Tuesday, March 31, 2009

List: Nobel Laureates

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 107 times to 111 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2015. I have a goal of reading at least one book by every recipient of the Prize.

If anyone reading this has a similar goal and would like me to link their progress reports to this post, I am happy to do so. Leave a comment with your link and I will add it. There is a group blog called Read the Nobels where people more actively pursuing this project post reviews and record their progress.

Here is the list of Nobel Laureates, starting with the most recent. If I have read any of the author's books, I listed the titles in red after the name; if I have books on my TBR shelf, they are listed in blue. I plan to eventually read something by everyone of these people, even if I have nothing on my TBR shelf right now. Although some may be hard to find as I look at names that ring no bells for me.

Kazuo Ishiguro

Bob Dylan
Svetlana Alexievich
Patrick Modiano

Alice Munro
Mo Yan
Tomas Tranströmer
Mario Vargas Llosa
Herta Müller
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
Doris Lessing
Orhan Pamuk
Harold Pinter
Elfriede Jelinek
J. M. Coetzee
Imre Kertész
V.S. Naipaul
Gao Xingjian
Günter Grass
José Saramago
Dario Fo
Wislawa Szymborska
Seamus Heaney
Kenzaburo Oe
Toni Morrison
Derek Walcott
Nadine Gordimer
Octavio Paz
Camilo José Cela
Naguib Mahfouz
Joseph Brodsky
Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka
Claude Simon
Jaroslav Seifert
William Golding
Gabriel García Márquez
Elias Canetti
Czesław Miłosz
Odysseas Elytis
Isaac Singer
  • A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw
Vicente Aleixandre
Saul Bellow
Eugenio Montale
Harry Martinson
Eyvind Johnson
Patrick White
Heinrich Böll
Pablo Neruda
Alexsandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
Samuel Beckett
Yasunari Kawabata
Miguel Ángel Asturias
Nelly Sachs
Shmuel Agnon
Michail Sholokhov
Jean-Paul Sartre
Giorgos Seferis
John Steinbeck
Ivo Andric
Saint-John Perse
Salvatore Quasimodo
Boris Pasternak
Albert Camus
Juan Ramón Jiménez
Halldór Laxness
Ernest Hemingway
Winston Churchill
François Mauriac

Pär Lagerkvist
Bertrand Russell
William Faulkner
T. S. Eliot*
André Gide
Hermann Hesse
Gabriela Mistral
Johannes Vilhelm Jensen
Frans Eemil Sillanpää
Pearl S. Buck
Roger Martin du Gard
Eugene O'Neill
Luigi Pirandello
Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin
John Galsworthy
Erik Axel Karlfeldt
Sinclair Lewis
Thomas Mann
Sigrid Undset
Henri Bergson
Grazia Deledda
George Bernard Shaw
Władysław Reymont
William Butler Yeats*
Jacinto Benavente
Anatole France
Knut Hamsun
Carl Spitteler
Henrik Pontoppidan
Karl Adolph Gjellerup
Verner von Heidenstam
Romain Rolland
Rabindranath Tagore
Gerhart Hauptmann
Maurice Maeterlinck
Paul Heyse
Selma Lagerlöf
Rudolf Christoph Eucken
Rudyard Kipling
Giosuè Carducci
Henryk Sienkiewicz
José Echegaray y Eizaguirre
Frédéric Mistral
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
Theodor Mommsen
Sully Prudhomme


Updated on January 21, 2018.


Read the Nobels (group blog)
Rebecca Reads

If you would like to be listed here, please leave a comment with links to your progress reports or reviews and I will add them here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Favorite Author: Richard Ford

I have been smitten with Richard Ford ever since he introduced me to his Everyman hero Frank Bascombe in The Sportswriter. I followed Bascombe through the Pulitzer-winning sequel, Independence Day, and the most recent Lay of the Land. Like John Updike's Rabbit novels, Bascombe's saga offered me a tour inside the male psyche for which I am grateful and on which I often muse.

