Monday, January 5, 2015

What I'm Reading, the New Year Edition

It’s the new year, and it’s time to put away the tinsel and party hats and get back to business. Clearly, December was not a good month for me to do any ambitious reading. In the past couple of weeks, I slowed way down, distracted as I was by the eggnog and the ho-ho-ho. I read like crazy the first few months of my blogging adventure, because, well, accountability! But I only finished a few in the final weeks of 2014. The first was All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (review here), which was deeply sad but also deeply rewarding. I followed that with The Girls From Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe, which is a debut novel about friendship and isolation (review here). And just yesterday, I finished The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (I kept referring to him as Jim Bob accidentally. This is NOT a book by Jim Bob Duggar). I will write a review of this chilly literary thriller some time this week.

As promised, I did finish The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, because we were supposed to discuss it at our little extended family reunion in California. It turns out that we didn’t discuss it due to the above-mentioned eggnog and ho-ho-ho, so I’m not sure what to do with my thoughts about this book. Maybe I’ll write a post at some point about reading classics, or maybe it will be a post about reading things I should have read in college but didn’t.

I also joined the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader. It is my great hope to shrink my leaning stack of books by at least twelve this year. I also have plans to more intentionally read books by a wide range of authors and about a wide range of people and places this year. You can read about my interest in intentionality around diversity here.

Now, on to this week! My new teaching quarter starts Tuesday, so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have. I’m going to put forward this stack of two:

The first book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, was on just about everybody’s "Best of 2014" list. We are also reading it for my book club. I managed to score a fantastic paperback copy for Christmas!

Here’s the description from Powells:

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

I am also going to read The Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. This is one on my 2015 TBR Challenge.

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode.

That’s it for now. I do feel like I have a clean reading slate. I’m looking forward to lots of good conversations and page turning in 2015. Join me?

(It's Monday...What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Journey)


Nise' said...

Happy New Year. All The Light was on my favorite list of 2014 too.

Melinda Ott said...

I really enjoyed "All the Light We Cannot See"...I hope you like it as well!

jennifer said...

Oh good! I'm excited to read it.

jennifer said...

Thanks! I'm not sure I would have picked it up without the buzz, but I'm excited to try it.

Gabrielle Gerhard said...

I look forward to discussing "All the light" with you in bookclub in a few weeks.

I have been staring at my "stack" of books as well, not sure I can read 12 in a year! But will commit to two.

One is the Big Burn, which I bought at that cute xbook store on Bainbridge a few years ago. It is about a big forest fire:

"On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved through the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno. Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men—college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps—to fight the fire. But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.

Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen.- Amazon"

The other book is from an earlier bookclub book swap, so I cannot reveal the title, till I finish it maybe.

Thanks for introducing me to the idea of the TBR challenge!

A question for a future post. How do you feel about reading with technology? I just started a much aclaimed novel with a strong historical element and find myself grabbing my phone as I read to google names of important sites in the book and maps. Is this a distraction? Should I wait a few more pages till the author introduces that topic more? Should I just plod along like in the old days? Thoughts?

Thanks for all the interesting posts.

jennifer said...

Thank you for the comment, Gabrielle! I also have an Egan book on my TBR challenge list (The Worst Hard Time). I have the Big Burn in my stack, too, but maybe it will be on the 2016 TBR challenge list. ;)

Thanks also for your question. I think I'll turn it into a blog post, if you don't mind! I'm always looking for ideas.