Archive for the ‘lists’ Category

what I read in 2010

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Instead of pretending I have a great excuse for why I have been MIA (I don’t) I will just give you this, my list of 2010 reads.  Also instead of pretending I will return to blogging in 2011 with a fucking vengeance, I will say nothing.  I might return, or I might not.  I have been spending a lot of time being social (me!  social!) and not enough time reading and not enough time sitting quietly.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to have more fun, and another is to be more grounded, and somewhere in-between those there is the perfect place for me (I bet there are unicorns there, and potato chip buffets), and I think I will resolve to spend a little more time finding that balance.

Anyway, I came here for a reason, and it is this:

  1. Octavia Butler-Parable of the talents
  2. Ann Packer-Dive from Klausen’s Pier
  3. Ursula LeGuin-Always coming home
  4. Maile Meloy-Half in love
  5. Eduardo Galeano-Book of embraces
  6. Matt Ruff-Set this house in order
  7. Rebecca Skloot-Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
  8. Rigoberta Menchu-I, Rigoberta Menchu
  9. Mario Vargas Llosa-The feast of the goat
  10. Lydia Davis-The end of the story
  11. Samuel Logan-This is for the Mara Salvatrucha
  12. John D’Agata-About a mountain
  13. Julie Klausner-I don’t care about your band
  14. Mark Danner-Massacre at El Mozote
  15. Joan Didion-Salvador
  16. Louise Erdrich-Shadow tag
  17. Larry McMurtry-Lonesome Dove
  18. Allegra Goodman-Other side of the island
  19. Laura Esquivel-Like water for chocolate
  20. Dagoberto Gilb-Magic of blood
  21. Stieg Larson-Girl with the dragon tattoo
  22. Stieg Larson-Girl who played with fire
  23. Dagoberto Gilb-Woodcuts of women
  24. John Edgar Wideman-Brothers & keepers
  25. Gloria Anzaldua-Borderlands/La Frontera-the new Mestiza
  26. Vincent Lam-Bloodletting & miraculous cures
  27. Bitchfest
  28. Lee Martin-The bright forever
  29. Jose Saramago-Blindness
  30. Michael Ondaatje-In the skin of a lion
  31. Robert Olen Butler-Good scent from a strange mountain
  32. Maile Chapman-Your presence is requested at Suvanto
  33. John Steinbeck-East of Eden
  34. Nathan Englander-Ministry of special cases
  35. Jane Smiley-Thousand acres
  36. H.G. Bissinger-Friday night lights
  37. Stieg Larson-Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest
  38. Toni Morrison-Song of Solomon
  39. Alice Fulton-Nightingales of Troy
  40. John Edgar Wideman-Fatheralong
  41. Daniel Alarcón-Lost city radio
  42. Suzanne Collins-Mockingjay
  43. Alma Guillermoprieto-The heart that bleeds
  44. Roberto Bolano-2666
  45. Daniel Alarcón-War by candlelight
  46. Edward Jones-The known world
  47. Laura Eldridge-In our control; the complete guide to contraceptive choices for women
  48. Nicole Krauss-Great house
  49. David Rakoff-Half empty
  50. Ian Frazier-Travels in Siberia
  51. Alain de Botton-A week at the airport
  52. Theodore Dreiser-Sister Carrie
  53. Michael Ondaatje-Divisadero
  54. Octavio Paz-Labyrinth of Solitude
  55. Nick Reding-Methland
  56. Jamaica Kincaid-My brother
  57. Amy Goodman-Standing up to the madness: ordinary heroes in extraordinary times
  58. Tom Rachman-the Imperfectionists

In which I announce my (tentative) almighty reading plan, which might be stupid, or might be great.

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I am tentatively considering reading every finalist or winning Pulitzer novel.  Looking over the list I realized I’ve already read approximately 20%, and there is little that I like more than an ambitious reading goal.  Butler’s book of short stories (see below) won in 1993.  I really loved this book (it is simultaneously so serious and funny!), and I love the majority of the ones that I’ve already read, but do I want to be so tied down, so restricted in my reading choice?  I’m not sure yet, although there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.  Note to self.

