Thursday, December 27, 2007

87-91, plus the new goal

I have really fallen behind here!

87. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I am not sure how I missed this book before now. This was incredibly well-written, and the topics that it covers, class divides and class mobility, are some in which I am particularly interested. I liked the detached narrator who frames the story. Gatsby, of course, was a very flawed person, but his flaws were much more appealling that Daisy's and Tom's flaws. His flaws stemmed from a yearning to improve his life, and be with someone that he loves, whereas Daisy and Tom only care about their own comfort and feelings. This was a very thought-provoking book.

88. Original Sin by P.D. James

This one made me cry. The story was absolutely tragic, and it very, very sad. James really works at her craft, exploring interesting questions, and transcending the mystery genre. Her characters are fully realized people, not stock characters that just move the puzzle along.

89. A Certain Justice by P.D. James

I enjoyed this one, as I do all of James' books, but I am not sure it was as good as Original Sin. Still, the story was intriguing, and the characters were fascinating, as always.

90. Have You Found Her by Janice Erlbaum

This was an Early Reviewer's book.

This was a fantastic book, for many reasons. First, Erlbaum is a great storyteller, keeping me turning pages all the way through. She is also very honest. As she describes her efforts to help Sam, a homeless junkie, and other girls at the same homeless shelter that she used when she was a teenage runaway, she reveals a lot about her own personality and life, not all of it flattering. Since she describes her behavior with a great deal of insight, she clearly learned a lot and grew as a person due to the experience, but it still must have been difficult to describe herself, flaws and all, so candidly. At times I wanted to shake her--how could she not realize that these girls were so damaged? Sure, she had gone through a similar experience and emerged successful and relatively stable, but she must have known many other street kids who did not have such good outcomes. When she describes her friends and family, none of them seem to have pasts that encompass street living. Yet, she seems to think that a little bit of care and listening from her will turn these kids around.

To be fair, she really does do a lot to help these girls, especially Sam, and she obviously does really care for them and want them to have better lives, from the very beginning. Also, she learns a lot from her experiences, obviously becoming a stronger person and more clear-headed about this all as the story progresses.

Most people who want to help those less fortunate themselves have this idealistic view of what helping others means. Even with a background that should help them to know better, they think they can just give a little and make a big difference. It also seems easy to compartmentalize this kind of giving—it’s something that a person does at certain specific times, and it doesn’t encroach on normal life, except for short anecdotes at parties to show how caring and noble the volunteer is. But when you work with damaged people, it isn’t that simple. These people have enormous needs that can’t be covered from 6:00 until 9:00 on Wednesday evenings, and they demand more than a casual volunteer with a life elsewhere is comfortable giving. Erlbaum does a great job of describing how she struggled with the desire to do more, help more, and still live her hard-won normal life.

91. Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick

Even in a world that seems to be governed by totally random forces, people struggle to impose meaning and control on their lives. Or, some people do, at least. This was a short book that managed to get in some very interesting discussions about the nature of free will and the laws that govern our universe.


So, what kind of goal am I going to do for next year? I am thinking about aiming for 100--I don't know if I will make it, but it seems like a good goal. It wouldn't even get through my tbr list, and you KNOW I am going to buy even more books. I just got 5 or 6 books yesterday with the gift card my brother gave me for Christmas (he was going to get me these cool shelves from Ikea, but they wouldn't accept a different ship to address than the billing address :-(), although one of them was cookbook, so I don't need to add it to the list. I am thinking that aiming to read more is a really good idea, because, as always, there is so much out there that I want to read! 100 it is.

I don't think I am done with this year, yet, though. There are still 4 whole days this year, plus tonight, and the kids are at their dad's until 12/31. I am sure I will get at least one more book on the list.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The To-Be-Read List

At the beginning of November, I made a vow that I would not buy any more books until I made a dent in my TBR list. I have made this particular vow many times before, so I did not hold out a lot of hope that I would succeed, but I did have good intentions.

The first thing I did to try to keep my vow was to cheat. I bought two Bibles. These books would not be added to my TBR list, so they didn't count. I used the same technique recently, when I purchased The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge at Costco.

I also tried staying out of the bookstore. This was, obviously, a much more successful (and ethical!) technique. The entire time I stayed out of bookstores, I managed to not buy any books! Unfortunately, this was not a technique I could sustain indefinitely. On Black Friday, after a marathon morning of shopping with my mother and aunt, I ended up meeting my friend Mandy and taking the kids to the mall for dinner. I was too tired to cook. But, the mall is dangerous, because there is a Waldenbooks there. Of course, Mandy* wanted to go to the bookstore. Of course, I agreed, but I told myself I wouldn't buy anything. Ha! I did manage to make it out of there with only one book, though (The Truth (with jokes), by Al Franken; it was on the bargain table, I had to buy it!).

So, I was not terribly successful, but still, I was feeling pretty good about this. I finished 7 books in November, and I only added 1 book to the list. It seems like I added a lot more, because I made a real effort to go through my LibraryThing catalog and mark everything unread, so I could get an idea of what I was working with, but I already had all those books, so they don't count.

This past Monday, though, I found myself with an hour to kill while my daughter went to basketball practice. And do you know what is less than a half a mile from the community center where basketball practice takes place? A Barnes & Noble store, that's what. And I had been wanting to read The Great Gatsby for some time. And, I was finished with all the PD James books I owned. And, what else would conveniently fill that hour of time? (Don't mention working out, I know that would have been the wise choice. But, I didn't feel all that well on Monday. And, I am good at rationalization.)

The boy and I dropped the girl off at practice and we were off to the bookstore! First, I have to say that I told the boy, who is only 5, that he would have to wait until I picked out my books before we headed to the children's section, and he was very good about it. He did ask me a few times if I was done yet, but he stayed by me and did not yell or run around, so I was thrilled. Of course, when we did make it back to the children's section, he was much more interested in all the toys they have back there than the books, but still.

I ended up with 4 books for me, 2 P.D. James, Atonement, by Ian McEwan, and the aforementioned The Great Gatsby, plus How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the boy, and The Giver for the new read-aloud with the girl. She was so excited, too, yelling and actually jumping up and down. Apparently Mrs. H, her teacher, had recommended the book, which is the highest accolade a book can get in S's opinion.

