Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday 13: Thirteen books of summer

What a summer! Can't believe it's over... well, technically it's not until Sept. 21, I suppose, but when school started yesterday, it sort of spelled the end of MY summer...

I read and listened to a bunch of books this summer, more than I realized til I sat down and counted. The last three I'm still in process with, but I'm throwing them in anyway. I know I'll be done by Sept. 21!

In order, more or less, chronologically:

1. The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved this book, much more than I anticipated. I bought it as a question about the author, wondering if Eat, Pray, Love, her infamous memoir of a few years back, was just an accident of timing and publicity... I came away believing she's a writer! In this nonfiction kind-of biography, she tells the protagonist's story with clarity and humanity; he's an inspiring, if at times infuriating, character. Well worth the time. Seth really enjoyed reading over my shoulder for part of it, and other than some spicy language, it's a good perspective for kids to be exposed to, I think. Very "back to the earth." Good for this dialed in, wired up generation.

2. The Lady Elizabeth, by Alison Weir. My first "listen" of the summer, an interesting fictional take on Elizabeth I's role in England's history.

3. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. I had a hard time with The DaVinci Code. It seemed overly "foreshadowed" and poorly written... but that's just my opinion; obviously many millions of people disagree. Weirdly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Go figure. So I thought I'd like to see the movie Angels and Demons, but wanted to know enough of the story going in... what better way to ignore some of the writing but to have it read to me?! It worked. Only once or twice did I actually comment out loud to the dogs about a corny turn of phrase or hokey sentence... most of them just slid on past me and it was an entertaining way to spend my time while doing yard work. Still need to see the movie...

4. When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Leather, both by David Sedaris. I put these together since they were re-reads and by the same author. Technically they were "re-listens," and I love hearing David read his own work. Really makes it, to have his voice as part of the package. I considered these both "palette cleansers" between other books--light and entertaining.

5. Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. When Jen recommended Belong to Me earlier in the summer, I thought, wait, don't I already have that in my audible library? Apparently someone recommended them (see sister book below) to me last summer (can't remember who!) and there they sat, un-listened-to. Both books were good. Interesting story, characters, writing style; it all gelled.

6. Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos. The follow-up to Love Walked In, this story is more complicated in the character interactions and development, but she pulls it off quite well. I got attached enough to the characters that I was wishing for a third book by the end.

7. Digging to America, by Anne Tyler. I used to be quite an Anne Tyler fan. I've read most of her books over the years, and have generally found her stories to be engaging... It's been awhile since I've read her though, and it took a couple of starts to get this one going. Worth it in the end. It's a story of immigration and international adoption and love and family...

8. The First Man in My Life, various authors. I picked this book up in Canada over the July holiday weekend, and devoured it. The subtitle is "Daughters Write About Their Fathers" and it's essays of Canadian women writing about their dads, and it has a real "Canadian" feel. Which is hard to explain, I guess, but was very apparent to me. I loved it. Most of the women were probably in their 50s, I'd guess, by the tone of the writing and the passing of many of the fathers. I'd recommend this one, definitely, whether you have "daddy issues" or not.

9. Rude Awakenings of Jane Austen Addict, by Laurie Viera Rigler. I've been on a bit of a Jane Austen kick again recently, in watching... mostly. I saw a great little flick (BBC miniseries, actually) called Lost in Austen early in the summer (Netflix) and when I saw this title it seemed along the same lines... yes and no. An apparent addiction seeps into a young woman's life and causes her to go all "olde English" on everyone and it's quite a hoot with the twists and turns.

10. Hope In a Jar, by Beth Harbison. This is definitely the fluffiest read of the summer. Like cotton candy, really. I was picking apricots at the time (I can tell you which yard project is associated with most of the "listened" books!), and it passed the time adequately. All about a 20-year high school reunion, old/lost friends and loves, and finding new paths to a new life...

11. Columbine, by Dave Cullen. This would be the heaviest read in a pretty light summer. Still in it, and really enjoying it, if you can say that about this topic. The research and revelations about the two killers and their victims is what's most interesting... I think, like the rest of the country, I tuned out about three weeks after the incident (in a kind of "enough already, media people!" way), and the impressions of those first few weeks just stayed with me. To learn how much of that initial reporting was wrong, how long it's taken for the survivors to move on, how big an impact it's had on so many people... Not surprising, but very real.

