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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Amazon Kindle Deals!

Some of you may know that I own a Kindle - and love it. I still predominantly read physical books, but I love the convenience of e-books - as a kid, I used to bring five or six books on long car rides so I had a variety to choose from; now when I travel, I bring fifty or sixty books! 

Amazon is pretty great about having cheap e-books - the trick is to keep an eye on their Kindle Daily Deal page. Four new e-books are offered each day, but they also have monthly deals. I was browsing today and noticed that a few books I really enjoyed are $3.99 or less, so I thought I would share those with you! (Note - you can also purchase these e-books for iPad or other tablets; you just need to have the free Amazon Kindle app.)

Here's what caught my eye today:
  • Animal Dreams (Barbara Kingsolver) - I read this a few years ago (I think my freshman year at Baylor) and it immediately became one of my favorite books. I probably need to reread it because I don't remember much about it (which is why I don't include it in my mental list of favorite books anymore), but I do remember that this is an incredibly heartfelt book. Currently available for $1.99!
  • In One Person (John Irving) - I wrote about this book in an earlier blog post this year (February, if you're interested), so I won't repeat what I've already said. I admire John Irving for his willingness to write about controversial topics, and this book was no exception. Currently available for $2.99!!
  • The Sirens of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut) - Vonnegut's books are frequently featured in the Sci-Fi Kindle Daily Deal. The Sirens of Titan is probably one of my top three favorites by him - the book description on Amazon describes it as an "interplanetary Candide" which I think is perfect. If you're a Vonnegut fan and haven't read this one, here's your chance! Currently available for $1.99. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July: Weeks One and Two

Books Read:
  • And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini)
  • The Bookman's Tale (Charlie Lovett)
I'm writing this post early (or late, depending on how you look at it) because this week has been taken over by moving! Both of the books listed above are new releases. I loved Hosseini's new book - more than The Kite Runner, perhaps not quite as much as A Thousand Splendid Suns. It's pretty different from both of those, though - it's only nine chapters (long chapters), each of which is told from the perspective of a different character. It's more like a collection of short stories that overlap in one way or another than one continuous plot. As usual, Hosseini's writing is beautiful, but one of the interesting things about this book is the number of times he mentioned the idea of story-tellers feeling guilty for borrowing the stories of real-life people for their own gain. I read a short article recently that discussed his own guilt about his success...he said, "I wrote about people in Afghanistan who suffered for a long time, and their stories made me very successful. That has left me with a sense of debt. Writing is an act of thievery. You adapt experiences and anecdotes for your own purposes." (The Week, July 5) 

I was expecting The Bookman's Tale to be similar to one of my favorite books, The Shadow of the Wind, but it was more like National Treasure from a bibliophile's point of view. After spending a year immersed in the world of historical musicology (and working at a music library), I really appreciated the detail that went into this book (Lovett is a former antiquarian bookseller), perhaps even moreso than the story itself. This is a book written by a book lover for other book lovers - I enjoyed it! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

June: Week Four

Books Read:
  • Silver Girl (Elin Hildenbrand)
  • The Kitchen House (Kathleen Grissom)
  • A Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan) 
This was a week for light summer reading...well, except for The Kitchen House, I guess. Silver Girl is a straight up beach was ok - a little melodramatic, but a good vacation read. A Natural History of Dragons had the potential to be a really cute read (about a female protagonist in a Victorian-style fictional country who wanted to study dragons, which was of course totally inappropriate for a lady), but the plot never really went anywhere, so that was disappointing. 

I would recommend The Kitchen House to pretty much everyone, especially if you liked The Help (the book version). The Kitchen House examines slavery in the late 1700s/early 1800s from a different perspective. There are two alternating narrators - Lavinia, an orphaned Irish girl who is sent to live in with the kitchen house slaves until she is old enough to be married off, and Belle, a kitchen house slave who is the white master's daughter. The chapters narrated by Lavinia are always longer - this is mostly her story - but the Belle chapters are important because Lavinia (especially when she is younger) doesn't understand everything that is going on. Great book - I flew through this one! (With that said, I would be interested to know how historically accurate this book is - I wish there had been more historical information about indentured servants, for example.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June: Week Three

Books Read:
  • Modern Music and After (Paul Griffiths)
  • Inferno (Dan Brown)
  • Revenge Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  • Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes)

Simple review of the week: yes, no, no, yes. 