Last week’s readings:

  • Michael Ondaatje-In the Skin of a Lion (recommend x 1000)
  • Robert Olen Butler-Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (also recommend x 1000)
  • Maile Chapman-Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto (will elaborate on)

On to a not yet heralded book: Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto is so gorgeously written.  It is perhaps a nod to Chapman’s ease with words & scenes that although I largely read this book in a bathing suit on my couch, desperate for the AC to kick on, I was easily transported to Finland in the winter.  I hate saying that I was transported somewhere by a book, because that is totally cheesy, but alas, it wasn’t hard to become entirely absorbed in Chapman’s prose.  I love how Chapman writes, and the momentum of the first 150 pages was incredible, considering it is such a lush, slow-moving book.  Chapman handily writes quite well about nothing at all, and that is why it was so shocking that I hated later plot developments so much.  I would have gladly read a book about a “home” for troubled women in 1920s Finland in which nothing so much happened (because that is a unique and great topic/scene), and it was when something did in fact happen that I stopped caring.  This is either because the something that happened (I won’t say what) wasn’t developed enough initially, or because I just plain didn’t care.  Either way, a considerable problem.  I look forward to future works by Chapman, because I think in a way this could be a maturity thing (I sure as shit couldn’t carry out a plot for 260 pages) or just a hurried thing, and perhaps something that will resolve itself with practice.  Time will tell.

I am currently reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden, which I can file under “things I should have read a long, long time ago.”  I probably won’t have much to say about this that hasn’t already been said, and much better than I could say it. Next up is either Wideman’s Fatheralong (I am obsessed) or perhaps Ford’s Independence Day (1996 winner, and sequel to the Sportswriter, which I labored over and was so delighted by).  That or I will fervently defend the audiobook, which just might be my new passion.

2009 readings

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I might squeeze another book into this list before the year ends, but I also might just snuggle my way into 2010 instead.  Either way, this is the things I read in 2009, and while it’s likely I accidentally omitted a thing (or 5), for the most part, this is it.  What a year!  Plenty of good reads.  I am so excited for 2010 and fresh new fun readings!

  • A long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier-Ishmael Beah
  • Apples & Oranges-Marie Brenner
  • Plague of Doves-Louise Erdrich
  • Love Medicine-Louise Erdrich
  • Coffee at Luke’s: an unauthorized Gilmore Girls gabfest
  • The Beet Queen-Louise Erdrich
  • Sportswriter-Richard Ford
  • Lucy Knisley-French Milk
  • Leanne Shapton-Auction book
  • Saïd Sayrafiezadeh-When Skateboards Will be Free
  • Octavia Butler-Fledgling
  • Tim Gunn’s Guide to Quality, Taste and Style
  • Daniel V’s Guide to How Style Happens
  • Michael Greenberg-Hurry Down Sunshine.
  • Raymond Carver-Call if you need me
  • Miranda July-No One Belongs Here More Than You
  • Dan Savage-Skipping Towards Gomorrah
  • Sarah Vowell-Take the Cannoli
  • Koren Zailckas-Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood
  • Jeffrey Eugenides-Middlesex
  • Junot Diaz-Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao
  • Milan Kundera-Identity
  • Octavia Butler-Wild Seed
  • Isabel Allende-Paula
  • Louise Erdrich-Master Butchers Singing Club
  • Jhumpa Lahiri-Interpreter of Maladies
  • Isabel Allende-House of the Spirits
  • Isabel Allende-Of Love & Shadows
  • Isabel Allende-My Invented Country
  • David Rakoff-Don’t get too comfortable
  • Louise Erdrich-Blue Jay’s Dance
  • Isabel Allende-Sum of our days
  • David Rakoff-Fraud
  • Susan Jane Gilman-Hypocrite in a Poufy White Dress
  • Sherman Alexie-Absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian
  • Philip Pullman-His Dark Materials series
  • Suzanne Collins-Hunger games series (2/3)
  • Julie Powell-Julie & Julia
  • Lorrie Moore-A gate at the stairs
  • Octavia Butler-Kindred
  • Fear & Trembling by Amélie Nothomb
  • Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Lairs
  • Time Traveler’s Wife-Audrey Niffineger
  • Margaret Atwood-Year of the Flood
  • Sherman Alexie-War Dances
  • Julia Alvarez-In the name of Salome
  • Lydia Davis-Varieties of Disturbance
  • Kazuo Ishiguro-Never let me go
  • Kelly Link-Stranger Things Happen
  • Alice Munro-Too much happiness
  • Alicia Partnoy-The Little School
  • John Crowley-Little, Big
  • Michael Greenberg-Beg, Borrow, Steal
  • Robin Romm-The Mercy Papers: a memoir of 3 weeks
  • Maile Meloy-Both ways is the only way I want it

