September 22nd, 2013



To say I read a lot is a bit of an understatement, but I don't read as much as I could. There are always things to do, and sometimes, too, I find I can't seem to sit still for long periods, so I read in bursts. I read when I go to bed, for half an hour, or an hour, or sometimes more, depending on how good the book is. But I'm always in the middle of a book. Half my head is always in a book, and even when I don't actually have the book open in front of me, my mind is often inside it anyway; thinking about it, wondering what will happen next, caring about the characters (if it's fiction). Reading is a habit, just like drugs. Even if I don't do it all the time, CAN'T do it all the time, getting my next fix is always in the back of my mind. There's a reason why people like me are called biblioholics.

Usually, I don't read more than one book at once. But once in awhile it happens. Usually when the book I am reading is non-fiction, or very dense, and I need both time to absorb and time to offset its contents I will pick up another, lighter book. That's what I'm doing right now: reading two books at once. Or rather alternating reading two different books at the same time. The first book is an excellent rather textbooky tome on translation. Maybe that sounds dull, but it's fascinating stuff: how we think about language, how it works to try to translate meaning, what bilingualism contributes to the exercise. The book is Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos. Good stuff.

But after reading several chapters I found myself having to lighten the load a bit, so I picked up another book to vary the mix with. When I was in the States a few weeks ago, I think I went to the bookstore 4 times. I can't go to a bookstore for just a few minutes; every visit lasts about an hour, in ideal circumstances, and these were: time to browse, to roam, to pick up look at and put down. To check against my booklist and be done when I felt like being done and not because anyone was pulling at my sleeve, saying "Aren't you done yet? Can we go now?" My mom and my sister were and are both incredibly understanding about my relationship with bookstores and my need to submerse myself in them for as much time as it takes. My kids both groan whenever we are out shopping and my attention is drawn to the fact that there is a bookstore in the vicinity, because they know it means EONS before they will get me out again.

Anyway, on one of the bookstore visits, I stopped to look in the bargain bins that Barnes & Nobles places in the entryway. It's rare that I stop and look at all there because I never find anything I want. But something caught my eye and I stopped and looked through, and while nothing really jumped out at me, I did pull one book out that had an interesting title and an interesting jacket blurb and since the price was only $3.99 I thought, what the hell, and carried it with me into the store. And at the end of the visit, it was still in my hand at the checkout counter. I didn't really think it would be all that great, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was excellent, too. It was about a chemical fire in a little town that caused an airborne contamination, a psychopharmaceutical drug that unlocked memory in the residents. If you've ever wondered why you can't just remember everything that's ever happened to you, this quiet little book will explain in clean, beautifully written prose why you wouldn't want to. The book is Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu. Good stuff.

I finished Spilling Clarence (gulped it down, really), and while I'm still reading the book on translation, I had to pick up another book to read at the same time again, this time because it's the next book for Bookworms, which is this coming Thursday, and I'm hosting it. I didn't recommend the book, or vote for it, but it got chosen, and I need to get it done. It too, has turned out better than I expected, though it's not something I would re-read. It's The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, about Ernest Hemingway's first wife. I don't like Hemingway, never have, so I wasn't really interested in reading about part of his life, but it's turned out to be interesting, too.

We only have one book left in the Bookworms list for this year: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken, which I DID recommend, and I DID vote for. We're not discussing it until November, but I'm looking forward to reading it, despite the sad subject matter, because I've read everything McCracken has written and she's never disappointed. Good stuff.

A few weeks ago we were asked by the Bookworms organizer to recommend 3-5 books for next year's list and this weekend we got the full list of recommendations and were asked to vote for nine of them. The list is 31 books long. NINE out of 31. I recommended 5 books, and of course I voted for all 5 of them, which left me with having to pick FOUR out of the rest of the list. It wasn't as hard as you might have thought, and I did it pretty quickly. I removed the ones I'd already read and that narrowed it down quite a bit. But the best part is that just because I didn't vote for something and just because it might not get picked doesn't mean that I can't read it anyway.

Here's the list, in case you're interested.
Key: blue=recommended/voted for by me. green=voted for by me. yellow=already read

1. Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball by Deborah Davis
2. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
3. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

4. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
5. Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn
6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan
8. The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton
9. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
10. How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger
11. Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir

12. The Blue Fox by Sjon
13. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

14. I Shall Not Hate; A Gaza Doctor's Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity by Izzeldin Abuelaish
15. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
16. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
17. Sarah’s Key by Tatianade de Rosnay
18. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
19. Margot by Jillian Cantor
20. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
21. The Boat by Nam Le
22. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
23. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
24. The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters
25. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
26. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

27. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson
28. Your Voice in My Head: A Memoir by by Emma Forrest
29. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
30. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

Yeah, good stuff!
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