Outside of a Dog, a Book is Man's Best Friend (The Book Thread)

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Artistic Skaters

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I read Girl in Disguise - the new book by Greer Macallister. It's historical fiction about Kate Warne who was the first female detective with the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1850s Chicago. The blurb on the cover says "You will devour this book!" I don't know about that, but it was an enjoyable read & suspenseful enough to keep me interested. Lots of trains, costume changes, Civil War, & Lincoln.

Greer Macallister is one of the writers I had on my list because her first book, The Magician's Lie, was recommended in our Sunday paper. It turns out I often like the books they review.
 
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Japanfan

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The Drifters by James Michener is not a glamorous classic, but one of a similar type from the 70s. Not so great telling the story from an older businessman's POV (like his), but even so they traveled to lots of exotic locations (Spain, Marrakesh, Mozambique) I dreamed about & had a VW camper! My friends & I read it when I was fifteen & made up a rock soundtrack to go along with every country the characters visited. I bought a copy of it a couple years ago but so far it's just sitting on my bookshelf. Dare I read it again all these years later without disappointing myself? :)
I don't think so. I've thought of revisiting Michener's books but fear I'd find them very dated.

I do remember that my mom read The Drifters in order to gain a better understanding of the younger generation.;)
 

Prancer

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"The Rising Tide of Educated Aliteracy."

I blame postmodernism. Once you absorb "The reader is the writer," well......

Also, I don't know of a single English major, anywhere, who did not get through the endless required reading lists without skipping original works and reading the criticism of said works instead. It can become a habit. And graduate school is notorious for turning English majors into non-readers; almost everyone ends up hating books, at least for a time.

But it's also that life is too short and books are too plentiful to read stuff you just don't want to read. :shuffle:
 

snoopy

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I read Small Great Things and thought it was unrealistic. Then I read it was based partly on several true stories woven together. It was okay but yes, it had all the liberal memes about privilege and race in there.

I also read Silver Stars by Jeannette Walls, who wrote The Glass Castle, which IMO was kind of a different twist on Hillbilly Elegy (and written earlier). This one was a cute story about two girls and their dysfunctional mother. The girls find there way back to their mother's birth place in North Carolina circa 1970.. There wasn't anything deep or dramatic or super funny in here but just a cute story.

I am almost done with At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier. I love Tracy's books - she always has an artisan theme but in this one apple tree farming took place of the artistry. I also love trees and they are big in the book. One of the protagonists ends up in California around 1850 and collects sequoia seedlings to send to England for wealthy landowners. For any Tracy fans, I highly recommend this one.
 

clairecloutier

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This part was funny (and true, I think):

"Whether one chooses to admit it or not, every reader has a secret list of writers one is, for whatever reason, incapable of reading. To get it over with, what follows is my own: Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, Henry James, Jane Austen, Samuel Becket . . . already embarrassment keeps me from going on."

Mine also involves Faulkner. ;) And Melville and James Joyce.

As to the rest of the article--interesting. I read a lot, but it's mostly nonfiction. I'm not very into modern English/American/Canadian literary fiction. I find it generally uninteresting, I don't know why. I'll pick up a book and read the first paragraph and I'm just not into it. Any fiction written in present tense generally annoys me (which I know is a weird thing to pick on, but I just hate it). Maybe if modern literary fiction were better, people would be more interested in reading it?? I don't know. I find I'm generally drawn to fiction either from the 19th century, or from 1900-1960, or from other countries.

ETA--All just my own personal take, of course, and completely idiosyncratic. :D
 
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Prancer

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This part was funny (and true, I think):

"Whether one chooses to admit it or not, every reader has a secret list of writers one is, for whatever reason, incapable of reading. To get it over with, what follows is my own: Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, Henry James, Jane Austen, Samuel Becket . . . already embarrassment keeps me from going on."