By my count, that is 6 books that I added to my TBR list** since the beginning of November, but if I add the 4 books I have already completed in December to my 7 from November, 11 books to take off the list, putting me 5 books ahead. If I didn't manage to actually refrain from buying books while making a dent in the list, at least I was able to buy less than I was reading.

* Poor Mandy gets blamed for this a lot. She really does entice me to go to the bookstore a lot, but I do the same to her. We are probably equally to blame here, but it is more fun to blame it all on her. She doesn't read my blog anyway.

** According to my LibraryThing tags, my I have 104 unread books, but I need to do some updating with that. First, I have not completely catalogued my list, although I think I do have most of the unreads in there. Secondly, I need to make sure I have distinguished between reference books that I do not really intend to read cover to cover and books that really should be on the TBR list. This is one of those projects for a block of time on some weekend when I am not trying to run around and get ready for the holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

86. The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

This was a very interesting look at how, while no choice is definitely bad, too much choice can almost as detrimental to our psychological well-being. Schwartz examines the differences between maximizers, who attempt to get the absolute best of everything, and satisficers, who are willing to settle for good enough. Good enough could very well be high quality, but satisficers are all right with the idea that there may still be something out there that is even better. Maximizers are bothered by this, and have difficulty making choices, since there are always more options available that might be better.

I tend to fall on the satificer end of the scale for most things, but there are some exceptions. I have a hard time picking a meal in a restaurant, for instance, because I can't decide which one will be the best experience. This book was an interesting look at how unlimited choice can make us less happy with what we have, and I picked up some good tips for being satisfied with my life, even though the tips themselves weren't anything I hadn't heard before. Having more of an explanation behind them makes it easier to apply these ideas to my life.

Interestingly enough, one place where I notice a tendency to maximize is choosing a book to read. Sometimes I go right from one book to the next, but I often find myself, at the end of one book, staring at my bookshelves, trying to pick the perfect book that I will enjoy the most at that particular time. Usually, if I just can't choose, I decide it is a sign that I am simply ready for a break from reading (!), but more often I have to remind myself that I bought these books because they looked good to me, and force myself to take the leap into one of those books. And, when I do, it usually turns out well--I may buy a lot of books, but I am fairly discerning. It's not my fault that there are so many good books out there!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

84, 85

84. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

This was an odd book. Blue, the main character, is a very gifted girl with an interesting past that involves much travelling around with her Dad. The mystery of her life, and her Dad, is at once more thrilling and more mundane than she expects. At first, she seemed overly melodramatic to me, but after a while, I realized that it was just the way she spoke; she actually had a fairly realistic view of what was happening to her. I really enjoyed this book, but I understand why I have seen people both praise it and pan it. It can be a bit difficult to access.

85. Post Secret by Frank Warren

Warren asked people to send him secrets via postcard, to participate in a public art project. The only requirements were that they be true, and something the sender had never told anyone else. Also, they were told to send the secrets anonymously. Apparently he did exhibit many of these secrets, and I think he still is, but he also has a series of books. I think I will buy more--it is fascinating to see what people send. Some of the secrets are truly horrible, some are the kind of thing you recognize.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Goal reached

83. The Worst Thing I've Done by Ursula Hegi

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN, and stayed up too late last night to finish it. On the other hand, it was kind of an obvious story. It was very obvious how Annie felt about Mitch and Jake, and kind of weird how delusional she was about it. The characters were fully realized and interesting, but I just wanted to shake them sometimes.

And, here I am at my goal, with a whole month left for the year. Go me!

Now, if I can just get some more books off my TBR list before I buy even more books. I am not so delusional as to think that I am going to not buy anything until I read all the books I already own, but it would be nice to make a dent in the pile.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Books by ex-presidents

Well, only one.

I wondered as I read this book: how much of this was ghost written? On the one hand, why would a politician be a good writer? That's what speechwriters are for, right? On the other hand, this wasn't great writing. It was fine, it was easy to read, but it was pretty straightforward. Surely a reasonably intelligent person (which I believe describes Bill Clinton) could put a book like this together, maybe with some editorial help. But still, he's a busy guy, does he have time to write this book? Either way, it doesn't really change my feelings about this book (it's not like James' Frey's fictional memoir), but I do wonder.

82. Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton

This was a quick and easy read, basically a survey of several different effective charity efforts, both global and local. It was very inspiring, and I got several different ideas of things I could do to help others. There was a fair amount of self-promotion, but I imagine that is a hard habit to break after a lifetime in politics, and it clearly wasn't the main intent of the book.

Only 1 book away from my goal! I haven't really been that focused on the goal per se, but it does feel good to read as much as I did last year in 11 months. That means I can get in that many more books that I have waiting to be read. AND, I only bought 3 books this month, 2 of which were bibles that I will not read straight through, so my TBR list actually went down for a change! Woohoo!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

80, 81

80. Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Very interesting. I am guessing this was early in Scalzi's career, since the writing was a bit juvenile at times, but the story was well-thought out and I enjoyed the characters. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series.

81. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I don't know where I got the idea that I wouldn't like Hemingway. I do see why we didn't read this in high school, though--the drinking! It never stops! This was an excellent book, though, and I am glad I read it.

I am currently reading Giving, by Bill Clinton, and I am most of the way through The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. I brought TFM along to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, and ended up leaving it in my mother's minivan after a marathon day of shopping on Black Friday. I miss it, but not enough to make a special trip over to pick it up yet. It is a very interesting book, but it is really shocking to me how relevant it is to today's world. I mean, I thought we got over that, but we are seeing this whole return to homemaking now, too. I have even participated in it at times in my adult life. This is one of those books I have always heard about but never seemed to get around to reading; I am glad to be reading it now.

