The Good, the Bad, and the Okay- April Reviews

I'm proud of myself- still maintaining a steady pace of three books a month. Not a PR by any means, but maybe enough to qualify me for- okay, I'll stop. I have a half marathon on Sunday and am trying to get motivated. Not working. Here's April:

The Good
The Solitude of Prime Numbers
by Paolo Giordano

288 pages
This was
book club's second selection (funny story- we were actually supposed to go to Giordano's reading but got our times mixed up and ended up discussing the book stuck in traffic on the 60 freeway- oops), and we all really loved it. The novel describes two young Italians and the events that cause them to grow into broken, wounded adults that end up trying to find strength to live their lives. This novel makes you wonder how exactly the tragedies we experience in our youth impact who we grow into as adults.

The Ba
Miss New India
by Bharati Mukherjee

336 pages

I may
be a little harsh with the term "bad," but I really didn't enjoy this book I snagged from Amazon Vine's program. I read one of Mukherjee's collections in college and thought that this might be an interesting take on a woman trying to find social and financial independence in modern India. I was wrong. The dull plot and flat characters ruin Mukherjee's still decent prose.

The Okay
ara Goucher's Running for Women by Kara Goucher
320 pages
I have
a bit of a girl-crush on Olympic runner and new mom Kara Goucher (hmm, this fits nicely with my previous post on Dorian Gray), so I was very excited when she published her guide earlier this month. Unfortunately, it was geared more towards beginners and had some annoying "dead Kara" and "I love this quote" sections that got old. There were some interesting ideas though, (getting a good night of sleep before the night of a race isn't that big of a deal as long as you are generally well-rested) and I appreciated the chapter about running while pregnant (for future reference).

So, buy and read The Solitude of Prime Numbers, stay away from that bore Miss New India, and only read Goucher's book if you're a beginner, pregnant, or a huge fan.

Love Me Some Homoerotic Victorian Lit

In honor of new, uncensored The Picture of Dorian Gray that was released earlier this month, I'd like to climb on my soapbox for a second. I really, really hate the phrase "that's so gay." I'm a heterosexual woman, but I still find the phrase so offensive. What is it supposed to mean? When I hear it in context it's usually being used a synonym for lame, feminine, or corny. It's distasteful and rude.

Okay, I'm done. Well, at least until I receive my copy of And Tango Makes Three next week from Amazon (I fell off the wagon, but had a gift card) and go on and on about book banning and gay penguins.

For those who aren't familiar with The Picture of Dorian Gray by one of my favorite Victorian writers Oscar Wilde, it's about a man so obsessed with youth he wishes a painting would age instead of his actual body. When this actually happens he becomes a very, very naughty boy, partaking in activities that would make the fragile Victorians readers faint (alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, and homosexuality). Wilde's publisher of course toned it down, deciding to cut out most of the homoeroticism. This summary doesn't do the book justice, by the way, so please read it if you have not.

Now, 120 years later, editor Nicholas Frankel is publishing a more uncensored version, adding in more of the original text, as well as a great deal of annotation. Will it be raunchy by today's standards? I highly doubt it. Will it be that much longer of a text? No, rumor has it only five hundred additional words. But, in a time where steps have been taken to "clean up" certain classics, is it a good thing? Absofuckinglutely.

Audio"books" for Running, not Reading

I have some serious issues with audio"books." Let me just say it: listening to a book on CD/iPod is NOT THE SAME as reading.

Let me explain. So, if you listen to Water for Elephants (it seems like everyone is) during your busy commute and then tell people at work or wherever that you read it you're a liar. Liar. Reading requires eyesight and word recognition (unless you're blind; always an exception), while listening the ears and a different area of the brain for processing. I'm not saying listening to a novel is easy, since it still requires concentration and comprehension, but it's not reading. What you're doing right now- reading. What you do when the radio is on in the car- listening.

Personally, I have never listened to anything on CD and have never played audio for my high school students (I'd have my elementary students listen to stories, but only after they had read the text). I can't imagine substituting sound for the actual experience of reading a book. I enjoy the process of reading, and this is how I best comprehend information (don't even try reading directions to me). I also appreciate the option to go back and reread paragraphs if I need to or check a fact from the beginning of the text, both difficult things to do when you are trying to rewind on an iPod. It's just not the same.

