Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Summer Reading, Had Me A Blast Part 1

Time to unpack my reading lists for the summer of 2013.  Since there will be a lot of titles in this post, I'll try to keep my comments brief but intriguing. Ha. Wish me luck.


On Chesil Beach - Ian MacEwan.  Newlyweds in trouble, bound up by fear and conventions.  Heartbreaker.

Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollack - Henry Adams.  Some of the art theory went over my head, but I was glad to learn about the influences on one of my favorite painters (Benton).  After I read this, I saw Benton's last painting, "Sources of Country Music" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.  I'll try to get to the Nelson-Atkins museum (the mother lode for Benton paintings) in Kansas City next summer.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl.  I am so very happy that this book is in my rearview mirror.

American Born Chinese - Yang Gene Luen.  Assimilation. Traditions. Legends.  It's a lot to take on in a graphic novel, but Yang is more than up to the challenge.

Stitches - David Small.   This memoir, done in graphic novel form was horrifying.  I'm not even going to try to describe it because I couldn't do it justice and besides, I want future readers to get the full impact.

Heat - Bill Buford.  Yeah, it's one of those "I'm gonna quit my job for a year and do ________." But Bill Buford avoids many of the pitfalls that I've seen in this type of memoir.  He writes robustly, whether he's talking about food or people.  Highly recommended.

Hellhound On His Trail - Hampton Sides.  This book makes for a chilling read as it follows James Earl Ray's escape from prison (in Missouri.  Damn.) and his stalking and murder of  Martin Luther King, Jr.  It's structured a lot like Manhunt (John Wilkes Booth/Lincoln), also a compelling tale.

Heaven to Betsy - Maud Hart Lovelace.  The Betsy-Tacy series moves into high school with this book.  Betsy finds herself a Crowd (always capitalized).  Her popularity is ensured because everyone likes to hang out at the Ray's house.  I'd actually forgotten how nice her parents were.  This time, I found myself focusing in on Mr. Ray's Sunday night suppers.  Vera Neville takes over from Lois Lenski in the illustrating department.  Everybody's gone from primitive to pretty!

Betsy In Spite of Herself - Maud Hart Lovelace.  Betsy's a sophomore now.  She starts dating a jerk, but he's got a red automobile.  The jerk tries to get a little too friendly right at first, but Betsy puts him in his place:  "Look, I don't hold hands." (It's 1908!) She also goes to Milwaukee for Christmas to visit her old friend Tib Mueller, and tries to remake herself with mixed (and slightly cringe-y results).  This is my favorite of the whole series.

Up the Down Staircase - Bel Kaufman.  I liked the jumbly style with notes and memos from students, teachers and the administration to tell the story of Sylvia Barrett's first year as an English teacher, but found the epistolary part of the novel a little tedious.

It's Not Really About the Hair - Tabatha Coffey.  I'm a big fan of Tabatha Takes Over, so it was fun to read about how Tabatha became Tabatha.  I'd love to have her do my hair sometime!

Raymond Chandler: A Biography - Tom Hiney.  It seems that in order to pad out this book, the biographer would make tedious lists of Chandler's book sales.

Townie: A Memoir - Andre Dubus III. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, Dubus had to learn how to fight. Then, as a man, he had to unlearn it.  There are so many great moments in this memoir, but the one that comes to mind most often is the scene on the train in Europe.

What Maisie Knew - Henry James.  Reading this book was like being made to hold the dental surgeon's instruments at my own root canal.

Nana - Emile Zola.  Zola at his best. Nana is such a train wreck.  I was Damn! and Daaamn...


Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Whoa, some fantastic books! I am ashamed to admit I've put Zola off for far too long. Must read him soon!

Unruly Reader said...

OK, I've read your description of "What Maisie Knew" four times, and I'm chilled.

Great summer reading!

Susan said...

Betsy books! I read those years ago...brings back memories.I wonder if I can find them now? You sound like you had a fantastic reading summer, good and bad books and all, and a trip home. I'm glad you had so much fun, book-twin!!