4 of these.

And I'm still plugging away at:

Clarissa by Samuel Richardson and
Moby Dick by Melville

I leave for Italy Saturday night to visit my son and his family. Hope to get in some reading while traveling, but probably not much posting time.

Modifié : Fév 5, 2016, 12:45pm

10. Famine, Affluence and Morality by Peter Singer

Type: Nonfiction, Ethics, Philosophy
Completed: February 2016
Challenge(s): Dewey Decimal 100
Format: Hardcover, from the Evanston Public Library

This is a small book, apparently several essays by Singer collected into one volume. Singer argues a philosophy of philanthropy to eliminate famine, on moral grounds (not religious). Should be recommended reading for all.

Fév 20, 2016, 6:35pm

Two books finished:

11. Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Type: Fiction
Completed: 16 February 2016
Challenge(s): BAC, WomanBingoPUP, ROOT
Format: Paperback from my TBR

Christie had me fooled. I read this on my flight home from Italy--kept me from thinking about the turbulence.

12. Marriage by Susan Ferrier

Type: Fiction
Completed: February 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP, Virago Chronological Group Read
Format: Hardcover, from the Chicago Public Library

Written in 1818, it's easy to see how Ferrier was heavily influenced by Jane Austen. There's a lot of real humor (loved Lady Emily and Dr. Redgill) and some wise observations on marriage. The heroine, Mary Douglas, was not too overly perfect. The novel dragged a bit in the middle, but picked up quite a bit at the end.

Modifié : Fév 24, 2016, 3:23pm

13. The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato

Type: Fiction
Completed: 23 February 2016
Challenge(s): none--for my book club
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

This is a tightly written short novel about a man's descent into obsession & madness. Not my usual fare, but it does what it sets out to do almost too well. We are always in the mind of the narrator, and there is a tension and dread from the first paragraph of the book that never lets up. Not for everyone.

Modifié : Fév 27, 2016, 5:09pm

14. The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys

Type: Fiction
Completed: 27 February 2016
Challenge(s): CAC; WomanBingoPUP 17--written less than 10 years ago
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

I have mixed feelings about this little book. I know lots of people loved it. It is a beautiful book, especially in the hardcover version. The illustrations are well-chosen (did Humphreys choose them?); the language is exquisite; the concept of the book (a vignette or story for every year the River Thames has frozen) is original and interesting.

But here are my reservations: 1) since many of the stories are based on real events, I would have appreciated the article, or quote, or inspiration for each story; 2) most are written in first-person, and the style of writing/language doesn't change from 1142 through 1927; and 3) most of these stories are sad, disaster stories. It is interesting in the Author's Note, that Humphreys mentions climate change as one of the reasons that the Thames doesn't (and won't) freeze over any more. But after reading her stories, I would think most people would be happy about that fact--nearly every story ends in a death or disaster! There are very few "happy" stories about the frozen Thames; a few are introspective/neutral, but most are just cold, dark and depressing.

If Humphreys brings this kind of outlook to all of her books, I'll probably not be reading more by her. I need some warmth and thawing at the end of the river...

Modifié : Mar 9, 2016, 5:55pm

14. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Type: Memoir
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): My revised AAC; ROOT; WomanBingoPUP 25--African American author
Format: Paperback from my TBR

Because I've read many of the authors in this year's American Author Challenge (AAC), I've decided to replace those I've read with ones I haven't read, especially authors of more diverse backgrounds. Also, this year's AAC is all white authors, and particularly during Black History Month, I wanted to read an African American author. I pulled Angelou's book off my TBR.

This was a difficult book to read--I had to put it down several times, because the events and emotions were overwhelming. Angelou tells the story of her first 17 years of life, in the south and in California. There is joy and love and warmth, but there are a lot of hard times, anger and frustration as well. Angelou does not gloss over or excuse the racism she encounters nearly every day, but she never loses her faith in humanity. I am glad that I read this book, but it was not easy.

Mar 9, 2016, 6:13pm

16. I. F. Stone: A Portrait by Andrew Patner

Type: Biography/Interview
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT; Dewey Decimal Challenge: 070.092
Format: Hardcover from my TBR

I picked up this book at a used book sale back in 2013, chiefly because it was written (and autographed!) by Andrew Patner, a well-known arts and music critic in Chicago. Patner could be heard on WFMT on his "Critic's Choice" and "Critical Thinking" programs. I had absolutely no idea who I. F. Stone was, but from flipping through the book, it looked like the small book would be interesting.

Andrew Patner died suddenly last year, and I recently found this book on my TBR shelf. Patner interviewed I. F. Stone for this book over a series of days in 1984, when Patner was a young 25-year-old journalist. Stone had been a left-wing journalist starting in the Depressions until the Vietnam Era, and his I. F. Stone Weekly had a circulation of almost 70,000 in 1971.

Patner was able to interview Stone through their mutual connection, Studs Terkel. And Patner's book follows Terkel's style: it's basically a transcript of the several days' interviews with Stone. The topics range from Stone's life in journalism, the Korean War, the 1950's Red Scare era (HUAC and the Rosenbergs), the Vietnam War, and large sections on Stone's fascination with the Ancient Greeks. The transcripts wander through these topics, probably just as Stone rambled through them himself. Although there's not much original material by Patner here, there's an interesting look at the politics and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in journalism during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, much of it new material to me, and certainly Stone was new to me. This was way out of my regular reading, but still worthwhile.

Modifié : Mar 9, 2016, 6:27pm

17. Graveyards of Chicago by Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski

Type: Guidebook, genealogy, Chicago history
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge: History
Format: Paperback lent from my friend Rose

A guide to Chicago area cemeteries. I'm not quite sure how the authors chose the "notable" personalities to highlight in this book. There are way too many gangsters featured--more than I wanted to know. However, I give the authors a great deal of credit for featuring lesser known African American cemeteries and the lives of important people buried in them. Thanks to this book, I now know a little bit more about Bessie Coleman, the first Black female pilot. This edition was from 1999; I hope the authors have put out an updated edition, as many things (even cemeteries!) have changed. A good reference book for any Chicago area genealogist to have on the shelf.

Modifié : Mar 17, 2016, 2:25am

Well, March plans already changed (that didn't take long, you say!). I started to read Jane Austen's Names: Riddles, Persons, Places by Margaret Doody, and it's SO GOOD that I've decided to buy my own copy and return this copy to the library. I see that a paperback version is due out in October, so I may wait until then. So I'll finish it later. Here's what I picked up next:

18. The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot by Gertrude Himmelfarb

Type: Nonfiction: literary criticism (George Eliot); Jews in Literature
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP: Middle square: By AND about a woman
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

Back in January I read a very disappointing book about George Eliot's Jewish connection. However, The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot completely exceeded all my expectations and is a wonderful literary review of Eliot, Judaism and her last major novel, Daniel Deronda. Just about everything in this book was well-planned and well-executed. Himmelfarb starts out with an overview of the state of Jews and Judaism in Western Europe in the 19th century, and then puts particular emphasis on England. After setting this background, she moves into a short life of George Eliot, emphasizing her relationship to religion in general, and Judaism and Jews in particular. Next follows sightings of Jews in Eliot's early work (not much) and her Jewish and Hebrew studies (extensive).

Himmelfarb spends the majority of the book on a summary and analysis of Daniel Deronda, the book's reception and contemporary reviews, and present-day thoughts on Daniel Deronda and the Jewish state. My only reservation was Himmelfarb's comparison of Eliot's Daniel Deronda and current Israeli politician Natan Sharansky's book Defending Identity. I found Himmelfarb's comparison of the authors/works less than compelling.

But overall this book is thoughtful, comprehensive, and well-planned: each section leads effortlessly into the next, as Himmelfarb builds her arguments about Eliot's connection with Judaism.

Modifié : Mar 17, 2016, 2:25am

19. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock; 100th anniversary Edition with Illustrations by Wesley W. Bates

Type: Fiction; humor
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): CAC February author
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

A humorous, affectionate look at small-town life in 1912 rural Ottawa--sort of a News from Lake Wobegon, 19th century Canadian style. Human nature hasn't changed much in 100 years, and Leacock has captured it in a light-hearted way. I'm sure there were many "inside" jokes that I didn't get, but there were plenty of jokes I did get, which made it worthwhile, and lots of moments that just made me smile. The election chapter was especially appropriate. The edition I read was a 100th anniversary large coffee-table type book, with wonderful wood-engraved illustrations by Wesley W. Bates. A nice break from more serious books.

Mar 25, 2016, 4:30am

Have a wonderful Easter.

Modifié : Mar 31, 2016, 1:29am

20. Ordinary Love by Jane Smiley

Type: Fiction; novella
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): AAC March author; WomanBingoPup #9: published before 2000
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

Originally I hadn't planned on reading Jane Smiley this month. I read A Thousand Acres when it first came out, and I did enjoy the book. After reading all the good reviews on LT for Smiley, I decided to try a small one. This novella was one of 2 published in the same paperback (Ordinary Love and Good Will).

I started out liking the story. A mother of 20s-something children reflects on her life and her relationships with each of her kids. I appreciated her thoughts at first, but then it seemed like these characters knew each other too well. Having 2 adult sons myself, it seemed like they were almost too close to their mother, and I found their interactions not ringing true. The mother and the daughter reveal "secrets" that seemed over done and unbelievable to me. I hope my kids never reveal those types of thing to me, or that I ever burden them with those types of scenes from my past life. Some things are best unsaid. After the intensity of the story, I couldn't bring myself to read the second novella, Good Will.

Modifié : Mar 31, 2016, 1:26am

21. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Type: Fiction
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): BAC March author; ROOT; my selection for my book club discussion
Format: Paperback from my library

I knew I wanted to re-read a Hardy novel, and to lead the discussion for my book club. I'm so glad I picked this one. I particularly love Hardy's descriptions of Wessex and Casterbridge as a place with ancient roots and traditional values. The country people and customs were enjoyable. I found the many twists and turns of the plot a bit much to keep up with, but the character study was well done. The book follows the rise and fall of Michael Henchard, who comes to Casterbridge penniless and becomes the town's mayor. The women were decent and not pitiable. Hardy contrasts the old world (Henchard) with the new (Farfrae), and makes us feel like we are looking back at a very ancient time; yet he was writing in 1886 about events circa 1846. Forty years is not such a distant past, but this story made it feel so.

Over the years Hardy made many changes in 1895 and 1912 to The Mayor of Casterbridge; some quite substantial. This edition was based on one of the earliest versions of the novel. However the endnotes were irritating--most had to do with later changes made to the text, and sometimes there were even spoilers of the plot. I wish these textual changes had been notated separately. There were also rural words and foreign phrases that were not translated or explained.

