Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 - Part Two

Books Bought:
  • 21 Days to Glory: The Official Team Sky Book of the 2012 Tour de France
  • The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 (Harvey Sachs)
  • Mozart: The Early Years, 1756-1781 (Stanley Sadie)
  • From the Clarinet d'Amour to the Contra Bass: A History of Large Size Clarinets, 1740-1860 (Albert R. Rice)
  • An Incomplete Revenge (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Among the Mad (Winspear)
  • A Passage to India (E. M. Forster)
  • The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (R. Murray Schafer)
  • The Book of Music & Nature (David Rothenberg and Marta Ulvaeus, eds.)
  • Ecomusicology: Rock, Folk, and the Environment (Mark Pedelty)
  • Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century (Charles Hiroshi Garrett)
  • Frontier Figures: American Music and the Mythology of the American West (Beth E. Levy)

Books Received:
  • Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Stephanie V. W. Lucianovie)
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
  • Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible (Tim Gunn with Ada Calhoun) 
  • Composition in Retrospect (John Cage)

Books Read:
  • The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (Libba Bray)
  • Rebel Angels (Bray)
  • The Sweet Far Thing (Bray)
  • An Incomplete Revenge (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Among the Mad (Winspear)
  • 21 Days to Glory: The Official Team Sky Book of the 2012 Tour de France
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsburg)
  • Last Night at Chateau Marmont (Lauren Weisberger)
  • Winds of Change II: The New Millennium (Frank L. Battisti) 

Many of the titles on these lists remind me of a joke one of my musicology friends made when we got back from the AMS/SEM/SMT conference - "Academic Allure: The Role of Colons in Constructing Evocative Academic Titles." It's so true.

I acquired a lot of books this month because I went back to Texas and had access to the wonderful HPB in Rice Village. That's where the three music books near the top of the list came from - my favorite was the book about large size clarinets. I also bought (and read) the fifth and sixth Maisie Dobbs books and the official Team Sky book about Bradley Wiggins' win at the 2012 Tour de France. I actually found A Passage to India at one of the used book stores in Tallahassee - for $2.00! Maybe I misjudged that store when I moved here. The last five are textbooks for two of my classes this semester (Music in the US and a seminar on music and nature) - all look fantastic!

I received four books for Christmas, and I'm excited about all of them. The first two are from my parents - I was a little concerned that they were trying to point out my personality flaws, but both of these books look fascinating. I started reading Suffering Succotash and am already feeling better about being a picky eater! My brother got Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible for me - basically a fashion history book. Erik's sister Laura got me the John Cage book, which will tie in quite nicely with my music and nature seminar this semester. I always complain about not getting any books for Christmas, and everyone always says it's too difficult to choose books for me, so I was pleasantly surprised this year. 

Rereading The Hobbit was probably the highlight of my reading over the break. I think I enjoy that book more every time I read it. I haven't seen the film yet, but if you have and have NOT read the book yet, definitely try to pick it up! Another childhood favorite I revisited was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This book still makes me wish that I could run away to live in a museum! My musicological read over the break was Frank Battisti's Winds of Change II: The New Millennium. Although not written by a musicologist, this was a great overview of information I need to be knowledgeable about going into my thesis! The best thing I discovered reading this book: there exists a concerto for bass clarinet and wind ensemble that is inspired by Balinese gamelan (so, basically, everything I like). 

Christmas break - definitely a great time for acquiring and reading books!

Monday, December 17, 2012

December 2012 - Part One

Books Bought:
  • Monsters (Caleb Bollenbacher)
Books Read:
  • Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker)
  • Pardonable Lies (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Messenger of Truth (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)
  • The Mirror of Merlin (T. A. Barron)
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) 
  • Monsters (Caleb Bollenbacher)

December is a very book-friendly month; hence, I have decided to split the post up because I really want to be able to write in detail about some of the books I read at the beginning of the month. This post consists of what I read in Tallahassee and on the flight back to Houston.

