The Literary Blog Hop: To Like or Dislike the Hype

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Literary Blog Hop is hosted by the brilliant bloggers at The Blue Bookcase.  This week's question is:

Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it. 

 I think that my feelings on this topic have changed over time.  When I was in high school and college I was much more likely to assume that whatever classic literature they were asking us to read must be of great value, because otherwise why would we be asked to read it.  So I searched for nuggets even in things I hated, like The Scarlet Letter or The Old Man and the Sea.  But as I've gotten older, and I've learned more about the history of teaching reading and literature in our schools, I've come to realize the many, many, many voices that were never heard.  Women, people of color, gays and lesbians-all, with the notable exceptions of the Brontes and Jane Austen, were either left out of the literary conversation all together or had their stories told by others (most often not very authentically).  So, as the years have gone on, I've been less likely to read something that is strictly from the cannon and choose other, more diverse voices instead.  I suppose if I'm not careful I'll swing too far the other way, but for now I'm content to stay away from some of the capital A authors in favor of looking at life through the eyes of a more diverse group of small a authors.

Capital A Authors:

 Small a authors:


The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I've found myself suing the words, "I was listening to NPR..." more and more lately.  Maybe it's a function of my advancing age, or just that I refuse to watch television news, but I've got my radio tuned more and more to NPR regardless of when I am in the car.  I always listened to the headlines on my way to and from work, but lately I've found myself tuning in at odd time when they are talking about Kenyan tribal music, or why Americans may soon be eating only genetically engineered bananas, or some such.  One of the things that I discovered recently was the book The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown.  I heard an interview with the author, in which she described her process for writing the novel, as well as some of the themes that she was trying to address.

The Weird Sisters is the story of three sister (duh)-Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia.  Their father is a Shakespearean scholar, who communicates with them mostly through quotations direct from the Bard.  They all make their way back to their childhood home when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, though that is not the real reason any of them makes the journey.  Rosalind, an academic like her father, has always lived nearby, but comes to live at home after her fiance takes a fellowship at Oxford.  Bianca, the middle sister, loads up her beater and drives home from New York, where she unsuccessfully tried to live the city life on a secretary's income.  Cordelia, the youngest, finds her way home after years of traveling around the country at a whim, drifting here and there in what's left of the counterculture.  To say that the three sisters have a complicated relationship with each other is rather an understatement.  They each fulfill the stereotypical role of the oldest, middle, and youngest child.  While they obviously care deeply for each other, they don't appear to like each other, which is actually the tagline on the book jacket.

I found this book to be very much in line with what we are calling women's fiction.  The characters are all searching in their own way for connection-with each other, with their parents, with the various men in their lives.  What makes this book different than the others is the tie in with Shakespeare.  I don't know if it actually is more literary, or just seems that way because of the frequent mentions of the Bard,  but it feels like there is a little more meat in this story than in some women's fiction. 

But here's my problem-not only do the sisters not really like each other, but I found myself not really liking them that much.  They were all flawed, which I realize was the point.  They were all failures, which I realize was the point.  But I kept finding myself wanting to tell them, "Grow up and talk to each other!" or "Get over yourselves and move on with your life!" or "Stop whining-move to England already!"  Despite not really liking them much, I did find myself caring what happened to them.  And Brown did a good job of not falling into the easy traps.  None of them have the perfect resolution to their issues, though all of them found some happiness and satisfaction.  Overall, this is a perfectly pleasant read, but without any real profundity.

Life in the Rooster Coop

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I have openly admitted my Goodreads bookswap addicition.  While they say admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery, I can't seem to take step number two.  At any rate, I was browsing one day when I came upon The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga.  I've recently grown more interested in south Asian literature, and this one sounded interesting.  I made my request and eagerly awaited its arrival.  Well it arrived alright-in CD form.  Apparently in my mindless bookswapping high I had requested an audiobook.  Arrggghhh...I am not a fan.  I realize that many people love the audiobook, but to me it feels like cheating.  Like if someone asked me, "Have you read The White Tiger?", I would be lying if I said yes.  But, with a couple of long drives coming up, I decided to get over myself and listen to it in the car.  Lucky for me I did, because The White Tiger is one of those rare titles that shows life exactly how it is, with all of its warts and ugliness exposed, and still manages to make it into something beautiful.