Ok, Modern Music and After actually took six weeks to read (the length of my summer theory class). I didn't expect to say this, but I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about twentieth-century art music. That's who the book seems aimed at, rather than theorists or musicologists. Also, although a musical background certainly helps, I would imagine that someone without any background would also enjoy this book - just skip over the analytical paragraphs (not that much time is spent on actual theoretical analysis). I'll admit it: there was a large chunk of twentieth-music that I couldn't stand before I took this class and read this book, including the majority of Messiaen's music, which I am totally ashamed to admit now! Contemporary music is SO IMPORTANT, and I fervently believe that anyone is capable of learning to appreciate (if not enjoy) all of the music discussed in this book. 

Now to the two new releases: Inferno initially looked like it was going to be the best since Angels and Demons (the only Dan Brown book that I've enjoyed), but it turned out to be a huge disappointment. I won't go into detail because I know a lot of people want to read this book and deserve a spoiler-free read. I'll just say that after a year of graduate school, Brown's writing style absolutely grates on my nerves. Also, I think it seems like he tried to escape his usual formulaic plot structure, but failed...which is almost worse than not trying in the first place. 

My response to Revenge Wears Prada: was this even written by the same person?? This is nothing like The Devil Wears Prada. I don't even really know what to say, actually. 

Luckily, I get to end this post on a good note. I have always enjoyed the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, so after rewatching it last week I decided I should read the book (which I already owned and just hadn't got around to yet - I am really bad about being a book hoarder). I knew going into it that it was totally different from the movie, which was good because I was able to enjoy this book as a separate entity. I don't read a lot of travel memoirs, but I loved this one...I thoroughly enjoyed Mayes's thoughtful descriptions - remember the scene in the movie where the fictional Mayes writes a postcard for someone and he is totally peeved because his mom will never believe he wrote it? That's how Mayes writes in this book, but it's never wordy or self-indulgent. Reading this book makes me wish I had enough money to buy a villa in Tuscany...maybe one day?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June: Weeks One and Two

Books Bought (!):
  • Past Imperfect (Julian Fellowes)

Books Read:
  • Snobs (Julian Fellowes)
  • Wedding Night (Sophie Kinsella)
  • Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Combining two weeks into one post again - oops. No excuse, I'm just going to dive right into what I read! The name Julian Fellowes may be familiar to you...he is the screenwriter for both Downton Abbey and Gosford Park (which is one of my favorite movies, mystery lover that I am). His book Snobs is set in the present day, but examines the same class of people that Downton Abbey and Gosford Park examine so well. I couldn't decide whether to be surprised about this or not, but his writing flows really nicely, making this a very enjoyable read. I also loved the quasi-third-person-omniscent narrator - although the narrator is a character in the book and sometimes plays a role in the action, he knows everything that happens, telling it like he was actually there...there was something quite old-fashioned about this that I found appropriate. After reading Snobs, I had to buy his other book, Past Imperfect, which my local library didn't have. I got it brand new for $6 - pretty good!

The latest from Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series, was a disappointment. Usually her characters are annoyingly stupid about something, but in an endearing way...this time, they were just plain stupid. The plot was farcical and went on for about 200 pages too many. I finished it, but only because it was a Friday night and I was trying to avoid writing a music theory paper. I don't recommend it, even if you've liked her other books.

However, I DO recommend Tender is the Night. After rereading The Great Gatsby a few weeks ago, I decided I needed to read Fitzgerald's other works. Tender is the Night was his last completed novel, and it's quite different from Gatsby. I was discussing this with a co-worker at the music library - it's almost as if Fitzgerald was ahead of his time with this book. I thought it was wonderful!

Coming up books by Dan Brown and Lauren Weisberger!

Monday, June 3, 2013

May: Week Five (and a couple of days of June)

Books Read:
  • Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  • Bossypants (Tina Fey)
  • The Silver Linings Playbook (Matthew Quick)

I can't believe I haven't bought any books (not counting books for school or research) in weeks...I guess that's the benefit to living close to a public library.

Catch-22 is one of my dad's favorite books, and I finally checked it out from the library. This is one of those "classic American" novels that everyone is supposed to read at some point, and I'll agree with that. It took about 150 pages for me to become invested in this book (out of 450+), and I might have been tempted to stop reading it did I not trust my dad's recommendations. I'm glad I persevered - definitely worth the read. (Plus, isn't it interesting that the catchphrase "catch-22" came from this book? How many other titles of books have become parts of our everyday language?) I'm generally not a fan of war novels, but this isn't what you would usually expect from a war novel. If you're interested in the book, it's worth checking to see if your library has the 50th anniversary tradition - the essays in the back of the book explore what makes Catch-22 such a different book. Also, I 100% agree with the Harper Lee quote on the front of the book that says, "Catch-22 is the only war novel I've ever read that makes any sense." (I had to look up the author of the quote because the Leon County library put a barcode sticker over her name.)

