8/13/2008

bookish


For those of you who've been to our humble home (or who have seen the video--we've moved since then but the layout is similar), you'll know that we're a very bookish family. Part of that comes from having two parents who are in graduate school, part of it is pure fanatical obsession with the written word.

As a young girl, my books were like dear friends. I read them over and over again--each one had a special place on my bookshelf. Every year for my birthday and for Christmas my best-loved gifts were the small stack of new novels that I would receive from Mom--often Newbery award winners or classic children's lit. In recent years, one of my greatest thrills has been to pass on my copies of books like The Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to my own kids (who seem to appreciate the sentiment even if the books are now all falling apart at the spines).

While I've been ill for the last few months, I've read some good reading time. Here a few recent favorites:

***Book Three in the Twilight series (and will probably borrow the 4th from a friend soon). Does anyone else out there agree with me that Edward is getting particularly creepy and over-protective and Jacob is seeming a far more attractive candidate for Bella's attention? (please, no spoilers for #4 in the comments, people!) I've learned that it's oddly apropos to be reading about blood-sucking vampires when one is ailing in the hospital. Another good vampire read (not so much romance, but more sophisticated plotline and writing) is Angel Falling Softly.

***By far, my favorite recent read is The Book Thief, which was sent by a dear friend. At first I was a bit put off by the unusual story narration, but I persisted and once I was in a few dozen pages, I was swept away. I really thought I'd read plenty about Germany during World War II (my previous favorite being Ursula Hegi's delicious Stones from the River) and wouldn't want to read another book on the era. I was so wrong.

***A great diversion,Bonk: the Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, wasn't as funny as I'd expected it to be, but had me enthralled anyways--I was especially fascinated by the author's own participation in some of the sex studies that she discusses!

***For those of you with China on the mind, you might like The Dragon's Village as much as I did. An autobiographical tale about land reform in revolutionary China, I found it hard to put down--it offered a poignant personal perspective on such an important and complicated historical moment. I wish I'd read it prior to my China trip a few years ago.

I'd love to know any books that you'd recommend for me to read while I convalesce. I'm open to anything except super-suspenseful mysteries and horror (because I'm still afraid of the ghosties who live under my bed). I love artful writing, but a hard-to-put-down plot-driven novel works for me, too!

the first few words
[My kids, dressed as Harry & Hermione, reading the first few pages of the last Harry Potter book at a Midnight Madness book release party]
P.S. See how all those books in the top picture have white stickers on their spine as if they were in a library? A few years ago we cataloged all of our 2,000+ books according to their LOC numbers--because we are crazy like that.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Found you thru Dooce...also an avid reader...if you don't already know them-Diana Gabaldon has an WONDERFUL series--first volume is OUTLANDER.

So far, I've never had anyone make it to page 300 of the 1st book who didn't immediatley devour the next 7000+ pages.

You've got a new fan.

Lenise
Gastonia, NC

meltgas@msn.com

Ms. Moon said...

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall.
John Irving meets Charles Dickens. It's wonderful. Well, I think it is.

Erin G. said...

"Ahab's Wife" by Sena Jeter Nasslund is my absolute favorite. (I'm also a Dooce-er...and I am loving your site!)

Zazzy said...

Well, I don't know your tastes since I've only recently visited you - but if you haven't read it, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one of my all time favorite books. A friend of mine was offended by some of the language so consider yourself warned. Also, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield was very good.

jana said...

you are all so _smart_! I devoured The Outlander series, loved the Dickensian _Edgar Mint_, and count _The Time-Traveler's Wife_ as an all-time fav.

I've heard great things about _Ahab's Wife_. It's just moved up to my must-reads--thanks! I haven't heard of _The Thirteenth Tale_, so I'll check it out. :)

lma said...

I imagine you might have already read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi. If you haven't I recommend it as a wonderful book about books, the love of literature, and living in Iran after the revolution. Great book.

I still have only read "Twilight" in that series, but I've got the second book and hope to read it soon. I must add that I am also a huge fan of "The Time Traveler's Wife". Going to have to read that again soon. Also, I loved "Island of the Blue Dolphins" when I was a kid, to the point that when I found out, as an adult, that the woman whose life "Blue Dolphins" is reportedly based on is buried at Mission Santa Barbara, I took a bit of a pilgrimage to visit there.