The White Tiger is the story of  Balram Halway, a rickshaw driver's son from "the darkness"-the small, poor, rural villages in the north of India.  He manages to escape his own small village by becoming a driver for a wealthy family in Delhi.  Balram is constantly aware of the wide gulf separating him from his wealthy employers, despite the mere inches of space that separates them in the car.  Through letters to the Premier of China, who is slated to come to India for a visit, Balram shares his life story, as well as his thoughts in class, caste, Eastern vs. Western values, and entrepreneurship.  Balram believes that the poor in India are caged in a rooster coop, and that every time one of the roosters tries to break free, he is pushed back in by the masters, even as the other roosters try to peck him to death.

Balram is the perfect narrator for this tale.  Smart, though uneducated, he brings to life the inequities that continue to exist in modern Indian society.  We watch as he becomes more and more dissatisfied with his lot in life.  As a child he seemed to believe the lie that the poor are told-that they are not as smart/talented/good as the rich, and that they should not seek to rise above their predetermined station.  But as he spends time with his wealthy employers, he begins to see the petty, ruthless way in which they treat the poor as something ugly and unfair.  While he starts out admiring his master, Ashok, he comes to despise him for having the same weaknesses and flaws that plague all humans.  As his rage grows, he is led to dramatic action-an action that will change not just his life, but the lives of his entire family. 

Adiga's portrayal of Balram, his employers, and the dual nature of Indian culture could be a metaphor for just about any family or society.  One the one hand, India at the beginning of the 21st century is a place of corporate offices, call centers, luxury apartments, and glittering shopping malls.  But leave the walled compounds of the rich and successful behind, and you enter the India of the slums.  Dirty, full of people scraping whatever living they can out of the underbelly of the city-a place where dreams and hope go to die.  Beggars living on the streets, entire families living in tents beside rivers of sewage.  At times Adiga's descriptions of the living conditions literally make you hold your breath to hold off the stench that you can imagine must exist in these poor neighborhoods.  What Balram calls "entrepreneurship" seems to me to describe not a knack for business, but a knack for survival, a knack for finding a way to be a "man" in a society that wants you to remain an animal.  As Balram says, for 10,000 years the rich and the poor have been at war, each trying to bring down the other.  If only all poor Indians had the "entrepreneurial" spirit, they could smash the rooster coop.  But Balram doesn't really believe that this is possible.  Only once in a generation will someone (a white tiger) be born that has the ability and strength to break free.

Book Blogger Hop-Where To?

Friday, March 25, 2011

 The Book Blogger Hope is a weekly meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books.  Here is some information about the hope right from the horse's mouth:
In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!
This week the Hop asks us to consider what book or series we would physically put ourselves into if we could.  My first thought was Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, because I have always wanted to see the top of the world, but only if I don't actually have to be cold or anything (one of the many reasons I will never see the top of the world-I'm a wimp!)

So next I thought about all those books that I love that take place in England, because that is a place that I desperately want to visit that I might actually get to some day.  But then I realized how many of them have a time period that is not conducive to women's rights, or, you know, basic hygiene.  Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley is the one I feel most strongly about, but only if I can be one of the priestesses and living in Avalon.

After some consideration, I think that my final answer of the moment is to visit the world of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, though preferably after the great "defeat Sauron/Destroy the ring" thing.  Though before the elves leave-that is one of my motivating factors, to meet me some elves.  After that I can build myself a normal size house at the edge of Hobbiton and live peacefully with the Hobbits in the shire.  Yep, days of quiet contemplation in an idyllic spot sound like exactly what I need today.

The Violets of March, Sarah Jio

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

One of the recurring themes in literature is the way that the past can come back to haunt us.  Things that happened long ago can reverberate through our lives and our families until they touch us, without us even knowing.  Secrets long held can be devastating when revealed-or they can lead to redemption, closure, and the ability to move forward in life.  All of these ideas are explored in The Violets of March, a novel by Sarah Jio coming out in April.

