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vagansmom

The Dust Bunny Collection

33 posts in this topic

The Jane Austen Book Club thread inspired this post.

What books have been sitting in your "to read" pile long enough to collect dust? What books have you begun but not been able to complete? When do you decide to remove them from that pile and send them off into exile? Where, by the way, IS exile?

Here's mine:

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Started but never completed it. It lies there hopefully.

Guns, Germs, & Steel by Jared Diamond. I nearly completed this one but my husband found it, lost it :thanks: and returned it nearly a year later. I can't bring myself to pick it up to complete after such an absence.

The God Gene by Dean Hamer. I want to read it; I really do! I think I may be afraid I'll get mad at it (I'm atheist).

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. I have no idea why I avoid this book. Anyone read it and want to plug it? Or diss it? I need to make a decision here.

Last year our teaching staff at school set aside a book-sharing section of our staff lunchroom. Any books we've read and would like to share go on that bookcase. Any books we just can't get into go there too. It's helped me return to some books I'd otherwise have not bothered with; another teacher will pick it up, read it, rave about it, and then I find myself begging to "borrow" back my own book!

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Swann's Way, part 1 of In Search of Lost Time- I'm disappointed in myself for finding Proust such a tough read. Meh, I'll try picking it up again later.

Lauro Martine's April Blood- I bought the book because the Medici documentary on PBS intrigued me, but I haven't gotten around to completing it yet. Maybe when I'm studying Italian Renaissance?

Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana- I got about halfway through and then stopped. I'm not sure if I want to start over and finish.

I feel guilty about buying all these books and not finishing them, and then moving on to other books. I think I've done a decent amount of reading so far this summer, though, as much as time allows. I've completed Blue Angel, Birth of Venus, Answered Prayers, In Cold Blood and Half-Blood Prince, with The Historian on the way.

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"Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer -- I'm about two-thirds of the way through and have been since early spring. Usually I'm very good with non-fiction, but this one is heavy emotional lifting, maybe that's why I've stalled out.

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. I'm looking at it on my bookshelf right now. I know I should read it. But there's also a People magazine on the couch calling out to me. Aw, nertz, it's summer -- my IQ's allowed to slip a few notches! :huepfen024:

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There are books under those dust bunnies?

"Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose -- about the Lewis and Clark expedition -- is one I just haven't been able to move through.

"Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants" by Robert Sullivan. Perhaps this is because I actually wanted to write this book, and it is an admission of my scholarly failings. (No kidding! My PhD dissertation focused on rat physiology and behavior.)

In general, I do find it harder to progress through non-fiction than fiction.

Where do I put them? As of this week, they are moving back to the bookshelf. I have just cleared out space by removing all the books I truly am never going to read (I do think that Molecular Biology of the Gene, copyright 1976, is just a tad outdated by now). On the other hand, I also discovered in the process a handful of books I've collected over the last 30 years that I always meant to read but never quite got to ...

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Excellent topic, vagansmom. Here are a few, for a start.

Guns, Germs, and Steel. I got it as a gift and it’s still sitting in a pile, gazing at me accusingly.

The Way of All Flesh. I almost read it, back in high school, but there was Marjorie Morningstar, clearly in need of a fourth reading.

Saturday.

The System of the World. By Neal Stephenson. I made it through the first two volumes (it’s a trilogy) and even though this is the briefest volume I still can’t drag myself over the finish line.

I never get rid of them unless I’m absolutely 100% certain that I’ll never make it.....

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I seem to be unable to finish a book lately. I've started "Savage Beauty," the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as "The Master" by Colm Toibin, and I can't bring myself to finish either of them! Then there's "Atonement," with which I lost patience about 2/3 of the way through....

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I've read The Shock of the New at the rate of 2 pages/year for the last 15 years. Sometimes I move the dust bunnies around to get to it.

The books I'm really struggling with are The Dancer Defects, and the two Ashton biographies. I've given up on the McCullough John Adams bio and am listening to it as an audiobook during my daily commute. Over 15 hours into it, I understand why I fell asleep on it, although I'm not sure if the cause is the author or if Adams' life just isn't all that interesting when told. (He just became Vice President, and considering that this was one of his most fallow and frustrated periods, I can't imagine this picking up.)

I have one shelf in my bookcases where I put "future reading" -- those impulse purchases that by the time they're delivered (internet ordering) or I've finish reading something else (bookstore purchases), I can't understand why on Earth I ever thought I'd want to read them. Things move from the dust bunny pile on the night table to that shelf. When it's full, something has to give and go into the donation box for the Seattle Public Library booksale, a 3-5 year journey.