Age of Miracles and Gone Girl both caught my eye on the New York Times best-sellers list over the summer (Gone Girl is currently #2 and has been on the list for the past 27 weeks). Now, I take things on the NYT list with a grain of salt (after all, Fifty Shades of Grey is still on there, and you can bet I won't be reading that one), but I also read reviews of both of these books in The Week, which usually does a good job of selecting more literary books. Age of Miracles is the type of book that if it were a movie, I would not be inclined to see at all - disaster movies are right up there with horror flicks and war films on my most-hated list. The book is narrated by a middle school girl and records what happens when the earth's rotation slows. It's an interesting and original idea, and the consequences are explored rather well, but since no one ever finds out why the earth is slowing, no one ever comes up with a solution, and we're left with an ending that doesn't satisfy. Gone Girl is probably most accurately described as a thriller - another genre I have no interest in, yet the review I read was intriguing. The book is certainly a page-turner, and there is a twist with the "killer," who is more of a subtle psychopath than we usually see, but I'm not sure if I would recommend this to anyone. The ending is odd - on the one hand, I didn't like either of the characters, and I think it would have been unrealistic to give either a happy ending, but the end of the book just didn't seem to fit. 

The fourth Merlin book was my favorite so far - one more to go! I also enjoyed the third and fourth Maisie Dobbs books, although I thought they were weaker than the first, second, and eighth books. I have three left to read and was expecting to finish them before the end of the month, but the library just recalled one of them...might have to buy it.

I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Monsters on my trip from Tallahassee to Houston a couple of days ago - both are quick reads perfect for traveling! The first was recommended by my dad and describes a day in the 1950s Soviet prison camps. Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned himself, and after he was released and wrote this novel (I would call it a novella, really, at only 140 pages), he had to obtain permission from Khrushev before he could publish it in a magazine. This is the type of book that if I'd read it in high school, I would have had to identify themes and deeper meanings, so it was a pleasure to read it now and just enjoy the themes explored on a less conscious level. Monsters was recommended by my friend Chelsea and written by her friend Caleb. This is a collection of short stories; my favorite was entitled "Jezebel." I find it hard to describe short stories without giving too much away, so I'll just say that this is a collection worth checking out. I didn't like every story, but I am hard to please when it comes to short stories, and I think there is enough variety here that everyone will find one they like. For me, "Jezebel" was worth the $2.99 itself. I believe this collection is only available in e-book form. I have an iPad and a Kindle (the old one with the keyboard) and much preferred the formatting on the iPad. 

Friday, December 7, 2012


Important addition to my November list of books I read: Doc by Mary Doria Russell. I don't know HOW I forgot this book (well, I do, actually - I already gave it back to the library) because it was by far the best book I read this month, if not this semester. So I suppose it's fair to give it its own post.

Things I loved about Doc:

  1. As always, Russell (who is an anthropologist) thoroughly researched the background to this book and has produced a stellar historical fiction work.
  2. This book is about Doc Holliday, but this is a completely different Doc Holliday than you've heard about before. First of all, this book ends before he moves to Tombstone, AZ. More importantly, Doc Holliday is a perfect, albeit tragic, Southern gentleman. 
  3. Despite its historical accuracy, this book is fictional telling of Doc's early years. Is the importance of Beethoven's Emperor Sonata factual, or invented? A better question to ask - does it matter? Not at all. This book ends beautifully.
  4. Besides Doc, Russell has created so many rich characters. I was completely in love with Morgan Earp from the moment he was introduced.
  5. Again, as usual for Russell, this book is thought-provoking, introducing many controversial topics, from temperance to prostitution, and presenting a side that readers may not otherwise consider.

Another win from Russell! I can't wait to hear what her sixth book is about.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

May 2011

Books Bought:
  • Crooked House (Agatha Christie)
  • There is a Tide (Agatha Christie)
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  • My Name is Asher Lev (Chaim Potok)
  • Dinosaur Planet (Anne McCaffrey)
  • Dune (Frank Herbert)
  • Children of Dune (Frank Herbert)
  • Heart of the Matter (Emily Giffin)
  • Waterland (Graham Swift)
  • I Remember Nothing (Nora Ephron)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars (David Gutterson)
  • The Opposite of Me (Sarah Pekkanen)
  • The Lacuna (Barbara Kingsolver)
  • My Life in France (Julia Child)
  • Dragonwyck (Anya Seton)

Found this in my drafts - first of all, WHY WAS I SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY? Good thing I know for a fact that most of these cost $1.
Second of all, as of December 4, 2012, I have read the Agatha Christies, A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I had already read at the purchasing date; I just can't stop buying that book), Dinosaur Planet, Heart of the Matter, I Remember Nothing, and The Opposite of Me. Clearly, I have a problem. I have a sneaking suspicion that I didn't read any of these in May 2011, either.