I will reflect often on 2009. It starts here.

Friday, December 11th, 2009

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, not Christmas.  BOOKLIST TIME.  There are a billion best of 2009 lists floating around out there, and as I am frankly tired of doing research for other people, you can find them yourself if you are interested.  What this means is I can reflect back on my year and regret some things I’ve read and look forward to kicking 2010 (CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?  2010!!!?) off with some exciting new reads.

I have mined the following from a variety of lists, and after frowning at myself for not having read them earlier, I am hereby promising myself that they are next up.  Some are embarrassing.  Some probably suck.  Such is the nature of best of lists.

    • Lit: a Memoir-Mary Karr
    • Raymond Carver: a writer’s life-Carol Sklenicka
    • Under the Dome-Stephen King (I cave.  I really want to read this.  Blame the cover.)
    • Family Album-Penelope Lively
    • Follow Me-Joanna Scott
    • Museum of Innocence-Orhan Pamuck
    • Nocturnes-Kazuo Ishiguro
    • Dorothea Lange: a life beyond limits-Linda Gordon
    • The Mercy Papers: a memoir of three weeks-Robin Romm
    • A Paradise Built in Hell: extraordinary communities that arise in disaster-Rebecca Solnit
    • Both ways is the only way I want it-Maile Meloy
    • A Short History of Women-Kate Walbert

So what I am doing now?  I am reading Little, Big by John Crowley, which is essentially a 500-some page book about fairies and being secretly married to them and having your children kidnapped in the night.  I think that’s what it’s about.  It is one of those books that carries me along magically for about 25 pages and then drops me someplace weird in my sleep.  I obviously love it, because who doesn’t love weird fantasy books, but oi! is it ever long.

Last week I trucked through Alicia Partnoy’s The Little School, because sometimes when my life is getting me down I need to be shocked into relativity by something gruesome and awful and real, and this did that.

Next week I will happily reflect on my year of goal achieving.  More like 200FINE.  I love the end of the year.  Here’s to goals.


Thursday, October 8th, 2009

I find myself irritatingly swayed by top book lists that  I come across.  A coworker recently sent me the contents of a book called 1001 books to read before you die which I spent 4 or 5 days obsessing over and being mad at myself that I’d only read 137 of them (and after last week, make that 138 and 1/2.  Booyah.)  I find that a lot of these lists contain the same recycled crap.  I long ago realized I had peculiar taste in books–taste that runs veryveryclose to being considered compulsive–and as such, I have this problem of scoffing at a lot of the entries for top 1001 books, and so on.  Part of this is that I find these lists impossibly skewed towards Western writers who write in English, and while I can fully admit that I have trouble breaking out of this myself (Latin American and Russian writers being the exception), I think it’s completely irresponsible for larger ‘authority’ lists like this to be so biased.  I want to tell myself to stop taking these lists into account because I end up frustrated by them, but I LOVE LISTS and I LOVE BOOKS and so I cannot.

