Monday, January 08, 2007

2006 Reading in Review

I like books that stick with me. If the concept or the characters or the story line, or the gimmick pop up unbidden into my head days after I have finished the book it definitely makes it to the "Good Book" list. In 2006 one of the books that I found to be enthralling was "A Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier. This concept is something new. Something I have not run across before. The descriptions are beautiful. The book is written from the perspective of the Dead who live in a city much like the Living. The consensus among the characters is that they stay in existence as long as someone who is living remembers them. There is a parallel and interwoven story from the perspective of a living woman. Her life takes place in a future not all that distant from our own.
I don't want to give away too much. This is a short book. I highly recommend it.
Here is an excerpt:

Update on From the Stacks Winter Reading Challenge

I have utterly failed at my first challenge among the Book Blogging community. I do have plenty of excuses. I also learned something from this. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. Or maybe its visa versa...

I can't force myself to read what I am not in the mood for. If I don't enjoy a book I tend to get stuck about half way through. Perhaps it isn't so terrible to give up on a book altogether. Depends on why I wanted to read the book in the first place. Reading is supposed to be a pleasure, and with so much stress in the rest of life, I want to be careful not to ruin that pleasure by making unnecessary rules for myself! I am officially resigning from the challenge...

I got stuck on the first book on my list Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. I really wanted to read this book. I even got a personalized signed copy, that my Mom had signed for me when she met with Hillary last year. I love books signed by the author.

Parts of this book are interesting, but I should have realized how much of the book would be propaganda. I like Hillary. I like Bill. I even have a signed copy of his autobiography, although it isn't personalized, I did get to shake his hand when he signed it. I don't care much about their personal relationships, and I definitely don't want to start any political arguments.

Despite being a political science major in college, I don't really like politics all that much. I am more interested in the theory and social implications behind what happens than the actual gory details.

I am disappointed in this book. I am not learning what I hoped to learn from this book. I feel that Hillary is just saying what she thinks she should say. I was hoping that she would show a side of herself that was more "like the rest of us". I was hoping for some reaction to the act of living and creating history. There are maybe one or two sections where this happens. I guess I just can't relate to her background, and I feel like her motivations are artificially described or that she is holding something back. I believe she believes in her motivations, but it sounds like the book was dictated to a public relations person, who cleaned out all the sincere emotion. As Dennis Miller says " Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong".

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why Keep a List of Books You Have Read

I first started keeping a list of books I was reading because my memory was getting worse. If I read a book in a series that I liked but didn't love, I could never remember where I was in the series, especially when the titles were similar. Having a list meant I could check back and see the latest I read. I also starting tracking the dates the books were completed to see if there were any trends. What do you know - there were trends. It seems that I never read much in March and April, or October and November. Or at least I don't finish anything. I can conjecture about why this is...October and November I am very busy with entertaining for holidays, and have less time available. March and April I am also busy entertaining, but I think the more likely answer is that I am starting a lot of new books, and just have not completed them.

Aside: Here is question - how long can you be "reading" a book, before it doesn't count. If you put it down and don't pick it up again for 3 months - are you still reading it? I guess if you don't have to start over, that counts for something. At what point do you give up and say I am just not going to be reading this book?

I started tracking the genre or subject matter of the books in my list so that I would see where I was focused, and be able to tell myself when I needed to broaden my exposure. That hasn't really worked as well as I had hoped. I made some progress in 2005, but totally relapsed in 2006. I added a lot of books to my "to be read" list or stack in 2006, but didn't manage to read much of the non fiction, or books with international settings. I did manage to read a few "classics" (loosely defined), but didn't finish all of them. I like to read books that totally distract me from reality, especially if I am feeling stressed out. So I read books about magic, witches and vampires and science fiction/fantasy. I tried reading one book at a time to force myself to finish some of the unfinished stuff, and to make progress on the stuff I want myself to read, but that just caused me to find excuses to not read at all. You really have to be in the mood for a certain book to get into it.

My goals for 2007 include reducing the old lists and stacks of books I want to read, mixing up the genres and subjects as much as possible. This is basically the same goal I had in 2006 that I failed at! I'll just keep trying different approaches...

Do you have a method for dealing with your "TBR" pile? I would love to hear what works for other readers.