In other news, once I finish these two books, I will have hit my "goal" for the year. Since I have over a month left, I know I will pass it, and my semi-kidding stretch goal of 90 books seems totally possible. I am making a real effort to read some of the books on my TBR pile, without buying too many new books. That isn't too hard this time of year anyway, when I should be spending my money on gifts for other people, not on books that I don't even have enough shelves to store. I have my eye on some really cool shelves from Ikea, though--too bad I will have to drive to Chicago to get them! But, if I get the white ones, I can put them in my bedroom and paint a purple pattern on them to match my bedspread, and store lots more books. Maybe I can even get some of my boxes out of storage (if I hurry before I buy more).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

78, 79

78. And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Brilliant. The workers at this failing advertising agency become increasingly paranoid as layoffs get closer and closer to them personally. The ridiculous things that they do seem reasonable when they are in the thick of them, but when you pull back a bit, you wonder how intelligent people can find themselves in those situations. But, I can tell you that it happens all the time in big corporations. This was more insightful than I expected, and also hilarious.

79. The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

I love A. J. Jacobs. He is clever and funny and interesting. This project, following the rules of the Bible as literally as possible, could have been done very poorly. I am not religious, but I don't want to read a book about someone making fun of religious people. But Jacobs was able to do this well and even learn a lot, despite not changing many of his beliefs about God or religion.

Monday, November 19, 2007

An odd trip to the bookstore

My trip to Border's today was odd for two reasons. First, I had a mission, and I did not deviate from it. I mean, sure, I looked longingly at several extraneous books, but I did not purchase any of them. The second odd thing? My mission was to purchase a Bible (actually, I ended up with two, but that still counts in my estimation, since they were different versions, but both were bibles).

I have been reading The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible lately. A. J. Jacobs was raised as a secular Jew who doesn't really practice any religion, but he decides to spend a year testing the Bible out, living by the rules in the Bible and investigating both Judaism and Christianity, although he doesn't go so far as to actually believe in Christ's divinity. The book is very funny, which I expected, but also deep. It also reminded me that, despite 13 years at my local Catholic schools, I am somewhat lacking in religious knowledge. This, even though I was a fairly devout Catholic for some time. Now, I find myself viewing all religion rather skeptically, and I am reading TYLB almost like a tourist, who doesn't recognize what Jacobs is describing at all from a first person perspective. Being deeply secular now, I seem to have repressed much of the religious knowledge that I used to possess.

I don't have any plans to start following the Bible's teachings, but I decided that reading the Bible might be a good idea. It's one thing to decide not to believe in God, and another to completely disavow any knowledge of what is arguably the most important and widely read book in our country. Much of our culture and English and American literature draw heavily on Biblical symbolism, to say the least about the Bible's impact. So, I went to get a Bible. I got a Catholic bible, because it has more books than the Protestant bibles, or the Hebrew bible (the portion that Judaism and Christianity share, that is)--the Apocrypha, as Protestants call them, or the Deuterocanonical books, as Catholics refer to them. I am scraping the bottom of that particular branch of my biblical knowledge there, but suffice to say, I wanted to read those books, too. I also got a King James version that was on the bargain book rack, because that is the most common version.

As a non-believer, I felt weird going to the cash register with two bibles. I can tell already that I will do my bible-reading at home. It's not that I am embarrassed to be seen reading it exactly, but rather that I don't want people seeing me reading it and making false assumptions about me. I wouldn't be insulted to be called a Christian, but it feels like lying to me to put out that image when it isn't true. And people do assume you are a Christian when they see you reading the bible. Today in the bookstore, I seriously considered buying God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, to even out my purchase, but I stopped myself.

So, I didn't go crazy at the bookstore (have I mentioned the over 100 books I already own that I have not read? Yes, I have? well, just a reminder here...), and I bought not one, but two bibles. A very odd trip for me, indeed.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

75-77, TBR List, and Pace

75. I Am American (And So Can You) by Stephen Colbert

Absolutely hilarious. I am so impressed with people who can write to ostensibly portray one message while clearly portraying another. This book also included the transcript of Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents' dinner last year, which was absolutely brilliant.

76. A Taste for Death by P.D. James

Excellent book. The end was shocking, I actually found myself responding to it out loud, without meaning to--good thing I was alone in my car. The mystery was clever, and even when you found out who did it, it was suspenseful. I liked the new character of Inspector Kate Miskin, and I thought he development of both her and Chief Inspector Massingham was very well done. There were several places when I thought James was headed for something trite and stereotypical, but she did not.

77. Devices and Desires by P.D. James

James gets better with every book. I would have liked this a little better if Rickards had been able to keep up with Dalgleish a little bit more, but the story overall was very satisfying. I really like the way that James doesn't feel the need to explain every little thing in total detail, and the way none of her characters has the full picture of what happened. I do like the traditional mysteries where the whole group gathers in the drawing room and the whole thing is explained for a fun read, but this is much more realistic, nuanced and interesting.

I can't wait to read more James' books, although I am thinking I should read some of the 100+ books I already own first. I think I am going to update my TBR list soon so I can see exactly how many books I already have. Maybe that will actually deter me from going to the bookstore and spending all that money. Probably not for more than a month or so, but maybe longer. Hope springs eternal and all that.

In order to match my pace from last year, I only need to read 6 books between now and the end of the year. I was only at 73 books this time last year, and I hardly read anything in December, so I am feeling pretty sanguine about passing up my goal. Especially since hardly reading anything in December means I finished 4 books last December. I am starting to get more interested in finishing unpacking my apartment (a seemingly never-ending task, but the piles of boxes do seem to be diminishing, as long as you don't look in too many closets), and maybe doing some crafts for Christmas and general decorating, but I still have been keeping up a good pace lately, so I am thinking 83 is an easily reachable goal. I think that my stretch goal will be 90, but I have no real pressure on myself to reach that goal. I am just having fun with it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

74. Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters

74. Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters: From Dating, Shopping, and Praying to Going to War and Becoming a Billionaire, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa

I had never really heard of evolutionary psychology before I picked up this book this weekend, but I think I will be reading more about this soon. This was really fascinating. They did a couple of things I really liked, one about how they treated the material, and one involving the end notes. First, they made a point of saying that just because something is shown scientifically to be the way things are, it doesn't mean they are good or that we shouldn't try to change things. But, if we want to change things, first we need to understand what is going on, even if we don't like it; we can only make effective changes if we are looking at reality rather than what we would like it to be.

Second, on the endnotes, they used a regular superscript for notes that were just citations of studies, and bracketted superscript for notes that contained additional information. I have never seen a book that did that, but it was wonderful. I hate paging back and forth just to read something like Miller, Brown and Doe, 1987. It was nice to know when it was really worth it to go to the back of the book.

