Tag Archives: current reading

Current and Recent Reading

It has been a bit of a slow reading year so far. Not that I haven’t been reading (68 completed books to date), not that I haven’t been reading widely (both fiction and non-fiction, the old books percentage is up-to-date), but nothing has really stood out so far. Sometimes that happens, then BAM, a book hits you over the head. Still looking for the BAM book.

Enjoyable current reads:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I started this one a while ago and never got past the first page. Not sure why. This time I’m enjoying it very much. There is this lovely little bit on books and reading near the beginning. The main character is in hospital recovering from a serious fall and is contemplating with some disgust the pile of books kind friends have sent in.

Even in that, you knew what to expect on the next page. Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thrilled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about ‘a new Silas Weekley’ or ‘a new Lavinia Fitch’ exactly as they talked about ‘a new brick’ or ‘a new hairbrush’. They never said ‘a new book by’ whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like.

Excellent. The book itself is about Richard III, monarch who has recently been in the news because he was dug up out of a car park. This book is a great novel to give beginning history students, or anyone who thinks all history they’ve heard in school is true. This is one of my older books, so there is no discussion of kings in car parks at all.

Longbourn by Jo Baker. Below-stairs at the Bennet’s house during the events related in Pride and Prejudice. So far this is a well-imagined mirror world. I’m quite enjoying it.

Recent Reads:

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. A very enjoyable essay on reading and its benefits. Jacobs does not rail against the internet and all distractions, but talks about them as one who has been distracted, but managed to find his way back from distraction. With an e-reader. True story.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I had high expectations of this book as many people said this was THE Murakami book as far as they were concerned. I’m not quite sure. I think I liked 1Q84 better. It is the fourth Murakami I’ve read, and it isn’t the last, but so far it isn’t my favourite. Possibly I was reading it at the wrong time.

What have you been reading?

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Sunday, Sunday

Time for another excursus, the weekly rabbit trail, a break from our alphabetic ways.

This week I read Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. This is a LOST book and I can see why it was referenced on that island-centric show. The murder takes place at a hotel on an island which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, which is underwater at high tide. The people at the hotel at the time of the murder all, of course, have previous, off-island lives, which play into the investigation. It is all very LOST-like in many ways. You should check it out.

I’ve also just finished re-reading Possession, Best Book Ever. The language play is phenomenal. Haven’t read it? You should. It is a literary read, there are poems, but that is part of the fun. Look at the language and the way Byatt plays with words. So Good.

Since I just closed Possession, I’m in that between-book haze where I’m still in the world of literary scholars and poets and unpublished manuscripts. I’m not quite in a place where I can even think of what I’m going to read next.

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E is also for Excursus (an academic rabbit trail)

I’m jumping away from my little alphabetical series for a moment to bring you a current reading update. It is still winter, though the polar vortex is gone, and my apartment is back to being tropical. (Someone said to me on Friday that she preferred being cold to being hot. I think I have to agree.) As previously noted, you should read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It begins in a snow storm, and the same snow storm recurs throughout the book. It fits the current state of things in the world.

I went to a local used bookshop the other day. In this particular shop there are more than just books — there are also vinyl records, CDs, and DVDs. The vinyl records draw in a sort of music-loving-old-hippie crowd. The store is staffed by the same sort of person. The book selection is quite good, and I can usually find things there that I’m interested in. They’ve got a pretty good science fiction section. The trick is the background music sometimes drives me out. The bookshop staff play vinyl selections, and wow, some of the stuff they choose to play is very weird. Appropriately the store is called Pandemonium. The music did not drive me out on Wednesday and I picked up two mysteries and Allegory of Love by C.S. Lewis. It is not every day that one finds a paperback copy of Allegory of Love lurking in one’s local bookshop. Score!

Now I’m going to read one of the mysteries I picked up with AoL. I’m just deciding which one it will be. I also need to figure out when I’m going to read some academic Lewis. I’ve got The Discarded Image and now Allegory of Love awaiting my attention. Excellent. Brain food.

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When You Read You Begin With …

I’ve decided that I need blog prompts to get me back to writing more regularly. I like the alphabet. I’ve done an alphabetical series around here before. Plus there’s the lyric from “The Sound of Music” referenced in the post title — this blog is about reading, and when you read you begin with A B C. Plus, I think Alphabet Books are fun. So we’ll do some alphabetical posts for a while and see where it gets us.

On to

A

A is for Atkinson. Currently I’m reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. While LAL is not exactly a back-list book, I’ve read all of Atkinson’s backlist. I heard an excerpt from Behind the Scenes at the Museum read aloud on the radio. It hooked both the RABro and I. There we were, travelling down the highway, listening to the CBC as is our habit, and pouf! we’d had a new author to read handed to us. I zoomed through the books Atkinson had out at that time (three or so I think) and have been reading all her others as they appear. I really like Life After Life. It may be her best yet. It has an alternative universes feel to it, but done with less science fiction and more reincarnation/deja vu sorts of things. Basically Ursula, the main character, re-lives the same life again and again, finding new ways to live and die. When I heard the premise I was afraid it was going to be a boring book, but this is anything but boring. You should read it.