Modifié : Mar 31, 2016, 1:24am

22. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

Type: Mystery
Completed: March 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPup #14 (20s-30s Detective Fiction); BAC February
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public library

I never had a clue. I've read a couple random Dame Agatha's, but decided to read this very first Poirot to get a feel for him from the beginning. I'm sure I will never, ever figure out a single mystery, if they are all like this, but it's certainly an entertaining way to spend a few hours.

Mar 31, 2016, 10:55am

>69 kac522: She's an ace at throwing out red herrings, Kathy. Even when I go back and re-read ones where I should know the solution, half the time she fools me all over again.

Mar 31, 2016, 4:13pm

>70 jnwelch: You've got that right, Joe! Oh well, it's not the destination--it's all about the journey, right? ;)

Mar 31, 2016, 4:19pm

>71 kac522: Yes - it's almost always an entertaining journey, and often you end up in a totally unexpected place. Gotta love it. :-)

Modifié : Avr 5, 2016, 2:25am

23. Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings, selected and edited by James Brabazon

Type: Nonfiction, spirituality
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): March Dewey Challenge (DDC 230); ROOT
Format: Paperback from my shelves

This is a small (175 pages) and accessible introduction to the writings and work of Albert Schweitzer. Selections of his writings are made from his early sermons, his book on Bach, his works on ethics, as well as letters and speeches. The book includes introductory remarks by Brabazon, so that the selections are put into context. Although Albert Schweitzer is a familiar name, I didn't know his story and his impact on philosophy and the world. His "Reverence for Life" philosophy was radical in its time, but makes perfect sense today. Essentially, ethical philosophies in the past dealt with the relationships between man and man; Schweitzer's Reverence for Life encompasses our relationships with all living things, and our responsibilities toward all living things. A great introduction to the man, his work and his thought.

Modifié : Avr 5, 2016, 2:33am

I was just checking my male/female author ratio read this year. Although I've tried in the past to read more women authors, I've always fallen a bit short. This year, I've got a good start:

13--female authors
9--male authors
1--female & male joint authors

I think the WomanBingoPUP is giving me the incentive to purposefully seek out the woman authors on my shelves.

Avr 11, 2016, 2:45am

24. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Type: Fiction
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP: Woman in Non-traditional roles (16)
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

Back in March, leslie.98 had this to say in her review of Maisie Dobbs:

Things that bugged me:
-Maisie's reliance on her intuition/paranormal ESP
-her ability to be able to completely understand the emotional state of others by mimicking their body language
-the fact that her father is constantly referred to by his full name (was Winspear afraid we would forget who he was? It was always "Frankie Dobbs came to the door," never "Her father came to the door" or "Frankie came to the door.")

Things I liked:
-the historical fiction (both the "present" of 1929 and the WW1 parts)
-Maisie's caretaker & former patient Billy Beale
-Rita Barrington's narration, especially when she sang!

I would say it is a good historical fiction story but not a good mystery.

And I have to agree 100%, except that I read the book, I didn't listen to it. Yes, it was good historical fiction, but the intuition/paranormal stuff was very annoying. Based on that alone, I will probably not read another book in this series.

Leaving out the ESP stuff, I thought the background story on Maisie is integral to understanding her as she pursues her life as a Private Investigator. We understand her struggles with her family life, her class struggles (from a "downstairs" life to a business woman), and we know why she can relate to all types of people.

And yeah, I hated the repetitive "Frankie Dobbs", which came along side a lot of "Maisie Dobbs", especially in the first half of the novel. The names are just too similar sounding and it grates after a while.

Modifié : Avr 11, 2016, 3:01am

25. Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan

Type: Noniction; books; Jane Austen
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): None
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

A wonderful overview of the covers and publishing history of Jane Austen's works. Sullivan picks important, unusual and representative covers from first publication through the 20th century to today's ebooks, with a side comment on each. Well done for the type of book it is. Ironically, I'm not that impressed with the cover of the book, but it serves its purpose. I borrowed this book from the library, but I am tempted to purchase my own copy (and look for some of the interesting editions featured in the book).

Modifié : Avr 17, 2016, 7:23pm

26. The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer

Type: Fiction
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

This is my first time reading Heyer, and it's also Heyer's first book, supposedly written when she was a teenager. An amazing accomplishment for a 17-year-old, but it fell a lot short of all the Heyer hype that I've read about. It's clever and fast-paced, but the characters felt very one-dimensional. I have a few more Heyers on my TBR, and will probably give them a go at some later point. But I was fairly disappointed in this fluff.

Modifié : Avr 17, 2016, 7:23pm

27. Plotted: A Literary Atlas by Andrew DeGraff

Type: Nonfiction, graphic maps, literature
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

DeGraff creates "maps" for about 20 great works of literature: The Odyssey, Robinson Crusoe, Pride & Prejudice, Huck Finn, A Wrinkle in Time...to name a few. He even maps an Emily Dickinson poem. These are intricate, colorful works of art that walk the viewer through the stories. I think I liked Huck Finn and Frederick Douglass the best; I've made a copy of the Moby Dick maps (detailed diagrams of The Whale and The Pequod). Even the cover is interesting. Only drawback is that the publisher has put the hardcover book of these wonderful drawings in a very stiff binding, so you can't lay them flat! Hope this gets corrected in a paperback version.

Avr 18, 2016, 5:10pm

>27 jnwelch: I haven't read that one, Kathy, but I'd bet good money you'd have a better time with The Grand Sophy and a number of her other ones.

>76 kac522: That one has really tempted me, and it's good to see your positive reaction. I may ask for it for my birthday.

Avr 26, 2016, 12:29am

>79 jnwelch: I guess I was expecting an awful lot from Heyer. I do have The Grand Sophy on my TBR, as well as a couple other later works, which I promise to give the old college try.

On the other hand, I'm halfway through Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield, which at times has me laughing out loud. I've already put the next book in the series on hold at the library.

The JA book is so much fun to page through. Even if you're not a big Austen fan, it's a fascinating sort of "history" of how fiction has been marketed over the last 2 centuries.

Avr 26, 2016, 4:38am

>80 kac522: I love the Provincial Lady books! There's also a similar book written by the author's daughter called Provincial Daughter which is also worth checking out.

Avr 26, 2016, 11:43am

>81 souloftherose: I'm loving it, too--thanks for the name of the daughter's book--should be an interesting comparison. I had taken this out of the library, and had so many other things I felt I was "supposed" to read that it sat for some weeks. Went to try to renew it and someone has requested it, so I've got to get it done by tomorrow. That won't be a problem, and I'm so glad to read a book that I'm enjoying instead of feeling like it's an assignment. I love the challenges because they make me read books off my shelves, but they're starting to feel a bit of a burden.

Avr 26, 2016, 12:31pm

>80 kac522: I LOVED Diary of a Provincial Lady. She wrote other "Provincial Lady" books, and I keep thinking I need to get back to reading her.

I am a big JA fan, so it's already got my attention, but I like that added history bonus for the covers book.

Avr 26, 2016, 10:27pm

>83 jnwelch: Even better Joe is that I'm reading Provincial Lady right after that totally uplifting Tolstoy novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich (*NOT!*) Had to endure it for my book club and all I could think about was that now I know where Woody Allen gets all his material about death...

Avr 27, 2016, 9:33am

>84 kac522: Ha! I'm just like you - I need a light-hearted change-up after reading one of those.

Modifié : Mai 10, 2016, 4:42pm

28. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

Type: fiction, novella
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): none; for my book club
Format: Hardcover from my shelves

This was intense. Ivan Ilyich observes his slow death with disbelief and terror, and contemplates the meaning (or more accurately, the lack of it) in his life. And we almost have sympathy for him by the end. There is much truth in this little book, and even more cynicism, which makes it difficult to read.

Modifié : Mai 3, 2016, 10:07pm

29. Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield

Type: fiction
Completed: April 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

This was a very welcome change of pace after The Death of Ivan Ilyich. I was not expecting this to be so funny! I love Delafield's off-hand way of relating events and that hurried style. I felt like I was reading about a real person in 1931 Britain--she even shops at Selfridge's. A wonderful entertainment--I've ordered the next book in the series from the library.

Plus, I loved the illustrations by Arthur Watts (and that Mr. Watts was name-dropped in the book!) and that this edition was published by Academy Chicago, where my brother & sister-in-law used to work.

Modifié : Mai 3, 2016, 10:25pm

30. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky

Type: nonfiction; a book about books
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

Read it in 2 days--easy reading, and a bit of a page-turner. Lots of funny stories and use of Yiddish throughout, but it did get a bit repetitious. Lansky likes to name-drop, too. You wouldn't think that saving old Yiddish books would be controversial, but Lansky did run into those who didn't approve of his mission. But you have to admire this guy, who has spent most of his post-college life (since the late 1970s) in the quest to save as many Yiddish language books as possible, has succeeded in doing so, and has saved a small part of a vanishing culture.

Mai 3, 2016, 11:01pm

April was a good, but restrained, book-buying month:

From a library used-book sale:

Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian (2nd book in the Aubrey/Maturin series)
The Portable Nineteenth Century Russian Reader
Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather (one of her first novels)

And from Indie Bookstore Day:

Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell
Jane Austen's Names: Riddles, Persons, Places by Margaret Doody

The last is a scholarly hardcover book that was a bit of a splurge for me, but looks to be well worth the money, and I hope to refer to often.

Mai 10, 2016, 11:43am

For Mother's Day, my husband gave me Where the Wild Moms Are by Katie Blackburn and Sholto Walker:

Mom goes out for a "wild" day, but comes home to a bath and a cup of tea. Very sweet!

Modifié : Mai 10, 2016, 4:55pm

31. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Type: YA fiction
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP square: Award Winner (Newberry Honor Medal)
Format: ebook from Chicago Public Library

Another quick read. This book has gotten a lot of praise. It was good, but I can't say it was outstanding, but then I don't read a lot of YA books, so I'm out of my element here. The story concerns a poor disabled girl, shut up in her London tenement flat until the threat of bombings in pre-WWII London sends her and her brother to the English countryside. They are "adopted" by a single woman, not particularly happy about taking in two "evacuees." The story is told from the girl's point of view (about 11), and this is the book's strength: she has many emotions and thoughts that she can't express in words, and the author does an amazing job of portraying a child's frustration when communicating with adults. On the minus side I found the ending a bit implausible (although touching) and the narration and language didn't feel particularly British to me. The book is targeted for 4th to 6th graders, and it seems appropriate for that level.

