Friday, January 31, 2014

Sneezing with Steinbeck

One of the items on this year's Reading Bingo Challenge is to "Read the first book by a favorite author."  The problem here was finding one I hadn't already read.

When I really like an author I tend to go searching for everything he/she has ever written. So every time I think of a "favorite" author it seems I've already read the first novel they published.

So I decided to try John Steinbeck who is an "almost" favorite.  I was thinking I probably had already read his first and if I hadn't, I would probably have a difficult time finding a copy here in Connecticut.  Sure, Yale probably has it, but I don't have access there.*

I found out that Steinbeck's first novel was  Cup of Gold (1929).  I hadn't read it!  I did a local search.  Wow, it was in the stacks of the local community college library, a place I visit weekly.  I'm reading it and it's not bad.  Not great, good? well...Steinbeck got a lot better.

The copy I borrowed is not a first edition, this edition was published in 1936 after he'd had some success with Tortilla Flat--a much better book than Cup of Gold.  Most of Steinbeck is better than Cup of Gold.

And it's making me sneeze!  This is problem I had when I was working in libraries.  I have a mild allergy to old books. 

*pause for a big sigh as I recall a few years back, when my daughter was doing grad work there, and I had some access to Yale's collections.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Slacking on writing, but not on reading

I've really been slacking on my posting here, but I've been reading like crazy.  Here's what I've finished since I last posted (10 days ago).  I am so  glad that I tossed The Goldfinch aside after 200 pages. It gave me time to read much better stuff.

Three novels (all very different; all great):
    A Tale for the Time Being; Ozeki, Ruth.  Author calls it a Zen novel,  I call it a good read.
    The Signature of All Things;  Gilbert, Elizabeth.  I haven't read anything else by her.  This is so good, I'm not sure I want to read her earlier books.
    John Saturnall's Feast;  Norfolk, Lawrence.  I have read some of his earlier work, this did not disappoint. 

A wonderful novella that had been sitting on my Kindle, half finished because I had so many library books approaching their due dates :
     An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter;  Aira, César; Chris Andrews, translator

Three short story collections (again, all different, all great):
    Battleborn; Watkins, Claire Vaye. A stunning debut.
    Amsterdam Stories; Nescio; Damion Searls, Translator
    Life Studies: Stories; Vreeland, Susan

    Senegal Taxi; Herrera, Juan Felipe.

An eclectic assortment of non-fiction:

   The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An elusive world wonder traced;  Dalley, Stephanie. 

  Oudry's Painted Menagerie: Portraits of Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century      Europe;  Morton, Mary and others.  I read this online at the Getty Virtual Library--an amazing resource.

  In Translation: Translators On Their Work And What It Means; Allen, Esther.  This is a must read for anyone interested in literary translations (either as a practitioner or reader).

  Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World; Rhodes, Richard. 

  The Beats: A Graphic History; Buhle, Paul.  A good topic for a graphic presentation. 

  I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway; Kot, Greg


Friday, January 17, 2014

Exploring Graphic Novels

One of my reading goals (set out in my post of January 11) is to read some graphic novels.  I've been looking for something that is not super-hero comic book stuff.

My search has uncovered a wide range of material that I can't really call "novels."

I've found poetry, short stories, and some non-fiction, much of it geared for young people.  Most of our local libraries shelve graphics in the YA section, so I did a little shelf browsing there and didn't find any that interested me.

On Goodreads I found a few that sounded interesting.  I managed to find some of them in my local libraries and put ILL requests in.  (I also put in for a couple of givaways--no luck so far.)

Here's what I have in my library stack:

  Give it Up! and Other Short Stories; by Peter Kuper, Franz Kafka, Jules Feiffer (Introduction)
      I read this last night and it is amazing.  In addition to being a satisfying read itself, it does something else a good book should do.  It leads to further exploration. Several paths in this case: find more Kuper, look for other illustrations of Kafka, revisit Jules Feiffer.

     There is something to love about a call number that reads:

  The Beats: A Graphic History; by Paul Buhle (Editor)
     This looks promising.  An era I know something about, seen from a different perspective in time as well as genre.
  Senegal Taxi; by Juan Felipe Herrera
      I found this on the new book shelf at my favorite library. I picked it up because the cover looked like it might be a graphic novel but it's not really in the graphic category.  It's a book of poetry with some illustrations. It has an innovative format. I'm looking forward to it.  It's not going to be an "easy read" because of the subject matter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Leaving the Sea

The deeper I get into this book, the more I'm impressed with the jacket design.  It's just so right.

As I finish each  story, I close the book and gaze at the cover.  Perfect.  It becomes part of the story and the story becomes part of it.

