Tuesday, November 25, 2008

From The Big Read

After my last post I realized that it might be a good idea to list those books from my previous post about The Big Read that I'd thought about reading. Those books would be:

-To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
-Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
-Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
-Middlemarch, George Eliot
-Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
-Bleak House, Charles Dickens
-War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
-Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
-David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
-Emma, Jane Austen
-The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
-Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
-Animal Farm, George Orwell
-A Prayer for Owen Meaney, John Irving
-Life of Pi, Yann Martel
-A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
-Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
-Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
-Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson
-The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
-Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
-The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
-Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
-A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
-Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
-Watership Down, Richard Adams
-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
-Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Now, there's no way that I'm going to read Charles Dickens all year long, and I'm fairly certain that I won't be able to finish more than one or two foreign tomes (such as Les Miserables or Crime and Punishment). I have put in bold a few titles that I think are good possibilities...I'll let that marinate and report back soon. As always, opinions are welcome.

Creating a Book List

It's about that time of year. You know, the time where it's about to end. I want to start a Book List with some goals of books to read in 2009. The question is, how do I go about creating this list?

I think that I may categorize. I much prefer an organized list to an unorganized one. So then, which categories will be interesting yet defined?

Here are some ideas I've had:

-Books that other people want me to read (or, from genres that I generally hold an aversion to?)
-Books that have been on my shelf waiting to be read for over 5 years (where's the inspiration there?)
-Books that do NOT take place in America (this is probably related to #1)
-Books that will broaden my education (or: non-fiction areas of interest...to vague?)
-Books about education (does this count since I'll read these anyhow? that's kind of like making a category for Jane Austen)
-Classic mysteries (not a typical category for me...is this related to #1 too?)

I dunno, not feeling very creative after all, I guess! Suggestions for categories or books very welcome!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Indian in the Cupboard

The Indian in the Cupboard is the first book in a series of 5 by author Lynne Reid Banks. It is a juvenile fiction fantasy book about a boy who receives a plastic toy Indian and an old cupboard for his birthday. He discovers that when small plastic toys are placed in this cupboard and locked with an old key of his grandmother's, the plastic figures come to life.

This is one of those rare books in which the author manages to successfully portray the wonder and pressure of being a child forced to make some adult decisions, while maintaining the magical quality of childhood fantasy.

This was a book that my son bought with his own money based on the good things he'd heard about it. He read it very quickly and immediately started begging me to read it also. I'm glad I did. It was exciting and well written. It is a book that no child or adult should go without reading!

Riders of the Pony Express

Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody was an engaging, interesting book. It didn't have quite enough factual information to sate my curiosity about the Pony Express, but the quality of writing made up for any lack. Ralph Moody has a way of making you feel like you are experiencing what is happening, not merely listening to it being talked about.

The book begins with an introduction to the origins of the Pony Express. The main body of the book describes the initial race between the western riders and the eastern riders, and the book is concluded with some final details about the Pony Express as a whole. By presenting information in this format, the author was able to depict the riders in such an interesting way that you nearly forget that you are reading non-fiction.

This was adventure reading and book learning all wrap into one slim volume. Enjoyable for adults and children alike. Thumbs up!

Plato and Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein is subtitled "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes". This is a short humorous overview of the different aspects of philosophy, as well as the famous philosophers through the ages. I got some great laughs out of the book, and enjoyed the lighthearted approach to some deeper thoughts.

This is a book that will definitely be making it's way into some stockings near me.

Dragon's Keep

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey is a juvenile/young adult fiction book that my 12 year old son picked up at the library. He is a fan of fantasy fiction, and I'm not. I decided to read this book, however, so that I'd be aware of what my son was reading.

The story follows the fate of a princess in the Middle Ages who has a dragon's claw in place of one of her fingers. It is a mystery adventure involving a prophecy from Merlin, dragons, and magic.

The book remains adventurous from the beginning to the end, although the writing was choppy at times--making it occasionally difficult for me to follow. As far as content, be warned that there is a character who is occasionally talked about because she is a bastard. This isn't explained overly much in the book, but talked about enough to spur conversation with my son. Part of the storyline involves a love interest that thankfully isn't discussed in too much detail. The dragons and magic involved seemed to be par for the course for a fantasy genre book--not my personal taste, but not inordinately focused on.

My son really liked this book, I was fairly ambivalent: the storyline was interesting, but the writing unimpressive and frustrating. I was glad to know what he was reading, and glad to find it not too objectionable. :-)

For the Record: October 2008

Books I read in October 2008:

Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Douglas Wilson, see full review here
The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks, see full review here
Dragon's Keep, Janet Lee Carey, see full review here
Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar, Cathcart and Klein, see full review here
Understanding Girls with ADHD, Kathleen G. Nadeau, see full review here
Riders of the Pony Express, Ralph Moody, see full review here

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    In the Wake of the Plague

    This was one of those books that caught my eye while on an unassuming table near the entrance of a book store. It appeared to be fairly easy reading, of a fairly short length, on a fairly interesting topic, so I thought that it would be only fair to buy it and read it.

    How do I feel about it now? After I shelled out the money and invested my precious time into reading it? I suppose I'm not complaining too much, since I've found someone to give it to and won't have to live with it taking up valuable shelf space or sitting in the donation pile. If I'd known then what I know now, however, I'd have lobbied for a smaller time investment to be sure.

    I like history. I love books. This fell nicely into both of those categories. This book has made me realize that I also highly value a good editor. In fact, next time I raise my wine glass to make a toast, it may very well be applauding the world's finest editors, to whom I'm now aware I owe a debt of gratitude. It's unfortunate that the publisher of this book was unable to hire one of those editors, but spending the $ on a prime selling location at local bookstores probably paid off better when all is said and done.

    Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. The Black Death is currently largely blamed on bubonic plague carried by rats, accompanied by anthrax spread by cattle. These diseases, like most, may have originated in Africa or outer space.

    Read the reviews on Amazon. I wish I had.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Understanding Girls With AD/HD

    Understanding Girls With AD/HD, by Kathleen Nadeau is a very easy to read book about how girls with ADHD may differ from boys with ADHD. Although slightly repetitive at times, it was quick to read and easy to understand.

    The author seeks to define 2 main categories that girls with ADHD can be classified into: those with hyperactive tendencies, and those with inattentive tendencies. She notes that girls are often left undiagnosed because their symptoms are different from those that boys exhibit. She also brings to light the tendency that adults have to be more accepting of a boy with hyperactive behavior than a girl with similar behavior.

    Some of the behaviors we're more likely to recognize are found in the tomboy or the social butterfly. Less often recognized is the shy inattentive girl that often fades into the background. This girl often experiences anxiety and may be able to hyper-focus on school work or other things more than the tomboy or social butterfly.

    I admit that I had a difficult time accepting the validity of this book simply because I identified closely with many of the symptoms listed, and I don't consider myself to have ADHD! I read the book to try to gain some understanding about my daughter, and found myself thinking more about my own experiences. If I process the information without the label of ADHD, I find myself much more able to gain insight!

    Much of the discussion in the book relates to how school affects a girl with ADHD, and how girls of different ages might behave. The author's main suggestions to help a girl with ADHD were to provide a loving, understanding, stable home. These things, she said, would do more than anything else to help the child have self-confidence and learn how to function in a healthy manner.

    This was an interesting book, well documented and easy to understand. It provided me with food for thought, not only about my daughter, but about myself.