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What are you reading this winter?

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Besides, unfortunately, textbooks, I hope to find the time during Christmas/New Year's Week to read Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson, a saga of Scandinavia that focuses on the women, and Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a story about the plague. I hear that, despite modern sensibilities sometimes entering into the story, it's still a good one.

Our book club just finished Story of Pi, a book I'd read a couple months ago. There was a mixed reaction to it. Most of the members loved the book and spent a good time digging through animal symbolism books but one member hated the book for what she called "wonton violence against animals".

For our next meeting, we're reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie.

Has anyone read any of these books? What are you reading?

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I am reading or giving all the books everyone talked about last summer and before that--got my husband the Da Vinci code for Christmas, and a new book about evolution. I personally am reading all of Angela Thirkell's Barchester novels, some 29 in number. The early ones are the best, before she got really really cranky about everything, and before her various bigotries were so overt--apparently Albert Knopf, her American publisher, was key in damping that down. But they are all, to me, both diverting and somehow germane. Because there is such a panoply of characters in each novel, there is always some personage of about my own age, whose world view and modest yearnings Thirkell delineates to perfection. I am told that one of the books--The Brandons--was a bestseller in its day. They are comfy reading, still, and literate enough not to make you feel you are reading junk--not so much stylistically, the style is endlessly chatty and discursive (insert comment here about influence on my posts), but in terms of references and quotations that emerge in the dialogue. I use a concordance some really dedicated fan put together to chase down allusions I don't get, which are many. It's possible, I think when reading these books, that great plumbing and efficient central heating will emerge as the great American contributions to civilization.

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I disliked "Life of Pi". It was very nicely written but I hated the ending so much that I put it back on the shelf in disgust and I will never read it again. I'll say no more in case people haven't read it yet.

I am having a charity-shop random read at the moment. I keep buying rubbishy whodunnits and crime thrillers for less than £1, reading them, and then giving them back. I'm waiting for "Lady and the Unicorn" by Tracey Chevalier to come out in paperback. I highly recommend one of her books - "Girl with a Pearl Earring" which has just been made into a film with Colin Firth. I have seen the tapestry this latest book is based upon - it's in the musee de moyen age in Paris - and it's just amazing, so I'm looking forward to her interpretation.

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I hated the Life of Pi so much I threw it across the room at page 27 nad I haven't picked it up since. I thought it was written in such an awful, knowing, smug kind of way, I couldn't stand it! :wink:

Anyway, I have just discovered Carol Sheilds - I came across 'Unless' in the recommended section of the bookshop and it was beautiful. I am now reading 'the Stone Diaries' which is also excellent; it's unsurprising that these books won the Pulitzer and were shortlisted for the Booker!

I also just finished 'Memoirs of an ex-Prom Queen' which I liked for its historical value. I was right into this kind of thing when I was doing my history degree (it was very modern history) and I also wonder what's happened to all the young feminist novelists!

I love the Tracey Chevalier books, Beckster - we will have to go and see the film! :)

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LOL, We should probably start a Li of Pi thread. I hated the beginning of the book but kept at it because my daughter insisted on it, and then loved the whole middle of the book. I didn't like the ending....at first. But then, when my book club read it, I had to reread to remember various parts. It was in the rereading that I really fell in love with the book. There is an awful lot there that takes getting to the end and then looking back through the pages before one can really understand it. It was only then, after doing that, that I could accept the ending. And make my choice of what story to believe.

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Vagansmom, interesting that you mentioned Marianne Fredriksson - so she is being translated into English. Well, I never... Yes, she is very popular in Sweden, but I tried one of her books - sorry, it was not my kind of stuff. By that I have not said that her books are bad, they are just not what I enjoy reading. However, congratulations to MF, she is obviously doing very well.

While I am at it, I would like to ask if any member has ever heard of some children's book by Sven Nordquist - text and illustrations - about the old man Pettson and his cat Findus? Lovely stuff indeed.

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I have read Tuesdays with Morrie and loved it. My sister had to read the summer before she entered college; she was given it when she went to orientation.

Some of the books that I like are based in the south, which is where I live. I have read John Grisham's books, A Time to Kill, The Client, & The Pelican Brief, and enjoyed all of them. I probably will read some more of his work over the holidays. I like books that are set in the south because they talk about places that I have been to so they are easier to visualize.

For some light, fun reading try Jill Conner Browne, who has written 3 books about being a sweet potato queen. She has a website, http://www.sweetpotatoqueens.com/spq/ Her books make me laugh out loud!

I want to read Nutcracker Nation that has been much talked about. Depends on if my library has it or not!