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I confess that, when I saw the title of this thread, I thought it referred to a series of children't books, so didn't read it. Sort of like Peter Rabbit long ago.

Re Old Fashioned and Proust. He's a favorite of mine, and the success of Alain de Botton's "How Proust can Chanage Your Life" a few years ago suggests there still a following. But for those who REALLY can't into Proust, you might try the excellent illustrated adaptation (a large-format comic book really, with exquisite drawings) of selections. General title of the three volumes translated so far is "Remembrance of Things Past." Included: "Combray" (childhood); "Within a Budidng Grove", parts 1 and 2 (adolescence).

Adapted by Stephane Heuet and Stanislas Brezet. Art and Color: Stephane Heuet. Publisher: Comicslit (an imprint of Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine Publishing, Inc., NY)

I found it on the internet. Really well done.

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There are so many! All the scholarly studies of this or that that I've bought because I fooled myself into thinking I would--and could--get through them. Fiction-wise, from time to time I pick up The Ambassadors. I usually love James, but this one seems like it's written as notes for somebody who already knows the story, and I find the syntax almost impossible to penetrate. Another one I can't get through is Broch's The Death of Virgil. All these books just sit there on my shelves, staring at me, reminding me how unworthy I am.

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I always seem to be cycling through several books at once, putting them down and picking them up again depending on my mood. (One of the few skills I managed to acquire in grad school was how to read eight things at the same time. Or maybe I just have attention span issues.) Not much actually ends up in the dust kitty collection, but I do have a rather long standing relationship with some of the books on my nightstand … :wink:

The current rotation:

The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan

The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert O. Paxton

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

At some point, I will get through them all, although Cryptonomicon’s been in the rotation for about a year now and seems to get displaced by something new more often than not (several titles have entered and left the rotation since I first picked it up), so it may well be fated for the dust kitty collection after all.

In the on-deck circle:

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

I actually do most of my “reading” now by listening to audiobooks while walking to and from work, working out, or doing chores. (How did I ever manage to steel myself for a hearty round of ironing before there were audiobooks? And if it weren't for ironing, how else would I have gotten through War and Peace and The Brothers Karamozov?) So, my nightstand is pretty much limited to what isn’t available as an audiobook, and of course, to what can actually be read in a comfortable reclining position, and, given the rotational tactic, certain height restrictions …

Helene -- I just finished listening to the John Adams and Alexander Hamilton biographies back to back. (I’m apparently a glutton for founding father punishment. I keep eyeing the newish Franklin and Washington biographies, but then my husband grabs me by the shoulders, gives me a good shake, and tells me to snap out of it.) I feel your pain! Thank goodness Adams only served one term as president, otherwise the book would be lord knows how much longer. The Hamilton biography was nearly as long, but was at least enlivened by a tawdry affair or two, several duels, and Aaron Burr. If Hamilton hadn't managed to finally get himself shot at 49 (he was prone to "demand satisfaction" from his adversaries when dissed) I suppose I'd still be slogging my way through it ...

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I'm in the process of moving, and thus weeding through my dust bunnies. It's heartbreaking the number of books I know I'm never going to get through and should take to the second-hand bookstore.

Here are the ones, though, that I'm going to bring along, hope springing eternal that I'll get through them soon:

Brick Lane, Monica Ali. I LOVED this book, or at least the first third or so that I read on the plane back from London this spring.

All the Dawn Powells I picked up since I fell under her spell a couple of years ago. I've read several of her New York-based novels and -- someday! -- plan to get through the Ohio ones.

Of course, if Arlene Croce's Balanchine bio comes out any time soon -- everything else goes back to making dust bunnies!

Chauffeur -- do finish the Krakauer book on the Mormon sect, it's worth it. I had to read that for work, and was totally dazzled by the reporting.

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Helene -- I just finished listening to the John Adams and Alexander Hamilton biographies back to back. (I’m apparently a glutton for founding father punishment. I keep eyeing the newish Franklin and Washington biographies, but then my husband grabs me by the shoulders, gives me a good shake, and tells me to snap out of it.) I feel your pain! Thank goodness Adams only served one term as president, otherwise the book would be lord knows how much longer.  The Hamilton biography was nearly as long, but was at least enlivened by a tawdry affair or two, several duels, and Aaron Burr. If Hamilton hadn't managed to finally get himself shot at 49 (he was prone to "demand satisfaction" from his adversaries when dissed) I suppose I'd still be slogging my way through it ...