Ford also is justly acclaimed for his short stories. Those I have read, I appreciated. But I am not good about reading short stories -- always passing up a volume of stories for a novel when picking my next book. But I plan to read Ford's short story collections as well as the novels. Vintage Ford is a collection of previously published stories, but I include it on this list because it also includes a short memoir published for the first time.

Those I have already read are in red. Those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue. I will eventually read them all.

A Piece of My Heart (1976)

The Ultimate Good Luck (1981)

The Sportswriter (1986)

Rock Springs (short stories; 1987)


Independence Day (1995)

Women with Men (short stories; 1997)

A Multitude of Sins (short stories; 2002)

Vintage Ford (collection; 2004)

The Lay of the Land (2006)

Canada (2012)


Last updated on April 19, 2012.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Colorful Reading: Update

I finished the first of my Colorful Reading Challenge books -- Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke. This is the third in Burke's Dave Robicheaux series and won the author an Edgar award. Deservedly. It is a particularly good volume of what is probably the best mystery series going. While I can get tired of Burke's ultra-rich language, and Robicheaux's holier-than-thou manner often rubs the wrong way, I always come back for more. Next up is Towers of Gold -- I have 100 pages to go.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is a literary one-off, so hard to categorize. The first half is a long poem by the fictional poet John Shade; the second is the "Commentary" to the poem by narrator Professor Charles Kinbote. Through his Commentary, Kinbote spins a story of his friendship with Shade and tells the zany tale of the political upheaval in Kinbote's homeland of Zembla. The Commentary annotates lines in the poem, so the idea is to read the poem, then as you read the second half, refer back to the lines of the poem under discussion. Definitely not a standard novel format!

Pale Fire is in my all time Top 10 list. I think it is a wonderful, marvelous, intricately faceted gem. I sat there flipping back and forth between the poem and annotations for days, completely absorbed. I'm not one of the Certified Smart People who understand Nabokov on deep, deep levels, so I took the book for the entertainment it gave me. It struck me as mostly a joke — or at least a romp. Nabokov having fun.

The whole thing is genius. But what tickled my fancy the most was the story of the escape from Zembla in the red suit and, in particular, the Zembla cultural and language references. I barked with laughter - while on a crowded plane - when I came to “a shiver of alfear (uncontrollable fear caused by elves).”

I will read this one again, with the goal of appreciating the deeper complexities. But I will probably just end up laughing more and marveling at the mind that could produce such an intricate word puzzle.

Pale Fire shows up on a lot of Must Read lists, including:

All-TIME 100 Best Novels

Anthony Burgess's 99 Best Novels

Dr. Peter Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century

Thanks go to Rebecca at Rebecca Reads for inspiring this post.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: Humbolt's Gift

What a wonderful, great, big, shaggy dog of a novel Humbolt's Gift is!

While litigating with his ex-wife, being bullied by a B-team mobster, and fending off the marriage plans of his young "palooka" girlfriend, narrator Charlie Citrine contemplates the life of his recently deceased best friend and meditates on big questions such as the nature of death, man's role in the cosmos, and theories of boredom.

With dozens of remarkable supporting characters and side stories, this long book is entertaining throughout. It is not a quick read, but it is worth the time.

Saul Bellow deserved his Nobel -- he was really the Grand Master of American letters. Anthony Burgess included this one on his list of favorite 99 novels.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Books Read in 2004

This is the list of books I read in 2004, in the order that I read them. For an explanation of my rating system, see here. The highlight of my reading year was reading -- or rereading -- the six Jane Austen novels in order of publication. Hubby gave me a pretty matching set and I enjoyed them all the more for the lovely covers. Other favorites for the year were The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis and Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher. And Brideshead Revisited definitely deserves its accolades.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (3/5)

The Titans by John Jakes (3/5)

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende (3/5)

Certain Justice by John Lescroart (3/5)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (5/5)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (5/5) (College Board's Top 101; Easton Press Top 100; MLA's Top 30)

The New Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins (4/5)

