Friday, July 20, 2012

Midyear Reflection: Expanding Horizons


July is not shaping up to be much of a reading month for me. Summer conjures up images of long, blissful hours spent reading by the lake but, in reality, my favorite chair sits empty most of the time and I'm lucky to eke out a handful of uninterrupted reading days. Summers get so busy around here!

However, I have had some time to reflect upon this year's reading. The "Six by Six" meme I posted last week served as a good starting point, but it was Vasilly's recent review of The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna, set primarily in Sierra Leone, that really got me thinking. 

First, I've enjoyed my reading immensely this year and have read some really good books. It's also been a banner year for audiobooks. BUT, it has become glaringly (and somewhat painfully) clear that my reading has focused almost exclusively on authors from the US and UK, and the overwhelming majority of books have been set in the US and Europe. 

At the moment, I'm in the middle of two long books - Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (a group read) and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Both are set in England. I also have bookmarks in Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Americans in France) and Diving Belles by Lucy Wood (short stories, UK). These could very well keep me busy for the rest of the summer, but I'm feeling very narrow at the moment and need to expand my reading horizons.

Possibilities from my tbr pile:

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto 
After Dark by Haruki Murakami 
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Sons by Pearl S. Buck (should reread The Good Earth first)
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Have you ever been stuck in a reading rut? Any thoughts on these titles?

38 comments:

  1. Yes, I have felt like I've been in a reading rut and right now I'm in the process of stepping away from review books because it doesn't leave me time to explore other books!! I've read Umrigar and loved her writing! I actually have a few of these books on my shelves too!! Did you read Mistry's A Fine Balance?? One of my ultimate favorite books of all time!!!!!

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    1. Staci - Yes, A Fine Balance is one of my all-time favorites, too. I bought Family Matters shortly after reading it, so it's been on the shelf for quite some time.

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  2. I agree with Staci, A Fine Balance was just wonderful but I've never read anything else by Mistry. I also have Wild Swans on the TBR shelf. I put it on my list of 50 nonfiction titles blog post and I got a lot of positive comments about it, so I hope to read that one soon.

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    1. Karen K. - A Fine Balance is my only experience with Mistry, too. Everyone seems to love Wild Swans... it's been on my shelf for ages.

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  3. Both of Thrity's books are wonderful. June was not a great reading month for me, but July has much better.

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    1. Nise' - I'm leaning toward starting one of her books... and hoping August will be a better month for reading!

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  4. After Dark is really quite different and surreal. It might snap you out of a rut. I know his work does that to me.

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    1. Ti - I've never read Murakami (can you believe it?), but have a feeling After Dark may be just what I need.

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  5. Summers are always wacky, but this one has been particularly bad as far as reading. And blogging/writing/visiting. I am completely off-course! And I'm also a loser because I have not read ONE of those books. But based on my antennae, I'd say Umrigar, if only because I know you could be the one to nudge me to read the ones on my shelves.

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    1. Sandy - Well, you're certainly no loser! I'm definitely leaning toward reading Umrigar right now since I seem to be collecting her books...

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  6. Half of a Yellow Sun is one of my favorite novels of all time. It is sad and disturbing, but beautiful. I also have The Space Between Us. I haven't read it yet, but I have heard many terrific things about it.

    I hope you find more reading time soon. :)

    http://eclecticbooksandmovies.blogspot.com/

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    1. Stephanie - I bought Half of a Yellow Sun at the library book sale a year or two ago, and just know I'm going to love it. Tried (without success) to get my book club to read it, so will just have to do it on my own!

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  7. Oh, boy. What a list! I've not heard of Thrity Umrigar, so you have just expanded my reading list ; ) I love anything by Haruki Murakami; you cannot go wrong there (After Dark is one of his more surreal and disturbing books). I also adore Ms. Adichie. You could read Goodbye Tsugumi in an afternoon. The Bookseller of Kabul was so-so for me. And Wild Swans lies somewhere in my piles, recommended by my daughter. So.
    Does any of that help?

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    1. DS - LOL, your response just makes me wish I could read faster! Am feeling drawn to Thrity Umrigar at the moment even though I have never read her.

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  8. I have read quite a few from your list (Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
    The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry) and whilst I enjoyed them all I wasn't blown away by any of them. I'm not sure you should venture in these directions if you're short of time - most of them are very long and require a lot of concentration. I haven't read it, but I think the others are right: Umrigar looks like the right place to start on that list.

