Sunday, December 02, 2012

(The Many More than) Five Book Meme

The Queen o' Memes really ought to relinquish her crown at this point, but, every so often, she polishes it a bit and decides to pick up on someone else's meme. Maybe, one of these days, she'll even create one of her own. In the meantime, she saw this one both at Litlove's and Ms. Musing's. And, well, you know, the Queen can't resist a book meme.


Since I am almost always reading more than one book at a time, this one really ought to be "Books I'm reading." I thought about narrowing it down to one title, but that wouldn't be any fun, would it? So, here you go:

a. The Abbot's Ghost by Louisa May Alcott
"Christmas just won't be Christmas without any Louisa May Alcott." Or so I think whenever December rolls around. For some reason, every Christmas vacation when I was a kid, I seemed to read at least one book by Louisa May Alcott. The Abbot's Ghost is supposedly one of those "sensational mysteries/thrillers" she wrote to earn her keep before hitting it big with the likes of Little Woman and Little Men. It can also be classified as a "Christmas read" since this little edition of it bears the subtitle "A Christmas Tale." So far (at nearly the halfway mark), I have yet to fathom how it could be a mystery, why it's called a Christmas tale, nor why there's been no abbot and no ghost. Maybe these mysteries will be solved by the time I finish it. Anyway, as always with Alcott, I've met some interesting (if somewhat stereotyped) characters.

b. The Ghost and the Dead Deb by Alice Kimberly
I know it's supposedly the Christmas season, so why am I reading all these books about ghosts? Well, you know me and ghosts. As far as I'm concerned, we could just celebrate Halloween every month and forget all the other holidays (sshhh, don't tell The Minister I said that). The Ghost and the Dead Deb is the second in a series that merges the "cozy" genre with the "hard-boiled" genre by including a bookstore-owning, accidental sleuth and a dead PI whose ghost happens to be stuck in her bookstore.  Such mindless fluff is the sort of thing that ought to be found in every Christmas stocking, along with the chocolate-marshmallow Santas.

c. The Path to Power by Robert Caro
Such mindful iron is not the sort of thing that ought to stretch a Christmas stocking, but I've been reading The Path to Power since well before December, and I'll probaby be reading this mammoth book about Lyndon Johnson for the rest of my life, which means I won't have time to read all the others Robert Caro published afterwards (4 in all, each hovering around 800 or so pages long). In fact, I've been considering writing blog posts about this as I read through it -- about 10-20 pages at a time -- but have yet to do so, which means I probably won't. Suffice it to say (for now, unless I get motivated to write more) that it's a fascinating history, extremely well-written, and a wonderful look at a piece of American politics (maybe even a wonderful look at 20th-century American politics in general).

d. Domestic Manners of the Americans by Mrs. Trollope
A couple of years ago, one of my English cousins was staying with my parents and reading their copy of Domestic Manners of the Americans, which I never knew they had. My cousin was raving about how good it was, and my parents couldn't believe I'd never read it, so, this year, when they were moving and getting rid of tons of books, my mother gave it (a lovely, illustrated copy published in 1901 that is, sadly, beginning to fall apart) to me. OMG, what fun it is! Mrs. Trollope (yes, the mother of THAT Trollope) came to America in the late 1820s and spent something like 3 years here. This is sort of like reading Eric Linklater's Juan in America, but it isn't fiction, and, although Linklater was trying to make his audience laugh, I'm quite sure that half the time Fanny Trollope didn't mean to be funny. Nonetheless, she has no qualms about stating her opinions, to great comic effect. If Caro is a wonderful look at 20th-century American politics, Trollope is a wonderful look at 19th-century American daily life, when the country was still so very young and rough, as portrayed in only the way that a true outsider could portray it. (If you've never read it, put this treat on your Christmas list posthaste).

e. The Arabian Nights edited by Muhsin Mahdi and translated by Husain Haddawy
I've been reading this one almost all year, a few stories at a time. It's extremely addictive and hard to put down, but I wanted to read it this way, so I've managed to discipline myself and only rarely have I fallen into the trap of "just one more story ... okay, just one more after that ... well, I have to keep reading to find out what happens now ..." I'll be sad to see it end by the end of this month. Shahrazad would easily have kept me up all night every night for months on end if I'd known her. Little known fact, BTW: Aladdin was not an original tale.

And, then, there's the audiobook I'm listening to:

f. Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
It's Richard Russo. It's brilliant. Need I say more?

Again, I need to change the phrasing of this to "the last book I finished reading," because, otherwise, I'm afraid I'll have to list 5 or 6 more books, and, well, we'll never get through this meme, will we?

Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer
"What on earth possessed you to read that?" you may very well ask. And it's a good question with a simple answer: it was chosen as November's book for our library book discussion group. I got sick and missed the actual discussion (good thing, because I'd barely begun it when the group met last Tuesday), but this was surprisingly good company for someone who had no voice, and, thus, had nothing better to do for 3 days than to lie around and read. Who would've ever thought I'd like a book about two 20th-century American corporate barons (one a self-made immigrant and one born into the moneyed class) and their hatred of each other? But I did. I was mesmerized. So much so that this was the fourth of only four books I read this year that made me abandon all else I was reading until I was done (the other three -- because if I were reading this post and didn't know, I'd be curious, and so I assume you are -- were Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Broken Harbor by Tana French, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss).


I can't guarantee it, because I often find myself picking up some book at work that I had no intention of reading, bringing it home, and becoming immersed in it, but I'm pretty sure that if it's not the very next book I read, I will soon be reading Pies and Prejudice by Heather Vogel Frederick. This is the fourth book in her Mother Daughter Book Club series for kids, and I'm completely hooked. I wish this series had been around when I was a kid. I'm especially eager to read this one, because Emma, one of the daughters in the series, is dragged off to live in England during her freshman year of high school, which is exactly what happened to me during my freshman year of high school. (If you have a young friend age 9-12 or so who hasn't read any of the books in this series, I highly recommend you give her the first   -- called The Mother Daughter Book Club -- for Xmas and get her hooked.)

I'm going to assume this means last book I bought for myself, since it's that time of year when I've been buying books as gifts for others. Again, I will have to give you more than one, because in one of those "one gift for him, two for me" moments of Christmas shopping, I ordered the following two books for myself from Persephone (and am eagerly checking the mailbox every day. Damn the Christmas season for slowing things down so much).

a. Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins
Harriet is a novelization of the mysterious death of a 19th-century wealthy woman named Harriet Richardson. You can't get much better than a true-crime-based-murder-mystery published by Persephone, huh?

b. Patience by John Coates
It's rare to find Persephone books written by men and even rarer to find any books written by men about how unsatisfying mid-twentieth-century marriage could be for women. Patience is just such a book, apparently. Oh, and it's supposed to be funny, too. It sounds a bit like it was written in the same vein as Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and E. M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady. We'll see, I guess, when it arrives.

It was a copy of Daphne duMaurier's Don't Look Now, sent to me by my friend Gary, and which I hadn't read since I was a teenager. This collection of short stories was just as good as I remembered it being.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Yaaay the Queen of Memes is back! I really enjoyed this post as always, Emily. I'm thrilled that Name of the Wind was one of the books that made you put everything down, as did Broken Harbour. I read Name of the Wind last year and really liked it. I'm hoping to find Broken Harbour under my tree :-)

I have seen the movie Don't Look Now (very good and creepy), and used copies of the book, but never picked it up. Now I want to, of course.

I really like that you associate December with ghost stories, I do too! I'm reading Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and really enjoying it. Good atmosphere, and effective. Definitely some haunting going on, and something evil.

I like that shopping - 2 for you, one for him, too - I do that! It's so much better that way :-) as then I tend to get the books I want to read. lol

I'll keep the Mother Daughter Book Club in mind for my daughter for next year. Where did you go to school in England when you were sent?