Books I read in April

May 5, 2019

I seem to have been in the middle of more books lately than usual, between the two audiobooks (one for exercise and one for the car), one to read at work and two or three to read at home (a mix of fiction and non-fiction, depending on my mood), plus those we’re reading at Sunday School and Bible study. But one by one, I finish them … and start the next.

I had previously read another murder mystery intended to fit the category “a book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent,” but it turned out to have relatively little of the story set in the convent where the murder took place. And I had already tentatively selected Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie for this category before reading the other one, so I decided to go ahead and read it anyway. I did not enjoy it as much as the Miss Marple books I had read previously, but that may be because this turns out to be the first one, where Miss Marple is introduced, and over time Christie developed the character more.

As it happened, that novel by Christie was one of five in one volume, featuring her best-known detective characters. I had never read any of her books that feature Superintendent Battle, or even heard of him, so I decided to go ahead and read Toward Zero, even though it didn’t fit any categories for the reading challenge. I enjoyed the story, and I think I may even like Battle better than Poirot or Miss Marple.

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Books I read in March

April 12, 2019

I read quite a variety of books in March, most for the PopSugar reading challenge but also, as always, a few that I just enjoyed reading or read in order to learn something. One thing I am doing more this year than previously is reading more than one book for some categories of the reading challenge. Some are because I just happen to like the category (I’m always up for reading books about libraries and bookstores), and others are because when I looked for books to fit the category, I found multiple possibilities and decided to read more than one. And in at least one case, I decided after finishing the first book that it didn’t fit the category as well as I had thought, and chose to read another that would fit it better.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin was the month’s selection for the local library’s book group, but it also happens to fit “Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge” as it involves a bookstore or library. I had read it a few years ago and enjoyed it (and recommended it to the book club leader for one of our monthly selections), and I was happy enough to read it again. I remembered enough of it to be less moved by some of the events of the book (I’m sure I got choked up the first time around), but had forgotten enough details not to be at all bored rereading them.

I picked out Tropic of Capricorn by Simon Reeve for a book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title. I was pleased to have found a book that used a zodiac sign without having anything to do with astrology, and even more so by the fact that it was an interesting non-fiction book I could learn from about parts of the world, and the people who live there, that I knew very little about. I learned some history, some geography, and about some people groups that most people have never heard of, and their unfortunately vanishing way of life. Some readers object to the moralizing tone regarding two issues (treatment of minorities, and climate change), and sometimes it did get a bit annoying, but if the author feels strongly about these issues, then it makes sense for him to convey that passion to his readers.

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Books: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

March 7, 2019

Lately I’ve been writing just a paragraph about each book I read, in a monthly summary. But as I wrote a draft of the paragraph for the book I just finished today, it got way too long for a paragraph, and I decided it might as well have a blog post of its own.

I was initially thinking of reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for “a book that makes you nostalgic” (for the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge), since I remember how asd a child I enjoyed reading the Oz books by L. Frank Baum, not only this first one but several of the others he wrote (my favorite has always been The Marvelous Land of Oz.) But then I saw this book as a suggestion for “a book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom (e.g. Big Brother from 1984),” which is a more challenging category. I wasn’t interesting in re-reading 1984 or Catch-22 or some of the other suggestions, but as I was going to read this one anyway, I decided it would be a good choice for this category.

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Books I read in February

March 2, 2019

This was another busy month for reading – again in part due to snowy, icy days when the best place to spend time was curled up with a book. According to my book-tracking spreadsheet (my year doing this – someone else doing the PopSugar Reading Challenge had one and I decided to make my own), I finished books totaling over 2600 pages in February, 500 pages more than in all of January, and that’s only the books the count for the challenge, not others I’ve read just because they interest me. But of course, that’s books I finished in February. (Two of them I had started in January, and one back in December.)

