Category Archives: Reading

A Treasure

Perhaps I was thinking of Thoreau, in keeping with the A – Z Challenge, and today being the letter “T”, though I don’t think that Transcendentalism was in the trajectory of my thoughts this morning.  Although I can’t explain the origin, I had a notion that I would read an essay from a collection I have of Emerson’s writings. Having just done a reorganization of some of my bookshelves, I knew that I had my hands on this book within the last few weeks. Yet, I could not find it.

I started with the non-fiction piles — those books that have yet to make it on to a shelf — scanning the stacks quickly, looking for the thin, tan volume. I couldn’t recall what was written on the spine, although I could clearly picture the stamping of reddish-brown ferns on the covers. When I couldn’t locate it, I went to the fiction shelves, browsing the titles of thin books, skipping over the thick bound books in the case. I knew this book was only about 100 pages. I then wandered to the living room and the bedroom, thinking maybe I had carried this into another room. Not finding it, I went down into the basement where I found this book several weeks ago. Could I have left it down there? I wondered.

When I didn’t locate it, I went back to my office to look again, this time touching each volume in the stacks, carefully reading the titles. Don’t panic! I kept telling myself. Even if you put it in the piles of books to discard, they are still in boxes you have in your possession. They haven’t left the house. It is here somewhere.

While I might get upset if I’ve misplaced something and it bothers me when I can’t remember the location, I don’t get too upset for long over something that is replaceable, such as a book of essays. Each of these essays is likely available in half a dozen formats on the internet — for free. But, this is not an ordinary book.

Back in my mid-20’s, when I was flailing around in the seas of adulthood, trying to figure out how I would swim when I grew up — and slightly embarrassed that all of my college friends who had gone to get their JDs or MBAs seemed to have everything worked out so neatly — I worked for a time as secretary at a local college, administrative assistant to the chairs of the English Department and the University Writing Program. It really was a shit job: demanding prima donnas, pompous asses, and a few pricks. Think of the sexism of Sterling Cooper Draper Price, 20 years later, with less class. A few people would remind me from time to time that I was too smart to be working there, but, at a time of a recession similar to today’s, there were not a lot of options. Although there were some good, kind people who I worked with, most seemed to not notice that they didn’t have to expend much effort to make sure that there was a distinction — a wide gulf —  between the worker bees (which included the non-tenured instructors) and the professors. You could chat for a few minutes at the coffee station over a work of fiction, but then it was back to the boiler room to crank out more mimeos, with all of the professors’ grammatical errors and misspellings corrected, before they met with students that afternoon.

But Ray was different. He was a tenured professor, nearing retirement, who cared about everyone. He would often come into my office (a closet really) when I would go to lunch so that he could type his handouts on his own. He would greet me warmly each morning, sometimes asking if I had difficulties driving into town in the snow. He never complained about the weather, though I sometimes did. It was months before I realized that he did not drive and walked a few miles on either end of the bus line to get to campus. Sometimes he would talk to me about what he was teaching in his grammar and linguistics classes — not to teach me something but to share something that he found interesting. And he listened to what I would say in response to what he was sharing. He assumed that I had a life outside of the office that did not involve operating an IBM Selectric, and although he didn’t ask questions about my life that could be misconstrued as prying, he did acknowledge and ask about my interests.

One day, Ray walked into my office with a poorly wrapped package. This, he said, if for you. With thanks.  He awkwardly handed me the package.  He added: My favorite is the essay on friendship. The book was old, a handwritten name and date on the inside:  6-Aug-44.  I took it gratefully, happy that he would think to give me a book that he had had for a number of years.

I came across the book a few weeks ago, in a bookcase in our basement and placed it in the bookcase where I finally located it this afternoon.  The binding is loose; although still intact, the outer board along the spine has cracked and fallen off. The pages are yellowed and the deckle edge is worn.  Age spots are on some pages.  I have every reason to believe that I read at least parts of it when Ray gave it to me, though in re-reading On Friendship and On Nature this evening, I can’t recall what  I thought about them when I was 24.  I’m sure that much of what Emerson writes is interpreted much differently through the filter of age, so much that I am now doubtful that I enjoyed the essays then, much less saw the wisdom contained in them.