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (4.5/5)

The Pilot's Wife by Annette Shreve (3/5)

The Reader by Bernhard Schlank (3/5)

Lost Light by Michael Conneley (3/5)

Emma by Jane Austen (5/5)

Dirty Work by Stuart Woods (3/5)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (5/5)

Persuasion by Jane Austen (5/5)

Give Me a Break by John Stossel (3.5/5)

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt (4/5)

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (3/5) (my French Connection list)

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (2.5/5) (Modern Library's Top 100)

Atonement by Ian McEwan (4.5/5) (All-TIME 100)

For the Defense by Kate Wilhelm (2.5/5)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (5/5) (All-TIME 100; Anthony Burgess Top 99; Modern Library's Top 100; Radcliffe's Top 100)

Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley (4.5/5) (Modern Library's Top 100)

An Unlikely Conservative by Linda Chavez (3/5)

Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener (4/5) (Pulitzer Prize winner)

Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart (3.5/5)

Guilt by John Lescroart (3/5)

The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever (3.5/5) (Modern Library's Top 100; National Book Award winner)

The Wapshot Scandal by John Cheever (3.5/5)

Kowloon Tong by Paul Theroux (2.5/5)

Herzog by Saul Bellow (5/5) (All-TIME 100; National Book Award winner)

The Warriors by John Jakes (3/5)

Suspicion of Vengeance by Barbara Parker (3.5/5)

Long Time No See by Susan Isaak (3/5)

The Old Devils by Kingsly Amis (4/5) (Booker Prize winner)

God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr. (4/5)

Fletch by Gregory McDonald (3/5)

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy (3.5/5)

Disgrace by J.M. Coetze (3.5/5) (Booker Prize winner)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (4.5/5) (All-TIME 100; Radcliffe's Top 100)

Cleopatra by Michael Grant (3/5)

A Darkness More than Night by Michael Conneley (3/5)

The New Testament (King James)

First Law by John Lescroart (4/5)

From Here to Eternity by James Jones (3/5) (Modern Library's Top 100; National Book Award winner)

Mongoose, R.I.P. by William F. Buckley, Jr. (3/5)

Murder on the Run by Gail White (3/5)

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (3.5/5)

The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty (4/5) (Pulitzer Prize winner)

For Women Only by Jennifer Berman (2.5/5)

The Lawless by John Jakes (3/5)

Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay (3/5)

Sharp Shooter by Nadia Gordon (3.5/5)

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher (4.5/5) (my French Connection list)

Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx (3/5)

Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst (3.5/5)

Spanish Lessons by Derek Lambert (3/5)

The Little Black Dress by Didier Ludot (3/5)

Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle (3.5/5) (Booker Prize winner)

As They Were by M.F.K. Fisher (3.5/5)

Secret Portland by Ann Carol Burgess (2/5) (reviewed here)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Towers of Gold

"On my thirteenth birthday, my father took me to lunch at the Poodle Dog, one of San Francisco's oldest restaurants, the kind of place with red leather banquettes and smoke-stained walls." From the Introduction to Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Frances Dinkelspiel. I forgot to list the opening sentence when I started this book last week, and am now almost halfway through. This is a hugely entertaining history of California centered on one man -- a financier and investor who played a major role in getting Los Angeles off the ground before moving to San Francisco where he . . . . I don't know yet; I have to keep reading! Dinkelspiel is Hellman's great-great-granddaughter and a journalist. The book moves along at a good clip, written in a clear, journalistic style. I am really enjoying it. I am reviewing it for the upcoming issue of The Internet Review of Books. It is also the "gold" book on my Colorful Reading Challenge list.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Notes: Audio Books