The librarian at the college has helped me select some books for the PopSugar Reading Challenge. For a book set in space, she suggested A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White. I’ve always enjoyed science fiction, so I happily dove into this novel. It’s an interesting mix of science and magic, which seems odd but works well enough since, after all, a lot of the “science” in science fiction is little more than magic labeled as science on the assumption that someday we’ll figure out a natural way to do what seems supernatural now. I’m not as enthusiastic about the book as some readers, but it was pretty good, once I finally figured out what was going on (the beginning is a bit confusing).

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Books I read in January

February 4, 2019

I did a lot of reading this month. It helped that I had some extra weekdays with no work, between holidays and winter weather when the school was closed. Plus it’s the time of year to stay indoors, and what better way to pass that time than curled up with a good book? Not all books turn out to be really good, but you only find out by reading them. (I guess there are some books that are just plain bad that you can find out by reading reviews, but the books that others consider good always turn out to have some people who love them and others who just can’t get into them.)

I’m well into the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge, and so far most of the books I’ve read have been OK but not great. I haven’t really disliked any of them, at least not once I got far enough into the book to get what was going on.

First was Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, which I picked for a book with a two-word title, and because the college library had it in a display of Best Books of 2018. It was one I really didn’t care for at the beginning, but over the course of the book I got to like the narrator somewhat better. It’s certainly not one of my favorites, but I got a see how life looks from a very different perspective from my own experience, which was the point in reading it.

Next was At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I picked for a book written by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America, but mostly I read it because I’m leading a Bible study looking at world religions from a Christian viewpoint, and I thought the study guide we’re using did a poor job of portraying Buddhism. Along with this book, not for the Reading Challenge but for the Bible study, I read Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction by Damien Keown. Between these two, I (and the ladies in the Bible study) got a better idea of Buddhist ideas and life.

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Books I read in December

January 1, 2019

It took me into the last week of the year, but this year I finished the PopSugar Reading Challenge. And with only one book in the challenge left to read in December, I had plenty of time to read other books as well.

The last book for the challenge was “a book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym.” The librarian at work had suggested something by Alice Bradley Sheldon, a science fiction writer who was published under the name James Tiptree, Jr. I like science fiction, and I had never heard of Tiptree before, but there was nothing in the library system, either at the college or the public library, and I wasn’t interested enough  to buy a book by a writer I’d never read before. So I settled on Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, a memoir by Karen Christenze Dinesen (Baroness Blixen-Finecke) of her life on a coffee farm in Africa. I knew there had been a movie made based on the book (apparently very loosely based on it), so I had expected there to be a coherent storyline, but there really wasn’t. There were a number of somewhat connected stories, along with musings on Africa and life in general. There were parts of it that were certainly interesting, but as there was no sense of each story building on another toward a certain goal, it took me weeks to get through it. Knowing that she lived in a much different era, I tried not to be offended by her unthinking racist comments, but I was repeatedly struck by the sense that I was reading a book by someone with a vastly different outlook on society. Read the rest of this entry »


Books I read in November

December 2, 2018

It’s near the end of the year, and near the end of the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge. I have one book left to finish in December, having finished three in November, along with a variety of other books, of course.

Finding “a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place” was a challenge in itself. I rarely see strangers reading books in public, partly because my daily routine does not involve a lot of time in public places among strangers (unless you count students I encounter around campus, and I’m not inclined to read one of their textbooks, even if I did see one of them studying one), but mostly because these days there don’t seem to be a lot of people reading printed books. I see lots of people looking at their smart phones or tablets, and no doubt some of them are reading books, but since most are probably not, I am not going to approach someone and ask, what are you reading.

But finally in October, I ended up in the public library during a tornado warning, bunched in the basement with everyone else in the library, and the man sitting next to me was both someone I didn’t know and was reading a book. He kindly showed me what it was, and as the library also had it as an audiobook, I listened to it in November (once I had finished the book I was listening to at the time). The late show by Michael Connelly was moderately interesting (so it was a good choice considering I could have found myself sitting next to someone reading a book I really disliked), but I can’t say I was all that impressed with it. Neither were some readers who like other books by Connelly, so I might consider one of those. Sometime. Maybe.

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