Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat!

Our new neighborhood takes Halloween very seriously. Everyone has jack-o-lanterns, lights, decorations, and spooky stuff -- all geared for little kids, not teen-aged Halloween hooligans. It's great! We look like the newcomers that we are with only three jack-o-lanterns and a handful of rubber bats stuck on the window. As is our tradition, we are having a dinner party with friends so we can all enjoy the trick-or-treaters (watching them, not eating them).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cookbook Library: Cooking With Caprial



Caprial's Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants in Portland. I also love her on her tv show and have learned a lot by watching her. For instance, I am indebted to her for fixing my pie crust -- I needed to use more water, as I learned from one show.

Too bad, then, that Cooking With Caprial: American Bistro Fair doesn't really do much for me. The recipes, like the items on Caprial's bistro menu, are deceptively simple. But the things I make never taste as good as they do at her restaurant. Of course, I'm not a world-class chef; she is. She must have secret ways (yes, called "talent") that makes things taste super yummy.

I am glad to have this one in my cookbook library, but I really do not use it very often.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Author of the Day: Kate Atkinson



Kate Atkinson is a relatively new find for me. I read her debut novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, a couple of years ago because it won the Costa (Whitebread) Book of the Year Award. That one book was enough to make me a fan.

I have since torn through all four of the books in her mystery series featuring Jackson Brodie. They are my favorite mysteries ever. I look forward to re-reading them.

Those I have read are in red. The one my TBR shelf is in blue.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995) (reviewed here)

Human Croquet (1997)

Abandonment (2000)

Emotionally Weird (2000)

Not the End of the World (2002) (short stories)

Case Histories (2004)

One Good Turn (2006)

When Will There Be Good News? (2009)

Started Early, Took My Dog (2011) (reviewed here)

NOTE

Last updated April 19, 2012.

OTHER READERS
(If anyone has posts related to Atkinson or these books and would like me to list it here, please leave a comment with a link to your post.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Incidents in the Rue Laugier

"My mother read a lot, sighed a lot, and went to bed early." -- Incidents in the Rue Laugier by Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac, the 1984 Booker Prize winner, is the only Anita Brookner novel I have read. I can't say that Hotel du Lac stuck with me -- so little so that I actually read it a second time without realizing it -- but Brookner has returned to my radar screen. I recently found several of her books in nice hardback editions at library book sales and something about them appealed to me. I am looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Age of Reagan

The Age of Reagan (Vol. II): The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980 - 1989 by Steven F. Hayward.
"There were important aspects of foreign and defense policy that needed immediate attention, but Reagan and his team understood that restoring the economy was the prerequisite for a successful foreign and defense policy. They also knew that the first few months of 1981 would be their only window of opportunity, since that is when any new president carries the most clout with Congress and the public, and since in this particular circumstance the Democrats, having suffered large losses in the election, would be temporarily disoriented and dispirited."
This quote exemplifies the cyclical nature of politics and the economy. Substitute "Obama," "2009," and "Republicans" in that passage and it would describe the current administration. I am a little over a third of the way through this second volume of Hayward's comprehensive biography. He does a particularly terrific job in two areas: 1) making arcane policy and political issues understandable and even interesting, and 2) using contemporary news quotes to compare the perceived situation with what was really going on in Reagan's White House. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday

It was shaping up to be a completely book-free week last week, until I got an invitation from a friend to go to her husband's book-signing party. Whew! Mailbox Monday saved! I stopped by the party on Saturday to pick up my very own signed copy of The High Definition Family by Sayer Strauch. It looks like an inspiring read. Maybe I'll get my household in shape for the holidays.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Had a Book in Africa . . .

