Saturday, January 03, 2009

Reading List

Over at Semicolon there is a special edition of the Saturday Review of Books. People are linking to their reading lists from 2008. You can take a look here.

Here's my list:

Book 1
Books 2 through 5
Books 6 through 8
Book 9
Books 10 and 11
Books 12 through 16
Books 17 through 20
Books 21 through 24
Books 25 through 41
Book 42
Books 43 through 48
Books 49 through 55
Books 56 and 57
Books 58 through 60

Sorry not to take the time to list every title, but I really shouldn't have even done this, since I'm supposed to be getting ready for school to start again on Monday! Most of these posts have at least a little bit of comment on the book, though some of them are just lists. I do enjoy keeping track of the books I read so that I can look back on them, and I'll be doing the same this year. I've finished one already...stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where I found out about it (I think maybe in the newsletter from a local independent bookseller), but I recently finished and enjoyed Masterpiece, a YA fiction book by Elise Broach (she has an earlier book called Shakespeare's secret that I haven't read yet). It was a wonderful story, and as I've been reading parts of it out loud to my 5yo I've realized that the language is very lyrical. Your students might enjoy it.

Ruth said...

Thanks for the tip. I will look for that book. The earlier one sounds interesting, too. My daughter has read several YA novels about Shakespeare and enjoyed them.

Anonymous said...

And are you familiar with The Mysterious Benedict Society? There are two books so far. I really enjoyed the first and am working on the second; my eldest son ate them up - some of the girls in his class are vaguely fanatical about it (affecting to be one of the characters). I skimmed the reviews at Amazon today and some people are harsh about the length and the plot - there's an element of truth in what they say, but most everyone I know in real life has enjoyed them.

Ruth said...

Keep the recommendations coming! I am going to get to visit a bookstore very very soon... :-)

Anonymous said...

I am not sure this is the right spot, but I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns and wished to share some thoughts. "Pearl"

Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns has received much praise in the literary world.

It mostly tells of the story of two young Afghani women coming of age during the time of their country’s war with the Soviet Union, the Mujahidin resistance movement, and the succeeding Taliban rule.

The writer first introduces Mariam, a child conceived from an illicit encounter between a middle-class business man named Jalil, already the husband to three wives, and Nana, one of his poor housemaids.

Mariam and Nana live in meager surroundings, receiving weekly food rations from Jalil. Nana repeatedly warns her daughter about the Jalil’s hypocrisy and cowardliness, but Mariam remains oblivious. To her, Jalil is wonderful. But Nana, is right of course, a truth that Mariam learns in a heart-breaking, life-altering way.

At 15, Mariam is forced to marry Rasheed, a brute and hateful man, who proceeds to run his household, predictably, as if he were a card-carrying member of the Taliban.

Enters Laila. She was born into a comfortable home, joining two brothers. The father, a sensitive school teacher, has only one wife, though perhaps not the ideal one. He dots on his baby girl and teaches her to value education. But that early happiness fails to protect Laila. She, along side Mariam, spends most of the novel in the grip of Rasheed’s terror.

At first glance, the laudatory reviews seem justified. The novel is accessible, its sentences crisp, and the apparent subject matter, a legitimate little girl born to illegitimate parents, beckoning.

The book also provides an introduction, part history, part geography, to Afghanistan and to Afghanis. The lessons are brief but told lovingly through the eyes of a proud native son.

That said, the novel disappoints.

First, the author insists on using non-English words. Nana calls Mariam harami – why not just bastard? How is harami pronounced, anyway? And what do the other words mean? Are they in Farsi? What are the other likely languages? These questions leave the reader feeling annoyed and inadequate, like an English major who has not read Moby Dick.

By far the most important objection is the depth of the tragedy that befalls the characters, and all of it for no other reason than life stinks. They lose almost all, experience unspeakable sorrow and indignity. The author has created a work of great pain, a story full of Tesses, but without Hardy’s literary or human sweep. It seems forced.

One must thread lightly when the topic is war. Surely, whole neighborhoods were obliterated and families killed, surely husbands acted like Gestapo guards. But up close, Hosseini’s victims seem hapless, not praiseworthy.

Rasheed creates and merits his hell, but the others are just unlucky. Their choice is but to suffer the forces arrayed against them: droughts or extreme winters, cruel or indifferent foreign powers, society’s illogical mores and lethal unfairness, selfish or weak women, murderous men and politicians – especially them.

But it is not enough to survive; one must live until death imposes itself.

Ultimately, the main characters elicit sympathy but not respect. The thoughtful reader is left to wish that poor Mariam had not been too resigned to mitigate her squalor, too pitiful to experience even one of her land’s thousand splendid suns.

Ruth said...

Thanks Pearl. Great review. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

By the way I think you should get your own blog. :-)