Sunday, December 22, 2013

December, Part 1

Part One of what I've read in December covers from the last week of classes until when I left for Texas.

Books Bought:
  • Thousand Mile Song: Whale Music in a Sea of Sound (David Rothenberg)

Books Read:
  • Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation (Thomas Turino)
  • Ender's Shadow (Orson Scott Card)
  • The Principles of Uncertainty (Maira Kalman)
  • Sisterland (Curtis Sittenfeld)

I bought Thousand Mile Song because a good chunk of one of my thesis chapters is about whales. David Rothenberg writes a lot about music and nature, but his books aren't always the most scientifically accurate. He also seems a little spacey, but I don't mind that. I read Music as Social Life for my intro to ethnomusicology class and enjoyed it. It's aimed at undergraduate non-musicians, but it's still a great read that explores some interesting ideas about the different roles music can play in societies.

I reread Ender's Shadow and enjoyed it as much as the first time I read it. I'm working on the rest of the Shadow series now. 

The Principles of Uncertainty is another quick read. Maira Kalman is known for her quirky paintings (she illustrated Daniel Handler's Why We Broke Up, which I read back in January and loved). This book is basically a collection of her paintings with her thoughts about her daily life written around them. It's a beautiful book. Sisterland got some interesting reviews when it came out in June, so I checked it out from the library. I flew through it pretty quickly once finals week was over, and for the most part I enjoyed it. It wasn't necessarily what I expected - the blurb describes two sisters' psychic powers; one sister uses her powers and ends up warning a city about an upcoming earthquake, the other sister rejects her powers in favor of a more "normal" life. Psychic powers aside, though, it's really a novel about the relationship between sisters as they grow up. I really didn't care for the ending - I thought it was melodramatic, unbelievable, and unsatisfying. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Books Bought:
  • The Lady of the Rivers (Philippa Gregory)

Books Read:
  • A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
  • High Fidelity (Nick Hornby)
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling)
  • Girl at Sea (Maureen Johnson)
  • Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  • Last Chance Saloon (Marian Keyes)

Clearly, I had more time on hand to read this month...mainly because I spent two weekends out of town, so I had a good amount of plane rides/airport time to fill. I finally finished GOT - now to tackle the (even longer) sequel.

I've read High Fidelity before, but I needed to reread it because it's basically the ultimate break-up book - and very revealing because it's written by a man from a man's perspective. I watched the movie adaptation with John Cusack after finishing the book this time, and I was unimpressed - perhaps because the setting was transferred from England to America. This was disappointing, because I generally love John Cusack, even in overall weak movies. 

I read Mindy Kaling's book because I needed more cheering up, and this book is definitely an easy way  to brighten your day! Now, I have to admit that I wasn't exactly sure who Mindy Kaling actually was before I read this book, but now I am inspired to start watching The Office (I'm pretty sure I've seen maybe five episodes...ever). She is so funny and open about making fun of herself, which makes her easy to relate to even though she's incredibly successful and probably super rich.

I had to reread Ender's Game after seeing the movie...I flew through it in about a day. I really enjoyed the book the first time around, so I was very apprehensive about seeing the movie. However, I have to say that ultimately I think it was a good adaptation. There were obvious challenges with adapting the book: the book covers a much greater period of time (Ender is 6 when he arrives at Battle School and 10 at the end of the book); the amount of graphic violence in the book would probably have been controversial with child actors; and much of the book explored psychological and emotional issues that don't transfer well to the screen. Because of these issues, the movie didn't pack the same punch as the book (and I was disappointed that the side-plot with Valentine and Peter was entirely left out), but it's definitely worth seeing.

Last Chance Saloon was another re-read this I've mentioned before in this blog, Marian Keyes is one of my favorite authors. I enjoyed this book more than the first time I read it, perhaps because I'm older now and identified with the experiences of one of the characters in particular. I'm just going to go ahead and leave it at that and recommend ALL of Marian Keyes's books. :) 

Monday, November 11, 2013


My thesis rules my life. Actually, that's not even true. October was a rough month, and my thesis should have ruled my life, but it didn't. But I made it through, and part of the reason I did so this month was by escaping into books.

