Tag Archives: book lists

Commonwealth Reboot

shopping-2   I don’t like rereading books; I’d rather spend the time with a new story, but Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth was an exception.  Exploring the depths of Commonwealth’s complicated family and the catalysts changing their lives gave me a better understanding of the story’s structure with its underlying conceits, and a new respect for Ann Patchett’s writing talent.

In preparing for the book club discussion, I researched the author.  I was already familiar with her other books; this time I looked for her background as a way of connecting with her own family references in this book, and I found a few to share at the book club.  I always like book lists and authors who inspire writers, and in my meanderings I found Ann Patchett offered some new possibilities.

Because Patchett mentioned her friendship with Jacqueline Woodson, four time winner of the Newbery Award, I listened to an online podcast at the Free Library of Philadelphia with both authors discussing Patchett’s Commonwealth and Woodson’s Another Brooklyn.  The podcast is a one hour discussion with Patchett and Woodson reading from their books.  In the publisher’s excerpt, childhood memory is the common element – how the  memory of childhood events differs, according to the age of the child experiencing it.

For the New York Times “By the Book,” Patchett named Saul Bellow, the winner of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and National Book Awards, as one of her favorite authors, as well as Doris Kearns Goodwin, award winning author and historian.  In the podcast she also offers a number of her favorite books from Charlotte’s Web to The Witches of Blackbird Pond to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, When Breath Becomes Air, The Underground Railroad, and more.  She has a monthly blog talking about her favorite books at “Ann’s Blog”

As a result of  rediscovering Ann Patchett,  I am now reading:

  • Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn
  • Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift
  • Henry James’ The Ambassadors
  • Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

Through the interviews I learned more about Patchett, the person.  She’s warm and funny and real – someone I would enjoy meeting for coffee.  Maybe I will someday, if I ever get to Tennessee.

Related Links:

College Freshman Reading

unknownWhen the Sunday New York Times offered a short summary of books on the summer reading list for freshman, I wondered what my alma maters and those of my friends has assigned for stirring the synapses of the new generation of college entrants.  Aside from requiring a book as an assignment for a class (usually freshman comp), college administrators are no more successful at guaranteeing the book will be read than are book clubs (unless the host threatens a quiz with strips of questions to be publicly answered).  For someone to read the book, it must be engaging.

Topics for required freshman reading range from diversity and tolerance to best sellers.  Sometimes the nature of the institution reflects the choice, for example, “A Few Good Men” has been a popular choice over the years for The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.  Berkeley’s 2017 summer reading list includes “What Can We Change in a Single Generation?” and the score from Hamilton, while this year a number of colleges, including one of my alma mater’s, picked “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson – the memoir of an attorney representing poor clients in the South, as he follows  a client on death row for killing a young white woman in Alabama.

9781101947135_p0_v5_s192x300   I was happy to see one of my favorites on the Stanford Three Books List as well as the pick for Connecticut College – Homegoing  by Yaa Ghasi.   I have yet to read Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, but the University of Wisconsin has identified it for its freshmen – a strange pick for a liberal university.

Tufts University is asking its freshmen to read “The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility” by Tufts political science professors Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj.  Mount Holyoke College has chosen “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine as the 2017 Common Read. The incoming Penn State class will join MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynsey Addario in exploring her passion for photography and how it shaped her personal and professional life by reading “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.”  The 2017 University of Pennsylvania freshman read is Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

What about the classics? Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was the only one I could find – for Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Do you remember the book(s) you were required to read as an entering freshman?  For me, it was Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” – and I doubt I understood its implications until I read again many years later.

For More Freshman Read Titles, check:

How Do You Find Your Next Book?

images  How do you find a book to read?  Do you browse through bookstores?  scroll the web for new publications?  read reviews?  follow book blogs?  talk to your friends?  wait for a favorite author to write another?  hope for inspiration?

Sites recommending books can be helpful.  I tried a few:

The New York Times Book Review has a new advice column (similar to Dear Abby) with tongue-in-cheek samples of letters from bereft readers needing a good book, but also listing some titles worth checking, and an email address for personal inquiries. The latest column of Dear Match Book offered summer reading and I found one I want to read, Martha Cooley’s The Archivist, and a reminder of an old favorite – Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members.

What Should I Read Next  asks you to type the title of a your favorite book to find others like it with short plot summaries.  When I typed in Carol Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages), I found a list of many books I had read, but one I had not: John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer.   Typing in Kent Haruf gave me books by Ruth Ozeki and Jhumpa Lahiri.  I spent some time typing in authors and books just to see what would come up.

A fellow reader alerted me to Recommend Me A Book.  The site taps into the tendency some of us have to pick a book based on its cover, or reading the first page to see if it grabs you.  On this site you can see a page of book covers, or you can read the first page of a book before knowing the title.  Surprisingly, you may not always identify a book you’ve already read before the title is revealed.  I flipped through a number of first pages and never recognized the books I had read – State of Wonder, The Heart of Darkness, The Secret History – but Harry Potter was easy to spot.

In Just the Right Book you can take a quiz – as many times as you like – and get recommendations.  I found a few new books I had not read: Michael Chabon’s Moonglow and a good beach read The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino.   And it’s fun to keep retaking the quiz.

ReviewDear Committee Members

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

iwd-logo-portaiteps    The theme for this year’s annual International Women’s Day on March 8th is “Be Bold for Change,”  and women all over the world will be marking the day with festivals, book club discussions, conferences, concert performances, speaking events, and more. To celebrate women’s accomplishments politically, culturally, and socially, consider reading a book about and by women from around the world.

Here are a few ideas in fiction books; click on the title for my review:

baileys-womens-prize-for-fiction-2017  March 8th also has the distinction of being the day when the Baileys Prize (formerly known as the Orange Prize) longlist is announced.  The annual Prize targets fiction written by women, with past winners including Barbara Kingsolver’s  The Lacuna and Tea Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife  This year’s longlist includes sixteen books  nominated to take the £30,000 award. The shortlist is announced April 3rd and the winner on June 7th.

Here are my predictions for inclusion on this year’s longlist.  Have you read any of them?

 

Reading Challenges

unknownHow did I miss these?  Reading was never a challenge but a pleasure, and forced lists seem counterintuitive. But when a friend sent me a reading challenge from a library in her neighborhood, I decided to find out more about reading challenges. Maybe because it’s the season of New Year’s resolutions, but google gave me over a hundred varieties of reading challenges for the year – from  “traveling the world in books” to “reading the classics” and award winning books.

The Provincetown Library Reading Challenge  offers a prize if you finish all their categories, and I am tempted to sign up – if only to fly out to Massachusetts to pick up my reward.  If you need a little incentive to read this year, you might consider one of the twelve possibilities they recommend.  A few appealing to me include:

  1. a book you can finish in a day
  2. a book published before you were born
  3. a book that intimidates you
  4. a book you previously abandoned

unknown-1My own reading challenge might include:

  • one of the many unread books that have been gathering dust on my shelf for years
  • the Newbery Award winner for this year (but I would read that anyway so it may not be much of a challenge
  • a book recommended to me by someone I suspect didn’t really read it
  • a book from college years that I decided I didn’t need to read back then
  • a book about a place I will probably never visit
  • a book set in a place I want to go back to
  • a book that will never make the bestseller list
  • and, in honor of Provincetown, read Hugh Nissenson’s The Pilgrim

Do you have a book challenging you this year?