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Ah, BW, what an unwitting set-up! :)

I have been wanting to post about The Patron Saint of Liars, which I have been reading off and on for the last month or so. I just haven't had time (either to post OR to read).

It also is by Ann Patchett. It concerns the life of a young woman in the 1960's who finds herself pregnant. She's married, but rather aimlessly so, so she up and leaves one day, bound for a home for (mostly) unwed mothers on the far side of the country. The book follows the unfolding of her life during her pregnancy and after the baby is born. That's as far as I've gotten, so I can't tell you how it turns out!

It's not as captivating as Bel Canto, which had an almost magical voice to it. It does share the theme of learning about oneself and finding one's true passion.

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Tiffany, and others interested in reading stories indigenous to the South, try Ellen Gilchrist's work. A highly acclaimed writer, she pens full length novels and short stories. The stories are 'fiction,' but many people recognize themselves in these works (which may be why she moved from this city to Arkansas -- something I'm sure I'll have to do once I start writing stories about the Uptown matrons who shop at Langensteins and maneuver the grocery store like they're well narcotized, a la The Stepford Wives -- they stop and converse with each other about a lot of nothing, in the doorway, oblivious to the fact that people are trying to enter and exit).

I finally saw the film "Sweet Home Alabama," and noted at the end that it is based on a novel -- wondering if anyone is familiar with the book the movie is based on.

A few notes on Grisham: he is a big baseball fan and built his own 'field of dreams' just outside of Oxford, MS -- you can drive by on the highway and see it lit up. He also helped found "The Oxford Review." There's a wonderful independent bookstore in Oxford that he has ties to. Great little literary town. You can also nose around Faulkner's old home where he used to invite the town children to come on Halloween and he would tell them frightful stories.

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This week, I received a few books as Christmas gifts from my students. Has anyone read "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides? In looking for a book review of it on Amazon, I see that the other choices of customers who bought it are all books I've recently read and posted about here except for Eugenides' other book "The Virgin Suicides" which I haven't read.

I was also given "Gypsy Girl", a children's book by Rumer Godden, one of my favorite adult authors. It was originally published as "The Diddakoi". I'm looking forward to reading it. I love nearly everything she's written; her short stories for children are always worthy of adult read - this latest in my hands being a full length novel for children.

And I'm nearing my next once-a-decade read of "War & Peace". I figure I'll probably identify with the elders in the novel now. :D My son is halfway through it; this is a milestone in his life since reading is such a slow-go for him.

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Funny Face, you read my mind. :D Today I bought my niece the first 3 Betsy-Tacy books as a Christmas present.

AND, I told my husband I want a brass bowl for a potted palm. :D

Like somebody else, I can play a waltz and a two-step on the piano. That's about it for my repertoire. But I'll be happy to play for some of those infamous onion sandwiches.

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Guest gingembre

I've been reading quite a few Octavia Butler books lately. I just finished the sequel to Earthseed, which I thought was a great book. I'm finding now that reading about any kind of parent-infant seperation or cruelty to children has become incredibly difficult since I've had my daughter. What else? I've reread LOTR and The Hobbit recently. I had forgotten that the Hobbit is written in a much more casual style than the LOTR. Not sure what's coming up next, I haven't been to the bookstore in a while. Very often I subsist off of murder mysteries loaned to me by my mom :D Probably more Octavia Butler, I am really enjoying all of her books.

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I read Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides not long ago. I really enjoyed it - I thought it was better than the Virgin Suicides. I doubly enjoyed it because of my interest in genetics, but the story of the family was a great read in itself. It is definitely not a kids book, though!

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vagan'smom, have you read Gypsy Girl yet? After An Episode of Sparrows it's my favorite Godden book. She's so steely tough!

I am reading mostly books on the philosophy of mathematics and hellenistic science while trying desperately to find copies of Heiburg's editions of Euclid and Archimedes (Dissertation. Anybody got an extra copy kicking around?) while preparing for my Roman Republic class next semester.

HOWEVER. Over the break I've read all of Robin McKinley's books (Blue Sword, Hero and the Crown, etc) for the 70 zillionth time, and am working my way back through all of Joan Aiken's Dido/Is books which I've collected at great expense just as they're all coming back into print. I can't tell you how much I love that woman's writing. Dido is the best. And yeah, that's who I borrowed my name from, not that lame-o queen of Carthage :FIREdevil: .

