Sunday, July 01, 2018

Midyear Check-In

I neglected poor Blob for the month of June, but other than that, how am I doing with reading goals? Pretty well so far. Back in January, I set a goal of 57 books. I've read 37, a nice mix of fiction and nonfiction. Some interesting reading trends. Why so much true crime?

Here they are, with brief comments when the bookworm spirit moves me:

1. Caroline: Little House Revisited (fiction) What an interesting idea; to rework Little House on the Prairie from Ma's point of view.

2. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (nonfiction) I laughed, but I felt worse after reading it.

3. Rotten Ralph (children's literature) For me, Ralph is Everycat.

4. The Great Influenza (nonfiction) One of my more challenging reads this year.

5. The Cooler King (nonfiction)

6. The Girls in the Picture (fiction) I love me some Old Hollywood.

7. Off the Cliff (nonfiction) I want to know everything, everything about Thelma & Louise. Does that make me weird?

DNF: Reckless Daughter (biography) The writing style achieved the opposite effect and put Joni Mitchell at a remove. I reluctantly and regretfully took this one back to the library.

8. Our Souls at Night (fiction) This one hit closer to home than I expected. Age and illness get us all in the end, but even knowing that, we should vigorously pursue life. And damn the neighbors.

9. Pachinko (fiction) One of my favorites. I looked forward to reading this multigenerational family saga of Koreans living in Japan and I was not disappointed.

10. Swearing Is Good for You (nonfiction) I was really f@#%ing bored.

11. Ten Days in a Mad-House (nonfiction) Nellie Bly was a cool customer. This one's old, but in no way has it aged or lost its savor.

12. Helter Skelter (nonfiction) Unpleasant, but rewarding. I'm glad I finally read this true crime classic.

13. The Six: The Lives of The Mitford Girls (nonfiction) An ardent portrait of a family that I'm glad I had the opportunity to finally learn about. A fun and absorbing read.

14. The Warmth of Other Suns (nonfiction) Everyone should read this book about the Great Migration in which African-Americans fled the South, but skip the last chapter in which author Isabel Wilkerson defends her research and writing choices. She didn't have to! The book is brilliant!

15. The Getting of Wisdom (fiction) An Australian classic from 1910. A coming-of-age story. Laura -- oh God, you just cringe for her!

16. The Stranger in the Woods (nonfiction) The story of the "hermit" who alternately annoyed and terrorized campers in rural Maine for almost three decades. Well-written and researched. Really enjoyed this one.

17. Turtles All the Way Down (fiction) John Green's latest didn't exactly thrill me, but I was interested in the OCD aspects of the book.

18. Pippi Longstocking (fiction) I was surprised at how much I remembered of this Swedish children's classic. Loved it just as much as when I was nine.

19. World Enough and Time (fiction) Based on the real life "Kentucky Tragedy" of the 1830s. A long read, but the writing is gorgeous, even when Robert Penn Warren fell into melodrama and couldn't get up. One of my favorites for the year.

DNF Traveling Sprinkler (fiction) What a bunch of disjointed blather. I was terribly disappointed. Nicholson Baker is capable of so much better.

20. In This Our Life (fiction) One of my Pulitzer fiction reads. I didn't like it at all. There would be a bit of dialogue, then after that, the character would go into his or her head for about a page, then someone would speak, and then muse about what he or she had just said. It was torture.

21. Not My Father's Son (memoir) Alan Cumming is not only a good actor, he can flat write. A favorite read.

22. October, 1964 (nonfiction) I loved the story of the Cardinals and the Yankees as they met up for the World Series.

23. Life Plus 99 Years (memoir) A self-serving piece of crap by Nathan Leopold (as in Leopold and Loeb). Definitely shaped with more than one eye on the parole board. There is also a preface by Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason mysteries, arguing for Leopold's release!

24. Compulsion (fiction) The lightly fictionalized version of events in the Leopold and Loeb case. Much better writing than Life Plus 99 Years. Quite psychological. I was reminded of another fictional take on a real crime, An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.

25. The Crime of the Century: The Leopold & Loeb Case (nonfiction) A straightforward telling of events.

26. The Teammates (nonfiction) A deceptively simple story of three teammates going to visit a fourth, who is dying, but David Halberstam has an eye for the color, as gold prospectors say.

27. Less (fiction) This year's Pulitzer winner. I didn't think I'd love it -- was still smarting about Lincoln in the Bardo -- but I actually did.

28. Wishful Drinking (memoir) I really miss Carrie Fisher.

29. Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (nonfiction) A striking portrait and vigorous defense of the famous Confederate general.

30. Woe To Live On (fiction) I finally FINALLY got this novel read! Set in Missouri, there were many towns referenced that are right around here. Gorgeous prose. The last lines are so beautiful and heartbreaking, I didn't know what to do. I finally took a picture of the page with my phone.

31. Destiny of the Republic (nonfiction) The true story of how James A. Garfield was assassinated by a madman (also his story), but Garfield's doctors were the real killers. Excellent pacing. This book is so good. Go out and read it right now.  No, seriously. NOW.

32. The Optimist's Daughter (fiction) This short novel, a Pulitzer winner from the early 1970s, reminded me of Anne Tyler, but much more muted.

33. Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer, 1953 (nonfiction) Details the real-life events depicted in the first half of The Bell Jar. Through interviews with the other guest editors of Mademoiselle, the reader sees the vibrant girl who loved fashion and Dylan Thomas before she became trapped in her own dark legend. This book had a strange effect on me. I went out and bought Plath's favorite lipstick shade, Cherries in the Snow by Revlon. Can't believe it's still available!

34. Calypso (essays) David Sedaris's latest. The title essay is already on its way to being a classic. I laughed so much at it, I broke out into a sweat with rivulets and everything. David's father's aging and his sister Tiffany's suicide darken the prose, and I hate it when Hugh and David argue. Somehow, it feels like mom and dad fighting. Still, I didn't want the book to end. I will be reading it again this year. Join me.

35. Birthday Letters (poetry) I'm still reading the monster-sized Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. I, and I was trying to enlarge my focus, or something like that. I recognized that many of the poems, written by Ted Hughes and addressed (most of them) to Plath riff off of the poems in Ariel. Although some of them are like candid snapshots. He even mentions the red lipstick.

36. In Cold Blood (fiction? nonfiction?) I never know how to categorize Capote's book. Still the gold standard of true crime writing. Horrific events + Capote's delicate prose = an unsettling experience.

37. No Ordinary Time (nonfiction) A beautiful and sympathetic portrait of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII.  I audiobooked this one. It was slightly abridged, which was annoying, but the late Edward Herrmann was reading, which was everything.

I just counted, and I believe that my nonfiction reading is ahead of my fiction reading. Unusual.

Next post: Not done with my midyear reflections. I'm going to take a look at my 100 Book Resolution and see if I've stuck to it and if I've put any sort of dent into it.

No comments: