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dirac

What are you reading this summer?

105 posts in this topic

I have just finished "The Far Side of the World" (book seven or eight in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series) and "Harry Potter". On vagansmom's recommendation, I am about to embark on "Atonement".

Summer is the only time I get to read so consistently. What a joy...!

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Treefrog, I LOVED "Atonement" and I'd be interested in what you and any other readers think after finishing it. Particularly about the ending ...

Farrell Fan, I just finished Laura Hillenbrand's piece on her illness in the New Yorker. Wow -- I don't think I've ever cried at the end of a magazine article before. Three cheers for her sweet and loyal Borden! It made me want to read "Seabiscuit" even though despite all the praise it's gotten it never seemed like my cup of tea.

I think for an upcoming trip, I'm taking "Empire Falls," a novel by Richard Russo that I started on a previous trip and never got around to finishing. It's about a man with all sorts of family-job-malaise-in-a-small-town sort of problems, written with a lot of humor and compassion. If it weren't for airplane rides, I'd never get anything read or finished!

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"Atonement" was on my last summer's reading list, and is still on the shelf. After next week, I really will be able to start reading again and hope to get to this one then. There have been several comments about "Atonement" and so I'm going to start a separate thread for it.

Continue!

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My English AP teacher is having us read:

The Great Gatsby

Wuthering Heights

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

and Catch 22 this summer. So there's not a whole lot of time for leisure reading.

But I did finish Harry Potter V immediately, and also mean to read House of Leaves before the summer ends. :happy:

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Oh, what a great summer reading list! I'm jealous -- I'd love to read those books again for the first time! Please report in as you finish them -- we'd like to know what you think of them

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Angel2be, your compulsory reading list sounds amazing. I read those books when I was about your age, and they are all excellent - each in its very different way.

The way my summer is going, I'll be lucky if I manage to slot Harry Potter V in. Oh, of course, I could cut down on my Ballet Alert reading. Then again, no, that doesn't sound like a very good idea :wink:

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To anyone who hasn't read SEABISCUIT yet - run out (gallop out?) and get a copy. It is a wonderful book, even if you are not into sports or horse racing. The characters are vivid and varied, and the racing events are so real that you will feel like you are on the horse with the jockey! Everyone in our Book Club at work watched the Triple Crown races this year, even though none of us was at all interested in horse racing before.

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Mary J....read it; loved it. I love horses. Looking at the book and title you wouldn't think a non-horse-lover would enjoy it, but my husband and daughter did. I doubt the movie will measure up.

Giannina

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I took a brief detour to read "The Nanny Diaries". (Okay, not literature, I know, but good poolside and airplane reading.)

Here's what I want to know from you New Yorkers: just how much of an exageration was that? Are there families that even come close?

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Alexandra, Did you start ATONEMENT yet? It's a great story & a great read.

I just finished Margaret Atwood's ORYX AND CRAKE. Not a light read for any season; it's a timely cautionary tale much darker than her earlier HANDMAID'S TALE or the sub-plot of BLIND ASSASSIN. Ms. Atwood is one of my favorite writers and this is among her best.

My goal by the end of summer is to start Mafuz's CAIRO TRILOGY.

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Victims and Survivors (Bob Moore), I Capture the Castle (Dodie Smith).........also planning a re-read of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Giorgio Bassani) and Mansfield Park (Jane Austen).

I was pleased to recently learn that the delightful English period novel, I Capture the Castle, has finally been made into a film. It's being released (limited) this summer - I doubt that it will ever make it to Utah.....I'll have to wait until it comes out on video.

It's currently being shown in NYC and LA - has anyone seen it?? The book is classic and a delight to read! :thumbsup::blink:

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Dear Treefrog, although I have not read "The Nanny Diaries" - I would have to guess that there really are people in existence in NYC like that... From what I've heard about the book, and the interview I heard on NPR a while back, I have to say they exist in other places as well. :D When my own daughter was little, I was often the only mother at the playground in our suburban town and the stories I heard from the local "nannies" were quite something! :green:

Hmm, just think, a new generation E for entitlement? :dry:

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Yvonne, I read I Capture the Castle a couple years ago and found it delightful as well. I've recommended it to many students and have been surprised that none had heard of it before.

Love Mansfield Park. So does my husband, a Jane Austen fan who rereads her books every couple of years. A funny story about him (there are ALWAYS funny stories about him :D ) is that he rented the video soon after it first came out. It's quite different from the book. It implies all kinds of political doings that aren't even hinted at in the book. So husband was upset that the director of the movie had decided to make the book politically correct.

When he returned it to the video store, the poor clerk made the mistake of asking, by rote, "How was the movie, sir?" Husband said, "Terrible!" and proceeded to sadly launch into all the reasons why. By the time he was done, the clerk had refunded his money!

He's now reading Joan Aitken's "Mansfield Park Revisited". This ought to be interesting.

Treefrog, now you've piqued my curiosity. Would you give an example of the kind of family you alluded to?

Edited by vagansmom

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Oh yes, the recent film adaptation of Mansfield Park is dreadful! :devil:

Now, if you had NEVER read the book, didn't know the story or the characters, the movie would be entertaining enough..........

The producer of this film even admits that she never liked the character of Fanny Price - yet she's producing this movie. It's almost as if she was trying to turn Fanny Price into Elizabeth Bennett! And Fanny never, never would have said yes to Mr. Crawford's proposal, much less allow him to kiss her! :blink:

Tell your husband to rent the BBC production of Mansfield Park. It was made in the 1980's, low production standards, and looks as if it was videotaped, but it is very true to the story :)

Oh..............and that whole thing about Tom and his father and Antigua and the picture book of the slaves.............totally NOT accurate. A dreadful, dreadful adaptaion - poor Jane Austen would be rolling over in her grave!! :(

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Just finished "The Gatekeepers", about college admissions to select colleges in the US. It follows closely one particular admissions officer at Wesleyan University, and also a handful of students who apply to Wesleyan for admission to the class of 2004. Written by an education writer for the New York Times, it is highly readable, and at times even suspenseful.

With a rising high school sophomore in the family, I'm not sure whether I'm glad I read it now or not. It's an eye-opener, for sure. College admissions really have changed since my day; if this account is to be believed, it really is much more competitive than it was. (Although I do ask myself how that can be, statistically. Although there are many, many more students applying to selective colleges than there used to be, can the pool of really top students have grown that much over the years?)

The book also reveals how capricious the system is. It's never clear what will grab a particular admissions officer about a particular student.

Finally, the book makes clear how we are constantly raising the bar for kids at younger and younger ages. You can't get into Wesleyan without a goodly number of Advanced Placement or honors courses -- and the more of them your school offers, the more you have to have taken. They want to see that the students are challenging themselves academically. I think the lesson here is to be the top student at a not-so-competitive high school.

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I've read reviews of that book and have wanted to read it but have been afraid it would make me :angry:

Without going into too much detail, Treefrog, since this IS a literature thread, not a college thread, that last statement of yours, "I think the lesson here is to be the top student at a not-so-competitive high school" is SO true! My daughter and son are 5 years apart, their academic record was nearly identical at the very same high school, yet their college application experiences, as well as those of their friends, were so very different because of the climate change in those interim 5 years.

However, as my son and many of his friends, all graduates of one of those competitive high schools AND graduates of those top-rated universities, says, "My high school education was far better than my college one." Overall, they were disappointed with these highly rated universities. They'd expected it to be like their high school, but at a higher level. They all found that their colleges (Stanford, MIT, Brown, CalTech, Yale) have storied names that may open career doors (or may not, really) but they feel that their education would've been just as good, maybe better, at smaller less-renowned schools.

So my conclusion after putting two kids through that very fine high school (luckily it gives out GREAT scholarships) is that it conferred the finest education they could hope to have and everything else in their academic lives will be a letdown. Both of them frequently remark on how better educated they are than their friends who didn't have the same high school opportunity. I know some people who've decided to skip oversuch quality high schools in favor of lesser ones so their kids could be "big fish in a little pond" to advance their college chances. If education is really what we want for our children, that would truly be a tragic decision.

Treefrog, at the rate changes are being made in the college admissions field nowadays, that book may be a dinosaur by the time your sophomore is ready to apply to college :shrug:

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I just finished I Capture the Castle, which was delightful. The movie just came out -- has anyone seen it? It got mostly good reviews and a friend of mine liked it.

Now I'm reading Elinor Lipman's latest, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift. As I said earlier in this thread, I enjoy all her books, even if many of them are similar.

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I've read the Secret Life of Bees, Bel Canto, Harry Potter #5, and am now in the middle of the book that I can't name. I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees and highly recommend it. Bel Canto was OK, a very quick read, but the plot did not hold any surprises for me. I thought that this Harry Potter was not as well written as her others although I may just be jaded. I also read a book by Dave Gunderson (I think), I did not enjoy it as much as the first book of his I read, Snow Falls on Cedars(?).

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For Grace's Mom, and everyone else who has not yet discovered this wonderful writer, run -- don't walk -- to your bookstore and get Jan Karon's series about the (sort of) fictitious town of Mitford. This will make your mother's summer!

For many years, Jan Karon was a big city (New York) advertising executive, who, in her 50s, finally followed her real dream. She moved to the tiny town of Blowing Rock in North Carolina, and sat down to pen what are becoming the most beloved stories in the States. The first of this series is entitled, "At Home in Mitford," which sets the stage for those stories to follow. The central character is Reverend Tim, a bachelor rector, who, although he is approaching retirement age, finds that life in many ways is just beginning, including falling in love and getting married to an artist named Cynthia who moves in next door to him, being adopted by an enormous stray dog who just won't leave, and taking in an unpolished young ruffian who thrives under Reverend Tim's care and guidance. Every salt-of-the-earth character in the town is well developed. There are many laughs and tears and insights. The books have a subtle spirituality. They don't knock you over the head with lessons, but you simply feel better for having read them.

I've read the first five in the series, and at least two more have been added, but I'll probably have to go back and reread the first ones -- which will be a pleasure.

And -- what will be even more fun for your mother is that there is a wonderful website for Jan Karon's fans. The posters seem like wonderful people, similar to those in the books, who enjoy boosting each other's spirits, sharing recipes, and generally behaving like a small town, except on line.

With that said, another series I highly recommend are Dorothy Gilman's books about Emily Pollifax. Gilman's Pollifax is sort of the American counterpart to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. At least one movie has been made about Emily Pollifax, starring Angela Lansbury. Here's the set-up: Emily Pollifax is a widow in her early 60s who is suffering from a sort of mild malaise and depression. She lives in a New Jersey suburb and has her gardening club, etc., but is starting to feel life has passed her by (her children no longer have time for her, what with their own families). She goes to her doctor for an exam to see if anything is physically wrong with her, and he advises her to do some soul searching about whatever unfulfilled passion she has and to pursue it.

She takes him at face value, and decides that becoming a spy is what she's always dreamed of. She naively takes a trip to Washington, D.C., enters the Pentagon, and due to some confusion about her identity, actually gets sent on a mission immediately. She finds all kinds of latent talents in herself and surprises the agency and herself. She then becomes a regular for the CIA, and in the process, earns a brown belt in karate (she's stll attending Garden Club meetings), and meets, falls in love with, and marries the wonderful, elegant, Cyrus, who becomes her partner in crime. The books are easy reads, fun and uplifting.

As for me, this summer, I'm poring through Margaret Truman's (the late president's daughter) mysteries, particularly those featuring the crime-solving couple, Annabel and MacKensie Smith, both former lawyers, who are trying to stay out of the legal scene (she's an art gallery owner and he's now a professor), but they keep getting pulled into solving murder cases. Another fun couple -- well developed characters. Example: MacKensie, although a normal Joe, is something of a coffee snob, and mixes his own special blend -- can't stand drinking coffee anywhere but in his own house. Also -- he's constantly doing the marketing and meal prep for his wife. Brings her a cocktail at the end of the day and rubs her feet. Whatta guy.

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:wink:

Funny Face,

Enjoyed your post about Mitford. I did not read these the first time around. This summer I picked up the first book for the first time - At Home in Mitford. I am nearly finished with it - but I don't want to finish. I feel that I will miss the characters when it's over. I enjoy peeking in on them each evening to see what they're up to.

The last time I read a book with such engaging characters was Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove - a long time ago. There was something magical about how he developed the characters.

Unfortunately, I have enrolled in a continuing studies course that lasts 1 year. I will be spending the next year reading way too much for that course. I won't be able to pick up another Mitford book until next summer - maybe the Christmas holidays.

Cristina

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I can understand how people can get attached to the Mitford characters, but don't despair, there are quite a few more books ahead for you to read about them, and then -- you can start all over again! I saw on Jan Karon's website that she is planning the final installment for release in 2005 -- so we all have something to look forward to.

I don't know how many "Victoria" magazine readers there are among you -- the magazine recently folded (I don't think it was ever quite the same after it changed editors), but Jan Karon was a featured artist-in-residence for that publication. I have one issue in which she wrote a special independent short story about the Mitford folks (it was a baking contest) just for the magazine.

I'd love to see Blowing Rock, NC -- I did get to Ashville and the surrounding area a few summers ago, but didn't have time to squeeze in the trek to Karon's community.

I love incorporating those kinds of outings into trips -- seeing the places where writers found their voice. As examples, I once made a point, while in Zurich, of having coffee and cake at the same table that James Joyce was said to dine in a little restaurant there; and I roamed a bit around Oxford, Mississippi not long ago, to see Faulkner's house and imagine the children of the town coming every Halloween to gather round and hear "Pappy" tell ghost stories. Also from there is legal thriller writer, John Grisham, who built his own "Field of Dreams" baseball diamond in the area.

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The summer is almost over but I thought I would add one anyway. I'm reading "An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England".

For some reason I'm facinated by that era. The Napoleonic Wars, The Congress of Vienna, The Prince of Wales and all of his faults, the Bucks,the Dandies and the Rakes. I love all of it. The book gives you an insight into all of the high society scandals of the day, including Lord Byron having an affair with his half-sister. They eventually fled to the continent.

One chapter gives an inventory of all the expenses the Duke of Devonshire had to maintain his lifestyle for one year. It's unbelievable! Horses, carriages and livery for your coachman and groomsman cost the most! The livery for his servants was beautifully made and expensive looking, the better to dazzle the other members of the Ton.

This was the time of Jane Austen and other literary greats, yet the pursuit of pleasure(in all it's forms) was the order of the day. Rakes would go the opera, not to admire the music but to ogle and drool over the opera dancers and make bets on who would bed the nubile new dancers first. Oh I love all of it!

The books author is Venetia Murray. If you get a chance read this book.

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I just finished reading I, Maya Plisetskaya. How interesting to read her biography. I loved this book and just ordered a video documentary about her life.

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I think our silly school system has got everyone confused about summer's boundaries, what with starting kids back these days earlier in August, when, in fact, summer doesn't come to a close until the last week of September.

I just saw a therapist on a talk show the other day who said that this is the worst year in history for people seeing summer come to an end -- that people like never before felt they did not really have a summer and are dreading the end of it, feeling like they still need a vacation. She talked about the many reasons for this-- the vestiges of 9/11, with people still afraid to fly, people being conservative about spending because of the economy, fear of SARS, etc.

She also said that a "getaway" is a state of mind. And I'm going to cling to that notion. With that in mind, my summer reading continues, with Fanny Flagg's "Standing in the Rainbow." What a great throw back to earlier, sweeter times in America. If you liked "Welcome to the World, Baby Girl" (which my mom sent me a few years ago), you'll love this.

I've still got Jan Karon's latest that I'm waiting to sink my teeth into after this. Sometimes when I walk into one of those huge chain bookstores, I just think, "how do all of these people choose what they're going to read" and "how do all of these authors sell?" I mean, the choices seem almost infinite these days. We could spend our entire days and nights reading and only scratch the surface.

I've also get a few by Anne Rivers Siddons I'm waiting to read -- I've only read "Downtown." Anyone familiar with her work?

The other book I've been reading a good deal of lately is "Home Comforts -- The Art and Science of Keeping House," by Cheryl Mendelson. You would be AMAZED at what you can learn from this. This is the Bible of how to maintain a house. An indispensable and highly interesting reference book.

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