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I'm just finishing up Joseph Mazo's Dance is a Contact Sport. It's a non-dancer's perspective of NYCB. Mr. Mazo observed the company for the 1972-3 season and wrote all about many different aspects, including rehearsals, music, finances, etc and he's marvellously impartial and polite. Although probably all the dancers he profiled have retired, I'm sure a lot of the other material is still relevant, like the struggle between artistry and finances (but imagine, pointe shoes for 10.50, and 8.95 for orchestra seats...and at a time when the Met charged up to $20 for a seat!) I wonder if anyone else has written a book like this more recently?

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"Dance is a Contact Sport" is one of my favorite ballet books -- it paints an unforgettable, gritty portrait of life inside NYCB at a great moment in the company's history --after the Stravinsky Festival and before the return of Suzanne Farrell and the retirement of Melissa Hayden. I don't know of any other book like it. Mazo affects a sort of wise-guy tone throughout, but it is endearing and appropriate. Some of my all-time favorite dancers have cameo roles -- Bobby Maiorano, Delia Peters, Victor Castelli -- and the stars ... Villella, von Aroldingen, d'Amboise ... But while for me the book is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, there's much in it that is always relevant -- on the subjects of money, injuries, life in the corps, the relationship between soloists, principals, and stars, and -- as they say -- much, much more.

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Arturo Perez-Reverte writes intellectual thrillers (or literary detective stories) in Spanish. I have read several in English translation. His books are set in Spain and with one exception in the present, although each the stories he relates are rooted in the past--some as long ago as the Middle Ages.

Perez-Reverte creates very credible characters—so much so that the reader accepts the occasionally incredible situations he puts them in. Those situations have to occur since his genre is mystery/thriller. He has the mysterious happenings and thrilling occurrences down pat.

Literary—he assumes, for example, that the reader knows not only the first sentence of “Moby Dick” (everyone does) and the last few sentences of it (also most of us) but much of what comes between the first and last pages. The plots of his novels center around books and reading.

“The Club Dumas” tells of the obsessive acquisitiveness of rare book lovers—and assumes the reader knows the details of many of Dumas’ books, since the characters and action from them especially D’Artangian and Lady DeWinter are woven into the narrative.

“The Fencing Master”, while set in the mid-19th century in Madrid, has constant references to fencing tomes of years past and its protagonist ignores the political tumult all around him while attempting to finish life's work, a Treatise on the Art of Fencing. He fails, of course, since this is a thriller, and is drawn into the plots and counter-plots that surround him.

“The Nautical Chart”, the book I recommend for those who haven’t yet begun to read Perez-Reverte, has action that is based on interpretation of 17th century Jesuit sources. The action in the novel could not take place without and is based upon critical comparisons of books of atlases from the early modern period.

One theme that surfaces constantly in his books is the conflict between history and tradition on one side and modernity on the other. Each of his leading characters are rooted in some way in the past—ancient book dealers, experts on restoration of Renaissance paintings, interpreters of documents from hundreds of years ago. But each of them is also completely comfortable with the very modern tools of his or her trade, is aware of recent breakthroughs in the science behind the art that they practice and is very aware of the current value to the objects for which they strive.

A literary device that Perez-Reverte uses to great effect is a shifting point of view. Combined with related tropes like a (slightly) unreliable narrator and uncertainty as to the identity of the protagonist this creates several layers of meaning. His language, while not flowery, is rich and a joy to read.

Like many “classic” authors of centuries past, Perez-Reverte immerses his reader in the obsessions and diversions of his characters. In Melville you learn about whaling. Stories of farm life in the Russian provinces run throughout Tolstoy, while detailed explanations of the English courts and justice system characterize Dickens. As with these authors, you will finish one of Perez-Reverte's books knowing a good bit more about what animates the lives of his characters.

Art restoration, the history of chess, the different schools of fencing during the waning of the age of Chivalry, the value of books pubished before the year 1600 and how mariners determined longitude before the invention of the chronometer are among the things he discusses in delightful and discursive detail.

At least one of his books has yet to be translated into English: “La Riena del Sur” and I haven’t been able to find “El capitan Alatriste” in English. I look forward to reading both of them plus “The Seville Communion”, which I am saving for a bit.

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"The Nautical Chart" is a good place to start. Although that is probably because it was the first of his books that I read and was entranced by it.

Discovering new authors can be a bit daunting sometimes, at least for me. I formed a habit back when I first began reading seriously of reading through several books by the same author, one after the other. I can recall essentially checking out entire shelves from the Chicago Public Library and chewing through Melville, Hawthorne, Hardy, Dickens, Faulkner and plenty of others.

I still have a tendency to do that, but try to slow down and savor each book as a thing in itself.

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