Okay, let's review. Reading: great. Listening: fine. Saying you read when you listened: bad.

The reason why I bring this up is because I have read several things recently about banishing running boredom through audiobook listening. Lately I've been extremely bored while running, both outside and the treadmill and am getting desperate. I'm scheduled for something like six half marathons for the rest of the year, so quitting really isn't an option in regards to finances, pride, or how my jeans fit I know it's a rut and I'm trying to break out of it, so I suppose I'm considering an audiobook.

The issue is that there is no way I'd listen to a book that I'd ever consider reading, which is making this difficult. Purchasing a fiction audiobook is absolutely out of the question- I won't give up the reading experience and I don't want to spend money on some shitty author I wouldn't read in the first place. So now I'm considering some sort of biography or a health/fitness/diet text. The other issue I'm having is that the whole process of downloading a book seems a little too closely related to eReaders, which I loathe with every fiber of my body. I'm trying to justify an audiobook purchase with the fact that it will be for something I'd never purchase in book form to begin with. In essence, audiobooks really aren't books in my world.

It just all feels a little dirty. But, sometimes being bad is good.

Makes My Heart All Mushy

For those that don't know, I'm an English teacher at a low-performing, low-socioeconomic high school in California. One of the courses I teach is "normal" English (normal = unmotivated) for sophomores. For the last two weeks we've been reading Ray Bradbury's science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451, which the kids don't seem to hate too much.

One kid came up to me today and said, "I actually like this book, it like has a good story. This is rare, I pretty much hate reading." This was also the kid that yelled, "Holy fucking shit!" when the fire alarm was pulled during class a few weeks ago (which was the exact same thing going through my head).

When my days normally consist of complaining, followed by a little more complaining, it was nice to hear.

Top 40, Part 4

So, this is the last installment of the forty books I'd choose if for some reason I had to (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). I must say again, I am terrible at hypothetical situations and I'm still struggling to understand why there could only be forty. But, I didn't write the book this came from, Susan Hill did (nor have I read it). I have decided, though, that there are really only two reasons I'd have to decide on forty- stuck in a nuclear fallout shelter or a prearranged kidnapping by a somewhat kind-hearted bibliophile. So, if I really only could take forty, I think I'd want some that I hadn't read yet, since my bunker or kidnapping cell will probably lack cable or a treadmill. Here are the last ten, all books that I'm praying are great so I'll be adequately entertained while in hypothetical isolation:

31. Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCan: Tightrope walking between the Twin Towers back in 1974 (a novel). Critical praise, award nominations, pretty red cover.

32. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling: I'm assuming that I'll read the sixth one before the world blows up (this is the seventh). I'll probably be so lonely I'll start talking to Harry and Hermione (Ron is sort of annoying, sorry).

33. The Women by T.C. Boyle: Love Boyle (the "C" stands for Coraghessan, which would make sense if you ever saw him read) and Frank Lloyd Wright stories.

34. Antibiotic Resistance: Understanding and Responding to an Emerging Crisis by Karl Drlica: I am really interested in antibiotic resistance given the fact that pediatricians dispense prescriptions like they're free samples at Costco. Don't get me started- let's just say I haven't taken any in years and have gotten over plenty of colds, sinus infections and God knows what else on my own. Although, it probably won't matter, since I'm sure Jim-Bo (my kidnapper) won't take me to the doctor.

35. Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston: This is written by the man from the movie 127 Hours- you know, the guy that cut off his arm when he got stuck in between two large rocks. Yeah, if he can do that I can stick out whatever situation that has called for me to choose only forty books.

36. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: A (supposedly) solid, smart, witty piece of contemporary literature.

37. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski: This book is a beast and, from what I have heard, incredibly challenging. It's important to not let your mind get mushy, even when the fallout forty feet above you is strong enough to make you bald and sterile in 0.8 seconds.

38. Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat Broeske: I love a good biography and this one is supposed to be a really interesting take on the fascinating Howard Hughes. Plus the authors concentrate on the womanizing, which will probably be nice since I'll be awfully lonely.

39. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith: Smith is a powerful, dynamic, brilliant author that writes on a variety of topics in these essays. She's opinionated and independent- inspiring both in and out of captivity.

40. Once a Runner by John Parker: This is supposedly the greatest sports novels to ever be written, a motivational story about a guy who becomes a champion. I'm sure it will help me with my small-space calisthenics.

Whose idea was this anyway?

All right, two favorites, folks. I won't judge (scout's honor... yes, I was a Brownie). If you were about to be dropped on an island in the Bermuda Triangle what two books would you insist on? Do it. Now. Pretty please.

Up Next: Stupidhead

Before I start complaining about something admittedly trivial, let me say that I actually really like Tina Fey. I think she's funny, love that she's not conventionally beautiful, adore her jabs at Sarah Palin, and appreciate her intelligence.

Now that proper homage has been paid, I hate the cover of her new book, Bossypants, published by Reagan Arthur Books for a cool six million earlier this month (she plans/planned to donate a chunk to charity, making her even cooler). I get it, I get it, it's supposed to be a comment on a woman trying to make it in man's world. I get the contrast between her delicate features and contemplative yearbook-pose expression, and the masculine arms and attire. I get it. You're not on Saturday Night Live anymore, Tina, you can do better.

More than the fact that it's just an eye-roll invoking cover is the fact that it calls attention to the talked-out male/female divide. I am a feminist, but more of an equalist- people should get paid the same, in regards to respect and money, based on their work. If women want to really make a difference and call attention to the issue they'll do it on he job, not with ridiculous covers, cliched pop songs, and annoying slogans like "you go girl!" Some people have said the cover is disturbing, or even disgusting, which I disagree with. I just don't appreciate the irony, I guess. Fey is filthy stinkin' rich and has obviously risen near the top of the comedy, show-biz, and even business worlds, so it can be done. By a woman.

I also hate the title. Bossypants? Really? I know she has a kid, but that's the title she chose for a six million dollar project? You're smart and hilarious and that's what you end up with? Is the follow up going to be entitled Stupidhead? Please.

Will I read it? Possibly, when it's in paperback, just because I've heard good things and Fey supposedly truly did write the thing, unlike many other of her celebrity peers.

I'm sure Gloria Steinem would hate me if she knew I existed. Oh well.

Big Decision

I'm a UCLA Bruin. I went there for four years, boast a BA with their seal, and will be paying for my education there until I'm in a rest home.

Part of being a Bruin means you hate USC, our cross-town rivals. They're private, we're public. Their colors are ugly, our's are awesome. Our Bruin can kick their stupid Trojan's butt. We have an awesome medical center (I worked there for four years), their's is mediocre. Our football team is bowl-eligible, there's is not (thanks Reggie Bush). And, up until last year, I was able to say we had an awesome book festival and they were without.

And then the LA Times had to fuck everything up and move it. Yes, I said the eff word. S
orry, but this is important and very serious.

I was very opposed to attending the festival at USC back when the news was announced last year, although I knew it would be a hard decision when push came to shove. The festival is less than two weeks away and there's some pushing and shoving going on.

I'm a Bruin. Have I mentioned that?

I'm also a voracious lover of all things literary, and an entire weekend set up to celebrate books is a hard thing to pass up.

a. Don't go to it. Stay strong.
b. Do it for the books
c. Go decked out in Bruin Apparel

To be continued...

Top 40, Part 3

So, once again I return with ten of my top forty- see prior posts for the initial plan and the second installment.

Top 40, Part III

21. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White: One of my first posts was dedicated to this book, but to recap, this was the first "chapter book" I ever read when I was young. My parents bought it for me for Christmas right after I turned five and I read it that day. Once I got frosting on the jacket cover and I was very sad.

22. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: I have also written about this book as well, but I find it incredibly inspiring (most days I need something to get my ass in gear). This book is great for both runners and non-runners, as it does a great job story telling and adding in some science.

23. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl: I love this book for so many reasons. First of all, I want to be Pessl- she's a beautiful, smart, talented twenty-something writer that got a hefty advance for this book. Secondly, it's a great coming-of-age story about a girl who lives with her father and must adapt to a new school (reminds me of the Gilmore Girls, in a way). It was extremely well thought out; Pessl names each chapter after a classic that the stories events in some way parallel. The website is really neat.

24.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Not only is this a great book about an important time period in history, it's also the first novel I taught high school students. Not only did they like it, I realized how much I really enjoyed teaching older kids and that this was how an English class should be taught (as opposed to an anthology). It's the end of April and the book still comes up in class once in awhile.

25. The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde (and editors): Okay, I cheated- I vowed in the beginning to not use anthologies or collections, but here I am doing it. It's hard to pick just one of Wilde's (A Picture of Dorian Gray? The Importance of Being Earnest? Lady Windermere's Fan?). I took a seminar on Wilde in college and really enjoyed spending that much time on an author study. Plus it was fun to secretly laugh at the supposedly uptight British professor, whose nipple rings I could see through his white shirt.

26. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: This book is well-written (won Toole a posthumous Pulitzer) and absolutely hilarious. Ignatius, the main character, finds himself in countless ridiculous episodes that make you laugh and want to smack him. Beneath it all, there is a dark side to him, just like the author himself (he committed suicide long before this novel was published).

27. Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: This is actually a parenting book that I read for professional development units, but would keep in my collection to remind myself not to raise spoiled bratty children who are closed off from the world. This book uses some science to debunk long-standing parental myths for today's society. I know, I'm not a parent, I should shut up. Honestly, I don't care- I'm a teacher and I see what happens when parents screw up.

28. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling: I'm not a die-hard, line up on opening night, t-shirt wearing kind of Potter fan, but I do enjoy the books (I'm finally almost done with the series). They're not perfect, and occasionally Rowling borrows (who doesn't though?) from other authors, but I love what they've done for children's literature. Kids reading 700 page books of well-written, meaningful prose? I'm there. Plus, Lego Harry Potter is awesome and the theme park in Florida looks pretty tempting.

29. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: When I think of this book I just smile and sigh. Zafon is a master of magical realism and quality mystery. His writing is impeccable and the subject matter of the text is actually books. I loved the characters, the "story within a story" framework, and tone.

30. Fodor's Essential Italy: Simple- I loved my first trip and I'll need this when I go back someday.

Drumroll Please...

A few interesting announcements were made in the literary world these past few days. I know, you're on the edge of your seats.

And the Pulitzer Goes To....

Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize in literature for he novel A Visit From the Goon Squad, beating out Jonathan Dee and Chang-rae Lee. I won't go over the synopsis, but it looks pretty good and it's nice when a woman is recognized (ultimately, the best book should win, but there are often rumblings that women do get overlooked). I suppose I'll add it to my collection of 30-whatever (or 40?) books I own but haven't read yet.

Isn't He Dead?

Random House announced that they will publish a new Dr. Seuss book, The Bipplo Seed and Other Lost Stories. The collection has been published before as individual stories at various times in magazines, but this is the first time they'll be packaged together into one text.

We can make a dollar here, we can make a dollar there, we can make a dollar anywhere!

New Review

The first book review of the twenty-first century, The Los Angeles Review of Books, is set to launch soon. Their site is temporary right now, but lists some potential articles that sound interesting. I'm excited for a new publication that offers some scholarly critiques and hope to have a West Coast rival for the NY Times Book Review. A local UCR professor is actually the editor- maybe he'll be able to bring some authors to Riverside. Sure.

Get Off the Table, Karl!


On Libraries

Some people have attitudes about libraries.

"They smell funny."

"There are homeless people there."

"The books are all messed up."

"They never have what I want."

Fine, fine, they're not always the classiest joints, but the concept that holds together all libraries is more important than typical bourgeois complaints. Libraries are places where anyone, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, smart or dumb, can have free access to books. And in honor of National Library Week, I'm here to sing their praises.

I obviously buy my books now, as I want to build my own library, but I didn't for a very long time. Growing up my family visited the Modesto branch of the Stanislaus County Library a few times a month (sometimes even once a week during the summer). My parents never put any constraints on how many books I checked out, as long as I could carry them myself (picture a really dorky little girl with huge glasses carrying a tower of books). When we were very small we went to
story hour, and then when we were older we enjoyed roaming the library, using the card catalog and then eventually the computers (for all you youngins, a card catalog was when the names of all the books were actually typed out on cards and organized in drawers.... and next week I'll define cassettes).