Natasha at Maw Books Blog is hosting this month's Bookworms' Carnival and her theme is "Africa" books -- those written by African authors, set in Africa, or with some other African connection. She has compiled an incredible list of books. If you are looking for inspiration, please visit. It is worth bookmarking the page for future reference. I was pleased that Natasha included three of my book reviews in the carnival (links to reviews): The Beggar by Naguib Mahfouz Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black by Nadine Gordimer The Life and Times of Michael K. by J.M. Coetzee In addition to her long list of recommended books, Natasha included a few questions for carnival participants and readers. Feel free to answer the questions on your blog or leave a comment on the carnival page: 1. Do you read a lot of books that have an African focus? If so, why do you enjoy them? I didn't think I read many books with an African focus. And I don't, at least not compared to American or British books. But thinking back. I have read quite a few and there are more on my shelves. But I tend to read books by British or American authors about Africa more than books by African authors. 2. Have you reviewed any books with an African theme? If so, feel free to highlight them. In addition to the three listed above, I reviewed two (links to reviews): Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews by Howard Lenoff Middle Passage by Charles Johnson (in the carnival) 3. What are you looking forward to reading next? Anything on your radar? Limiting this question to books with an African connection, Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen and A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd are both moving towards the top of my TBR stack. 4. If you haven’t read a lot of books with an African focus, what are some books that you’d like to read? There are several others on my TBR shelves right now that I plan to get to eventually: King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild (in the carnival) The Stranger by Albert Camus Jump by Nadine Gordimer A Sport of Nature by Nadine Gordimer Burger's Daughter by Nadine Gordimer The Grass is Singing by Dorris Lessing The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (in the carnival) Half of a Yellow-Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (in the carnival) 5. Are there any book titles showcased in this carnival that sounds interesting to you or that you’ve read? There are several books listed in the carnival that I have read, even though I did not review them: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee West With the Night by Beryl Markham And, finally, there are several books with an African connection that I have read that are not listed above and were not in the carnival: Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (a fictional Africa) A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul In a Free State by V.S. Naipaul (Booker winner) The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (Modern Library's Top 100) The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (Modern Library's Top 100) Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene The Human Factor by Graham Greene Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow (more fictional Africa) Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King (my notes are here) OTHERS' ANSWERS AND RELATED POSTS IMAGENATIONS (Ghanaian author Nana Fredua-Agyeman's blog) A Senegalese Reading List (on Amateur Reader's Wuthering Expectations blog) (Leave a comment with a link to your answers and I will list your post here.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review of the Day: Laughing Gas

. Laughing Gas is one of Wodehouse's stand-alone novels, featuring none of his usual cast of characters up to high jinx in their usual locales. This one-off follows the adventures of Reggie, the new Earl of Havershot, who heads to Hollywood to rescue his drunkard cousin from a mis-matched marriage. The hook for the (tall) tale is that Reggie and child star Joey Cooley switch bodies while simultaneously under gas at the dentists' office. Farce ensues. The story has plenty going on and a full roster of Wodehouse's entertaining characters. But it falls short when it comes to clever, witty writing. It just is not as funny as most Wodehouse books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Joker One



Donovan Campbell joined the Marines after 9/11. A recent Princeton grad and first in his class at the Marines’ Basic Officer Course, Campbell was made the Lieutenant of a forty-man infantry platoon called Joker One. Campbell led his platoon on a tour of duty in Ramadi, Iraq, where they patrolled for IEDs, battled insurgents, and tried to win over the locals – often in temperatures over 120 degrees, carrying 50 pounds of equipment.

Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood is Campbell’s account of his time in Ramadi. He describes what he and his men did and learned, but also shares his heartfelt insights into what made his team so great. It is a riveting story of courage and camaraderie that should make us appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of our military.

NOTE

This book was on my Library Thing Early Reviewer list. One more down, five more to go as of today. I wish I had read this one earlier because it was a real treat.