12. The Geography of Love, by Glenda Burgess. I needed a break from Columbine last weekend, so I dove into this book, thinking... love story, right? Hmmm, sort of. Love story interrupted by lung cancer. Some real memorable lines in this book, but overall I'm not entirely wild about the writing style. A little overdone some times, a bit of trying too hard; those are my general impressions though I'm definitely engaged and will finish it. Set in southeastern Washington--Spokane and environs--so it feels quite familiar to me in that sense.

13. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Another case of "want to read that before I see the movie," I am about half-way through listening to this one. As yard work slows down here in the fall, I'll need to focus to get this finished while the movie's still in theaters... but I'm not sure I care about the big screen. What I like the most about the audio is that a male reads the guy perspective and a female reads the girl perspective. Cool.

The stacks by the side of the bed still exist... and I didn't finish Three Cups of Tea like I was supposed to or get more than one chapter in to Cloud Mountain for a Facebook book group I am in... naughty, naughty. But I will get there, eventually... There's always fall, right?

For more Thursday 13 participants, go HERE. Happy TT!


  1. Da Vinci Code - I enjoyed the book more than the movie.

    Angels and Demons - watched the movie, still finding the chance and time to read the book.

    I'm intrigued with no. 9. and the "olde English" part. I'm a Jane Austen fan :-)

    Great list. I enjoyed it.

  2. I find I adore audio books when the narrator has an British accent!

  3. I only saw Da Vinci Code in a movie. I am bad in reading did not read that much....My T13 is up too.

  4. The only books I've read from this list are Angels and Demons and The Time Traveler's Wife. Love them both, but TTTW a lot more! I'm intrigued by some of the other books you've listed though, specifically #1 and #8, I think I'm in a non-fiction mood. =) Sounds like you had a great time reading this summer! =)

  5. I was glad I had read Angels and Demons before seeing the movie. The movie was good, despite the many changes (I thought Da Vinci Code stayed truer to the book), but I liked the book better. And talk about a coincidence--a few days after seeing the movie, there was an article in our local paper on CERN.

    I did books read this week as well: My Blog

  6. Love, love, LOVE reading book lists! Especially yours! You're right-on about listening to Sedaris; I've been doing that lately too (keeping up with the Sherilees) and it makes his stories even better--hard to believe that's possible. I'm almost finished with "Love Walked In" and enjoying it very much. I love the way she creates suspense that makes me want to keep reading, but not so much that I need to page ahead to find out what happens. Her writing style takes a pretty simple story and makes it fascinating. I had almost the same experience you did reading "Digging to America"--I bought it the minute it came out and then couldn't get into it, put it away for a year or so and then liked it very much. I've been disappointed in some of her more recent books, so I was glad to find one that I liked again. She's still one of my favorite authors. Lastly, you know me with the spelling... "corduroy." ;)

  7. Cool list! I only share Time Traveler with you, but I think I might be adding to my wish list now...

  8. Hazel, check out the Austen--you won't be disappointed.

    Janet, voice has SO much to do with whether I'll enjoy a book or not. British accent is great!

    Betty, I usually mix it up with fiction and nonfiction, but I've found that I don't like listening to nonfiction as much... so with all the outdoor stuff this summer, I've opted for the light and fluffy fiction!

    Jen, thanks for the copy edit. I fixed it. That's what I get for writing at 11 p.m...

  9. That's a good idea. To look back at how many and which books you read in the summer. I'm going to do that too.

    I like your list. I just bought Engulfed in Flames. I"m doing a memoir run, mostly woman, and have read a couple of good ones this summer.

  10. If you aren't Columbined out and need another read sometime, you might take a look at The Hour I First Believed. The narrator is an English teacher at Columbine, and the book explores the tragedy from a number of different angles, almost coming at it sideways. I found myself thinking about racism, parenting, the penal system, post-traumatic stress, survivor guilt, abuse of power, anger, bullying, heredity, addiction, writing, history.... Very sad, very hopeful. I loved it.

  11. Jan, thanks for the recommend. I have some new audible credits, so just might use them for this book... and I see it's by Wally Lamb, who I've always wanted to read, too...

  12. Anastasia--any good women memoirs to recommend? I am interested in seeing Amelia when it comes out this fall... maybe I should read that in anticipation? Would love to hear what you've been reading.


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