Top Ten Mix and Match

Skimming the list of Top Ten Tuesday topics at The Broke and the Bookish, I noticed several for which I had a single instant answer, but not a list of ten. So I decided I’d make a list of ten of the Top Ten Tuesday topics for which I had one (okay, one-ish) answer each:

  1. Most Intimidating Books: Anything over 600 pages, really. It makes no sense – it just means reading one book instead of two in the same amount of time – but it’s a deterrent nevertheless.
  2. Books I Wish I Read As A Kid: Alanna and the whole Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. And Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown would have been useful right after college.
  3. Characters (and Literary Figures) That I Would Did Name My Children After: Lyra from The Golden Compass. (Also strongly considered Clare, from The Time Traveler’s Wife.)
  4. Hilarious Book Titles: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

    Book cover of Maine

    NOT an accurate representation of the novel Maine.

  5. Book Covers I Wish I Could Redesign: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. The photo of a young woman in a bathing suit on a beach does not represent this book AT ALL. I didn’t love the paperback cover for Gold by Chris Cleave, either, but the hardcover design was great.
  6. Books That Broke Your Heart: The Amber Spyglass was the first book I remember reading where I got to the end and thought the exact word heartbreaking.
  7. Most Frustrating Characters: Harry Potter in the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was so whiny and angsty, and so terrible to Ron and Hermione, that I actually hated reading some parts of the book, no matter how realistic his behavior for a character that age. Be better, Harry!
  8. Series I’d Like to Start, but Haven’t Yet: The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. Maybe also something by Leigh Bardugo. I’m taking suggestions…
  9. Sequels We Can’t Wait to Get Our Hands On: I’m eager for the next book in any good series I start…but I remember being particularly desperate for each new book in Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Cycle, and I’ve been waiting for the second volume in The Book of Dust since the moment I read the last page of the first volume, La Belle Sauvage.
  10. Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces of Art: I actually have two (2) pieces of Time Traveler’s Wife-related art on my walls: a Litograph, and an acrylic painting of the cover, done by a good friend. I wouldn’t mind a Litograph of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, either. Oh, and we have Mo Willems’ Pigeon, as well. I probably could come up with ten pieces of bookish art I’d want…
Advertisements

Top Ten Friday: the to-read list

Back in June, I wrote about books that I was looking forward to. Coming into the end of the year, it’s time to take stock:

  • The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein: read and liked this little peek into Julie’s life before the war and Code Name Verity.
  • Holding Up the Universe and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: read/listened, liked; would recommend to anyone looking for realistic YA fiction.
  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy: read and liked, but it’s her first novel, Dumplin’, that has stayed with me more. I may re-read or listen (I’ve heard the audio is good). Related: Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu was another excellent teen novel set in a small Southern (Texas) town.
  • Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister: haven’t read yet
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: read and loved. Eleanor is such a unique character and her story is difficult and quiet and strong.
  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: read this for book club and loved it – it was like Jane Austen meets Downton Abbey.
  •  Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen: haven’t read yet
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: read for book club. Important, especially for those in a position to ignore or forget the effects of institutional racism and police violence (i.e. most white people).
  • Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith: read and liked, but I’m not sure I’ll return to it, even though I bought a copy. I did love the line “perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone” (from “My God, It’s Full of Stars”).
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman: read as soon as it was published, loved it, read it again, am waiting for the next one already. Review here, contains spoilers.
  • Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore: read and loved. Different from the Graceling books of course, but equally immersive, and structurally interesting (it’s sort of a Choose Your Own Adventure, but with all the options).
  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin: read and liked this one very much, and included it on a “Books on the Bright Side” list I made for my library.
  • The Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and others: I really liked the first two volumes, didn’t like the third and fourth as much (the Young Avengers crossover lost me), but still excited for whatever Rainbow Rowell comes up with.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green: just as good as expected, possibly better; review here.
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart: haven’t read yet and might not; a trusted fellow reader found it disappointing.

Girl in Disguise and Miller’s Valley are the only two remaining from that list, but of course there are always more to look forward to; Gayle Forman, Maggie O’Farrell, and Jo Walton all have books coming out in 2018. Others I’d like to read:

  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel/memoir)
  • Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (YA)
  • Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn (fiction)
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin (sci-fi/fantasy)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA)
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (I read this when I was much younger and I think it went entirely over my head; at least, I don’t remember anything from it)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (nonfiction)
  • Hunger by Roxane Gay (memoir)
  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (myth/fairytale – I’d love to hear from someone who read this and would recommend it. Reviews look good.)
  • Walking Home by Simon Armitage (nonfiction/memoir/poetry)

And hey, that’s ten! If you count a trilogy as one. (Bear and Nightingale already has a sequel, as well.) What books are you looking forward to? Have you read any of the books above? What did you think?

Edited to add (12/12/17): Kate Atkinson has a new novel called Transcription coming out in September 2018!

Edited to add (12/13/17): Ken Jennings’ Planet Funny: How comedy took over our culture is coming out May 2018!

Top Ten Unique Book Titles

As usual, I am using Linda’s list for inspiration, and it’s not a Tuesday at all. Also, there are eleven twelve, and I could keep going. This is a fun one.

    1.  Cover image Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: This book mystified me when I read it – was it fiction? Memoir? What? – but I always liked the brash confidence of the title. And the bit about French fries.
    2.  We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: I think I came to this as an Ann Patchett recommendation, but the title would have made me want to pick it up anyway.
    3.  Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman: It may have been the title that made me pick this book up, I can’t remember now. Either way, I’m glad I did.
    4.  I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley: This one is on Linda’s list, but I liked the book better than she did. It probably helped that I read it in New York in my early twenties (the essays are about the author in New York in her twenties), and the title always makes me smile.Cover image of Men Explain Things to Me
    5.  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Well, obviously she’s not.
    6.  Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit: The title is so good, and so appropriate, that it’s the only thing on the cover of this book: white text on a deep blue background. (I hate to think what Solnit would have done to a cover designer who put a pair of heels on the front of her book.)
    7.  Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary: A perfect title for a laugh-out-loud parenting memoir.
    8.  I Crawl Through It by A.S. King: My least favorite of her books – I really didn’t get it at all – but I love the title. Her others are good too (e.g. Please Ignore Vera Dietz).Cover image of Someone Could Get Hurt
    9.  Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer: I heard the song by The Cure before I read the book; both are atmospheric. I love discovering literature via music and vice-versa; when done well, it adds to both. (I discovered The Smiths’ song “Asleep” via The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.)
    10.  A Burglar’s Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh: The title was more promising than the book itself turned out to be, but then, how could that not be the case?
    11.  Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton: Initially, I didn’t think this picture book quite lived up to its funny title, but after enough re-reads I came to love it.
    12.  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace: I’ve never read this collection of “essays and arguments,” but I’ve thought about this phrase a lot over the last two years. It’s rarely apt, but when it is, it’s so perfect.

Least favorite title:

Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang: This doesn’t sound appealing at all.

What are your favorite titles? Least favorite? Book you read because of (or in spite of) its title?

Edited to add (12/5/2017): Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower is a great title, as is Tim Kreider’s essay collection We Learn Nothing.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books I’ve read so far in 2017

I have yet to post one of these on a Tuesday, except by chance. Once again Linda inspired me with her list. Here are mine, listed from January (#1) to June (#10-11). Not only are there eleven instead of ten, I actually snuck (or sneaked, if you prefer) a couple extra onto the list using the “same author” justification.

  1. Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving: This was one of the Arlington Reads Together candidates for last year, and I’m glad I finally read it – less because of the quality of writing (it was fine but not exceptional) or the format (workbook-type questions at the end of each chapter) than because of the messages about privilege, oppression, and how to work effectively for social justice. “Discrimination and privilege are flip sides of the same coin.
  2. The Wyrd Sisters and Dodger by Terry Pratchett: After years of other people indicating to me that I might really like Terry Pratchett, I read some…and I really like Terry Pratchett! The Wyrd Sisters was like Macbeth meets Oscar Wilde, and Dodger was pure fun (if you enjoy the details of the sewer system in Victorian London); I listened to the audiobook, and it was a splendid production.
  3. Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham: Having just watched the four Gilmore Girls reunion episodes, I was excited to read this, and it did not disappoint. I listened to the audiobook, which Graham reads herself of course, and it was just delightful; I was sad when it ended and wanted something just like it. (I ended up with Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, which was also good.)
  4. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A big, multi-generational novel that starts in 1910 and stretches into the late 1980s. I learned so much about Korean history, and particularly the difficult status of Koreans living in Japan (“For people like us, home doesn’t exist”).The Left-Handed Fate cover
  5. The Left-Handed Fate and Bluecrowne by Kate Milford: I love Greenglass House so much and was thrilled to read a story even faintly connected. The Left-Handed Fate was a perfect historical adventure story with a touch of fantasy, and Bluecrowne provided a solid link between Fate and Greenglass. So satisfying.
  6. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt: If you’re anti-abortion, you’re unlikely to pick up this book, but if you do, it might change your mind or at least soften your position somewhat. If you’re already pro-choice, it will give you new angles to consider and strong ways to articulate your reasoning for your beliefs.
  7. The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue: I’ve read nearly all of Donoghue’s novels for adult readers, so I happily followed her into middle grade territory. The story of nine-year-old Sumac and her nontraditional (but normal to her) family celebrates diversity not by making a big deal out of it, but by making it seem like not a big deal. It’s realistic and funny and poignant.
  8. Gracious by Kelly Williams Brown: I should probably re-read this every six months or so. “There is one kind of thought that’s always useful and always gracious. That kind of thought is, “What can I do for someone else?” …This kind of thought makes the world, and you, a better place.”The Paper Menagerie cover
  9. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu: Someone in my book club suggested this, and I’m so glad she did. It’s long, and I had only intended to read the title story and a few others, but I read the whole thing. It’s an absolutely unique collection: stories are set in the past and future, alternative histories, on Earth and in outer space, and more. Liu has a tremendous imagination and a great gift for storytelling and character.
  10. Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan: This was as good as Maine, my favorite of Sullivan’s novels: a story of two sisters who come to Boston from Ireland in the 1950s, their diverging paths and stories, and how they come together again after a tragic event. Family secrets galore, and multiple perspectives, including those in the next generation.
  11. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein: I devoured this novel about pre-Code Name Verity Julie in two days. It stands alone, but having already read Code Name Verity, it was especially wonderful to see Julie brought back to life, as it were, and at home in her native Scotland. She narrates in first person, which is a different perspective than the journal entries from Verity.

Have I interested you in any of the books above? What are your favorite books that you’ve read so far this year? What books are you looking forward to?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was/am looking forward to

This list is a combination of two recent Top Ten Tuesday topics: most anticipated books for the second half of 2017, and books I’ve recently added to my to-read list.

The Pearl ThiefRecently finished or in-progress:

  • The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein: I added this to my to-read list the instant I heard about it, and got a library copy as soon as it came out. It was a delight; I devoured it in two days. So lovely to see Julie (from Code Name Verity) again, at home in her native Scotland. With the first-person narration, her pride and courage are even more immediate, though the stakes are a bit lower this go-round, as she’s not a Nazi prisoner.
  • Holding Up the Universe and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven: I’ve been hearing good things about Jennifer Niven for a while now – the Not-So-Young-Adult book group at my library read All the Bright Places – so I finally picked up Holding Up the Universe on audio. I finished it on the way to a meeting at the Medfield Public Library at the end of May (more on Medfield later) and picked up All The Bright Places while I was there; I’m about halfway through now. I really like her writing: it reminds me of Cammie McGovern, Julie Murphy, and Rainbow Rowell.

Published recently(ish)

  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy: I loved Dumplin’ and was thrilled to learn about Murphy’s new novel; a co-worker has already read and liked it. I’m waiting for a library copy.
  • Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister: I liked Macallister’s first novel, The Magician’s Lie, and the description of this one looks equally intriguing.Eleanor Oliphant
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: How can you not want to read a book with this title? And it has a great cover. And it’s set in Scotland.
  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: Again, I’m cribbing my co-worker’s list; I too loved Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and I don’t know why I didn’t read The Summer Before the War as soon as it came out.
  • Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen: I had this in my hand a couple months ago but didn’t bring it home on account of the already precarious height of my to-read stack. But I haven’t read Anna Quindlen in ages, this got great reviews, and the description is appealing.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: The word “essential” has been used in every review of this book that I’ve seen, and it’s a short book. There’s no reason I haven’t read it yet and I intend to read it before the end of the year.Life on Mars
  • Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith: I don’t pick up new poetry collections often, but she’s the new poet laureate, and this sentence from a review compelled me: “As all the best poetry does, “Life on Mars” first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled.”

Not Yet Published

  • The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, obviously. The first installment comes out October 19 (though I’m hoping to snag a galley before then) and is called La Belle Sauvage. There was already an extract in The Guardian.
  • Jane, UnlimitedJane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore(!!!): Just heard about this from a co-worker. Beyond excited for a new (standalone?) book from Kristin Cashore (Graceling).
  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin: I’ve loved Zevin’s books in the past, and the Kirkus (starred) review said it’s pleasingly feminist.
  • The Runaways by Rainbow Rowell: I don’t read graphic novels or comics that much but I will follow Rainbow Rowell across genres and formats and anywhere else she goes. I want to catch up on the earlier volumes first, and Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga has also been on my list.

6/23/17 Edited to add: Turtles All The Way Down by John Green(!!!!!), coming October 10! And new E. Lockhart, Genuine Fraud, coming September 5.

Top Ten Historical Fiction

September kind of got away from me. September is always a busy month during which I think I’ll have more time than I do have, but this year, thanks to two bouts of stomach flu, I pretty much missed half of it entirely. Which is to say, I’ve been meaning to write a Top Ten Tuesday post for the historical fiction genre since I read Linda’s Top Ten Favorite Historical Novels blog post over half a month ago.

Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres. I find that the best authors in this genre are able to weave period detail into their stories in a way that is subtle and memorable at once. Even though I studied history in college, it’s the history I learned through stories that has stuck with me best.

Cover image of Wolf HallSome novels take famous figures from history and are centered around important historical events. In the case of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, it is the court of King Henry VIII in England. In the former, Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary is the main character during Anne’s rise, marriage to Henry VIII, the formation of the Church of England, and Henry’s disenchantment with (and beheading of) Anne. For her books – the first two of a planned trilogy – Mantel takes Thomas Cromwell as her main character.

Cover image of Suite FrancaiseOther novels are about ordinary people in extraordinary times, and the draw of these stories is how their authors are able to make the time and place come to life in a way that seems real. Like Henry VIII’s era, World War II is a popular time period for historical fiction; most recently, the exceptional All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was a bestseller (and with good reason). A few of my favorite WWII novels are Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Cover image of FeverStill a third type of historical novel features extraordinary people in ordinary (for them) times. These characters are as vivid as their settings: Mary Malone (better known as Typhoid Mary) in Fever by Mary Beth Keane, set in turn of the century New York. Katy Kontent in Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility, also in New York, in the 1930s. Regret, a Korean “picture bride” in Alan Brennert’s Honolulu. Tom and Isabel in post-WWI Australia in The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Mattie Gokey in the Adirondacks in 1906 in Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light, and Desdemona Hart in 1930s Massachusetts in Maryanne O’Hara’s Cascade.

Cover image of AstrayFor those who have been counting, this has been more than ten, but I want to mention just three more. Astray is a collection by Emma Donoghue, in which each story was inspired by a real piece of history; Donoghue is so inventive that she can spin two sentences from an old newspaper into a complete, absorbing story.

Finally, there are two books from my childhood that could be called historical fiction with a twist: Voices After Midnight by Richard Peck includes an element of time travel, and Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix takes place in what appears to be an 1840s village, but – to the main character’s shock – isn’t.

Do you like historical fiction? Which novels are your favorites, and why? If you haven’t read historical fiction before, do any of the above sound interesting?

 

 

 

More to the story

Linda writes, “Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is Ten Songs That I Wish Were Books, and it may be my favorite topic so far. Now these aren’t necessarily my favorite songs….They’re just songs that I think have a good story behind them that could be developed even more.”

As someone who spent a significant percentage of her teenage years squinting at liner notes and mining song lyrics for meaning, I agree that this is a great topic, and it’s a struggle to keep it to ten (you’ll see below that I kind of cheated to include more), but these were some of the first to come to mind. Unlike Linda, I didn’t pair an author with every song (though hats off to her for some awesome, and telling, choices). These songs already have a story-like quality to them, and I’d love to see three minutes expanded to 300 pages.

  1. “Brick” by Ben Folds Five and “Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe: these two songs are linked in my mind, possibly because they were on the radio a lot around the same time, but they also both have to do with abortion.
  2. “Lately” by Helio Sequence: “Lately” is essentially an updated version of “Most of the Time” by Bob Dylan, which is already part of the High Fidelity movie soundtrack, so I suppose this book already exists and what I want is for Nick Hornby to write another book about music.
  3. “Crush” by Jimmy Eat World: I would like Sara Zarr, Jandy Nelson, Robin Benway, and Gayle Forman collaborate on this one, please and thank you.
  4. “The Way” by Fastball: for some reason this song has always put me in mind of two books: Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout and Smack by Melvin Burgess. But I’d read a third.
  5. “Bank Job” by Barenaked Ladies is the only heist song I know of; I’d like for Dave Barry (Big Trouble, etc.) to write it. Practically every other BNL song would also make a good book; I’m thinking “The Old Apartment,” “The Flag,” “Wrap Your Arms Around Me,” and “Fun & Games” to start.
  6. “Play Crack the Sky” by Brand New: this haunting, tragic song has Audrey Niffenegger’s name on it.
  7. Like BNL, nearly every song by The Weakerthans would make a good novel; I’ll go with “Reconstruction Site,” with “Civil Twilight” a close second.
  8. “Nightswimming” by REM: maybe this is more like one scene in a book than a whole book itself. Let’s give it to Lauren Myracle (The Infinite Moment of Us).
  9. “Cath…” by Death Cab for Cutie: According to Wikipedia, this song is based on Wuthering Heights, so.
  10. “February” by Dar Williams or “As Is” by Ani DiFranco: these top-notch singer/songwriters are probably capable of writing their own books.