Category Archives: Books

Several at once

A few years ago, I had the crazy idea to start reading from a number of “top 100” lists, such the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels List and the BBC Big Read List. I felt like I was in a bit of a reading rut, and I also felt like my education had some literature holes (e.g. I have still never read any Jane Austen, though at least I’m familiar with the plots to some of her work), so I thought the list was a good way to fill those holes.

Well, that idea didn’t pan out as expected.

Turns out my brain can’t handle reading that many things outside my comfort zone at once. (It also can’t handle having only one book in progress, apparently.) So, I’ve taken to having at least three books in progress at any given time. One is always a children’s or young adult book, as I’ve mentioned before; sometimes this is one I’ve read before and sometimes it isn’t. Another is general fiction, and the third is one from – you guessed it – one of the top 100 lists. Occasionally I’ll have a fourth book in progress, and this can be anything – nonfiction, graphic novel, whatever.

This kind of makes for slower finishes, but it does mean that if I can always pick up something to suit my mood. So if I want to read but am not in the mood for, say, zombies, I can go back to The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (a selection from the Observer’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time list).

So, what else am I reading now, anyway? Well, I’m continuing with the Oz series and I’m on the seventh book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz (more thoughts on these books to come!). Also, I’m working on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Yes, I know I’m doing it backwards since I’ve never read any Jane Austen. But whatever, that’s how I roll, and I’m enjoying it anyway, so there!

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In and out of Oz

I tend to have multiple books in progress at any given time. Often, at least one of them is a children’s or young adult book.

Right now, I’m working my way through the Oz books. I’m not sure yet if I want to go through the entire “Famous Forty” or just stop after the last of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books; I’ll decide after I finish Glinda of Oz, I guess.

Most of the series is actually not a re-read for me. When I was a child, my uncle gave me nice hardcovers of the first three – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz. (Yes, I still have them on my shelves!) I read these quite a bit, but for some reason never made it through the rest of the series.

It’s been so long since I read the first three, it was nice to go through them again! Although The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has always been my least favorite of the three, I still find it quite a bit more enjoyable than the film based on it. Most of the characters annoy me much less in the book (Dorothy’s not so much of a damsel in distress, Glinda’s not so irritatingly omniscient, etc.) and there’s a little more going on in the plot. And Marvelous Land and Ozma are both pretty enjoyable.

I’m not actually that far into the series past that. I recently finished Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, which I quite liked, even though a good half of it didn’t actually take place in Oz. Although, it shows that continuity isn’t Baum’s strongest point – a key example being how the ruling family lost the throne and the Wizard’s role/non-role in it all. Oh well. I suppose I can live with that.

Now I’m about halfway through The Road to Oz and… I don’t know, I don’t care that much for it so far. I can’t quite put my finger on why. But once I do, I’m sure I’ll ramble about that here too!

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Books and knits together

Sometimes I feel like I have too many hobbies and interests, or at least, not enough time for all of them. And in recent years I’ve always felt that one would suffer in favor of another.

A really good example of this? Reading versus knitting. Reading is my oldest hobby by far, though I’d fallen out of the whole reading-for-fun thing during college. I’d started to get back into it after graduation, but then it fell to the wayside again as my interest in knitting grew. I mean, I only finished 17 books last year, which is really kind of sad for me. If I could read and knit at the same time, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

But… now I can, thanks to my birthday present from T!

It’s so much easier for me to read and knit at the same time now, because I just have to quickly press a button instead of pausing to turn a page. And the e-ink is way easier on the eyes than reading an e-book on my computer monitor.

My only real problem now? I haven’t really found a good place to purchase DRM-free e-books yet – it’s kind of hard for me to tell which ones on the Kindle store are DRM-free and which one are not, unfortunately. At least many books on my to-be-read list are in the public domain, so for now I can just rely on sources like Project Gutenberg.

