Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd Love to Have at my Thanksgiving Table

This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish.

1. Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

After reading his new biography (review soon!), it might make more sense if I didn't want Vonnegut at my table. He comes off as bitter, attention-seeking, and womanizing. Yet he still seems like a charming and entertaining dinner guest when he wanted to be, so I'd be interested in conversing with him on a good day. Also, I feel like we might bond over similar pessimistic yet secretly optimistic worldviews.

2. Madeleine L'Engle

It was my dream to meet Madeleine L'Engle, especially because for a long time, she and Vonnegut were the only two authors I liked that were still alive. Both from her books and a taped interview that I have of her, she seems like the sweetest lady, besides being vastly knowledgeable and interesting. I think we would have a lot in common.

3. L.M. Montgomery

I love all of her books so much, and I'd like to think we are maybe similar people. I'd like to talk craft with her, but I'd also just like to listen to her talk about all her visions and intense feelings that beauty inspires in her.

4. Mark Twain

Another man who I'd like to catch in a charming, entertaining mood. Vonnegut's adoption of the Twain "brand" is something that Shields discussed a bit in the Vonnegut biography. But, I would love to meet the author of Huck Finn and talk about his motivations and listen to his amusing observations on any given topic.

5. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I was deciding between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, but I think Dostoyevsky seems like a nicer person and we'd still get to discuss philosophy and nineteenth century Russia. I suppose I'm also assuming that we would somehow be able to communicate, as I don't speak Russian and I'm not sure if he spoke English.

6. Jane Austen

Austen might be a little wallflowerish in social situations, but hopefully I'd be able to draw her out. I'm sure her opinion of the other dinner guests would be exceedingly droll. I also have a feeling she'd love to meet Shakespeare.

7. William Shakespeare

It's kind of hard not to include the Bard on the list. Hopefully, this would put to rest all speculation as to whether he wrote his plays or not. I think he would be equal to the other guests and that of course they would all want to meet him (with the exceptions of Lanyer, who might have known him in life, and Cervantes, who may not have known of him at all).

8. Aemilia Lanyer

Lanyer would be a fascinating dinner companion, I'd want to hear all about her relationship with Lord Hunsdon and meeting Elizabeth I, and especially her views on women's role in society. Plus, we could finally settle whether or not she was Shakespeare's Dark Lady.

9. Gregory Maguire

Maguire is the only live author on my list. I heard him speak at the National Book Festival and was utterly charmed. I think everyone would find him entertaining and I know he's a fan of nineteenth century novelists, so he would at least enjoy meeting Twain, Austen, and Dostoyevsky.

10. Miguel Cervantes

The author of Don Quixote has got to be a riot. Even if he doesn't speak English, we might still be able to communicate a bit. I'd love to see him interact with Shakespeare, who I know was a fan, as well as Twain and Dostoyevsky who both expressed admiration and homage.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Unread Books On My Shelf

Clearly, I didn't look at today's Top Ten Tuesday topic at the Broke and the Bookish last night! Otherwise, I would have saved my TBR list. But here are some other books that still lie unread on my shelf, despite my desire to read them.

1. The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

Been meaning to read since I attended a panel with Reif Larsen at the first Boston Book Festival.

2. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

Loved the Sisterhood books, still need to read this, although I'm afraid I won't love it as much.

3. The Room and the Chair by Lorraine Adams

Great story about how I attended a Bookslut Reading for this, which just happened to coincide with my visit to Berlin.

4. Sandition and Other Stories by Jane Austen

Been meaning to read these forever, and recently picked up a copy in a used bookstore.

5. King of the Murgos by David Eddings

The second book of the Malloreon, the follow-up series to the Belgariad, which I loved.

6. Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings

The third book of the Malloreon.

7. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Recommended to me a long time ago and received from Bookmooch, but haven't read it yet.

That's all I can think of at the moment, sure there are more somewhere, probably in boxes....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Settling the Dust

46. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
47. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Since I last reviewed a book, I've had a lot going on (more on that in a moment). A friend left his copy of The Subtle Knife in my car, so I took the opportunity to reread it. I read His Dark Materials back in middle school, I picked up The Amber Spyglass the week it came out. Since then, I've reread the first book, The Golden Compass, a few times, but not the other two.

