Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2009: My Year in Reading

I think that I can call this year my most prolific as a reader. I have read 119 books so far, and with two weeks remaining I will be adding a few more to this list. Some of my favorites this year included: The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, and City of Thieves by David Benioff.

One of my other reading accomplishments this year has been to read Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. I have about 150 pages left in the last volume, so I believe I will finish it before the end of the year. It is certainly an interesting book, parts of which are just wonderful and yet other sections made me want to throw the book against the wall. I set up a group on Goodreads for others to join me in reading it, and was pleasantly surprised at the number of other people who were brave enough to take this on. Having conquered this book, I hope to eventually take on a few other bulky classics - Ulysses and War and Peace.

I joined a couple of in-person book discussion groups this year which have been wonderful, especially the Classics group organized by Rebecca of Rebecca Reads. Not only do I love to read, but I love to talk about what I'm reading, and so I'm glad to have found some groups that have sparked great conversations.

And of course, I discovered the wonderful world of book blogging and the amazing amount of book/reading sites available on the internet. Goodreads has become one of my favorite websites, and Books on the Nightstand's podcast is not to be missed each week. And then there's Twitter, which has led me to so many new book blogs and books/publishing information. The internet will not be the death of books and reading; for me it has increased my t0-read list exponentially.

I'm still new to my own blog, so I hope that those of you who do read it will be patient as I continue to learn as I go. I'm in the process of setting up a "plan" for what I want to do with it in 2010 -- any suggestions and comments are most welcome.

I'm travelling to visit my family in Winnipeg, Canada over Christmas and will be busy with year-end projects at my "real" (that is, paying) job so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Winter and I hope that 2010 brings us all some great books to read.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Review : Eating Animals

For the past few years I have had vegetarian phases; my reasons for avoiding meat were generally ethical and followed reading such books as Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. However, because I frankly like the taste of meat - and it is a challenge to eat vegetarian when living with a confirmed meat eater - I always drifted back to including it in my diet. Two recent works have drifted me back to meatless eating - the documentary Food, Inc., and the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both of these showed me factory farming in a light that has made me question what won't business do to make money.

Mr. Foer was inspired to write his book after the birth of his son; he wanted to know where the food he was to be feeding his son came from. His search took him on (clandestine) visits to factory farms and to farms that despite overwhelming odds are trying to raise animals for food in a humane manner.

It is not an easy book to read - and certainly not one to be read while eating anything. Ultimately the book advocates vegetarianism as both a way to prevent animal cruelty and to boycott the factory farming industry (very much linked together), but Foer also describes the conflict that he and other vegetarians have had with meat eating - specifically referring to the Thanksgiving meal and other family/cultural traditions that center around food.

I don't know if "enjoying" is the right word to describe how I felt about reading this book, but it certainly was interesting and gave me a lot to think about regarding how I eat.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What's in a Name? 3 Challenge: Welcome to the Challenge

What's in a Name? 3 Challenge: Welcome to the Challenge

Challenge #3 for 2010! I have signed up for the What's in a Name Challenge, hosted by Beth F. It sounds like a really fun challenge. I've been looking through my to-read shelves and have found a few books that I will be reading for this challenge:
Book with a place name in the title: April in Paris by Michael Wallner
Book with a food in the title: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (creativity is allowed!)

For the other categories - books with a body of water in the title, with a title in the title, with a plant in the title, and with a music term in the title - I will have to do some searching but I have no doubt that I'll be able to find just the right ones.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Social Justice Challenge

I am very excited for the Social Justice Challenge, starting in January. This challenge highlights a different issue each month and the aim is to learn more about these issues and effect change locally and globally.
I find that when I read a novel or non-fiction piece that centers on a topic related to this challenge, I feel that I need to do something to help solve the problem but am at a loss as to what that something is. I hope that this challenge will give me the motivation I need to speak out for those causes I believe in - as well as to learn more about others - and to advocate for the changes that are so desperately needed.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Get Ready for Book Monday

Check out Books on the Nightstand Monday November 30 for their 2009 Books on the Nightstand Holiday Gift Guide.
I've been listening to this podcast and following their blog for almost a year now and have picked up quite a few books based on their recommendations. I can't wait to see what they have picked for the holidays.
Funnily enough, I don't get books for the holidays, I think because I read (and buy) so many that people are afraid to select one for me. However, if anyone asks, I would welcome either of these books under my Christmas tree:
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (not yet available in North America) - I read the first two in the series in rapid succession this summer and cannot wait to read the final book in the trilogy
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith (also not yet available in North America) - this is the fifth book in Smith's 44 Scotland Street series and I have enjoyed the adventures of his characters very much.

So if anyone is heading over to Europe and has some extra room in their carry-on luggage, please think of me?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The to-read shelf

Is it possible to have too many books? I don't think so, but I will give you exhibit A, my to-read shelves (yes, plural):

Last week's podcast on Books on the Nightstand talked about the immense stacks of books to be read that most (all?) bibliophiles have and if one should just cut their losses and start culling the pile.
I don't think I could get rid of any books that I haven't at least tried to read; I may get a few pages in, realize the book is not for me and then put it in the box for the library, but my logic is that I must have bought the book for a reason and should at least give it a shot.
(Of course I should also be less impulsive when I go into a bookstore, but that is probably an entire post's discussion itself).

I do want to read all of these books -- I just don't know when that will ever happen. It would be easy (easier) if I just stopped buying books altogether and stopped visiting the library, but then writers would also have to stop publishing interesting books. And I hope that never happens.

Currently Reading: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (from my shelf - I think I bought it in August)
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (borrowed from the library)
Time Regained by Proust (own it - might be on my currently reading shelf forever at the rate I'm going!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

South Asian Literary Challenge

One of the new things I've learned from seeing all of the book blogs out there is that there are a ton of reading challenges. I arrived too late to the party to participate in most of the 2009 challenges, but I am looking to get involved in a few for 2010. The first one I am committing to participating in is the South Asian Author Challenge, hosted by s.krishnas books . This challenge involves books set in South Asian by writers of South Asian descent.
I am committing to reading three books for this challenge, though I think I can probably read more. I enjoy reading novels set in this region, India specifically - A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of my favorite books of all time. I have this latent desire to visit India one day, but I don't know if I will ever be brave enough to face the reality of India; reading about it is for now the way I am able to experience this complex and beautiful country.
I have one book on my to-read pile that is perfect for this challenge - Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga. I can't wait to find more - I sure wish that Rohinton Mistry would come out with a new novel soon.

Joined the revolution

I have been on Twitter for a few months and am stunned - STUNNED - by the number of book bloggers out there. I wish I didn't need a real (i.e. paying) job because I could easily spend hours upon hours on the computer reading other people's comments about reading - in amongst my own reading of course.
So I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and start blogging myself. I love to read, I'd like to write more, and I love connecting with others who share these interests.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this yet but if anyone out there reading this has any suggestions please pass them along!
I just returned from a visit to my favorite bookstore, Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, Illinois. It is a delightful place and such a pleasant change from the chain bookstores that have no personality. I purchased five books - adding to my ever growing and never ending pile of books to read: The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman (for an upcoming book group discussion at the store), Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (both for a Classics Reading group at my local library), The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo, and Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I don't know when I'll be able to get to them all considering all of the other books on my to-read shelves (yes, plural; one shelf cannot accommodate them all), but I guess I'm comforted by being surrounded by books.

What I'm currently reading:
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose
Remembrance of Things Past, Volume VI: Time Regained by Marcel Proust