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    1. Jackie - There are some hefty books in that list, lol! Umrigar seems to be calling the loudest right now (maybe that's why I put her books first?), so I'll finish something this weekend and start on The Space Between Us.

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  9. I'm in a review-reading rut. As far as the books you've listed, the only one I've read is THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS and I'd really recommend it to you. I loved it!

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    1. Marie - Maybe it's just the time of year. I always seem to get into a reading rut/drought in midsummer. The Inheritance of Loss is a book I just know I'm going to love!

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  10. I'm glad my post had you thinking! :-) I haven't read anything on your list but I have read positive things about many of the books.

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    1. Vasilly - It really did! The Memory of Love sounds like a great book and I've never read anything set in Sierra Leone. That got me thinking about the settings (and lack of variation) of the books I've been reading this year. Then I started checking my shelves :-)

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  11. I haven't read any of those on your list, but I will keep them in mind as I look at widening my own reading horizons. After reading The Makioka Sisters, I've been looking into Japanese literature, so I added another of Tanizaki's books to my TBR stack.

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    1. Lisa May - The Makioka Sisters is a notable exception to my US/European reading this year. It was such a beautiful and enlightening book. I would like to read more Tanizaki, too!

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  12. I have a few of the titles on your list... looking forward to your thoughts on them. And how I admire you living by the lake. Just thinking, how nice that you don't need to go away for holidays... everyday is one. ;)

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    1. Arti - I finally enjoyed some time by the lake yesterday afternoon and read a few stories in Diving Belles and An Everlasting Meal (no renewals & due back at the library Tuesday). Hoping for at least an hour or two today, too!

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  13. The Inheritance of Loss is EXCELLENT! I read it years ago but still find myself thinking of it now. I also really like Thrity Urmigar (as you know from the reviews on my blog!)

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    1. Booksnyc - I actually remember your review of The Inheritance of Loss... it was right after I bought the book at a library sale. Sadly, it is still on my shelf unread. Just know I'm going to love it, too!

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  14. I loved Half of a Yellow Sun and The Inheritance of Loss. I've had great success with my reading this summer but can't seem to write a review!

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    1. Gavin - Both of those books really appeal to me. I'm glad to hear you are enjoying your summer reading. Don't think you need to stress over reviews, you're bound to feel like writing about what you're reading before too long.

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  15. I don't have first hand knowledge of most of the books you are considering, but I do have a feeling that they are all too "serious" for your current moode. Find yourself a page-turner. Something that doesn't make you think. Here are some that you may have read already, but it gives an idea of what I mean: Miss Buncle's Book, The Inn at Lake Devine, The Uncommon Reader, even Bridget Jones Diary if you can banish the image of Renee Zellweger from your brain. None of these may work for you, but you know what I mean. Don't go for something good, or excellent, or brilliant. Go for fun and delightful.

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    1. Oh, Thomas... you are the voice of reason! Fun and delight are exactly what's needed. I've been thinking of rereading The Uncommon Reader (if I could just get my copy back from my sister!) and I remember your post about The Inn at Lake Devine very well - I've wanted to read the book ever since. I'm off to take another look at my shelves. Thank you!

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  16. Oh! I have Half of a Yellw Sun and haven't read it yet. I think you should read that one! ;)

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  17. I loved After Dark by Murakami and it isn't very long, if that is a consideration.

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    1. Terri B - Length isn't really a consideration, but I though After Dark might be a good intro to Murakami. Maybe we should read Half of a Yellow Sun together after Clarissa ;-)

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    2. I'm up for a co-read of Half of a Yellow Sun ... though, as you say, AFTER Clarissa!

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  18. I sure would love to sit in that chair by the lake. I doubt I'd get any reading done, though. I'd be too busy gazing at the water.

    I haven't read any of the books you listed, but I loved Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance and have Family Matters on a shelf somewhere. I really should read it! And, I've heard great things about The Space Between Us (another book I own) and hope to get that read sometime this year, too. Oh! I did read Wild Swans years and years ago. I never finished, though. I think I stalled somewhere around the halfway mark.

    But I agree with Thomas. I think you should find something a bit lighter and easier to get interested in. These do sound a bit heavy.

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    1. Les - You and Thomas are so right! My mother has been in the hospital this week (she's home now), so I haven't read much of anything. I did visit the library book sale last night and have a whole new pile to choose from!

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  19. I'm hoping to get to one of those two Thrity titles by the end of the summer!

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    1. Stacybuckeye - I just know I'm going to love Umrigar's writing!

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