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Showing posts from 2017

Reading Goals for 2018

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Wow, it's already New Year's Eve Eve!  Christmas festivities are sadly winding down...  Tomorrow, people will wait outside in the freezing cold to ring in 2018, and I'll be in my snug, warm house, probably curled up with Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night, thus attempting to relive a New Year's memory from three years back.  Though surprising at times, 2017 has been a good year for me, and as someone who gets post-holiday blues, a book can help ease the transition into the next one.

I've talked already about 2017 in review, and how I've decided not to take on any more reading challenges, as tempting as they are.  That said, a few goals for 2018 have been floating around in my mind (I love the word "goal" because, for some reason, it sounds more flexible to me than "plan").   Here's a few of my open-ended reading goals for next year:
Bring back Book Journals.  I have quite a few chunksters on my TBR list... War and Peace, Moby-Dick, The C…

The Art of War, and other conflicts

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The Art of War would be better marketed today as "The Art of Problem Solving."  As far as warfare goes, you won't find anything here that has not been amply represented in documentaries, novels, movies, and current events.  I guess we are (morbidly) privileged in the 21st century to have seen Sun Tzu's advice played out, as well as ignored, in countless brutal conflicts, so reading this as a guide to war brings nothing new to the modern, armchair reader. 

Read as a metaphor for IT project management, however, this book still offers good guidance on how to be an effective leader and make optimal use of resources to solve problems.  Though discipline is emphasized, he also highlights the necessity of being flexible and using brains over sheer strength.  The time he spends on the psychology of the players, including the enemy and one's own forces, reminded me of T. E. Lawrence's tactics in the Middle East.  Information is critical to identifying victory, so Sun …

My (Reading) Year in Review

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It's mid-December already - can you believe it?!

According to Goodreads, I read 36 books this year.  (A couple of those were "did not finish"s, but apparently those count, too.)  It was twice as much as I committed to, and I don't say that to brag; it was more of an accident than anything.

You see, I started out the the year intending to read very specifically: learn to read French, read through the whole Bible, read longer books, read challenges, etc.  I've mentioned earlier this year some lessons learned in this area, which pretty much explain my "reading schedule" (or lack thereof, as it turned out).

2017 was a year of learning for me, nonetheless:
Though I didn't stick with French, I did read several UX books for work, which made a life-changing impact on my day job.I read four plays (three by Arthur Miller) and discovered the literary greatness of that genre.My coworker lent me a 699 page biography of T. E. Lawrence.  Not only do I now know T. E. b…

Ten Classics I'm Thankful For

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A day late, but better late than never, right?  This week's Top Ten Tuesday focuses on books that have "touched your heart and left you feeling SO thankful that it was written."  Narrowing this down to ten classic fictional books has been even more difficult than it should probably be...but here goes!


1.  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel
For as long as I can remember, Alice is a character I've identified with, in her search for home and logic in a place of strangeness and illusion.  Carroll's witty silliness has forever influenced my own sense of humor and indirectly helped me become the "literary techie" I am.  Let's not forget Tenniel, either, whose illustrations bring it all to (sur)reality!

2. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
When I was a little kid, my mom bought a bunch of Wordsworth Classics that were on sale at the mall.  She read some of them to me, i…

Top Ten Unique Book Titles

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This week's Top Ten Tuesday is all about titles of books that are more unique than trendy.  I may not have mentioned before that I love, love, love a good book title, so this topic particularly appeals to me.  ;)

Without further ado, here are some unique ones from classic literature:

1. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, by Herman Melville
It doesn't get more signature than this. Melville chose interesting names for all the characters, not least of all the whale.

2. Perelandra, by C. S. Lewis
The surest way to have a unique title is to use a word from your own fictional language!

3. Magellania, by Jules Verne
Alternatively, taking a nonfictional place and making it more "literary" also works.

4. The Lighthouse at the End of the World, by Jules Verne
Probably my favorite book title of all time.  He used "lighthouse" in a title before it was trendy.

Rather than overrun this list with Jules Verne, I will just add that most of his titles were unique in his day.  (He was that cool…

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Hourly Updates, autumn edition

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Starting a little late here - but hey, with four hours of extra sleep, I have that much more energy for the rest of the readathon!  ;)

Going to follow Cirtnecce's example and update this post as often as possible.  Stay tuned and check back!