When I opened the book recently, I found a card with the following inscription:

For Anne,
Nchle Secretary
Nice Person
Sec’y & Person
– Ray

I don’t remember reading that before, but I’m sure that I had.  I’ve placed it back in the book, at the start of the essay On Friendship.  I moved on from that job after about 18 months and I lost track of Ray.  I googled his name this evening.   He died in 2002 at the age of 80.  I learned from his obituary that the name in the book was his first wife, who had died years before.  He was widowed a second time and apparently had no children.  But his memory will live on in the lives of the many students he taught, and people he met, the friends he surely had.   And me, especially when I come across this book on my bookshelves.  According to the internet, similar copies to this book sell for around $10, but, to me, it is a priceless treasure.

From On Friendship:

We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken.  Maugre all the selfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether.  How many persons we meet in houses, who we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor, and who honor us!  How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with!  Read the language of these wandering eye-beams.  The heart knoweth.

The effect of the indulgence of this human affection is a certain cordial exhilaration.  In poetry and in common speech the emotions of benevolence and complacency which are felt towards others are likened to the material effects of fire; so swift, or much more swift, more active, more cheering, are these fine inward irradiations.  From the highest degree of passionate love to the lowest degree of good-will, they make the sweetness of life.

This post is part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is T. Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. You can find other A to Z participants by clicking on the graphic. You’ll find an index of all of my A to Z blog posts here.

What to read: Road Trip Edition

I have several hours in the car ahead of me on Monday. The best way that I know of to make a long trip when you are driving by yourself go quickly is to listen to an audio book. So, I decided to see what audio books the library might have.

I had a brief hope that the library branch I went to would have a copy of George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Unfortunately, it was not available. So, I spent 30 minutes I didn’t have to spare today searching for something else to take with me.

There were plenty of “Great Courses”, but I thought that all of those were likely candidates to either put me to sleep (not good, Driver!) or would be better suited for something with video (understanding geometry without any visuals?). There were several discs that would retell most of Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps a good option, but again, unless it was originally decided for audio-only, I can’t imagine “listening” to a play. The sci-fi audio books had their own 2 shelves worth; the mystery audio books was the largest section, stretching on for several shelves and bookcases.

I eliminated anything that was more than 10 hours. I figure that I wouldn’t find be likely to listen to anything more than that. I should only finish about 8 hours worth, unless there is some colossal traffic jam on 80/94. Another hour or two I would be able to find time for. But there were some audio books that were 24 – 30 hours long. I rarely am in my car for trips longer than 10 minutes, and I don’t think that I’d have the patience to sit on my sofa while someone read to me for any length of time.

What did I settle upon? I checked out three audio books:

1. Washington Square, Henry James. Why? Because it’s James! And I’ve never read it before.

2. The Dubliners, James Joyce. Selection criteria: contains two of the best short stories ever: “Araby” and “The Dead”. Actually, “Araby”, though a great story, doesn’t come close to “The Dead”. Few short stories do.

3. Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. How did this make its way from shelf to bar code scanner to my car? I’ve been thinking a lot about how people reinvent themselves. I’ve heard and read a lot on the Internets recently about the current recession causing people to find new careers paths. While my current reasons for not working are not related to the recession, I find myself at a crossroads wondering where I will head next. A book about retirees who have forged second or third careers seemed timely.

Who knows what kind of mood I will be in as I drive? Whatever it is, the mood will determine which of these I will listen to. One thing I do know: if I don’t get to bed soon, I will not be keeping to my timetable.

Booking Through Thursday: E-volution

Booking Through Thursday: E-readers vs. Physical books.

I bought an iPad in June, 2010. It is my constant companion; email, search, facebook, photos, reading The New Yorker, the New York Times and other news media, watching movies, listening to music, taking notes, navigation, calculator, shopping lists, procrastination tools (e.g., games): there are apps for all those and I have and use all of them.

But, I was reluctant, at first, to download the Kindle app. I just wasn’t convinced that reading — although I had been reading other things online for years — would be the same experience.