Modifié : Mai 11, 2016, 10:52pm

32. Impressions of Theophrastus Such by George Eliot

Type: essays
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): April BAC; ROOT; WomanBingoPUP square: genre you don't normally read (I've read lots of Eliot's fiction)
Format: Paperback from my shelves

This book was the last published work by George Eliot and is a group of essays written at the end of her life. Eliot writes from the first person as Theophrastus, a combination of classical and contemporary philosopher. It was difficult to get my head around this concept. There were so many literary, biblical, classical and contemporary references that just went over my head, even with my copy which had many footnotes. I only understood only parts of each essay, except the final one, which was about anti-Semitism. This essay was accessible and well-thought out, with convincing arguments. Eliot even argues for a Jewish homeland, one of the earliest proponents of the concept. Many of Eliot's ideas which had their beginnings in Daniel Deronda are spelled out here in essay format. A tough read, but the end made it worthwhile. I would only recommend reading this if your edition has LOTS of explanatory notes.

Modifié : Mai 14, 2016, 10:25pm

33. Shadows of the Workhouse: Call the Midwife Volume 2 by Jennifer Worth

Type: memoir, social history
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT 305.569094215; ROOT
Format: Paperback from my shelves

This is the second book in Jennifer Worth's memoir of her time as a midwife in London's East End. This volume, however, is more than just a memoir--it focuses on people whose lives were shaped by the workhouse. Worth also includes a short history of the workhouse. This volume, more than the others, focuses on the patients and the workhouse environment, rather than on Worth herself or the Sisters, thus earning it a Dewey Decimal category of 305. Moving, but not maudlin. Having watched the series on TV, it's interesting to read the book and reflect on how the actors matched the dialogue and portrayal of the main characters. Sister Julienne, Sister Monica Joan and Chummy come to mind as being portrayals very true to the book. Jenny is less well-portrayed, I think. She seems more intelligent and aware as the writer of the book, than the girl portrayed on the series.

Modifié : Mai 16, 2016, 5:46pm

34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville; Modern Library paperback edition with illustrations by Rockwell Kent

Type: fiction
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT
Format: Paperback from my shelves

I don't have much to add about this classic, except that it was easier to read than I expected. I did have to read it in spurts, with other books in-between. It's sort of like being at sea for months and months--you become immune to the language, and you have to come back to it occasionally with fresh eyes and ears. The last 150 pages or so did go much faster, almost lightning speed, compared to the first 600 pages or so. Not until the ending epilogue did I realize that Ishmael, the narrator, was rather lost in the narration once he is on the ship. Prior to getting on the Pequod, Ishmael tells us about himself and what's around him. After he's on the ship, we don't hear very much about what he does or how he interacts with others on the ship--the book reads more like third person narration. I am sure I will need to read this again to really appreciate its significance for American literature--perhaps not the whole thing, but chapters here and there.

Finally, the absolute best parts of the book were the pen and ink illustrations by Rockwell Kent from 1930, and it's said that the 1930 edition is in part what revived Melville's book. Every chapter (all 135 of them!) has an illustration, and some have two or more. If you're going to read Moby Dick, these illustrations are the incentive you need to keep reading.

I've posted some below, and you can read more about them here:


Modifié : Mai 19, 2016, 11:18pm

35. The Provincial Lady in London by E. M. Delafield

Type: fiction
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

Second delightful book in this series, in which Our Heroine Takes a Flat in London. I especially appreciate all the times she says "yes" to things that she doesn't want to do or agree to. How often we do this in life, just to be "agreeable." I also loved the part where she goes scrambling around the flat to find enough spare change for carfare. Lots of fun. Next book in the series on order from the library...

Mai 21, 2016, 7:20pm

Kudos on completing Moby Dick! I currently have that one tagged as my 'classic chunkster read' for 2017. Glad to see you found it to be easier to read than expected.

Mai 21, 2016, 11:29pm

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Modifié : Mai 21, 2016, 11:38pm

>96 lkernagh: Thanks! Believe me, the pictures helped a lot!

>97 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by Paul. One of these days I'll have to ask you about your hometown in the UK; is it anywhere near Sheffield?

Mai 22, 2016, 1:08am

>98 kac522: Ha, consider me asked Kathy! Wakefield is about 20 miles North of Sheffield but in, historically the same County (or State as your nearest approximation, counties being a much smaller scale in the US).

Mai 24, 2016, 10:46pm

>99 PaulCranswick: Paul, just found out that my son's family have taken a place in Nether Edge, which I understand is in SW Sheffield. I can't wait until they are settled & I can visit!

Mai 24, 2016, 10:51pm

36. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P. M. Forni

Type: nonfiction, psychology
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): Dewey 395, ROOT
Format: paperback from my shelves

Mr. Forni presents good and useful advice about dealing with others in a civilized fashion, but it did get a bit preachy. He could have used more humor to get his points across, and less "don'ts." I was hoping for more positive ways to be kind and courteous. Still, we could all use to be reminded of these rules of civility every so often.

Modifié : Mai 24, 2016, 10:56pm

37. Felicity: Poems by Mary Oliver

Type: poetry
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): AAC April Poetry Challenge; WomanBingoPUP square: Poetry or plays
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

Lots of people recently have recommended Oliver's poetry, but this little volume held no interest for me. I felt like I was reading someone's rather mundane diary entries rather than poetry. I just wasn't struck by any interesting use of language or phrase. When it comes to poetry, to each her own...

Mai 24, 2016, 11:08pm

38. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Type: fiction
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): AAC January Challenge substitution; RandomCAT April: Earth Day; for Book Club
Format: Hardcover from my shelves

This book was better than I expected. Knowing that it was written by a Protestant missionary, I had my doubts, but for its time (1931) the book is realistic, sensitive and frank. It is the story of a poor Chinese farmer, Wang Lung, whose greatest joy is in the land, but who loses that joy over time as he becomes successful and more removed from farming. The style of writing is simple, but not patronizing. For its time, it was probably revolutionary for a Western female author to write about such topics, especially the honest way it deals with sexuality.

This particular edition is from 1933 with an introduction by Buck in which she counters several published criticisms of her book and its portrayal of peasant life in China. These criticisms mostly had to do with portraying peasant life at all--that more emphasis should have been on the upper educated classes, rather than the poor. Buck makes no apologies, and I think answers her critics well.

I've decided to make this a substitute for Ann Tyler, who I tried to read, but couldn't take more than a few pages. I'm hoping to substitute more people of color in the AAC choices for myself. Although Buck was not a minority, nearly all of her books focus on Asians and life in Asia, which is very much outside the mainstream of 20th century white American writing. I also thought Wang Lung's story was a story about the land, and seemed to fit in with the RandomCAT Earth day idea for April. We'll be discussing this book in Book Club tomorrow, and I'm bringing egg rolls--probably more of a Chinese American invention--but easy to eat while discussing the book!

Mai 25, 2016, 10:02am

>103 kac522: Interesting review of The Good Earth, Kathy. That's one I've often thought about reading.

Mai 25, 2016, 10:55am

>100 kac522: Yes it is close to the Hallam University campus and the Bramall Lane soccer stadium of Sheffield United (Sean Bean's favourite club) and previously a cricket ground. There is a theatre called the Lantern Theatre that I went to many moons ago when I had a girlfriend in the city.

Mai 25, 2016, 4:34pm

>105 PaulCranswick: Guess I'll have to start following Sheffield United, then! Thanks Paul.

Mai 25, 2016, 4:36pm

>104 jnwelch: We had a rather heated discussion in Book Club, as one guy had a hard time with a Chinese tale told by a white woman. The rest of us all had positive reactions to the book.

Modifié : Mai 26, 2016, 2:17am

39. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Type: fiction
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

As enigmatic as the composer himself, this novel based on Dmitri Shostakovich is full of truths, lies, ironies and evasions. It reminds me of the very controversial book Testimony, which came out soon after Shostakovich's death. Barnes' novel is in 3 parts (like a triad) and weaves the composer's life around 3 settings. Great writing from Barnes, but how much is truth and how much fiction is hard to determine, and how much is Shostakovich and how much is Barnes is completely up for grabs. Also there was a fair amount of repetition of ideas and phrases, stories and settings, which by the end was annoying, although it was probably on purpose. Still, I read it in one evening. At the end you can only have hope that Shostakovich's music as art will outlive and transcend the ideologies of the Stalinist and Communist eras that it may (or may not!) have come from.

I'd recommend reading at least a synopsis of Shostakovich's life before tackling this book--it will mean so much more if you know some basic details of his life and the era he lived in.

Mai 26, 2016, 10:31am

>108 kac522: Nice review, I love both Shostakovich and Barnes, I should get The noise of time next time I go to the library!

Mai 26, 2016, 11:44am

>109 FAMeulstee: It is one of those books that needs to be read several times to really appreciate it. But it is not long, and each section is told in short, separate paragraphs, sort of like separate thoughts or memories.

Mai 26, 2016, 3:52pm

>105 PaulCranswick: Paul--do you know of any good bookstores in or near Sheffield, especially ones that would offer a good selection of children's books?

Mai 29, 2016, 8:30pm

Last night I re-read Lady Susan by Jane Austen in preparation for seeing the film Love and Friendship today.

I thought the film was really good, although it seemed to drag a bit toward the end. The dialogue is brilliant, but very fast, and there was a lot I recognized from the text. I want to see it again, just to get the bits I missed.

Mai 30, 2016, 5:54pm

That sounds like fun, Kathy. It may be a while, but I hope to see it in the theater. She's such a great character, isn't she.

Mai 30, 2016, 11:20pm

>113 jnwelch: Your gonna love Kate Beckinsale, Joe. Worth the price of admission just for her performance. The guy who plays St James Martin was pretty awesome, too.

Modifié : Juin 12, 2016, 6:47pm

40. No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh

Type: nonfiction, spirituality
Completed: May 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge April: Spirituality; ROOT
Format: Paperback from my TBR

This book didn't do anything for me--just not my style. It was repetitive; he could have gotten the message across in less than 30 pages. But could be very soothing for some individuals--it was given to me by a friend after my mother died, but I just couldn't read it then. It did fit a challenge and it's another long-term book off my shelf (from 2004).

Modifié : Juin 12, 2016, 7:16pm

41. How to Speak Brit by Christopher J. Moore
42. In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
44. How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language by Simon Horobin

Type: nonfiction, Language
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): Dewey 400s
Format: Small format hardcovers from Evanston Public Library

When looking for a book in the 400s for the Dewey challenge, I realized that every 400 book I owned I had already read! Which meant I had to find some at the library. I went to the library and picked these 3 small books off the shelf. I was not disappointed, and the content did not overlap much between the books.