Bossypants is a pretty different read from Catch-22, although, like Heller, Tina Fey does explore serious issues (mainly feminism) in a comedic fashion. Mostly, though, this book is just funny. I only watched SNL for a brief period (while I still lived at home), but that was when Fey came back to do her Sarah Palin impersonations, so I enjoyed reading about that time.

I haven't seen the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook yet, but I've wanted to for a while. Once I found out it was based on a book by Matthew Quick, I decided to read the book first. It's a quick read - I read it in two days - and I thought it was well done. The characters have depth, especially Pat and Tiffany (although I would have liked to have read more about her - it'll be interesting to see what they do with her character in the movie...and I'm looking forward to see Jennifer Lawrence play her). Some of the supporting characters initially seemed to have stock personalities, but there were some surprises further into the book. I'd recommend it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

May: Week Four

Books Read:
  • The Pastures of Heaven (John Steinbeck)

Steinbeck published The Pastures of Heaven in 1932, making it one of his earliest works. I haven't read East of Eden or The Grapes of Wrath (yet!!), but if this is his early work, I can't even imagine how good his later works are. I really enjoyed this book - it's a collection of short stories featuring a community of people who live in a valley called the Pastures of Heaven. Most of them end on a poignant or melancholy note (so certainly the same man who wrote Of Mice and Men and The Red Pony), but they are thoughtful little stories with a surprising amount of depth (lack of depth is usually my biggest complaint about short stories, but stories like these prove that it is possible to explore big ideas in a small number of pages). Definitely recommend!

Other than that, I have been reading various conducting students' dissertations and treatises about David Maslanka's music in preparation for writing my prospectus this summer. I'm also currently in the middle of Catch-22, so stay tuned for my thoughts on that next week!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May: Week Three

Books Bought:
  • Concert Music, Rock, and Jazz Since 1945 (eds. Marvin and Hermann)

Books Read:
  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • A Fairly Honorable Defeat (Iris Murdoch)
  • Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality (Jacob Tomsky)

This week's list is late because I was without Internet for a few days. However, since I didn't have Internet, I had plenty of extra time to read! After seeing the new Great Gatsby movie last weekend I had to reread the book - luckily, I foresaw this and had already asked for my copy to be mailed from home. It took no time at all to reread - what a wonderful little book! Regarding the movie: I am an incredibly difficult person to please when it comes to book/movie adaptations (most recently, I was extremely disappointed in The Hobbit). I could find almost nothing wrong with The Great Gatsby, however! I enjoyed the movie almost as much as I enjoyed the book (the fact that Carey Mulligan was Daisy didn't hurt). After a semester of watching documentaries and listening to the way they use music, I can't watch anything without analyzing what's going on with the score, and I really approved of the soundtrack, anachronisms and all (best use of Rhapsody in Blue I've ever seen in a film - I have zero problem with it being two years early). More importantly, I thought the movie captured the important themes of the book - the superficiality of the jazz age, Gatsby's naive desire to change the past, the false dream symbolized by the little green light. 

Back to actual books...I came across a review of Murdoch's A Fairly Honorable Defeat and thought it sounded interesting. Originally published in 1970, this book is a black comedy that plays with human relationships as manipulated by Julius, a character who brings to mind Iago from Othello. I wasn't sure what to expect from this 400+ page book, but was pleased to find that it flew by. I would certainly be interested in reading more of Murdoch's works.

On the less literary side, Heads in Beds is absolutely hilarious. Having spend a semester working in a customer service position (and being a relatively frequent hotel guest), I really enjoyed this book about what it's like in hotels behind the scenes (Tomsky has worked in hotels for years). One of my favorite parts of the book is the list in the back appendices entitled "Standard LIES That Spew from the Mouth of a Front Desk Agent" - it's funny because it's most likely entirely accurate (examples: "I appreciate your feedback." "All the rooms are basically the same size." "My pleasure."). This would be a great airplane book - especially because you would arrive at your hotel knowing how to treat a bellman or what the most effective way to make a complaint is.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May: Week Two

Books Read:
  • The Mystery of Mercy Close (Marian Keyes)
  • The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm's Way (Alice Walker)

It's wonderful to have finally begun my summer reading! And no better way to start than with Irish author Marian Keyes's latest book: The Mystery of Mercy Close is a book that Keyes's fans have been waiting for for years. The main character, Helen, is the youngest of the five Walsh sisters - Keyes has already written books about the four older sisters. Keyes is one of my favorite authors because she tackles heavy subjects in comedic fashion without taking away from the seriousness of whichever malady the main character suffers from. Helen has always been a source of comic relief in the earlier four Walsh sister books (she is a mean and scrappy private investigator), so I was curious to see what would happen to her. I wasn't surprised that the book involved a mystery, but this is not a mystery novel and the mystery itself ties more into Helen's struggles than provides a source of suspense. I usually try not to give away plot points in this blog, but we find out fairly early on that Helen has depression. However, I still wouldn't describe this as a "book about depression," just as I wouldn't describe any of Keyes's earlier books as "books about alcoholism" or "books about domestic violence." It's about Helen.