OTHER REVIEWS

Return Customer
The White Rhino Report

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Laughing Gas

"I had just begun to write this story, when a literary pal of mine who had had a sticky night out with the P.E.N. Club blew in to borrow a bicarbonate of soda, and I thought it would be as well to have him vet what I had done, in case I might have foozled my tee-shot." -- Laughing Gas by P. G. Wodehouse And so begins the Earl of Havershot's tale of adventure and mayhem when he visits Hollywood to save his cousin from drink and an ill-advised splice to an American pippin.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: The Ice Chorus



Sarah Stonich’s sophomore novel, The Ice Chorus, is one of those rare books in which all the parts come together seamlessly. The ideas, plot, characters, and images all work to entertain the reader with the rich story of Liselle’s life-changing romance with Charlie, an artist she met in Mexico.

Liselle, living in a nondescript Irish fishing town, films and interviews her new neighbors for a nascent documentary about love, waits for her artist lover to return, and mulls over her affair with Charlie, her marriage, and her tragic relationship with her father.

It is a romantic story that looks beyond mere romance to examine the way passionate love affects every part of life, including where people live and the direction of their careers.  

OTHER REVIEWS

Book Blab
Rundpinne
Vulpes Libris
The Crowded Leaf
Today is My Someday

(If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link to your review.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mailbox Monday

I only have one Mailbox Monday book, but it is a good one! While on a business trip to Chicago last week, I had time for a quick visit to the Art Institute where they had the most incredible special exhibit on Victorian Photocollage. Being an avid scrapbooker myself and fascinated by collage in particular, I was mesmerized by the exhibit. So I was very excited to pick up a souvenir: The Marvelous Album of Madame B: Being the Handiwork of a Victorian Lady of Considerable Talent, a replica of one of the main scrapbooks on display. Here is an example of "Victorian Photocollage":

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Review of the Day: Forbidden Bread



Slovenia was a toddler of a country when Erica Johnson arrived there in 1993 to marry her black-haired poet lover, AleŇ° Debeljak. Slovenia had only won its independence from Yugoslavia two years earlier; war still raged in Croatia and Bosnia to the south. What was she thinking?

Johnson Debeljak answers that question in Forbidden Bread, her engrossing memoir about abandoning the life of a Manhattan commercial banker to move to a nascent post-communist state where most people still grew their own cabbage and considered themselves lucky to have a tiny Soviet car to drive. She uses her own story as the backdrop for Slovenia’s story, with its tumultuous history and rich, poetry-filled culture.

From her battles with power-abusing bureaucrats, to worries about bombs falling on her wedding, to ethnic jokes and fussing in-laws, Johnson Debeljak provides layers of detail that let the reader really understand what it would be like to live in a land so foreign. This is arm-chair travel at its best – a trip to the true heart of a country.


NOTES

My review was first published in the Internet Review of Books. In addition to being a terrific book, reading this one allows my to scratch it off my LibraryThing Early Reviewer list.

OTHER REVIEWS

Library Cat

(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.) .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Age of Reagan

"Most of his senior aides didn't want him to say it." The Age of Reagan (Vol. II): The Conservative Counterrevolution, 1980 - 1989 by Steven F. Hayward. This opening sentence refers to Reagan's most famous line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Hayward goes on to observe that many of those who opposed the line now claim to have been all for it -- some even claim to have written it. He uses this incident to illustrate a central thesis of his book, which is that Reagan spent as much effort working on his own team as he did battling the Democrats. Like the first volume of Hayward's biography, this book is dense, but eminently readable. It is as entertaining as it is edifying.

Friday, October 16, 2009

State of the Blog, Part Two: The Authors

This is the second part of my two-part autumnal assessment of my 2009 reading progress. The first part tallied up the total of books I have read so far in 2009 from the lists in the right column. This post looks at progress on my author lists.

