dirac

Summer reading thread

69 posts in this topic

*The Sleeping Bride by Dorothy Eden

*The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

*Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904-2010 by Bruce K. Hanson

*Sibley and Dowell by Leslie Spatt (Why can't ballet books written today be like this?)

*The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

*The Boy Who Shoots Crows by Randall Silvis

*The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs

*Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

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What has everyone been reading this summer?

*Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

*In the Water They Can't See You Cry by Amanda Beard

*The Satanic Mill by Otfried Preußler

*The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

*Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

*Do You Think I'm Beautiful? by Angela Thomas

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Lots of junk, guilty pleasure little numbers...nothing to brag about over here...blushing.gif

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Rereading (translation: "ploughing through") Anthony Powell's series Dance to the Music of Time. This has surprised me. What seemed important and revelatory in my youth now seems padded and often lifeless. The novels do give you a sense of social changes in Britain from the 20s to the 70s, but are generally stronger when dealing with the narrator's school years and entry into the adult world. Nicholas Jenkins, Powell's alter-ego, reveals little about himself, content to observe others closely and with increasing skepticism. Surely Kenneth Widmerpool, who pops up in every novel, is one of the most annoying characters in 20th-century literature, though not always as Powell seems to have intended.

I'm glad I have just discovered Hilary Spurling's Invitation to the Dance -- an alphabetical glossary of characters, places, and cultural references for the entire series.

One good thing about this experience: it has made me want to read the Evelyn Waugh again.

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I've been slowly, very slowly, reading Robert Caro's latest book on Lyndon Johnson, "The Passage to Power," and Alan Taylor's "The Civil War of 1812."

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Reading all the Jo Nesbo thrillers. I'm on Snowman now, Leopard to go before his new one this fall.

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Much obliged to you for reviving this thread, Rosa. I kept meaning to do so and forgetting about it.

So far this summer I'm trying to catch up on various magazines stacked about in a fit of what Tom Wolfe once called subscription guilt. I read "Varina Davis: First Lady of the Confederacy" and in a similar vein, "America Aflame" is sitting on the shelf waiting. Also read a book about Warren Jeffs, "Answer Them Nothing" - horrifying stuff. Just started Hank Haney's book, "The Big Miss."

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Someone mentioned their feelings on Mieville's Embassytown, and I echo them. Also on the table: Nijinsky's Diaries (Unexpurgated), The Brothers Karamazov, various Lovecraft short stories.

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I've just finished reading The Thread by Victoria Hislop and found it a superb read. This is the third book of hers that I have read, the other two being The Island (about Crete and the Leper Colony of Spinalonga) and The Return (set in the Spanish Civil War). The Thread is set in Thessaloniki and covers the period from the early 20th Century to the 1970s. I knew a bit about the history of Thessaloniki but hadn't realised just how bad things had been during the second world war. Victoria Hislop does seem to do meticulous reseach on her subjects.

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Audiobooks via my iPod classic, the one electronic device I absolutely could not live without:

  • Paul Murray's Skippy Dies. It was fantastic -- one of those books that really is both hilarious and heartbreaking. I highly recommend the audiobook, which is beautifully narrated by a full Irish cast (the action centers around a Dublin boarding school for boys).
  • Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies. Every bit as good as Wolf Hall, the first book in her trilogy of historical novels about Thomas Cromwell. Even James Wood, who normally has no time for historical fiction (or genre fiction of any kind for that matter) approves.
  • Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, in a new translation. Also fantastic. (The first translation directly from the original Polish into English, apparently; the one that's been available to date is an English translation of the first French translation. Because of rights issues, the new translation is only available in ebook and audiobook form.) I first read Solaris a bazillion years ago in college, and I can't believe how much I missed the first time around. One really interesting thing: Lem was able to project (presumably) plausible future technologies that enable travel at or near the speed of light, anti-gravity drives, computer-controlled environments, etc., but completely missed digitization! The future world of Solaris is charmingly analogue: the space station where the action takes place is crammed full of paper books, magnetic tape, and complex calculations done by hand on pads of paper. (With a slide rule, maybe? I think mine is still lurking in a box in the back of a closet somewhere.) I've started re-watching Andrei Tarkovsky's great film adaptation on Mosfilm's YouTube channel. (All the films are subtitled. Click on the little red "cc" box in the lower right hand corner of the viewing box.)
  • Alistair Reynolds' The Prefect. Fun space-opera-cum-police-procedural, but it ain't no Solaris.
  • Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, credited with being the first detective novel in English. I'm pleased to report that little of real consequence has changed in the genre since 1868.