Books Bought:
  • Sounds of War: Music in the United States during World War II (Annegret Fauser)
  • Now I'll Tell You Everything (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor)

Books Read:
  • Commencement (J. Courtney Sullivan)
  • Now I'll Tell You Everything (Naylor)
  • Z (Therese Anne Fowler)

I actually bought Sounds of War last month, but I forgot about it then. I haven't read any of it yet, but the way WWI and WWII affected music is something I'm interested in (both wars had massive effects on the American band tradition). I probably won't get around to reading this book until next semester at best, but it will be a good one for me to own.

Now I'll Tell You Everything is the last book in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's "Alice" series. Some people say they grew up with Harry Potter, and to some extent that was true for me, but Alice is my fictional best friend from my childhood (and beyond). I read my first Alice book in the fourth grade (which takes place in the sixth grade for her) and continued reading until this year. Alice was older than me until the summer before my junior year when we were the exact same age (the books were published once a year and each covered a semester or a summer of her life), so since then she's been catching up with me. This final book covered her college years until her sixty-fifth birthday (relevant because that's when her seventh grade history class opens their time capsule), so it's not really a book that would interest anyone other than long-time Alice fans because the entire thing is basically snapshots of her life. But for people like me who have been reading about Alice's life for over a decade, it's the perfect end to the series.

Z is a fictional novel about Zelda Fitzgerald covering her life from meeting Scott in Georgia as a young woman to her separation from him when her schizophrenia set in. I have an odd fascination with Zelda, and I really enjoyed this interpretation of her life, but I wish that it had been more in-depth. Still, I recommend it, especially if you enjoy Scott Fitzgerald's writing. I have no idea how accurate Fowler's representation of him is, but it's interesting. 

One more thing - if you've been keeping up with this blog, then you might wonder, "What happened to Game of Thrones? Did she ever finish it?" Truth is, October was yet another month that passed by without me finishing that book...but I'm very, very close. I'm going to blame this on the fact that we now have to erase written-in scores and books while working at the music library circulation desk.

Hopefully I'll get my November post written at the end of the month instead of a third of the way into the next one...oops. 

Monday, September 30, 2013


It's the last day of September, so technically, this is not late. I'm just writing about the whole month in one sitting, which is totally fine because I haven't finished very many books (okay, I haven't finished any).

Books Bought:
  • Walden (Henry David Thoreau)
  • This Side of Paradise (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Books That I Have ALMOST Finished Reading:
  • A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin)
  • Commencement (J. Courtney Sullivan)

Based on my pitiful reading list for the month, you may think that this semester is tougher than the really isn't (I mean, besides the fact that I have to complete a full draft of my thesis by December). With that said, though, I'm still figuring out how to schedule in free time, and this semester has been different so far in that I'm choosing to spend most of my free time with people instead of books...which is not a bad thing.

Also, A Game of Thrones is a really long book. And it's pretty gruesome at times, so I'm not reading it very religiously. I've actually been reading this book pretty much solely while working at the library circulation desk. It has the added bonus of being an excellent conversation starter - pretty much every patron who sees me reading it either asks me how I like it or gives me their opinion on the book and/or TV show. So there's that. I should start a blog about opinions on GOT from patrons of the Allen Music Library. 

I picked up Commencement a few days ago and am really enjoying it - already halfway through it. I saw a review of Sullivan's newest book, and while adding my name to the hold list for that book at the library, I decided to pick up her first book, too. It's about four friends and how their lives have changed (or not changed, I guess, in some cases) four years after graduating from their undergraduate. So far, so good, but the thing about reading new authors is that you have no idea about their ending style. 

I bought Walden because connection to the natural world plays a big part in my thesis, and my advisor told me I needed to read Walden if I could ever fit it into my schedule. I bought This Side of Paradise because I began rediscovering Fitzgerald this summer and am hooked. Both of these books were under $5 brand new. Basically, it's financially prudent to read books that were published before 1923

Happy October! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

August: Weeks Three and Four

Books Bought:
  • History and Theory of Anthropology (Alan Barnard)
  • The Anthropology of Music (Alan Merriam)
  • The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts (Bruno Nettl)
  • Music as Social Life (Thomas Turino)

Books Read:
  • My Education (Susan Choi)
  • Love is a Four-Letter Word (ed. Michael Taeckens)

Okay, reading in August became difficult. (Life in flux, see two posts ago.) I bought my textbooks for my Intro to Ethnomusicology class. I've started reading the Nettl book, and it's great. I appreciate anyone who can write an academic book that is not the least bit dry. 

