Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vacation Reading: Other

I toyed with the idea of getting a Kindle for my three-week trip, but ultimately decided I couldn't afford it. So instead, I ordered a pile of used books from Powells and figured I could just read the books and leave them behind in hotels and B&Bs as I went, which is exactly what I did.

I'm going to have to break this into a couple of posts, since I read a dozen books on the trip (listed below). I'll do one for the Time 100 books, which are bolded in the list below, and one for "other," which are the unbolded books. The list:

1. Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion
2. Avalon High, by Meg Cabot
3. The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, by John LeCarre
4. Dubliners, by James Joyce
5. The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
6. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
7. The Painted Bird, Jerzy KosiƄski
8. By Strange Paths, by a Benedictine of Kylemore Abbey
9. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
10. Ubik, by Phillip K. Dick
11. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

12. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Jannelle Brown

Aych asked me what I'd read on the trip and what I'd liked the most. The ones I liked the most were Play It As It Lays and Looking for Alaska. I'll get to Play It As It Lays next time, but as for Alaska, I actually didn't pick up the next book for a couple of days because I wanted to stay in the world of that novel a little longer. So it was my favorite of the "other" books. Runner up was probably Dubliners. Here are all the books, in chronological order, and my thoughts on them...

Avalon High by Meg Cabot (finished June 16th)

A YA retelling of Arthurian legend, very fun and charming, as all of Cabot's stuff is, but also very fluffy, especially when compared to the other YA I read, which had a lot more depth. A fun, light read. I actually think it would have been a fun audiobook.

Dubliners by James Joyce (finished June 19th)

I ordered a terrible edition of this (they used QUOTATION MARKS, which Joyce abhorred) but I still got a kick out of reading Dubliners in Dublin. (And the introduction by Brenda Maddox is really good.) My favorite stories were "An Encounter," "Clay," "A Painful Case," "A Mother," and obviously "The Dead," which I've read (and taught) before. In my notes it says, "Makes me want to re-read Ulysses, as many of the characters recur there. What an amazing, cynical, unblinking collection of stories!" Also when I stayed in Ennistymon, which is not a touristy town, I met a lot of drunken Irishmen who seemed like they'd stumbled straight out of the pages of Joyce. I had a real Joycean time in Ireland: arrived on Bloomsday, went to Davy Byrne's on my last day in town, and couldn't get Joyce's work out of my head. Dubliners made me a real fan. Terrific.

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (finished June 25th)

This is our book club book, so I won't say too much about it. Turning to my notes: "Was expecting a little more at the end--a revelation, maybe something to do with [redacted]? And there is a lot of scenery description, which makes it pretty slow-paced. But it has depth--I feel like it's a re-reader, and that I'd get more out of it the second time. I also really liked the main character and his dog (great dog descriptions! Very real) and I enjoyed living there in the cabin in the forest." I also enjoyed the subtlety of the ending, and probably upon a re-read, would enjoy the subtlety of the book as a whole. Am interested to see what the rest of the book club thinks!

By Strange Paths by a Benedictine of Kylemore Abbey (finished June 28th)

One of my favorite books of all time is In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, which is about a Benedictine monastery full of nuns. So I'm driving through Ireland and I see this and I stop (because hello, I have to take some pictures of it) only to find out that it's full of Benedictine nuns! And I got to hear them sing the Divine Office! And it was SO EXCITING! So anyway, at the bookstore was this book by one of the nuns who died in the 1950s, mostly about her experiences in WWI and how she got to Kylemore, so I bought it. And I wrote: "Nun book! She was so happy to be a nun--wanted more details of the nunning, but it was like a long, charming letter and very enjoyable." I also bought a vase made by nuns. It was all very exciting for a nun fan like me.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (finished July 1st)

So, as I said, this one was my favorite. Really terrific YA with a ton of depth. It's forthright about sexuality, sophisticated in its themes, very honest. It might be to a certain extent autobiographical, in fact. It's about a boy who goes to boarding school and meets a girl named Alaska who changes his life. But the characters are well-drawn and it tackles some of the Big Questions in life. It's not perfect, so I feel like I'm overselling it. But I really loved it. And so did Eliza!

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Jannelle Brown (finished July 7th)

I can't decide if this is really good chick lit or really fluffy literary fiction, which means it hits the sweet spot right in the middle of both. I couldn't put it down; I actually did stay up until 2am finishing it. She is great with little details that strongly evoke character or place. I actually didn't leave this book behind because I wanted to take a look at her use of details again and maybe try to learn something I can incorporate into my own YA novel in progress. Anyway it's set in the Bay Area, the story of a mother and her two daughters, told in shifting perspective. The characters all seem real (and very flawed) and their problems don't have easy solutions. A lot of fun sex and drugs and stuff, but there are some bigger themes about materialism and feminism and class embedded in here too. Recommended by my colleague and friend Katie.

Phew! That's it! Stay tuned for part two: the Time 100 list books.



Blogger BC said...

On the Kindle: I don't know if you have a smart phone of any kind, but I just got the (new! free!) Kindle app for my Blackberry, and so far I love it. It's better than any of the other e-book apps I tried: more books, you can read your books when you are not connected to the internet, and no scrolling. I don't think I would have ever sprung for an actual Kindle but I love the phone app.

5:35 PM  
Blogger mo pie said...

I have a SmartPhone! I looked for a Kindle app but did not see one for the Android system... but if you got one, there must be one! Well, if I'd had it, I probably would have just re-read all the Harry Potters and Twilights, so at least I got something out of having to wait. Still, yay!

6:46 PM  
Blogger BC said...

There is definitely an Android app because Jeremy has one of those and he's the one who told me about the app. It just came out a week or two ago. Here you go.

7:29 AM  
Blogger mo pie said...

Awesome, thank you! I guess it showed up just a week or so after I went looking for it... I could really clean out my bookshelves with something like this!

4:05 PM  

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