There is a debate going on over on LibraryThing about whether listening to an audio book "counts" as reading the book. (Those who are LibraryThing members can read it here.) I think the very contention is silly. But I was surprised to find how few readers in the "Literary Snobs" group enjoyed audio books -- although maybe, given the name of the group, they were just afraid to admit it. I joined the group just for the sake of chiming in, and a few other audio book fans came forward after I did. My comments were roughly these: Am I the only one willing to come to the wholehearted defense of audio books? That surprises me, given the number of well-produced, unabridged audio books readily available. I have listened to audio books on and off all my adult life, but I really became a fan when I got an iPod a few years ago and discovered how to load audio cds from the library onto my iTunes library, then on to my iPod. I can keep 20 or more books in my purse! I still read the big majority of my books with my eyes, but there are plenty that I read with my ears. I disagree with those who say that listening to an audio book does not "count" as reading the book. An unabridged audio book is putting every single word of the book into your head, just like reading a paper book does - it is just that one way gets into your brain via your ears; the other through your eyes. But it is the same information getting to your brain - just like reading a book in Braille puts the book into your brain through your fingertips. The difference is sensory, not substantive. It is not like watching a play or a movie or listening to a radio program because an audio book is not an adaptation - it is the real book, read aloud. True, it is possible to miss parts of an audio book. But it is also possible to miss parts of a book read with your eyes. I can get distracted reading a "book book" just as easily as when I listen to a book. In some situations - on a plane, for example - listening to the book is more absorbing than trying to read a paper book. There are a couple of genres I think benefit from an audio format. First, memoirs read by the author are, in my opinion, superior to the paper format. You can hear exactly how the author intended the words to sound - you get inside the author's head. For example, I can always figure out who listened Frank McCourt read Angela's Ashes and who read it with their eyes. The first group, including me, thought the book was heartwarming and very funny. The second group thought it was heartbreaking and incredibly sad. The difference is in the cadence and inflection McCourt put into the words when he read them. Likewise, Ayaan Hirisi Ali reading her biography Infidel was mind blowing. I cannot imagine getting the same impact from the printed page. On a lighter note, I came close to abandoning David Sedaris until I listened to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and became a devoted fan. The second genre I prefer in audio is classic literature. I am listening to Crime and Punishment now. In the past few years, I have listened to, among others, Moll Flanders, Silas Marner, Hard Times, Madame Bovary, and Moby Dick. And, yes, even the passages on cetology and the meaning of "white" were entertaining when read out loud. As I have mentioned here before, I think that listening to these classics is more rewarding that reading them with my eyes. Instead of facing dense, page-long paragraphs of prose, some professional has parsed the phrasing and figured out every nuance of intonation. That, along with different voices for characters, makes some of these older books come alive. In that way, I agree with the idea that audio books are like a play - listening to them is satisfying in the same way that watching a Shakespeare play makes more sense than trying to read it on the page. So while I will continue to flip pages, you can often find me plugged into my iPod, listening to a book. And I definitely count every one of those audio books as I scratch them off my various book lists.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: Native America Discovered and Conquered

In Native America Discovered and Conquered, law professor Robert J. Miller examines how the international law concept now referred to as the “Doctrine of Discovery” applied to America’s westward expansion. Miller explains how the principles of the doctrine – developed by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 1400s and formally adopted in America in the 1823 Supreme Court case of Johnson v. M’Intosh – influenced Thomas Jefferson’s expansionist plans, delineated Lewis and Clark’s duties, and grew into the policy of Manifest Destiny.

This book offers a fresh look at these common chapters in American history by viewing them through the lens of the Doctrine of Discovery, which Miller describes “in a nutshell” as the idea that when a European, Christian nation “discovered” new lands, the European – later American – nation automatically acquired sovereign and property rights in the new land, subject only to the native peoples’ right to occupy and use the land. When the natives stopped using or wanted to sell the land, they had to sell it to the European or American “conquering” nation and to no other.

Miller sticks to his theme well, tying many loose threads of history into his theory. He clearly outlines ten elements of the Doctrine of Discovery: first discovery; actual occupancy; the right of preemption (the exclusive right to buy the land from the natives); Indian title (their right to occupy and use the land); limited tribal sovereign and commercial rights; contiguity; terra nullis; Christianity; civilization; and conquest (virtual, even if not military). He then refers to these elements as he explains that the Doctrine of Discovery was understood in American politics even before the Supreme Court put a name to it in 1823, and that the Doctrine evolved into the popular concept of Manifest Destiny.

