5 BOOKS I’VE READ. PLUS 5 BOOKS I’M GONNA READ. Part 5.

When I was a wee, little thing, wee(er) and little(er) than I am now, I was a member of my small town’s summertime Library Reading Club.  Every week during my summer vacation my mother would take me to the library’s children’s section so I could pick out my next few books.

At least I assume she did. I don’t really remember her taking me at all but I’m pretty sure I didn’t ride my Big Wheel there, although I could have hitchhiked.

I do remember the book club, and the hushed tone of the library with the only sound being the flipping of paper pages and the sliding of books in and out of the shelves.  All the disturbing sounds, the clangs and bangs of file cabinets and such, absorbed by the low pile carpet.

I’d make my way downstairs, to the children’s section to have my paper stamped, confirming that I had read my previous weeks books. Having officially established I was a reading fool, I wandered into the stacks, looking at book after book, their protective plastic covers crinkling along the spine as I opened them hoping to discover my next read.

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I’m not sure what you could call the feeling I had wandering around in that library or the feeling I got knowing I was going to be able to go home and read the stories I’d chosen but it was probably a cross between utter joy, love, and batshit crazy.

I have always loved reading to the point of insanity.  I get anxious if I don’t have at least 5 books waiting to read. I need to read before I go to bed no matter how tired I am.  I’ll do everything short of propping my eyelids open with toothpicks Tom & Jerry style to get at least a few more pages in.

I read “literature”, I read humour and I read crap.  I read it all, depending on my mood.  And the  5 Books I’ve Read plus 5 Books I’m Gonna Read posts pretty much reflect that.

 

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The Illegal – The Illegal is Lawrence Hill’s most engaging book since The Book of Negroes (sometimes titled Someone Knows My Name).  Hill lives about 10 minutes from me.  That means nothing, I just thought I’d throw it in there in case it makes you think I’m a bit more special because of it.   The story revolves around a marathon runner from a small, corrupt African country.  This is how Amazon describes it:

All Keita has ever wanted to do is to run. Running means respect and wealth at home. His native Zantoroland, a fictionalized country whose tyrants are eerily familiar, turns out the fastest marathoners on earth. But after his journalist father is killed for his outspoken political views, Keita must flee to the wealthy nation of Freedom State―a country engaged in a crackdown on all undocumented people.

There, Keita becomes a part of the new underground. He learns what it means to live as an illegal: surfacing to earn cash prizes by running local races and assessing whether the people he meets will be kind or turn him in. As the authorities seek to arrest Keita, he strives to elude capture and ransom his sister, who has been kidnapped.

Set in an imagined country bearing a striking resemblance to our own, this tension-filled novel casts its eye on race, human potential, and what it means to belong.

I loved this book and couldn’t wait to go to bed to read it.  That’s the sign of a good book.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 – This novel by first time author Molly Prentiss  takes place in New York City’s art scene of the 1980s.  It focuses mainly on 3 characters, Raul an artist who has escaped escalating violence in Argentina, small town Idaho Lucy and an art critic with the condition Synesthesia.  I quite liked it.  But I’m not sure I’ll remember it. Does that make sense?

 

We Were Liars – THIS one I will remember.  I really loved We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It’s the story of The Sinclairs; filthy rich, old money democrats who summer at their private island off of Martha’s Vineyard. The back of the book jacket says it best:

We are Sinclairs.

No one is needy.

No one is wrong.

We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Perhaps that is all you need to know.

Except that some of us are liars.

 

Plainsong – Plainsong by Kent Haruf was recommended to me by my neighbour Jane as she drove past in her car. I believe she had read my latest post on books and screamed out of the car “READ PLAINSONG BY KENT HARUFFFFFFffffffff. ”  And then she was gone.  Plainsong is a quiet, beautiful little book. “Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife can’t–or won’t–get out of bed; the McPherons are two bachelor brothers who know little about the world beyond their farm gate; Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant 17-year-old with no place to turn. Their lives parallel each other in much the same way any small-town lives would–until Maggie Jones, another teacher, makes them intersect.” (from Amazon)  Kent Haruf has a follow up novel to Plainsong, called Eventide which will be getting added to the dwindling stack of books beside my bed soon.

 

Fifteen Dogs – I thought this book was stupid. There I said it.  I know it probably means I just didn’t get it, or didn’t read into it far enough, or understand the metaphors or allegory or whatever else, but even if I did, I still wouldn’t have liked it.  The book’s a great idea. It’s a novel that humanizes 15 dogs and takes you on their journey through life as they break out of a dog shelter.  Or was it a vet’s office?  Anyhow, for me it was sad and depressing and generally awful.  It made me feel hateful and pessimistic towards both dogs and humans.  Mind you I only managed to get halfway through it before flinging it across the room and curling up with my cat.

