May 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
So glad it’s Friday! Let’s start the long weekend with some fifteen-word (or less!) book reviews.
2. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Excellent look at society terrorized by hate, hysteria. Would ove to see a good production.
3. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
Burton’s illustrations are fantastic, and I love a good inanimate object story.
4. Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister (The Baby-Sitters Club #31) by Ann M. Martin
Not everything’s ideal when your mom marries your BFF’s dad? Who could have foreseen this?
5. Poems on the Underground ed. by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik, Cicecy Herbert
Collection of classic and contemporary poetry featured on the Tube. Such a cool project!
May 23, 2013 § 8 Comments
At BookRiot, Jeanette Solomon talks about her “reading rules”–her own personal reading code, including when to stop reading (at the end of a chapter) and how to use bookmarks. This, of course, got me thinking about my own reading rules. So in no particular order:
1. It’s okay to read multiple books at the same time. Sometimes your nightly reading is a giant tome and you need a smaller volume to carry on the train. Sometimes you need to balance out Moby-Dick with some fluffy YA romance.
2. Thou shalt not dogear. Bookmarks (or receipts or plane tickets) were invented for a reason.
3. Rereading is encouraged. You don’t just have chocolate cake once in your life and move on because there are other desserts, right?
4. If you give a book as a gift, hope that it’s something the receiver will enjoy but don’t be weird and pressure-y about it. Sometimes a gift-book just isn’t your style. Also, readers already have a lot on their reading lists without book impositions; sometimes they mean to get to your book but want to read others first.
5. If you have given a book a good chance and, halfway through, still don’t like or care about it, you can stop reading it. (But beware: you can’t really claim to have read it unless you’ve finished it.)
6. If someone lends you a book, you need to do your best to return it. If you lend someone else a book, assume it’s gone forever and then be pleasantly surprised when the lender returns it to you.
8. Say it with me: books are not coasters.
9. Don’t peak ahead at the ending. If you have to look ahead to see how many pages are left, try to avoid glancing at any actual text.
10. Marginalia must be stopped. I want to read the book, not your notes.
For more book rule goodness sure to check out the original BookRiot post and Leila’s list at bookshelves of doom, as well as the comments in each post. (I know, it’s like the one time it’s okay to read the comments.)
Are you pro-bookmark/dogearing/marginalia? Share your reading rules in the comments!
May 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Finally Friday! And a beautiful Friday here, so let’s kick the weekend off with some good ol’ fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
Made me realize there were a few Salems in the US. Some outdated racial awkwardness.
3. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
A romantic comedy with stunningly complex characters. Portia can be cruel, Shylock can be sympathetic.
4. We Are in a Book by Mo Willems
Metafiction for the preschool set, as only Willems can do.
5. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Robin Hood with a kickass lady thief? Teen Annie would have been all over this!
May 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
Today in literary history, Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925. It’s one of my favorite books–the plot is simple, but the writing is so gorgeous. I love how Woolf imbues the everyday with so much meaning. And it makes me feel a deep connection with other people. For example, one part that sticks with me is when Lady Bruton imagines her connection with Richard Dalloway and Hugh Whitbread after they leave her home:
“And they went further and further from her, being attached to her by a thin thread (since they had lunched with her) which would stretch and stretch, get thinner and thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread, which (as she dozed there) became hazy with the sound of bells, striking the hour or ringing to service, as a single spider’s thread is blotted with rain-drops, and, burdened, sags down.”
I love that image so much and I totally feel that when I part from friends. Even though the thread may sag, I love the fact that it’s there at all. We’re deeply and invisibly connected with the people we love.
Buy yourself some flowers today and celebrate Mrs. Dalloway!
(image: Rubin Starset)
May 13, 2013 § 14 Comments
With The Great Gatsby movie out this week, even non-English majors are talking about the book. I was particularly interested in one article about hating the book, even though it’s considered the Great American Novel:
“I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent; I think we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains. None of this would matter much to me if Gatsby were not also sacrosanct. Books being borderline irrelevant in America, one is generally free to dislike them—but not this book.”
Kathryn Schulz goes on to explain why she finds Gatsby lacking, and I can totally see her points, even though I don’t agree. I grew up in a house of Gatsby-haters. When I read the book in eleventh grade, I already knew that everyone in my family thought Gatsby was foolish and Daisy was brainless and the story was pointless. I didn’t expect a lot from the book, but ended up loving it–I thought it was dramatic and shocking and had a powerful ending about how fantasies and goals are so easily destroyed.
Does that mean I went on to change the minds of everyone in my family? Nope. I’m firmly in the camp of You Don’t Have to Love All the “Great” Novels. If you don’t love The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick, that’s okay. Not every book necessarily connects with every reader, even if it’s beautifully written and revered by lots of very knowledgable people. It’s not a moral failing for not loving a particular book. It just means there are probably other books out there you’ll like more.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try lots of classic novels. Schulz has given Gatsby five tries so far. I think she can cut her losses. A few years ago, I read Anna Karenina because I thought, “Hey, there’s a novel I never had to read in school. People seem to like it?” I spent the whole thing waiting for Anna to get hit by that train. Not the book for me. Sometimes I think maybe I should give it another shot, but there are so many other wonderful books in the world–I think my time is better spent moving onto one of them.
Which “great” novels do you hate?
May 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Friday, everyone! It’s almost Mother’s Day, so let’s celebrate early with a few mother-themed fifteen-word book reviews:
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Mrs. Weasley wins Mom of the Year for her line “Not my daughter, you bitch!”
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag
Idgie and Ruth combat racism, serve barbecue in Depression-era Alabama. Read it, immediately started rereading.
4.Matilda by Roald Dahl
Clever Matilda has a heinous family, so she forms a new family with Miss Honey.
5. Grandma Gets Grumpy by Anna Grossnickle Hines
Grandmas get upset sometimes–they were moms once, after all.
May 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Updates from NESCBWI coming when my brain isn’t fried, but first, a lovely video about why we should all be bookish kids, no matter how old we are:
I love the idea of everyone processing their own story and realizing the expanse of possibilities through reading. Maybe you’re not going to tesser to other planets and save your dad from a giant brain, but you can still better process your own life and the lives of those around you having learned about Meg Murry’s expansive love and bravery. All kinds of art can show you the possibilities of other stories, but I think there’s something to be said for reading in particular–it’s intimate and personal while still being expansive.