As promised, my report on the second speed-dating project of 2013 has arrived! The books I tested include everything from that original pile* plus Lionel Shriver's Post-Birthday World, since it came in the mail the next day. (Paperbackswap.com is such a great website, highly recommend for getting used books!) Last time, I put a brief thought under each title. Today I will report on the date with that book - at least 50 pages, most of the time.
Fernando Baez - A Universal History of the Destruction of Books
This book is excellent, well-researched and written by the Director of the National Library of Venezuela after he had personally experienced locations where books and libraries had been destroyed, either from political or weather disasters. It got to me more than I expected, and I actually wiped away a few tears. Successful date!
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Strange Pilgrims
I ended up reading one story each night before bed. All of the stories were about people from Latin America in Europe, and there were more instances of ghosts and magical realism than I expected, even considering it is Marquez. In his longer fiction, those elements are present but not as prominent; in his short stories he can really explore the weird. I loved it!
Doris Lessing - The Grass is Singing
I promised myself I wouldn't feel bad for not calling a book back, no matter the reputation or the reason I was going to read it in the beginning. This one didn't grab me, I've already read a book set in Rhodesia in the past year, and I've had better experiences with Lessing's later novels. I will let this book find a new girl.
Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary
I've put this one off for years, expecting it to be difficult or dense to read. Instead I found myself enjoying it and even the tiny print flew by. I might put it on hold until I'm done with Infinite Jest (I'm not sure how many books of density I can handle at once) but I'll definitely read this one.
*Paul Theroux - Ghost Train to the Eastern Star
I swapped this one out for The Great Railway Bazaar, the predecessor of Ghost Train. I didn't want to put it aside for other dates! I only got as far as his stop in Istanbul, and considering my Turkish focus this year, that was a great moment. He also talks so much about writers and food that I'm going to have to start over and take notes. I had put off reading Theroux for a while and now I'm kicking myself, if he's someone you either love or hate, you can mark me down for LOVE. I can't wait to get back to this. Maybe tomorrow!
Curtis Sittenfeld - American Wife
Yeah, I abandoned this one although I did make it through 50 pages. I saw a review that described the main character (based on Laura Bush) as "limp lettuce" and that's pretty accurate. I'd be making excuses to leave this date early.
Eckhart Tolle - A New Earth
A quick read, not as good as The Power of Now, but because I knew it'd be quick I've already finished it.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Shadow of the Wind
<3 <3 <3
I'm not going to wait to read another book I'm sure I'll love. What was I thinking?
Ellen Gilchrist - The Writing Life
This isn't what I expected. Somehow Gilchrist has escaped my knowing, but she is a prolific southern writer who studied with Eudora Welty. The small chapters are individual essays. She didn't really become a serious writer until she was grandmother-aged, so her perspective is pretty unique. I enjoy hearing her story even if I don't always identify with it. And since this comes from the library, I'll be finishing it soon.
E. L. Doctorow - Ragtime
I'm not sure what to say about this book. It is the most likely to become a book I abandon despite not saying it failed my speed-dating exactly. The style is the hardest part - short sentences abound, which makes it feel abrupt the entire time. He throws in a lot of famous people, but some of them were interesting (Emma Goldman was my favorite so far!). One review describes it as American History told in the lens of 1970s radicalism. Okay, maybe I'll go out with him again. :)
Speed-dating books is fun, although I didn't discard many! I'm already gathering books for the next round, so stay tuned!