Ebooks:

  • How to Think Like a Neanderthal. No, not a self-help book. wink1.gif It's a reconstruction of what Neanderthal life -- and Neanderthal psychology -- might have been like based on the archeological record. I think the authors, two professors of psychology and anthropology at the University of Colorado, are on thin ice in a couple of places, but it was mostly very informative and thought-provoking.
  • Picking my way through the two volumes of Susan Sontag's journals that have been issued to date, Reborn and As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh. I'm finding that the private Sontag that emerges from the journals is rather different from the oracular public persona. I used to see her in the audience at concerts and dance performances, and she always looked so forbidding -- and never like she was actually enjoying herself, though going out to see a performance or a film was apparently one of the great joys of her life. For some strange reason I was absolutely crushed to learn that the famous white streak in her hair was fake.
  • In honor of Gore Vidal, who died just yesterday, I think I'll re-read Burr, Lincoln, or maybe Creation or Julian. Burr was the best time I've ever had with a book, hands down.

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Even James Wood, who normally has no time for historical fiction (or genre fiction of any kind for that matter) approves.

Big of him. (Reminds me of those people who used to say things like, "I don't really care for graphic novels, but have you read Maus?")

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I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries--watching as he writes Monty Python and Ripping Yarns--wonderful fun!

Have to get this! !! Thanks, macnellie.

Kathleen, I agree about Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. Serious historical fiction is a joy. Mantel's are possibly the best written historical novels I've ever read. She has an earlier novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety -- focusing on the relationships among Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins. You can see the origins of the narrative style that makes the two novels about Thomas Cromwell so astonishing.

Re Gore Vidal: I also like the historical novels and am thinking of rereading Burr, with its roguish, though charming, almost tragic leading man. Have you read 1876? A lot of rogues in that, too. Both novels have amazing resonance given what is happening in U.S. politics today -- one of the low points of our long history.

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Looking around for light summer reading I came across "Ther Chaperone" by Laura Moriarty. The 15 year old Louise Brooks is a main character and it covers her early years with Denishawn. It has whet my appetite for more Brooks and I am re-reading "Lulu in Hollywood" and the excellent biography by Barry Paris.

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  • Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, credited with being the first detective novel in English. I'm pleased to report that little of real consequence has changed in the genre since 1868.

One of my favorites. Do you know who was the narrator, Kathleen?

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  • Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, credited with being the first detective novel in English. I'm pleased to report that little of real consequence has changed in the genre since 1868.

One of my favorites. Do you know who was the narrator, Kathleen?

The version I'm listening to uses a different narrator for each of the witnesses. I've just finished Gabriel Betteredge's section, which is narrated by Patrick Tull (who did all the Aubrey-Maturin novels). I've just started Drusilla Clack's section, which is narrated by Davina Porter. I think a bunch of the audiobook heavy-hitters will eventually get their turns. So far, the narration has been excellent and I'm really enjoying it.

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Serious historical fiction is a joy. Mantel's are possibly the best written historical novels I've ever read. She has an earlier novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety -- focusing on the relationships among Danton, Robespierre, and Desmoulins. You can see the origins of the narrative style that makes the two novels about Thomas Cromwell so astonishing.

Re Gore Vidal: I also like the historical novels and am thinking of rereading Burr, with its roguish, though charming, almost tragic leading man. Have you read 1876? A lot of rogues in that, too. Both novels have amazing resonance given what is happening in U.S. politics today -- one of the low points of our long history.

I read A Place of Greater Safety, too. It was really good, but Wolf Hall just blew me away. I think I read 1876, but since I can't recall any of the details, maybe not ... Perhaps I'll go with that one rather than re-reading an old favorite.

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Burr is better than 1876 by a long way, but the second book is not bad. 1876 lacks a single fascinating historical figure to provide a center (Tilden ain't no Burr). The Schuyler family is more to the fore and because Vidal doesn't invest his purely fictional characters with the same kind of life as his historical/fictional characters this is a weakness. He once said he wanted to see 1876 as a movie (with his friend Claire Bloom as the central female figure, Emma) and I think the material could be improved upon if dramatized.

