Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I read for my summer vacation

Yes, right, the post vacation responsibilities. 

I have reported, as promised, on whether I saw mooses (it was all a trick to distract the nature gods, or, um, alternately, no). I have typed in all my handwritten blog posts and sent the paper copies to the National Trust For Pointless Storage in Bethesda, Maryland. I put away my boat which is now folded up under the basement stairs awaiting its comforting festoon of dead bugs. And, most recently, I reintroduced myself to fiction shelving at the library by crying a bit, staring blankly at a wall of books, and saying quietly to myself "Oh my god. I can't believe I do this every single day. It is the most boring... ohhh! What's this book?!!" 

But I have one small item of business left. 

On the first day of vacation I collected a small library of books for my vacation reading, and I cataloged them here on blog. Being away for a couple weeks from the massive, constant smorgasbord of reading that is the library I work at, gave me an opportunity to specifically see what I actually read for a short time. I am here to report today. I had 13 books that I listed, along with my prospects for reading them. I will re-list them here, and I will put my new comments in easy to read italicized bold (see how easy that was to read?).

Vacation books for 18 days (in no order)

1. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett 

I am, as you will see, on a strong Terry Pratchett kick. I consider this likely to be read.

Yes, I did, I read it. I always feel a small sense of pride finishing his books. I find most of them weirdly demanding and then occasionally as riveting and rewarding as literature can get, but, you know, only in unpredictable spots that I sometimes have to tough it out for. So, more like Tolstoy, oddly, than, well, Jasper Fforde.

2. Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Also likely to be read.

Yep, I read this too. Has the witches in it. I do best with the witches.

3. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

I am least interested in this one and expect my Terry Pratchett binge to fizz out here.

I am like a seer! I never so much as lifted this book.

4. Congo by Michael Crichton

Once upon a time I found his books super compelling, but never read this one, so I thought I might like to see...

Well, I still might like to see, but I never wanted to see while on vacation.

5. Hercule Poirot The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie

Read the first fifth or so of these before getting sidetracked. I feel there is a good chance I will read more of these.

Oddly I read the same first fifth of these stories (there are, like, 700 pages of them) and in each of those stories at some point I would say "Oh, I already read this one." And then I would finish it. I also read maybe the second fifth of these lovely stories.

6. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Looked good while shelving, but I consider it the absolute least likely to be read of all these books

What looks good while shelving is unrecognizably different than what looks good when one is picking something to actually read. Plus I did some background research on this book and it was very unconvincing. The consensus seemed to be that the author wrote a splendid book of short stories followed by this vastly less convincing or interesting novel.

7. How Green was my Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Also pretty unlikely, but I am looking for some scenic magic I think.

I gave this a real try, maybe 40 or 50 pages worth. It gave me the feeling that it was sort of an iconic template for something familiar, something to do with working class family mining generational rifts in labor movement factory town type situations. And with that came the feeling that I somehow read it already 30 times and so desperately wished that someone in the book would do something different for once. For 40 or 50 pages they didn't.

8. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter

Also pretty unlikely, but I am looking for some scenic magic I think.

Oops. I researched and found that I had accidentally taken home a book by a truly terrible person! I was far too grossed out to read it.

9. The Cat Who Came For Christmas by Cleveland Amory

No, not a mystery, an eighties bestseller (though I would have guessed sixties!). I am still searching for the great cat book. It's like a quest!

Yes. I read it. I even wrote a blog post about it, but, briefly, it was charming.

10. Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

It seems like every single time I shelve in fiction, I shelve this book. I have finally succumb.

Succumbed to checking it out, but held firm in all other respects.

11. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde

Advance reading copy of an absolute favorite author's new book. I have had it, thanks to Marcus, for a couple weeks and have been holding off on reading it for the lake house. This is the single book I feel absolutely certain that I will read. It is the third in a fabulous YA series (Chronicles of Kazam), and I was going to read the first two in preparation, but, a. I can't find them though I thought I had them here somewhere, and, b. I remember them pretty clearly since I read them like four times last summer.

Yes, yes, and, predictably it was totally engaging. Uncommonly it ends on a cliff hanger, but, Mr Fforde, who rarely indulges too much in that sort of thing, has earned the right with me.

12. Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White

Late addition of a witty, tone rich nineties bestseller that I found laying around when I went to gather these books for this blog post. The book is basically blog posts, or, well, all right, short essays. I am surprised to see this is the only reread on my list.

I quite liked it. Wrote a blog post about it.

13. New Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Surprise addition to the terrific urban fantasy series (Night Watch, which is curiously unrelated to my book number three!). Immensely and enjoyably Russian.

Yes, I read this with great pleasure. As good as I remember all the others. All aspects of it I find good, but the intense Russian flavor of it with all its philosophical bent is its very best quality.

These were also comments I had included: 

That's it, 13, and yet I am vaguely worried I don't have enough. I probably do have enough, but I also feel a strange compulsion to go pick up a copy of Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. I don't know why. I thought I might like to reread them.

I think I wanted Cannery Row because I had a premonition I'd spend a fair amount of time on vacation at a dockside cafe, eating fish n chips in a place that, at peculiar times, felt amazingly similar to an old Northern Californian fishing village. I did read a few other things on vacation. Notably, Indivisible by Four by Arnold Steinhardt, which was a completely engaging memoir of life in a very well esteemed and successful string quartet. I read assorted short stories from a couple collections, of which only Faulkner's Rose for Emily stuck with me. I read other bits of things because it is impossible to stop me from doing that, and I might be able to dredge up some of them if I had to, but I think this will do well enough for my complete report.

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