THE AUTHORS

Kingsley Amis
Books read so far: 4/48
Books read in 2009: one (The Alteration)
Books on my TBR shelf: 5

Cara Black
Books read so far: 2/9
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: one

James Lee Burke
Books read so far: 13/17 (Dave Robicheaux series only)
Books read in 2009: 3
  1. Black Cherry Blues
  2. Pegasus Descending
  3. The Tin Roof Blowdown (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 3

Lee Child

Books read so far: 11/11 (unless he has a new one)
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

M. F. K. Fisher
Books read so far: 4/27
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 4

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Books read so far: 8/13
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

Penelope Fitzgerald
Books read so far: 2/9
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: one

Richard Ford
Books read so far: 5/10
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 3

Jim Harrison

Books read so far: 19/19 (prose only)
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

Nick Hornby
Books read so far: 2/11
Books read in 2009: one (High Fidelity, reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 2

John Lescroart
Books read so far: 16/18 (Dismus Hardy series and spin offs)
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: one

Elinor Lipman
Books read so far: 2/10
Books read in 2009: one (My Latest Grievance, reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 5

David Lodge

Books read so far: 2/15 (fiction only)
Books read in 2009: one (Changing Places, reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 7

Ian McEwan

Books read so far: 5/13
Books read in 2009: 2
  1. The Innocent(reviewed here)
  2. Saturday
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

Anthony Powell
Books read so far: 13/32
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: one

Philip Roth

Books read so far: 8/30
Books read in 2009: one (Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Other Short Stories, reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 5

Martin Cruz Smith
Books read so far: 6/6 (Arkady Renko series only)
Books read in 2009: 2
  1. Red Square, reviewed here
  2. Stalin's Ghost
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

Julia Spencer-Fleming
Books read so far: 5/7
Books read in 2009: 3
  1. Out of the Deep I Cry
  2. To Darkness and to Death (reviewed here)
  3. All Mortal Flesh (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: one

William Styron
Books read so far: 2/10
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 3

Anne Tyler
Books read so far: 4/18
Books read in 2009: one (The Amateur Marriage)
Books on my TBR shelf: 5

John Updike
Books read so far: 8/26
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 9

Andrea U'ren
Books read so far: zero/2
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

Simon Winchester
Books read so far: 5/16
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: one
.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: Paul Newman



Paul Newman referred collectively to his acting roles as “the child of our time.”  Shawn Levy puts it this way in his new biography, Paul Newman: A Life:
Taken as a whole, Newman’s body of work nicely encapsulated the history of an in-between generation of American men who helped their fathers and uncles conquer the world in war and commerce but who could only watch—likely with some jealousy—as their younger siblings and their own children acted out on the native rebellious impulse to overturn everything. . . . Torn by the conflicting impulses to rule and rebel, his was arguably the pivotal generation of the twentieth century, and Newman, almost unconsciously, was its actor laureate.
It is this “big picture” approach that gives depth to Levy’s book and holds the attention of readers not usually taken with celebrity biographies.  Levy examines Newman’s life as a whole and in connection with cultural changes.

Levy gathered every Newman interview that he could get his hands on, in print or on camera, and studied them in chronological order.  He used these interviews—Newman’s own words—for the core of the biography.  While his method did not allow Levy to plow new ground, he wrings a lot out of his material.  Readers who know Newman’s movies, but have only a passing interest in other details of his life, will learn a great deal about an interesting man.  Dedicated Newman fans and celebrity gossip aficionados will likely know the basic story, but should find plenty of details to savor.

Levy brings his talent as a movie reviewer to this work, enriching Newman’s story.  He apparently watched every Newman movie (and television show) to write this book.  Instead of merely recounting which movie Newman made when, Levy analyzes the connection between Newman’s development as an actor and his growth as a person:
Newman grew and shed a series of actorly skins through the decades, but his transformations from one to the next were always subtle; watching his career unfold, taking his films as he made them, you wouldn’t necessarily think he was moving in any direction; look up, though, after twenty or thirty years, and you could see real development—improved craft, deepened humanity, palpable wisdom.
Levy goes on to evaluate these “actorly skins,” starting with “an unformed, psychologically delicate brooder” exemplified by Brick Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Then came Newman’s period playing “a knave,” starting with Ben Quick in The Long, Hot Summer and culminating with his iconic role as Hud ”the guy men wanted to be like and women wanted to eat on a cracker.”  The knave then developed into “an ironist, a rascal, a scamp” with a “cocky mien” and a “cynical, breezy chuckle,” in roles from Harper to Reggie Dunlop in Slap Shot.

