Reading 2011

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do a 31×31 (and a half) but I do intend to keep reading and I like keeping track of it on here. I’m trying to set my goals more realistically this year, so I want to try to read 50, which averages to about a book a week with a little leeway for long ones or busy non-reading times. This means I have to put down the books that drag and move on to things that are more interesting to me, which is probably a better use of my time, as life is short.  Anyway, I’m already behind, having taken 10 days to read the first book of the year, but whatever. I’ll find some short stuff to read to make up for it. People keep recommending things until I feel like my head is going to explode. If no books were published for an entire year I’d still never catch up with everything I want to read. I need to move near a good library or I’m going to go broke buying books.

If you are on or join Goodreads, friend me! I’d love to see what you are reading.

Anyway, here goes, entry one:

1. Dharma Punx by Noah Levine:  I am too much of a lover of words to really get into this one. He doesn’t have much writing style, and for a memoir, there really isn’t a lot of detail – too many drugs must have really fogged his memory. But kind of interesting: Buddhism, Thailand, India, tattoos. All cool stuff. Just not told in a compelling way.

2. Without Reservations – Alice Steinbach. Written in 1993, it’s the original Eat Pray Love (though I think I have another book from a decade previous that is the real original Eat Pray Love). I liked it because it was a travelogue set in Europe and I identified with a lot of the emotions. I didn’t like it because it felt like some of the “greater life observations” felt a little manufactured and forced. The whole thing had a very constructed air. But still interesting. Not good to read 2 personal journey/memoir books in a row. Must intersperse in the future.

3. Little Birds – Anais Nin. Old school erotic fiction. Not good to read when you are single. But interesting as a study in genre, and an avenue for future potential income. More on that later.

4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera.  I thought this book was really beautifully written and I enjoyed it, crazy tangents and all. I found the characters to be quite human and flawed and lovely, and I think the ending is a little more hopeful than I guess all the people who told me they hated it found it to be.

5. Best American Travel Writing 2008 – guest editor Anthony Bourdain.  This collection was pretty dark, with a heavy focus on Africa.  All the articles were interesting, though the Africa ones were thematically similar and a little repetitive.

6. Thrice-Blessed – Jessica Spotswood.  This is a manuscript by one of my best friends, which is being shopped by her agent even as we speak and I can’t imagine it not being published. IT’S SO GOOD. I don’t say this because my friend wrote it. I say it because it’s an intriguing, twisty story with flawed characters who make very human choices, about a world that is “fantasy/alternative” yet very very familiar. And whether she meant it or not, it has a lot of complex feminist themes that I dig.  It’s Little Women crossed with The Crucible. I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to see if on a bookshelf at a bookstore!

7. Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? – Thomas Kohnstamm.  I am torn about this book. It was an easy read, sort of interesting, and I think probably does contain a lot of truth about the travel writing industry. But he’s such an asshole and seems so proud of himself for being one, he seems to revel in his “questionable ethics” and I’m just not a huge fan of celebrating bad behavior.  Same reason I don’t like The Godfather.

8. The Unnamed – Joshua Ferris. Really beautiful, sad book of love and disease and loss of control and letting go but not letting go and sigh. So good. Read it.

9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. It’s literally P&P with zombies.  The Bennett sisters kick some major ass, and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are equally matched in more than just verbal duels.  I’d been wanting to re-read P&P for some romantic escapism but felt guilty doing it when there are so many new books I haven’t read. Perfect solution. Highly entertaining.

10. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven – Susan Jane Gilman.  I thought this was sort of a bandwagon jumper from the Eat Pray Love phenomenon (which I still haven’t read). It’s about a woman who graduates college and goes backpacking in China in 1986, when it’s just opening for tourism. It took a huge turn that I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoyed it. I really identified with Susan as an anxious traveler who plows forward against herself.  Good random Strand purchase.

11. Jane – April Lindner. This was a Christmas gift from a smart lady and I really wanted to like it. But…it kinda annoyed me. It’s an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and I’m just like, why not read Jane Eyre? Modernizing this story is problematic from a feminist perspective (she’s too young to be getting married to a rock star with a crazy history!) and I was unable to get swept up in the romance. Even though I wanted to.

12. The Orchid Thief – Susan Orlean. Oh, dear. This book is boring. So so so boring. And that’s why Charlie Kaufman wrote Adaptation the way he did. And that movie is my favorite. And this book is boring. But at least I finally finished it, five years after buying it.

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