Hour 12 . . . Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?


Well, I just finished Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, which I've been reading since June.  His story always gets me...  I got teary near the end.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Two!  But one of those involved 90 pages chock-full of history.  My brain is swimming with information.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm still looking forward to Bambi. ^_^  But The Lord of the World also intrigues me!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
No, it's been a blissful day at home.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
I'm really surprised how fast the day has…

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon: TBR, autumn edition

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Once again, I'm gearing up for Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, starting in five hours!  I enjoyed this event so much last time that, as soon as I heard there was a fall edition, I put it on my calendar.  It's not so much that I stay up the full 24 hours - no, indeed - but it's such a great, fun time to read a lot of different books and eat candy (oops).

As before, I'll be posting updates to Instagram and Goodreads, as well as maybe some reviews here.  Let me know if you're also participating!

The lineup:

 Finish Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia / Michael Korda Journey Through the Impossible / Jules Verne Peter Pan / J. M. Barrie Rhett & Link's Book of Mythicality / Rhett and Link Bambi (ebook) / Felix Salten Stretch goals: The Lord of the World (ebook) / Robert Hugh Benson Kidnapped (re-read) / Robert Louis Stevenson


Returning to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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Currently: at home, listening to the rain, trying to fend off the beginnings of a cold.  (I haven't been sick in quite some time...it was bound to happen.)

What better time to talk about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?


Most people are familiar with the film, having the somewhat abbreviated title of The Wizard of Oz.  It was one of my childhood favorites, perhaps more so even than Mary Poppins, and I still love it.  You'd have to be hardhearted not to at least sympathize with Dorothy's plight and desire to find home, after a gigantic cyclone tears her family apart and literally drops her in a strange, fantastical land.  For my part, I've never stopped wanting a pair of ruby slippers (magical or otherwise).

L. Frank Baum's 1900 book predates the film by some decades and the modern reader by over a century.  It takes us a little more imagination to picture even Kansas.  Baum's sparse yet concise prose helps us in this:
When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, …

Kazuo Ishiguro - Nobel Laureate

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Exciting news in the literature world... today it was announced Kazuo Ishiguro won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature!

As you may know from following me here and on Goodreads, I have great respect for Ishiguro as a writer.  I do not agree with his outlook on all issues, and my reactions to his novels have ranged from jaw-dropping admiration and pure enjoyment to boredom and pure disgust.  Nonetheless, he is a truly talented storyteller, who is not above using plain language to reach his readers.  His genius lies in the fact that his simplicity of style never gets in the way of his subtlety or message.  As a reader I am drawn into his world, and as a writer I remain in complete awe of his style.  Kazuo Ishiguro is certainly a author of "axes" for frozen seas and, for the writing standard he sets, a worthy Nobel Prize laureate.

Cloaked - Little Red Riding Hood in the Wild West

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Little Red Riding Hood meets classic Western - what a cool idea!  I was excited to read Cloaked, because I love LRRH, and fairy tales and Westerns are two of the best storytelling genres out there.  Since LRRH already has some Western elements (woods and wolves!), I was curious how the two would merge in this retelling.

The story begins with Mary Rose O'Brien boarding a stagecoach to visit her grandmother.  Mary Rose is extremely nervous because she's never met her grandma Jubilee before, yet her parents are hoping that, by making a good impression, she will mend the long rift between Mary Rose's father and Jubilee.  To make matters worse, her traveling companions are a rough-looking laborer and an over-friendly bookkeeper, and she is not sure she can trust either of them.  Mary Rose is hoping for some adventures at her grandma's Wyoming ranch, but when she arrives, she has no idea just how exciting life there will be.

Right off the bat, the narrative pulled me in with i…

Top Ten Books for Fall

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After a long, hot, dry, allergy-stricken, wildfire smoke-infused summer, we are finally getting rain again, and I love it.  Today I actually wore my thick cable-knit sweater, and my raincoat has seen a couple of outings, too.

Fall means pumpkin-flavored treats, but (as importantly) it also brings cozy moments reading a book while listening to the rain or sitting by the fire.  These are the top ten books I hope to read this fall - that is, if I can make it to ten!