 

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Maeve’s Times – Maeve Binchy is one of the great storytellers of our time.  Her characters and settings are funny, warm, ordinary, and extraordinary.  If I could use only one word to describe Maeve Binchy stories it would be “comfortable”.  Maeve Binchy died in 2012.  This is a collection of her short stories as they appeared in The Irish Times from the 1960’s to the time of her death.  Before and during her time as a novelist,  Binchy was a reporter, correspondent and columnist for the paper.

 

Flight Behavior –  I’m a very love it or hate it kind of reader with Barbara Kingsolver.  I loved The Poisonwood Bible.  I did not love The Lacuna.  I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I did not love The Bean Trees.  I have a hunch Flight Behavior is going to be a love it for me. Here’s the excerpt from Amazon:

Set in the present day in the rural community of Feathertown, Tennessee, Flight Behavior tells the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a petite, razor-sharp 29-year-old who nurtured worldly ambitions before becoming pregnant and marrying at seventeen. Now, after more than a decade of tending to small children on a failing farm, oppressed by poverty, isolation and her husband’s antagonistic family, she has mitigated her boredom by surrendering to an obsessive flirtation with a handsome younger man.

In the opening scene, Dellarobia is headed for a secluded mountain cabin to meet this man and initiate what she expects will be a self-destructive affair. But the tryst never happens. Instead, she walks into something on the mountainside she cannot explain or understand: a forested valley filled with silent red fire that appears to her a miracle.

After years lived entirely in the confines of one small house, Dellarobia finds her path suddenly opening out, chapter by chapter, into blunt and confrontational engagement with her family, her church, her town, her continent, and finally the world at large.

I’m guessing that field of fire is butterflies, but I guess I’ll have to read it to find out.  Which I will. Probably some time this summer.

 

The High Mountains of Portugal – I bought this latest book by Life of Pi author Yann Martel before I knew anything about it.  I loved Life of Pi and so did over 6,000 Amazon reviewers.  60% of them gave it the highest rating, 5 stars.   Now that I own The High Mountains of Portugal, I looked up a few reviews on Amazon where the word “slog” is used a disturbing amount of times to describe what it’s like to get through.

The Rosie Effect –   The Rosie Effect is the follow up novel to the wildly, out-of-the-blue popular novel The Rosie Project; a hilarious and charming novel about a man with Aspergers figuring out how to work love into his regimented life.  I’m really looking forward to reading the light and entertaining Rosie Effect after reading the book I’m reading right now …

 

Barkskins – I’ve included Barkskins in my “gonna read” books because even though I’ve started it, I haven’t finished it.  I’m on page 41 of the over 700 page novel from Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Proulx who wrote The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain.   This is not what you would call an easy read but it’s what you’d call a great read.  It’s already reminding me of Lonesome Dove.  Not the story, but the way, even only 40 pages in, I feel for these characters. I know them. I know where they live and how they work.  I’m a part of their world, I’m not just reading about it.  I’m immersed.

Barkskins tells the stories of 2 very different men and generations of their descendants from the day they land in “New France” (Canada) in the late 1600’s. Both are taken on as wood cutters (Barkskins) to clear the wild forests of a landowner.

So that’s 5 more books down and 5 more to go in my lifelong journey of reading. Gold stars for me. And since you’re still here reading this, I imagine gold stars for you too.

Happy reading.

 

103 Comments

  1. Dana says:

    I also gave up on Fifteen Dogs about halfway in. I really didn’t like the way it me feel. I loved Flight Behavior ( and didn’t like Lacuna). I have The High Mountains and The Illegal on my list, and am looking forward to reading them.

    I’ve met Lawrence Hill ? He was at the Festival of the Written Arts in my small town, and my literary friends were hanging out with all the cool authors.

  2. Chandy says:

    I always sample a book before buying it. I think Fifteen Dogs was the first book I ever didn’t buy after reading the first few chapters. And I read anything that has a dog in it. I love dogs.

  3. Linda says:

    Love the book lists!

    Finally started on Lonesome Dove after owning for many years:)

    Loved this year:

    Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Brunt
    Stitches a Memoir (graphic novel) by David Small
    A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

  4. Pam'a says:

    Karen, I’ll always appreciate your recommendations for Lonesome Dove (I’ve read it twice now), The Book of Negroes, and because you’re the only person besides me that had read Geek Love when I read your first book post, clear back when you first started this crazy blog.