The last list of books I looked at was much the same (barely any non-English writers.  Big surprise.), but it was a list that I found a lot to agree with.  I know it’s not cool to like Jonathan Franzen & the Corrections, but when I first read this book (2002?) I found it to be nothing short of perfection, and I am content to continue agreeing with that now.  Franzen writes like a motherfucker and I will never not think that, even if it makes me little Ms. New Yorker.  I haven’t heard of some of these titles, and believe you me, that’s out-of-this-world exciting.  I have been meaning to read a few of them (2666Gilead, Stranger Things Happen [and I cannot believe that book is on here]), so this will likely urge me on in my quest to read every book ever ever acclaimed by anybody.  See what a problem I have?  I don’t even make sense to me.

But anyway, because of that frustrating 1001 books lists, I picked out a couple titles I’d never heard of and tackled them last week.  This includes all of Fear & Trembling by Amélie Nothomb and half of A Heart so White by Javier Marías.  Fear & Trembling was delightful, disturbing & hilarious all wrapped into one.  I’d read it again, and hopefully much more of Nothomb’s work.  It was, as I say, “good bus reading.”  A Heart so White is tremendous but was requiring a level of commitment that my brain isn’t capable of providing halfway through a semester.  It’s very intricate & detailed & faintly yet effectively repetitive, and it needs my full devotion, which I cannot offer at this point.  I very much want to finish this book someday.  Someday being not my last semester of grad school.

Now I am reading a book that is markedly absent from all top whatever lists, and I am just fine with that: Ann Patchett’s Patron Saint of Lairs.  At first I was feeling meh about this, but I loved Truth & Beauty so much that I kept up with it, and I’m fully glad that I did.  This book is starting to really take off in a very Lainer-friendly way.  i.e.: teen pregnancies & it’s set in Kentucky.  Sometimes I worry that I might secretly like chick lit, like when I enjoy a book like this.  But I have faith that this isn’t chick lit, and then I remember that I hated the Time-Traveler’s Wife so much that I have faith I do actually hate chick lit.  I was so embarrassed that I was reading the Time-Traveler’s Wife that I didn’t even blog about it, but I hated it with such a passion that I guess it’s okay to admit it.

Well, holy cow, I drank a lot of coffee this morning.  Before I crash into my caffeine-induced stupor and start running around the library like a mad woman, let me begin my pre-emptive gushings about the new Margaret Atwood.  I haven’t even started it yet, but I know it will be great.  Partly I am trying to convince myself that it’s okay that I just dropped $21 on a hardback book when I barely have the money to eat, but I rarely buy new books and Margaret is my gf, so it’s worth it.

I think I need more coffee.

epic purging!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

In efforts to be a better version of myself, I am getting rid of all of my life clutter.  I am doing this for three reasons:

  1. feng shui (dorky, I know–but it really does feel good to be rid of all this junk in my life)
  2. less stuff to move when I move away (crossing fingers)
  3. people actually give me money for things like season 3 of the show 24!

Also it feels nice to give people things that you suspect they might like that you never use anymore.  I gave my roommate a bunch of old goofy cds & tapes (a cassette of Dookie!  this made his day!) and he is so excited to have some silly things I thought no one would ever want.  This is probably good for my feng shui, too.  Next I will be clapping in corners and weird things like that.

I have weeded out the following things from my life:

  1. lots of things on VHS.  Aspects of this were heartbreaking.  I was really attached to some of my movies (like Independence Day.  Go figure.)
  2. most of my CDs.  I kept things that I am deeply attached to and things that are extra-special because of the artwork (like this Menomena album I seriously can’t part with for the life of me.)
  3. socks.  These I just threw out.  I don’t think anybody wants my awful old socks.  Some of these socks have been around since high school.  I distinctly remember ordering one pair with sparkly snowflakes from the Delia’s catalog in 7th grade.  Those are in the garbage now.  Where they belong.
  4. t-shirts.  For some reason I felt compelled in high school & college to collect t-shirts with “ironic” slogans.  Most of these were ill-fitting.  They now live at the Monroeville Goodwill, in case you feel like you need a boxy t-shirt with some stupid sports slogan on it.
  5. things that don’t fit me.  I have had it with myself: no more keeping stuff around in my closet “in case it fits someday”.  I do this constantly.  But no more.  All of this went to Goodwill.  Some of this stuff had never been worn.  Let this be a punishment to me: don’t buy stuff that doesn’t fit just because it has a cute pattern or something.
  6. books!  This was SO hard to do.   I got rid of old textbooks (I swore I would never do this, but my chances of needing to refer to, like, the quadratic formula are so, so unlikely), books from when I was little and things I just didn’t think I would ever read again.  I didn’t do a good enough job of this.  I still have too many books.  I will be re-doing this.