I picked up The Cushion in the Road after seeing it on the "New Books" display table at the library. I read Walker's The Color Purple back in March, so I was interested in this new collection of her essays and letters. I didn't read every essay in this book (some are very political), but I read and enjoyed the majority. Her essay on The Help was particularly thought-provoking. Others are very honest (as the full title of the book suggests) and read as calls to action. Worth reading, but it's a lot to absorb at one time. I read it over a period of two weeks, but this might be a better book to have purchased and read over a longer period of time - again, as the title suggests, many of her essays demand reflection.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

May: Week One

Books Bought:
  • The Sounds of Place: Music and the American Cultural Landscape (Denise Von Glahn)

Books Read:
  • The Hours (Michael Cunningham)
  • Naked (David Sedaris)
  • The Red Pony (John Steinbeck)

Dr. Von Glahn's book The Sounds of Place is on my personal required reading list for the summer - I'm writing my master's thesis about a specific composer's connection to the American landscape, and Dr. Von Glahn is my advisor, so I need to know what she says about the topic!

I can't remember why I decided to read The Hours - I've heard of the movie but have never seen it, and I was unaware that the book won the Pulitzer. It's a pretty good book - a quick read but well thought out. I actually only read parts of Naked (another memoir told in short stories) - I didn't like it anywhere near as much as Me Talk Pretty One Day. I guess I was more interested in Sedaris's experiences in Paris than his everyday stories about his childhood/weird things that have happened to him. I read The Red Pony because I had to write an essay about the 1949 film and Aaron Copland's score earlier in the semester - I have to say that I much preferred the story in the adaptation to the four separate episodes that Steinbeck wrote. 

I didn't love any of the three books I read this week - I find it much harder to write about books I feel more ambivalent towards. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

April: Week Four

Books Bought:
  • Ideas and Styles in the Western Musical Tradition (Douglass Seaton)

Books Read:
  • The Best of Us (Sarah Pekkanen)
  • Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)

As of tomorrow, my semester is basically over, which means I finally get to read whatever I want, whenever I want! I have a list of musicology books to read over the summer that either relate to my thesis or are just for my personal edification, but I'm also going to read plenty of fiction...I can't wait. 

I've been on the lookout for a cheap copy of Dr. Seaton's music history textbook for a while now, and finally found one new for $25. I've been told that this book is a great resource for studying for masters comps, which I will be taking next spring, but I'm also really interested in reading it after hearing him talk about why he wrote it in my Intro to Historical Musicology class last semester. 

I read Sarah Pekkanen's first book, The Opposite of Me, last year on the way to a grad school interview and really enjoyed it. However, since then I've read her second and third books and really didn't like them very much. The Best of Us was pretty predictable, but I enjoyed it more than the last two. I flew through it in two days, though - I just broke up with my boyfriend and needed "chick lit" therapy (although I still hate that label; I find it a little derogatory).

Last night I finally reread Of Mice and Men - I'm so glad I did because I enjoyed it a lot more than I did in high school. Back then I was so distraught by the ending that I found it impossible to appreciate the writing. Since I knew what was coming this time around, it was much easier to enjoy. I'd be interested to see the original film adaptation with the score by Aaron Copland. 

Happy end of the semester!

Monday, April 22, 2013

April: Week Three

Books Bought:
  • Modern Music and After (Paul Griffiths)

Books Read:
  • Music and the Skillful Listener: American Women Compose the Natural World (Denise Von Glahn)

Finished reading my last required book of the semester! This book was probably the best one I've read for school this semester - I might be biased, because Dr. Von Glahn is my advisor and she's wonderful, but I think I would have loved the book even if I didn't already love her. Women composers (and let's face it, that term stinks) aren't written about enough, and this book is wonderful because it celebrates composers for being composers and for being women, but not for being women composers. Composers covered in the book: Amy Beach, Marion Bauer, Louise Talma, Pauline Oliveros, Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Victoria Bond, Libby Larsen, and Emily Doolittle. I had only heard of three of those before I took Dr. Von Glahn's seminar, but now after reading about them and becoming familiar with their music, I can highly recommend all of them! Curious? Here are my three favorites and where to find them:
  1. Joan Tower - Sequoia (Naxos Music Library)
  2. Victoria Bond - Peculiar Plants (Naxos Music Library)
  3. Libby Larsen - Symphony: Water Music (her website)
Enjoy! My number one favorite piece discussed in the book was actually Ellen Zwilich's Symphony No. 4, but I can't find that online anywhere, so check your school's library (FSU has it)!