    That said, I’m in kind of a dry patch right now, slogging through One Hundred Years of Solitude (the oh-so-famous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the man whose paragraphs span pages). Why don’t I like it?? I picked it up second hand because it was supposed to be fabulous… What a disappointment. Has anyone read it? What am I missing? (And why do I think asking other people will magically make me like the book??)

    Finally, I’ll mention a book for you to consider that has haunted me since I read it months ago: Fall on Your Knees, by Anne-Marie MacDonald. I can’t exactly say I liked it the way I usually like a good book– It’s just incredibly… haunting. Powerful. Shocking.

    If that doesn’t pique your interest, nothing will… 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Yup. I’ve read it. 🙂 Sadly I can’t remember if I liked it but as far as I remember I liked it. (Fall on Your Knees, not One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I will probably now never try to read, lol!) ~ karen!

  5. ally says:

    The Rosie Effect is great. Thanks for the recommendations – most have been requested at library. 🙂

  6. Becky says:

    Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf was fantastic. I won’t do the premise justice with my explanation–look it up.

  7. Carole says:

    When I was a child I wanted to live at the library. At age 43, my husband and I opened a book store. Two years later a second one. We had 23 years surrounded by books and readers. Now one store is closed, the other sold, my husband deceased. But reading is still a large portion of my life. Besides going to the public library, I have over 100 books in my at home “to be read” pile, plus my “to be read another time” pile. This collection makes me feel safe!

  8. Jen says:

    Thanks for the recommendations! I know I read Plainsong and liked it but have no memory of it, so I might read it again. Bought the Maeve Binchy because I agree exactly about what you wrote about her. She’s like a warm cuppa (and she reminds me of my late OCD-d mother who, whenever she read/heard/saw her name would keep thinking MaeveBinchyMaeveBinchyMaeveBinchy. But in a nice way. 😛 )

  9. leslie says:

    I am more than 1/2 way through “Ahab’s Wife or The Star Gazer”. About the wife of Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab. Beautifully written. Love it!!

  10. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Hey Karen! I just noticed you’re carrying an ad for “Casper” mattresses. If you are ever looking for a new mattress, and like me, hate hate hate shopping for one, I heartily recommend their product and sales process. We did a lot of research and couldn’t be happier. Sorry to hijack this post!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jan! It’s funny you mention that because I was approached by Leesa, a similar mattress company to do a sponsored post for them. I looked up all about them and Casper and they sound great. I’m excited and actually really hope I get to do the post because for reasons that are too long to get into here they seem like the PERFECT mattress for me. From what I remember, the Casper is supposed to be slightly firmer than the Leesa. ~ karen!

      • Jan in Waterdown says:

        We were finding it a tad firm so contacted Casper and they said after we tried it for 30 days, if it was still too firm, they would send us a latex topper for $20 CAD. That’s king size, free shipping and NO customs duties etc!! So we did that and it’s pretty damn fine. Better than memory foam which is too squishy and sinky and hot, imho. After deciding to keep it, my resident woodworker remade our gorgeous pencil post cherry shaker bed to accommodate it, including 4 torsion boxes to provide a squeak-free platform. Love it. Love. If you want any further input, feel free to email me directly.

  11. Catherine Naulin says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for this post! I love getting suggestions from avid readers. I have recently established a library time with my youngest grand daughter. At 3 years of age, she is hooked. Never too early to start.
    I’ll add the name of a new book to put on top of “to read next” pile: The Company of Crows, by Karen (lovely name) Molson. Great writing, great story.

  12. Nancy Eggert says:

    I have the best job in the world – I’m a librarian in Chicago, have been for almost 25 years (god, does that make me sound old). I have always loved reading and remember walking my little brother to the library every Wednesday during the summer when we were kids. I always wanted to be a librarian. You might like “A man called Ove” by Fredrik Backman and “Reader of Broken Wheel recommend” by Katarina Bivald. Both happen to be translated from Swedish but are very good reads.

  13. Kelly Evans says:

    I don’t really comment usually but I just took another look through your past books (a lot of your reads we seem to have done in our book club) and I haven’t seen you post House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout. Canadian written. Read it in Mexico couple of winters ago. Didn’t leave the pool for 2 days. Quote from husband “Is this your thing now? Just read by the pool until you need another margarita?”

    There are 3 types of books. Ones I don’t finish, ones I like and ones I recommend.

    Also Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

    Thanks for recommending We were Liars, was kind of wondering about that one,,, lately been disappointed by a lot of highly rated book. Just finished A Man Called Ove. 4.3 on goodreads with 50,000 reviews and I could hardly finish it.

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