How to Speak Brit by Christopher J. Moore is a small book of "Britishisms", some common, some local. I was surprised at how many I actually knew or recognized. Some I didn't know were: "spend a penny", "dog and bone" and "a load of cobblers." Short and amusing.

In Other Words by the same author, was an interesting concept. Moore identifies unusual words or phrases in many languages that can't easily be translated into just one word in English. They represent ideas and practices particular to the culture of the language. Romance languages, Asian languages, Yiddish, African, Nordic, and Pidgin are just a few of the language groups he covers, with a brief introduction to the origins of each language and a small sampling from each. Two examples with Moore's English definition:

--Russian poshlost: something cheap, sham or common
--Dutch de doofpot: A common Dutch response to any type of scandal that urges everyone to look the other way, so that the whole thing is forgotten.

A fun book and an introduction to how language is influenced by culture.

How English Became English: A Short History of a Global Language by Simon Horobin just came out this year. It's a short and accessible look at the history & origins of English, English as it is spoken in various countries and the future of English.

Throughout the book Horobin weaves in the battles between those linguists who are "prescriptives" (those who want to define Standard English, and keep it that way), and "descriptives" (those who want to describe English as it is actually being used in daily life and modify the "rules" accordingly). It's an interesting struggle which Horobin identifies throughout the history of English, how it's used today, and what the future may bring. Great reading, and valuable for any speaker/reader of English.

Juin 12, 2016, 7:40pm

43. The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie

Type: fiction, mystery
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

The best I can say is that this is the first Christie where I was at least thinking in the right direction, even if I was nowhere near the correct solution. I was also expecting more about golf, but it only was where the murder occurred. Still fun for an evening read. And even mentioned "Apache crime."

Modifié : Juin 24, 2016, 10:24pm

45. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Type: fiction
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT May: Color My World; ROOT
Format: Paperback from my shelves

The story of a young woman who becomes a governess to help her family. Bronte exposes the indignities suffered and social class limbo of the governess--not quite servant, but certainly never her employer's equal. In between Bronte gives us a novel about High Church vs. Evangelicalism, and of every day morals, which many LT reviewers have found irritating. I was able to tolerate it, with the understanding that Bronte was trying to make a point about ethical behavior. Our governess seems to immediately dislike her charges and her employers; her first family especially has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Towards the end of the novel Bronte's characters become a little more rounded and human. Certainly not as polished as her sister Charlotte, Anne Bronte still gives us a cold, realistic view of the plight of the governess and argues for a kinder, gentler clergy.

Modifié : Juin 24, 2016, 10:26pm

46. My Love Affair with England by Susan Allen Toth

Type: travel memoir
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge March: Travel; ROOT
Format: Paperback from my shelves

Toth gives us tales of her many travels to England. They are organized more by theme than chronologically, so sometimes it became confusing. Toth first went to London in college (1960) and continued making trips up until this book, which was written in 1992. In the meantime, she married, had a daughter, got divorced, raised her daughter alone for some years, and finally remarried. Because her life is so interwoven in the stories, I sometimes couldn't figure out what part of her life she was relating. Still, the stories are good, are honest, are just interesting. She doesn't fawn over England--she loves it, but she's always happy to come home to Minnesota. You're not going to take lots of notes about places to visit, but you will get a sense of places and people.

Modifié : Juin 24, 2016, 10:37pm

47. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Type: play
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): none; for my book club
Format: Paperback from the library

Miller's classic tale of Willy Loman, the quintessential American salesman. I think the inherent dishonesty in this family hit me more than the "outing" of American materialism, as well as the lack of any interesting female characters. We had a great discussion about the themes in the play in our group, and our leader asked really good questions. Years ago I saw the Goodman Theatre (Chicago) production with Brian Dennehy--there was an electricity in the performance that I've never had anywhere else in theater. This time, besides reading the play, I also watched the Lee J Cobb 1960s TV production (adapted by Miller). Lee J Cobb, was, well, Lee J Cobb (to me). Interesting newcomer Gene Wilder played the kid next door, Bernard. Always something new to take away in another reading or performance, so I enjoyed the re-read.

Modifié : Juil 2, 2016, 10:43pm

49. The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester; read by Simon Winchester.

Type: nonfiction, geology
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction challenge June: Natural history/environment
Format: Audiobook from Chicago Public Library

I enjoyed the story of William Smith more than the geology (sorry, Simon!). It's as much a book about social class as it is about geology. William Smith, coal miner and drainage engineer, created the first geologic map of England, yet was ignored and humiliated because he wasn't born to the proper parents. As always, Winchester is an entertaining reader, and weaves science into the history of time and place.

Modifié : Juil 2, 2016, 10:47pm

50. The Provincial Lady in America by E. M. Delafield

Type: fiction
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): None
Format: Paperback Chicago Public Library

Not as laugh-out-loud funny as the previous books, but still a clever read. I thought she was generous in her treatment of Americans. And totally empathized with her need to be home.

Juil 2, 2016, 11:00pm

51. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson: Volumes 1 through 3

Type: fiction
Completed: June 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT Challenge June: "I Do, I Do!"; ROOT
Format: My ebook (Nook)

This 18th century epistolary novel is 9 volumes and almost 2000 pages in my ebook edition. I've decided to count it as 3 books (3 volumes per book), and this past week I finished the first 3 volumes; hence 1 "book" for my totals.

Poor Clarissa, who is to inherit her family's fortune, is being forced by her family to marry the dreaded Mr. Solmes. She refuses, and even begs to give up her fortune, just to get out of the marriage, but her evil brother & sister are relentless. In the meantime Mr. Lovelace, a conniving rake, has weaseled his way into her affections, and has "kidnapped" Clarissa away from her family. Just goes to show you how women of this time period had two choices: between a rock and a hard place. Richardson draaaaags every scene out way beyond tolerance, but it still is a good story, and I hope to finish before year end. I'll need to pick up the pace, as it took me 6 months to read 1/3 of the book.

Juil 4, 2016, 1:56pm

Juil 4, 2016, 4:58pm

Thanks, Paul--listened to Gershwin's "American in Paris" on the radio earlier today, and right now watching the Chicago Cubs beating the Cincinnati Reds. Perfect American day.

Juil 5, 2016, 1:11am

Sheffield, UK: where I hope to visit my son & family in the not too distant future. Have only been to the north once, and not to Sheffield at all. Thinking about his big move has distracted me from reading these past few weeks.

Speaking of which: Reflections on reading in the first half of 2016:

Good stuff:

--I've read 51 books--if this keeps up, I'm on track to read 100 books this year, something I've never done before!

--I've completed the Dewey Challenge each month, and the Nonfiction challenge in 5 out of 6 months

--I've completed all 6 challenges in January, and 5 out of 6 challenges in February & April

--I've enjoyed all the Canadian authors I've tried for the CAC challenge.

--I've read some remarkable books, like Moby Dick, Marriage by Susan Ferrier, am 1/3 through Clarissa, and encountered some very thought-provoking reads, like The Noise of Time, Spinoza: a Life, and The Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot.

--I re-read The Mayor of Casterbridge, To Kill a Mockingbird and Death of a Salesman--all classics I read many years ago, and brought new insight on re-visiting.

--I discovered E. M. Delafield's entertaining Provincial Lady series, and started reading Agatha Christie from her first published mystery. I plan to continue in order.

Need to improve:

--Completing a few more challenges/months as possible.

--Read more of what I want. And to that end, I've decided July is going to be Challenge-Free, with one exception. I'm in the midst of Robertson Davies' Fifth Business (the second Canadian author for January), and will finish that. After that, who knows? I'm picking books I've been wanting to read that don't fit any challenges, like:

--Plainsong--all that warbling from Joe & Mark has got this book on the top of my TBR pile
--The Prime Minister--my next book in Trollope's Palliser series (what with Brexit and Cameron resigning, this seemed timely)
--another Volume of Clarissa

After that--maybe back to a challenge or two. I'm off to read...

Modifié : Juil 6, 2016, 1:05am

52. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Type: fiction
Completed: July 2016
Challenge(s): Canadian Author Challenge: January
Format: Paperback from Chicago Public Library

I know I should love this book. But I didn't. I'm not going to repeat the story here--it's too complicated, and it never pulled me in. It was too realistic to be a fable, and too unbelievable to take seriously. I did not feel for any of the characters; I didn't like any of them, either. The narrator feels distant and condescending. And the psychological archetypes and saints and devils; magicians and politicians; illusions, delusions, allusions: all weaving in and out, were more than my poor head could figure out. I felt like a "fool-reader": putting in lots of rigorous psychological and literary effort, but it all comes to nothing.

The only positive thing I can say is that Davies is an intelligent writer, and he assumes an intelligent audience. But it was a slog--I forced myself to finish. Sorry, Davies fans. I wanted so much to like it, which is why I didn't Pearl-Rule it (which I desperately wanted to do). Done now, and onto better things.

Modifié : Août 30, 2016, 3:57am

Yes, well, it's been awhile, hasn't it? July & August were busy with work and events; not much reading got done. I've all but abandoned any hope of finishing any challenge, except that I've done relatively OK with the WomanBingoPup.

Here's hoping September will bring more reading time, and below are the few books I managed to read the last 2 months.

Modifié : Août 31, 2016, 1:42am

53. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope

Type: fiction
Completed: July 2016
Challenge(s): ROOTs
Format: Paperback from my library

I had been putting this off so that I could read along with lyzard's tutored read, but I just couldn't wait! What with Brexit & the new Prime Minister this summer, I was very much in the mood for this political novel, my next book up in Trollope's Palliser series.

There are 2 main threads, encompassing two very different marriages: Plantagenet (the politician of the title) & his wife Glencora; and Ferdinand Lopez & his wife Emily Wharton. Trollope shows us how two very different marriages work, or don't work, as the case may be.

This is the first Trollope where I actually followed & understood the political threads of the novel, and I think I may have enjoyed that part almost as much as Plantagenet & Lady Glencora. I was uncomfortable with the underlying anti-Semitism that surrounds Lopez. If you read closely, the blatant anti-Semitism only comes out of a character's mouth, not from the narrator directly, although the narrator has very little good to relate about Lopez (until his end).

All in all, it was wonderful to re-visit Trollope's world. Before I move onto the last novel, I want to listen to The Prime Minister, so will need to work on finding the audio.