More about the actual topic--fascinating. Not shockingly, it turns out that the motivation for almost everything we do is sex and reproduction. It is interesting to see how different behaviors make their way back to sex and reproduction, though. The sections on risk evaluation were interesting, too. I am very motivated to find more in depth books on this topic.

73. Count Zero by William Gibson

I started to read Spook Country, Gibson's latest, and about 60 pages in, I realized that I just didn't care about any of the characters. So, I wondered, am I just not in a Gibson mood, or do I really not like this book? I had Count Zero sitting on my shelf, so I decided to give it a try. 28 pages in, with only brief character sketches of at least 3 major characters under my belt, I did care about them, so I am thinking I wasted my money buying the hardcover Spook Country.

CZ was an interesting blend of the corporation-is-all, cyberspace technological society with religiosity, in the form of voodoo. It is frighteningly easy to imagine a world where corporations practically own the people who work for them, and governments can't do much about it. The huge class differences in this book, where the rich, talented company employees seem to live in an entirely different world than the poorer people also seems like not too much of a stretch. The characters in this book seem like real people, with interesting motivations, strengths and flaws. This was a very good book.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

62 - 72 and Vacation

62. The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James

I really like James' Cordelia Gray books. Gray is a private investigator, as opposed to James' other series protaganist, CID Commandar Adam Dagleish. It is nice to see a less black and white character (and it was only when typing this that I realized the significance of her name), and more nuance to the criminals as well. Not that the Dagleish books are lacking in nuance, this is just a different perspective, and a very interesting one.

63. Herland and Selected Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Herland was part of my effort to read more science fiction classics. Gilman has a rather bracing tone in her fiction, as a rule, and that was quite evident in the short novel. I have read other treatments of an all-female society, and I have to say that I thought this one was a bit too optimistic. I do think that overall, a society run by women would probably be more humane than one run by men, but I have a hard time believing it would be quite as smooth as Gilman postulates. Still, centuries of selective breeding, with an emphasis on social skills and getting along, might do the trick. The stories were interesting, and I can see why she was thought to be so ahead of her time. It was refreshing to read some feminist stories that were positive and turned out well, and nice to see that Gilman doesn't assume that all men are evil.

64. The Maquisarde by Louise Marley

I read this one based on a recommendation from Storeetllr, and it was well worth it. It was a story that lends itself to black and white, with an evil organization repressing people and an innocent victim, but the book was much more nuanced than that. I loved the strong female characters, but also that there were strong male characters, too. I will have to read more Marley.

65. Dune by Frank Herbert

Fantastic! I can't believe I haven't read this in about 20 years. I love this book.

66. The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart

This was a really good book about how friendships shape our identity. Also about how you can be so close to someone and still separate. And how scary loving someone is. And so on. It was a quick read, but fairly deep. I definitely recommend this one.

67. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Disturbing. Sad. Thought-provoking. I need to think more about this one.

68. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

I have been reading this out loud to my daughter for a while now. Last night when I read the last chapter, she kept wiping her eyes, saying that she was yawning (which was making her eyes water). I remembered that I had read this when I was young and liked it, but I didn't remember the book at all, so I really enjoyed this. I read about a chapter a night, and after I read the second to the last chapter to S, I read ahead and did the last chapter while she went off to bed.

69. The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fourth Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois

Wonderful as usual. Dozois is a very good editor, and he puts together a consistently high quality collection every year.

70. To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman

Structurally, this was very similar to What the Dead Know. There was a traumatic event, a witness who was not telling all she knew (although she clearly would at some point) and a lot of flashbacks. But again, the payoff was satisfying, and I really enjoyed the book. If all of her books follow this formula, I am not sure I want to read them, even though they are well-told, but this one was definitely enjoyable.

71. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

This was an interesting book on the benefits of the vegan diet. On the one hand, I liked the way they tried to take some of the mainstream stigma away from a vegan diet with their tough-love tone and complete lack of "crunchiness." I don't have a problem with alternative lifestyle stuff, but it was nice to read a book with straightforward, practical reasons for veganism, not the kind of touchy-feely stuff that turns off a lot of people, or strident, disapproving activism. Not that they were shy about talking about the abuse of animals that occurs on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, but they did it in a more informational tone than a condemning one. On the other hand, their use of profanity was gratuitous and over the top. Overall, though, I enjoyed this short book, which had a nice balance of information on why people should change and practical tips to make the change.

72. The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

I didn't bring enough books on my long weekend camping trip, so I ended up borrowing this from my friend. It's the only reason I would read a James Patterson book. I can't stand the way he is so cutesy about everything. I hate the "sensitive man" character that he reveres and populates all of his novels with. I read one of his romances years ago (Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas, I believe), and it was horrible. I can just barely stand his Alex Cross books because at least they have a gruesome crime to counteract the sickening sweetness. And, the crime puzzles are a bit intriguing. But still, the faults! Some that drive me particularly crazy:

The 2-3 page chapters. All of them are short. This could create drama, used sparingly. Used for every chapter, it just makes the book seem extremely disjointed.

The constant use of italics and exclamation points. Like the short chapters, these things lose their effect when every page makes use of them. They aren't really emphasizing anything if they are used constantly.


The endless "climaxes." Okay, we've solved the crime! No wait, it's not the right guy! But there he is! No, still the wrong guy! Hey, here's another really bad guy! Can you believe this guy that seemed like a good guy way back in Chapter 15 (approximately page 42), that we haven't heard from again, actually turns out to be a bad guy?!?!?! And, he's REALLY BAD! Oh, we think we found the bad guy over here! Nope, wrong again!

I could go on, but really, I have used enough energy on this guy. I really don't understand why he has such a successful career.


Can you believe that I didn’t bring enough books with me on a vacation? Last year I took six books with me on a weeklong camping trip, even though one of them was Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, at 782 pages (and I read three of them). For this three-day trip, I only brought two books, and I found myself finished on Saturday afternoon. Next time I definitely need to bring more than I think I will be able to read, just to be safe.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Look at Statistics

A long time back, I mentioned the spreadsheet that I keep of books that I have read. I decided today that I needed to take a look at it and make some comparisons with last year. I have been keeping the list for almost 2 years now, with 2006 being the first complete year that I tracked. It is fascinating to me to be able to do this kind of within the year and year over year analysis, but I am aware that this makes me odd ;-).

