Thursday, August 30, 2007

50 books in a year

(transferring this over)

Okay, so last year (March 6, 2006-March 6, 2007), I read 30 books. Not quite my goal of 50, but still pretty good! It was a total of 8,222 pages too--approximately 20 a day, with a 2 year old around, I might add ;-)

Anyways, time to start a new year, and I'll keep the same goal, even though it may turn out to be even more ambitious with another baby on the way. 50 books by April 8, 2008!

1. Elizabeth and After by Matt Cohen---Fiction book, which isn't what I usually read, so I'm not a real fair reviewer. I thought the whole structure (going between time frames/generations) was a little difficult to follow--just made it hard to keep the people straight at first. Also just a generally messed up story, you're not really sure who you're "rooting" for since the sterotypical "good" guy isn't so good and the "bad" guy isn't all bad. I picked the book up off the $1 clearance rack at HPB and it was definitely worth that and the time to read, but I'd have been annoyed if I paid more for it. (384 pages)

2. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl---Historical Fiction....loosely based on the real lives/characters of Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell and their publisher, Fields, in immediate post-Civil War Cambridge. I wouldn't have finished this book if I weren't reading it for a book club, I just couldn't get into it at all at first. After the first 100 pages or so, it REALLY picked up and then I couldn't put it down. Ended up being a really good mystery that kept you guessing at the real culprit until the very end. (418 pages)

3. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich--Really interesting book. Each chapter starts with a small section of the diary and then there is a long explanation/background from the author. Martha Ballard was a midwife, but the book centers more on women's roles of the time in general. (352 pages)

4. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik--One of the reviews on the back cover calls this book a "guilty pleasure" and that just about hits the nail on the head.  I'm pretty sure this is the first true "chick lit" book I've read....something I wouldn't normally touch with a ten foot pole if it weren't for the need to space out and relax in order to stay pregnant 8 more weeks.  I was pleasantly surprised though.  About a group of women who meet when their kids are babies and have a book club together for the next 30+ years. (404 pages)

5. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser--I know I'm supposed to be reading easy, non-stressing stuff, but gawd I needed a break from fiction!  I don't eat at McDonald's anyway, but the fact that my 2 year old shouts out "McDonald's!  Nuggets! French Fries!" every single time we pass one (despite the fact that she's only been twice, maybe 3 times in her life to meet up with friends and play) pushed me to read this book.  Nothing I haven't heard before, but probably a wake up call to most.  I'm not sure the disparaging remarks about Subway franchises were quite enough to squelch my foot-long turkey breast on wheat with extra honey mustard addiction though... (288 pages)

6. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella--Yes, more chick lit.  Honestly, the most shameful thing is that I feel the need to hide the book when I'm out in public--I'm a grown woman and 7 months pregnant in the Texas heat, I can read what I want, damnit!  Okay, seriously though, read it for a book club (after The Dante Club we all agreed to something light) and it was enjoyable and easy and all, but I don't feel driven to get the rest of the series or anything.  (350 pages)

7. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling--I've avoided the hype for 9 years (according to my copy--looks like the first one came out in 1998), but with the last book coming out this year, I decided it was finally safe to start reading (I didn't want to get stuck waiting for the next one). Not as good as I expected from all the attention it's gotten, but I am impressed by Ms. Rowling's ability to come up with an intricate and original story-line. And for all the conspiracy theorists who say Harry will die in the final book....there does seem to be a fair amount of fore-shadowing in the first book that points to exactly that. Hmmmm(320 pages)

8. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling--See above (341 pages)

9. Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling--See above; So far each book is better than the one before it...definitely a nice surprise (435 pages)

10. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling--Okay, now they're starting to get a little scary. Not sure I would've read this one to a younger child. In the middle of this one, Sierra woke up one night having a nightmare and I actually had a brief moment of thinking she was crying b/c someone was attacking muggle children....(752 pages)

11. Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling--Yup, still scary. This is the last book I have and Half Price Books doesn't have the 6th one right now :-( (870 pages)

12. Natural Birth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon--We read this book before I had Sierra and the Bradley childbirth method worked fabulously to get me through childbirth without any pain medication. With the second munchkin on the way I decided it was a good idea to re-read the book and just make sure I hadn't forgotten anything major. (272 pages)

13. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown--I thought this was a really interesting book. I was surprised how much of it tied into things I've read in the past (namely, lots of the goddess worship stuff is covered in the book "Sex in History") (454 pages)

14. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams--Not at all what I expected. I was thinking this was gonna be a science fiction book that tried to make some sort of statement about life or something. Nope, just a humor book. Very funny, but it would've been great if Mr. Adams had chosen to actually have an ending to the book rather than just stop writing. It's my understanding that there are follow-up books, but really ought to end each book, even in a sequel. (320 pages)

15. Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya--Memoir about a Japanese-American woman and her travels through Asia. Worth the two bucks I spent on it, but not an especially well written book. (269 pages)

16. The Restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas Adams--Sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. More of the same. (250 pages)

17. Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger--Originally sold under the title Lost Moon. If you've only seen the movie and enjoyed it, I highly recommend the book. I guess books are usually better than the movie, but I always put this sort of in the category of books about the Titanic--I know exactly what's going to happen, so how interesting could it really be? Turns out really interesting. There is MUCH more to the story than what's in the movie, plus they go through a lot more background...from medical tests selecting the first astronauts, the Apollo 1 fire, on through the investigation after Apollo 13, plus nifty pictures of the damage to the service module, etc... Well worth the read. (382 pages)

18. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Why'd they have to go and do that?!? (652 pages)

19. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. A fitting end, but just *tad* too happy of an ending (759 pages)

20. Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson. Interesting fiction that follows several generations of women. The story was good, but it was confusing to follow due to the set up (can we please just stick with chronological order aside from the occassional flashback or foreshadowing??) and the names (let's see...hanna, johanna, anna--am I really supposed to keep them all straight?). I liked that it was set in Sweden, always nice to learn about someplace new. (368 pages)

21. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. One of those books you're supposed to read in high school that we were never assigned.  It's a good story, probably eye opening to those who might not know anything about the Japanese Internment camps.  Unfortunately, the "goodness" of the book was erased by the commentary on the back cover, which states, "As haunting as The Diary of Anne Frank..."  I'm sorry, but ummmm no.  No matter how wrong it is to imprisson US citizens just because they are descendents of a certain country, a minature town with admittedly not great housing conditions, but schools, medical care, unlimited access to mess halls, etc... in no way compares to hiding out in fear of your life and then being sent to a Nazi concentration camp.  (203 pages)

22. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. One word-Disappointing. The book had good information, but was really poorly written. It's like she was writing for a literary journal. I (along with the rest of the book club) was really expecting this to focus on the girls in the Iranian book club, and it didn't at all. The book was an awful lot of the author's literary criticism. Like I said, interesting information about revolutionary Iran (which ties in quite well with current events and gives you some food for thought), but definitely not a quick read. The author herself sums it up perfectly..."I am too much of an academic: I have written too many papers and articles to be able to turn my experiences and ideas into narratives without pontificating." (347 pages)

23. The Handmaid's Taleby Margaret Atwood. If you liked 1984, you have to read this. It's another cautionary, science fiction type thing. Instead of technology and all that being involved though, a fundamentalist religious sect takes over and makes women absolutely subjected to the control of men. The main character is a handmaid (one of the few still fertile women left following toxic build up in the environment), which mean it's her job to get pregnant and provide her "Commander" with a baby. Has a lot in it to think about. (320 pages)

24. Better Off by Eric Brende. Anyone who's interested in self-reliance and off-grid living will enjoy this book. Josh and I both read it and we've been trading ideas about "homesteading" right where we're at for a few weeks now. The author (upon graduating from MIT, of all places) spends 18 months in an Amish-type community with his new wife. There's little religious cohesion in the group, but they follow that philosophy of no motors, very little technology. I especially liked the fact that they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant and decide to stay put and have a homebirth with the local midwife--for what was surely a momentous and bit scary event, he covers it in a few pages and describes it with all the normalcy it deserves. (248 pages)

25. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. See my post from November 5, 2007. Excellent book (464 pages)

26. Night by Elie Wiesel. If you didn't read it in school, you need to now. Classic recounting of holocaust concentration camp life. (411 pages)

27. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Another classic must read, but not quite as horrific as Night. (304 pages)

28. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Read this one for book club. Yet another good fiction book (they might just get me reading fiction after all!). So the story is made up, the setting is *reasonably* factual (not completely, but close). Think of the movie Titanic--totally fake, the background's real. Amazingly interesting and quick read--I was done in a little over a week. (512 pages)

29. America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. If you're looking for ways to stretch a dollar--live on one income, pay off your mortgage, retire early--this book is definitely worth your time. Just about anyone who knows me would agree that I'm one of the most thrifty (or cheapskate?) people they know, but this book was still useful. Each chapter ends with an "assignment" and you pick whether you fall into the "timid mouse" "wise owl" or "amazing ant" category, so you can use the basic ideas or go all out depending on your situation. (276 pages)

30. Affluenza by John DeGraaf, et al. This book has a lot of good ideas and information, but (as Josh pointed out) it is definitely geared toward the "MTV generation". Each section is only half a page long and that gets a bit annoying to those of us with normal attention spans. Main idea--spend less, work less, live more. Basically my life philosophy. (236 pages)

31. Best Practices: Difficult People: Working Effectively With Prickly Bosses, Coworkers and Clients by John Hoover. I have a belief---if you think everyone around you is wrong, you're probably part of the problem. Unfortunately, this applies even to me. Since I recently chose to stay at my job for the time being, I decided being miserable everyday was not an option and I should do what I could to improve the situation. So, I checked out three books from the library in an attempt to improve my supervisory skills and my reaction to certain situations. This book is a very quick read and chock full of good, implementable ideas (160 pages)

32. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Another fiction book for book club. The basic premise is that a woman goes into labor during a blizzard. Her husband is a doctor and ends up doing the delivery (along with a nurse). This is in the 60's and surprise, surprise, it's twins. The woman (of course, b/c no one can possibly give birth without general anesthesia and stirrups....but I won't get on my soapbox about the deplorability of western birthing practices, especially in the 60's) is not aware of all this and it turns out the second baby has Down's Syndrome. The husband/doctor sends the baby away and tells the woman she died. The book is about everything that unfolds after that. It wasn't a horrible book, but it wasn't as good as I expected. I don't highly recommend it (432 pages)

33. The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't and Why by Jeff Gillman. This one isn't really meant to be read cover to cover, so I'm only going to give myself credit for 50 pages. I mostly flipped through and only read the entries for the things that we've tried or might address a problem we've had. In general, it's well thought out though and has good explanations for each recommendation (for or against a certain remedy) and each one is given a rating of 1-5 quickly labeling it anywhere from harmful to beneficial (50 pages)

34. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult. Very good fiction book---dead newborn found on Amish farm, Amish girl charged with neonaticide. Would've been even better if I hadn't already seen the TV movie (and not realized it) I kept having deja'vu through the whole thing and guessed the ending about half way through. Still kept me up until 11pm (way way way too late when you have baby that wakes you up 2-3 times a night to nurse and you have to be up at 6:30am) because I just couldn't put it down. The ghost story was totally unnecessary and freaky, but besides that I don't have any complaints. (432 pages)

35. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult. Another good book--uses a running idea of Dante's Inferno and adds in a tenth level of hell. If you live locally and want my honest, more thorough, review of the book you'll have to ask ;-) (416 pages)

36. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. It's local book group has gotten me hooked on a fiction writer--gasp!! That hasn't happened since junior high. This one is about a school shooting. I'm loving that Ms. Picoult has a totally different story for each book and each seems extremely well researched, allowing her to create a completely believable background. Purely story-wise, I didn't like the way this one seems to end. It's hard to explain my point of view without giving away the ending to those who haven't read it, but it was my view that precisely those people who were always "on top" end up that way at the end (yes, the two people focused on in the last chapter), which seems hugely unfair. I'm not quite sure if this was an intentional, "see, they didn't learn anything", or if the author (sadly) really didn't see the point she was making. (464 pages)

37. Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson. Review in my general blog (end of March 2008) (411 pages)


Rebecca said...

How in the world did you have time to read all of those books???

The Hills said...

I was reading A LOT more when I was pregnant since I was mostly out of work, but Sierra was still going to school. I'm also real bad about staying up late to read ;-)

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