So glad I'm reading a physical copy.
New Year's resolution:  From now on, if possible, whenever I read an ebook I'll find an image of the cover and put it on my screen to reflect on now and then. 

Where's the Challenge?

At first glance the Bingo card looked too easy.  I could almost fill it out with my December 2013 reading alone.  Almost.

That's why I decided to go for the blackout bingo.  And I have to have liked the book enough to give it 3 or more Goodreads stars.

Which squares are going to be the hardest to fill?

    Author under 30: Every time I think I've found one I find out they were born before 1984.
     Non-human characters: Think I'll go for animals, not aliens.
    First by a favorite author: Not sure if I read one of these in 2013.  Will have fun   finding one this year.  Oates? Steinbeck?

    Bottom of TBR pile: Which TBR pile?

    Second in a series: Not fond of books in series.

Today's reading: Leaving the Sea   Superb!
                           Andrew's Brain    Started this last night. Looks like a winner, so far.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bingo Thingo Meets J-Lit Read-along

Here's my card for the Bingo reading game

Note that I have already marked two squares on the center horizontal line. (My markers are hollow "beans."  maybe I should fill them in.)  The two titles are "All dogs are blue" and "Miss Anne in Harlem."   I gotta tweak this thing so things show up better. 

Yesterday at the library, I checked out a copy of the book for the January in Japan read-along. It will fit in either of two squares: blue cover or woman author.

I also checked out "Leaving the Sea," a book of short stories with a blue cover which I first heard about online.  Also, it was published this year.

Looks like "blue cover" will be pretty easy.

The center square will be a book I get on a giveaway, I have a few of those coming (the book is in the mail-in four to six weeks). 

My version of the game that says I can use a title on only one square.  But nothing stops me from putting more than one bean on a square.  Or should I do a second card?  Or four cards to go with my 100 book goal?  Hmm....

Two watery titles and no watery square.  A nice diversion when I take a break from reading would be to make up a bingo card using only attributes that aren't on this one.

I love retirement!

Back to my reading...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

About those Challenges

 It being a new year and all, everyone is offering various reading challenges.  Read Australian books, Irish books, Translated books, books set in each of the fifty states, genre books, etc.

I looked them over.  Many were things I normally do, so no challenge with them.  Many are things I'd never do, so forget them.

I decided to set my own goals.

Book Goals:

On Goodreads I set a goal of 100 books in 2014.  That's not a really big deal for me.  So to make it challenging I set some other goals within the 100.  More non-fic (sub goals arts, science, history, social science) and  more poetry than I read in 2013.  How much of each I'm not sure,  I'll have to do some math and figure out some numbers.  Think I'll do percentages because I'll probably read more than 100 books.

I also want to step a bit out of my comfort zone:
Explore graphic novels
Some current sci fi/fantasy (haven't read much of that in the past couple of years)

Net Reading:  Read some things that are not about books!

So I set out these independent goals but two things showed up while I was working on them.

One is  the read-alongs at  January in Japan Sounds interesting so I'll give this a try.
  January the 16th - The Diving Pool by Yōko Ogawa
  January the 30th - Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

The other is the Reading Bingo Challenge 2014 at Retreat by Random House 
  My first thought on this one was to print out the card, mount it on cork or heavy  cardboard and get some dart.  I decided it would be simpler (and safer) to download it and use my mouse as a dart.

So now I have my somewhat vague personal goals and two "pre-packaged" goals to work on. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting started--Again!

Why do I keep doing this?  I just deleted two previous attempts at blogging on this site alone.  Then there were the two (or was it three) on LJ, a few on now defunct sites.  (I've been using the Internet since 19idon'twanttosay.)  The only ones I stuck with were work related obligations.  Those were quite successful.

What do I want to do here?  Write about my reading adventures.  Not necessarily book reviews.  I don't like writing reviews.  It takes too much time away from my reading.

Not a log of what I'm reading.  Goodreads is fine for that.

It's other stuff about reading.  Things like:

Today I found out that it is Robinson Jeffers' birthday.  So I pulled "Not Man Apart" from my little library to re-read.  I haven't looked at it in years.  There's always something new to discover when you re-read poetry.  This was promising because the pictures would take me back to California and Big Sur.  Nice, because it's snowing here in New England.

Midway through the book  I came to the poem "Gray Weather" which concludes with the Lines:

             In the cloudy light, in the timeless quietness,
             One explores deeper than the nerves
                    or heart of nature, the womb or soul,
             To the bone, the careless white bone, the excellence.

I stopped reading and looked out the window to the field  beyond my house.