Modern Music and After is for the theory class I'm taking this summer (Music after WWII). I might be crazy, but I think it's going to be really interesting. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April: Week Two

Books Read:
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved (Jacqueline Winspear)

Ok, I couldn't wait until school was out to start reading this book. I started it last Monday night with the intention of reading ONLY ONE chapter a night...because I was really going to stick to that. Except I did, until Friday night. Reading this book took up a pretty good chunk of my weekend that could have been spent writing papers, but it was really worth it, especially since the Elegy for Eddie was fresh in my mind. I really think this is one of the best yet in the series, which is a good sign when it's the tenth book - if Winspear can keep the series this original and engaging for another ten books, I will be really impressed (and happy! because I adore this series). 

It's really hard to discuss plot points of the tenth book of a mystery series, so if you are interested, go back to my November post when I talked about reading the first books in the Maisie Dobbs series. 

Two weeks from today, I'll be completely done with the semester! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April: Week One

I didn't buy OR finish reading any books, so this week's list will have to be entitled...

Currently Reading:
  • Music and the Skillful Listener: American Women Compose the Natural World (Denise Von Glahn)
  • Elegy for Eddie (Jacqueline Winspear)

The first book is for my Music & Nature seminar (and was written by my professor). I've read a third of it, and it's wonderful. If you are interested in American women composers and/or music inspired by nature, definitely pick up this book (or ask your local or school library to purchase it - it's quite a pricey buy). 

I should actually finish Elegy for Eddie tonight, so I probably won't include it on my "Books Read" list next week. This was the first Maisie Dobbs book I read (it's also the ninth...doing things in order is overrated sometimes), and I decided to refresh my memory before I picked up the tenth book (see previous week's entry) - not because I don't remember what happened (I read it back in August), but because now that I've read the other eight books, I thought I might pick up on more subtleties that I might have missed before.  

I'll say this: I love my degree and the classes I'm taking this semester, but I hope the next three weeks fly me, summer means being able to read whatever I want whenever I want - and there is nothing I love more! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 2013: Week Four

Books Bought:
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • America's Musical Life: A History (Richard Crawford)

Books Read:
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris)
  • Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century (Charles Hiroshi Garrett)

This was a pretty good week. I preordered Leaving Everything Most Loved a couple of months ago, so I didn't really buy it this week. Back in December, I wrote about Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series - mysteries solved by a female detective during the 1920s-1930s. The early books dealt with the aftermath of WWI; the most recent ones cover the changes leading up to WWII. I'm completely hooked, so I preordered the latest one, but I'm not going to let myself read it until I can see the light at the end of the tunnel...I have far too many papers to write, and I know I'll be unable to exercise any sort of self-control with this book. The blurb on the book jacket says that Leaving Everything Most Loved "marks a pivotal moment in this remarkable series," so I'm intrigued. 

The book I actually did spend money on this week was Richard Crawford's America's Musical Life. Richard Crawford is part of the tradition of musicologists who have written histories of American music that include popular and folk music, but the reason I first heard his name was back in my band literature class - this book is the only chronology of American music to include two full chapters on band history. At the band conference I was at last week, more than one band director mentioned Richard Crawford to me when they heard I was a musicology student, and I had a great talk with my old band director from Baylor about his experiences in Dr. Crawford's classes at the University of Michigan - he was there when Crawford was writing this book - so I decided that I really needed to own it. I plan to read it this summer - it will tie into my thesis research quite nicely!

David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day is another book I have frequently heard mentioned over the past few years, but have never read. I checked it out from the library and loved it - the book is a memoir told in short essays, and they are all hilarious, although I especially enjoyed the second half of the book as it takes place in Paris, one of my favorite settings. I read about half of the book on my conference trip last week; it's the perfect book to pick up when you have twenty minutes or so to fill.

Struggling to Define a Nation was the second book I read for my Music in the US II class. Garrett examines some of the less-talked-about genres that were popular at the beginning of the twentieth century, and all of them relate in some way to cultural conflict. This is an unconventional way of looking at the history of American music, and I appreciated the way it opened my mind not only to the variety of music that makes up our history, but to the idea that the diversity we celebrate in our music is sometimes difficult to discuss due to the contestation out of which much of the music grew. 