Emily Watson thought she had it all.  A best selling book, a handsome husband, a glamorous life in New York.  Then the writer's block set in, her husband had an affair, and her fabulous social life dwindled as her fame fell.  Ten years later, on the day her divorce becomes final, she accepts an invitation from her Aunt Bee to visit her on Bainbridge Island, where Emily spent many happy summers as a child.  There, Emily reconnects with an old boyfriend, Greg, and meets Jack, who her aunt warns her away from.  She also find a red velvet diary, and gets drawn into a tragic mystery that happened fifty years earlier.  She soon comes to believe that the diary is connected to her in some way, and that she was fated to find it and bring her family's secrets out into the light at last.

I love books about islands.  I have always wanted to live on an island-to be that close to the sea, to be a part of a close knit community just seems idyllic to me.  I was immediately drawn by Jio's description of the island, and the way that the sea matched what was happening in the story at the time.  I was also immediately drawn in by the mystery.  Whose diary had Emily found?  Why was her aunt so tight-lipped about it?  And why was she supposed to stay away from the gorgeous and interesting Jack?  Emily finds that she cannot complete her own healing process, or move forward in her own life, until she uncovers the mystery around the women in her family.  She also finds that she cannot go back to her old life in New York with thoughts of Jack in her head.  The Violets of March is an imminently readable, thoroughly enjoyable book about love, family, and moving foward.

(Thank you to Penguin Group USA for the  free review copy)

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

Monday, March 21, 2011

This week's Top Ten, hosted by the lovely bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish, is your bookish pet peeves.  And I know that every reader has them.  Reading is a very personal experience.  While some of us can read anywhere, others need the environment to be just right.  While some of us don't mind a crumpled, marked up old paperback copy of some book we've always wanted to read, others need clean copies.  Not to mention the actual literary pet peeves that readers have (see my post on stream-of-consciousness writing).  So, what are some of my pet peeves?  I've only got seven, but I feel them strongly!

1.  Being asked what I'm reading-There is nothing that bothers me more than sitting somewhere reading, like in a hotel lobby waiting for a conference to start, and having someone I don't know or barely know ask me what I'm reading.  Partly I'm annoyed at the interruption, but mostly I'm uncomfortable because I don't know what to say.  Is this person a reader?  Will they know the book or author just from the title?  Do they want a synopsis?  If I give them a synopsis, will they be annoyed because they were just asking to be polite?  Yep, hate this when it happens.

2.  Reading snobbery-there are very few things that annoy me more than snobbery in general, but I have lately become very  sensitive to book snobbery.  People who read literary fiction looking down on people who enjoy genre fiction, non-fiction readers looking down on fiction readers-I saw an analogy from another book blogger not long ago (sorry I don't remember which one-either the Ape or The Literate Man, I think), that your reading diet should be like your food diet-balanced.  Eat what you like, just try to make sure that you eat more "good" than "bad".  And there is good in every genre (even romance, I'm sure-OK, so I'm not completely immune to book bias).

3.  Overuse of adjective, metaphor, and simile-Anne Rice, I'm talking to you!  I don't need 12 pages of description to know that it is hot, humid, and sultry in New Orleans.  Look, I said it in three words!  Really, I had the idea by page two.

4.  Books written from movies-Do I really need to explain this?

5.  Mass-market Paperbacks-It's not so much the print as the binding.  I hate having to hold the book open all the time.  Makes it much more difficult to snack and read!  I realize that this would be solved with a Kindle, but with over 400 books in my house I have not yet read, I just can't justify the expense.

6.  I'm not bored, I'm reading!-Do you ever visit friends or family, and sit down to relax with your book, only to have them immediately suggest an outing, since you must be "bored"?  Maybe you are lucky enough to only visit other readers, but this has happened to me more than once.

7.  Chapters that start with long poems or song lyrics-Not gonna lie, I generally skip them.  I know they're supposed to add to the meaning of the story and all, but I'm impatient...

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

The Road is one of those books that I knew I should get around to, but just never seemed to make its way into my reading rotation.  I knew that it was post-apocalyptic, which I enjoy.  I knew that McCarthy is a well-respected author, for good reason.   I was waiting to watch the movie until I read the book, and even that wasn't enough of a push.  Well, I finally got around to it, and now I know why I resisted.  I knew that the story was depressing as hell and it would suck me into its dark, ash-filled, cannibalistic world like a black hole sucks in light.