I took a Journalism class in the future of media when I was in college, way back in 1979. I recall reading the book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, by Jerry Mander and having lengthy discussions on whether we would eventually be reading newspapers on computers. Few of us in the class could foresee such a future. To us, computers were the large mainframe computers in the labs, or large typesetting machines with blurry, amber glowing text displayed on monitors the size of a desktop. Even envisioning a computer as being something akin to a television that you would use to read was preposterous. Even those who didn’t agree with Mather’s thesis that television would be the end of civilization as we know it, agreed that reading “on computers” was an evil that we didn’t think we catch on.

“I like the feel of a newspaper, being able to fold it over and read an article. To take it with me anywhere”. That was the sentiment of the majority of the class, and I agreed with it.

About eight years ago, I stopped subscribing to our local paper when it was sold to a national outfit that produced thin papers and thinner copy. Not fit to wrap day-old fish in? It wasn’t even worth my while to walk to the end of the driveway each morning if I had had day-old fish. Besides, even with a clunky interface, the online edition was much more up-to-date.

But, I couldn’t imagine that the online news experience could carry over to my pleasure reading. How could I enjoy reading if I didn’t have that smell of paper, the tactile feel of a book, the ability to hear the spine give just slightly as I opened it for the first time? What would I do if there were graphs or photographs, even if only a headshot of the author in a pretentious author pose? How would I find books if everything was electronic and there were no bookstore shelves to peruse?

Eventually, however, at a point where I needed a book immediately and didn’t want to pay for the expedited shipping, I caved, downloaded the Kindle app and began reading.

You know what? The world didn’t stop turning on its axis. Printing presses didn’t stop churning out books immediately. My reading experience wasn’t hampered in any way. In fact, it was enhanced: I could now look up words without having a heavy dictionary nearby; I could mark passages and write notes that I could easily find for later reference; I didn’t find it annoying that I had to swipe my finger across the screen at the end of every page. I found that I finished a few books — ones I had not realized were greater than 500 pages in print — in a record time for me, a notoriously slow reader often discouraged by lengthy tomes. I no longer had to worry that my book weight would put my luggage over the limits at the airport, nor did I need to worry that I wouldn’t have a book that I wanted to read but had left at home. In short, ebooks did not have a negative impact on my reading. And you know what? Sometimes the old books are musty smelling, and, after too much wear, the spines fall apart and you need rubber bands to hold the book together before you reach the final pages.

I still like physical books, and, although I’ve bought fewer this year, I’m waiting for some bookcases to go on sale. (Gotta love that law of supply & demand!) My son recently told me that under no circumstances was I ever to buy him a Kindle. “I’m not reading a book on a little screen. I want to go to bookstores, like the Strand*, and I won’t contribute to their demise, won’t do in my favorite past-time.” He does have a point, but I’m hoping that bookstores, both new and used, chain and independents, find a way to adapt. I want lots of choices, but I don’t think that bookstores have to be bricks and mortar any more than books need to be paper and ink.

So, what do I see as a major drawback to an ebook rather than an physical book? When I’ve been reading while lying on the sofa or in bed and I fall asleep, with a physical book I’m less likely to have a slight bruise or bump on my forehead when I wake up. Dropping an iPad on your head can hurt! But when reading an ebook, I am more likely to know exactly where I stopped reading.

*Both B & I agree, Strand Books is the most awesome bookstore. So awesome that the word ‘awesome’ doesn’t really describe it!

Book Dilemma

For more than a few years, I have had a running feud with my local library. Really, it was a one-sided feud, but it did keep me from checking out any books for a long, long time. I bought a lot of books during that time, but not enough to keep Borders in business.

Recently, I decided that my feud was a bit silly, and that I really should start using the public library more often. So, a few months ago, despite my reluctance to show my face at the library, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and went to talk to the stern librarian.

I need a new card, I told her politely, handing her my driver’s license and another proof of residency.

She looked up my name. We have a problem. You’ll have to talk to… and she muttered some unintelligible name.

What do I have to do to talk to her? I said, guessing that Muttered Name was feminine.

I got an odd look from her. Just stay here. You have several fines. She turned and walked into the small office behind the circulation desk.