Books I have completed to this point in 2006: 63 (83 total)
Books I had completed to this point in 2007: 61
Science fiction books, 2006: 24, or 28.92%
Science fiction books, 2007: 24 (so far), or 39.34%
Books started but not completed, 2006: 4
Books started but not completed, 2007: 4, not counting the one I am currently reading
Non-Fiction books, 2006: 14, or 16.87%
Non-Fiction books, 2007: 7, or 11.48%
Re-reads, 2006: 4
Re-reads, 2007: 6

So, I am reading more science fiction this year, but less non-fiction. I am ahead of the pace to read 83 books this year, but behind where I actually was at this point last year. I was slowing down at this point last year, but I have been speeding up lately, so I may even finish more than 83 this year. Disturbingly, I saw some books on the 2006 list that I do not remember reading at all. Most of them I remembered well, but I did not have any memory of re-reading Neuromancer last year, and only a vague memory of Disturbance, by Bruce Sterling.

Monday, September 10, 2007

55 - 61

55. The Average American: the extraordinary search for the nation's most ordinary citizen by Kevin O'Keefe

The author set out to learn more about being average, after a life spent trying to avoid averageness in nearly every way. This was an interesting book, if you like statistics, but despite the fact that O'Keefe really did seem to learn a lot and become less snobby and superior, he somehow seemed to remain out of touch with the average American anyway. The writing didn't grab me, and the numbers didn't seem to make a lot of sense. But, the topic was interesting, and I do like statistics, so I enjoyed it.

56. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Fantastic book. I stayed up way too late to finish this because I could not go to sleep without knowing the end. I was really surprised by the end, but it made perfect sense.

57. Innocent Blood by P.D. James

This is very different from James' more straightforward mysteries, and it is very thought-provoking. I will have to think about this one for a while.

58. More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

Fascinating book on a possible future human evolution. This book postulates a social organism with different people making up a group that functions as a whole. It seems unlikely, especially since the people involved are born into normal families and then have to find each other, and procreation in general seems problematic, but the ideas investigated are intriguing.

59. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brilliant, thought-provoking book. This was a subtle and fascinating exploration into the meaning of life. The non-fiction afterword by Huxley is a little more difficult to take. He makes good points, but his superior tone is not going to win a lot of converts. He was much better off making his points fictionally.

60. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize winner. I have read one other book by Shields (Larry's Party), so I knew that she is a fantastic writer, and this book was not a disappointment. The main character of this book is just an ordinary person, which is refreshing. Very good book.

61. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Book 7 by J. K. Rowling

I enjoyed this book--I read the whole thing yesterday. I pretty much knew what happened already, but it was nice to read it all. I am obviously not an obsessive fan, but I do find these books compulsively readable when I do read it.

I find that I am ahead of schedule suddenly, after spending nearly the entire year behind. Well, not schedule, but pace, I guess. So, maybe I can get even more books in! Probably not, with Christmas at the end of the year, I am sure I will slow down in December.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Some books should be left alone

54. Slan Hunter by A. E. Van Vogt and Kevin Anderson

So incredibly disappointing.

Vogt started this book, but couldn't finish due to Alzheimer's. Anderson finished it, and it is difficult to imagine how he could have done a worse job. Not only is the book not even remotely consistent with the first book, it isn't internally consistent. Anderson took the real people that populated Vogt's book, characters with complicated motivations for their actions, and turned them into silly caricatures. The plot consisted mainly of people frantically running from place to place so that when they got there, they could sit around and explain things to each other. The tone was sentimental and insipid. The ending was horrifyingly atrocious. On the plus side, I recognize the genius of Slan even more after reading this horrible sequel. That's the most positive thing I can think to say.

How do people survive?

According to a recent poll, approximately one in four American adults did not read a single book last year.

Wow. I would die. I have read 53 books this year (will be 54 by the end of today), and I am feeling a little bereft at the books that I have missed out on because my pace is slower this year than last year (I was on number 61 this time last year).

I have to believe that these people are doing some reading, whether it be online, or in the newspaper or in magazines. In fact, the Internet was cited as one of the possible causes for the decline in reading in the study. But I don't understand how people can feel that they are a part of our culture without reading any of the books that help to set the national conversation. Not all of them, because I don't choose books by their perceived importance, but at least enough to be a part of the conversation. Anyone who is reading this, I am sure, is a reader as well, so no one is going to be able to help me to understand this, but I still have to say, I just can't even imagine what it would be like to go an entire year without reading a single book. Heck, I couldn't imagine going an entire month. Maybe if I was in a coma, but nothing else springs to mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Quick One

53. Slan by A. E. Van Vogt

I can definitely see why this book is considered a classic. Although some of the perspectives and ideas that Vogt has about the future are a bit dated, the story itself is clearly the basis of every other book I have read about human evolution. When I read Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear, I thought it was so original, but now I see that it is not. It's still a good book, but Vogt came up with the major themes many years earlier. The book is very short, but packed with ideas. No word is wasted, and the story moves quickly. Very impressive, and I am glad I read it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Catching up, again

50. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Excellent, excellent book. This was a re-read, so I knew I would love it, but I had forgotten how wonderful it is, and how truly subversive it is. I still want to live on Anarres, though. This book really made me think, and was totally fascinating all the way through.

Before I read this, I read about 236 pages of The Brothers Karamazov. I liked it, but I found I just couldn't face 470 more pages of it, not when I knew that The Dispossessed was waiting.

51. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Again, compulsively readable. Since my best friend gave me a lot of details about the 7th book, the end wasn't a surprise to me, but I still really enjoyed it. I wanted to pick up the last one right away, but my daughter left it at her father's house, so I have to wait for her to bring it home, hopefully Wednesday.

I started Slan by A. E. van Vogt, but then I misplaced it, so I am reading a short mystery called The James Joyce Murder by Amanda Cross. I read a really good Cross book a while back with a character who was obsessed with John Le Carre's character George Smiley, which I enjoyed on its own, but also for prompting me to read more Le Carre.

