Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Report--January

So I'm determined to report my reading monthly this year instead of those huge yearly reports. I did a lot of reading in January, especially after I finished my book. YES! I finished my novel! As in, all completely done. As in, it has reached my satisfaction. The only revisions I'll do from here on out will be those requested by agents and editors (if I should be so lucky). It feels SOOOOOOO good to reach a point where I can let it go. I feel it has achieved the measure of its creation now and I can move on.

So . . . reading.

Best of Mormonism 2009 edited by Stephen Carter. I would have liked this better if I hadn't already read many of the pieces. I wonder what it would be like to read it all fresh. I especially enjoyed Lance Larsen's essay.

Donkey Gospel by Tony Hoagland. I really like Hoagland, and reading him again now made me happy and reminded me that I really do want to be a poet. Some of his poetry is a little too hairy for me to recommend, but I have many, many corners folded down in this collection. I especially liked his poem about Berkeley. I've been trying to write one about Berkeley for years, but now I don't have to because he did it so well.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. This one was a little slow getting started for me. I enjoyed the voice, though, and the details. About an orphaned boy who goes looking for his father and ends up with a combo jazz band.

Old School by Tobias Woff. The BEST thing I've read all year (well, along with The Help and Olive Kitteridge). I can't think of a book more perfect for me, really. It's about a boys' boarding school in the northeast in the 60s which has several writing contests each year. The winner of each contest gets to meet with a visiting author. The authors who visit this particular year are Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. Great! Wish it had been twice as long. I'm grateful to my friend Jenny for recognizing it as being perfect for me. It's funny how much I associate books with the people who recommend them. Jenny also recommended The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down years ago. Similarly, I still remember who recommended The Poisonwood Bible to me (Liz), the short stories of Wallace Stegner (Kathryn), and others from years and years ago.

19th Wife by David Ebershoff. Actually, I didn't read it; I listened to it. And I have to confess that I didn't finish it. It might not have been so negative of an experience if the narrator hadn't been so awful. A harsh, sarcastic-sounding woman who practically spit out all her words narrated large portions of it and I finally couldn't stand to listen to her any more. I don't have a problem hearing about the negative things in church history, actually. But I just got tired of the downer-ness of this.

Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. This is a translation from Swedish and is apparently a big book this year. It was quite gripping, although a little yucky in places, and had an interesting twist at the end. I wouldn't read another by him but it was entertaining. About a financial journalist who investigates a very old unsolved murder.

The Namesake by Jumpha Lahiri. I really enjoy Lahiri's style, her way of lingering on details about her characters. Reading her makes me a better writer without sacrificing entertainment. Her work is very character driven. This one was about a boy who is named after the Russian author Gogol but doesn't discover why until adulthood.


Barbara Bakes said...

Congratulations on finishing your book! It must feel wonderful! I bought 3 books from your year end book list to read - The Help, A Town Like Alice and another I can't remember now. So I did appreciate the year end post!

Christopher Bigelow said...

On 19th Wife, I remember liking the "historical" parts OK but not really liking the contemporary parts much at all. Overall, I didn't particularly enjoy the book. And congrats on your novel completion! I've been thinking a lot about mine lately and feeling a little sad that I won't have time to work on it until May, at the earliest.

Anonymous said...

I tried to read Bud Not Buddy years ago for Berkeley book group--never got into it, finally gave up. Then Ike got a copy for a birthday present and didn't get into it, either, and then a few years after that he did read it and liked it. I've still only read the first half.

I always appreciate your book reviews. I've been doing a wee bit more reading lately than I had in a long time; maybe I should start keeping track of what I read.