Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jenny's Books Added - January 2014

In true meta-librarian fashion, one of the books on this list inspired this list.  Nick Hornby (the author I first knew from High Fidelity) writes a monthly column for The Believer called "Stuff I've Been Reading," which starts with a list of books bought and read each month. The three Hornby books on this pile are basically collections of previous columns, and I was inspired by the very first chapter of The Polysyllabic Spree. In hopes that imitation can still be the sincerest form of flattery, and with full credit given to Mr. Hornby, I'd like to start posting about the books I've added to my collection each month.  This will not include library books I've brought home, although if I can restrain myself from returning books immediately after reading them, I'd like to post about that too.  (This month, it is far too late for that, as I've read and returned at least a handful.) 

Books added to my collection may not stay, in fact probably won't.  I only keep books I can see myself re-reading or referring to.  These books will include used bookstore finds, gifts, swaps, and the rare new book purchase (oh hey, this pile actually has one of those!)  I thought it would be fun to give a brief narrative of why these books ended up with me.

Just In:
The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery
The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby
Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby
The Body Artist by Don DeLillo
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion by Jeff Toalson
Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel

Some of it has to do with reading goals - Indiridason for my year of reading Iceland; Liftin & Montgomery, the anonymous Portuguese nun, and Toalson for reading more letters; Zelazny as one of the authors I'd pledged to read in 2014.  I read The Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun right away.  It was short, I was intrigued, and I reviewed it a week or so ago.  The Toalson is the book I paid full price for, at the very site where the General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the north, signifying the beginning of the end of the War Between the States (aka the Civil War.)  Sometimes a book can be the best souvenir!

One category of books I actually seem to keep around is books about books.  I even have a shelf devoted to them in GoodReads! The Mattison was 50c at the used book store, so how could I resist?  The Hornby books were a gift from the second friend to insist that I would love them and must read them.  All four of these fit the category of books on books.

The other books demand more of an explanation.  I claim not to buy books I don't want to read.  Well, I had a hint that the Moran might be coming up for one of my book clubs.  The Macfarlane strokes my cold weather island obsession, the DeLillo was $2 and I really wanted to buy one book from each bookstore on Main Street in Charlottesville, VA.  I had read Sister Mine by Hopkinson earlier this year and was happy to find another book by her, and I had read and not really enjoyed the Maazel I read this month.  I guess you could say I'm giving her a last last chance. 

There you have it!  Will I read any of them right away? Nope. Why do I buy books when I work in a library?  That's a story for another day. 

Tell me about the books you brought home in January!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reading Envy 001: Episode the First

We are very excited to welcome you to the first episode of our new Reading Envy podcast.  

Scott shares his thoughts on:

Jenny talks about:

Our list of the month: Book Riot's 100 Must-Read Works of Southern Literature

Download or listen via this link: |Reading Envy 001: Episode the First|

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner

Or subscribe via iTunes by clicking: Subscribe.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Tournament of Books from The Morning News

Already Tired from the List!
Here at Reading Envy, there is little nothing we love more than a good list!

So as I was catching up on the blogs I follow and started reading another blogger's take on this year's list for the Tournament of Books, I realized that I had discussed it in Twitter and in a few Facebook reading groups, but never posted my thoughts out in the open on this blog.

The Tournament of Books, created by The Morning News, takes the idea of March Madness and applies it to a group of books, "representative of the outstanding fiction that was published in 2013."  Judges select a winner when books go head to head, until eventually the world is left with one winner.  It happens in March, so I have two months to get these books read!  Oh, it's not like I have any official involvement in the tournament* but I like to play along.  Last year was my first year participating, and it exposed me to books I hadn't read otherwise.

This year's books (copied directly from their site, links go to Powells since they are a sponsor):

Finalists for the 2014 Tournament of Books

Pre-Tournament Playoff Round

I have thoughts already.  I have read five of these books (Koch, Lahiri, Ozeki, Yanagihara, and Atkinson from the pre-tournament round.)  I have abandoned one (the Catton, which I gave 80 pages before quitting on, even though it won the Booker!)  I'm halfway through the Laymon, which is great.  I have already collected copies of the Tartt, Gilbert, Rowell. The library where I work has eBooks of the Laymon, Couto, and print books of the Hamid, McBride, Meyer. I put interlibrary loan requests in for the McClanahan and the Maazel.  In a weird twist of events, I randomly came across another book by McClanahan just last month, Crapalachia, and read it in eBook format from the library.  Strange that by the end of this, I will have read two more books set in West Virginia!