After graduating from high school I went south to UCLA, which boasts twelve libraries. My favorite was definitely Powell, which had huge reading rooms with comfy couches for napping/studying. When you went you knew you were surrounded by people who cared about learning just as you did. During finals Powell was open twenty-four hours a day, with people brushing their teeth in the bathroom and setting their cell phone alarms to make it out on time. There was a sense of exhausted, stressed camaraderie.

These days the only library I frequent on a regular basis is the one at the high school where I teach, a place that is inviting to all students and staff members (what our librarians lack in budget they make up for in crazy antics). Periodically I also attend the LA Library's ALOUD events, which bring in different authors for readings. While I know I'll most likely buy my kids gobs of books, I will also make sure they are well-acquainted with the library- for me it's a rite of passage.

And to be quite honest, if I'm ever homeless you can bet your ass I'd spend my days at a library (and the gym).

Holy Hypocritical, Batman!

I know I read more books than blogs, but still good food for thought.

Dance Break

Okay, not dance, just an itty-bitty break from the norm. My friend and colleague Joanna over at Drizzle of Sunshine (cutest food/exercise/life blog ever) tagged me in this "Stylish Blogger Award" chain blog post scam (juuuust kidding). So, I guess the rules are that you have to link back to the original person (again, visit Joanna for awesome recipes and whatnot), list seven things about yourself, tag some people, and then let them know that you tagged them.

So, here are seven non-reading things about me:

1. I desperately want to travel more, sooner rather than later. In the last few years I've gone to Italy, Hawaii, New York City, and spots here in California (Yosemite, San Diego, etc...), but that's only made me want to visit more places. Every time I see my passport tucked into my pajama drawer I have the urge to grab it, pack a bag, head to the airport and just go. So, if you can't find me this summer, I m probably in Bora Bora.

2. I think self-sufficiency (emotionally and monetarily) is one of the most important traits anyone, of any age, can have. Being spoiled is not cute whether your four, twenty-four, or fifty-four.

3. I won't drink non-carbonated drinks from a can.

4. I have an extra bone in my foot that not only hurts, but swells up like crazy after running more than ten miles. I would have possibly had it removed if I had not fired my podiatrist.

5. I am quiet the worrier and always welcome periods of apathy.

6. I'm agnostic, yet very accepting of all other religions, as long as they don't try to convert me (would it be inappropriate to answer the door in a towel when they're trying to "spread the word?" Probably). A colleague told me that being agnostic is like, "being a horse with his balls cut off," which makes me laugh. So be it. I'm a girl anyway.

7. I can touch my tongue to my nose, a disgusting trait I'm strangely proud of. I think men are more impressed by girls who can tie cherries with their tongues, though.

I read a ton of blogs and honestly have no clue who would want to be included or who would even respond, so I'm going to only mention my sister's, My Steps to the Starting Line. She's done a great job taking her health into her own hands and I am so proud!

Better Than Flowers

Okay, maybe not, but as a married woman I have to get what I can take. This almost comes close to two dozen tulips:

My husband cleared off two shelves of some of his stuff to make room for our swelling book collection. Guess what this means.

I can buy more books.

Top 40, Part 2

So, I'm back with part two of the top forty books I'm picking for my hypothetical collection. If you missed the back story, take a look at part one. Please enjoy my night-vision picture, I'm pretty psyched I finally had a reason (?) to use that effect. Yay.

Remember, these are in no particular order. Forward march:

Top 40, Part II

11. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: As an elementary teacher I had heard great things about this 540 page book, which is heavy on the illustrations. I used my class' Scholastic Points (insert evil laugh) to buy the book for myself and was instantly hooked. The story is about an orphaned kid, Hugo, who is living in a Parisian rail station trying to build a robot based on his father's notes. Great story, awesome illustrations. I'm interested to see what Martin Scorsese does with the movie.

12. Underworld by Don DeLillo: This book is a beast and, technically, I've been reading it for like five years (finishing it is one of my New Year's Resolutions). I've always seemed to start reading this book during the worst times (breaking up with a guy, during finals, starting a job)- it's a dense 800+ page book that's not an easy read and doesn't forgive hiatuses. It's hard to describe, but, basically, from what I gather thus far, it's a connection of lives and stories that will probably all connect at the end. Or something like that. I'm finishing it this year, dammit.

13. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: I love this book and obsessively check to see when Eugenides is set to release a new novel to follow up this 2007 book (so far, nothing up). Eugenides nails the story and the prose, something so many authors fall short of. The story focuses on a "girl" and her discovery of the fact that she is a hermaphrodite, as well as her ancestor's past, which may have lead to this condition. I'm trying to ignore the fact that the She-Devil recommended it to her minions.

14. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner: Okay, hermaphrodites to kittens. I love reading aloud to kids and would read this story to my elementary students a few times a year. It's funny, it's cute, and it celebrates imagination without being corny. I guess there are other Skippyjon books, but I've never read them. I seriously have the urge to read this to my yearbook class because they are driving me up the wall right now. At least then they could productively tease me with the remaining time left in the period, instead of sitting around talking about who did what after prom. Uhh, I mean they're doing really productive, yearbook standard based activities.

15. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Whenever I have to choose a favorite book, this is it. I've read it twice, once in high school (anyone who went to high school with me would remember the infamous "interactive notebooks" we had to do, in which the teacher wrote on mine, "this is either a labor of love or a love of labor"), and once in college. I have a great appreciation for Russian literature in general, but this story about how Raskolnikov if forced to deal with his conscious after killing and robbing an old lady tops my charts.

16. 180 Degrees South by Chris Malloy, Yvone Chouinard, and Jeff Johnson: I've reviewed this book in the past, and between it and the movie I want to go to Patagonia (I even found a resort). I love the adventurous, ecologically-based, spirits these men have and am so, so envious of their ability to leave their lives and explore. The book's photos and essays are captivating, but more than anything the text just reminds me to not be complacent.

17. Emma by Jane Austen: I bought this book when I was in eighth grade for absolutely no reason except that I knew it was a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow. While I'm not a huge fan of these types of books now, I see this as the beginning of a time where I really started (accidentally) reading quality, literary books (Austen leads to the Brontes, the Brontes lead to Dickens, etc...)

18. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: An easy transition, I suppose. I have read Jane Eyre countless times for various classes and have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it./her My first reading was the summer between eighth and ninth grade (welcome to IB, kids!), as well as the corresponding one hundred study guide questions. I had to read it twice in college as well, which was when I started growing fond of Jane (those that love this book should read White Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, in which she tackles the Rochester/Bertha origins). I also have an illustrated Gothic version, which is pretty interesting.

19. Campbell Biology by assorted smarties: I won't bore you with the details, but I read all 1400 pages while studying for my biology credential. I'm thankful that it helped me secure my job, but also love it for all the interesting chapters on mitosis, meiosis, body systems, the brain, the environment, and population ecology. I'm being serious (it can keep cellular respiration and o-chem, though).

20. How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely: This is definitely not an expertly written novel, but it is a humorous take on the publishing world. Someday, somehow, I'm going to publish a novel and this book will remind me what not to do and how to manage the inevitable frustration and rejection.

PS- This is my 100th post! I deserve a really cool prize to commemorate the occasion.

We Really All Can Get Along

Today while on Facebook I noticed a good friend's status raving about a Twilight book, ending her post with, "Don't roll your eyes at me Christine." She was right- I was about to. Instead, I had to laugh.

I love my friends and appreciate the fact that they remain friends with me, despite the fact that I'm a total book-snob. On the flip side, I love them despite the fact they read poorly written stories about pasty vampires.

We really all can get along.

Shoe Shopping < Book Shopping

Top 5 reasons book shopping is better than shoe shopping:

5. Books take up far less room than shoes.
4. No one will have put their nasty feet in a book that you buy.
3. You will always look good holding a book. Crocs, Birkenstocks, and Dr. Scholls- not so much.
2. You don't have to worry about books going out of st
yle or not matching.
1. Book will never cause you physical pain.