After the death of his adult son in 1978, Newman matured as a person and an actor, in movies like Fort Apache the Bronx] and The Verdict, in which his characters were no longer immune from “the scourges of age, death, disloyalty, greed, sullied honor, soured blood.”  And, finally, Newman played “coots”—”crusty old customers” with a “comfortable acceptance of one’s fate”—including Governor Earl Long in Blaze and the voice of an old race car in Cars.

The book gives equal time to Newman’s off-screen life, and not just the gossipy bits about Newman’s single affair with a Hollywood gadabout or his prodigious alcohol consumption.  Levy discusses Newman’s second career as a race car driver with the same level of analysis he brings to Newman’s movies.  Newman, who only became enamored with race cars in his mid-forties, loved the excitement and camaraderie he found on the race track.  Again, Levy goes beyond dates and events, to consider why racing appealed to Newman, concluding, at least in part, that Newman liked shedding his superstar persona and being one of the guys—especially, Levy observes, as Newman grew older and his dazzling good looks dimmed a little.

Another aspect of Newman’s life that Levy explores is the philanthropy that motivated much of Newman’s efforts, from his first commercially marketed bottle of salad dressing to his request that his ashes be scattered over the pond at the original children’s camp he sponsored.  In addition to giving away several hundreds of millions of dollars to charities, Newman rolled up his sleeves and worked himself.  For example, not only did he come up with the idea of a summer camp for children with cancer, he designed the first Hole in the Wall camp himself, hired the doctors to staff it, and visited at least twice every summer to play and eat with the kids.  As Levy concludes:
[H]e had come, in fact, to see himself not as a major artist or a great man but rather as someone who had simply given back the least bit of what had been granted him. He believed that his legacy would not be found in films or photographs or racing trophies or salad dressings or even the stack of heartfelt obituaries and memorials. Rather, he felt, it was those camps, and the affirmation, comfort, hope, rebirth, and freedom they afforded all those endangered children, that were his greatest accomplishment. And for the opportunity to help those children he felt not so much pride as gratitude.
Levy wields a deft pen—his book is as entertaining as it is insightful and informative. He presents readers with a thorough, respectful biography of one of America’s greatest screen, and off-screen, legends.  

First published in the Internet Review of Books

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Joker One

. "Five minutes later, Noriel and I hit the large dirt road that signaled the approach to the cemetery. But no sooner had I breathed a sigh of relief than headlights appeared around a road bend some one hundred meters away, moving rapidly towards us." Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell. I was worried that I wouldn't like this book because, well, to be honest, I'm a chick and this is a war book. But the story is riveting and the writing snappy, so I am tearing through it. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mailbox Monday

. Last week was a book bonanza at my house, although none came in the mail. It was the annual Friends of the Multnomah County Library book sale -- my favorite book event of the year. We got too many books to list them all for Mailbox Monday, but my favorites include: Not Now But Now by M.F.K. Fisher (a reprint of her 1947 novel) The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies (the first book in his Cornish Trilogy and on the Anthony Burgess list of favorites) And three volumes of John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, in nice vintage Scrivener's editions: Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness, and One More River (also called Over the River). I'm working on a New Year's resolution to read the Forsyte Saga, so I am excited about these. Unfortunately, these are the last three volumes of the nine volume set, so now I am going to obsess on finding the others in matching editions.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: The Silver Palate



Before there was a Food Network, Iron Chef, or even a Martha Stewart magazine, there was The Silver Palate. Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins may not be classical chefs, and they did not revolutionize restaurant cooking like Alice Waters or Thomas Keller, but they did more to change the way Americans cooked in their homes than anyone since Julia Child first trussed a chicken on t.v.

While much of the text and many of the recipes seem dated, it bears remembering that The Silver Palate was in the vanguard of America’s food revolution. This book was first published in 1979, which explains why the authors had to advocate the use of olive oil and explain things like raspberry vinegar, Gruyere cheese, and pesto.