I'm getting pretty deeply buried in three research papers, so I foresee less reading in the month of April - almost all of my free time is being devoted to researching and writing!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 2013: Week Two and Three

Books Bought:
  • The Waste Land and Other Poems (T. S. Eliot)
  • Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman)
  • Johannes Brahms (Jan Swafford)

Books Read:
  • Ecomusicology: Rock, Folk, and the Environment (Mark Pedelty)
  • Band of Sisters: U.S. Women's Military Bands during World War II (Jill Sullivan)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

Mark Pedelty's Ecomusicology: Rock, Folk, and the Environment is such an interesting and inspiring read! Pedelty is an anthropologist who learned to play an instrument and formed a band in order to study musical environmental activism as a participant-observer. In this book (part ethnography, part history) he explores music's ability to promote sustainability, moving from a global to a national to a regional to a local viewpoint. It's really interesting to read about the ways music can affect communities, especially on the local level (this is where the ethnographic viewpoint comes in). This book is super accessible - don't let the title fool you; this is not a book for musicologists (or even musicians) only!

I interlibrary-loaned Band of Sisters when I thought I was going to be writing a paper on a similar topic (women in college bands in WWII), but I decided to read the book even after I changed my topic. The book is a quick read and quite fascinating - I found the writing quite dry, but the information itself is still interesting. Sullivan includes a good amount of oral history, and the thing that stands out the most about this book is how much playing in a band meant to these women - obviously, they are all quite old now, but many still say it was the greatest time of their lives.

I watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower with some friends over spring break and realized that I remembered very little about the book (I read it in high school). So I checked the book out from the library and reread it in a couple of days. I appreciated it more than I did in high school - in high school I related to the "wallflower" part, but not much else (which is probably why I didn't remember much), although I do remember that several friends quoted "and in that moment I swear we were infinite" all over the place (which I think was kind of a hipster thing). I liked that the movie acknowledged the popularity of that line by moving it to the very end, instead of pretty early on as it is in the book. I think the movie represented the book really well, and I'm glad it inspired me to reread the book. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 2013: Week One

I'm trying a new format this month because I always want to talk about every book I read, and that makes my posts turn out reeeeally long. I usually only finish 1-2 books per week, so I hope this is more effective!

Books Bought:

  • Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates)

Books Read:

  • My Ideal Bookshelf (Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount)
  • The Color Purple (Alice Walker)

My Ideal Bookshelf is described as a coffee table book, but I read it cover to cover. The book features about 100 famous (or accomplished) people talking about books and includes an illustration of what they would put on their "ideal bookshelf" - favorite books, books that are important to their careers, etc. I love reading books about books - I checked this one out from the library, and I didn't love it enough that I would want to own it, but it was entertaining to see which books were most often selected: some were not surprising (Lolita, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, The Catcher in the Rye, anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Flannery O'Connor) and some that I'd never heard of (Elizabeth Bishop's poems are very popular). Mainly, this book reminded me how many books there are out there that I just have to read. (So when I saw Revolutionary Road, which was included on two or three ideal bookshelves, for $4 on Amazon, I bought it!) 

My favorite quotation from the book came from Malcolm Gladwell, and it completely summed up my love affair with buying books (and could also easily be hash-tagged "musicology problems"): 
"I've probably acquired 150 books just for this project. I haven't read all of them, and I won't. Some of them I'll just look at. But that's the fun part. It's an excuse to go on Amazon. The problem is, of course, that eventually you have to stop yourself. Otherwise you'll collect books forever. But these books are markers for ideas that I'm interested in. That's why it's so important to have physical books. When I see my bookshelf expanding, it gives me the illusion that my brain is expanding, too."

I adored The Color Purple and will definitely be adding it to my list of favorite books. It includes some of the best character development I've ever seen in such a relatively short novel (actually - I'm not really sure how short it is because I read it on my felt short). I believe part of the reason I enjoyed The Color Purple so much because I really didn't know anything about it beforehand, other than it won a Pulitzer Prize at some point. I think it's be incredibly tempting to throw one of a handful of different labels on this novel (and one look at the reviews on Amazon confirmed this), but the beauty of the book is that it fits into so many categories. I read this book in less than 24 hours and highly recommend it to pretty much anyone. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

High School Revisited

I was inspired by my friend Paige to reflect on high school...but from a reader's point of view. Here is the tale of the books I read for high school English classes, told through a series of lists (each list is in chronological order):

Books I enjoyed in high school and will certainly reread: 
  1. Le Morte d'Arthur (Thomas Malory)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  4. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes)
  5. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  6. The Devil in the White City (Erik Lawson)
  7. The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell)
  8. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  9. Candide (Voltaire)
  10. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Tom Stoppard)

Books I wasn't quite sure about in high school and will reread one day:
  1. A Separate Peace (John Knowles)
  2. Cold Sassy Tree (Olive Ann Burns)
  3. The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
  4. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
  5. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (Michael Dorris)