How about you?  How many of these books have you read, and do you try to read along with the Tournament of Books?

*I think most years the Morning News selects a blogger as a judge and I would love to participate!  Pick me!  :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Epistolary Reading in 2014

Photo by acroamatic in Flickr, CC licensed
I wrote up my reading goals for 2014 a few days ago, and kept feeling like I was forgetting something.  It wasn't until I was wandering the amazing bookstores on Main St. in Charlottesville, Virginia, when I remembered what I had omitted - letters!

I don't read much history, but I enjoy memoir and biography.  Much of what makes up a biography comes from personal letters.  I remember in doing some research on the composer Lou Harrison, realizing all the little tidbits that were possible because he had left his letters on file at an archive.  I often wonder what will happen to all of us when we die and the majority of our correspondence dies in our e-mail accounts.

At least for people in the past, what remains of their letters tells a story.  We can learn about a person, a place, an event, a time.  I would like to do that more intentionally in 2014, and I am committing to reading at least one volume of letters a month.

Which letters?  I have no idea.  If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them.  It isn't helped that in most bookstores, letters are filed under history or biography, so first I would need to have an idea of a time period or person I might hope letters exist for.

When visiting the Appomattox Court House yesterday, I had a nice chat with the recent college grad working in the bookstore.  He pointed me to a volume of letters from the confederacy, arranged in date order from 1864-1865.  That book, No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion:A Composite Diary of the Last 16 Months of the Confederacy from 1864 to 1865  will be one of my twelve volumes, and I expect to learn quite a bit more about the War Between the States (as it is referred to down here.)

@jackiemania just wrote a post about the letters of Emily Dickinson, and those definitely intrigued me.  Watching John Adams on HBO made me want to read the letters between John and Abigail.  Added up, this makes three months' worth, so I am definitely in need of recommendations for my epistolary reading.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Jenny's 2014 Reading Goals

I'm not going to make any goals based on numbers or percentages.  I seem to hit around 200 books a year, 197 in 2012 and 2013, 238 in 2014.  This past year I committed to not reading books I wasn't into.  I read about 50/50 male and female authors, and a heck of a lot of them are non-westerners!

The main goals I want to make this year have to do with specific authors and places.


I have some authors in mind that I want to read because I never have.  Or because I own books by them and they taunt me.  This list was made with me running back and forth between the computer in my office and the room with all the books.
  1. Flannery O'Connor - I hear she's written some stories. I happen to own all of them and I've never cracked the volume.
  2. Roger Zelazny - Someone I missed out on in childhood but I will not perpetuate the oversight!
  3. Samuel Delany - I want to tackle Dhalgren, but other books of his keep coming up, especially on SFF Audio podcasts.  My response is always the audio version of a blank stare, so let's make me smarter, shall we? 
  4. Phillip Roth - Okay, according to GoodReads I've read one of his books but I have no memory of it.  I group him in with some of the other old white male writers that I've read a lot of, and I actually own at least three of his books.  Might as well read some of them.
  5. M. John Harrison - Another science fiction person that I have just never tried.
  6. Rumi - In my long year of Turkish reading, I didn't read anything from Rumi, just about.  He wrote in Persian but considered himself Turkish.  I'm excited about this one.
Hmm, this list is pretty masculine.  It isn't as if I will only read the authors on this list; these are merely holes in my repertoire.


Apart from the international lit that takes up one bookshelf, and the books from every state that take up another bookshelf, I want to do some intentional reading from a few more specific places.
  1. Turkey - Well, I couldn't let it go after only a year.  I joined a group in GoodReads that is doing Iran-Iraq-Turkey in 2014, so I will also do more reading in:
  2. Iran/Persia (see #1)
  3. Iraq (see #1)
  4. Iceland - This is the focus of the World's Literature group this year, and I'm looking forward to it, from the sagas to the super popular crime fiction that is getting translated into English.
  5. Africa - yes I know this isn't a country, but in my Around the World reading I feel like Africa has been neglected the most.  I'm a member of an African lit group, and I want to be more active there.  I very much want to focus my reading on countries I haven't yet read about.
Other than that, I feel like I'm very happy with my reading life.  I connect with the best people through the books I read and I would like to keep doing that, to keep podcasting and blogging, to keep reviewing and organizing reviewers, to keep up with what's new and what's being nominated, and to keep adding to my endless to-read list.  May it never diminish.

Happy new year, readers!