And there is so much more yet to come.  Next up: shoes.  Boots.  Dresses.   Skirts.  Kitchen stuff.  Maybe even my beloved Bianchi road-bike <3.  I am a packrat.  I know this.  This is hard on me.  But I am trying, and I feel better for it.

When I am not cleaning out my life’s belongings, you can find me on my yellow couch with two dogfriends & the Amber Spyglass, pretending I don’t have insane amounts of homework to do.  Life, you are kind of okay.

Top 10s!

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I like to think that I’m fairly reliable, but plenty of people would tell you that I’m not.  My pen-pal Shanna could tell you that I never ever ever write back (she writes the loveliest letters, too) and she’d probably even tell you that we’re not pen-pals anymore because I was so miserably bad at responding.  Sorry Shanna!  Many of my friends could tell you of times that we had plans and I canceled at the last minute because I really just didn’t want to leave the house (sorry trivia team!!!).

Just as bad, I have regrettably promised several different friends at different points in the last year that I would make a list for them of my top-10 favorite graphic novels/comic books.  I must have promised Kate this more than 6 months back, and months and months and months ago Jason  & Kelly sent me a message asking me the same on goodreads that I just plain neglected to respond to.  I am really by no means any kind of authority on graphic novels or comic books–I feel far more comfortable talking about favorite pieces of fiction or poetry (or even my favorite celebrity gossip blogs).  I was awfully late getting into comic books.  I had always loved X-Men (and continue to follow a couple of the different trades) and my dad tried to get me interested in Superman, but the BSC and the Saddle Club were pretty much way more exciting when I was young (what can I say, Stacey’s tales of being a young fashionable diabetic really resonated with me).  I started reading graphic novels with Bone & was very much hooked.

Creating this list was kind of a serious struggle.  For one thing, I can hardly remember many of the titles that I’ve read.  I’ve never consciously kept track like I do with novels.  For another, I really loved many titles when I first read them.  Some things meant a lot more to me at the time–when crafting this list, I tried to take this into consideration.  Three years ago, as a miserable senior in college, I positively adored Jeffrey Brown, whom I could completely commiserate with.  Now?  I can barely stomach passing by a Jeff Brown book in the comic store.  I also need to note that while one trade of a series might have really stood out to me as the end-all-be-all of comics, in the end I just combined all the trades as one series.  This might not do some specific favorite trades justice.  Apologies.

  1. Jessica Abel-La Perdida
  2. Brian K. Vaughan & others-Y: the last man
  3. Aline Kominsky Crumb-Need More Love
  4. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon-Preacher
  5. Jason Lutes-Berlin 1&2
  6. Adrian Tomine-Summer Blonde
  7. Julie Doucet-365 Days
  8. Alison Bechdel-Fun Home: a family tragicomic
  9. Craig Thompson-Blankets (this is one that has so much life significance that it has to be on the list)
  10. Andres Nilsen-Dogs & Water

My list is awfully heavy on the drawn & quarterly side of things (which I don’t mind because I fully admire 99% of the work d&q artists put out), so a special mention #11 should go to Pascal Blanchet for White Rapids.

I’m sure that tonight I will get home and smack myself on the forehead for forgetting three or four ALL TIME FAVES, but for now, this will have to do.

Things I wish I were doing right now instead of sitting at a computer with an ergonomic & quiet mouse

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Lately I have been trying to convince myself that I should quit my job and run away and do something crazy with my life.  I probably won’t do this, because I am by nature an extremely anxious person and I like to have things planned out and I am a little bit of a perfectionist.  I couldn’t run away right now, for example, because I am not packed and good god, I couldn’t leave behind my cowboy boots.  It just occurred to me that I am even a little bit of a packing perfectionist.  I kind of like packing.  I am so disgusted by me.