From what I remember, Heart of the Matter is great (as Giffin always is), The Opposite of Me was a surprise gem (especially since I have since read the author's other two books, which are not gems), I Remember Nothing was wonderful (again, as Ephron always is). I do remember thinking at the time, man, I hope Nora Ephron doesn't die soon because I LOVE her essay collections and I hope this isn't the last one. Well, it was. RIP Nora Ephron, one of the best and sassiest writers ever. Dinosaur Planet is pure dumb sci-fi greatness and I loved all of it...hello, dinosaurs!! I suspect that McCaffrey loves dinos as much as I do.

Well, that was a fun blast from the past...

Back Again!!

I kind of forgot I had this blog. I am most definitely still reading, though! Now that I am a musicology graduate student, I read even more than ever. One of my classmates totaled our required reading for two of this semester's classes at over 10,000 pages. I can't say I'm surprised. We're pretty sure we've written about 300 pages worth of assignments, as well. This is the life!!

Beyond my required reading, you can bet I'm still reading tons for fun! However, I am not purchasing as much as I used to. Reasons:

1. Being a graduate student is tough, and my stipend is not huge. 
2. I have yet to discover a used book store in Tallahassee that even halfway lives up to the ones I loved in Waco and Houston. 
3. On the bright side, I live ten minutes' walk away from a giant public library! I pass it on my way to school every day! I love free books!

Let's take a look at November (I don't remember everything because, as mentioned, I forgot about this blog). 

Books Bought:
  • Music from Behind the Bridge (Shannon Dudley)
  • Size 12 and Ready to Rock (Meg Cabot)

Books Read:
  • A Lesson in Secrets (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Maisie Dobbs (Winspear)
  • Birds of a Feather (Winspear)
  • The Fires of Merlin (T. A. Barron)
  • Size 12 and Ready to Rock (Meg Cabot)
  • To Weave and Sing (David Guss)
  • Where Rivers and Mountains Sing (Ted Levin)

Most of the books I buy are for class, now (thanks, amazon marketplace). Shannon Dudley's book (who is a man, just fyi) is about steelband music in Trinidad & Tobago. However, after I bought it, the assignment changed to a shorter reading, so I may not read this book for a while now that it is not required reading. Looks very thorough and well-researched, though, and who can't love steelband music? On my "books read" list, the last two were for my World Music Cultures seminar (as was the Dudley). Both are excellent books! Ted Levin's is more of a narrative than Guss's is; however, both examine little-known yet fascinating cultures. Levin looks at Tuvan musical traditions, including throat-singing, which the area is most well known for. A great book and accessible to everyone, not just musicologists - check it out! Guss's book is about the Yekuana people in South America whose music aligns with their myths and basket-making traditions (hence the title). I enjoyed this book as well, but it is definitely a drier read than the Levin.

For fun (which I will always make time for, no matter how crazy my life is) - Jacqueline Winspear's A Lesson in Secrets is the eighth in her series about detective (well, technically psychiatrist and private investigator) Maisie Dobbs. I am in love with the protagonist - she is such a strong female character in one of my favorite time periods and settings - 1920s-1930s England. After finishing all of Agatha Christie's novels (the same day that I completely finished my undergraduate degree requirements, funnily enough), I have been hunting for another mystery series to enjoy, and Winspear's certainly met my requirements. After reading book eight, I immediately ran to the library and returned with books 1-7 and read the first two in less than a week, both of which are equally excellent as the eighth! 

T. A. Barron's Merlin book is the mid-point of a fantasy series that I somehow missed as a child. Thank goodness my friend Stephanie is here to fill me in on what I missed! Barron's young Merlin series are enjoyable, quick reads with a surprising amount of thought put into them. Highly recommended! The first book is slow, but I read The Fires of Merlin (book three) in two days. Meg Cabot has been a favorite of mine since I first read The Princess Diaries in the sixth grade, and her mystery series starring (that's a pun, by the way - read the book) Heather Wells is another set of fun, lighthearted reads...perfect for fitting in between 50-page scholarly articles about compositional process and reception history! I should note that unlike her Princess Diaries series, these books are for adults, not teenagers. Obviously, I am a sucker for good mysteries, and while Cabot's aren't necessarily hard to figure out whodunit, Heather is such a snarky narrator that I don't really care if the mystery is sub-par. Oh, and they all take place in a college dorm where Heather is assistant dorm lots of fuel for snarkiness. 

Stay tuned for which I devour the rest of the Maisie Dobbs series and probably much more besides now that the semester is almost over!