Friday, June 29, 2012

Top 5 Books: Mid-Year Report

I love how blogging helps me digest and reflect on the books I read.  The end of June seems as natural a time to reflect on my goals as does the end of the year, and a Top 5 felt in order.  First, a few challenge stats: (I'm doing (obviously) much better in some challenges than others, but I think it balances out.)
  • Books read as of 6/30: 66 [feels pretty good!]
  • Reading Willa Cather Chronologically: 3 out of 4 (75%) [this one's in the bag]
  • Reading the Newbery Medal Books: 4 out of 5 (80%) [I can do it!]
  • Reading the Pulitzer Prize Winners: 2 out of 5 (40%) [no 2012 winner = I don't care]
  • Reading from my To Be Read Shelf: 3 out of 10 (30%) [oh...books on my shelf? oops.]
  • Reading Short Stories and Poetry: 4 out of 6 (67%) [duty]
  • Reading from my Wish List: 4 out of 12 (34%) [this one is fun. how'd I get behind?]
  • Back to the Classics Challenge 2012:  6 out of 9 (67%) [loving me some classics this year.]
  • Spring into Junior Fiction Challenge: 8 out of 10 (80%) [hrm.  may acknowledge defeat.]
  • Art of the Novella Challenge: 0 out of 18 (0%) [August will be here WAY too soon...] Top 5 of 2012 [so far]

Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

This book was so AllTheRage when it was released that I pretty much decided not to read it.  But then Emily loooved it, and I started revising my opinion (I trust that girl's opinion!)  Finally, it was chosen for my book club, and I was entranced from the first page.  I haven't talked about it much because I don't know where to start.  It's one of those books that is so special that I simultaneously want to buy it for every person on earth, and hide every copy under my mattress so I never run out.  It was beautifully written, with beautifully real & complex characters and themes.  Highly recommended.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

I talked about this book here, and I highly recommend reading Heidi's opinion on it (she has the insight of first-hand experience - well worth reading her thoughts!)  This is another book that hooked me from the beginning.  The writing, accompanied by beautifully fitting illustrations, allowed an incredible understanding of the emotional confusion inside a child coming to terms with an impending tragedy.  I don't think I've ever seen such an intimate issue portrayed so well.  (And, just in case you are wondering, my 11 year-old daughter fell in love with it too, so it's not just for biggies, and not just for littles.)

11/22/1963, Stephen King

Admittedly, when I picked this up I was in the mood for a cracking good read, something that has been more difficult for me to find the more I read.  The trip back to the late 50s/early 60s was so much fun for me.  More than just the JFK story, this is a comparison of the times in which we live and of those gone by.  And without the threat of freaky horror happenings, it is a book that I'm glad to recommend to a wide variety of people.  It's a chunkster, but it's Stephen King...which means that the story is the show and you needn't worry about getting bogged down.

The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham

What a terrific surprise my first Maugham book was!  I bought this on a whim, partially because the author had been mentioned at book club, and partially because it was short and had a good cover.  (what? those sound like good reasons to me!)  It instantly felt like a guilty pleasure: too much fun to be any good.  But it was good.  I adored every word of this book, I think, and can't wait to add more Maugham to my shelf.  I almost bought The Razor's Edge instead, and now I'm wondering if I'll like that one just as much...I've heard it was a departure for him.
The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather

I almost didn't include this one because it was a re-read, but I love it so much I couldn't leave it out.  I feel like this is my book.  It describes the intimate nature of the creative spirit like I've never before experienced.  Being one of Cather's "prairie" novels, you should expect a good dose of atmosphere here as well, although it doesn't all take place on the prairie.  You get some city and southwest mixed in there too, each subsequent place as tangible as the one before it.  The choices that Thea makes lands her in an unenviable place, which is a bit sad to see since it is also the thing she deemed more important than anything else.


  1. Nice work on your reading challenges!

    Also, I'm so happy that you loved Cutting for Stone. It really has become my measuring stick for books I've read in the last few years.

  2. You've read some great books! I want to get to Cutting for Stone and A Monster Calls myself pretty soon.

  3. Cutting for Stone, A Monster Calls and the new Stephen King are all on my WishList. Sounds like I need to get into Cutting for Stone first!

  4. Emily, I agree about Cutting for Stone. I felt like it was the quality I'd get in a classic (generally speaking) and was constantly amazed while reading it. It really helped answer some of my internal questions about the state and style of current lit.

    Sam, I hope you do! I know that sometimes too hearty a recommendation can raise expectations too high though, so maybe I should just say 'eh, if you get around to it.' ;) (But seriously, I hope you love them.)

    Peppermint, I was afraid that Cutting for Stone would be a slow read, but I didn't find it that way at all. I do hope you enjoy!

  5. I just went over my goals and have completed some, while falling entirely short on others. You can do it! You are doing really well.
    I am glad to see that you liked the Stephen King novel so well. I have just read my first of his works and liked it so much more than I had expected. It is good to see Cutting for Stone here as well. I have had my eye on that for awhile. As for the others, I am not as familiar, but will be sure to look into them.


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