I've noted several times recently, that my once voracious reading habit has been mostly replaced by TV, as a result of my voracious knitting habit. And really, that's just because I haven't yet mastered reading and knitting simultaneously (though I have attempted it with some success recently).
But it really became glaringly obvious that I hadn't been reading when I went back to start tagging old entries here on lj and didn't really need my "media: books" tag for any of 2005. Yikes. It just so happens that I have read several things recently, so I shall now report dutifully, and get to use my tag. And offer actual content for once.
I picked up, about a month ago, Don DeLillo's The Names
. This is a book that's been sitting on my shelf for several years, having been bought in bulk with many other paperbacks at a rummage sale. And since the ex-BF and I had a little disagreement about DeLillo when I referred to him as a mid-list author* I had kind of resisted reading it. Well, this was the first book in about 10 years that I've actually hated enough to not finish reading. I could not get into it at all, and found that I was zoning out while trying to finish it because I couldn't even figure out what I was supposed to be getting out of it. The prose is well-written, the story just held no interest for me. (And I kept comparing it to Prague
, which, while not a stellar, oh-my-god-you-must-read this kind of book, did the whole ex-patriate thing in a way that resonated much more clearly with me.
So, after putting that down, I read Ann Patchett's Bel Canto
for my book club. This, I loved. It's really well written, and Patchett does a very good job at making this fictious, politically unstable South American country she creates quite timely, and timeless. The characters were wonderful. The ending, it's tragic, but there's no way it could have ended in a non-tragic manner without becoming sappy and Disney-fied. And while I first thought the postscript was a copout, I actually think without it the ending would have felt too isolating. I don't want to say too much about the story here, but it's fascinating to see something play out in basically one setting for an entire novel (the characters are held hostage).
After that, I went to a little fluffier book with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's At Wit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much
. I really didn't expect to like this as much as I did. It's basically a series of paragraph long observations about obsessive fiberholics, but she did such a good job of pairing these observations with quotations and then little italicized lessons that it really works. I whipped through this in a few days, but it will be the kind of book you can flip through every so often.
Next up was a non-fiction book I picked up at Half Price just because the title sounded intriguing: Bachelor Girl : The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century
, by Betsy Israel. If I could, I'd append "Mostly in New York" to the end of the title. This was a really intriguing history of single women and how society has viewed them, as well as how they view themselves as a class. And it was actually funny too. I liked this primarily because it filled a lot of holes in American history, as far as what happened between education and marriage for those women who didn't go right from one to the other. The statistics on valium use among single women when it was first introduced were staggering. And labor conditions for so-called "pink collar" jobs in the 20s and 30s? Eeeek.
I'm currently in the middle of three books:Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity
by Bernadette Murphy, which I am so far enjoying. I also have The Knitting Sutra: Craft as a Spiritual Practice
by Susan G. Lydon on loan from a fellow SnB'er, and I realized I did skim it a while back, but I think I'll re-read this after I'm finished with the first one.
Then there's Carol Shields' The Republic of Love
. I am such a Shields fan, and whenever I'm reading an author for whom there's no hope of more books (Shields died in 2003) I tend to slow down on reading books I haven't yet. This is a new one for me, and I'm loving it so far.
At lunch I went over to the library and picked up my reserves, and started reading All In My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache
by Paula Kamen. Wow. I think someone on my friends list recommended this? Well, let me second that. I'm only two chapters in, and I'm already making notes of things for further research of my own. And it's kind of funny too, which is always good in the context of a non-fiction book, I think.
*In retrospect, I may have been baiting him at the time I said this. However, "mid-list" isn't necessarily a derisive term coming from me, especially given the context. At the time, I was saying I'd be happy to be a mid-list author myself, meaning that sales do not necessarily correlate to literary quality.