Month: June 2015

Top Ten Books I Have Read This Year

So I haven’t been reading that much this year – of the 14 books I have read, 9 of them have been since May. But, I can still definitely chose my favorites of that number, so here they are.

toptentuesday

This is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish.

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See is the story of two young people whose lives end up coming together during WWII in unexpected ways. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl living with her father who worked for a museum in Paris before the war, and Werner is a German boy who has a knack for electronics, specifically radios.

I know that this book is pretty popular right now, but I have to be honest and say that it took me a while to get into it. It has all the ingredients of a book that I would really enjoy – France, WWII, and now that I think about it that’s not a whole lot of standards – but the prose wasn’t getting to me, until the end.

The last 100 or so pages made this book worth it to me, and that’s where I found my reason for really liking it. The first two-thirds of the book serves to establish the events in the last part of it, by having several characters, mainly Marie-Laure and Werner, slowly live and build their lives until the moment that we all know is inevitable, though it is unsure how it will turn out. Sadly some characters don’t make it out (no big spoilers, don’t worry), but that’s what fanfic is for, right? Here is a sampling of some of the prose that struck me the most, of course coming from the climax:

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl.Then the world starts in on us.

She says, “When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

The second quote is of course Marie-Laure, and I really loved her throughout the whole book.

Regarding the characters I would say that certain of them are much more complete than others; give Marie-Laure her eyesight back and I still think of her as a whole character, but I’m less sure of Werner without his radios. I would recommend this book to anyone willing to put in a little time, a little effort into getting to “the good stuff”, as they say. The last part of the book nearly had me in tears a few times, and to me that is the sign that even though I was a bit unsure of the book, ultimately it won me over and I had become invested in the characters, almost without realizing it.

Novels vs short stories

This fall I will begin an internship at a literary review, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ll be the first reader for some of the thousands of short story submissions that we get every year, and I’ll also be doing some copy-editing, proofreading, and type-setting. I’m doing this internship because I really miss reading for pleasure during the semester, and now I will be required to do so for at least 3 hours a week.

But… I’m not so familiar with short stories.

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My smallish collection of short stories.
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Book hauls and classic books

I don’t usually record my book hauls because A) I usually buy books one or two at a time rather than in piles, and B) I didn’t know there was such a thing until recently. But this month has been exceptional because of a phenomenon that occurs to me every summer, albeit excessively this year: I realize the vast oceans of time in which I have the freedom to read what I want (compared to the extreme lack of time I have during the semester) and I promptly assume that this will be the summer that I will finally read all the books.

Behold:
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Aucassin et Nicolette

Yesterday I read Aucassin et Nicolette, basically in one sitting. I am reading a lot of French literature this summer because I have comprehensive exams in the fall (!!!!!!!) and I need to prepare. So here I am, reading medieval French literature that I would otherwise never pick up, but in this case I was pleasantly surprised.

Aucassin et Nicolette is a chantefable, which is a blend of prose and song, but in book format it was a blend of prose and poetry. It’s the story of two lovers who face many obstacles, of course, but Aucassin does silly things like wonder how he will be to express his love for “sa douce amie” Nicolette if his enemies cut his head off, or dislocate his shoulder as he dismounts his horse because he is thinking about Nicolette instead of what he is doing.

Considering that this was written somewhere between the 12th and 13th centuries I was surprised at how often I laughed out loud and really, really enjoyed this. I’m not a huge fan of anything written before 1750, which is a huge amount of texts, I know, and really weird considering the history of the English language is fascinating to me, but it’s just a personal thing. Too many women being forced to decide between suicide and convents, in my opinion. I gave A and N 4/5 on Goodreads.

In other news I decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts in July, to help push myself in thesis writing and comps preparation. I’ve never done any sort of online or community writing, so I am looking forward to it.

I guess I have to start somewhere

So I decided early this morning, as soon as I woke up, that “Books, in other words” would make a great name for the idea I have had in my head for over a year. To my surprise and delight, that name is not taken pretty much on any social media site, so it is mine, all mine.

This idea I have had is to document what I read, not only by making a list but by writing about my reactions to them. I read a lot, for myself, for class (French and TESL MA), for work (writing tutor and instructor), and it all becomes a mess of stories and information in my head after a while.

For example: I have read four books in as many days and that makes me happy because my TBR pile is, well… it’s gigantic right now. It always has been, but for some reason this summer I have decided to go extra crazy. I need a book buying ban soon, probably. But back to the point, which is that I need to talk about this! About all of this stuff going on on pages and pages of books, for myself, so looking back hopefully I won’t think to myself, I really liked that book, I wonder why…

So this is books, in other words, in my words. It also means that books, in other words, save my sanity.