Août 30, 2016, 2:46am

54. Milwaukee by Bernice Rubens

Type: fiction
Completed: Aug 2016
Challenge(s): BAC
Format: Hardcover via Interlibrary loan (SIU-Carbondale)

I was hoping for more from this book. The mother/daughter relationships are all negative, with unlikely tokens of "love" at dying. I found the entire story pretty unbelievable, and most of the characters unlikable. I did not enjoy this book, although the writing itself was better than average.

Modifié : Août 30, 2016, 3:21am

55. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

Type: fiction
Completed: August 2016
Challenge(s): None
Format: ebook from Chicago Public Library

Another book that just didn't cut it for me. Let's start with the fact that the book was probably 200 pages too long. The themes and ideas were important (mostly tolerance, individualism, small-town narrowness, etc.), but I feel like Simonson tackled too many & I don't feel like any one of them was well-rounded. The first 2/3 of the book just dragged for me--the last parts of the book (at war) moved much faster. I had little or no sympathy for any of the characters, and the dialogue felt wrong--or maybe forced/not natural. There's a whole thread of a Henry James-like character which to me was insufferable. I enjoyed Simonson's first book Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but this book was for me mostly a chore to read.

Modifié : Août 30, 2016, 3:21am

56. The Great Lakes by Pierre Berton; photographs by Andre Gallant

Type: nonfiction, history of the Great Lakes
Completed: August 2016
Challenge(s): CAC
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

This is a large-format coffee table book, and it was stunning, with wonderful text by Berton. Living in Chicago on Lake Michigan, I have always thought of the Great Lakes as simply American. It just never occurred to me that there's a Canadian story, too. Berton takes us through the history, commerce, great disasters, recreation, environment and future of the lakes from both sides of the border, using archival photographs and contemporary photographs taken by Gallant. Written in the 1990's, it could use some updating from the last 20 years, but overall still a lovely look at one of greatest resources shared by Canada and the U.S.A.

Modifié : Août 31, 2016, 1:37am

57. Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Type: fiction
Completed: August 2016
Challenge(s): my Book Club, ROOTs
Format: paperback from my library

If you follow the 75-ers threads around here, you've probably heard the praises from Joe (jnwelch) & Mark (of the AAC) about Plainsong. I convinced my book club that this would be a great summer read for us, and I think most people did enjoy the book. I loved Haruf's spare style--I think he gets across so much in just a small space. In particular his dialogue felt real, and his details of the simplest daily events, like shadows, wind, sounds, and even the swinging of a purse--make you feel like you are right there. At the beginning I was less impressed with the storyline, but all the threads seemed to converge at the end, in a positive way. And perhaps that's the best thing about this book--except for a few curmudgeons, people in this small town of Colorado mostly do the right thing, without feeling self-righteous about it. I'm not sure I'll read the next books in the trilogy, but I would like to try some of Haruf's short stories. But I'm very glad I read Plainsong.

Modifié : Août 30, 2016, 3:46am

58. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery; Audiobook read by Colleen Winton

Type: fiction
Completed: August 2016
Challenge(s): CAC
Format: audiobook from Chicago Public Library

I read this classic almost 30 years ago and loved the TV series. Listening to the audiobook was such a pleasure--I really didn't want it to end! Yes, Anne is over-the-top, but in many ways it reminded me of how I take so many things for granted. Anne was thrilled by the smallest pleasure--just a stretch of lovely green space let her imagination run wild. I feel like I have no "imagination" or appreciation for the small things in my life & Anne put a tiny bit back for me. And of course as a fellow redhead, I could sympathize with her troubles, and her "Waterloo": geometry! I only wish Montgomery didn't have Anne win EVERY prize in Avonlea, or ALWAYS get that encore, but besides that, it was a fun book to listen to.

Modifié : Août 31, 2016, 1:48am

59. Blue Willow by Doris Gates

Type: fiction (YA/middle school)
Completed: August 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: paperback from Chicago Public Library

Saw this book on Linda's (Whisper1) thread and wanted to read about the Blue Willow plate. Written in the 1940's the story is set in a migrant worker's camp in California. In some ways, it was much ahead of its time: it portrays the life of a poor migrant family (father, daughter, stepmother), with Mexican neighbors. In other ways I was less pleased with the book: the narrator tells us too much rather than letting the story or the characters tell us; there is a short patriotic section about the American flag; women are decidedly second-class citizens here. The plate is a family heirloom from her deceased mother's family that the heroine (Janey) treasures more than any other possession (of which there are few). I own a set of very old Blue Willow dishes that were my grandmother's, so the premise of the story intrigued me. Not sure how kids today would react or respond to this book, but it is a look at a way of life in the Depression era.

Août 30, 2016, 2:49pm

Woo, I loved both Davies' Deptford Trilogy and The Summer Before the War, Kathy. Glad Plainsong worked for you! I'm another fan of Anne of Green Gables, book and tv series.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, for me, was an increment above The Summer Before the War - not sure whether you checked out that one yet. Vivid re WWII. TSBTW was a relief for me - I had loved Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and was worried she was a one book wonder. Clearly not.

Août 30, 2016, 7:58pm

>129 kac522:

We are still hoping to get to a group or tutored read of The Prime Minister, but it's been a difficult year for a number of people and we just haven't managed to get it scheduled. Perhaps you can listen along when we do (fingers crossed) get to it? :)

Août 30, 2016, 8:37pm

Hi, Kathy! I am not sure if I have visited before. A fellow Chicagoan too? Bad Mark.

I liked your review of Plainsong and glad you finally read it. What is it about it, that would prevent you from reading the other Holt novels. Inquiring minds...

I finally read Anne of Green Gables for the first time and had a good time with it.

Août 30, 2016, 8:39pm

Sorry you weren't crazy about Fifth Business. I was a big fan and also liked the second of the trilogy.

Modifié : Août 31, 2016, 1:33am

>136 jnwelch: I enjoyed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as well, Joe, which is why this book was such a disappointment. I think she was trying to make too many points, and I felt that none were really fleshed out. I wanted to learn more about the gypsies, for example, but that just kind of dropped off somewhere mid-novel. And I think I just wasn't in the mood at all for Fifth Business. Truly, it just gave me a headache. It may not have been the book--just not my time to read it.

>138 msf59: Mark, I think what I loved about Plainsong were the short chapters and the brief sketches, which is why I think his short stories would be just my cuppa. Don't believe they're collected anywhere, but I'm hoping one day his publisher will pull them together into one volume.

Modifié : Août 31, 2016, 1:44am

>137 lyzard: No worries, Liz! I just couldn't wait! Plus I have gotten into the habit of reading a Trollope (also Dickens) and then listening to it again a few months later, so that's my plan once the tutored read starts. I found this great set of cassette tapes (remember them?) of The Prime Minister read by Timothy West, but I don't currently have a tape player :(
So I've been looking for a device that can convert them to mp3...I've seen a couple on Amazon, so may bite the bullet and get one.
I think this is my favorite of the Palliser series so far, and I'm looking forward to the tutored read whenever it comes around.

Modifié : Sep 1, 2016, 2:22am

It's September, so might as well re-cap July and August:

Best Fiction: The Prime Minister and Plainsong.
Best Non-Fiction: The Great Lakes --actually the ONLY non-fiction :) but it was still a good book.
Most Disappointing: The Summer Before the War

A surprising great re-read: Anne of Green Gables

Currently reading:

Mozart's Women by Jane Glover for Dewey 700s and WomanBingoPup
The Provincial Lady in Russia by E. M. Delafield

Some other possibilities for the month:

The Stranger by Camus, for Book Club
Joseph Banks: A Life by Patrick O'Brian for Dewey 500s
The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Attwood for Dewey 600s
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr
--something in translation for the RandomCat (maybe Herta Muller?)
--and another volume in Clarissa; note that this reading has come to a virtual stand-still, so need to get back to it

--and I may follow along with lyzard's tutored read of Emma. It is my least favorite Austen novel to read, but I've enjoyed the screen adaptations.

Modifié : Oct 15, 2016, 2:59pm

Well now that October is half-way done, time to catch up on September reads:

60. The Provincial Lady in Russia by E. M. Delafield

Type: memoir
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): none
Format: paperback from Chicago Public Library

This did not have the same light funny tone as the previous "Provincial Lady" books. There is dark humor and it's a bit scary and we want our Lady to come home as soon as she can. And like the author, we wonder what on earth her editor could be thinking that Stalin's Russia could provide entertainment to our Lady's readers, and we all come away thinking there is nothing funny about it at all. It does offer an eye-opening look at the Russia of the late 1930's, warts and all.

61. The Great Bridge: the Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough

Type: nonfiction, history
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT Challenge--624.55097471
Format: Audiobook

The story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. As an audiobook, it was more difficult to visualize--pictures and diagrams would have helped, especially concerning the great caissons where the men labored many weeks. But the story of Washington Roebling, the genius behind the building of the bridge, takes center stage in the book, and comes across clearly in the audiobook. An early McCullough history that is always entertaining.

62. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Type: nonfiction, travel memoir
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): None
Format: Paperback from the Chicago Public Library

After living in the UK for over 10 years, Bryson takes one last trip through Great Britain before he is to return to America to live. This book had some great parts, but it was 150 pages too long. Bryson could have told us about the highlights, the unusual places, and even some of the dismal ones in a lot fewer words. The dismal ones especially got boring--how many times can you hear about a boring little village? And a boring English town is at least slightly more interesting than some dinky towns in Illinois (or his native Iowa) that are just an intersection. When he loved a place, he conveyed it well, and I appreciated those. Written for Americans, especially those of us from the Midwest.

63. The Stranger by Albert Camus; translated from the French by Matthew Ward

Type: fiction
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT September: Books in Translation; Read for my Book Club
Format: Paperback from my library

This very short existential/absurdist novel (actually closer to novella) felt very much of its time--the 1940s. I don't think it could have been written today. A man estranged from society commits a murder, seemingly by accident, and comes to terms with his life as he faces death. It generated a good amount of discussion at book club, and at the time made me stop and think, at least for a few days...

64. Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith

Type: fiction: short stories
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): None
Format: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library

Several short stories inspired by old photographs. Clever premise that doesn't always work successfully, but was a welcome break after The Stranger.

65. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler; translated from the German by Charlotte Collins

Type: fiction
Completed: Sep 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT September: Books in Translation
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

An unassuming but exquisitely written book about the simple life of man living in the Alps. Short and very satisfying, with an open, positive, quiet-as-snow feel.

Oct 14, 2016, 10:48pm

RL has wormed its way into my life and slowed down my reading, so I've taken to just finishing up all the library books stacked up, rather than keep up with challenges.

Currently working on:

--The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E. M. Delafield, the last in the series

--Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction by Jenni Calder

--Mozart's Women by Jane Glover

--Austen's Emma in an audiorecording read by Juliet Stevenson

and someday I'll get back to Clarissa.