Mine also involves Faulkner. ;) And Melville and James Joyce.
When people tell me they love Ulysses, I assume they are lying (and suspect they haven't actually read it but are trying to impress). When I was an undergrad (which was a long time ago, so consider this dated), English professors answering a survey anonymously overwhelmingly named Faulkner as the most overrated author in the canon. I know this because a professor who was a Dreiser specialist always pointed that Dreiser came in as the most underrated, to which I was always :rolleyes:, because Dreiser?

I have read at least one thing by all of the authors in question, so I guess I am not incapable of reading them, but some were, shall we say, less enjoyable than I might have wished.

Any fiction written in present tense generally annoys me (which I know is a weird thing to pick on, but I just hate it).
That seems to bother a lot of people. It doesn't bother me at all, but I absolutely cannot stand books that do not use standard punctuation to indicate dialogue. I made it through The Grapes of Wrath and Cry, the Beloved Country, and that's it for me.
 

MacMadame

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I really enjoyed the Faulkner I read in High School. I've never read James Joyce. :slinkaway

In HS and College I took the standard English classes and read the assigned works. So I've read a lot of classics. But after school ended, I mostly read "trashy" novels (i.e, mysteries, romance, sci-fi) and non-fiction and also YA fiction (Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc.). But not Serious Literature. So I've only read the classics that were assigned.

I did read all of Jane Austen (some of them more than once) and a few years ago I decided I really needed to go back and fill in some gaps and read Treasure Island. On my cell phone! :lol: That's as far as I got. I tried reading Hunchback of Notre Dame at some point because I love all the movies so much but couldn't get past the language. This surprised me because I had no trouble reading Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare in school.
 

Nomad

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The only Faulkner novel I came close to liking was As I Lay Dying. Which isn't saying much. I'm with Prancer re Dreiser: huh? I read Sister Carrie and was pretty meh about it. I tried again with Jennie Gerhardt and my reaction was the same, so that was it for Dreiser.
 

emason

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Not even "Araby"? I am pretty sure that it's a law that everyone has to read "Araby" in English class at some point.
Have never heard of Araby; it certainly didn't appear in any English lit class I ever took.

Faulkner: in HS we read The Bear, one of his short stories. Certainly the most accessible Faulkner for HS students, I think. On my own in my 20s I read The Reivers, another very accessible work. A few years ago I dipped into Absalom, Absalom! I was totally surprised by my reaction; I found it much easier to read and more enjoyable than I ever would have expected, but I had to put it aside for some reason and haven't yet gone back to it. It is definitely on my very, very long 'go back to and finish' list; I am one who dips into books but doesn't always finish them.

Dreiser: Meh on Sister Carrie; had to read it in HS, didn't care for it. I just barrelled through it as fast as possible to get it over. Never been tempted to pick up Dreiser again.

Joyce: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: that's what was the Joyce du jour in HS. Was neutral on it and never had a burning desire to read more Joyce.

Melville: HS students should not be subjected to Moby-Dick. I just don't think that's the right age for this book. I took a discussion class on it about 5 years ago. What an eye-opener. Moby-Dick is the great 19th century novel that no one reads. It's definitely the best book I've read in the last 5 years, but I am 55 years removed from HS at this point.

James: Love: The Aspern Papers. Like: Washington Square, The Turn of the Screw, The Wings of the Dove. Dislike: The Portrait of a Lady. Do not get the fascination with the heroine. Hope to attempt some day: The Golden Bowl and a re-attempt of The Spoils of Poynton.

Hardy: Jude the Obscure, The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge, etc. No to all, just not the writer for me.

Eliot: Another no for me. Tortured by Silas Marner in HS. Abandoned Middlemarch halfway through; may some day try it again, but it's not a priority.

Favorite book from HS: Ethan Frome, hands down; made me a Wharton fan for life. Am now revisiting Vanity Fair for a discussion class; loving it and may want to read more Thackeray at some point.

Favorite writers from HS, college, and later on, still favorites to this day: Trollope and Austen.

I think it is clear from the above that I am no youngster; I can't imagine what my reading list would be if I were in HS or college now.
 

Nomad

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I almost always enjoy Trollope (The Eustace Diamonds excepted), despite his philosophy that "There's always room for another subplot."
 

MacMadame

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Not even "Araby"? I am pretty sure that it's a law that everyone has to read "Araby" in English class at some point.
Nope. Never heard of that one. Heard of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. And Ulysses. But haven't read them. Then again, maybe I did and I just can't remember? ;)

I think it was a combination of things. First, we had to read a book a week and write a paper on it in both HS and college. So, to cut down on people selling their older papers to the younger students, they managed the lists and would not repeat a book until four years had passed but often longer. The lists had slots. There was the obligatory Shakespeare. The English Novelist from the _____ period. The American Novelist from the ____ period. The Political Satire. And so on.

So they must not have had a Joyce slot that year, but just one for his time period and someone else took it. In college, they had run out of good Shakespeare for my English 101 year so we had to read: Coriolanus. Meh.

Also, this was in the 70s and there was a big effort to be "relevant" so I think we didn't read as much older stuff as they did in the 60s. Plus I got to take a small seminar class in Science Fiction. That was fun!


I really enjoyed most of the fiction we were assigned. Even The Oddessey which was definitely slow going (and we didn't read it in a week!)

But we missed a few that I am sorry about. Never read Catch 22 (I think One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest took the slot that year) or Catcher in the Rye (which I am pretty sure I'd hate but I want to see what the fuss is about) or To Kill a Mockingbird.

I also always wanted to read The Great Gatsby. Until I saw the movie. :shuffle:

The only Faulkner novel I came close to liking was As I Lay Dying. Which isn't saying much. I'm with Prancer re Dreiser: huh? I read Sister Carrie and was pretty meh about it. I tried again with Jennie Gerhardt and my reaction was the same, so that was it for Dreiser.
We read Intruder in the Dust.

I actually have no idea who Dreiser is. The others I have heard of.
 

Prancer

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My Dreiser professor was always fun and an easy A, so I took a lot of his classes and therefore have read all of Dreiser's novels. The best paper I wrote as an undergrad was about An American Tragedy. I am a little startled at the idea of having to read Sister Carrie in high school, as it has always been considered rather scandalous.

I had tried to read Catch-22 when I was young and couldn't get past the first two chapters, but Dr. Dreiser told me to stick with it because I would love it. He was right and Joseph Heller is now one of my favorite authors. Dreiser, not so much, but I didn't hate him, just found his writing utterly graceless.

Catcher in the Rye is probably my least favorite canonical work (which is saying something). I have never known a female who liked it and I tend to immediately think that men who say they like it are emotionally stunted. Yes, one shouldn't leap to such conclusions, but.

(I now await a female poster to say that CITR is her favorite book)

I read Moby-Dick in grad school; I cannot imagine reading it in high school, but grad school was an excellent time, as I was at that point an experienced literary reader and could appreciate it. Well, maybe not the chapter on blubber :p.

I quite liked Vanity Fair, which I think is one of the most commonly detested books on required reading lists. :lol:
 

emason

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Well, I am female and I have read CITR. Oh wait, that's right, I read it back in high school and remember nothing, and I mean nothing, about it. It left no impression on me whatsoever.
 

Japanfan

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Not even "Araby"? I am pretty sure that it's a law that everyone has to read "Araby" in English class at some point.
Among all of the short stories that made the work I did in the capacity of an English tutor some years ago entirely miserable, I've never forgotten Araby. Hated it, just hated it.

Mind you, I'm not a fan of the short story in general. I can never figure out the deeper/hidden meaning, and have to Google to get it.

What can't a story just mean what its says and say what it means? Why does there always have to be a hidden meaning?

Do short story writers intend to embed the true meaning of their stories in sub-text? I find it really hard to believe that they are so subversive. If a person is inspired to write a short story (and I frankly don't understand why anyone would be), I would assume it is because they have a story to tell. Rather than bury a more important story/theme in the actual story that is told. I really don't think writers think that way.

Catcher in the Rye is probably my least favorite canonical work (which is saying something). I have never known a female who liked it and I tend to immediately think that men who say they like it are emotionally stunted. Yes, one shouldn't leap to such conclusions, but.
I loved loved loved Catcher in the Rye when I read it as a teenager, and related well and emotionally to Holden Caulfield (sp?).
 
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Catcher in the Rye is probably my least favorite canonical work (which is saying something). I have never known a female who liked it and I tend to immediately think that men who say they like it are emotionally stunted. Yes, one shouldn't leap to such conclusions, but.
I quite enjoyed Catcher in the Rye :)
 

Nomad

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I'm with Prancer re Vanity Fair. Of the four Thackeray novels I've read, it was definitely my favorite. Catcher in the Rye was an easy read, but I wasn't much impressed by it.
 

PrincessLeppard

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So anyone who is worried that this thread is getting to highbrow, I am attempting to slog through Stephanie Meyer's The Chemist. The plot is super interesting (terrorist has deadly chemical agent that will kill everyone (OR DOES HE) and the only one who can stop it is on the run and the CIA wants her back (OR DO THEY) ) but her writing is awful. This book needed an editor to pare it down by at least a third, and there is so much passive voice and explanation. But I love this sort of stuff and will probably persevere...
 

PrincessLeppard

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I know some people worry that they will be judged for reading less highbrow stuff. I don't really care, so post away. :)
 

oleada

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I'm reading All the Light We Cannot See for my book club. The writing is absolutely beautiful, but it is a bit slow. I tend to like Werner's bits more than Marie-Laure's.
 

quartz

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I adore that book! I didn't find it slow at all - I actually limited how much to read at a time because I didn't want it to end. Like savouring a fine meal rather than scarfing down a slice of pizza.
 

Japanfan

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I didn't find it slow at all - I actually limited how much to read at a time because I didn't want it to end. Like savouring a fine meal rather than scarfing down a slice of pizza.
I felt that way about the last book that I read, 'The Shore of Women' by Pamela Sargent, a classic work of feminist science fiction. Feminist science fiction/fantasy is a small sub-genre, but every book I have read that has fit within it has been a superior work with compelling characters, an excellent story, and well-executed, clear and intentional themes.

The book was so good that it caused me to enter a reading drought. I finished it last May, and haven't been able to get my head into another book since. Until last week, when I got 'The Girl With All the Gifts'. TBH I find having a zombie protagonist more than a little disturbing, and the descriptions of zombie activities are too visceral for my taste.

But, I soldier on. At least there is only 100 pages to go.

I'm not finding a lot of new authors/titles that appeal to me, so I'm going to do some rereading. Starting with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Series. It's good and long, and one of my all time favorites
 

Nomad

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My preference is highbrow, but
...
I'm not finding a lot of new authors/titles that appeal to me, so I'm going to do some rereading. Starting with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Series. It's good and long, and one of my all time favorites
A friend of mine has been urging me to read that series. The only MZB I have read is Mists of Avalon, which I loved.
 

rfisher

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So anyone who is worried that this thread is getting to highbrow, I am attempting to slog through Stephanie Meyer's The Chemist. The plot is super interesting (terrorist has deadly chemical agent that will kill everyone (OR DOES HE) and the only one who can stop it is on the run and the CIA wants her back (OR DO THEY) ) but her writing is awful. This book needed an editor to pare it down by at least a third, and there is so much passive voice and explanation. But I love this sort of stuff and will probably persevere...
I just finished it. Prepare for some excitement interspersed with yelling at the book, or audio tape in my case.

I never read highbrow. Ever. Not since undergrad. A book tagged literary fiction will make me scroll right on by on BnN or Amazon. And couldn't care less about being judged for it. Some of the most interesting things I've ever read were poorly written from a mechanics perspective, but were interesting and thought provoking all the same. Some of the "high brow" stuff was as dull and boring as a piece of sand paper and the only thought I had was to stop reading and go do something else.
 
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