Those who care about the knitting may be wondering: what’s the project in this picture? Well, it’s a Kindle sleeve, of course!

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Books and a younger me

Someone recently commented on how I can completely tune out the world around me when I’m reading, and how amazing he found that. And I guess the ability is kind of amazing, but the reasons I developed it in the first place? Not so much. They’re really more sad than anything.

For example, there was a time when books were my only good friends. Sad, but true.

I was ignored by most of my classmates most of the time during grades 5-8, but I did get picked on pretty heavily by a few of them, and our school’s staff did absolutely nothing to stop the latter. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of friendly classmates, but really, there was only so much they could do to make it better. (Not their fault.)

So, what’s an almost friendless, always picked-on girl to do with her spare time? Read, and read, and read some more. Hell, I read during completely unrelated classes and didn’t even bother hiding it, because it was better than paying attention to my school environment.

Now, a lot of those books weren’t objectively great stuff by any means… I read an awful lot of brain candy in those years. But you know what? There’s really nothing wrong with that. Those books served the purpose of giving me an escape, of letting me for the unpleasantness of my school day for a short time, of entertaining me and giving me something to smile about.

Even when I wasn’t being bullied, I didn’t quite fit in anywhere, or at least I didn’t feel like I fit in. Family, school, wherever – until I moved away for college, I never got the sense that I truly belonged, and my own introversion and awkwardness (not mutually inclusive things, BTW!) didn’t exactly help. I guess books were an escape from that feeling as well. Instead of struggling to get my family to understand me, or trying and failing to understand many of my peers and the high school social world, it was really so much easier for me to pore over a book and immerse myself in a world where I didn’t have to go through all that.

But what about these days? What’s my relationship with books, now that I’ve found people that I actually I fit in with? Well, I still read a bit every day, but I don’t spend every waking hour doing it, and I haven’t in years. Books aren’t my only friends anymore, but they’re still my oldest ones, and I think they’ll always be around, no matter what. Maybe not in the same form, but there nonetheless!

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Back to the quest

I, um, kind of forgot about this blog. Not that I’d been reading much – I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I have way too many hobbies and I’ve never quite figured out how to balance them all out.

But the bookwormy me is back now…

I still haven’t finished Dos Passos’s The Big Money. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this probably isn’t going to happen until December, mostly because it’s just really slow going. Oh well, though. I finished re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia earlier this year, and I’m currently going back through the Harry Potter series. (Only the first four are on the BBC top 100 list, but the last book’s coming out in a couple of weeks, so of course I’m also going to read Order of the Phoenix and Half-blood Prince…)

Fairly recently, I also finished the following:

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain: This tries be too many things at once. One of the main themes is satirical, a commentary on the over-romantization of chivalry and the Middle Ages. However, I kind of wished that the main character was real, just so I could meet him and punch him in the face. Hank’s kind of an uncompromising jerk, and this undermines Twain’s satire in places. Oh well, it had its amusing moments. I definitely don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte: I found this surprisingly enjoyable, considering how prominent the love theme was and all. (Why, no, I don’t really care for romance… why do you ask?) It’s probably because I actually really like Jane. There are some remarkable concidences and some overly dramatic moments, and parts of it are a bit tedious. But though I didn’t always enjoy Bronte’s style, I do like the overall story and the way she brings the main characters to life. It’s also nice to read about what life was like in that place and at that time – there’s some great description in there.

Atonement, Ian McEwan: The overall plot and themes are interesting, the writing is generally vivid and otherwise well-done, and the structure is well-suited to the story. The first part moves really slowly, but I flew through the book once I got past that. The second part is especially compelling, but I couldn’t put the book down during the third part, either. And the latter really says something for McEwan’s writing, I think, because the third part focuses on Briony and I really dislike her. Though at least there’s a reason why she’s written the way she is…

That’s that for the finished works. I still have some cleanup to do on the site itself, but that should be done by the end of the day, at least.

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