Also from the library I have stacked up beside me, but not yet started:

--I, Robot by Asimov for Book Club

--Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, the One Book, One Chicago selection this year

--Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli and

--The Illustrated Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee for the BAC

Oct 15, 2016, 7:13am

>143 kac522: Two books I read this year too, Kathy, I think I liked Notes from an small island better thandyou did and feel the same about A whole life :-)

Oct 15, 2016, 2:59pm

>145 FAMeulstee: When I liked Bryson, I really enjoyed it; but a lot got repetitive (for me). I'm so glad I read A Whole Life, which I read about on LT.

Modifié : Oct 27, 2016, 7:42pm

66. Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction by Jenni Calder

Type: nonfiction: literary criticism
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT 800s (823.03); ROOT (see note!)
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

Although it's obvious that Calder is a brilliant scholar, I found it very difficult to come away with much from this book. It seemed like a series of essays or analyses of works, that were only loosely tied together. For me she failed to bring everything into a coherent thesis. If you are looking for analysis of women and marriage in specific works or authors, it's best to go to the index, and read parts from her book. But as a collective whole, I had trouble following her train of thought. She spent a considerable amount of time on George Gissing and George Meredith, two authors completely new to me, so the analyses of their works were not as meaningful as those I've read, like Mrs Gaskell, Dickens, Thackeray and George Eliot. Hardy is mentioned a little and Trollope only in passing. I needed an overview of general trends in the Victorian era, in order to appreciate her specific points in the novels. Could be useful to someone who is looking for more detail in one of the books she highlights, but overall it was disappointing.

Note: I'm calling this a ROOT (even though it's a library book) because I originally took this book out of the library in December of 2015 and have renewed it the maximum 15 (yes, 15) times. So it's finally off my "library book" shelf after 10 months and I'll return it tomorrow on its final due date. :-)

Oct 22, 2016, 10:30am

>144 kac522: I share the inability to reduce the number of books I have part read (I did finish one today though) as I have made myself most definitely spoilt for choice. I reckon you'll whizz past 75 again this year, Kathy.

Any update on shenanigans in Sheffield?

Have a lovely weekend.

Oct 22, 2016, 4:53pm

>148 PaulCranswick: Thanks for stopping by, Paul. I did finish The Provincial Lady in Wartime and am now working on Asimov's I, Robot. Science fiction is slow-going for me, so I'm plugging away.

Thanks for asking about Sheffield. Things are going brilliantly for the children, and that was the purpose for the move. All 3 have now been placed in a very good school (Sharrow) and are adapting well. Our William, the boy with Asperger's, has been fascinated with the study of the Victorian era and Oliver Twist that his YR4 teacher has been bringing to them via clips from the 1948 film with Alec Guinness. He participates in class and comes home discussing school, which he never did in Italy. Adele, because of her birthdate (Aug 31), has jumped from kindergarten in Italy to YR2, and is working hard to learn to read in English. She's loving art and music and has already made friends, and even has a birthday party invitation. Little Amelie is in nursery school at Sharrow, and she's doing so well with English her parents are afraid she'll forget Italian.

Parents are struggling, however, to find permanent work, and that is the biggest stumbling block, as they need to show they can support themselves when their application for permanent residency comes up in December. They are enjoying the town and walking paths in the Peak district and people they have met so far. We are keeping fingers crossed that work will come soon.

Oct 26, 2016, 11:29pm

Modifié : Oct 27, 2016, 7:01am

Go Cubbies! Great win, Kathy. Nice to have Schwarber back! And nice to have Arrieta pitch 5 strong innings.

I also recently read and enjoyed A Whole Life. Well-done.

Oct 27, 2016, 11:27am

>151 msf59: Great game last night, wasn't it, Mark? It was a typical Cubs win. We turn down the sound on the TV and listen to Pat & Ron on the radio. No Joe Buck in this household.

Oct 27, 2016, 4:27pm

>147 kac522:

I read that last year but had to go and remind myself what I said about it. I think Calder's analyses here really do require an overarching grasp of Victorian literature to follow her arguments; although that said, I think her individual points are stronger than her overall theme.

Modifié : Oct 31, 2016, 5:28pm

Flyin' the W flag...So glad they won at least one game at home. Beating the Indians in Cleveland is going to be tough, but at least I feel like the Cubs showed up to play with 2 wins.

Oct 31, 2016, 5:52pm

>153 lyzard: Agreed, Liz. Not sorry I read it, but I think it could have given a better overview.

Modifié : Nov 14, 2016, 1:59am

What! October is over! Yikes...let's catch up on reviews:

67. The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E. M. Delafield

Type: fictional memoir, humor
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): WomanBingoPUP--Women in Combat (see note!)
Format: Paperback from the Chicago Public Library

The usual witty banter of the Provincial Lady is restored in this last of the series. Delafield finds humor in even the most serious of war-time threats, so that we can laugh at even the darkest times.

Note: This is the closest I'm going to get to reading a "women in combat" book...although she never actually *sees* combat, she tries very hard to work for the "war effort." I'm sure she felt like she was in combat, working in the cafeteria she describes.

68. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Type: nonfiction, physics
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT 530
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

These are articles Rovelli wrote for the Sunday paper publication in Italy, gathered together in one book. Definitely beyond my scope, but at least now I have a clue about what a black hole is. Rovelli's wonder and awe at our universe permeates this book, and in the reader, too.

69. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Type: fiction, science fiction
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): Oct RandomCAT--Scary books; read for book club
Format: Paperback from the Chicago Public Library

Sci-fi just isn't my genre, but this did get more interesting as the stories moved forward. The book club discussion helped me appreciate the concepts more than my initial reading, but I probably won't be reading any more Asimov. And this is about as scary as it gets in my reading (robots acting human).

70. The Illustrated Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Type: memoir
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): BAC September
Format: Hardcover from the Chicago Public Library

Lee word-paints his childhood in a small country village in Gloucester. Absolutely beautiful language takes us right there. Gorgeous illustrations in this edition fit perfectly with the prose. It's especially meaningful for me because my grandfather, who was born about 10 years before Lee, was born in Bristol. As a city boy, my grandfather's experiences would have been different, but some things, I'm sure, like the language, were the same. I know they visited the seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare, and I have also walked along the Promenade. I plan to read the rest of the books in the series.

71. Audiobook: Emma by Jane Austen; read by Juliet Stevenson

Type: fiction
Completed: Oct 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT
Format: Audiobook CDs

Listened to this (again) for lyzard's tutored read of Emma; I'm calling it a ROOT, as I've had the audiobook for a couple of years. Can't beat Stevenson for an impeccable reading, especially portrayals of Mr. Woodhouse and Mrs. Elton. Absolutely brilliant!

Oct 31, 2016, 6:51pm

October recap:

Best of the lot: The Illustrated Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
Best out-of-my-comfort-zone read: Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

Most disappointing: Women and Marriage in Victorian Fiction by Jenni Calder

Comforting re-read: Audiobook of Emma by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson

Currently reading:

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
How Not to be Wrong: the Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg
Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself by Donniel Hartman

and still plugging away at:

Mozart's Women by Jane Glover
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

Other possible books for November include:

NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Stories by Katherine Mansfield
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Meridian by Alice Walker
Audiobook: The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope, read by Timothy West

Nov 2, 2016, 12:36am

ONE MORE TO GO! Can't believe it's happening!

Nov 2, 2016, 6:56am

Go Cubbies! Now that was a sweet win. Let's do it one more time, Kathy.

Nov 2, 2016, 10:46am

>159 msf59: You bet, Mark--and let's hope the rain holds off in Cleveland.

Nov 2, 2016, 10:47am

An interesting article: we readers already know this, and this article puts science behind the emotional and psychological benefits of reading:


Nov 2, 2016, 8:31pm

Go Fowler! Come on Cubbies! We need to scrap together a few more more runs.

And no, we are not dreaming. This is happening.

Nov 3, 2016, 12:01am

It could only happen to the Cubs--game 7 of the World Series, 10th inning rain delay...

Nov 3, 2016, 9:44am

I know, Kathy - a lot of folks on Facebook were saying, "Not the tarp! Not the tarp!" What a win, eh?

Nov 3, 2016, 11:00pm

>164 jnwelch: Yep, it was a great game. And I have to thank the Cubs for keeping our minds off the election. Now it's back to all those cr-p political TV ads and "breaking" news. Sheesh. It was great to see young guys working together, encouraging each other, fighting for one common goal. Professional athletes are hardly perfect humans, but nothing's as bad as politics this year.

Nov 4, 2016, 6:37am

Happy Friday, Kathy! Hooray for the Cubs! We are indeed the Champions! Still hard to get my head around.

Let me know if you go to the parade.

Nov 4, 2016, 12:47pm

>165 kac522: The parade's today. So you get at least one more day of forgetting about the election.

It does seem like a great group of guys. I just read a touching article about cancer survivor Lester helping cancer survivor Rizzo in their pre-Cubs days.

Nov 4, 2016, 5:41pm

>166 msf59:, >167 jnwelch: Thanks, guys. I decided to watch it all on TV--looked like just way too many people for me. It looked awesome; and crowded. I've been a Cubs fan all my life and it wasn't always cool to wear Cubbie blue, but there was a sea (and river) of blue out there today.

It was too beautiful to stay in, however--ended up getting a lunch at Kaufman's deli in Skokie & eating outside along the Skokie lagoons.

Nov 4, 2016, 6:20pm

Staying home and watching it on TV, is a great idea. We have it recorded, so I will check it out tonight.

I could not have handled those crowds. Yikes!

Nov 4, 2016, 11:19pm

>169 msf59: I know. Even if you find a standing spot that's not so crowded, it's the going home on the train part that gets really tiresome. My husband works at Northwestern U. downtown (Chicago Ave.), and it took him a couple of hours to get home to our place in Albany Park/North Park.

Nov 6, 2016, 5:33am

Well the Cubbies did it!

I think it great that your grandkids are settling in so well. I will have a word with a few friends in the UK to see if they know of anything work wise for their parents to do.

Modifié : Nov 22, 2016, 5:11pm

72. Audiobook: Lady Susan by Jane Austen; various readers

Type: fiction
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT
Format: Audiobook CDs

I read Lady Susan earlier this year, but hadn't listened to the audio version. Several years ago I treated myself to the complete Naxos set of Jane Austen. This short novel is entirely in letters, and several actors took the various parts reading the letters. It worked very well, and I had forgotten how funny this novel is. Great fun during a Saturday afternoon drive.