1.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - L. Frank Baum
Maybe no other book screams "autumn" like this one.  It's a re-read; I haven't read it since childhood.  The movie is one of my all-time favorites!


2.  Cloaked - Rachel Kovaciny
I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of a new book by Hamlette, who blogs at The Edge of the Precipice.  So far I'm heartily enjoying it!



3.  Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia - Michael Korda
This is a long biography which I must finish by the end of the year and …

Tolkien Blog Party 2017 - Tag!

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With Hobbit Day (Sep 22nd) rapidly approaching, I was excited to see that Hamlette is again hosting a Tolkien Blog Party this year!  This will be my first time participating.  Though I haven't often mentioned J. R. R. Tolkien here, I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  There is so much to unpack in Tolkien's universe of Middle Earth, and I find I discover something new every time.


The Tolkien Tag 2017

1. How long have you been a Tolkien fan?
Oh wow... it must be something like 9 or 10 years ago now!  I played violin in a community orchestra, and we were learning music from The Two Towers.  The conductor, Mr. D., tried to select a wide variety of music, including film scores from newer movies like LOTR and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I am forever indebted to his open-mindedness, because some of the other musicians were not too keen on Rohan's theme or the March of the Ents.  ;)  For me, it was a turning point.


I had heard of LOTR but knew basically nothing ab…

Reading Lessons Learned - 2017

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Usually I would save this type of post for late December.  However, more and more I'm convinced that if you need to recap something in your life or change the way you do something, there's no reason to wait for the end of the year.  As the saying goes - why save for tomorrow what you can do today?  ;)

Now, that's not to say that I won't come to any more "revelations" during the rest of this year.  I just wanted to share some things that have been on my mind lately - lessons learned, if you will - not about books specifically, but about reading itself: as a process, a journey, and a joy.




Finding Axes
In my second podcast episode, "Ice and Axes - What Makes a Favorite?", I talked about Kafka's recommendation to read a book that is "an axe for the frozen sea within [you]."  It really made a lot of sense, so I abandoned my "favorites" list and resolved to start evaluating books in this new light.  When I read now, I see if a book

The Cruise of the Snark - Jack London and his trip across the Pacific

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Jack London's squall-infused, sickness-filled, Snark-y voyage is a sailing classic and product of its time, for better and worse. Compare his tongue-in-cheek narrative with his very real sufferings, his sympathetic view of Molokai versus his feelings of white superiority, or his socialist convictions with his celebrity lifestyle, and you'll find a fully flawed, yet vivid memoir with plenty of takeaways. I would have liked to hear more about his small crew, which is why Penguin was smart to include some excerpts from Martin and Charmian in the back. Overall, an educational adventure into the South Pacific of the early twentieth century.


Angst and yawns in Ishiguro's Nocturnes

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I bet someone's said it before, so I'm repeating it now - this one's a snooze...

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed The Remains of the Day, and An Artist of the Floating World is one of my all-time favorite novels. I appreciate Ishiguro's writing in its most subtle and emotive form, which is what I came to expect from those two books.

Like The Buried Giant, however, Nocturnes ended up disappointing high hopes. This collection is subtitled "Five Stories of Music and Nightfall," yet the first three stories are really rehashes of the same plot, which is more about marital discord (no pun intended) than making music. The best of these three (though admittedly the most dismal) is "Malvern Hills," a peek in the life of two folk musicians and their joys and sorrows. As for the last two stories, though the relationship problems took the backseat, the main storylines were not all that intriguing and rather anticlimactic.

Side note: there is quite a bit of…

Tragedy in America: Three Plays by Arthur Miller - Episode 6

Today I unpack three of Arthur Miller's most famous plays: All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible.

I must really apologize for the frequency of the word "interesting" in this episode.  My only excuse is I recorded this one in the evening and so perhaps wasn't feeling as bright as during my Saturday morning recordings.  ;)

Further Reading:
Excerpt of Arthur Miller’s testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee

Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra

C. S. Lewis's space trilogy has been on my reading list forever.  Well, at least since I joined Goodreads, which was 2012.  This year I've finally read it, and I posted a podcast review of the first two books over on Classics Considered.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

C. S. Lewis in Outer Space, Part 1 - Episode 5

C. S. Lewis wrote a science fiction trilogy?  You bet he did.  In this episode, we'll go over the first two books, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra.