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Mysteries in the Vortex

Here we are in another Polar Vortex. In honour of the cold, a list of 50 essential mysteries to read when you cannot possibly go outside has been posted over at Flavorwire. This list is an entertaining read, though it is heavy on USAian Noir, and light on the British mysteries I like. I have noted a few books from the list to hunt down.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lovely pile of books to get me through any vortices that might spin my way this week. I got both Atwood and Atkinson (MaddAddam, and Life after Life respectively) for Christmas. I’m also slowly making my way through a really interesting library book called Time’s Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination by Richard Morris. I first heard about the book on a podcast, and it is fascinating. The book won a prize for non-fiction books in the UK, and I am not surprised. It is quite good. It also riffs off on the philosophy/idea of time. I like it when a book does that.

What are you reading?

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Talking about reading

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. I went to camp to staff a senior high/college age retreat weekend. This is something I’ve been doing for many years. At camp on this weekend, campers and staff are encouraged to sit with a variety of people. In attempting this, I ended up having a variety of conversations about books over meals. I also talked about books at other times on the weekend. I knew many of the campers at the weekend because they’d participated in the camp’s leader-in-training program, which I direct. From our interactions before last weekend, most of the campers knew I like to read. So we talked books. (When I write this blog, former LITs are often the audience I have in mind.) Here are a few snippets of the conversations about books that stick in my mind.

One day at lunch, we discussed recent non-required reading. The Physics Student and I talked about 1984, which we’d both read for the first time this year. The Physics Student’s cousin told us not to spoil the book for her, so we talked in non-specific terms about how we didn’t like the ending. The Physic Student’s sister was appalled that I had not read 1984  before this year. The Chess Master recommended a series about a thief and Attolia, though he couldn’t remember the author. He read the third book in the series first and recommended I try the same thing. I found the first two books at a used bookshop today, so I’ll be starting with number one, The Thief.

The Physics Student’s sister and I talked about books while many people carved pumpkins. She is working through one of those top 100 books you should read lists, and talked about her experience reading Catch-22. We then discussed book lists and how we don’t like everything on those top-100 lists. She doesn’t like Pride and Prejudice; I’ve read P&P 7 times at least. I flee from Wuthering Heights; she’s read it multiple times. I’m almost convinced to try WH but not quite. And Catch-22 is on my list but sort of in the background at the moment.

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At the turkey dinner, required reading was the topic on the table. I was sitting with high-schoolers and they were reading Life of Pi and The White Tiger. I was impressed by the fact that English teachers seem to be updating reading lists regularly, and with the Tiger theme in the reading at two different schools. I’ve read Life of Pi but not White Tiger. I may have to reconsider WT.

Conversations change what I decide to read. Does talking about books change what you decide to read?

(The book I kept recommending last weekend was a recent read: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.)

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Reading Poetry, Part 2

When I wrote the poetry post yesterday, I managed to completely forget that I have a poetry book in my active reading pile. Oops. My Orthodox Colleague gave me a copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Cry Like a Bell, a collection of poems about Bible characters. L’Engle’s collection begins with Eve and wends its way to a poem about Nicolas (Acts 6:5-7). I’m in the middle of Moses at the moment. I read one poem a day and then let it sink in a little. Check out the collection. You might like it.

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Fads in Fiction

I’ve started reading Bellweather by Connie Willis. It is very funny. The main character is a sociologist who studies Fads and How They Start. In honour of the main character’s main concern, each chapter starts with a description of a famous fad from history in a pseudo-dictionary style. The first chapter begins with the Hula Hoop (march 1958-June 1959). Here’s the entry on coffeehouse fad, which made me laugh, particularly at the end.

coffeehouse (1450-1554) – Middle Eastern fad that originated in Aden, then spread to Mecca and throughout Persia and Turkey. Men sat cross-legged on rugs and sipped thick, black, bitter coffee from tiny cups while listening to poets. The coffeehouses eventually became more popular than mosques and were banned by the religious authorities, who claimed they were frequented by people “of low costume and very little industry.” Spread to London (1652), Paris (1669), Boston (1675), and Seattle (1985).

Seattle, a little late to the party.

Right. Back to reading.

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Projects Updated

I’ve got a couple of Reading Projects happening in the background of my reading this year. I’ve fallen off the LOST reading list a little. I’ve been finding those titles a bit weird and depressing. One shouldn’t be surprised at this really, as the show is a bit weird and sometimes depressing. The LOST list is meant to expand my reading horizons, so I will keep at it.

On the other hand, my reading old books resolution has been sailing smoothly along. I’ve been re-reading the Lord Peter Wimsey set in order. That is something I haven’t done in years. I am enjoying it very much. I’ve just finished Strong Poison in which lots of couples get together from previous mysteries and Lord Peter Meets His Match. Plus there’s a mystery. I’d forgotten about the fake seance in this one, and quite enjoyed Miss Climpson’s antics in that episode. All the silly characters at the edge of the Wimsey mysteries are always rather fun.

How is your reading for the fall of 2013 going? Is it required? Or is it all for fun?

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Best/Worst so far, 2013

I’ve read a lot of books this year, more than I’ve read most complete years since I started keeping track 20 years ago. Of the 105 read since January here are the lows and highs.

Most disappointing: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Bond in print is harder to take than Bond on film. Let’s just leave it there.

Non-Fiction enjoyed most: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell. Love. I work in a bookshop. Customers do truly say weird things. Many of them are quite funny.

Old book enjoyed most: Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I really liked this, and I was sort of approaching it as a book I SHOULD read but wouldn’t like as much as Dorothy Sayers. How wrong.

Fiction That Stuck In My Head: Two books tie for this, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Now let’s see what books can challenge these in the final four months of 2013!

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