Modifié : Nov 22, 2016, 5:13pm

73. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

Type: fiction
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): ROOT, Canadian Author challenge for April, RandomCAT Nov: debut novel
Format: paperback from my library

This is Atwood's first published novel (1969); she had previously only published poetry. And it seems very much out of the late 1960s, weaving consumerism, fashion and food with the changing roles of women. Two young twenty-something working women are rooming together in a large city, where they are confronted with boyfriends, married friends, the latest make-up and clothing. Marian and Ainsley, our heroines, desperately want to find some other choices besides the working girl and the harried stay-at-home mom, but there seems to be no other paths for them. I'm sure I would have loved this book if I had read it back then, as I was only a few years behind. The book is funny and slightly bizarre; it may even predict eating disorders which were largely undiagnosed at that time. Reading it today it is a window to a time before feminism; it's hard to imagine young women today understanding the angst of a girdle.

Modifié : Nov 22, 2016, 5:23pm

74. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Type: drama
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT Feb: It Takes Two; for my Book Club
Format: paperback from my library

Great fun! I had not read or seen this play before. After reading, I watched the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson film, which made it so accessible.

Modifié : Nov 22, 2016, 5:54pm

75. A Story Larger than My Own: Women Writers Look Back on Their Lives and Careers edited by Janet Burroway

Type: nonfiction, essays
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge November: Essay collections; ROOT
Format: paperback from my library, signed by the editor

A wonderful collection of essays by women writers over age 60, recalling their struggles in their early writing careers, their triumphs, and the challenges they face as they get older. Twenty writers reflect on their careers, including Julia Alvarez, Rosellen Brown, Margaret Atwood, Gail Godwin, Erica Jong, Maxine Kumin, Edith Pearlman, Jane Smiley, and a talk given by Margaret Atwood.

In her talk about dealing with age as a writer, Atwood tells this story: she & her husband were giving a large party for other writers in their home, when one of their guests became ill. It appeared the guest was having a heart attack, so Atwood called 911. Here's how she describes it:

"And very shortly two huge strapping muscly young paramedics came galumphing up the steps. And they went in with their machines and shooed everybody out, and the following conversation took place:

FIRST PARAMEDIC: Do you know whose house this is?
SECOND PARAMEDIC: No, whose house is it?
FIRST PARAMEDIC: This is Margaret Atwood's house.
SECOND PARAMEDIC: Margaret Atwood? Is she still alive?

"Well, (Atwood goes on) some days I wonder."

And with this book, I've reached 75!

Nov 22, 2016, 6:02pm

76. The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Type: fiction
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): BAC November
Format: Paperback from Evanston Public Library

Short (about 80 pages) but intense novel about a soldier's amnesia in WWI. West explores class, love and war in a prose that is similar to Henry James--each sentence is packed with emotional power. This was my first time reading West; I plan to read more. I'm especially interested in her nonfiction.

Modifié : Nov 22, 2016, 6:19pm

77. Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself by Rabbi Donniel Hartman

Type: nonfiction, theology, Judaism
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT: Decimal 200s: 200.1
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

While I see where Rabbi Hartman was trying to go with this (humans come first, and by treating others right we best serve God), I found the theology confusing and a bit convoluted. But that may be my lack of understanding of religious thought rather than a fault of the book. This book is going to be discussed in the winter at the congregation I attend, and I thought I'd get a head start on it. I'll definitely need the discussion to completely absorb this book.

Nov 23, 2016, 6:37am

Congrats, Kathy, on reading (more than) 75!

Nov 23, 2016, 7:00am

Hooray for 75! Looks like you have been doing some fine reading. I am just about done with The Return of the Soldier and I agree it packs quite a punch. This one caught me by surprise.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 23, 2016, 8:54am

Congrats on blowing past 75!

Nov 23, 2016, 8:57am

Congratulations Kathy for slinking beyond 75 with such equipoise. xx

Nov 23, 2016, 1:46pm

>179 msf59: Thanks, Mark. And I'm flying through the John Lewis GN--I'm need to get books 2 & 3.

>180 drneutron: & >181 PaulCranswick: Thanks, gentlemen! Sort of surprised myself.

Nov 24, 2016, 11:01am

Kathy, I am thankful for getting to know you a little better on the threads this year. xx

Btw I received an e-mail from Sheffield, have put out some feelers and will reply to it over the weekend.

Nov 24, 2016, 12:54pm

>183 PaulCranswick: Thank you, Paul. Thanksgiving is one of our best holidays--just eat and enjoy friends & family. I am thankful for you & LT friends especially this year for helping me process these life changes & political chaos.

Glad you got some response, as they haven't been responding to me. With 3 kids I know it's hard. My daughter-in-law posted on Facebook that Adele (YR 2) came home the other day with a long discussion of the Great London Fire. These kids are really inspired by school.

Nov 26, 2016, 3:49pm

These signs have been popping up on lawns in my neighborhood:

It was started by a group in my North Park neighborhood in Chicago, and you can find out more here:

Nov 28, 2016, 3:52pm

Hi, Kathy!

>172 kac522: I LOVE Lady Susan. Sounds like you do, too. I keep jumping up and down, trying to get people to try it. SO funny.

Did you see the Love and Friendship movie with Kate Beckinsale? It's really "Lady Susan", and we sure enjoyed it. Kate B. is excellent.

Nov 30, 2016, 9:00pm

>186 jnwelch: Joe, I think what made it even more funny was hearing it read on audio--sometimes we miss some of those inflections just reading them straight. In fact, I don't think I had read Lady Susan until this year. If I did, it was years ago & I didn't remember it at all.

And yes I did see the movie, which was great--which reminds me, I'm wondering if the library has it yet....time for a re-viewing.

Déc 4, 2016, 7:29am

Dropping by to wish you a wonderful weekend, Kathy.

Modifié : Déc 4, 2016, 7:57pm

>188 PaulCranswick: Waving at you from inside my warm house, as it is snowy and slushy here in Chicago. I've had a cold, so stayed inside this weekend.

Déc 4, 2016, 8:45pm

>189 kac522: Sounds like hot toddies are very much in order, Kathy. Hope you are back to your best soon. xx

Déc 4, 2016, 9:08pm

>190 PaulCranswick: Yep, and some reading. I'm on Book 2 of John Lewis' March.

Modifié : Déc 4, 2016, 10:04pm

Quick November re-cap and plans for December:

I am behind in reviewing books, but will get to it eventually. In the meantime, November was a great month for reading. Nearly everything I read was good, except In the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough, which was a sentimental speech, really.

Most everything was on the shorter side this month, with The Return of the Soldier and A Story Larger Than My Own being the most memorable.

For December, I have a lot on my plate to read, but will do my best:
March: Book Two, John Lewis
The Professor, Charlotte Bronte (BAC)
My Life in Middlemarch, Rebecca Mead (Nonfiction challenge)
Mozart's Women, Glover (Dewey 700s and need to finish this book)
As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning, Lee
White Noise, Don Delillo (AAC)
Old Filth, Jane Gardam (BAC)
How Not to be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg (Nonfiction challenge)
Pictures from Italy, Charles Dickens (Dewey 900s and December Dickens challenge)

and every night I'm reading a handful of entertaining essays from:
Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays, Joseph Epstein

Epstein is from my home town (actually not too far from where I live) and he gets me laughing just before bed. It's hard not to read just one more essay before turning out the lights.

Off to hit the books....

Déc 4, 2016, 10:32pm

>185 kac522: I love the sign, Kathy. We NEED to see more of these.

Happy Sunday! Hope you survived our first snowfall. Glad it happened today and not tomorrow.

Good luck with your December reading plans. I will also be reading White Noise, later in the month. I am going to try Zero K first. It is his latest.

And I am glad you are getting to March 2!

Déc 21, 2016, 4:52pm

Finished March, Book Two and ready to start Book Three, Mark. I'll probably do a review of all 3 together.

Déc 21, 2016, 5:06pm

Time to catch up on some summaries of books read so far in December:

78. & 81. I'll do a review of the 3 March books by John Lewis when I'm done with Book Three. Moving along:

79. In the Dark Streets Shineth: a 1941 Christmas Eve Story by David McCullough

Type: fiction: Narration/speech with background Christmas music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Completed: Nov 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCat March: Celebrations; Oakton Book Club
Format: Hardcover from the Evanston Public Library with DVD

Disappointing. The photographs were the only interesting part of this book, although it's so short you can't really call it a book: it's a spoken word accompaniment to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas program. It sort of meanders about, and is quite sentimental. However, it generated a lot of discussion and memories and stories from several members of the book club who were small children in 1941.

Modifié : Déc 21, 2016, 6:02pm

80. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Type: fiction/memoir
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): DeweyCAT 940-999; my "substitute" AAC author for June, ROOT
Format: paperback from my TBR shelves

Hong Kingston retells her story almost as a Chinese fable. Nearly half of the book is about her grandmother and mother, who are her "ghosts." I was sometimes confused, but always drawn into the tales, which emphasize the clash between Chinese culture and Californian culture. This memoir is not always pleasant, but it feels important, and it feels authentically Chinese and hard-edged.

Modifié : Déc 21, 2016, 6:43pm

82. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Type: Nonfiction: math, statistics, economics, politics
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge: October: Politics/Economics/Business
Format: paperback from the Chicago Public Library

Read this over several months. I was lost through much of the math after the first third of the book. That being said, I still could grasp the larger concepts that Ellensburg makes about mathematics, predictions and probabilities. Most are illustrated with practical applications for today (elections, medical statistics, lotteries, etc.). If you made it through trig and a little calculus, you'll be able to follow along. Written in 2014, his explanations on predictions and probabilities make a whole lot of sense after this election cycle.

Modifié : Déc 21, 2016, 6:44pm

83. The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs by Andrew Gant

Type: Nonfiction: music, history, Christmas
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge: December: Quirky, who knew?; DeweyCAT 700s: 782.28; ROOT
Format: Hardcover from my TBR; gift from book club friend Rose

Gant gives us a history of 21 Christmas carols (mostly from England, a few from America) in a lively and intelligent style. He provides the background of both the tunes and the text, the composers and the lyricists, with wit and style. Some of these take very interesting paths, from medieval times up until today. Many can be traced back to native tunes of old. A very fun read, especially if you have a little musical background.

Déc 21, 2016, 6:01pm

84. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

Type: Memoir
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): RandomCAT July: Good Times; DeweyCAT 900-939: 921; BAC September
Format: Hardcover from Evanston Public Library

This is the young adult Laurie Lee as he walks his way through Spain in 1935-6. I didn't enjoy this book as much as Cider with Rosie. It was hot and dirty and dusty and uncomfortable. And it just seemed like he visited the same old decrepit Spanish town after the next--I failed to see what attracted Lee about the place. About 50 pages before the end, however, the book picks up as the Spanish Civil War is imminent.