Here are my textbooks amongst other homework detritus.
I finished reading two books this past weekend that I've been working my way through over the past few weeks. I'd read a review of My Education in The Week and thought it seemed interesting (plus, Choi has been a Pulitzer finalist before), so I added it to my library list. Perhaps not coincidentally, the subject matter was quite similar to the memoir/movie An Education - taboo love affair between a student and an older person. I appreciated the writing more than the plot. I know some have called it verbose and melodramatic (the writing AND the plot, I guess), but I think those critics just probably don't remember what it's like to be an intelligent person caught up in loving someone you shouldn't (instant recipe for melodrama). 

Love is a Four-Letter Word is a collection of short stories about break-ups. Like any good short story collection, some are sad, some are funny, some are serious, some are clever. I think I found this book on the sale rack at a store a few years back - if I'm remembering correctly, after my own giant break-up. I probably should have read this book then, but it's an enjoyable read even if you're completely satisfied with your current love life (or lack of). 

Monday, August 12, 2013

August: Weeks One and Two

Books Bought:
  • The Satanic Verses (Salman Rushdie)
  • The Three Weissmanns of Westport (Cathleen Schine)
  • Brat Farrar (Josephine Tey)
  • And Another Thing... (Eoin Colfer)
  • Silent Spring (Rachel Carson)
  • The Little Drummer Girl (John Le Carre)
  • Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books (Aaron Lansky)
  • See, Mix, Drink (Brian D. Murphy)
I spent the first week and a half of August at home in Texas...which means I visited my favorite used book store THREE TIMES. But I only bought books the first two times - that means I'm improving, right? Also, let me just brag about how I got the first six books on that list for a total of $6.21. Thank you, Rice Village Half Price Books, and your wonderful $1 fiction shelf.

If there's one thing I can't resist, it's trying new mysteries (after reading everything written by Agatha Christie, what other choice do I have?) - and if there's another thing I can't resist, it's books about books. I've read reviews of a couple of Josephine Tey's books (not the one I bought, however), so when I saw one on the $1 shelf I decided to try it. As for John Le Carre...well, I haven't read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy yet, but I just finished watching the old TV adaptation (as well as the new movie) and am pretty much 100% sure I'm going to love the book, so I ended up buying another of his books, too. I also couldn't resist buying Eoin Colfer's sixth installment to the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy." Outwitting History is a book about books - enough said. See, Mix, Drink isn't a usual purchase for me, but Matt and I had just seen the book at Urban Outfitters for three times the price, so we decided to each buy one and learn to make drinks. I like the book because it's not just recipes, but includes diagrams and charts for each drink, too. I love diagrams and charts!

I was enjoying being home so much that I had little time to read (unusual for me). I'm still halfway through A Game of Thrones, as well as several other books, so we'll see what I manage to actually complete in the last two weeks before school starts!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

July: Weeks Three and Four

Books Read:
  • The Interestings (Meg Wolitzer)
The end of July was pretty crazy - moving to a new apartment, dog-sitting, and driving back to Texas, to name the big things. I kind of temporarily forgot about this blog, which was actually OK because I haven't completed very many things. Whenever my life is in flux I tend to hop around between different books. With that in mind, this list is necessary:

Currently Reading:
  • The Great Animal Orchestra (Bernie Krause)
  • A Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) *apparently if you're a fantasy writer it's hip to have the double "R" thing going*
  • The Gift of Fear (Gavin de Becker)
I am LOVING A Game of Thrones (I know, I'm getting into this a little late in the game) - such complex characters! That's all I can say about it so far, other than I'm hooked.

A note on the only book I finished in the past couple of weeks: The Interestings is a great book if novels about ordinary people are your thing. I personally love them; in this case I especially enjoyed the ordinary people described because the relationships in this book started at a high school summer camp for the arts, which I can completely relate to as I spent every summer in high school at music festivals. I just realized that it's slightly ironic that the word I used to describe the characters is "ordinary," but perhaps that was the ultimate message of the book, anyway.