Monday, August 27, 2007


At the beginning of this year, I had a new year's resolution to read a book a month. Remember that one? Yeah, well like so many cliched resolutions I didn't do so great.

I'm going to give it another go. Not so much in a structured way. Not so much a resolution per se. See, I think that one of the reasons why I failed is cause I didn't plan well enough. I had all the right intentions and interest, but without a prepared list of books to turn to, each month I was at a loss for reading material and would just let it slide.

I've never been very good at figuring out how to pick a new book to read. Usually I stumble across one good author or another and then proceed to read everything that this person has written until I run out of material. Worked well enough with Barbara Kingsolver, Guy Gavriel Kay, Robin McKinley and Tenessee Williams to name a few. Or I turn to good friends with good taste and see what they recommend.

This time I researched through NPR's archives to see if they had some sort of best of list or top books of 2007 to read. Their summer reading suggestions looks promising. Here are some that I gleaned through my research (click on the title to read an excerpt):
  • Then We Came To The End: A Novel by Joshua Ferris
    Takes place just as the economy is crashing from the dotcom fiasco in Silicon Valley. Told in an amusing (though not condescending) first person plural, I'm attracted to the contemporary ironic voice that narrates anecdotes of cubicle land - something I can completely relate to.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
    I've always wanted to read more of Ian McEwan's writing but keep forgetting to do so. The only thing I knew about him was that I thought he was a dirty short story writer. I was at my buddy Ben Faucon's flat in Bordeaux back in '95 and I picked up what I think was In Between The Sheets and whichever story it was that I read, it was filthy. Shockingly so. And okay, I liked it. I'm not sure that the rest of the McEwan canon can be described as dirty, but I think that what appeals to me about his writing (what I can remember anyways) is the honesty of his stories.
  • Summer Reading: A Novel by Hilma Wolitzer
    This could be utter crap. But oh, what the heck. It sounds like an easy enough read.
  • The Angel On The Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks by Russell Banks
    I've been meaning to pick up this volume of short stories for years. And again, I kept forgetting to do it. (I need a better book reading list.) I first heard Russell Banks on This American Life in an episode where he reads his short story Sara Cole: A Type of Love Story. Ooh, that was a good story. Click on the story title to hear the podcast of that episode.
  • The Accidental Tourist: A Novel by Anne Tyler
    Never saw the movie. Heard it was a good book. Nuff said.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
    This one sounds funny. It's a little outside my normal preferred genre of reading in that it's sort of a comic book fantasy novel. The story is split narrated between the superhero and the evil villain set in a futuristic reality. It sounds funny. The excerpt is from the first page/first chapter and the villain is narrating. I like him already.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
    I'm a little lapsed in my B. Kingsolver reading. I think there might be a few anthologies that I've missed. Pretty much I'll read anything this lady writes. Her shopping lists are probably awesome to read.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
    My buddy Nathan recommended this one to me and it's something that I've wanted to check out. Hopefully it won't have the same effect on me as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did.
And as an added bonus, all of these are available at my local public library! Have y'all read any of the books up there and want to share your thoughts about them?

And last but not least, a book that I probably won't be cracking open anytime soon, but am curious to know from my Tolkien fan friends, have you guys heard of this book?

Here's the write up from the NPR reviewer Glen Weldon:

A new Tolkien book has been published, and elf-loving geeks around the world are dutifully abuzz. Like The Silmarillion (ask your I.T. guy), The Children of Húrin is set in the Elder Days of Middle Earth (read: it's a prequel). Scraps of the story have appeared before, in a book called Unfinished Tales; this time around, Tolkien's son has done what he can to finish the tale. He's succeeded: Freed of dense, labyrinthine annotations, The Children of Húrin reads like classic Tolkien. (Which is to say it reads like Beowulf, only tweedier. Check out an excerpt.) Still, anyone conversant enough with Tolkien's world to pick a Sindar Elf out of a line-up of Noldor Elves, and who has no trouble figuring out how Morgoth is related to Melkor (trick question! Morgoth is Melkor!) will eat this up.

This is probably old news to you. Actually, I find that traffic to my site is increased if the content has anything to do with Wales, fencing, or Lord of the Rings (okay, so I've never actually written about Lord of the Rings before, but now I might have incentive to do so).

Happy reading everyone!


meteowrite said...

Wow!! I love that review of "Children of Hurin!!" Ask your I.T. Guy. Whew. Funny Stuff. I also like "Like Beowulf. Only Tweedier."

Indeed, I have heard of this book, it arrived on the scene JUST in time for Dad's birthday. Well, two days late, but still. I think Dad's your best bet for someone who's read this book. Alas, I have not yet been dedicated enough to move beyond the Silmarillion. Though, this write up intrigues me. Without the labyrinth, it says. Interesting.

Also, one last thing about this book, it was the subject of my blog, "A Tale of Outstanding Dorkiness," which is in fact so outrageously dorky, that I would suggest you read it again. Such geekdom is not found everywhere, and you have the good luck to be my friend.

As for your list, it's inspiring. I still need to read Ms. Kingsolver's latest, and On Chesil Beach tempts me each time I check it back in at the circ desk. It's such a thin little book. I like that.

Whatcha going to read first?

jean said...

Yes. Isn't Glen Weldon's write up funny? You should read the rest of his summer book recommendations. His is the nerdy kids who stayed in to read list, those of us who were pale skinned and dreaded recess cause we were forced to go outside and play instead of indoor recess days where we could sit at our desks and read.

And YES! I do remember well your post and the meeting at your work where you made your pronouncements about Hurin! I got a good giggle over that one. Of course you already know about this book, you are a librarian after all and among a gaggle of Tolkien fans that I count as my friends.

I'm letting the library's due dates dictate which books I read first, so "Then We Came To The End" is up first. "The Accidental Tourist" will likely be the last of this batch since it's not a hot ticket new release that other patrons requesting be held for them.