The story centers around a man and his son, wandering a world that is utterly dead.  While  this is obviously because of some man-made disaster, we never really learn what.  The man and his son have been wandering and scavenging for years, sometimes going days without finding anything to eat.  There are no animals, nothing grows-the earth is filled with ash and smoke and burned out cities.  They often have to hide from gangs of cannibals, looking for other survivors to hold captive and use as food.  Despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation, the man and his son keep traveling along the road, not really believing that things might be better on the coast, but unable to bow to the seeming inevitability of death. 

Here's the thing-despite the fact that at least once I was contemplating suicide on the characters' behalf, I loved this book.  The writing is genius.  I've never read any of McCarthy's books before, but if all of them have the same ability to convey with just a few words the enormity of life and love and death then I'll read them all.  I'm always in awe of authors who can choose exactly the right words to create a vivid picture for the reader-no more and no less.  Being rather verbose myself, I admire this ability.  I also admire the imagination that can come up with this kind of skewed reality in the first place.  Though it makes me wonder what kind of dark place McCarthy's mind is.

My one complaint-the ending.  Not that it is left completely open-ended.  I get that as a metaphor for life in general, and that as long as there is life the story is never over, everything is uncertain except for the passage of time, etc..In fact, my complaint is that the story should have ended about 10 pages sooner than it did, with the boy completely alone.  Now THAT would have been a head-scratcher, real food for thought, a book group discussion starter. Despite my feeling that he caved a little bit at the end, overall I am deeply affected by this book, and find myself thinking about it off and on in the days since I finished it.  What more can a book have to recommend it than that?

The Winter Ghosts, Kate Mosse

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Freddie Watson is a man stuck in time.  World War I, The Great War, the War to End All Wars, may have ended 10 years ago, but he is still grieving the loss of his brother, George, on the battlefield in France.  After being hospitalized for severe depression, Freddie still sees and hears his brother all the time.  Thinking a change in location might help, he is driving through the Pyrenees one night when a freak snowstorm forces him off the road.  He finds a small village hidden in the hills, where he finds a small guest house to take him in.  That night, he travels to a village feast and meets Fabrissa, a beautiful young woman with whom Freddie is instantly entranced.  The next day, when he tries to find her again, everyone in the village acts as though the feast, and Fabrissa, are imaginary.  Who was this woman?  Where was she?  When was she? Freddie finds peace and redemption in this intriguing ghost story.

Mosse does an excellent job of setting the stage for the events in this book.  The sense of place is very strong.  I felt the wind and the snow, I could picture vividly the small village, the woods, the cave.  Freddie himself is a well-developed character, Fabrissa less so...but then, the story isn't really about Fabrissa.  It is about acknowledging what has been lost, recognizing the injustice of death, and then moving forward.  Fabrissa and the others couldn't move forward until someone knew what had happened to them, and by leading the world to discover the cave where she died, Freddie finds his own peace as well.  This slim volume is an easy, enjoyable read.

From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris

Friday, March 11, 2011

One of my guilty pleasures is a love of all things Sookie.  While the TV show based on the book, TrueBlood, and the books have diverged pretty widely at this point, I figure that just gives me twice as much Sookie Stackhouse to love.  There is something very comforting about the predictability of the stories.  Sookie will be in mortal danger.  Some supernatural man (or woman, in the case of her fairy godmother) will have to help save her.  At least one supernatural man will be in love with her.  Chances are there will be some impediment to their love.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

So, here is my short summary of From Dead to Worse, book number eight in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series...missing weretiger, vampire takeover, fairy great-grandfather, werewolf war, revenge, werepanther justice, Eric remembers everything, Bill still pines...if you have read the Sookie Stackhouse books, you know what all of this means.  If you haven't, and you are interested and or intrigued by what it all could mean, go back to the beginning and start with Dead Until Dark, the first book in the series, and prepare to lose yourself in a funny, scary, surprising, completely unrealistic world that will provide the perfect escapism.

Top Ten Tuesday: Holy Duos, Batman!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic at The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Fictional Duos.  I'm guess that we will see a lot of Holmes and Watson and Potter/Granger/Weasley on this week's entries, so I am going to try and skip the more obvious...well, except for...

1.  Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, LOTR-I can't NOT mention this duo.  Because honestly, if I needed a friend to support me on some life-threatening quest filled with danger, Orcs, and mind and soul-killing drudgery, I'd want Sam...