The goal of the book is to “shed new light on the conduct of Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark and on many other events in American history and law” in order to “perceive more clearly how tribal governments and individual Indians lost many of their property and human rights, and their sovereign, self-governing powers.” As Miller argues, American Indians lost these rights and powers without their knowledge or consent, by confiscation based only on the “ethnocentric assumption of the ‘superior genius’ of Europeans.” Miller poses this as his “ultimate question”:
[W]hether this relic of colonialism and feudalism, and racial, religious, and cultural domination should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Must Americans and American Indians tolerate the Doctrine of Discovery in our present and our future; is it unchangeable, immutable? Is there anything that can be done to erase a “legal doctrine” that has been enshrined in American culture and law for four hundred years?
In answering his own question, Miller takes the “middle ground” between doing nothing and abolishing the Doctrine altogether and letting the chips fall where they may. His proposal is modest indeed, suggesting only that “Congress could consider after lengthy deliberation and with ample tribal input and direction viable ways to make concrete changes in federal Indian law that could begin to rectify some of the damage Discovery has inflicted on tribal and Indian rights.”

Clearly, what to do with the deeper understanding gained from Miller’s examination of the Doctrine of Discovery is beyond the scope of his book. But the fact that Miller does not solve the problems he describes does not limit the value of this book. Native America Discovered and Conquered provides a necessary foundation for understanding the laws and actions that created the modern legal system controlling American Indians today.


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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Notes: Jeeves, etc.

I just finished Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse this morning. I was listening to it while unpacking boxes this weekend, so Hubby kept asking what I was laughing about. I want more! But I admit to being a little worried about further Wodehouse reading. I have been reading Wodehouse with my ears because my library has a lot of the Jeeves books on CD, as well some of Wodehouse's non-Jeeves books like my favorite, Love Among the Chickens. They are so wonderful to listen to because you really pick up on all the quips and linguistic word play when you hear them out loud. So I have some trepidation about switching over to the book books and reading with my eyes. I am worried that they will seem flat after the audio books. But I have come to the end of my library's supply, so I am going to have to take the plunge. According to List of Bests, I am only ten percent finished with my list of Wodehouse books. Book Psmith is inspiring with her Wodehouse-centric blog. I am in a Wodehouse mood and ready to start flipping pages!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My First Blogiversary!

It was a year ago today that I started this Rose City Reader blog and wrote my first post. I did it on a whim, hoping to have a place to keep track of the books I read and my many Must Read lists. I didn't expect to have so much fun with it! Over the past year, the highlights for me have been:
  • Having Laura Grimes feature my blog in an Oregonian story about Henry James;

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review of the Day: Rasputin's Daughter

Rasputin's Daughter by Robert Alexander is the fictionalized tale of Rasputin's last week, as told by his daughter. While some historical novels based on real events and using real people as characters can really bring the history to life, this story seemed overly emotional and overly simplified. Alexander did a pretty good job of weaving in historical information in a way that did not seem too forced or clunky, but he did it at the expense of detail. For example, even the Russian Revolution gets short shrift, leaving more space for for the banal romance between the narrator daughter and a mysterious soldier. Rasputin was a notorious figure in an era of dramatic upheaval. But despite copious research into his subject matter, Alexander does not tap into the rich vein of narrative ore available to him. The most interesting part of the book was the afterward explaining what happened to the real people after the events depicted in the novel. But for that sort of information and more, it would be better to read a good biography, such as Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinned by Brian Moynahan, or the source materials Alexander used, much of which can be found in The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers

"This book grew out of a simple observation: writers like to drink." Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers by Edward Hemingway (illustrator) and Mark Bailey (author). OK, I admit that this was an impulse purchase made as I was poking around Powell's the other day. It does not show up on any of my Must Read lists. But the caricature illustrations caught my eye, and books and cocktails are my favorite things, so home with me it came. I plan to sit in my new library some evening very soon, with a bourbon soda, and enjoy this little book straight through.

School Choice Contest

Are you a parent or grandparent of an Oregon K-12th grade student? Do you know any families with K-12 children? There are only a few days left to enter the Oregon School Choice Video Contest. Parents and K-12 students can win up to $10,000 by making a short video about what choosing their school has meant to them, or could mean if they haven’t had the choice so far. The Contest website with full details is at Oregon School Choice Contest. The entry Deadline is March 25th.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Internet Review of Books

The March issue of The Internet Review of Books is up and, as always, there are several interesting non-fiction and fiction reviews. Also, my review of The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care is in the Brief Reviews section. What caught my eye are the two books about Cuba -- Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost it to the Revolution and Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground. Clive Foss, Georgetown history professor and author of a recent Fidel Castro biography, reviews the two together. Sounds like they would make a great Spring Break double header.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Challenge: Colorful Reading

OK, I generally avoid challenges because I have so many reading lists going that I do not like to fracture my attention any more than it already is. But I came across this Colorful Reading Challenge sponsored by Lost in Books and it captured my fancy. I tried to ignore it, but this past weekend (when I was finally unpacking my 800+ TBR books that have been in boxes for the past six months) I realized that I could complete the challenge without acquiring a single book. So I decided to indulge in a challenge with the excuse that it will help me pick from the overwhelming selection. The official rules are "to read 9 books with 9 different colors in the title. Six colors are required, while the last 3 can be your choice. Books may be overlapped with other challenges. At least 6 of the books should be new to you." Reading must take place in 2009. The six required colors are blue, red, white, black, silver, gold. Here is my list, subject to change at whim (like if I find a copy of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and ditch the cookbook): BLUE: My Blue Notebooks: The Intimate Journal of Paris's Most Beautiful and Notorious Courtesan by Liane de Pougy RED: Red Square by Martin Cruz Smith WHITE: White Teeth by Zadie Smith BLACK: Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke SILVER: The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso GOLD: Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Dinkelspiel, Frances GREEN: Blue Planet in Green Shackles: What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? by Vaclav Klaus YELLOW: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris BROWN: Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosely It was harder than I thought to find the three extra colors, since I have already read A Clockwork Orange and The Color Purple. I had a couple of "scarlet" choices, but I figure that is too close to red.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bamboo and Barcelona

The one thing that really stuck in my head from reading Greg Bell's Water the Bamboo book is the idea of using affirmations to change behavior. I have run across the concept before, but Bell makes a good, cogent case for changing behavior by changing thinking patterns by using affirmations. He advocates for choosing two or three positive statements and saying them out loud at least every morning and evening for 30 days. That should get these positive "affirmations" lodged in your head enough to make you believe them. Then, because ideas have consequences, your behavior will change to match your new beliefs. Sounds great. I did not sit right down and come up with my affirmations, although I had good intentions to do so (thus proving why I need to do so). But over the past few weeks, I have recognized some recurrent thoughts as being the affirmations I was looking for. We are in the middle of getting settled into a new (old) house and, although we moved in over two weeks ago, workers are still here finishing the remodeling, so furniture is crammed everywhere, boxes are stacked to the ceiling, and workers are there from breakfast to bedtime. We have spent evenings and weekends scrubbing cupboards, unpacking what we can, and trying to organize what we hope will be the house we live in for the duration. Under these circumstances, a couple of thoughts kept bubbling to the top of my head and I have now claimed them as my affirmations. The first is a line from one of my favorite movies, the quirky and adorable Barcelona, where the guy goes around muttering, "Every day in every way I am becoming a better and better person," apparently inspired by the Dale Carnegie books he reads. I repeat this line to myself as I unpack box after box of disorganized clutter that I have hauled around since my first college apartment, vowing to use what I have, fix what is broken, and get rid of what I do not want or need. The second is an offshoot of the first. The phrase "I am marching towards perfection" came out of my mouth when Hubby asked what I was doing, as I was scraping someone else's gooey 1970's shelf paper out of the bathroom drawers. I like the no-nonsense sound of "marching" rather than anything less absolute, like "striving" or, even worse, "struggling" towards perfection. Of course, this one is an aspirational affirmation -- I can only hope to move towards perfection, but can never attain it. The third is the one I practice the most: "I react to my husband with love and happiness." I say it over and over -- sometimes even saying out loud to Hubby before responding to him, although he thinks I'm batty. Other than trying to wallpaper together, or maybe have one of us teach the other to golf, I cannot think of anything as stressful as moving into and living in a house under construction. We'll see how this works. In the meantime, I have boxes to unpack.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

List of the Day: MLA's 30 Books Every Adult Should Read Before They Die

This list is the results of a 2006 poll of British librarians conducted by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), in which librarians around Britain were asked, "Which book should every adult read before they die?"

It looks like the list reflects a split between those librarians who popped off with the name of the book that most recently captured their fancy and those who considered what should really be the one book everyone should read. I mean, The Time Traveler’s Wife was extremely popular, but is it really a book deserving of every adult’s bucket list? On the other hand, The Bible is a space-hogging gimmee – my rule is that all Must Read lists come with a silent caveat: “a list of books other than The Bible . . .” So take this one with a grain of salt.

Those I have read are in red. Those on my TBR shelf are in blue.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Bible

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien

1984 by George Orwell

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

All Quiet on the Western Front by E M Remarque

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Tess of the D'urbevilles by Thomas Hardy

Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (reviewed here)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (reviewed here)

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn

Last updated last on August 7, 2015.



(If you would like to be listed here, please leave a comment with links to your progress reports or reviews and I will add them here)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review of the Day: The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club did not deliver like I hoped it would.

The six main characters are the members of a book club established to read the six novels of Jane Austen. Each chapter is devoted to one of Austen's novels and to one of the main characters. But this structure chopped up the story into disparate segments. The stories were only loosely connected to each other with the thinnest of cohesive plots.

My real gripe, though, was the connection between the characters' stories and the Austen novels. There were general similarities between the characters here and in Austen’s books, but I could not tell if the stories of these six characters were supposed to parallel the plots of Austen’s novels.

I consider myself a big Austen fan, having recently read all six of the novels in publication order, most for the second, some for the third, time. Still, I do not have instant recall of the plots and characters in each novel, and Karen Joy Fowler's book does not give many clues that would connect the Austen novels to the story. In fact, Fowler barely mentions the story lines of the Austen novels at all. References to the novels usually concern comments about the personalities of various characters, but with so little context that they could have been comments about anyone. "Mr. Parsons had a cutting wit" or "Lucy was too prissy" are meaningless without a little reminder of Austen's plot to tie everything together.

This is a pretty short book. It would have been fairly easy for Fowler to pull in more details from Austen's novels without bogging down the story or condescending to the readers. That kind of contextual detail would have made for a richer reading experience.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Book Notes: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

I am enthralled with this book! The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C. M. Mayo is a historical novel of the best kind -- a tale based on history, not merely set in historic times -- about how Maximilian, the Hapsburg Emperor of Mexico, "adopted" the grandson of the first Mexican Emperor. There are so many characters telling the tale from their own point of view -- everyone from the Emperor to the scullery maid to the toddler prince himself -- and such a complicated plot! It has me hanging on every page. Lots of adventure and detail; great, clean writing that doesn't get in the way of the story. And all about a sliver of European/New World history that I know nothing about and am intrigued by. This is the kind of novel to get lost in. I only wish I had some kind of winter get-away like a mountain weekend or Spring Break so I could hunker down with this and read it straight through. As it is, I have to get in ten or 15 minutes am and pm and it is barley enough to keep me going.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