Silver Palate recipes are not wildly innovative. Rosso and Lukins used a lot of old-timey, Junior League-type recipes and gave them enough New York City gloss to appeal to a new generation of home cooks. They simplified classics, gussied up gloppy casseroles, and tapped into the trend for high-quality fresh ingredients, creating a collection of recipes that are the kitchen standards of today.

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


NOTE

This was my cookbook choice for the Spice of Life Challenge and my "silver" choice for the Colorful Reading Challenge.

Friday, October 9, 2009

State of the Blog, Part One: The Lists



It is that fall-is-in-the-air, back to school, get things done time of year that always gives me a jolt of energy. So I am doing a little autumnal assessment of my year in reading -- so far -- to decide whether there are any bookish goals or projects I can make progress on before the end of the year. Note, I did not say "finish" by the end of the year, although there are, hopefully, one or two I can wrap up by then.

This is a two-part assessment. This first part addresses the various book lists I am keeping track of. Part Two, coming soon, will deal with the author lists.

THE LISTS

1899 Top 100
Books read so far: 7/100
Books read in 2009: zero (but I just added the list a few days ago)
Books on my TBR shelf: 11

All-TIME Top 100
Books read so far: 73/100
Books read in 2009: one-third (I read The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Scant progress, but progress still.)
Books on my TBR shelf: 15

Anthony Burgess
Books read so far: 25/99
Books read in 2009: zero (too bad, because I respect his picks)
Books on my TBR shelf: 18

BBC's Big Read
Books read so far: 52/100
Books read in 2009: 5+
  1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham(reviewed here)
  2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens(reviewed here)
  3. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Crime and Punishment
  5. I Capture the Castle
  6. plus another one-third for The Fellowship of the Ring
Books on my TBR shelf: 11

Book Club
Books read so far: 14/15
Books read in 2009: 5
  1. Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Keysey
  2. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
  3. Davita's Harp by Chiam Potok
  4. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  5. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

College Board
Books read so far: 75/101
Books read in 2009: one (Treasure Island)
Books on my TBR shelf: 13

Costa Book of the Year
Books read so far: 1/24
Books read in 2009: one (Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 3

Easton Press
Books read so far: 54/100
Books read in 2009: 2
  1. Great Expectations (reviewed here)
  2. Treasure Island
Books on my TBR shelf: 25

Edgar Award
Books read so far: 4/55
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 5

Erica Jong
Books read so far: 29/100
Books read in 2009: one (The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley)
Books on my TBR shelf: 18

French Connection
Books read so far: 42/107 (and counting -- there are more books to add to the list)
Books read in 2009: one (Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 20

LT Early Reviewers

Books read so far: 17/23
Books read in 2009: 3
  1. The Amish Cook at Home by Lovina Eicher (reviewed here)
  2. Blackbird, Farewell by Robert Greer (reviewed here)
  3. American Rust by Philipp Meyer (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 6

Man Booker Prize

Books read so far: 21/42
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 14

MLA's 30
Books read so far: 21/30
Books read in 2009: one and 1/3
  1. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  2. one-third for The Fellowship of the Ring
Books on my TBR shelf: 4

Modern Library
Books read so far: all of them!
Books read in 2009: zero ( finished this list a couple of years ago)
Books on my TBR shelf: zero

National Book Award

Books read so far: 24/62
Books read in 2009:4
  1. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
  2. The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  3. The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (reviewed here)
  4. Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 11

NBCC Award
Books read so far: 15/33
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 6

Nobel Laureates
Authors read so far: 19/105
Books read in 2009: 3
  1. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  2. The Beggar by Naguib Mahfouz (reviewed here)
  3. The Plague by Albert Camus
Books on my TBR shelf: 31 (but most by authors already read)