I'm reading "The Pillars of the Earth", by Ken Follett, right now. Don't know how I've missed it for so long.

Elaine

jana said...

Elaine:
Seeing Karana's (supposed) gravesite at the mission Santa Barbara was a highlight for me--am I the only one who finds missions to be creepily sad & eerie spaces??

Read "Reading Lolita" a few years ago but not "Pillars." Adding it to my list now! :)

EMR said...

Your blog freaks me out a little bit. I'm a Quaker just recently out of Mormonism and an academic (Literature and Creative Writing). I feel like I'm reading my own life!

My recent favorite books are Out Stealing Horses (Per Petterson), Phantoms in the Brain (VS Ramachandran--a fantastic read about Neuroscience and the nature of the self) and Unless (Carol Shields).

Jeremy said...

I enjoyed Bonk at first, but by the second half it seems like only the footnotes are interesting.

I joined Goodreads to get more ideas on what I should read. Fun community and if you an get friends to join it's an easy way to get recommendations from people you know.

jana said...

jeremy:
My friends are all on goodreads and I've hesitated to join in simply because it's so hard already to manage my multiple blogs, email, facebook, podcast, googlereader, etc.

Maybe I will have to give in and join the fun. :)

bibliogrrl said...

Oh! Have you read March by Geraldine Brooks? It is a companion book to Little Women and won the Pulitzer the year it came out - it is FANTASTIC. It tells Mr. March's story. She is a brilliant writer.

I also thoroughly enjoyed The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. The use of language in the book was fantastic, and the book has won a passel of awards this year. The way that the characters relate to each other is great, and I love the way he puts forth the could-have-been alternate history.

Oh man. I could go on and on. I love recommending books. But then again, I *am* a book nerd and bookseller. :D

I found you through Dooce - and I love your blog. I've added you to my rss feed.

Magpie said...

I absolutely LOVED A.S.Byatt's novel, Possession (a Booker prize winner from a few years ago). Here is the Amazon review: It's a literary detective story about two Victorian poets who have a romance, that a young researcher finds by stumbling upon one of their letters in a library. It's great and totally compelling! Also, A.S.Byatt's short stories are well worth a read.

I also loved Vikram Seth's epic novel, A Suitable Boy. A huge sweeping novel about a few generations of an Indian family, it's a great read. It'll take you a while though - it's massive! Here is the Amazon review.

Happy reading!

Rah said...

There is a series of novels written by Susan Howatch called the Church of England series, which is a misleading name, but they are the only books that I re-read about every 5 years. They are great novels on the face of it, but they have a deeper level that addresses where psychology, faith, and theology cross. They are kind of "heady" because the author is extremely well-educated in philosophy, psychology, theology, law, really across the board. I just love them because they make my brain work while challenging me to examine my belief system. Each book is "freestanding" but I recommend reading them chronologically by publication date, because the characters develop over time and it's more coherent to read in order. I would love to hear what you think!
p.s. Also here via Dooce.

Bethany said...

If you like more hard boiled detective fiction - I highly recommend The 3 minute rule by Robert Crais, he does a series of detective novels which are also excellent, but 3 minute rule is is best recent work. (in my humble opinion)

On a lighter note, there is a series of light mysteries out there by Laurien Berensen about a woman who has show dogs- poodles- and solves mysteries on the side. a fun, light read but usually a good plot.

Also on the light mystery category is Diane Mott Davidson, Her main protagonist is a caterer who solves mysteries.

A truly excellent series is the Kate Sugack(sp?) series by Dana Stabenow. Kate lives in rural Alaska where she homesteads and occasionally works for the local government. A fascinating look at truly rural Alaska and the type of life led by people who live in such extreme conditions.

On the vamp front, Charlene Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series is charming without being too violent - at least I don't think so. MUCH more violent is the Lauren K. Hamilton series about a vampire hunter - not horror per say, but Anita sheds a lot of blood to get her job done.

On the "historical" front- the Other Boleyn Girl is a great read.

And, I bring this up only because it truly inspired me but Escape, by Carolyn Jessup is a very, very good read.

Just a few, or perhaps not so few random thoughts - may or may not be your cup of tea.

Very much have been enjoying your blog.

B

Alisa said...

A Wrinkle in Time is my all-time favorite adolescent novel (female protagonist that gets by on her brain--and her love--was very important for the awkward girl I was). I have also really enjoyed Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl and The Princess Academy in that genre.

I'm more of a character person than a plot person. Peace like a River by Leif Enger was great. Drop me a line if you join Goodreads (I'm linked through Jessawhy).

D'Arcy said...

the book thief was the most powerful read I have had this year in terms of emotion and desire to know what happens next and character development. amazing.

I TOTALLY dig your book organization....how dare you give me such an idea!!!

bridgett said...

oh my gosh, i LOVED stones from the river!! i don't know if i have talked to anyone else who has read this (except for the person who recommended it to me). i think about that book a lot. i am definitely going to check out the book theif now.

i have one recommendation for you. i just finished reading this book and it really touched me. it is called the girls, by lori lansens. it's about a pair of conjoined twins, written from their point of view. EXCELLENT.

Karen said...

recently I enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (impossible to put down sci fi romance) and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (an amazing novel that combines terrorism, opera and love and made me want to go to the opera for the first time ever)

CaitlĂ­n Rosberg said...

You should definitely pick up Freakonomics at some point. Even with a lot of school under my belt, a healthy sense of skepticism, and getting trained at the same school as the author, it opened my eyes enormously.

Also, anything by Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint. The latter is also appropriate in may circumstances to mature young adults (I'd say 14 and older) and they're fantastic reads. Start with "Someplace to be Flying" if you can find a copy. You'll eat them up like your favorite candy.

I know how hard it is to be holed up inside when you would rather be out and about. I hope you're feeling better, and know you've got the support of a lot of people out here.

Boppie said...

A series that you and your kids can read together (and will love) are the Temeraire books by Naomi Novik. It's an alternate history where dragons are used like fighter planes in the war between Napoleon (and the part of Europe he conquered) and Great Britain. There's awesome dragon stuff, Temeraire (the main dragon) a very good role model for people let alone the other dragons, and the 'stiff upper lip' military dragons are tons of fun. Of course, the sociological insights in class-based England vs. some dragons who only allow females to ride them, the aviators who are considered low-class, and the essential slavehood of the dragons who are quite intelligent and long-lived will keep your adult brain engaged too.
I also found you through dooce, and will take some of the book suggestions too.

C. L. Hanson said...

So cute!!!

I have a recommendation that ties in with your "love makes a family" post: The Commitment, but Dan Savage. It's a beautiful story about love and family, entertaining and funny throughout while being poignant and deeply moving.

G said...

so, have you borrowed Breaking Dawn yet?

yup, I totally agree with you about edward and Jacob.

wonderful book list, gotta add some of those to my to-reads

janeannechovy said...

Pillars of the Earth is one of my favorites, too, and it's been on my re-read pile for a while now. I'll also second (third, fourth, whatever) the recs for Ahab's Wife, which is a great, fat, juicy, rewarding read. We read it for my book group three years ago. Other book group reads I've enjoyed are The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (just bought the Yiddish Policeman's Union but haven't started it yet) and Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Ooh, and for nonfiction, my favorite has been Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. LOVE that book.

If you want more, let me know and I can give you the full list of what we've read and how I liked it.

Our current book group book is Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. It was a National Book Award finalist, but it is probably about the weirdest book to ever be so honored (I read it several years ago and was the one to recommend it to the group). It's set partly in Portland, and the author lives here, too. Anyway, unless I've completely misjudged you, I think you'd like it.

angryyoungwoman said...

I've tried to categorise my books by loc number, but the number isn't always listed in the book. How the devil did you do it?

jana said...

BookCollector (a book database program) and the UC-system MELVYL catalog. I kid you not when I say it took a whole summer.

I should note that the paperbacks and the kids books are by authors last name rather than by LOC, which saved us some time.

jana said...

oh, one more comment on the book database:
the best part about it was that when we moved last summer with two days notice (long story), it was easy-peasy to pack and organize the books and get them right back up on the shelves.

Lynda said...

I recommend Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang, since you've just read a book about China. Absolutely blew my mind. Available on Amazon.