Discussion: How to Choose Your Next Read
2 hours ago
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; —
This it is, and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"— here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" —
Merely this, and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; —
'Tis the wind and nothing more."
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."
"By weathering major life shifts and learning how to thrive in evolving professional and personal situations, this generation [born 1945-1955] redefined middle age as a time of continued growth and transition. Women of all ages have now come to accept transition and personal change as integral parts of life."That quote is from page 88 of The Women who Broke All the Rules: How the Choices of a Generation Changed Our Lives by Susan B. Evans and Joan P. Avis, 1999. I considered segueing into a second book review, right here in the middle of this post, but I'll restrain myself and write this one later.
"Mom, don't you have homework or something? I'll watch the brownies."
So I let him take over my brownies and went off to do my homework. The hardest part about bringing up your kids to be strong and independent was that then you had to let them be.
Yes, this one is unfortunately a true story, written by a brave little girl (with the help of Delphine Minoui). Nujood had the courage to show up in a court of law to find out how she could divorce the man her father had -- I'm looking for a good word here, since she was too young to understand marriage -- let's say her father sold her to the old man, who promised to wait, but didn't. She got out of the terrible situation, as you can see by the title. In the Epilogue, Delphine Minoui wrote: "On November 10, 2008, in New York City, the youngest divorcee in the world has just been named a Woman of the Year by Glamour. With all the gravitas of her ten years, she shares this unexpected honor with the film star Nicole Kidman, the American secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, and Senator Hillary Clinton, among others" (p. 169). Rated: 8 of 10.Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change ~ by Elizabeth Kolbert, 2006
"I talked to an Inuit hunter named John Keogak, who lives on Bank Island, in Canada's Northwest Territories, some five hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. He told me that he and his fellow hunters had started to notice that the climate was changing in the mid-eighties. Then, a few years ago, for the first time, people began to see robins, a bird for which the Inuit in his region have no word" (p. 64).
In Iceland: "A raw wind came up, and I started to head down. Then I thought about what Sigurdsson had told me. If I returned in another decade, the glacier would probably no longer be visible from the ridge where I was standing. So I climbed back up to take another look" (p. 66). Rated: 9 of 10.
I read this one in 1979 or 1980, shortly after it was published. And I've already reviewed it. Rated: 10 of 10, even on this re-read.The fiction I think I'll remember:
The one YA book on this list is the best book I've ever read about the draft during the Vietnam War and how the young men (boys, really, unable to vote) felt about fleeing to Canada or dying without being able to vote on the issue. My library's summary: "Three teenaged cousins worry about their uncle who is missing in Vietnam, their brothers -- the one who was drafted and the two who are dodging the draft, and the effects of their absence on the four generations gathered at the family farm in the summer of 1965." Rated: 8 of 10.Look Again ~ by Lisa Scottoline, 2009
The beginning of chapter one: "Ellen Gleeson was unlocking her front door when something in the mail caught her attention. It was a white card with photos of missing children, and one of the little boys looked oddly like her son." How would that make you feel, especially if your child was adopted? My favorite quote from the book, which I read straight through, like a thriller, turns the question around as the character considers the woman her father had married:Every Last One ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2010
"She had come to love Barbara, who wisely hadn't tried to replace her mother, because no one could. But somewhere along the line, she had opened her mind to the possibility that if you could love a child no matter how he came to you, then you could also love a mother, no matter how she came to you" (p. 371).
From an author interview: "...the novel really raises the question: Who does this child ultimately belong to? Is it either parent? Or is it actually, in the end, the child himself?" Rated: 9 of 10.
Every Last One is already slipping from memory, unlike Quindlen's One True Thing, which I think is excellent. The one long quote I copied from this book is also a spoiler, so I can't share the whole thing. But (as a teaser) I'll give you the last sentence of that quote: "Every last one," says a different voice (p. 155). And that's where the title comes from. Rated: 8 of 10.
The Cougar Club is pure fluff, and I only finished it because I won it during Dewey's Read-a-Thon, paired with another book (which was worth winning). I even debated whether I wanted to include it on my list of Summer Reading that the librarians would see! Not my kind of book. Do you know what a "cougar" is? I didn't know it's a woman who dates (or more exactly, sleeps with) a much younger man. No review because it would be such a pitiful report. Rated: "nah."The Smoke Jumper ~ by Nicholas Evans, 2001
I mostly enjoyed The Smoke Jumper while reading it, but it's forgettable. An average kind of story, maybe a beach read. It's for folks who like action, as in jumping out of planes into the middle of a forest fire. I can't really get excited enough to tell you more than that. Rated: "nah."Shanghai Girls ~ by Lisa See, 2009
Shanghai Girls is pretty good, but I liked Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan more. I took notes because I read this book with both my face-to-face book club and with my online Book Buddies (click that link for more), but not a lot of notes. I learned about Angel Island, the West coast equivalent of Ellis Island in New York. Rated: 7 of 10.
I really liked The Road Taken while reading it, but I'd be hard pressed (already) to tell you much about the book. In the very last sentence, Rose thinks: "She wanted to tell them about her rich and vivid and vanished world before it was too late, before she was gone, before it was all forgotten" (p. 388). Oops! I've already forgotten nearly everything I read about Rose's world, which pretty much covered the whole twentieth century. The best of the quotes I wrote out comes from when Rose was ten years old: "God killed her. In order to 'take' her he had to kill her. I'm not so stupid as not to know that. Of course she could never tell anyone how she felt; you were supposed to love God, even when he killed your mother" (p. 4). Rated: 7 of 10.