Observer's Top 100
Books read so far: 55/100
Books read in 2009: 3+
  1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (reviewed here)
  2. Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
  3. The Plague by Albert Camus
  4. plus another one-third for The Fellowship of the Ring
Books on my TBR shelf: 19

Orange Prize
Books read so far: 1/13
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 4

Oregon Books
Books read so far: 3/20
Books read in 2009: one (The River Why by David Duncan)
Books on my TBR shelf: 2

Pulitzer Prize
Books read so far: 38
Books read in 2009: 3
  1. Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (reviewed here)
  2. The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (reviewed here)
  3. March by Geraldine Brooks (reviewed here)
Books on my TBR shelf: 19

Radcliffe's Top 100
Books read so far: 86/100
Books read in 2009: one-third for The Fellowship of the Ring
Books on my TBR shelf: 11
RCR Top 10
Books read so far: 10/10 (it's my list)
Books read in 2009: zero (the list did not change this year -- so far)
Books on my TBR shelf: zero
Well-Stocked Bookcase
Books read so far: 35/60
Books read in 2009: zero
Books on my TBR shelf: 14
I would not have guessed that the BBC list would be the one I made the most progress on so far this year. Thank goodness for The Fellowship of the Ring that gave me a toehold on my slow climb up some of these lists. I am thinking of concentrating on the Radcliffe list in 2010 because I have a shot at finishing that one once and for all. The books remaining also overlap with several other lists, so I could really make hay.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Joker One

. "I found myself fascinated by the interesting geometric designs of the twisted iron rebar in front of me." Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood by Donovan Campbell How did I end up with a military book? I have got to learn to click that LibraryThing "Request Now" button more judiciously! This is an Early Reviewer book and the one that has been languishing the longest on my Guilt List. It is supposed to be really good, so even if it is not my cup of tea, maybe it will keep my attention. .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review of the Day: Behind the Scenes at the Museum



Kate Atkinson won the 1995 Whitbread (Costa) Book of the Year Award for her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, before going on to write seven more books, so far, including the popular Jackson Brodie mystery series.

In Museum, the precocious narrator Ruby Lenox takes us behind the scenes of the museum of her family history, starting with the very moment of her conception. Interleaved between the chapters of Ruby’s biography are lengthy “footnotes” that provide the story of earlier generations, back to Ruby’s great-grandmother.

This is a book about parents, children, sisters, love, marriage, infidelity, war, death, pets and the general hodgepodge of family life. Ruby is a beguilingly effervescent narrator, finding humor in the darkest cubbyholes of her family’s past and, eventually, finding her own place in the family gallery.

OTHER REVIEWS

if you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Two-fer

. "To the north, the headlands jut through a bank of mist, and her hands fall to her sides, stilled by the sight. The spot she's resting on could well be the exact place where Charlies had stopped to paint his sunrise, for the angle of the headlands slanting into the sea could only have been captured from this vantage point." The Ice Chorus by Sarah Stonich. This book is pure indulgence. It is romantic and intelligent. I am thoroughly enjoying it. "We wanted to take the mystery out of good food and allow people to have an honest appreciation for it, and we've watched a new quest for excellence take place in Americans' attitudes towards foodstuffs. There is a sense of adventure, the redefinition of personal preferences." -- The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. This cookbook brings back dozens of cooking memories. This is what America has been eating and cooking for the last 30 years. . Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. .

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Thanks once again to the terrific contest on Reading Local, I have a great list of books for Mailbox Monday. Using my contest winnings from Annie Bloom Books, I got: Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years 1954-1959 by Jane King Hession Frank Lloyd Wright Interactive Portfolio by Margo Stipe I chose Wallace Books when I won a gift certificate from Reading Local for the Portland book store of my choice. What a treasure trove of a book store! I got: The British Museum Is Falling Down (King Penguin) by David Lodge Jake's Thing by Kingsley Amis Ending Up by Kingsley Amis The ABC of Canapes by Edna Beilenson Heavy Weather: A Blandings Story by P.G. Wodehouse The Lexicon: A Cornucopia of Wonderful Words for the Inquisitive Word Lover by William F. Buckley Jr. To Begin Again: Stories and Memoirs, 1908-1929 by M.F.K. Fisher .

