Books I read in May

June 2, 2018

The list is shorter this month. Partly it was because my car was in the shop for almost a month (first getting the problem figured out, then getting the transmission replaced under warranty), and the loaner car did not have a working CD player, so my library audiobooks sat and waited week after week (fortunately the library is closed for a move and nothing is due until it reopens). Partly it was because I had finished several books at the end of April and needed to catch up on doing other stuff.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon – this was for the book club at the local library. I also thought it would count for a book set in the decade I was born, but about halfway through the book, the year 1970 rolled around, and toward the end of the book, decades were flying by. I could probably have justified saying it was set larger in the late 1960’s, but it turns out it could also count as a book from a celebrity book club. I had not heard of the Richard and Judy Book Club, probably in large part because I don’t live in England and I don’t care about celebrity book clubs. Perhaps this category is meant to get me to read a book because it is recommended by a celebrity book club, but I really don’t care what celebrities are reading. I joined the local book club, in part, to read books I would not have otherwise, and I think our librarian’s choice is at least as good a recommendation as that of some stranger who happens to be famous. It’s a really good book, giving insight into the lives of people who used to be considered less than human. One line from the book I particularly was struck by is “Sometimes you think you know what you want … until you see how much more you can have.”

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel – for years I had been meaning to read this book, but had not gotten around to it. Then my sister recently sent it to me in a package of books or other stuff. It’s not exactly a gift in the same was as a Christmas or birthday gift, but as far as I’m concerned it counts as a book I borrowed or that was given to me as a gift. And I did enjoy reading it, learning about history and invention as well as how politics and egos got involved and had such an effect on the course of scientific progress on this issue. Read the rest of this entry »


Books I read in March and April

May 7, 2018

April was a busy month, so by the time I realized I hadn’t yet done a post about the books I read in March, I figured I might as well wait until May and do both months together. I still found time to read several books, though, partly because it’s my favorite way to relax, and partly because I spend at least ten hours a week in the car, listening to audiobooks.

Books I read for the 2018 Reading Challenge


Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder – this was the book I chose for a book about or involving a sport. I don’t get much interested in sports, but the story of a girls basketball team during the Depression was pretty interesting, since it was mostly about the girls and their coach, rather than about basketball. I had not realized how big sports for girls were that long before Title IX, nor imagined that there had been professional women’s basketball teams back then. It was especially interesting to learn about the conflict between those who wanted to give girls a chance to play competitively, and those who thought competition was unhealthy for females.

Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara – Finding a book made into a movie you’ve already seen was a difficult category because I read a lot of books but watch few movies. When there is a movie I want to see that has been made from a book, I try to read the book first. And in those cases where I have liked a movie and discover it was made from a book, I generally go ahead and read the book. Fortunately this blog has posts I have written about a number of movies I have watched over the past several years, and one turned out to have been made from a book I had not read. The book was very interesting reading, though I have to admit to finding it sometimes tedious with the details of the battles, especially as the diagrams provided were not enough to be able to visualize the maneuvers being described. Getting a looking into men’s attitudes and motivations, on both sides of the war, was the most interesting aspect.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard – this was my choice for a book with a weather element in the title. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, though after a while I managed to keep at least the main characters straight. It is a well-told mystery, bringing to life the problems and concerns of small-town life. Some readers indicate they knew early on who the killer was, but it was a surprise to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Books I read in February

March 4, 2018

Continuing the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge, I’ve made pretty good progress in February. Of course, some of these are books I had started but not finished in January.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare – this was my choice for “a book that is also a stage play or musical.” In high school we read some of Shakespeare’s tragedies (my favorite was Macbeth), but I had never read any of the comedies. From time to time over the years I have seen references to characters or scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and had decided I ought to read it sometime. Perhaps if I studied it in a literature class I would appreciate it more, but I have to admit I didn’t find it as interesting as the tragedies. But it was interesting, of course, to come across famous quotes that I had heard but did not know their source, such as “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” and “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton – one of the books I would not have heard of if it hadn’t been for the PopSugar reading challenge (which is of course its purpose, to get you to read books you would not otherwise), this was “a book involving a heist.” What makes it different is that the book is not really about the heists, it’s about the teenager who has discovered a talent for opening locks. He has not spoken since some tragedy killed his parents and nearly killed him, and he only expresses himself through art. Since he makes it clear from the start that he is in prison, I really did not look forward to finishing the book and finding out how he got there and how long he would be there, but the ending turned out to be more satisfying than I had expected.

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – having to read “a book about time travel” was a welcome assignment. The only challenge was finding one I had not read before that sounded good. The reviews for Jodi Taylor’s books were very good, and the book was also. I’m just disappointed that none of the libraries in the area have any more books in the series. But I already got the second one through eBay, and am looking forward to continuing the story. Read the rest of this entry »

Books I read in January

February 11, 2018

I’m doing the PopSugar Reading Challenge again this year. The 2018 Reading Challenge has forty books on the basic list, and another ten on the advanced list. Since I read over a hundred books a year, reading these fifty shouldn’t be too hard. Though there is one category that may be a challenge – a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place. If I had occasion to take a trip I might well see someone reading in an airport or on a bus or train, but in my daily life, the only people I see reading books are family and co-workers.