List of the Day: Book Club, Updated

The book club I am in continues to be great bibliophile fun, but has become even more enjoyable as we get to know each other better. We've even done some non-book socializing, like when one of our members invited us all to an oliebollen party during the holidays, and when the others (not me, unfortunately) got together for a movie night to watch the film adaptation of Sometimes a Great Notion. This updated book list includes all the books we've read since I joined last year: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky Leap of Faith by Queen Noor The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini The Bone People by Keri Hulme (reviewed here) The History of Love by Nicole Krauss Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver Loving Frank by Nancy Horan Somtimes a Great Notion by Ken Keysey Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (this month's book) It will be my turn to host at our May gathering. Hopefully my house will be finished by then so we don't have to eat dinner in the habitrail.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Review of the Day: Living the Seven Habits

Living the 7 Habits: The Courage to Change is a compilation of real-life stories about how people have implemented the Seven Habits in their family and professional lives. It follows two other books: the seminal The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleand the more nuts and bolts First Things First.

The stories were inspiring and good reminders to practice the Seven Habits. But I could not relate to most of the stories directly because, while they involve universal principals, the specifics of the stories are far removed from my life. Many of the stories concern raising children, dealing with enormous adversity, or working in large companies. I have no children, am blessed with a pretty easy life, and work for myself.

Because I could relate to these stories only on a theoretical level, I preferred the first two books, both of which are more abstract than anecdotal. Of course, for these very same reasons, many people may prefer this packaging of Covey's ideas.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

List: College Board's Top 101

Leave it to the College Board -- creator of the PSAT, the SAT, etc. -- to come up with a list of books guaranteed to make almost every reader humble. Not that these are not excellent choices for a solid grounding in Western culture, but to suggest that students should read all "101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers" while they are still in high school is setting the bar mighty high.

Just reading through this list and realizing how many of these books I read long after high school, and how many I still have to read, is sure to inspire that nightmare where I am back in college as an adult, trying to take an exam for a class I never attended.

So much for my English Lit major -- I have only read 79 of the books on this list. Those I have read are in red, with a little notation about when I actually read the book. Those currently (or maybe I should say "still") on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Beowulf (college and adult)

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (adult)

A Death in the Family by James Agee (adult)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (college)

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (adult)

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (college)

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow (adult) (reviewed here)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (high school)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (high school)

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (adult)

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (college)

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (college)

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad (high school)

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane (adult)

Inferno by Dante (college)

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (high school)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (adult)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (college)

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (adult)

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (adult)

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (adult)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (adult)

Selected Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (high school)

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (college)

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (adult) (reviewed here)

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (high school)

Madame Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert (adult)

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (adult)

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (college)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding (adult)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (college)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (high school)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (adult)

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway (adult)

The Iliad by Homer (college)

The Odyssey by Homer (college)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (college and adult)

Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley (high school)

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (adult)

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (adult)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (adult) (reviewed here)

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (high school)

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee (adult)

by Sinclair Lewis (adult)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London (adult)

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (adult)

Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville (high school)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville (adult) (reviewed here)

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (high school)

Beloved by Toni Morrison (college)

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor (adult)

Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill

Animal Farm by George Orwell (adult)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (adult) (reviewed here)

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (adult)

Selected Tales by Edgar Allen Poe (high school)

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (college)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (adult)

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Call it Sleep by Henry Roth

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (high school)

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (high school)

Macbeth by William Shakespeare (college)

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare (college)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (high school)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (college)

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Antigone by Sophocles (high school)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (high school)

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (high school)

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (adult)

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (adult) (reviewed here)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (college)

Vanity Fair by William Thackeray

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (high school)

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (high school)

Candide by Voltaire (adult)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (adult) (reviewed here)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (college)

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (adult)

Collected Stories by Eudora Welty

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (high school)

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (high school)

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (college)

Native Son by Richard Wright (adult)


Rebecca Reads
The Bluestocking Society
Word Lily

If anyone else adopts this list, please let me know in a comment and I will add your link.


Last updated on August 7, 2015.

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