One of my goals for 2014 was to clear out my To-Read list on Goodreads. I’m happy to report that I’m already on my way, although my library only owns about 60% of them, so things might slow down once I’m stuck waiting for inter-library loan or (GASP) spending money on books I haven’t read. J/k, you know I wouldn’t do that unless things got pretty dire. It’s against my principles as a cheapskate and a bibliophile. You want a coveted place on my bookshelf, you have to prove you’re up to it.
Anyway, I’ve gotten through 10 books so far, which is about 10% of the way towards my goal (there are 96 in all). Here they are:
The Ones I Read
Title: Clan of the Cave Bear
Author: Jean M. Auel
Amount Read: All
Why was this on my list?: A list of books with good heroines
A teacher recommended this novel to me in the 7th grade during a unit about prehistoric man, but I only read the first 10 pages before giving up. The book was intimidatingly huge, and the characters barely had any dialog. This time around I loved it so much and can’t wait to read the rest in the series. Ayla is amazing, and this time I found Auel’s depiction of prehistoric neanderthal society really interesting. Plus, badass lady hunter! So yeah, I’m all about this.
Title: Rapture Ready
Author: Daniel Radosh
Amount Read: All
Why was this on my list?: Recommended by GoodReads because I liked The Unlikely Disciple
This book is an exploration of the strange parallel world of Christian pop culture in its many facets. Of course, I vaguely know about the Left Behind series and that Christian pop music exists, but I didn’t know about things like Christian electronica (What makes it Christian without lyrics? “the heart of the composer”), “break dancing as worship,” Bibleman superhero show, and Christian pro wrestling. I immediately contacted Rachel when I read the pro wrestling chapter telling her to give up her pursuit of a divinity degree and immediately start training. All that was left was to think of names. Since she is three months away from being a Master of Divinity, she came up with “Jezebellicose.” My only contribution was “Mary Magdapunch.”
Initially I thought this book was a collection of love letters from famous people, probably in like the 17th century or whatever. I would have been down with that, but the reality was even better! It’s random love notes, drawings, texts, email messages, and, yes, even some real letters, all from normal people, all presented in a similar format to Found/Postsecret. The result is artistic and sweet in its simplicity. There was also an epilogue of sorts at the back that explained the background behind some of them and if the couples stayed together or not.
Title: The Weight of Water
Author: Anita Shreve
Amount Read: All
Why was this on my list?: I’m thinking a book list of unusual narrative construction? I’m just guessing, I don’t remember.
This novel is two stories entwined around each other: one, a gruesome historical murder mystery that really happened in the 1870s, the other a modern-day drama about a marriage falling apart. I was interested in the outcome of both stories, but the real draw was the weirdness of the setting. The Isles of Shoals are a small island group 6 miles off the coast of New Hampshire, and living there–especially in the 1800s–sounds desolate and terrible.
Title: Where Children Sleep
Author: James Mollison
Amount Read: All
Why was this on my list?: Recommended by Goodreads because I really liked the photo essays by Peter Manzel and Faith D’Aluisio (Hungry Planet, What I Eat, Material World, Women in the Material World)
I was pretty excited for this book, because I love everything Peter Menzel and/or Faith D’Aluisio have ever done, like photographing different people around the world with a typical day’s worth of food surrounding them followed by a short essay about their lives. I really think this kind of personal, themed display is a more powerful tool for understanding modern society globally than the normal statistics and news reports. Mollison’s book has a similar theme: photographing children’s bedrooms–well, where they sleep, they don’t all have bedrooms–with short paragraphs about their lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t find Mollison’s work to be as engaging. He didn’t visit as diverse a population as the other books I referenced (for instance, there were at least 4 or 5 in the US, but almost all in New York or New Jersey), and a single picture per subject often didn’t capture as much detail as I would have liked.
The Ones I Sort Of Read
I still gave these a rating even though it’s maybe unfair to judge them after only reading half or a third or a few pages. I’m willing to be convinced that they got better after I gave up, but I shouldn’t have to force myself to get into a book, so I’m not really apologetic about the giving up part.
Title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Author: Mark Haddon
Amount Read: Half
Why was this on my list?: A list of books with unusual narrators
I remember when this book was a big deal, the Life of Pi or Girl with a Dragon Tattoo of its day. Like those other books, I found it difficult to muster the enthusiasm necessary to read it, and found it didn’t live up to the hype once I did (sometimes things do live up to their hype–I was similarly reluctant to read The Hunger Games and you know how that turned out). Steven tells me I’m too hard to impress because I read too much, and maybe that’s true, because I found this book uncomfortably gimmicky. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be able to guess the truth behind the narrator’s family drama in the first chapter or what, but it made the subsequent revelations boring. I decided I would power through to the end to see if my supposition about who killed the neighbor’s dog was correct, but then my prime suspect confessed about halfway through. I immediately thought, “Oh, well… thank you. Now I don’t have to bother.”
Title: Carter Finally Gets It
Author: Brent Crawford
Amount Read: A third
Why was this on my list?: I have no idea. Was it banned somewhere? It’s possible, the narrator is very preoccupied by breasts
This book is fine, really, if you’re interested in the inner-workings of the mind of a 14-year-old boy. I’m not so much, and it was around the chapter about burrito farts ruining a first date that I decided I didn’t really need to read further. I’m obviously not one of those people that thinks just because something is shelved in YA it’s going to be a teen problem novel of no interest to adults (because, come on, Abhorsen, True Meaning of Smekday, MOSCA MOTHERFUCKING MYE). I think there are the books that get shelved in YA just because they happen to be about someone who isn’t an adult, and the books people write with the actual purpose of being put there. It’s a big difference, in terms of scope, and sometimes quality, and I wish so many of my favorites didn’t get stigmatized by association with the Carter Finally Gets Its of the library. It’s okay–some people would like this book and probably think it is hilarious–but not me.
Title: The Night Strangers
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Amount Read: 5 pages
Why was this on my list?: A “best ghost stories” book list that came out around Halloween
This book started out describing a creepy house with a creepy cellar sporting a creepy door that’s been nailed shut with a vengeance. Cool, I’m with you so far, prologue. Until the main narration starts, and it’s in second person. NOPE! SO DONE! That is only appropriate in Choose Your Own Adventure Novels, and even then it can get annoying. What’s the point of making the main character “you,” a regional airline pilot and father of two? I’m NOT any of those things, and trying to convince me I am is distracting and terrible. If that’s the only way you can think of to make your scary story seem more immediate for the reader, maybe you shouldn’t be writing horror. Anyway, I read some reviews to see what I was missing, and it seems to be a botany-related immortality cult. So yeah, I’m good.
The Ones I Decided Not To Read
Title: Found II
Author: Davy Rothbart
Why was this on my list?: I liked the first one
Why I’m not reading it: I liked the first one, but I didn’t like it enough to wait for it through inter-library loan, especially since I have so many other books to inter-library loan this year.
Title: Carrion Comfort
Author: Dan Simmons
Why was this on my list?: A list of good scary stories from Halloween
Why I’m not reading it: I read the description, and it doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. Secret alien societies are not really my thing, and since my library doesn’t own it, it doesn’t seem worth the effort.