I hoped I'd have something profound to say, but while the hierarchy of angels and Pullman's objective in vilifying the Catholic Church appear more clear in a second reading, to say nothing of Lyra's "sexual" (I put quotes because it's more love than sex oriented) awakening, there's not quite as much going on as I remembered. Still, this mysterious Dust that surrounds adult sentient beings, this conscious matter, dark matter, angels, what is this? It feels like a forced collision of science and religion that has hope, but doesn't ultimately work. Or perhaps, very likely, I'm misunderstanding something.

In settling my own personal Dust, well, there seems no end in sight. I have a new part-time job, a slightly older internship, grad school applications, and I was studying for the GREs and GRE Subject Test in English Lit, but those are thankfully over. I recommend Princeton Review and beginning to study more than a few weeks in advance...

Don't know when I'm going to have time to read, but on the TBR shortlist:

And So It Goes Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields

by Neil Gaiman

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky

The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno

The last three are on loan from friends and thus higher priority than all the books I own that I have yet to read.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Books That Were Out of My Comfort Zone

Today's Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish:

1. The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking

I challenged myself to read this, and the first time, as interested as I was, I couldn't wrap my head around it. The second time I got through and understood a lot better, although much of it is still beyond me. Still, I'm interested and appreciate Hawkin's effort to write simply, so I know I will read this again someday.

2. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Not the type of thing I normally read, this was for a 16th century British literature class (even though it's Italian), but I really loved it. It wasn't an entirely quick or easy read, but funny in parts and very thoughtful.

3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Nabokov is a master of language, so that in itself is difficult, but the subject matter was really what was out of my comfort zone. I'm glad I read it, but I can honestly say it made me distinctly uncomfortable the whole time and I definitely never warmed to Humbert Humbert.

4. Neuromancer by William Gibson

This weird compendium of technobabble eventually overcame me, I just couldn't get past all the new universe/technology distractions to the story.

5. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

I was very intimidated to read Joyce, and he's not really my cup of tea, but I got through it and really learned a lot about reading in general as well as Joyce's style and intentions in particular.

6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Faulkner and I just don't get on. I can't get past the dialect and confusing language and organization in general. Didn't finish, maybe another time.

7. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

What a title! Stream of consciousness drove me crazy, but I got through it. I've met Eggers though and he was so nice, it made me want to try one of his other books, despite not really digging this one.

8. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Not the kind of thing I usually read, with good reasons. One of the most boring and predictable books I've ever read.

9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Again, I don't usually read thrillers, but this one got such high praise, I picked it up and really enjoyed it. So, just goes to show you shouldn't write off an entire genre.

10. Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris

"Trashy", chick-lit vampire books are not really my cup of tea either, these are fluffy, but amusing reads, if you can ignore the recaps of all the silly, dramatic events that have gone before.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top Ten Books I Had Strong Emotions Over

Love the topic, Broke and Bookish! I also really like Readerbuzz's interpretation.

1. Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

I read the first chapter of the first book, but I've read summaries, reviews, and feminist outrages on all the books because of how big the series got. I've also had to deal with 10-12 year-old girls telling me how romantic Edward is or how hot Jacob is. So. From what I've seen, terrible writing. But worse, millions of young girls are getting close-minded, sexist, and downright dangerous messages about how they should negotiate relationships with men. In conclusion, I have very, very strong feelings about these books without really having read them.

2. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The first Faulkner novel I failed to get through. Maybe I'll give him another shot sometime, but just. Ugh.

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

SOOO good! Read it now!

4. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

We had an intense love/hate relationship, but we made it through.

5. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This book made me so angry and fascinated me so much at the same time. It destroyed my childhood, but I couldn't stop reading.

6. Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

One of the most brilliant books I have ever read. Seriously.

7. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

I got so deeply immersed in this, despite or because of hating the protagonist.

8. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

So lyrical, so poignant, every time I read it I find something new.

9. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Cute, quirky, and heartbreaking.

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

If he were older, Huck Finn would be my boyfriend (not really, but...maybe).

I've been trying really hard not to use the same books over and over for everything, because then obviously Lord of the Rings and Jonathan Strange would have made this list.