Posts filed under ‘Collections and Lists’
It’s that time of year again: what topped our list in 2016? And what did we absolutely despise? Check out Kate and Corey’s picks for their best (and worst!) reads of 2016:
Best Library Loot
Corey: Definitely A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé. It was one of those serendipitous library reads that you magically happen upon and turn out to be incredible. I was so lucky to find this one in the stacks this year!
Kate: Hmm. Probably A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was not a book of short stories by a recovered alcoholic that hopscotched all across the Southwest. Just wonderful.
“Hey, I didn’t know that!” Award for Best Nonfiction Read
Kate: Can I take a second to brag about the fact that I really tried to branch out into nonfiction this year? And still, somehow, only read a few. But Cooked by Michael Pollan was the best of them, probably, filled with compelling stories and facts about the food we cook and how we eat it.
Corey: Rebecca Trainster’s All the Single Ladies was so chock-a-block full of “hey, I didn’t know that!” moments, I think I irritated pretty much everyone I ever happened to be reading this book next to; I couldn’t stop myself from shouting out tidbits and marveling at Trainster’s research.
Kate: The Likeness by Tana French. Shades of Donna Tartt and Kate Atkinson. Plus, it takes place at Trinity and just outside Dublin, so I got to feel all nostalgic.
Corey: I only reread one book this year — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — and it was, as usual, a total delight. (more…)
Well, we’re about halfway through summer (already? Already!), so we thought we’d check in on our 2016 summer reading list and see how things have played out. Share your summer in reading so far in the comments section!
Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread) — I think readers of a certain age are conditioned to read Harry Potter books mid-summer. The books were always released to much fanfare at the end of July when they first came out, so as the temperatures skyrocket, I like to reach for a cool drink of J. K. Rowling’s books. I reread the first book and it was just as transportive, funny, and full of hijinks as I remembered. For some reason, I was particularly struck by Rowling’s invention of Quidditch this time around — who just invents a sport wholecloth like that? And how is it so easily understandable right away? Her creativity and ability to make strange things seem normal still blow me away, even 17 years later. (CFB)
Classics (Old and New):
Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton — This is set a lot later than most of Wharton’s books: 1927, the heart of the Jazz Age. It was an interesting study of the hypocrisy that Wharton saw during this age, which does seem fairly modern, in a lot of ways. One of the main characters goes from guru to guru seeking release from her stress, trying yoga and something akin to therapy to help herself deal with the trials of everyday life. However, as is typical for Wharton, the novel ends bleakly, without hope and instead with an exposure of the rotten foundation underneath the gilded surface. (KW)
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton — We seem to be on an Edith kick this summer! I picked this one up somewhat randomly and was treated to a bevy of Edith’s deeply flawed characters, frequently doing awful things to each other. Mostly, the book was interesting for the extreme lengths Wharton goes to with her plot and characters to make her point: namely, that the choices for women longing for independence at the turn of the century were plain old terrible. (CFB)
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles — Truth be told, I started reading The Odyssey in my old copy from high school, a Barnes and Noble classic with a high Victorian prose translation by Samuel Butler. It didn’t ring true, so I went out and got the Fagles translation (newish, from 1996). This was an excellent decision since Fagles’ version preserves the poetry as well as the immediacy of the language. I’m about halfway through right now and I am really loving it! Also, something about nautical misadventures on the Mediterranean seems like an appropriate thing to read during this drought-filled, hot summer. (CFB) (more…)
Summer is now properly upon us — how is it July already?! — so we here at Literary Transgressions pooled our To Be Read lists and made our own Summer Reading List. Is it as nostalgia-filled as the ones from school? No, but we still think it’s a pretty great list.
Check out our list below and share what’s on the docket for your summer reading this year in the comments!
Summer Traditions & Rereads:
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling (reread)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (reread)
The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte
OR The Wind from the East by Almudena Grandes
(I always read something Spanish each summer, still not sure why! – CFB)
Classics (Old and New): (more…)
As weather heats up this year, I find myself nostalgically thinking back on the various summer reading lists I used to get as a middle schooler. There were the crinkled print-out copies from school — multi-page manifestos stapled in one corner and hopefully passed out at the end of the school year by optimistic teachers with the request to try and read at least one book on the list.
There were the glossier pamphlets from the public library, where there was an annual summer reading contest that awarded much-coveted stickers if you read a certain number of books.
And then there was my own personal reading list, full of a mixture of aspirational books I thought I ought to read (one misguided summer at age twelve I attempted John Updike’s Rabbit, Run and was much chagrined to discover it had nothing to do with rabbits) and as many Baby-Sitter Club books as I could get my hands on. (more…)
I haven’t been feeling super-motivated to read lately, which usually means it’s time to hit the stacks and see what inspiration my local library has to offer. Luck was with me this week and I picked up a trio of great-sounding reads. Indeed, I had to stop myself at three; so many looked good!