Still, I’m making good progress with the books I’ve read so far.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan – this was for our book club, but it also fits for “a novel based on a real person.” Two real people, actually, sisters Marie and Antoinette van Goethem (and their little sister Charlotte, though she plays a lesser role in the novel). I generally enjoy historical fiction, but this one didn’t interest me as much. Perhaps it was the setting, late nineteenth-century Paris (I tend to read novels set in the British Isles), perhaps just that I didn’t much like Antoinette, and as the book went on I didn’t care so much for Marie either. Interesting, but not all that enjoyable.

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier – this retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello just sounded interesting, plus I realized as I read that it fit for “a book about a villain or antihero.” I’m not sure how believable the whole story is, but it is interesting just to see how Chevalier adapted the play (even though I have never seen or read Othello).

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E. K. Johnston – another book that I selected just because it sounded interesting (alternate history, science fiction) and discovered as I read that it fit for “a book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist.” I haven’t read a lot of books set in Canada, so it was interesting to get that perspective, and Johnston has created an interesting alternate history where the British Empire remained a world power by valuing all the peoples and cultures of its far-flung domains, encouraging intermarriage among different ethnicities, even (especially) in the royal family. Again, I’m not sure how realistic a picture it paints, but it’s an interesting perspective.

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan – I would have read this anyway because I enjoy the series (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard), but it was handy that it also fit “a book set at sea.” Sometimes the sea isn’t in our world (hard to explain that if you haven’t read the series), but it’s still sea (except when they have adventures on land, but then they get back on the ship again).

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – this was the first book I set about intentionally reading for the Reading Challenge, for “a childhood classic you’ve never read.” I’m not sure if I just never happened to read it, or chose not to. I would not have liked Anne much as a girl, though as an adult I can appreciate her somewhat more. (Though unlike Matthew, I think I would find her ceaseless talking would annoy me after a while.)

Three other books I had started in 2017 but finished in January, An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor (continuing a series I have been enjoying on audiobook during my commute), Political Correctness edited by Rachel Bozek (a book I found in the college library that sounded interesting, as I like books that present two sides of a controversy), and State of Fear by Michael Crichton (an audiobook on MP3 that I listened to while riding my exercise bike, and although I found the storyline stretched belief and the “message” of the book overshadowed the storyline, it did get me through several hours – over several weeks – of biking).

Books I read in 2017

December 31, 2017

When I started the 2017 Reading Challenge, I decided to keep track of all the books I read, not just the ones for the Reading Challenge. In 2017, I have read 116 books. Most were fiction, though about twenty were non-fiction (mostly about science, history, the Christian faith, and current issues). Twenty are historical fiction, several are science fiction/fantasy (it’s hard to decide in some cases – does the presence of a ghost make it fantasy? does the prevalence of androids make it science fiction if the science is never discussed?), and  twenty-five are mysteries.

I had never quite finished the 2016 Reading Challenge because there were a few categories I had trouble with. So I started earlier this year working at fitting specific categories that I wasn’t as likely to read in the normal course of things. Most categories I did find were very easy, and in several cases I read a book just because it was interesting and then discovered it fit a category I had been wondering how I would find an example of (such as a book with an unreliable narrator and a book by an author who uses a pseudonym).

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Books: Levittown

October 14, 2017

As I have nearly finished the 2017 Reading Challenge (I still have to decide on a book with more than 800 pages, and find one from a genre/subgenre I’ve never heard of), I decided to add a few of my own ideas. The first was to read a book that was set in a town/city where I have lived.

I wasn’t sure just what I’d be able to find, at least for the towns I’ve lived in this country. (I know I’d have no trouble finding books set in Valencia or Madrid, the two cities in Spain where I lived while getting my B.A. and M.A. in Spanish.) But in addition to several books about the pearl button industry in Muscatine, Iowa and a murder mystery set in Houghton Lake, Michigan, I found Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb.

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Books: Beyond the Abortion Wars

September 16, 2017

As I explained in my previous post about Willie Parker’s Life’s Work, I wanted to read a book that dealt with both sides of the abortion argument. Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation by Charles Camosy at least attempts to do this, though he generally expresses his own understanding of the arguments on both sides, rather than letting the “pro-choice” side speak for itself.

Camosy’s premise is that most people in our country, whether they generally identify as “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” do want both legal protection for abortions in some cases and legal prohibition of it in others. His goal is to show that there is enough common ground to propose a new public policy that will significantly reduce the number of abortions performed while leaving it open as an option in certain cases.

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