52. The James Joyce Murder by Amanda Cross

This was a very quick, easy read, and I suspect that I have read it before. I like the dry, intelligent characters in this series, with the main characters being Kate Fansler, a literature professor, and Reed Amhearst, an assistant district attorney. The books are fun to read, and interesting little character studies/mysteries.

I found my copy of Slan, so I am continuing on that now. Good thing, since the girl forgot to bring home Harry Potter 7.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Catching up

46. Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James

I really like P.D. James (as you can tell by my list so far this year), and this one did not disappoint. I really enjoy the way James gets into the minds of the characters without giving away too much, or taking away from the central mystery. She really has a gift for making her characters real, in a very short period of time.

47. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

I had never read this one. I would not say I am a huge fan, which is obvious by the fact that I haven't read this until now, but I am surprised at how compulsively readable these books are. This was 870 pages, and I read it in three days, even though I had my kids with me, and I went to the theater on Monday night, so that whole night was out. This was a fun read, even though it was definitely a lot darker than the previous ones. Dolores Umbridge really made me mad, I hate people like that. She was convincingly really scary because she was so real.

48. Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Burstein

More review to come. I loved this book, but I need to think about it a bit more.

49. The Baby Merchant by Kit Reed

Fantastic book about how we lie to ourselves. The titular character, Tom Starbird, rescues babies from less than ideal family lives, and delivers them for a very high price to couples who have difficulty adopting. He honestly sees himself as providing a service to all parties, including the harried mothers from whom he steals the babies (or, as he puts it, the suppliers from whom is acquires the product). Of course, it is all much more complicated than that, and he ends up his final case ends up going against everything he believes about himself.

One of the things that I found fascinating about this book was his obvious compassion and love for the mothers he deals with, whether the suppliers or the clients of his transactions. His own mother attempted to abandon him when he was small, and never was very loving, so perhaps he was touched by their obvious love for the babies involved, but that doesn't completely explain his regard for the suppliers. He thinks he is doing them a favor, by taking a baby that they do not want. His occupation seems to be an act of love to his own mother, who he could never please as a young boy. He still loves her, though, and he thinks that removing the burden of the baby might have made her happy, so he provides this service for other mothers. Although he doesn't come out and tell them this is what he doing, he does convince himself that they would thank him if it weren't socially unacceptable to do so, especially in a world with a baby shortage (increasing infertility, and the borders are closed to foreign adoption by Homeland Security).

This book is frighteningly possible. It made me think about my own parenting skills, and also the society that we live in quite a bit. Many people do view babies as products--the baby merchant's clients, while obviously sincere in their desire to be parents, are incredibly specific about what they want in a child (e.g. one of the parents must have attended Juilliard). They want to be parents, but they think they can order up talents, looks and a personality for their child like they might order up color, cut and material for their newest winter coat. They tell themselves they just want to be parents, the husbands just want to make their wives happy, but they mean they want to be parents of specific children that will turn out well and make them proud. In the end, they are just as sefish as Tom's mother, who only had him to help her with her poetry, and wanted to discard him when she found out that a baby is a dependent being, not a muse.

This is the kind of book that stays with you and makes you think for a long time.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

45. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

As I have mentioned on my food blog, I am really interested in the environmental impacts of my diet. There are other reasons that I am cutting out meat, but a smaller environmental footprint is a big plus in my book. But the more I look into the environmental issues around food, it is easy to see that the biggest concern is the fuel that it takes to transport food here from all over the planet. So when I saw this book, I was intrigued.

One of the best parts of this book is the fact that it is about a family. I have read a lot online about single adults, or couples with no children who make the local pledge. I think that what they are doing is wonderful, and more power to them, but it is hard to translate their experiences into my hectic family lifestyle. It’s hard to translate Kingsolver’s experiences, too, since she has a huge garden to grow much of their own food, and I live in a third floor apartment in the city. She regularly points out the alternative for city dwellers, though—go to the farmer’s market. She also points out that making a few compromises to keep peace in the family (like continuing to drink coffee, and declaring grains local) does not invalidate the good in other local eating adventures.

She also makes some interesting points about meat-eating, and how meat that is pasture fed is healthier than meat that comes from a commercial feedlot. I am not planning on starting to eat meat any time soon, but I can see that if I do, I will definitely be searching out a local farm that treats its animals well.

This book gave me a lot to think about, even though I had already done some research into local eating. There were recipes, practical advice and some good ideas for how we can help spread a local food culture. This one is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A poll

I am wondering if people who are reading this are big readers or not, so I posted a poll over to the right. You can tell my bias to read lots by the choices! Please take a few seconds to answer the poll question. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Settling in again

One of the reasons I decided I wanted to blog here rather than continue at ParentsConnect is so I could add a cool LibraryThing widget to my blog, which I can't do on a corporate website blog. So, here it is now, on the right, with random books from my library. Isn't it cool?

I also changed the template and finally added something about me to my description. I don't know if anyone is reading this, but it is starting to feel more like home to me.

My Year in Reading, So Far

This is going to be super long.

I have been writing about the books I have been reading over on LibraryThing for a while now, and I decided I wanted to put that all here, too. I have read 44 books so far this year, so this is super long, but I plan on posting more manageable chunks from now on. I wrote these as posts on a message board, so it doesn't really flow as a single blog post, but I had enough to do with fixing the formatting, I didn't edit the content.

1. Going Postal: a novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

I always enjoy Pratchett books, they make me laugh. They aren't important or anything, but they are fun and quick reads.

2. She May Not Leave by Fay Weldon

I was really surprised by the ending to this book, which makes me fond of it; I love to be surprised. It was well done in that it seemed to be one story and ended up to be another one entirely, but it makes sense when you looked back.

3. Schrodinger's Ball: A Novel by Adam Felber

This was a very bizarre book. Again, I was surprised at the end, but that was partially because the book was so odd that it was difficult to have any idea what was going on. I really thought it hung together well at then end, but you have to be willing to go along with it to get there without knowing where you are going.

4. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Excellent book. I have read short stories by Lahiri before and loved them, so I was expecting this to be good, and it definitely was. I read this at the beginning of the year, and I still occasionally picture the opening scene in my head near the end of June. It was so well written I can actually see it. Beautiful book.