I looked toward the door. I wondered if there were librarian apprentices ready to pour hot oil on me if I tried to escape. Not that the modern automatic doors looked anything like a portcullis, but I’m sure that there were at least a few books in that library that taught me about hot oil, portcullises, and stern librarians, though I doubt all at once.

A second librarian came out. She looked at me and my driver’s license and scanned the computer.

You can’t have another card until you pay your fine. That will be $36.10.

Maybe that feud wasn’t so one-sided.

I tried to keep my cool. Could you please tell me what those fines are for? I thought I had cleared all my fines before I decided to not darken the door of the library again.

There was a book that you never returned.

Yes, it was a book about glassblowers in New Bedford, Massachusetts in the 1890s. Lost.

She looked at me. Yes, it was. You have a good memory. $36.10 is the total.

So does the library, I thought.

I paid for the book — twice. I thought that after five years perhaps you had finally updated your books. I looked towards the stacks quickly and then added: Your receivables books, I mean.

I paid the library, and then they referred it to a collection agency. I wasn’t very happy with the runaround I got trying to work that out. Eventually I just gave up. That was about five years ago.

Seven years ago, she corrected me.

I paid the credit agency. Really, $25 gets you referred to a credit agency? And I had paid! I didn’t want that on my report, but I really don’t like it that I already paid $50 for that book. Guess I’ll have to wait another seven years?

She looked at me. Then, she looked at the computer.

The book wasn’t even suppose to be on the stacks. It had a discard notice in it when I checked it out. It hadn’t been out of the library for years.

I thought about adding “Maybe even centuries” but I didn’t think that this woman had much of a sense of humor.

I don’t know why it would have been on the shelves then.

Hmmm…because someone made a mistake, I thought. Don’t you think they happen here?

I kept my mouth shut and took a deep breath, which came out more like an exasperated sigh.

(Okay. Okay. It was an exasperated sigh!)

What’s the extra charge?

A charge for referring you to the credit agency.

She stood looking at the computer screen for another minute.

Well, what can we do to resolve this? Please give me the number of someone who can help me at the main branch. I’d like to use this library that I pay lots of taxes for. My voice was starting to quiver and I knew I was standing on the corner of Mean and Smart-Ass.

I have to charge you the $10 agency fee. I don’t have the authority to dismiss that. I’ll mark the book as ‘Lost’. So, $11.10.

What’s the $1.10?

Another late charge. Book returned.

I vaguely remembered the book. It was something read for Book Club. I paid the reduced fine, got my new card, updated my library web access and email, and looked moronic as I tried to figure out how to use the barcode scanner. Apparently the library now has clerks stand there and watch you check the books out, one at each self-serve scanner.

I’ve been back a few times since, feeding my book hunger. Today I received a notice that three books that I’ve had on hold had arrived. When I looked on the hold shelf (because the librarians and clerks don’t keep those behind the desk now either) I discovered that 11 of my hold requests had arrived. I should have brought a bag. One had not been checked out of the central library in decades and sported a check out card that looked like the kind used when I was a child.

Now my dilemma: Which of these do I read first? I’ve narrowed it down to four:

Just Kids, Patti Smith. I’ve been wanting to read this for months!
The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls. My November Book Club book. I think the person who selected this is going to hate it.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz. I heard Diaz speak at a panel discussion at the New Yorker Festival a few weeks ago. Later that same weekend I was having dinner with friends. The book got one thumbs up, one thumbs down, and one person gave a mixed review, but added that I would love it.
Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez. The lovely Anne Fernald posted something from the Kindle version of this book to FB recently. I think it sounds intriguing.

Two novels, two memoirs. I hope it will be a busy reading weekend.

Suggestions needed

I have started tutoring a 4th grade student in reading. I’ve only met with the student once, and I haven’t received any information yet from his teacher. All of the students in this tutoring program are suppose to be at least one grade level behind. In our initial meeting, from talking to him, it didn’t seem like he was. No matter, I think he could benefit from some one-on-one time.

During our session he said that he hated school, didn’t like to ‘write’, but liked telling stories. He also likes space. He also said that his favorite book was about the controversy over whether Pluto was a planet or not.

