Thursday, April 03, 2008

I will read, even with my bad eyes

I've been reading a lot lately, although I have to stick with books with reasonably sized print! I've been on more of a fiction jag, as a "treat" during the stress of writing up my thesis. (I normally read mostly fiction, but it is so expensive here--$25 to $30 for a paperback--that I don't indulge as much because I read them too quickly. Non fiction I can manage to make last a few weeks, so the investment seems "worth it".) Here's a quick overview of books I've finished off in the past couple of months:

  • Touchstone by Laurie R. King---divine as always. LRK is absolutely my favorite author. I'd been saving this as a treat for a couple of months.

  • Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron---I was excited about this because I have this romantic obsession with the silk road, but this book turned out a bit too British for me, meaning I found myself reading every sentence three times because I kept feeling like I was missing words and couldn't quite put things together.

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman---I couldn't put this one down. Low key current-day scifi with an air that reminded me a bit of Neal Stephenson, who runs a close second behind LRK in my list. I'm pleased to see Gaiman is quite prolific!

  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan---Fabulous, as Pollan always is. His books make me laugh out loud on the tram, garnering all manner of stares! His manifesto: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Food as in actual food, not processed foodlike items. Not too much, as in, within a healthy context of meals enjoyed with others rather than by the bagful in front of the TV/steering wheel. Mostly plants--well, that's clear enough.

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova---A reworking of the dracula story. This had suspense like mad right up to the end when it sort of ran off a cliff into thin air. The suspense didn't build UP to anything. It was an enjoyable read, though.

  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood---forgot I'd already read this, but Atwood is such a fabulous storyteller!

  • The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney---nicely done and I loved the atmosphere of frontier Canada. Lots of snow!

  • The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld---I was a bit leery of this as I'm not the biggest fan of Freudian psychoanalysis, but this was an enteraining read.

  • Sepulchre by Kate Mosse---I enjoyed her first book, so I figured I'd give this a read. Yikes. Formulaic, boring, and a short story stretched out to the length of a novel. I kept wondering why I was still reading--I seem to have finished it out of grim determination or something.

  • Deja Dead, Death du Jour, and Deadly Decisions by Kathy Reichs---The first one started out pretty stiff and formulaic but she seems to have warmed up to things and I'll probably finish out the series once I'm within range of a used bookstore.

  • Lifting a Ton of Feathers by Paula Caplan, which I already discussed.

current reading:

  • Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie---post colonial Africa. Interesting but so dense it's a bit slow going for me. It's so completely another world that I have to stop and think every few paragraphs.

  • Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser---I'm enjoying this a lot. Biography can be so hit or miss, especially with famous people who wind up with a "cast of thousands" that I can't keep track of. This one is nicely handled.

  • Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood by Bill Hayes---just started this, but it's entertaining so far.

  • Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser---about life changing events. I don't know if I could have handled this in the aftermath of my own humpty-dumpty post-south-pole experience, but it's very interesting reading now that I have a little perspective on the whole saga. The book I was able to read and relate to right in the dark of the dungeon was Through the Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong (and it's sequel, The Spiral Staircase) about her 7 years as a catholic nun.

Right now I am also a little bit obsessed with Rory Stewart. He's written a pair of amazing books about Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm not sure why I find him so fascinating--I think partly it's the the way he represents people he has encountered--he seems to have this deep empathy and a completely non-judgemental view, which (I find) is very hard to achieve in a foreign culture. He also seems totally fearless, and does things I wish I could do but know I never will, like walking across Asia, or being able to live in a totally foreign culture. (When I moved to Switzerland I thought I was so tough for moving abroad, and then one of the master's students in our group moved to China and then sort of wandered off to Tibet for a year.)

I always feel like I should put links in for books, but I hate linking to Amazon because I feel quite strongly about supporting local bookstores. Thoughts?



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