Tuesday, December 31, 2013

3/116 - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I can't believe I'm done.  This was one of those books that I was afraid would de-rail the whole project because it would be too boring or difficult and I'd get discouraged and seek shelter with Agatha Christie.  But I was, mercifully, wrong.  I tore through this book. I thought about it all the time, talked about it to relatives and friends who have never read and never intend to read it. During a period of very focused reading (like, several hours a day), I felt like all the characters were walking around with me, invisibly, a few get behind.

I think I get why people consider Tolstoy a genius. I'm not really into literary analysis, so I didn't see a lot of, like, symbolism and stuff like that. Granted, I didn't look for it.  But it didn't seem like the sort of book where symbolism and all that are vitally important to your understanding.  I read for pleasure and sometimes personal development, but I can't make myself read things that are boring, poorly written, or so obtuse that you have to have an English degree just to comprehend it.  Anna Karenina felt like an extremely complex Jane Austen novel, a really magnificent piece of psychological invention.  And, like a Jane Austen novel, it wasn't hard to understand or follow at all. The names were just longer. The only place I got even a bit muddled was during a politics session - but I have a suspicion that Tolstoy meant it to feel confusing because Levin couldn't make head or tail of it either.

It, more than almost any other book I have ever read, felt true.  The characters felt real, were just as confusing and interesting as real people.  Seeing into their minds was thrilling and odd.  Watching how things raveled and unraveled, watching people spiral into self-destruction or scrape their way into the light was fascinating.  And I've honestly never felt that way before.

I'm now EXTREMELY curious to see the recent movie adaptation Joe Wright made.  Besides the main casting - Anna, Karenin, Vronsky and Oblonsky - I have no idea who plays what. I know Olivia Williams is in there (I'm a big fan of hers) and I'm curious to see who she plays.  After reading it, I'm more and more convinced that Keira Knightley might have been extremely well cast.  We'll find out about that, I suppose.
I can completely see why Joe Wright chose to go the very stylized route with this.  I think it'd be too enormously overwhelming to do anything else, and you'd miss the opportunity to play with a lot of elements in a more overt way.

I miss carrying this book around my house.  Not because it was fun to show off my obviously fabulous taste in literature - I just miss holding it.  It was one of those books that just feels good to hold.  Solid, you know?

CONCLUSION: Well, yeah.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

books I have read at least three times (and probably more than that):

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (I've probably read this 15 times at least)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
  • All of the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis
  • Every Agatha Christie novel I own except The Big Four, Passenger to Frankfurt and the one set in ancient Egypt
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • The Witches by Roald Dahl
  • Dog Friday by Hilary McKay
  • State of Fear by Michael Crichton
  • Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare 
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg 
What does this list - which I intend to add to as I remember things - say about my taste?  I really don't know. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Taking Care of Terrific by Lois Lowry

Unexpectedly good.  the cover was hideous and didn't give you any sense of how biting - and reference-y it would be. I sincerely enjoyed it. A lot of good points made about perception and how we treat people based on it.  And the story made me tense! I really skimmed through one section because I was so nervous about what happened to the characters.

CONCLUSION: I'm designing a new cover for it in my head. I'll be keeping this one around.

The Monument by Gary Paulsen

Again, unexpectedly good.  Something about the look of these books made me thing they would be a lot less good than they were, even though I do like Lois Lowry and Gary Paulsen books in general.
This one definitely made me think guiltily of my drawing table and under-used sketchbook.

CONCLUSION: Quick and thoughtful.  Perfect for reading all in one sitting on a slightly wet day in front of a fire that you prod occasionally.  Which is what I did.

Monday, December 2, 2013

recent reads that I stole from my mom's book club stack because I had no time to go the library. (2.5)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor 
I was really jealous of the main girl's art capabilities and endless wealth because I was having a HORRIBLE time with my art stuff and felt particularly broke at the time.
I'm glad it didn't have a love triangle, because I'm tired of those.

CONCLUSION: I told mom she probably shouldn't bother with this one.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Another one I told mom she might not like, because she's not hugely into fantasy.  I'm really wondering who published first, because The Hunger Games came out on '08 and so did this.  And the main lady's name in this is KATSA. Which is suspiciously close to KANISS, is it not?  Especially when there is archery involved.
There were a lot of interesting elements in this book.  It's not something that's going to blow your mind, but it's interesting.

CONCLUSION: I was probably distracted by the Katsa/Katniss question.

ALSO! I re-read A Wrinkle in Time the other day, which was WAY better than either of these.  So.


I think I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 books.  More, if you count all the Caldecott Medal winners I got for Christmas.  But the cruddy phone photo you see before you represents a sad, 116 volume group:  the unread.

Granted, I've begun at least half of these books.  If you notice, anywhere a large break in the orientation of the organization takes place (for instance, the books suddenly go from vertical to stacked), all the books on the right are ones I trifled with at some point.
However, just because I've begun all those books doesn't mean I am somehow less pathetic.  That is far too many books to leave unfinished.

Also, this proves a point I often make when people exclaim over my books.  I always stammer something silly like, "the shelves are better read than I am!" because nearly all of the "classics" are on that left hand shelf.  I buy Tristram Shandy and D.H. Lawrence and stuff like that in bulk at used book sales because I know I ought to read them.  Then I just never do.

So! I'm considering making my goal next year to read ALL of these books.

It's not nearly as boneheaded as trying to read a book a day, but it's still a daunting task.  Even with some help before New Years, I'll have to read at least two books a week, which won't be anything easy when it's time to tackle Anna Karenina or that three inch volume of somebody or other's short works.
I gave myself permission to cram as many in before the first of the year as possible, so that ought to help. It also sounds exhausting, because I plan to read some Kurt Vonnegut (too many things in my life are telling me I need to) and more Orson Scott Card over the Christmas holiday as well.  My life is so hard. So much reading.

However, I think the idea is sound.  If nothing else I'll be better read, I guess.

Lots of books with the word "Shadow" in the title by Orson Scott Card (5)

I re-read Ender's Game before seeing the movie, and then went on the bender to end all benders of Ender.


Actually, it was more of a Bean binge, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Regardless of what anybody says, I will love and respect Orson Scott Card for many years to come.  Before this binge, I'd only read Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and listened to a couple of other books on tape (Tales of Alvin Maker and The Lost Gate), and I was not as wholeheartedly devoted as I am now.  I've realized that he has an amazing capacity to put serious, thoughtful ideas into a fun-to-read book without loosing any of the grace or punch.  I adored these books - not as much as Ender's Game, but nearly.

If I recall rightly, I read:

Ender in Exile
Ender's Shadow
Shadow Puppets
Shadow of the Hegemon 
and Shadow of the Giant

Which is a pretty respectable list, considering I did it all in about two weeks, while in school, and also with the obstacle of having to steal some of the books while other people were reading them to overcome.

Good work, Kelsey.