I’ve looked through all of the leveled books available to the tutors that have anything to do with space. Really? No wonder kids don’t like to read if these are the choices available to them. I thought they were really boring. So…..

What I’d like to do is to read a sci-fi book with him. I need something that isn’t too difficult, but will capture his attention. And it needs to have a space theme. The first thing that came to mind was something by Jules Verne. Although I haven’t read much by him — and not for several decades — I’m wondering if this might be a good choice.

Come on all of you librarians and teachers out there. What could I read with this bright boy who is neither a good student or reader. At least, by how the school system measures those things.

I’m not knocking testing and measurement — those things are important and this boy needs to catch up with his peers if he wants to be a success. We’ll meet weekly for one hour throughout the school year. I refuse to believe that we can’t find something that will help this young man.

What I’m reading now

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief.
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing; what of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What is her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!

Not easy to read that and not think that one could ever write anything even close to lovely as that!

>Errant Blogger Returns

>Hi everybody, if there’s anybody still out there reading this. Been absent for a few weeks due to an underwhelming enthusiasm for writing anything.

Been so unenthusiastic about even logging in, that I never posted who won the little give-away that I did on 5/28. How’s that for being a really bad blogger? Three of you answered — Emily, Bloglily, and the blogger formerly known as Chief Biscuit now using her IRL name, Kay. (BTW, Kay has changed the name of her blog to Made for Weather, which is also the title of her most recently published book of poetry.)

None of you guessed the right answer, though Lily was closest: I thought Jonathan Strange would be cool for those reasons and gifted it to my son who thought 800 pages!. And so it sits unread. Since you each responded, you each win. Send me your postal address and I’ll send you a little bookish surprise. Emily — I have your address and will send with the book I promised (Rosalind Franklin and DNA) to you soon.

The answer? Stevenson’s Treasure Island was a holiday gift meant to be read with my husband’s grandson, but he was more interested in my son’s Harry Potter book. That was when he was just learning to read, and longer ago than I’d like to admit. Not only has he now read for years, last year’s gift was Michael Chabon’s book Summerland. Sigh! I think he is too old now to think that Treasure Island is a cool book, even though it has pirates in it.

I don’t think that there is any one reason why people have books they haven’t read. I think most bibliophiles have so many unread books because we always are reading at least one and always on the look out for something to read in the future. As if we were squirrels storing up nuts for the winter, we stock books on our shelves lest we not run out of something to read.

While I haven’t been posting here, I have been reading and have finished 4 books in the last 2 weeks. Escape by Carolyn Jessop, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, and Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon.

The last two were books I read for book groups I’m in. I’ve been intending to write about book groups for some time, so maybe there will be such a post here soon. Escape was a book I couldn’t put down and stayed up until 5am one Saturday night/Sunday morning to finish. I’ve thought much about the Texas CPS/YFZ issue since April and, while I in no way support the cult’s treatment of women and children or their bizarre beliefs, I was uneasy with how the State Government of Texas went into the YFZ Ranch and placed all of the children in protective custody. It seemed to me that it was more about the state not sanctioning the cult’s polygamist beliefs. But, after reading Jessop’s book about life in the FLDS, I’ve had to rethink my positions.

Currently, I’m trying to plow through Earth Community, Earth Ethics as part of the EcoJustice Challenge. I’ll write about that when I finish, either here or at the challenge site. And, I found Gilgamesh stuck under the seat of my car and started to read it while waiting for a store to open during a heavy downpour. I’m completely taken by the first lines.

So, it’s not like I don’t have anything to write about. I intend to be here more regularly. Hope you’ll stop by again.

In the meantime, here is a picture I took last night during a sudden 10-minute hail storm. I’m lucky that I haven’t been flooded out, but I am so tired with all this rain!