2.  Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis, Alex Delaware series-If you are not a fan of psychological mysteries, you may have missed out on these two.  But in Alex and Milo, Jonathan Kellerman created a duo that complements each other perfectly, and that basically defines the phrase "opposites attract".

3.  Pete and Rina Decker, The Decker/Lazarus series-The song "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" must have been playing in the Kellerman household.  Faye Kellerman, wife of the aforementioned Jonathan Kellerman and mystery writer, created another unique, complementary duo.  Peter Decker meets and fall in love with orthodox Jew Rina Lazarus, and thus starts a series of books that examine what it means to live a religious life and be a cop-oh, while solving really interesting mysteries along the way.

4.  Lenny and George, Of Mice and Men-OK, so it ends all tragic and stuff, but if there was ever a pair that loved and cared for each other, it was George and Lenny.

5.  Henry and Claire, The Time Traveler's Wife-I love this book so much I am going to make every effort to include it in as many Top Tens as I can.  Some weeks that will likely be a stretch, but this week it actually fits!

6.  Celie and Shug Avery, The Color Purple-Though Shug ended up being too flighty to be much of a partner to Celie, if it weren't for her Celie never would have had the nerve to leave Mr.

7. Temperance Brennan and Andrew Ryan, from Kathy Reichs-While I like the show Bones, it really doesn't do justice to the mystery/thrillers by Kathy Reichs.  In her novels, Tempe is not nearly so socially awkward, and her on-again-off-again romance with Andrew Ryan is engaging.

8.  Jekyl and Hyde-I know, I know, technically the same person...but come on, don't you think that Jekyl would be boring and stodgy without Hyde to spice things up?

9.  Katniss and Peeta, The Hunger Games-There is no way that either of them would have made it out of the first Hunger Games if they didn't have each other-even if some of it was just for show.  Rocky relationships are often the stuff of great fiction, after all.

10.  Frog and Toad-OK, this is here mostly because I couldn't think of a tenth entry that I didn't get from looking at someone else's blog, but hey...they are friends despite their differences (I mean, a frog and a toad being friends-who'd have thought we'd see the day!?!)

Cross-Blog Pollination

Sunday, March 06, 2011

While taking a childrens' and young adult literature class this summer, I decided to move most of my reviews of young adult books to a new blog, Second Childhood Reviews.  Unlike many bloggers who focus on young adult books, mine is dirently aimed at teachers and parents who want to read high-quality literature with their students/children.  That said, occasionally there will be a book that I think deserves a wider audience than my second blog, a book that has merit not just as a good read for young adults but as a good read for anyone.  The Hunger Games trilogy is probably the best example of this.

In this case, it is not so much that I think that the book I am going to mention is such a great adult read (though I enjoyed it very much-it's laugh-out-loud funny in multiple spots), but that the message of the book is one that adults need to hear.  The book is The Misfits, by James Howe.  Howe wrote the very popular Bunnicula series-he also came out as a gay man in the early part of the new century.  In The Misfits, and it's companion book Totally Joe, Howe highlights the problem of name-calling and bullying in middle school.  While the theme itself may not be groundbreaking, his inclusion of an openly gay character is, especially in a book aimed at children aged 10 to 13.  After researching queer themes in children's and young adult literature for a project for the above-mentioned children's/young adult lit class, I can tell you that while there are several good picture books for young children about families with same-sex parents, and there are more and more young adult novels for high schoolers on issues of sexual orientation, coming out, and first love with gay characters, there is almost nothing for students in the middle grades.  So here I am, on my "grown-up" blog, strongly urging anyone who has, knows, works with, or cares about kids in the middle grades to read and share this book!  And here is the link to my review of The Misfits, along with a list of online resources for teaching about the book.

Literary Blog Hop-How Seriously We Take Ourselves!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Welcome Literary Blog Hoppers!  The Literary Blog Hop is hosted every other week by The Blue Bookcase.  If you're interested in participating, check out their very smart blog!