Books I disliked in high school, but plan to reread: 
  1. All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)
  2. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  3. The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner)
  4. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  5. The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)

Books I hated in high school and don't plan to ever reread, even though I probably should:
  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
  2. Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)
  3. Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
  4. Grendel (John Gardner)
  5. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)

My most loved book from high school: A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
My most hated book from high school: A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

If you read my last post, you already know how I feel about A Prayer for Owen Meany. So let me just say that I have a real problem with A Farewell to Arms. Which is quite sad, really, because I've been told that I would enjoy other Hemingway books. But nope, you missed your chance, Mr. Hemingway, for writing the lousiest ending in the history of literary lousy endings. It's the type of ending I would expect from a Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks novel. If someone can formulate a really convincing argument, maybe I'll move this book up to the "plan to reread" list, but that has yet to happen. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 2013

Books Bought:

  • Nineteenth Century Music (Carl Dahlhaus)
  • A Composer's Insight: Thoughts, Analysis, and Commentary on Contemporary Masterpieces for Wind Band: Volume 2 (ed. Timothy Salzman)
  • The Oxford History of Western Music (Richard Taruskin)
  • Music and the Skillful Listener: American Women Compose the Natural World (Denise Von Glahn)

Books Read:

  • In One Person (John Irving)
  • An Available Man (Hilma Wolitzer)
  • Looking for Alaska (John Green)
  • This One is Mine (Maria Semple)
  • The Book of Music and Nature (Rothernberg and Ulvaeus)
  • Frontier Figures: American Music and the Mythology of the American West (Beth E. Levy)

How you can tell that February is a busy time of the semester for a musicologist: I only bought books related to my classes and my thesis, and I only read four books for fun this whole month.

Things you need to know about the books I bought:

  1. A Composer's Insight is really neat because it includes basically everything you would need to know to have a solid background about a handful of composers and the pieces they write for band...including David Maslanka. 
  2. The Oxford History of Western Music is five volumes and 3,586 pages. It is every musicologist's dream to read it cover to cover (ok, maybe not every musicologist - I might be making that up. But these guys did it.) Richard Taruskin's writing style is wonderful. How did I afford this on a graduate student budget, you may's how: for every birthday/Christmas, my grandparents send me an gift card. I always spend them on books. This year I just combined birthday and Christmas...totally worth it.
  3. Dr. Von Glahn is teaching my musicology seminar this semester on music and nature. We're going to read her brand new book! (In this case, by "bought," I actually mean preordered.)

Things you need to know about the books I read:
  1. I'm not sure how I missed reading Looking for Alaska in high school, but I did. I decided to remedy that when my sister showed me the book over break, and I was pleasantly surprised...the book is a nice mixture of A Separate Piece and Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  2. This One is Mine is nowhere near as good as Where'd You Go, Bernadette (see last month). Overall, I was disappointed.
  3. Frontier Figures is one of the best class-assigned books I've ever read. If you are even remotely interested in American music, read this book. It's completely fascinating and almost reads like a novel. And it's not just me saying this - it's not even just musicologists! One of my favorite oboists is in the class with me, and she will tell you the same thing. (Confession: as I am writing this, I haven't actually finished the book...but the last 25 pages are Thursday's assignment, so I'll still have finished the book in February.)

And finally - time to talk about In One Person. If you have ever discussed reading with me, you probably know that John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time favorite books. However, the only other book by Irving that I've read (I think I talked about it on this blog a long time ago) wasn't one I particularly enjoyed, so I was intrigued when I heard that his newest book was the first since Owen Meany to be written in first person. I've had a few weeks now to digest my reactions to In One Person, and I have to conclude that it is probably going to become one of my favorite books if it holds up when the first re-reading comes around. 

The book is narrated by Billy and covers almost his whole life. Billy is bisexual (although for the first chunk of his life he is just confused), and Irving has created a character who I think is impossible to fail to empathize with. Aspects of the plot are very similar to Owen Meany (and many of Irving's other novels) - we've got a narrator whose biological father is out of the picture and a private school for boys in a New England, pre-Vietnam setting, for one thing. More importantly, the second half of this book covers the AIDS epidemic, something we rarely hear about, in the same deftly poignant way that Owen Meany tackles the Vietnam War. 

While I recommend Owen Meany to almost everyone I meet, I'm hesitant to do the same with In One Person - I'm just not quite sure why. Yes, the topic is one that some people might not feel comfortable with, but in my eyes, that's more reason to read this book. (Also, what is the point of reading literature that doesn't make you uncomfortable?) However, I think it's the type of book that readers need to discover for themselves, if that makes any sense. I think two types of people will appreciate this book: people who personally identify with Billy (which clearly won't be just bisexuals) and people who read enough to tackle the deeper meaning behind the topics introduced in this book - readers who recognize when a book should be read slowly and thoughtfully and are patient enough to do so. I read this book over a span of two weeks, which is a fairly long time when I am completely absorbed in a book...I wouldn't recommend reading more than a chapter in one sitting. 