5. The End of the Game by Sheri S. Tepper

Interesting trilogy from early in Tepper's career. I think these were written for a YA market, but you can see a lot of themes that are present in her more recent adult novels. This was a quick read and interesting.

6. The True Game by Sheri S. Tepper

I had read this before, but it was in the same world as The End of the Game, so I thought I would read it again. Some of the stuff that happened in it were in the same timeframe, but from a different character's perspective.

7. Born In Death by J.D. Robb

I love this series. I like the characters and the mysteries are interesting. Fluff reading.

8. The Year's Best Science Fiction: 2005 edited by Gardner Dozois

Science Fiction has a big short story culture. It is easy to find a lot of short stories out there if you are looking at them. This collection is always a good read, I try to get it every year.

9. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

I like Jennifer Weiner. I started with her by reading Good In Bed, which was fabulous, so I am working my way through her other books now (I bought In Her Shoes last night). This one had a murder mystery involved, which I wasn't expecting (from Weiner--I did read the back of the book and know what it was about), but I love mysteries, so that was extra good for me. What I really love about Weiner in general, though, is the way she describes her characters and fleshes them out to be real people with a strange mix of insecurities and confidence. The ending wasn't easy, either, which is impressive in chick lit, at least to me.

10. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Great memoir. I was impressed with Kimmel's ability to tell a surface story and deeper story that is very different at the same time.

11. Innocent In Death by J. D. Robb

See #7

12. Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky

When a very white couple has a child with African-American features, they set out to learn the secrets of their family trees. Although they definitely encounter racism, the story is more about the secrets and self-identities that we may not even know we have. Very thought-provoking, but also easy to read. Excellent book.

13. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge

Loosly based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, this book is a fully realized world of it's own. It is very compelling and well-told.

14. A Canticle for Liebowitz by William M. Miller, Jr.

A science fiction classic. This book was kind of depressing, watching people make the same mistakes over a long period of time (post-apocalyptic), but it also shows humanity's will to survive.

15. Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next Novels) by Jasper Fforde

Clever, funny, mysterious. It combines nearly all the things I love--classic fiction, science fiction, mysteries, humor--into one book.

16. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

Sequel to above. Also great.

17. A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

Very interesting. A group of friends meets many years after they knew each other in high school for the wedding of two members. There is a mystery in the past, and there are a lot of unresolved issues that come up during the weekend. I really enjoyed this book.

18. The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy A. Pickard

Fascinating story of the lies we tell ourselves. The central crime takes place many years before the main story of the book, but that crime has continued to be the dominant influence on the characters' lives.

19. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson

Not as good as Case Histories: a novel, but still good.

20. Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Normally, I don't really read cookbooks. This one had enough information in addition to the recipes, along with clever recipe-intros, that I really did read it through like a novel. Plus, the recipes are really awesome!

21. The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper

One of my favorite books ever. I've read it before, and I would have been perfectly content to turn around and start reading it immediately after finishing it this time. Well-written, thought-provoking, just wonderful.

22. Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly by Jospeh Minton Amann and Tom Breuer

Great book! Very funny. Since I have read Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (and because I have a brain and a grandma who loves Bill O'Reilly, so I've had to watch him before), it didn't have anything surprising, but it's always nice to see the record set straight.

23. Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

Such a great book, I finished it in one day. Of course, this means I didn't get my bookshelves put together, but there is always tomorrow for that.

Edited to add:I wrote the above just after finishing this book, but upon reflection, this reflects my enthusiasm for the subject more than the actual book. Rodriquez is not a terribly reliable narrator, in that some of the choices she makes seem downright odd to me. It is difficult to know how much is interpretation and how much is fact. But, I am still glad I read this, as it gave me some insight into a culture that is so foreign to me.

24. The Children of Men by PD James

This was an excellent book. I wanted to read it because the movie was so incredibly good, and it didn't disappoint. I was really surprised at how much of the book was in the movie while at the same time the book and the movie were so different. The movie was very intense, and so was the book, but not in the same way. I heartily recommend both.

25. Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Excellent book. I should be packing for a move, but how can I when there are such excellent mysteries to read? I am diving right into the next one.

26. A Mind to Murder by P.D. James
27. Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson
28. Unnatural Causes by P.D. James

I love the P.D. James mysteries. They are clever, well-written, and satisfying. I want to buy more, and I know I will, even though my bookshelves are full (even with the two new ones!), and I still have books to put up--lots of them. I am running out of places to put books!The Eva Ibbotson book is the one I have been reading aloud to my daughter. It was a very clever book. If you have a child about 8-12, I really recommend this for a nice read aloud book that you will enjoy as well. We have a couple of other Ibbotson books as well, and I am looking forward to reading those soon.

29. The Fresco by Sheri S. Tepper

This was a re-read, but enough time has passed that I had pretty much forgotten it. It was good, and I loved the universe that it postulates, but I can see how it has a lot of preachiness, and if you don't agree with her positions, it would seem very heavy-handed. I do agree, though, so I liked it, but it isn't Tepper's best work (that's probably The Gate to Women's Country).Now I need to go finish moving my stuff from my old apartment. I will definitely need some quiet reading time later!

30. James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

I went camping for four days, and only managed to finish this on, and get about 400 pages into Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. Last year on vacation, I read 3 books, and one of them was Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is around 900 pages! Of course, last year we went from Saturday to Saturday, and this year it was Monday to Friday, and the Tiptree book was very dense. It was really fascinating, though. Alice Sheldon was an incredibly talented and complex person. It kind of scares me how much I recognize myself in her personality, given her hard life and the terrible end to it (she shot her husband and then herself). I really enjoyed the book a lot.

31. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee.

I really liked this book. It touched on a lot of themes that I find interesting, including immigrants, class, money, and finding out what you really want out of life. Also, whether the fact that you are good at something means you should do it, and how independent do you need to be from others to maintain your sense of self. I would definitely recommend this book.

32. The Visitor by Sheri S. Tepper.

This was good, but there was an awful lot of explanation at the end, especially about how to interpret what happened. It was a fascinating story, but I think you should be able to convey what happened in a book without explaining it to people. Still, I loved the book, but then, I agree with Tepper's world view. I still think The Gate to Women's Country is BY FAR her best book, though.