This week's question is "Can literature be funny? What's your favorite humorous literature?"  While my answer is a resounding YES, which I will get to in a minute, I'm more curious at the moment about the question, because I think that at the heart of it lies the reason that many people are turned off by literary works and find the people who read and talk about them pretentious.  Do we really take ourselves so seriously as a community that we have to ask whether it is OK to laugh at what we read?  Must we be immersed in grave, serious subject matter all the time for it to be worthwhile?  If one aspect of literary merit is the use of language, doesn't it take just as much skill to write a witty turn of phrase as a serious one?  And if another aspect of literary merit is what the work says about the human condition, then sometimes laughing at ourselves is the best way to do that.

From the above mini-rant you can probably guess that I believe that literary works can be humorous.  As for examples, let me start with William Shakespeare.  Even in his tragedies he often had humorous characters.  Then there is Pride and Prejudice and Emma, by literary darling Jane Austen.   Mark Twain also used humor to his advantage, not just in his books but in the way he talked about his life and his writing.  Considering that my definition of literary includes some genre fiction, I'd also include Douglas Addams of the Hitchhikers Guide series and Neil Gaiman examples of literary authors using humor.  Roald Dahl is hilarious!

Lighten up, people!

Top Ten Tuesday: Must Haves, Just Not Must Reads

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the blogging team at The Broke and the Bookish, is asking me and my fellow bloggers to bust ourselves out about those books we just had to have, but that have been sittig on our shelves gathering dust ever since.  Well, I can't possibly make a list, because that compulsion has never happened to me!  I am frugal and circumspect in my book buying choices.  I don't ever walk into a bookstore and come out with a few extra impulse buys, like they are so many candy bars at the check out stand!  I never...

OK, who am I kidding?  Of course I have succumbed to the temptation to pick up a book in a whim which then serves as a shelf decoration for some period of time.  Sometimes I even pick up a book that I just can't wait to read, I need it NOW-except apparently I can wait to read it, because there it still sits, on my shelf.  Anyone who loves books-not just stories, but the actual physical thing-has probably got at least a couple of these squirreled away.  Please note that I WILL in fact read this books at some point, but with 350-400 books in my house I have yet to read I'm just not sure when I will read them!  Here's my list of the 10 most wanted (but not read):

1.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen and Seth Graham Smith:  I love the irreverence of this idea-to take a beloved work of classic fiction and create a mash-up with something so absurd as a zombie story.  Can't tell you if I actually love the execution of it, because I still haven't read it.

2.  Life Mask, Emma Donoghue:  This is one of several titles that was on the long list for the Orange Prize for Fiction last year.  I vowed to read as many of them as I could by the time the prize was announced in June.  I bought about six of them-I read two.  This wasn't one of them.

3.  The Road, Cormac McCarthy:  What's puzzling about this one is that I bought the book specifically so that I could read it before watching the movie.  I'm still waiting to watch the movie because I haven't read the book.  Seems stupid, no?

4.  Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie:  This book has been sitting on my shelf for at least two years.  I've been telling myself ever since that whole fatwa business that I wanted to read it.  It took 15 hears for me to even buy it.  I kept putting it off last year because it is lengthy and I was trying to reach 100 books.  What's my excuse now?  Yeah, don't really have one...

5.  You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know, Heather Sellers:  First I read about this book on a blog, then I heard and interview with the author on NPR.  It's a fascinating topic-face blindness.  Imagine going through life not being able to recognize faces!  Well, I'll have to keep imagining, because it's still warming the shelf.

6.  Love, Toni Morrison:  I don't just love Toni Morrison-I worship at the alter of her fabulosity.  So why I've had this book on my shelf for literally years and have yet to read the slim volume is a mystery to me.

7.  A Mercy, Toni Morrison:  See above

8.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, Susanna Clarke:   This kind of fantasy story set as historical fiction sounded like and intriguing mix to me, so I bought it.  Then it came, and it's HUGE.  Not that I'm intimidated, mind you, but I am inpatient...I'll get to it, maybe this summer, when I can spend more time reading for me and less time reading for class.

9.  The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad:  Unlike much of America, I knew well before 9-11 what was happening to women and girls in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule.  That's what originally drew me to this book.  Apparently it didn't draw me enough to actually read it, just enough to purchase it and let it have a place of honor on my to-be-read shelf for years.

10.  Amazing Grace, Jonathan Kozol:  Kozol's book Savage Inequalities complete changed the way I think about equity in public education, so when I saw his book about the effects of living in poverty on America's children I had to have it.  Have it, mind, not read it...