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This book has been on my radar since it came out (which, I should note, felt like a very short time ago, but was actually in 2013) and I was quite excited to see it on the shelf at the library — two copies, no less! (Having now discovered that it is three years old, I’m somewhat less astounded at this bounty.) I’m looking forward to digging into the lives of protagonist Ursula Todd, a young woman who, every time she dies, is immediately born again. What will she change in her life and in history?
The Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé
A serendipitous library find if ever there was one! I have never heard of it or Cossé, but the jacket flap has me hoping for something along the lines of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Club Dumas, but with France instead of Spain and without the supernatural mumbo-jumbo. File this under my continued quest to find a good bookish mystery novel. (And, also: that cover! So cute!)
The Warden by Anthony Trollope
Would you believe this was the sole Trollope my library had? A scandal! That literary injustice aside, I was happy to see The Warden there on the shelf since it is the first of Trollope’s Barchester Novels, none of which I’ve yet had the pleasure of reading. I enjoyed The Eustace Diamonds tremendously when I was last in graduate school, so I’m hoping The Warden will be equally diverting.
I’m clearly in one of those moods where I’m not quite sure what I want to read, but by George do I want to read something. Here’s hoping one of the above strikes my fancy!
Which books made our little readerly hearts sing this year? Which books did we finally finish — for better or worse? And which books changed our outlook? Check out Kate and Corey’s picks for their best (and worst!) reads of 2015:
Most Fun Read
Corey: Does having the most fun while reading it count? If so, my most fun read this year was Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. It isn’t a “fun” book, per se (mixed in with the magic and romance, there’s kidnapping, murder, and all-out civil war), but I still had tremendous fun reading it.
Kate: The Rosie Project, Uprooted and Kushiel’s Dart were all majorly fun for me. None of those are really…fluffy, persay, but I had a lot of fun reading them!
The Shock and Awe Award for Most Surprising Read
Corey: I’m not sure what I was expecting with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, but I was still surprised by it. Plot- and genre-wise, it is nothing like any of his previous work, but thematically it fit right in with Remains of the Day in its dealings with memory and aging. Reading it was an ongoing surprise.
Kate: Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I expected a sort of porny, sub-standard, Fifty Shades of Grey-with-angels kind of thing, but wow. That’s not at all what it was. It was a sweeping, epic, woman-focused bildungsroman with themes of love, friendship, morality and loyalty. Amazing.
“Hey, I didn’t know that!” Award for Best Nonfiction Read
Corey: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson barely edges out Simon Garfield’s excellent On the Map. With one mind-blowing fact after another, it’s impossible to compete with Bryson’s accessible and fascinating take on nearly everything.
Kate: Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. It gave me a lot of insight into the little wolf in my living room!
Corey: Oh man, I had so many great rereads this year! But I think The Magicians by Lev Grossman takes the cake. I loved it the first time around and it was even more meaningful in the reread. Plus, 2015 was my first time reading the whole series, which was an amazing experience.
Kate: I agree. It would be hard to beat the experience of rereading the first two and finishing with the third. I also enjoyed my A Song of Ice and Fire reread immensely.
Worst Reread (more…)
At the start of 2015, I set out to have the most intentional and thoughtful year of reading ever. I wanted to read with purpose, focusing on books both inside and outside my comfort zone that were engaging and mentally challenging as well as entertaining. I had goals and deadlines and aspirations — I even signed up for two different reading challenges to keep me honest.
And, for most of 2015, I read ferociously. I checked categories and authors off my list, I chose what I was reading with the challenges in mind, and I just basically read a ton. Travel helped — there were a lot of layovers and long train rides in 2015 — as did the fantastic local library I had access to for the first half of the year.
Then, in the autumn of 2015, I went back to graduate school and had a reading epiphany: reading isn’t a contact sport. It isn’t something to train for, it isn’t some kind of competition, and it isn’t something to kill yourself trying to do “best.” Since reading is something I love so much, I realized that it should be a treat, a pleasure, even a leisurely pursuit, not something you pull a muscle doing.
In consequence, my reading slowed down considerably after September, although what I have read since then, I’ve enjoyed a lot. I allowed myself time to enjoy each book and, if something wasn’t clicking, I didn’t force myself to finish it. Life’s too short!
And so I come to the end of 2015 with another year of reading under my belt, although not the one I originally pictured! For my first-ever reading challenges, out of the combined 75 categories in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge, I checked off 55, which feels like a pretty good chunk. As I had hoped, the challenges did force me to read some books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise and to check some titles of my ever-growing TBR list. On the whole, life held a lot of changes for me this past year and I think it makes sense that my reading habits match.