(I almost bought these to chaperon prom in, but besides the fact they're
a little cheap hookerish, they also left a trail of glitter)

The Great Gasp

That was all I could do, gasp, when I heard on the radio the other morning that Baz Luhrmann is doing a "reboot" (I really, really hate that word- call it a remake) of The Great Gatsby in 3-D. There are rumors that Leondardo DiCaprio, Carrie Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and Ben Affleck will star, who I think make up a great cast- if they were doing a different movie.

My first issue is that it's going to be in 3-D, a gimmick that annoys me to no end, and not just because of the lame glasses that always hurt my ears. My second is that Luhrmann is known for his over top directing style- look at Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Neither of these movies are horrible, but I just don't think his standard flashy, gaudy treatment is appropriate for Gatsby. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Oh, and please don't let it be a musical.

Top 40, Part I

So awhile back ago I did a post on a book called Howard's End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home by Susan Hill, in which the author chose the 40 books she'd have in her book collection, if she had to choose.

This is really, really hard.

First of all, I'm terrible with hypothetical situations, as my husband can attest to. Those stupid questions like, "If your house was burning and you could grab three things what would they be?" and "If you were a superhero would you rather fly or have speed?" make no sense to me- I'd grab a backpack if my house was on fire and shove tons of shit in it, and last I checked there was no such thing as superpowers (unless you were born in the Tarahumara Indian tribe and can run 100 miles day after day). This is just as bad- seriously, why would I ever have to pick just 40 books? Who, seriously, is going to make me whittle down my collection to that? I'd really like to know so I can kick their ass! You know how scrawny little mommies get all this incredible strength to pick up cars to save their kids? That would be me. With nunchucks.

But I said I would, and I do what I say. In order to prolong this little project and get the most posting bang for my buck, I'll just do ten at a time, in no particular order. And then I'll make a nifty little tab and put them all there. I'm super cool, I know.

Top 40, Part I

1. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder: My parents bought the whole collection from the used book store when I was about six, and I was so excited with the concept of a boxed set. This one was the first in the series, and over the years I eventually read them all.

2. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty: When I was assigned this lengthy Western in college I wasn't too happy, but then I started reading and fell in love with those cowboys. I was so overloaded with work and school at the time, but I still managed to finish my first Western- one of the only people in the class. Booyah.

3. Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle: This book is still relevant today, even though it was written over a decade ago. Living in California, I see so much racism and anger in regards to Mexicans and immigration. This book gives illegal immigrants faces and shows truths that some people may not be comfortable with. It's a timely book that will make you think.

4. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik: This piece of nonfiction isn't exactly the best writte book, but it serves as a constant reminder of the career path I should have taken. Regret can be positive- it can motivate you to make the rest of your life better to make up for your past mistakes.

5. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: This is just a great piece of contemporary literature. David Mitchell is brilliant and humble; the man exudes literary capability. It's dense, it's layered, it's amazing. He will one day be considered a "great."

6. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: I read this book in high school, despite the inevitable parents that tried to have it banned (year after year, school after school). I feel so strongly about this book I wrote to my hometown newspaper from college when they tried to have it banned again. If Gabriel Garcia Marquez is Mr. Magical Realism, than Allende is the Mrs. I love this book to death, donkey sex and all.

7. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer: While Foer may be in a current literary slump, his debut was impressive. One of my UCLA lit professors let the class choose the final book of her syllabus (awesome idea, by the way), and this is what we decided on. I'm a sucker for first time novelists, and this is the one everyone wants to be (the six figure advance that Foer received wasn't to shabby either).

8. Spark by John Ratey and Eric Hagerman: I'm not big into the "self-help" genre, but I read this for a professional development class and was blown away. The authors examine the neurological, emotional, and biological results exercise has on people and it makes me want to work out every single day for the rest of my life. It's motivational and a real wake-up call!

A Time to Kill by John Grisham: I seriously can't believe I just put Grisham on my list, but this is at least old-school Grisham (you know, before he farmed out his work). I remember reading this on Christmas Eve when I was twelve and my parents walking in to while I was reading the very brutal rape scene thinking, "If they only knew I was reading this while they're telling me to go to bed so Santa can come!" Nonetheless, it really opened up my young eyes to the racism and brutality that exists in the world.

10. Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook: I love to cook and this has a lot of good basics that you can take and spruce up. If I can only have forty books I have to have at least one cookbook!