Works mentioned:
"Eugenics and Other Evils" by G. K. Chesterton (Free online)
"Some Popular Fallacies about Vivisection" by Lewis Carroll (Ridiculously difficult to find.  My 1996 Wordsworth edition of the "complete illustrated" includes it, so I hope the 1998 edition in the link does as well.)

New(ish) books

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I seem to view summer as the season for buying books.  (Though, let's get real here, when is buying books ever out of season??)
This gorgeous Vintage Classics Jane Eyre was on my wish list for a while, so when the price lowered on Amazon, I thought I'd better seize the opportunity.  (For anyone who's interested, it's still a pretty good deal right now!)  I read Jane Eyre two or three times as a tween/teen, but that was...well, some time ago.  It's long overdue for a reread.

Stendhal's The Red and the Black is a book I know little to nothing about, but it's been on my radar as a French classic I should read.  Found it in the local thrift store for a deal, and in really good condition.  I just love Penguin Classics paperbacks.

Speaking of which, I was ready for more Jack London after The Sea-Wolf.  His sailing memoir, The Cruise of the Snark, looks to be right up my alley.  I found this practically new copy in a small local *bookstore, which I've only been t…

The good old summertime

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It's been a while since I gave a personal update, and now it's summertime I feel things are slowing down enough to blog (yay!).


This spring was very busy, both in work and in personal life.  A few things I did:
Took a volunteer job for a four-day weekend outdoors.  Very stressful, but I learned a lot from the challenge.Went on an elimination diet for several weeks.  It didn't help my skin issues, but I lost some weight(!).Mentored (and continue to mentor) new employees at work.
The best book I read in the last month or two is The Sea-Wolf by Jack London, which I reviewed (spoiler-free!) on my classic literature podcast.  There's nothing like reading a sea story, and I think it's my favorite genre for summer reading.  :)

Other spring/early summer reads:
Short stories by Shiga Naoya.  While I didn't enjoy the collection that much, it still makes me want to read more Japanese literature.All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, plays by Arthur Miller.  He's truly tal…

The Sea-Wolf and Other Sea Monsters - Episode 4

On this voyage through classic literature, we join Humphrey van Weyden and follow his struggle to survive on the ominous ship The Ghost.

A couple of notes on this episode:
At one point I mistakenly imply I rated the book 3 stars.  (I actually gave it a 4.) I apologize for the amount of background noise.  It may have been the chair I was sitting in - I'll try to improve the setup next time around.  Have you read The Sea-Wolf (or other similar sea stories)?  Let me know what you thought of it!

The Writings of Lawrence of Arabia - Episode 3

Today's episode delves into WWI history with the life and writings of T. E. Lawrence.

Books mentioned:
Crusader Castles (Hardcover)
Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Paperback)
Minorities: Good Poems by Small Poets and Small Poems by Good Poets (Hardcover)
The Forest Giant (Free online)
The Odyssey(Hardcover)  |  The Odyssey (Free online)
The Mint (Paperback)  |  The Mint (Free online)

Sources / Further Reading:
Mack, John E.  A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence.
Brown, Malcolm.  Lawrence of Arabia: The Life, the Legend.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom (My book journal)

Sherlock Holmes Challenge: May Check-In

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Apologies for the lateness of this.  Please comment with any thoughts or reviews you'd like to share!

These were May's stories, following the Chronological Challenge.  If you are on a different schedule, though, feel free to chime in with what you read in May!

May
Week 19 (May 7-13):  The Valley of Fear
Week 20:  "A Scandal in Bohemia"
Week 21:  "A Case of Identity"
Week 22 (May 28-Jun 3):  "The Greek Interpreter"

Ice and Axes - What Makes a Favorite? - Episode 2

For this week's topic, I talk about my favorites from classic literature and why I may give up having "favorites" in the future.

We + announcement

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It's been quite around here, but I've been busy...

...I've started a podcast!  It's going to be a weekly discussion of classic literature, kind of like this blog (but kind of different).  The first episode is a review of We, which I read about a month ago and wanted to save for this moment.  Please check it out here, and let me know what you think:  Classics Considered: We vs. Me - Episode 1.