I'd just finished the 32+ hours of Hamilton before I started Adams! I loved that biography. Adams has been so much more of a whiner than Hamilton, especially considering how awful Hamilton's childhood was, and how he made himself one of the first self-made immigrant success stories.

After Adams, I think I'm going to listen to "Great Russian Short Stories" before I try the Franklin bio.

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Wanna learn about John Adams without spending time with his prickly personality? I recommend -- very highly -- Phyllis Lee Levin's biography of Abigail Adams. It makes extensive use of Abigail's insightful and beautifully written letters, evoking the difficulties and optimism of the years surrounding Independence.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/031...0553397-9843932

I was carrying the book when a gentleman stopped me to ask how I liked it. I gushed. "My mother wrote it!" he boasted. I asked him to send her my thanks.

I :jawdrop: New York!

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I liked John Ferling’s biography of Adams, which came out a few years ago and isn’t quite as long as McCullough’s. (I don’t much care for McCullough’s approach in general, although I have great respect for him – he’s a popular historian, but he’s done his homework and produces work with integrity. My feeling that his book on Adams was too long and yet oddly incomplete. He went on and on and on about John ‘n’ Abigail, and the evolution of Adams’ political thinking went almost unmentioned.) There’s another older book, The Character of John Adams, by Peter Shaw, which isn’t a formal biography so much as a series of essays on various aspects of Adams’ life and personality. I enjoyed that very much. It’s wonderfully written.

Parenthetically, I wouldn’t call Adams a whiner, or let's say I wouldn't call him only a whiner. :jawdrop: He had a tendency to hold grudges and feel insufficiently appreciated, but he was also extraordinarily hard on himself, hence his reluctance to go easy on others.

More recently, I liked Henry Wiencek’s book about George Washington and slavery, called “An Imperfect God.” (Joseph Ellis’ new Washington bio is redundant. Skip it.) I had mixed feelings about Chernow’s Hamilton book. it’s a good place to start, but I had a number of problems with it.

Kathleen, I also look at several books at once, but those don’t really qualify for my “dust bunny” category. The latter, for me, are those books that NEVER get opened no matter how stern my resolve. Regarding Neal Stephenson, the best way to approach one of his books, along with the forklift, is to pick it up and focus on it. Once you really get into it, you won’t want to stop (and it’s bad to stop, because then you lose track, and thus interest). Cryptonomicon is definitely the best, although I like Snow Crash, too.....

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I liked John Ferling’s biography of Adams, which came out a few years ago and isn’t quite as long as McCullough’s.  (I don’t much care for McCullough’s approach in general, although I have great respect for him – he’s a popular historian, but he’s done his homework and produces work with integrity.  My feeling that his book on Adams was too long and yet oddly incomplete.  He went on and on and on about John ‘n’ Abigail, and the evolution of Adams’ political thinking went almost unmentioned.) There’s another older book, The Character of John Adams, by Peter Shaw, which isn’t a formal biography so much as a series of essays on various aspects of Adams’ life and personality.  I enjoyed that very much.  It’s wonderfully written.

Many thanks for the suggestions.

Parenthetically, I wouldn’t call Adams a whiner, or let's say I wouldn't call him only a whiner.  :jawdrop:  He had a tendency to hold grudges and feel insufficiently appreciated, but he was also extraordinarily hard on himself, hence his reluctance to go easy on others. 
Unfortunately, this made it easy for his contemporaries to dismiss him and to misrepresent his views through the filter of his personality. ("Of course he was a monarchist. He wants to be King, the vain fool...")
I had mixed feelings about Chernow’s Hamilton book. it’s a good place to start, but I had a number of problems with it. 

Is there a better alternative?

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"Eats, Shoots and Leaves", by Lynne Truss. It's a small book, but after a while each chapter is the same. Trying to get through it.

Also just bought the first Harry Potter book "The Socerer's Stone". My 4(almost 5) y.o. and I are going to read it together. Should be interesting :)

The new Better Homes and Gardens magazine just came so I have to escape to my dream home and garden for a while before hitting the Harry Potter book tomorrow (thinking it is not best to be read before bed, lol)

b1

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I found "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" repetitive also, b1 although I, too, loved it at first. I think I may have finished it only because, as a tutor, it's my job to read books like that! :)

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Is there a better alternative?

Burr by Gore Vidal :)

Oh, OK, not really, but it’s a terrific read nonetheless!

