Sunday, April 10, 2011

March 2011

Books Bought:
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)
  • Adam Bede (George Eliot)
  • My Name is Memory (Ann Brashares)
  • Calendar Girl (Tricia Stewart)
  • Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • 2 Agatha Christie paperbacks + 2 five-volume works
Books Read:
  • Fly Away Home (Jennifer Weiner)
  • The Hollow (Agatha Christie)
  • After the Funeral (Agatha Christie)
  • Ordeal By Innocence (Agatha Christie)
  • Cat Among the Pigeons (Agatha Christie)
  • A Widow for One Year (John Irving)
  • The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)
  • Anybody Out There? (Marian Keyes)
  • Mozart in the Jungle (Blair Tindall)
I'm not off to a very good start with this blog. The second week of April and I'm just writing my March post! It's that time of year...and yet, I somehow managed to read eight books last month (granted that included Spring break).

Spring break was the root of my book-buying last month. Going home is always dangerous for me because I have easy access to more than one Half Price Books, one with an excellent, regularly restocked $1 fiction shelf. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was purchased because it was already on my "Books I Need to Read" list courtesy of Chelsea and the Webbon boys. I bought it knowing I wasn't going to get to it until the summer as it's quite a hefty read. Ditto Adam Bede, which I bought because it was mentioned and quoted in A Widow for One Year. The next three books came from an independent used book shop in Georgetown. I always feel obligated to buy books in independent shops because I love them so much, and these were all books that I really wanted, so that's justifiable, right? The Agatha Christies came from various places...I suppose I should mention that I'm currently trying to read all 80 of her novels. I'm about halfway done, but I buy them used whenever I find them cheap since I know I'll get to them eventually!

While I only managed to actually read one of the books I purchased this month (one of the Agatha Christies), I did do a fairly good job of knocking some books off my list that had been on there for quite some time. Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite current novelists (in a genre that some refer to as chick lit, a term I don't particularly like, but I don't have a better one...women's contemporary fiction? that's a mouthful) and Fly Away Home is her most recently published book. This one is probably my second favorite of hers (after Little Earthquakes). As I finished reading this book over a month ago, I can't remember my initial reactions after reading was a nice story with an ending I appreciated because it didn't try to tie up a complicated problem into a neat solution by the end of the novel. I appreciate reality in fiction. The string of Agatha Christies was read over Spring break after I watched Gosford Park (a murder mystery that takes place in 1930's England), loved it, and wanted more. I particularly liked Cat Among the Pigeons, probably because it was set in a girls' boarding school and reminded me of Malory Towers.

I'd been reading A Widow for One Year on and off since about November. Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my favorite books, so I thought it was about time to read another of his...however, I had a much more difficult time getting into this one. I liked it in spurts, but then a scene would happen that I didn't like, or just couldn't possibly relate to, and I kept putting it down periodically because I just couldn't decide if I liked the book. I'm glad I persevered with it, though, because the third and last section of the book was much easier and more enjoyable to read. I loved the ending, and I loved the character of Harry, who you have to wait for until the third section of the book, anyway. I don't think I would recommend this to anyone who wasn't already an Irving fan.

I already mentioned Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree. Ironically, reading about other people struggling with the amount of books they want to read is one of my favorite pastimes...I love knowing that I'm not the only one out there with such an odd reading style. Hornby is so witty and honest in his articles, and when he stumbles across a book that he falls in love with, you feel as if you have to go out and buy it right away. I haven't done that yet, but I have added several of his recommendations to my amazon wish list. Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. I'd read it before about two years ago, but I think I appreciated it even more the second time. Keyes' ability to take tragedies and discuss them in a comic novel is amazing, especially as the seriousness of what happens in her novels never gets downplayed. However, no matter how awful the catastrophes are, you can count on two things: lots of laughs along the way, and an optimistic ending (if not a genuinely happy one).

Mozart in the Jungle has been on my list for soon as I decided I was going to major in music. I'm glad I waited to read it until now, though...I probably would have never touched my clarinet again if I'd read it that young. The book is a memoir discussing Blair Tindall's growth from a middle school oboist excelling at music to a disillusioned Broadway pit musician feeling trapped in the music world. Even at 21, I already understand the disillusionment that goes along with playing an instrument, and I've already made the decision that continuing to play competitively is not for me, so I read the book with the state of mind of an observer, knowing that I'll never be in Tindall's shoes. I have a few friends that ARE planning on continuing down the performance road who are also reading this book, and I'll be interested to hear their reactions about this book...I imagine it might freak them out a little bit. I think this should be required reading for every music's not at all "Baylor appropriate," but its portrayal of the world of classical musicians is honest and unbiased. I think the best point Tindall makes is that in order to really survive happily in this world, performing has to be a true passion. I feel as if I know many fellow musicians that swear up and down that this is the case for them, but I think it is much rarer than we think, and I think some people are going to be in for a shock when they graduate. With that said, though, I can think of several people off the top of my head who I believe have a very good chance of surviving and thriving in this world. Tindall's writing style sometimes seemed a bit disjunct and disconnected to me, but as long as you keep in mind that this is a memoir, not a novel, and written by a journalist, that's not a problem.

Goal for April: try to make my "Books Bought" and "Books Read" lists match up a little better. Oh, and I stole the new blog title "Writing About Reading" from Nick Hornby...he often mentions in his articles how much he enjoys writing about reading, so I thought, "so do I!" and titled my blog to reflect that. Not the wittiest title...but it's explanatory, at least.