Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Speed Dating Round Three

I came up with the idea of speed dating my books when my GoodReads "To-Read" Shelf passed six hundred items.  I remembered Nancy Pearl's advice that you should give a book 50 pages, and decided to try doing so with a pile of books from the earliest items on my to-read list (started in 2009.)  I did two successful speed dating projects - one in June of 2011 and one in April earlier this year in 2013.  They are getting closer together, and for good reason.  This is a great way to get the books I don't actually want to read out of my house!  I spent some time compiling a third pile and decided to tackle it as part of NaNoReadMo.

There is no rhyme or reason to this pile other than the date they were added to my to-read list.  I accidentally gathered more than I intended, but it worked out okay.  Some I finished right away, and others I discarded without even giving them 50 pages.  I'll explain why in the list below.  If you want more detailed reviews, please see my GoodReads profile.  Copying and pasting it all here seemed redundant.

Books finished right away:
  • Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki (graphic novel, from a now closed publisher in Toronto)
  • Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
  • Cleaving by Julie Powell
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Books Still Listed as To-Read, because I like them enough to continue:
  • Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
  • Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
  • Glasshouse by Charles Stross
  • Shards by Ismet Prcic
  • In the Woods by Tana French

Books I'm Uncertain About Only 50 Pages In, but I'll keep reading (they deserve a second date at the very least):
  • Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
  • The Ten Thousand Things by Maria DermoĆ»t

Books I've Abandoned Officially
(Please note these are my own impressions, and they might just not be my thing! That's the point of a speed date - gut reaction, decision MADE. I'm rather proud of how many I've rejected, actually.  I need the space!)
  • Spooner by Pete Dexter
    Not my thing, and by page 4, I had already grown weary of his use of racial slurs.
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
    You say precocious, I say obnoxious.
  • Lit by Mary Karr
    Because I'm not very interested in reading about someone ruining their life.
  • A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
    Just not compelling, no idea why it's on the list to begin with.
  • Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony by Lewis Thomas
    A book of essays that is probably out of date at this point.
  • The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
    It made me feel impatient.
  • It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive by Evan Handler
    While he has had major setbacks with cancer, I wasn't that interested in what he had to say.
  • Ariel by Steven R. Boyett
    I was all in until the talking unicorn showed up.
  • The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
    Seems more like a summary of a plot than an actual story.
What's next?  Well, I'm trying to decide between getting another speed dating pile together or finishing some of what I started!  Probably both.  I have some time off coming in December which would be perfect for another pile.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Poetry of the National Book Award Longlist 2013

I know the shortlist has already been chosen for the National Book Award, but I committed to reading the entire longlist, and read it I did!  I used the list-making powers of NaNoReadMo to finish up reading them, and I'm finally ready to discuss the poetry category as a whole.

I have taken the list from the National Book Award page and rearranged it.  You can view the shortlist, and eventually the winner (on November 20), back over on their website.

My picks to win (okay, there were two I truly loved. I'm not a judge; I don't have to choose!):

Lucie Brock-Broido, Stay, Illusion (Alfred A. Knopf) - read my review here

From "It was always autumn in the paraphernalia of my laudanums...." to her poem about wisteria, I was enchanted from cover to cover.  This is what I want in my poetry - resonance, fine craftsmanship, emotion, and beauty.

Roger Bonair-Agard, Bury My Clothes (Haymarket Books)  - read my review here

These poems made me wish I shared the poet's background so they could be claimed as my poems too.

Other favorites:

Matt Rasmussen, Black Aperture (Louisiana State University Press) - read my review here

A painful set of poems largely dealing with the poet's brother's suicide.  Grief, trying to find your way after loss, it's all here.  Not easy to read, but worth it.

Mary Szybist, Incarnadine: Poems (Graywolf Press) - read my review here

Martha Ronk, Transfer of Qualities (Omnidawn Publishing)- read my review here

Not-so favorites

Frank Bidart, Metaphysical Dog (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) - read my review here

I just couldn't connect with this one, made up of poems with a frequent theme of aging.

Andrei Codrescu, So Recently Rent a World, New and Selected Poems: 1968-2012 (Coffee House Press) - read my review here

Pretty scattered, very reaction-based, not a style I tend to like.

Brenda Hillman, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press) - read my review here

An example of focusing more on the intricacies and less on communicating an idea.

Diane Raptosh, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press) - read my review here

An interesting concept but not as connected to me as the reader.

Didn't finish:

Adrian Matejka, The Big Smoke (Penguin Poets/Penguin Group USA)

I know it is on the shortlist, but I couldn't find a way into the poems about the boxer Jack Johnson.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoReadMo List of Reading (Envy)

I know that as soon as I've prescribed myself a list, I will want to read something else, but here are my tentative plans for NaNoReadMo.  I'm breaking the books down into categories and linking to them in Amazon because they make it easy!  I also made a shelf in GoodReads for this month so I could track my progress. I'm going to come back to this list and cross items out that I have either finished or abandoned.

Poetry from the National Book Award Longlist
(I meant to have read these all by now, and I have three left.  It will be nice to finish up that project.)
  1. American Amnesiac by Diane Raptosh 
  2. Transfer of Qualities by Martha Ronk 
  3. Stay, Illusion: Poems by Lucie Brock-Broido 
Books for Book Clubs
(I may have a slight book club problem because this is a pressing list of books that will be discussed within the month of November!)
  1. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker - International Book Club (in person)
  2. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra - 21st Century Book Club (in GoodReads; also a National Book Award finalist)
  3. The Brothers K by David James Duncan - Misfit Readers (in Facebook)
Books for the Podcast
(I think I'm scheduled for two SFF Audio podcasts in November, which means reading books in preparation)
  1. Goslings by J.D. Beresford (link goes to audiobook)
  2. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Books from and about Turkey
(Technically the year of reading Turkish literature is from a book group in GoodReads called The World's Literature, but it's a category of its own, and I'm behind! I want to catch up. The year is almost over and we'll be moving on to another region!)
  1. Dog Tails by Aziz Nesin
  2. My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk
  3. The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
  4. The Three-Arched Bridge by Ismail Kidare (from the side fighting the Ottomans off!)
  5. Turkish Reflections by Mary Lee Settle
  6. Ghost Train to the Eastern Star by Paul Theroux 
  7. Yes, I Would...: An American Woman's Letters to Turkey by Katherine Branning 
Books up for Review
(I get cookbooks, audiobooks, and books through NetGalley for review, and I'm always trying to stay on top of it.  Reviewing the cookbooks means making at least 2 things from each (some I've dabbled in already), audiobooks take time, and I'm not sure I'll get through this list in a month! That's what NaNoReadMo is about.)
  1. Butter Baked Goods: Nostalgic Recipes From a Little Neighborhood Bakery
  2. Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
  3. Wintersweet: Seasonal Desserts to Warm the Home
  4. Gluten-Free Bread: More than 100 Artisan Loaves for a Healthier Life
  5. Martha Stewart's Cakes: Our First-Ever Book of Bundts, Loaves, Layers, Coffee Cakes, and more
  6. One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts
  7. Snackistan: Street Food, Comfort Food, Meze: Informal Eating in the Middle East & Beyond: Street Food, Comfort Food, Meze
  8. Actors Anonymous by James Franco
  9. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
  10. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
  11. The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara 
  12. Crux by Ramez Naam
  13. Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (audio)
  14. Rivers by Michael Farris Smith (audio)
  15. Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem (audio)
  16. Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah (audio)
  17. The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, read by Meryl Streep (audio)
  18. Aimless Love by Billy Collins, read by Billy Collins (audio)
This list is already getting pretty long.  I'm also going to sprinkle some book speed-dating throughout the month (I have Speed Dating Set 3 all ready to go!). I have an entire bookshelf of practically untouched books, one per state, for that Around the USA idea I started out with this year (whoops), and I have a few audiobooks I haven't touched yet.  This will be a great month of reading!

Kickoff Post for NaNoREADMo

In the past seven years, I have participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) six times.  Six times!  It's a rush, I've met great people through it, but eventually I had to just come to terms with the fact that I'm a far better reader than writer.  I was starting to not really have fun doing it.

And yet I have a room full of unread books.  Before they take over the house, I have turned them into a challenge.  Join me.  Read mo(re)!  National Novel Reading Month has been declared by yours truly! 

How to participate:

1. Read. More than usual. 
2. Talk, blog, or tweet about it.  Write reviews or save them for after the month. Take pictures of your piles, if you want. I know I will.
3. Make lists of what you might read, even if you don't stick to them.  (Sorry, this is a requirement.  I like lists and therefore I require that you make one. Muahaha.)
4. Comment on this post so I can follow what you're up to.  Friend me on GoodReadsFollow me on Twitter.  Whatever it takes.  I'm now your reading cheerleader, and I'm bringing snacks!

That's about it.  Read more.  Dedicate time to it. Plan for it. And get through a pile or two!

(Stay tuned for my reading list for NaNoReadMo!)