Modifié : Déc 21, 2016, 6:42pm

What's left for December?

Am working my way through these 2 ROOTs and should have them done soon:

Mozart's Women by Jane Glover
Christmas at Thompson Hall and other Stories by Anthony Trollope

From the Library I need to finish:

March, Book Three by John Lewis
Wind Sprints: Shorter Essays by Joseph Epstein

and to finish up some challenges:

The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (BAC December)
Pictures from Italy by Charles Dickens (Dickens in December and RandomCAT December: Gifts)

and if there's still time, these ROOTs for the AAC and BAC:

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
Old Filth by Jane Gardam

The first six should be no problem; whether I get to the Doig & Gardam is another thing.

I decided against White Noise by DeLillo based on a lot of feedback on LT. Instead I ordered a different novella of his (Pafko at the wall??) which seemed a little more accessible.
I'm putting off My Life in Middlemarch until next year, hopefully January.

Déc 21, 2016, 6:52pm

Traditionally my cut-off for logging the top posting threads was 200 posts (I have lowered it considerably these days) so I am pleased that you have passed that small milestone already. xx

Déc 21, 2016, 7:04pm

>200 kac522: Looks like you are catching up and cleaning house, Kathy! Good for you. All the pressure is off for me, other than a poetry collection for the BAC, which I have all ready dipped into.

I know Delillo is a hard sell, after the mixed response he has been getting, (I was disappointed in Zero K too) but I am really enjoying White Noise and it may end up being an above-average read.

Go Doig! Go Doig!

Déc 22, 2016, 10:14am

Hi, Kathy.

I'm glad you're reading through the March books. Looking forward to your take on the three.

I think I liked As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning a bit more than you. I was impressed he could get by with his music the way he did, among other things. You've read Cider with Rosie, yes? IMO, it's his best.

I'm a fan of Middlemarch, and I've been curious about My Life in Middlemarch. I look forward to your reaction to that one, too, when you get to it next year.

Déc 22, 2016, 3:26pm

>203 jnwelch: Yes, I read Cider with Rosie and liked it more than this one. But then I think I'd like England better than Spain, so maybe that's it. For me cool and green wins any day over hot and dusty.

That My Life in Middlemarch has been staring at me for over a year. I swear I'm finishing it this January. I know you're not an audio guy, but if there's ever an audio to try, it's Juliet Stevenson reading Middlemarch. Many, many CDs, but well worth it.

Have a great holiday and safe travels up north. We are going west to Iowa City (woo-hoo) for the New Year's weekend.

Modifié : Déc 22, 2016, 3:41pm

85. Christmas at Thompson Hall and Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope

Type: fiction, short stories
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): ROOTs
Format: Hardcover from my library

Five delightful short stories centering around Christmas time. No politics, just the usual Trollope relationship/romance/misunderstood issues. One story was quite different: "The Two Generals", which was written in 1863 and is set in Civil War Kentucky. Two sons end up becoming generals on opposing sides of the war. Not only is the material very different for Trollope, the language seemed different too. Not sure how to describe it, except it seemed more formal, in a way. Would love for someone else to read this story and maybe put a finger on it for me.

Déc 23, 2016, 1:38pm

Currently reading:

Déc 23, 2016, 10:54pm

Wouldn't it be nice if 2017 was a year of peace and goodwill.
A year where people set aside their religious and racial differences.
A year where intolerance is given short shrift.
A year where hatred is replaced by, at the very least, respect.
A year where those in need are not looked upon as a burden but as a blessing.
A year where the commonality of man and woman rises up against those who would seek to subvert and divide.
A year without bombs, or shootings, or beheadings, or rape, or abuse, or spite.


Festive Greetings and a few wishes from Malaysia!

Modifié : Déc 24, 2016, 1:44am

>202 msf59: Sorry I missed you up there, Mark. Pafko at the wall awaits at the library. Not sure if I will get to Doig or Gardam--maybe next year.

Have a great holiday.

Déc 24, 2016, 1:43am

>207 PaulCranswick: We should all ponder those sentiments Paul and keep them up all year long, as difficult as that may seem. Thanks for spreading goodwill this way.

Déc 24, 2016, 7:00am

Merry Christmas, Kathy! Have a great holiday! Hope we can put together a Chicago Meet-Up, sometime next year.

Déc 24, 2016, 12:02pm

>210 msf59: and a lovely holiday to you, Mark. Enjoy your days off.

Déc 25, 2016, 4:23pm

86. Pafko At the Wall by Don DeLillo

Type: fiction, novella
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): AAC December
Format: Hardcover from Chicago Public Library

This is enough DeLillo for me (90 pages). The baseball passages were wonderful, but for me the extra stuff with Gleason, Sinatra and Hoover was distracting, if not out and out annoying. Also, I'm not used to the coarseness of writers like DeLillo--not my style and I skipped parts when I could sense it coming. I still can't get over how much stuff fans threw out on the field back then!

Modifié : Déc 27, 2016, 3:21pm

87. The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

Type: fiction
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): BAC December, WomanBingoPUP (set in Europe), ROOT
Format: Paperback from my TBR shelves

This was Bronte's first complete novel, but it was not published until after her death. Many of the ideas (an English professor teaching in a girl's school in Belgium) were developed more fully in Villette. This was quite well done and very realistic, told from the first person perspective of a young male English professor. Bronte's great disdain for Belgians and Catholics is quite open here, even more so than in Villette. But there is a quiet feminism in the heroine Mlle. Henri, as she continues to pursue her career of teaching even while married. My only quibble was with my older Oxford edition, which did not provide translations of all the French.

Déc 27, 2016, 3:26pm

Now reading:

Modifié : Déc 29, 2016, 5:32pm

78. March, Book One
81. March, Book Two
88. March, Book Three

All by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

Type: nonfiction, American history, graphic book
Completed: Dec 2016
Challenge(s): Nonfiction Challenge July: Current Affairs
Format: Trilogy; Paperback from Chicago Public Library

This set of three books cover Congressman John Lewis' work in the Civil Rights Movement, from his late high school years in the 1950's to the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The book uses a flashback technique, starting at the inauguration of President Obama in January 2009, as Lewis slowly tells the story of Civil Rights.

The first two books were good, but sometimes a bit choppy; in fact, the jumping between the historical narrative and 2009 is sometimes not clear. This is my only quibble with the presentation--I would have liked some sort of graphic way to know the change of scene, besides the tiny date in the corner. The early years are interesting, and probably less well-known, and these provide insight into the forming of the various groups (SNCC, CORE, SCLC, etc.) and their non-violent approaches.

The best of the March trilogy, the last book offers a dramatic narrative and a sweeping replay of history from 1963 to 1965. The events themselves and Lewis' place in it make the story come alive. From the first few dramatic pages to the end, the graphics in this last book are outstanding and match the tale being told.

As a whole, the trilogy is easily one of the best reading experiences for me this year; the last book is particularly rewarding and will remain with me for some time.

Déc 29, 2016, 7:29pm

Good review of the trilogy, Kathy. I thought the last March book was the best, too, although they're all remarkable. Thank goodness he preserved the story this way.

Déc 29, 2016, 10:00pm

>215 kac522: So glad you enjoyed the March Trilogy! I agree with you, that the third was the best. What a terrific achievement and I hope this can be used as a learning tool in school.

Déc 29, 2016, 10:08pm

>216 jnwelch: Yes I was amazed at the detail remembered, and what a great document for American history.

>217 msf59: Just what I was thinking, Mark, which is why I bought the trilogy set for my brother who is a high school history teacher. I'll be seeing him this weekend, so I hope he likes it. It's our family holiday gathering, which this year is in Iowa City, where another brother lives.

Déc 31, 2016, 6:57am

Looking forward to your continued company in 2017.
Happy New Year, Kathy

Jan 2, 2017, 2:36pm

>219 PaulCranswick: Happy New Year, Paul--thanks for the greetings and good luck with your plans for 2017.

Modifié : Jan 2, 2017, 2:57pm

2016 Reading Stats:

88: Total books, broken down as 83 books/ebooks, listened to 5 audiobooks
also 2 short stories read from a collection of Joseph Conrad

Of these 88 + stories:
29: from the TBR shelves prior to 1/1/2016 (missed my goal of 30)
11: from my shelves purchased in 2016
1: borrowed from a friend
Everything else from the library

Of the 3 ebooks, 2 were from the library, 1 purchased prior to 2016.

46 Male authors
42 Female authors
1 mixed (male + female author)

Overall I think I did well with the male/female ratio; was disappointed that I didn't make 30 TBRs; and am happy with my overall reading total, which is the highest to date.

Best reads of 2016 (in no particular order--touchstones available in message #2 above):


March, Books One, Two & Three, Lewis
Jewish Odyssey of George Eliot, Himmelfarb
A Story Larger than My own, ed. by Burroway
The Carols of Christmas, Gant

Fiction--couldn't just pick a few; again, no particular order:

Return of the Soldier, West
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy
Moby Dick, Melville
The Good Earth, Buck
The Noise of Time, Barnes
A Whole Life, Seethaler
The Prime Minister, Trollope
The Professor, Bronte
Diary of a Provincial Lady series, Delafield

Modifié : Jan 2, 2017, 3:54pm

Also looked at how I did at Challenges last year:

4 out of 12 AAC authors read:
Jane Smiley
Mary Oliver (April Poetry month)
John Steinbeck
Don DeLillo

For the AAC I substituted 3 women for those authors I had already read. I read these American authors in 2016:

Pearl S. Buck
Maya Angelou
Maxine Hong Kingston

9 BAC authors read
Susan Hill
Agatha Christie (2 books)
Thomas Hardy
George Eliot
Joseph Conrad (2 stories)
Bernice Rubens
Laurie Lee (2 books)
Rebecca West
Charlotte Bronte

6 CAC authors read
Kim Thuy
Robertson Davies
Helen Humphreys
Margaret Atwood
L. M. Montgomery
Pierre Berton


--all 12 Dewey categories read woo-hoo!

--10 out of 12 RandomCAT categories read

--10 out of 12 Nonfiction Challenge categories read

...and 19 out of 25 WomenBingoPUP squares completed.

I'm really sorry I didn't get to these authors, and have put aside books by them for 2017:

Doig (AAC)
Gardam, Atkinson, McEwan (BAC)
Richler, Hill, Munro (CAC)

Jan 2, 2017, 3:56pm

Come visit me in 2017 here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/243965#