In between FFFM and The Visitor, I read about 200 pages of The United States of Arugula: How we became a gourmet nation by David Kamp. That was interesting, too, but not a particularly quick read. Or maybe it was just that I decided I had to read The Visitor, so I lost patience with it. I think I will come back to this one, but not yet.

33. Southern Discomfort by Rita Mae Brown

I really enjoyed this book. I like how the characters learn to get along and have real relationships while pretending to preserve the social order. I liked that the characters were not perfect, but they tried to live lives that meant something to themselves.

I am now reading Great Expectations. This edition is driving me crazy. First of all, I hate it when classics have an introduction. I didn't read this one, but these introductions invariably give away the whole book. Like people wouldn't want to read the book for, say, fun. Then, whoever did the footnoting of this book either thinks everyone who reads it is an idiot, or they actually hate Dickens. The notes are insultingly obvious--one section about a fight between Pip and another boy refers to the boy "seconding himself" with a footnote that this means "acting as his own second." The book is astonishingly easy to read and understand, and it's difficult to believe that anyone who really likes it would break it up with these insulting, highly distracting footnotes. I'm all for literary criticism, really, but it ought to be done outside of the book, and people who just want to read the book and enjoy it should be left to do so.Not that I feel strongly about it or anything ;-).

34. The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

I was doing well in Great Expectations. I liked the book, but I bought The Margarets early this week, and I just couldn't keep myself from reading it any longer. Tepper is one of my favorite authors, and I have been reading a lot of her lately anyway, so I was really itching to read the new book. I really enjoyed it, too. It was a little complicated, with one woman being split into seven alternate people, but they each had distinct personalities that made it easier to keep track. It was a really fascinating book, with only intermittent heavy-handedness. This book was similar to The Visitor, but much better at showing the end rather than degenerating into a chapters-long explanation. The explaining that did happen was interrupted by action, and everything was not explicitly lectured on. The explicit lecturing that did happen made sense within the story. I highly recommend this book.

As for Great Expectations, I don't know when I will get back to it. I bought some more P.D. James books tonight, and I dove right into Shroud for a Nightingale. Even when I really do like a book, interrupting a reading seems to take me away for a long time. I will probably get back to it, though, I want to read the end, although I pretty much know what happens.

35. Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James

I enjoyed this book, with it's themes of betrayal, and whether a person can really change. The mystery was fun, too. I admit, though, I like to be surprised, so I don't try really hard to figure these mysteries out. I enjoy the characters and the way James writes.

I am reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin now. Very good, and short--I'll finish it today.

36. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

Very thought-provoking and interesting book.

37. Parable of the Sower by Ocatavia E. Butler

Again with the thought-provoking dystopia. This one was much scarier than The Lathe of Heaven, with an easy-to-see future of hyper-inflation, lawlessness and a return to debt slavery to companies. Lots of death, very vivid. And, a bit preachy, but not in the normal way. Very good.

I am back to my lighter P.D. James series--An Unsuitable Job for a Woman this time. Good so far.

38. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman by P.D. James

I really enjoyed this book about a young woman who is taking on a detective agency. She is clever, but still convincingly young. The ending was very different than the Dalgleish books, which makes sense with a protaganist that is a private eye vs. a CID Commander. I was impressed with the way the book was different than the main series, but still interesting, and somewhat connected.

I ordered some more science fiction books from Amazon today, and I also went to the bookstore tonight. There is no hope for me, really; I will never read all that I have, since I keep buying more....

39. The Black Tower by P.D. James

I was a little bit worried about this one. Not too long ago, I read a bunch of Martha Grimes mysteries, 19 of them to be exact. The first 15 or so were good, but then her main character started to get a little broody, and then the stories got totally ridiculous and incomprehensible. This book began with Commander Dalgleish recovering from an illness thought to be worse than it actually was, and his subsequent half-formed decision to quit his job. Now, Inspector Jury in Ms. Grimes' books has been contemplating quitting his job for 4 or 5 books now, so this made me concerned. It all turned out well, though, and I really enjoyed this book.

I wish I had more P.D. James books on hand. But, I do have plenty of other things to read, so I am going to try to force myself to read some of those before I go out and buy still more books. Of course, I bought one book tonight, recommended on here. There is no hope for me....

40. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Fantastic book. I've seen this compared to The Historian, which I can sort of see, but I thought this was much, MUCH better. I cared about these characters, and the timeline was much shorter. The writing was just beautiful, and the mystery was a page turner. I figured out who was burning the books fairly early, but not why. This was a very satisfying read.

41. The Female Man by Joanna Russ

Oh, how I loved this book. It is a very angry book, but deadly accurate, and also such an interesting concept. I love the way she plays with the novel form, occasionally addressing the reader, and even addressing the book at the end. Just fascinating and wonderful.

42. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
43. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

I have been going back and reading classic science fiction that I have either missed or forgotten. I really liked these books, although of course they are tremendously sexist. Part of it is the contrast between these books and The Female Man, but part of it is that they are truly repulsive in some ways. First of all, the women all fall devotedly in love with the main characters, even when he treats them poorly. The self-sacrifice is revolting "Even if you don't really love me, even if it's only temporary, I'll take it and be happy just to spend the time with YOU." Gag. In TDM, the main love relationship, the one that works out, is between a woman who is regressed back to the infant stage, and the man who takes the place of her father. Even when she "grows up," he treats her like a child, but now one that is available for sex. In the second, teleportation means that anyone can move anywhere, and society considers it perfectly logical to respond to this by locking up all women except whores. A few exceptional women don't like it, but it doesn't generate any controversy; Bester states it baldly, as an obvious fact. Scary stuff.

On the other hand, the novels are fascinating in that Bester really thought through the consequences of widespread telepathy and teleportation on the world. I was really impressed with the non-obvious but totally logical societal changes he postulates. And the stories were definitely page turners, with a lot of action. No wasted words here.

Overall, I am glad I read them, but the total sexism has really haunted me. How can otherwise intelligent people think that infantilizing half of the population is a good idea in any way?

44. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

This was a fun and easy read. The themes were fairly serious (good vs. evil, free will, friendshitp, etc.), and the points made were thought out and semi-deep, but the writing was fun and the points were made with humor. I like Pratchett and Gaiman a lot, so I was expecting to like this, and I was not disappointed.