>Presidential Reading Recommendations

>In today’s New York Times, several authors were asked to recommend books to the 3 current Presidential contenders. Michael Pollan’s recommendations are pertinent to anyone concerned about the environment and justice issues:

I would urge the three presidential candidates to read — or reread — two books from the 1970s that could help them confront the deepening (and now deeply intertwined) problem of our food and energy economies. Long before either climate change or the obesity epidemic were on the national scope, Wendell Berry’s “Unsettling of America” made the case for a way of life and a kind of agriculture that might have averted both — and could still make an important contribution to solving these problems. In “Diet for a Small Planet,” Frances Moore Lappé shone a light on the wastefulness and environmental costs of meat-eating, predicting that humanity’s growing appetite for meat would lead to hunger for the world’s poor. Together these two visionary writers — who fell out of favor during the cheap-food and cheap-energy years that began in the ’80s and are just now coming to a calamitous close — still have much to say about the way out of our current predicament.

As a lover of literature, I enjoyed Gary Wills recommendations the most. Can one ever go wrong with Samuel Johnson, regardless of the era or political crisis of the day? (See page two of the article).

You can read the entire article — including recommendations from a diverse group of writers such as Junot Diaz, Barbara Kingsolver, Scott Turow, John Irving, Steven Pinker, and a most succinct response from Gore Vidal — here.

Cross-posted at EcoJustice08.