When I am in this mindset, though, I have lots of excellent ideas of ways I would kill my time once I ran away (I am not only a closet perfectionist, I am also one of those “needs to stay super busy” types).  So when I sit in really, extremely boring meetings at work or try to pry my face off of my keyboard or when I’m not busy moaning about the fact that I am really just a data entry specialist in a fancy titled disguise, I imagine that instead of working I am:

  • tending to an amazing, perfect garden that gives me produce year round
  • cooking well-rounded meals (I have learned that working full-time while going to school at night means I can’t necessarily care if my meal is lacking in one aspect of the food pyramid.  I don’t need that protein anyway, right?)
  • knitting sweaters & hats for the folks I love
  • learning about birds (especially ducks)
  • learning about plants and their ilk (in Panama I had myself convinced that my calling was actually to be a botanist.  I want to be a botanist!)
  • walking so many dogfriends
  • practicing yoga
  • going for a run (new fun fact about me: I just started “running”.  I am up to 4 miles!  This is a life-time accomplishment for me!)
  • volunteering to work with kids
  • reading ever so much (duh.)
  • going on really fun vacations to Maine or Prince Edward Island or South Dakota or SOMETHING.
  • attending classes in a subject that I am really excited about/working on a degree that I care about (this is such a novel idea.  Do people actually get to do this????)
  • riding horses with my sweetum
  • going on a really great & fulfilling hike
  • being a pseudo-archaeologist
  • etc

Gee, my work & school dissatisfaction are pretty evident.  Here’s to daydreaming.

Battling the common cold.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

I am currently terrified that I might be getting a cold. I have that weird itchy throat feeling. It started yesterday on the bus. My head got all bloaty, and my eyes were burning, and I was sneezing like mad. I kicked into cold-battling overdrive last night. No way am I getting sick this week. NO WAY. It is THAT time of year schoolwise, so hello tons of papers and hello tons of patrons. My precautions consist of:

  • frenzied handwashing (seriously every twenty minutes. I am out of control and was almost incapable of using public transportation today)
  • slurping down an Emergen-C once an hour (wasn’t this stuff debunked? Why am I still relying on it? I hope the debunking was debunked)
  • crossing my fingers and eating a Zinc lozenge every two hours
  • hoping that Emma is on to something with this incredible, delicious soup (I think you are, Emma! It’s amazing! I used way more garlic than you said to, but I am a garlic-hound and it only made it more tasty!)
  • laying on the couch last night, snuggling with my dogfriend reading Daddy’s Girl (Debbie Drechsler), David Chelsea is in love (David Chelsea), Aviary (Jamie Tanner) [I am honestly Not Wild About This Book At All), the Sportswriter (Richard Ford)--I know, I'm still reading it--and watching Always Sunny incessantly.
  • treating aforementioned dogfriend with all the love I can offer her. I don't like to be all animal-hokey (okay, yes I kind of do), but I swear she can tell when I am not feeling 100%, and on those days, she snuggles me like her life depends on it. Oh, this dog. Last night she got her special, favorite dinner of: normal doggie kibble (1/2 serving), 1/4 of an apple, 1 whole carrot chopped and peanut butter. Isn't this the face of a champion snuggler?
my special dogfriend

my special dogfriend

Time will tell if I’ve escaped the wrath of the common cold. Back the fuck off, cold. I’ve got my eye on you.

Life wish-list

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I think this post will be something that I come back to time and time again to update. A running list of my obsessions, if you will.

  • Lucy Knisley-French Milk
  • Adrian Tomine-Scrapbook-
  • Leanne Shapton-Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry (this is already winning as my favorite book of 2009)
  • All of Y (I only have 1,3-6. I lent 2 to someone and I forget who.)
  • Jason Lutes-Berlin collected volumes (I HAVE TO HAVE THESE. I must have a benevolent and wealthy admirer out there. Where are you? Buy me these PLEASE. These are so good and important and relevant. I must own them.)
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc