Monday, November 30, 2009

H1N1 and the Cat ER

My Thanksgiving was eventful, thanks to the exposure to H1N1 from a teacher right before we left for the break. No one is impressed when you work while you are sick - we are just annoyed that you are sharing it with us. Anyway, tomorrow is my H1N1 test, so keep your fingers crossed that it's just a nasty cold. On top of that the cat had his teeth cleaned, which means giving him antibiotics - which apparently, he is allergic to. We were in the kitty cat ER from 11PM - 2AM last night so I'm too pooped to worry about posting book reviews tonight. I've got a couple of good ones that I'll try to drag myself out of bed to post tomorrow.

For tonight, I'll leave you a picture of my sweet little baby, who is going to make a full recovery!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bought and Read This Week

This week begins my fast on book buying. I'll still be posting my weekly list of books read, but I'm giving up book buying until after Christmas. My student worker has six kids and her husband was recently laid off - instead of buying books, eating out, etc. for the next few weeks Luke and I have decided to put all of our extra money towards providing Christmas for her children. I'm pretty excited about my little project, but I am already having book-buying withdrawal!

Books Read:

The Best American Short Stories of 2008


This brings my total to: 121 books read this year and 32,791 pages!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

I definitely think there are some modern authors who not only measure up to the classics, but also will be read years from now (here's hoping Twilight is NOT one of those). Authors I'd say who have the staying power of classics would be:

Ian McEwan

Barbara Kingsolver

Jeffrey Eugenides

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

John Irving

These authors certainly embody the story-telling genius that Dickens is known for. There are others, but these are the first that come to my mind.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Faces of Poverty

Although dry at parts, this is a good exploration of the problems faced by women and children on welfare. It's an honest exploration of their lives and motives, and presents a mostly fair and unbiased view, although in the study notes the author does mention that she became friends with some of the interviewees and that her position may be skewed. I wish the book had provided more practical answers to the issues raised, beyond "provide better health care" and "provide child care" for those on welfare. At the end of the day, someone will be paying for the increase in those benefits.

It is a very hard issue to deal with, and one I struggle with almost daily at my job. The majority of our students are below the poverty line. Many struggle with day to day expenses such as food, gas, electricity, etc. It is almost impossible to differentiate among students who genuinely need help and those who are milking the sympathy of other students and staff to the best of their ability. For example, a student tells me he may lose custody of his son to a drug addict mother because his father is in prison and his father is his only source of child care. The student needs money to bail out the father so he can continue working to support the family. It's really hard not to feel sympathetic until you learn that the student put an $800 cruise on a credit card two days ago. Or a student who has no heat, no running water, and no groceries, but somehow shows up at class with a milkshake and a hamburger every night, smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, and drinks a 6 pack every night.

I love my students and I believe that Christ meant what he was saying when he said "when you've done it unto the least of these". I'd rather go too far in loving than not far enough, but I think sometimes loving means saying no. I have no solutions to the welfare issues, but I'd be interested in reading a book that provides more solutions and less discussion of the problem Any suggestions?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bought and Read This Week

Books Bought:

Hypocrite In A Pouffy White Dress
A Literary Book of Days
A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomaniacs, and the Eternal Passion for Books
Open House
The Dumas Club
The Browser's Ecstasy
Two "Grandma's Attic" books that I read as a child
Two books to give to a friend (Baby Laughs and Belly Laughs)
The MLA Handbook for the library
Doing Honest Work In College for the library

Total cost: $24 and some change

Books Read:

The Year of Living Biblically
Velvet Elvis
Not Tonight Honey, Wait 'Til I'm A Size Six
Faces of Poverty: Portraits of Women and Children on Welfare

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bad Books

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

Life is definitely too short to read "bad" books. Of course everyone's definitions will vary on what makes a book good or bad, but I do not force myself to read books that I'm not enjoying. The exception is for school or work, and occassionally when I'm interested in what the author has to say even though the book is dragging. This really only happens when I'm reading non-fiction. Most recently it was Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. I was bored with the book, but wanted to find out what exactly the point was and how the author would defend his theology. Another example is a book I read a while back about what happened to children in Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII. Very dry, slow reading, but I wanted to possess the information, so I slogged my way through.

I won't go into the whole debate on whether or not people should or shouldn't read "good" literature. When I'm reading for pleasure, I read what I like to read. When I'm reading for information, I look for good writing and accurate facts.

Some books that may start (or stay) slow that are worth sticking with:

Bel Canto by Anne Patchett
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Blindness by Jose Saramago

A Passion for Books by Harold Rabinowitz
Ceremonial Violence by Jonathan Fast
Actual Innocence by Barry Scheck

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically

I really expected to be put off by this book. I was ready to stop reading it, especially after a blurb on the back described it as "irreverent." I don't enjoy hearing people mock something I strongly believe in as a Christian, and I worried that Jacob's experiment (following the Bible as literally as possible for a year) was really just an excuse to mock the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs. Instead, the book was actually one of the most reverent treatments of the Bible that I have ever read. Jacobs doesn't just tell us how stupid/weird/hypocritical/etc the Bible is - he makes an honest attempt to find the meaning behind even the most bizarre commandments and never stoops to mocking Judaism, Christianity, or those who practice even the most extreme forms of these religions. How refreshing to read the observations of an agnostic on the Bible without the mockery. I just love how Jacobs really tries to find out the meaning behind everything he questions. This is quite possibly my favorite book of the year. I was challenged in my own beliefs many times through the book, and learned quite a few new things about the Bible. Plus, it's hilarious! I definitely recommend it, five stars, two thumbs up, etc, etc!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Christy Awards Challenge

I'm quite possibly joining too many challenges, but this is one that I am fairly excited about. Christian literature has a nasty reputation and for the most part I've had negative experiences reading Christian fiction in particular. However, I recently read Roaring Lions which is actually what prompted me to start a blog. I want to embrace Christians who are participating in the arts and doing so well - and one way to do that is to look into the Christy Awards and see if I can find some great Christian fiction to get behind. I'm hoping that I will find some books that aren't just "Christian" fiction, but that will be able to stand up to and compete with "secular" novels on an artistic basis. I'll keep you updated on what I find...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bought and Read This Week

Books Read:

Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance, and Despair in the Middle East by Joyce Davis
What No One Tells The Bride by Marg Stark
The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons collected by Bob Mankoff

This puts me at 115 books read this year and 31,231 pages.

Books Bought:
Mystic River by Dennis LeHane
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolff
Couldn't Keep It To Myself by Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julie Alvarez
The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature
Shutterbabe by Deborah Kogan

I also picked up four books for the school's library on interviewing, dressing professionally, and working at your first job.

Total cost: $16 and some change! I also got to spend an hour and half wandering McKays and count is as work time!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

Today's Booking Through Thursday Question: Which do you prefer? Biographies written about someone? Or Autobiographies written by the actual person (and/or ghost-writer)?

I definitely prefer to read autobiographies/memoirs written by the actual person. I'm not a huge fan of first person fiction, but I love it in the autobiography/memoir style. Personal favorites: All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg, House Rules by Rachel Sontag, Divided Minds by Pamela Spiro Wagner, Crossbearer by Joe Eszterhas, and both volumes of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
One of things that most people consider a drawback in memoirs is the fact that the narrator is not necessarily reliable. I actually love this part of memoirs. It isn't a heavily researched, detail driven day by day description of the individual's life. Memoirs typically cover one aspect of the author's life (war, alcoholism, an eating disorder, domestic violence) and I really enjoy trying to read between the lines to see how reliable the author is. Do they skew everything in their favor? Do they always paint themselves in a positive light? I don't mind that the author may not be as reliable, and I enjoy something that is less fact/research-driven and more story-driven.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Shelf Discovery Challenge

So in addition to my Nest Book Club seasonal challenges, I think I'm going to jump into this this one as well. It looks like tons of fun!
I'm planning to read:
Jacob Have I Loved
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret?
Summer of My German Soldier
Of course these very well may change, but those are my plans! I'm pretty excited about this one!

Possibly not the best choice of book to read while my husband is in Israel, but an enlightening read nonetheless. I know next to nothing about the current situation in the Middle East and this book really opened my eyes. We frequently hear on the news that the Qu'uran promotes violence and our idea of jihad. It wasn't until reading this book that I realized how similar interpretations of the Qu'uran are to interpretations of the Bible. As a Christian I cringe when I hear of other sects or denominations misinterpreting the Bible publicly - and I hate that the correct interpretation is frequently lost amid the negative publicity of the misinterpretation of a small group. I really felt like Islam faces a similar problem with the various sects taking portions of the Qu'uran and using them to validate violence.

I feel like I have a better grasp on some of the issues faced by those in the Middle East, but there is so much more I need to know. It's definitely a subject I'll continue to study, and I'm pleased to change some of my political ideas to reflect my newfound knowledge!

My one complaint with the book is that in some of the longer chapters, individuals are referenced only by last name. Normally not a problem, but in a long chapter when several individuals have the same last name it can make things hard to follow.