>My obnoxious take on a meme

>Because I’m in a contrary mood and in the middle of a bought of insomnia right now I think all memes that are I did/I haven’t/I never will lists are obnoxious. So here’s my take on possible reasons why these books are the most ‘unread’ on LibraryThing. There’s a prize in this box of cracker jacks. Read on.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell The talking statues of Yorkminster? Magic? 800 pages?
Anna Karenina Likes trains, but not manic-depressive Russian housewives.
Crime and Punishment Thought it was written by Bush staffer responsible for throwing out habeas corpus.
Catch-22 Wanted to understand the cliche but realized reading the book would be one.
One Hundred Years of Solitude Thought it was a self-help book for the overworked needing to unplug
Wuthering Heights Cathy! Cathy!
The Silmarillion Thought similar to LOTR
Life of Pi : a novel Secondary source for research paper proving that 3.14159 = 3.243F6A8885A308D31319…
The Name of the Rose A rose by any other name…
Don Quixote Liked the musical Man of La Mancha
Moby Dick Likes to fish.
Ulysses Purchased by confused Freshman who mixed up Joyce & Homer.
Madame Bovary Soft core.
The Odyssey Bought before realized could pass the class without reading.
Pride and Prejudice Wannabe Austen Fan.
Jane Eyre Seeking lost inner teenage girl.
A Tale of Two Cities Travel guide?
The Brothers Karamazov Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Guns, Germs, and Steel On the NYT Bestseller list. Bought for Christmas for unlikeable relative. Regifted ugly sweater instead.
War and Peace Trying to look well educated or well-toned (well-tomed or well-toned?).
Vanity Fair Thought it was special edition of the magazine.
The Time Traveler’s Wife Book Club, never read.
The Iliad For Freshman Humanities class. Couldn’t sell at used book store.
Emma Wannabe Austen fan.
The Blind Assassin Thought it was Robert Ludlum novel.
The Kite Runner No excuse.
Mrs. Dalloway To impress a cute girl.
Great Expectations To impress a cute grad assistant.
American Gods To impress a cute boy. Because Neil Gaimen is cool.
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Couldn’t resist the title, but found out it was about death, and raising a kid, and growing up.
Atlas Shrugged Could there be any other reason for thinking about reading Rand other than teenage angst?
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books Trying to look hip & PC.
Memoirs of a Geisha Missed the movie but wanted cocktail party chatter fodder.
Middlesex Confused by the title.
Quicksilver Impulse buy. No idea about the book.
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West Hey, if it’s a musical with that short woman with a great voice, then the book must be good, right?
The Canterbury Tales Eager Freshman. Thought had to read all in Old English.
The Historian : a novel Brief faux-Goth stage.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Wanting intellectual sounding book on shelf.
Love in the Time of Cholera Thinking about being a doctor.
Brave New World Confused it with 1984.
The Fountainhead Could there be any other reason for thinking about reading Rand other than teenage angst?
Foucault’s Pendulum Wanting to learn about echo and other things about physics.
Middlemarch Wannabe Austen fan.
Frankenstein Disappointed that it wasn’t by Mel Brooks.
The Count of Monte Cristo Trying to reclaim childhood.
Dracula Came with set of wax lips. Give-away during local station’s late night horror movie marathon.
A Clockwork Orange Because the movie was rated X.
Anansi Boys To impress a cute boy. And because Gaimen is cool!
The Once and Future King If over 45: Loved Camelot. If under 45: Loved Spamalot.
The Grapes of Wrath Thought it’d make you well-read.
The Poisonwood Bible Liked Kingsolver’s other books.
1984 Confused it with Brave New World.
Angels & Demons Couldn’t find copy of DaVinci Code during it’s popular phase. Book club read. Never finished.
Inferno Confused with Fahrenheit 451.
The Satanic Verses Looking for incantations.
Sense and Sensibility Wannabe Austen fan.
The Picture of Dorian Gray Thought Dorian was a cute girl.
Mansfield Park Wannabe Austen Fan.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
To the Lighthouse Wanted to not look stupid with the in-crowd of Women’s Studies students.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles Wanted to be with the in-crowd of Women’s Studies students.
Oliver Twist Didn’t realize that A Christmas Carol was uncharacteristically short for Dickens. And a much better theatrical production.
Gulliver’s Travels Google employee who likes horses trying to understand origins of Yahoo.
Les Misérables Manic-depressive reader.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Tired of graphic novels.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Book club read. Read first and last chapter.
Dune Because all of the cool geeky people were reading it between games of D&D.
The Prince Wannabe poli-sci major.
The Sound and the Fury Anger management.
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir Book club read. Didn’t get past children dying in first few pages.
The God of Small Things Totally confused.
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present Looking for cliff-notes.
Cryptonomicon ?
Neverwhere To impress a cute boy or girl. And, because Gaimen is cool!
A Confederacy of Dunces Felt sorry for Toole’s mother.
A Short History of Nearly Everything Looking for cliff-notes.
Dubliners Thought it was about drinking games.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Liked anti-grav boots.
Beloved Liked Toni Morrison. Liked Toni Morrison’s hair. Liked Oprah.
Slaughterhouse-Five Thought Vonnegut only wrote sci-fi comedy.
The Scarlet Letter High School Student afraid of not graduating heard there was a secret “mistake” in Cliff Notes only teachers knew so actually tried to read book.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves Thought it was a Rachel Ray “Oh Yum Vegan Delights” Cookbook.
The Mists of Avalon See Once & Future King. Girl version.
Oryx and Crake ?
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed Received as Hanukkah gift from depressive cousin.
Cloud Atlas Received as gift from relative who heard you wanted to be a pilot.
The Confusion A moment of clarity in the bookstore.
Lolita Because of renowned creepiness of Humbert Humbert.
Persuasion Wannabe Austen Fan.
Northanger Abbey Wannabe Austen Fan.
The Catcher in the Rye No angry young teen street cred without this on your shelf.
On the Road No rock-n-roll street cred without this on your shelf.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame Likes UND.
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything Another Christmas-Hanukkah gift.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values For those angst-filled teens too cool to read Ayn Rand.
The Aeneid Companion to Ulysses and Odyssey
Watership Down Because bunnies are cute and reading Peter Rabbit after age 7 isn’t.
Gravity’s Rainbow Gift from stoner boyfriend.
The Hobbit Gift from stoner girlfriend
In Cold Blood Bought during Realism phase.
White Teeth ???
Treasure Island Bought to read with Grandson.
David Copperfield Bio of the magician?

Guess which one of these is true for me and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a fabulous prize (on Sunday around noon Eastern time). There may be more than one possible correct answer. There may be more than one incorrect answer. Will draw a name from all correct guesses. And maybe will include answers that amuse me. Or maybe everybody who comments. Depends on my mood. No real written rules. No idea yet what the fabulous prize will be, but you won’t want to miss entering this giveaway! After all, don’t you have room for more unread books on your shelves?

18 Not read (yet)
27 Read
9 Started reading but couldn’t finish
54 I’ve never owned, checked from library, thought about buying

>Telling Stories

>I came across this quotation today, attributed to Madeleine L’Engle:

On why anyone tells a story: It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.

A fine, fair statement about why we tell stories, why we read stories, why stories in all different possible forms, are part of our nature, and have been since before we started drawing on the cave walls.