The whole concept of a classic lit podcast has been in my mind lately.  I've enjoyed non-literary shows like Ear Biscuits and This Developer's Life, as well as book reviews by various vloggers on YouTube.  As I began to see the value in a conversational format (no lectures here), I also found my interest in reviewing to be renewed.  Maybe it's the challenge...writing is almost as easy as breathing, but I get extremely nervous behind a microphone.  It forces me to think more quickly and face my limitations as a speaker.  It's also (as I'm finding out) lots of fun!

We vs. Me - Episode 1

In this pilot episode, I discuss my latest read, We - a dystopian classic novel by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon: TBR stack

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This will be my first year participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!  It's been on my radar for a while, but I'm usually too busy (or think I'm too busy).  This year, the timing is right, as I've already got a ton of "currently reading" books on the shelf. 

I'll be posting updates on my Instagram and perhaps some reviews to follow afterwards.  Let me know if you're also participating!

And now, the lineup:
We (e-book) / Yevgeny Zamyatin
Right Ho, Jeeves (e-book) / P. G. Wodehouse
Sherlock Holmes Challenge catch-up / A. C. Doyle
Out of the Silent Planet / C. S. Lewis  Spiritual Writings / Soren Kierkegaard The Paper Door and Other Stories / Naoya Shiga
Stretch goals: Journey Through the Impossible / Jules Verne
The Screwtape Letters / C. S. Lewis
Lord of the Flies (re-read) / William Golding
Not aiming too high, but I hope to finish some of these.

This Side of Paradise - a peek into the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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My first attempt to read this book was on a plane, four years ago.  I had been going through some tough times, and as I plodded through the first fifty pages, my mind kept wandering.  I grew tired of the apparently carefree protagonist - who had the romantic name of Amory Blaine - and ultimately tossed this to the Not Finishing stack with a single comment: "Weird book so far."

Having finished the book now, I would word it a bit differently: "Weird book, but oddly rewarding."

If you are a reader who can love a book for the sake of its writing, This Side of Paradise is just your sort of book.  It is written in a series of vignettes and takes place over the course of Amory's childhood, youth, college years, and early adulthood.  Much like the crisp narrative of The Great Gatsby, each scene has its own particular mood and brilliancy, and the effect is a chocolate box of impressions, some bitter and some sweet. 
Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalis…

Sherlock Holmes Challenge: April Check-In

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For those following along on my Sherlock Holmes challenge - and for any who still wish to join! - I've decided to change things up a bit.  Instead of weekly link-ups, I'll be posting monthly check-ins, open to any and all Sherlock Holmes stories you have read in the month.  This will help me manage the posts better and also remove the dependency on the link-up widgets (which, while useful, can cause extra load time on the blog).

April's stories include the following:

March (Carry-over)
Week 13 (Mar 26-Apr 1):  "The Naval Treaty"

April
Week 14 (Apr 2-8):  "The Crooked Man"
Week 15:  "The Five Orange Pips"
Week 16:  "The Noble Bachelor"
Week 17:The Valley of Fear
Week 18 (Apr 30-May 6):  The Valley of Fear (continued)


Please comment with any thoughts or reviews you'd like to share!  This post has no expiration date, so if you want to come back and add your reviews at the end of the month, that's perfectly fine.  And again, if you are on …

Sherlock Holmes: "The Second Stain"

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Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR books

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This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is: ten books to read this spring.

I am so excited for spring this year, so hopefully that translates to reading more books.  I'm also participating in the April edition of Camp Nanowrimo, however - planning to finish my novel-in-progress! - so we'll see how it goes.  :)

1. Shackleton, by Roland Huntford: I've been wading through this enormous book since November.  Ideally I'll finish it this spring, but it's one of my own books so no rush. *** 2.  Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin (transl. Roger Clarke) *** 3.  Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis
*** 4.  The Divine Comedy, by Dante: This is such a hard one to read (comprehension-wise), but I'm trying.
*** 5.  The Complete Short Stories, by Franz Kafka: Another to-finish!
*** 6.  Peter-Pan, by J. M. Barrie
*** 7.  Cancer Ward, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  Maybe...
*** 8. - 10.  Not sure yet.  ;)