I did enjoy Chernow’s biography; since I am a finance professional I appreciated the focus on Hamilton’s tenure as Treasury Secretary and the financial system he put in place, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it struck some as just Too Much Information. There were a couple of things that I found problematic: Chernow, like many biographers, adores his subject and while he is certainly willing to acknowledge Hamilton’s flaws, he sometimes bends over backwards to excuse them away, to cast them as the obverse of a sterling character trait, or to highlight the deficiencies of his adversaries by way of invidious comparison. (He definitely does not adore Aaron Burr and barely tolerates Jefferson.) I found this particularly annoying in the chapter dealing with the famous and fatal duel with Burr. No amount of self possession, attention to duty, thoughtful attentions as a host etc really ameliorates the astounding willingness of a father of seven to be provoked into a duel that could easily have been avoided. There’s a bit more armchair psychoanlysis than I’m generally comfortable with as well.

Hamilton’s own writing is pretty terrific too, by the way, if you’ve got that theory-of-government monkey on your back. The Library of America put out a nice collection of his writings not long ago, and there’s always The Federalist, which I adored during a particularly geeky phase of my otherwise misspent youth.

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vagansmom,

I felt like it was just one big rant/vent regarding poor punctuation usage. She would give examples of bad grammar and punctuation, and then never give the proper usage. I agree with her that the influence of the internet has produced some horrible writing. So many kids today really don't know proper punctuation. I was struggling because as I wrote the title in my post, I couldn't figure out how to underline it! I guess you can't do that with the modern computer (or can you?). :)

b1

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Is there a better alternative?

Not really, IMO, if you're looking for a thorough biography in one volume. I do like Richard Brookhiser's "Alexander Hamilton, American" a cogent appreciation and introduction that you can't use as a doorstop.

Kathleen, I love Burr. It’s one of my all time favorites. And it sticks very close to the facts, although you can disagree about interpretation.

I agree with you about Chernow’s partisanship. He’s not alone in that --many biographers of the FFs seem to be engaged in a kind of My Founding Father Is Better Than Your Founding Father debate. But that may come with the territory, it was a highly partisan era, after all. (I also agree about Chernow’s habit of explaining away unpleasantness. I recall offhand that, after a recital of the difficulties in the Hamiltons’ marriage, he says something like, “it was an ideal union.” Uh, let’s see – chronic infidelity, what looks very like an affair with his sister in law, money problems, apparent intellectual incompatibility.....truly, a marriage to be envied!

The Library of America put out a nice collection of his writings not long ago, and there’s always The Federalist, which I adored during a particularly geeky phase of my otherwise misspent youth.

The Library of America books are handy if you want to go right to the source. My big beef with LofA is the lack of notes and context for much of the material.

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You can underline, b1. When you're in "Add Reply" (but not in "Fast Reply"), you'll see a two rows of "tags" above the box you're typing in. Click the U, type the title (or whatever text you like), and when you've done with whatever you wanted to underline, click again. It will show up as a [/u] at the end, and a at the beginning.

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Thanks for the explanation, carbro.

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Kathleen, I love Burr.  It’s one of my all time favorites.  And it sticks very close to the facts, although you can disagree about interpretation. 

I loved Burr as well.

I agree with you about Chernow’s partisanship.  He’s not alone in that --many biographers of the FFs seem to be engaged in a kind of My Founding Father Is Better Than Your Founding Father debate.  But that may come with the territory, it was a highly partisan era, after all.

I think it's interesting that Jefferson was, for a long time, the FF poster boy, but he's getting his comeuppance in a series of Federalist biographies, as he's portrayed to be rather two-faced and non-committal, as well as an apologist for the excesses of the French Revolution long after the murders and bloodshed were known to him.

(I also agree about Chernow’s habit of explaining away unpleasantness.  I recall offhand that, after a recital of the difficulties in the Hamiltons’ marriage,  he says something like, “it was an ideal union.”  Uh, let’s see – chronic infidelity, what looks very like an affair with his sister in law, money problems, apparent intellectual incompatibility.....truly, a marriage to be envied!

Not my idea of a fun marriage, but it sounded like she adored him and their children and tried to establish his reputation until the very end. The incompatibility seemed to me less intellectual than temperamental.

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Burr by Gore Vidal    :)

Oh, OK, not really, but it’s a terrific read nonetheless!

We're getting pretty close to my original profession here, and I ALSO like and admire the Vidal novel, which is based on quite a sophisticated knowledge and understanding of the period and is (IMO) by far his best history-based work.

Vidal, made it possible for historical novelists to tell complex truths about the past through focusing on intelligently drawn characters. He also paved the way for academic historians to go deeper into the personalities, quirks and warts, too, and to be more questioning and skeptical about inherited pieties about the Founding Fathers.

Of course that was the end of the Nixon and Vietnam War era, when we were all more than ready for a new approach.

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