That's all I have for this month - happy reading!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 2013

Books Bought:
  • Howard's End (E. M. Forster)
  • Adventures of an American Composer (Michael Colgrass)
  • Out of Oz (Gregory Maguire)
  • Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology (Barz and Cooley, eds.)
  • Fierce Style: How to be Your Most Fabulous Self (Christian Siriano) 

Books Read:
  • The Mapping of Love and Death (Jacqueline Winspear)
  • Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Stephanie V. Lucianovic)
  • Half a Life (Darin Strauss)
  • The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (R. Murray Schafer)
  • The Uncoupling (Meg Wolitzer)
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette (Maria Semple)
  • Why We Broke Up (Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman)
  • I've Got Your Number (Sophie Kinsella)
  • The Wings of Merlin (T. A. Barron)

First of all, Stephanie Lucianovic's Suffering Succotash is basically about me. That's what makes this such a good read - picky eaters will be thrilled to read about themselves, and non-picky eaters probably know at least one picky eater, so they'll identify, too. It was really nice to find out that I'm not really strange at all by picky eating standards - in fact, like the author, I'm questioning whether I legitimately am a picky eater after all. The best line from the end of the book - read it and remember it next time you feel tempted to criticize or poke fun at a picky eater:
"The thing of it is, adult picky eaters are more common than I imagined. . . . We get what it's like to dread eating at friends' houses or at strange restaurants. We get why it's simply not possible to 'just try' a bite of this or that and how hard that is to explain to people who don't get it. . . . But most of all, we get that it's not a personality defect that makes us picky; it's just who we are. And whatever the cause, it's not our fault or choice."  (Lucianovic 219)
I definitely recommend this book - it's a quick, highly entertaining read that opens your mind to the way our mouths and brains interact!

Half a Life, a memoir by Darin Strauss, is the other book I wanted to briefly mention before moving on to my two favorite reads of the month. Strauss hit a girl with his car when he was a senior in high school; her death changes the way he lives his life. This memoir seems like it was therapeutical for him, and it's a very worthwhile read. I read this book because Nick Hornby recommended it in More Baths, Less Talking (again, Nick Hornby's writings are what inspired me to write about what I read).

And now...

The best book I read this month: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.
Coincidentally, I was checking out Stephanie Lucianovic's blog after finishing Suffering Succotash and discovered her review of this book - she also loved it. This book is so funny, but also incredibly thoughtful. Semple was a writer for Arrested Development, and based on the three or four episodes I've seen, I can totally see that in this book. Bernadette is a people-phobic ex-architect who hates driving, so I kind of identified with her in some ways. Also, they go to Antarctica. I know for a fact I've never read another book where an average (or not-so-average) American family goes on vacation to Antarctica - doesn't that alone pique your interest? This was one of those books that I couldn't put down - I read it in less than 24 hours! I can't say enough how much I recommend this book.

The second best book I read this month: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman. (NB: Daniel Handler is the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events under the name Lemony Snicket)
Ok, I wasn't expecting to read another book that I fell in love with this month, but it turns out that the very next book I read was just perfect. First of all - Maira Kalman's illustrations are BEAUTIFUL. Second of all, I loved the writing style - long, descriptive, stream-of-conscious sentences that if any of my students wrote, I would mark as incorrect, but Handler's are the most beautifully constructed run-ons I've ever seen. An example:
"I never took you to Leopardi's, which is my first-favorite coffee place, the best one, a crumbling Italian palace with bright red walls unpeeling their paint and photographs hung crooked of dark-skinned men with their hair in great slick stylish curves and the kindhearted smirks they give to their mistresses and an espresso machine like a shiny mad-scientist castle, steaming and gleaming and spouts everywhere curving down and out in a writhing metallic next underneath a stern brass eagle perched on top like it's looking for prey." (Handler 177).  
Love it! You can SEE the coffee shop. I checked out some reviews on Amazon after finishing this book and was surprised at amount of the negative reviews. Some hated the writing style, most hated the narrator, Min. I imagine those that couldn't identify with her were more like the average high school student than Min, who is clearly not. Anyway, the point is, this is a wonderful book and illustrates perfectly why it is sometimes still worthwhile to read "young adult" books - you never know what you might be missing.

Whenever I fall in love with a book, I just want to keep it forever. Unfortunately, both this book and Where'd You Go Bernadette belong to the Leon County Libraries, so they are already no longer in my possession. :(

Good month for reading!