Same with Two Rivers, which I thought was great as I was reading it, but now I have forgotten details. A train derails into a river; a girl named Marguerite shows up, presumably from the train wreck. She's taken in by the main character, who works for the railroad. The book is easy to read, and I finished thinking the "two rivers" were a metaphor for two strands in the book. I wrote a teaser about Shelly's essay on Lincoln. Here she is again: "Shelly set her utensils down, pressed her palms together, and closed her eyes. 'Father, bless the food we take, and bless us all for Jesus' sake. Amen.' ... Marguerite leaned over to her and said, 'At my house we say, 'For bacon, eggs and buttered toast, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost'" (p. 56). Rated: 7 of 10.
This one has a premise that is unforgettable -- that Jesus had a twin, nicknamed Christ, who wrote down the things Jesus said. But the story wasn't all that good. I'll share a quote, where Jesus is praying:"'Lord, if I thought you were listening, I'd pray for this above all: that any church set up in your name should remain poor, and powerless, and modest. That it should wield no authority except that of love. That it should never cast anyone out. That it should own no property and make no laws. That it should not condemn, but only forgive" (p. 199).
Interesting idea, but boring presentation. Rated: "nah."Daughter of God ~ by Lewis Perdue, 2000
Oops! Daughter of God was so forgettable that it didn't even make the list (in my response to Helen's question). Thrillers do that to me. They are interesting while I'm reading, but don't really make me think. From the dustjacket: "The Vatican has lost its most closely held secret -- a secret whose exposure could shatter the very foundations of Western religion..." Blah-blah-blah. The secret is "proof of a female Messiah named Sophia." It sounds like something I'd remember, huh? But this is no challenge to the Da Vinci Code. Rated: "nah."When I realized this "report" to Helen was like a bunch of mini-reviews, I decided to post them that way, as mini-reviews. Hope you like this way of covering a baker's dozen I've read recently.
The Story of EuclidAnd he tells stories about lots of other things, like the geometry of taxation, the origin of latitude and longitude, the curved space revolution, relativity's other Albert, the weird revolution. Just before the epilogue, he closes with "The Theory Formerly Known as Strings." What? I'm just beginning to get string theory, and he's changing everything? What I've read so far, as I said above, is fascinating. I'll try really hard to get around to a review of this one when I finish reading it.
The Story of Descartes
The Story of Gauss
The Story of Einstein
The Story of Witten
"As a child, she was asked to publicly humiliate a teacher; at seventeen, she was sent to work at a labor collective. Forbidden to speak, dress, read, write, or love as she pleased, she found a lifeline in a secret love affair with another woman. Miraculously selected for the film version of one of Madame Mao’s political operas, Min’s life changed overnight. Then Chairman Mao suddenly died, taking with him an entire world."I've read several books by John Shelby Spong, but not this one. I ran across Liberating the Gospels (1996) when I was at the bookstore with my friend Donna the other day. The subtitle is "Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes." Since I'm working on the course I'll be teaching on "Seven Gospels," I figured it was right up my alley. Spong says the Gospels are thoroughly Jewish texts. The online synopsis says:
"Spong powerfully argues that many of the key Gospel accounts of events in the life of Jesus—from the stories of his birth to his physical resurrection—are not literally true. He offers convincing evidence that the Gospels are a collection of Jewish midrashic stories written to convey the significance of Jesus."I've already told you I'm reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009). This book is one Donna bought new and decided to let me read first. She knows how impressed I am by this author's writing.
"When school started, she looked right through me in the halls, her new friends draped around her neck like Mardi Gras necklaces. She wiped me off the face of her existence" (p. 11).
"Cassie's at the morgue, I guess. Last night she slept there in a silver drawer, eyes getting used to the dark" (p. 15).
1. Look Again ~ by Lisa Scottoline (F)
2. I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced ~ by Nujood Ali (NF)
3. The Smoke Jumper ~ by Nicholas Evans (F)
4. Shanghai Girls ~ by Lisa See (F)
5. Every Last One ~ by Anna Quindlen (F)
6. The Road Taken ~ by Rona Jaffe (F)
7. Daughter of God ~ by Lewis Perdue (F)
8. Field Notes from a Catastrophe ~ by Elizabeth Kolbert (NF)
9. The Good Man Jesus & the Scoundrel Christ ~ by Philip Pullman (F)
10. Two Rivers ~ by T. Greenwood (F)
11. The Cougar Club ~ by Susan McBride (F)
12. The Gnostic Gospels ~ by Elaine Pagels (NF)
13. Summer's End ~ by Audrey Couloumbis (YA)
"I picked it up and opened it, reading the first few sentences and then scanning the rest. It was riddled with spelling errors. None of the paragraphs were indented. There were no topic sentences. No thesis. What on earth were they teaching her at school?"This is from Two Rivers, a novel by T. Greenwood, 2009.
"Continued study and application to achieve writing skills needed for college; student will write unified, coherent paragraphs and essays in acceptable, standard form; will also produce a research essay."Writing First: Practice in Context by Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, 4th edition (2009), is supposed to help students master basic writing skills. With my guidance, of course. The class starts at the end of August, but my planning and studying starts now -- with the instructor's annotated edition of this book. Guess what I'll be reading tonight.