PS- Yes, I love the Polaroid ap on my iPhone. I like it even better when I combine it with the other photo programs I have. I had a bad day, and this was fun and made me happy, so go ahead and make fun of my 40 picture. I think it's cool.

They've Gotcha Covered

Jostens, the yearbook company that I work with, does photo contests each year and I, of course, loved the Canadian winners from St. Elizabeth Catholic High School. It's a small picture, so I'm sure I screwed up the resolution making it larger, but if you can't tell, they're kids, covered in books.

Morsels of Awesomeness

Lots of little appetizers on today's menu- ideas that don't necessarily constitute their own posts. Here goes it:

Gilmore and Lost
There aren't many shows that I can say I've watched in the
ir entirety, but two that I have actually have corresponding book lists. The first is Rory's on the Gilmore Girls (confession- I'd really like to be Lorelai/Lauren Graham when I grow up). There are several versions floating around, but most are pretty similar. Since the show has been over for several years there really isn't a definite list, but it's still fun to see the ones people have created. The selection is pretty heavy with classics, but there's some more contemporary works on it as well, including works by Jeffrey Eugenides and Nick Hornby.

The second list is from Lost, which I will always have a lo
ve/hate relationship (I love Sawyer's abs and I hate how it never gave you any damn answers). This list is quite exhaustive, including the book, author, Wikipedia links, where the book appears in the show, and links to pages involving connected characters. I wonder how many crunches he did a day...

The Writer's Junction
I stumbled across this Santa Monica location in the LA Times and desperately wish I lived closer to it, and that I had the time and money to make such a commitment to becoming a member. The Writer's Junction is basically a quiet, professional, yet cozy, place that you can go writ
e. It allows writers to escape from the distractions of home, while still giving the option of a collaborative environment.

I love this necklace by Peg and Awl, available at Anthropologie. I do not love that it costs $248. Oh well, some girls dream of huge diamonds in their ears, I'
d like to wear books on my neck.

The Library Foundation of Los Angeles' Library Store
I'm a huge, huge fan of the Library Foundation and have att
ended several of their events. Their online store is full of really fun, creative gifts for readers, writers, library lovers, and kids. Products include posters, bags, notebooks, games, and of course librarian action figures.

The name says it all. Four railroads? I think not; four genres!

Dork Wear
I love a good shirt that notifies the whole world I'm a
nerd. My advise to my students before the CAHSEE was, "If you can't spell beautiful, write pretty."

I also like this shirt. It has nothing to do with anything whatsoever.

Pregnant With Anderson's Baby and Moving to Tahiti

April Fools' Day, and all those cutesy little "gotcha" jokes are so lame. A lot of the blogs I read are taking part, so there's a 99.9% chance I'm going offend someone who reads this- sorry, but I'm too cynical to let this go.

I know, I know, it's supposed to be a blog about reading. Blablabla. But there IS a connection, give me a second.

First of all, if you announce it today, NO ONE IS GOING TO BELIEVE that you are:
a. engaged
b. getting a divorce
c. moving
d. knocked up
e. gay (I guess that depends)
f. suddenly wealthy
g. [insert random life-changing exploit here]

Secondly, this holiday is extremely old; scholars (may) have traced it back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in 1392 (see, relevant). These people didn't really have much for entertainment back in the day, so waking up poor old Parson Bob before dawn to tell him his cow was humping a horse, or whatever, was actually funny. They were desperate- humor, irony, and wit were still evolving elements of society. But come on folks, it's 2011! Oh wait, that's right. This is a society that will pay twelve dollars to go watch Adam Sandler and Kevin James kick each other in the balls and pee in a pool for laughs.

Do not even give me those "it's fun" or "it's tradition" excuses. Fun is loading up my cart with books on Amazon and tradition is going on vacation during Christmas to avoid deciding what family to spend it with.

If you really want to be funny, save your true big news for the the first. Wait to tell your husband you're cheating on him, your mom your pregnant with triplets and moving back home, or your best friend that she needs to lose thirty pounds until the day that no one would possibly believe you.

Good luck and stay strong, folks. No one wants to be a Gullible Gus.

Oh, and I'm leaving my husband, pregnant with Anderson Cooper's baby, and moving to Tahiti, just to let everyone know.