Vidal's Messiah is a good read. Also liked Two Sisters and Williwaw. The City and the Pillar has dated but it is worth a look. And of course, there's Myra. I never got around to Kalki or Duluth.

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Whenever I happen to be at the railway station, I enjoy going through the selection of classics in a relatively cheap edition at the book store there. So recently I decided to brush up my Spanish and bought the short novel Réquiem por und campesino español by Ramón J. Sender. It is set around the time of the Spanish Civil War and so far quite nice to read. I hope for a bit more intensity as the novel progresses however. I have a collection of short stories waiting for me once I finish this novel.

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Thank you, Moonlily. Réquiem por un campesino español sounds like a very interesting selection and a fine opportunity to keep your Spanish language "muscles" in tone.

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Kathleen, I hope you enjoy 1876. I agree with dirac on this, but always enjoy Vidal when he lets loose the his arsenal of wit and scorn. The "Gilded" Age certainly deserves everything it gets. I love the minor characters, especially the rogues.

Moonlily, Sender's book is worth it. I found that reading it in Spanish actually helped me by forcing me to read slowly and thoughtfully. There's an excellent Spanish movie that is quite faithful to the text. Antonio Banderas played the young campesino.

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Thank you, carbro!

bart, it comes in particularly handy because in this edition, the expressions in local dialects or colloquial language are explained at the bottom of each page along with very specific vocabulary that is likely to be unknown to the reader. Therefore I do not need to stop the flow of reading when I don't understand a passage and also have an overview of words that I might need to incorporate into my own vocabulary in case they are frequently used. Thank you for letting me know about the movie, I hadn't heard of it before! I will probably check it out after I finish reading, even though I often get the feeling of going through a check list when I watch a movie that is based on a book when I watch it after reading first.

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I've been slowly, very slowly, reading Robert Caro's latest book on Lyndon Johnson, "The Passage to Power," ...

My sister has been reading this series, also very slowly, but has been frustrated with the sheer size of the books (she's a reader-in-bed, and like the Gottlieb "Reading Dance," they are awkward to hold up. Her solution, with the older books, is to buy used copies and cut them down the spine into more manageable pieces. I cringed at first, to see a book sliced up like that, but she's mending them when she's done.

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After I heard of Paul Fussell's death, I thought I'd re-read some of his stuff, but when I went to get it out of the library, I would up dipping into Betty Fussell's work, which I had heard good things about, but had never read. Just finished My Kitchen Wars and appreciated her point of view on the changing roles of women in 20th c American culture, which she looks at through her own experiences.

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For a perfect summer read I recommend Frank Langella's Dropped Names. he knew such an amazing variety of people personally or professionally, and writes about them with great insight. Even with those he describes negitively, he isn't mean spirited or judgmental. He is a very observant actor studying humans in all their foibles. I found it very entertaining.

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I've been slowly, very slowly, reading Robert Caro's latest book on Lyndon Johnson, "The Passage to Power," ...

My sister has been reading this series, also very slowly, but has been frustrated with the sheer size of the books (she's a reader-in-bed, and like the Gottlieb "Reading Dance," they are awkward to hold up. Her solution, with the older books, is to buy used copies and cut them down the spine into more manageable pieces. I cringed at first, to see a book sliced up like that, but she's mending them when she's done.

My mother used to read gigantic nonfiction books and then give them to me. I rarely read them because I could not hold them in bed, or carry them on a train. She kept her books, and everything else, in pristine condition. All my books are bent, worn, and stained. Thank you for making me think about her.

I am reading Gelsey Kirkland's book, having put Nancy Goldner's book aside for the moment. I have learned so much about dance performance, artistry, dance history, and creativity from Gelsey's book, which is very well written. Too bad all I heard about it before was that it was about "anorexia, drug use, and bad sex with Misha."

I am supplementing my reading with lessons by video, too. This weekend, in addition to reading Gelsey's book, I watched, "Bringing Balanchine Back", "The Dream", "Children of Theatre Street" and "Choreography by Balanchine." I am awed by Herman Cornejo and Wendy Whelan.

I also saw Bolshoi's old production of "R&J". Are all of these productions so dark?

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