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Review of the Day: Julie & Julia

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Julie Powell took a clever idea born of personal desperation and used it to catapult into a new career as an author. Stuck in her dead-end temp job as a government secretary, and panicking over turning 30, Powell got the harebrained idea to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s most famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (volume one, at least), in one year. Her stroke of genius luck was to take her husband’s idea and log her daily progress on a blog she called the Julie/Julia Project, thus eventually earning her a book deal for Julie & Julia, a movie deal, and the enmity of hundreds of envious bloggers typing away in obscurity.

Unfortunately, the idea was better than the execution -- at least for readers hoping to learn about Julia Child and read about, well, cooking all the recipes in MtAoFC in one year. There is precious little discussion about Child, and not much about the cooking. Instead, ignoring the rule that “just because it happened to you does not make it interesting,” most of the book is about Powell’s dead-end temp job as a government secretary and panic over turning 30.

When Powell writes about the cooking, the book is very good -- witty, irreverent, and fresh. The passages about making Boeuf Bourguignon, her adventures with aspic, and her final triumphant duck de-boning make the book worthwhile. But digressions into Powell personal life, such as buying her friend a pink sex toy for her birthday or the sexual endowments of another friend’s married lover -- while they may be what made her blog so popular -- coarsen the story. Julie & Julia would be better with more MtAoFC and less Sex in the City.


NOTE: This was my memoir/biography choice for the Spice of Life Challenge.

OTHER REVIEWS

Book Psmith
ExUrbanis

(Many people reviewed this book. If you would like your review listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

List: Book Club



I love my book club. After refusing to join one for most of my life, Book Club is now the highlight of my social life. All the ladies are fun, interesting, and make a point of reading the books. We get into some great discussions -- as well as eat wonderful meals and laugh a lot. We even have a name for the club now, but it is top secret.

Unlike many book clubs, we do not have a theme and we do not create a list of books for the year. We meet every other month and rotate hosting duties. Sometimes the hostess cooks (or at least serves) a dinner that is related to the book somehow, so we have eaten Afghan food (A Thousand Splendid Suns), African food (Infidel), and had a picnic (I Capture the Castle), among other themed dinners. The hostess picks the book for the next gathering.

This is the list of books I've read since I joined in 2008, starting with the most recent and moving backwards:

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (reviewed here)

Tinkers by Paul Harding (Pulitzer winner; reviewed here)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (reviewed here) 

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Honolulu by Alan Brennert

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (reviewed here)

Small Island by Andrea Levy (reviewed here)

The Red Tent  by Anita Diamant

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosna

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Davita's Harp by Chiam Potok

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Keysey

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Bone People by Keri Hulme (reviewed here)

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

Leap of Faith by Queen Noor

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky


NOTES

Updated on December 28, 2012. I do not usually review the books we read for book club. Apparently talking about them satisfies my analytic urge.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pants on Fire!

. This week's Booking Through Thursday question asks if we would lie about reading a book: "Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?" My answer? Not intentionally, only out of self-delusion. There are books that I am convinced I have read, either because they have been on my book shelf for as long as I can remember, so I think I must have read them at some point, or because the story is so famous and so familiar that I assume I read the book. Here are two examples of books that I had crossed off my various lists years ago. But something (yeah, a guilty conscious) tickled in the back of my brain until I actually opened them up and started reading -- just to make sure. Lo and behold! I hadn't read either one of these, even though I was convinced I had. Clarification: After reading J.G.'s comment, I see that this post wasn't terribly clear. When I realized that I had not read these books, I then read them. The reviews came AFTER I read them, I swear. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. On my shelf since high school. I was sure I had read it. Here is my review. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I knew all about Miss Havisham in her wedding dress and the spiders in the cake, so I must have read it, right? No. My loss. It is wonderful. Here is my review.

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