Monday, October 30, 2017

Nonfiction November, Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is here! This annual event is always a favorite. What's not to love about a whole month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction? Our hosts this year are:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Lory at Emerald City Book Review
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Julz at Julz Reads
Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness


2017 hasn't been the greatest year as far as reading is concerned... too many distractions, both personal and political. While my overall numbers are down, I've actually read more nonfiction. In fact, I read almost exclusively nonfiction in April, June, and August. As of today, nonfiction accounts for 40% of my reading this year.

What have I read about? Books about food and books about books appear most frequently on this year's list. Among other titles, I've read a couple of books with a feminist theme, several memoirs, a fascinating book about North Korea, a history of Bellevue, NYC's most famous (or infamous?) public hospital. Overall, an eclectic mix.

How do I consume nonfiction? Of course I read it, but I also love listening to nonfiction. It's even better to have both an audio and print copy. That way I never miss out on photographs, charts, or maps, and am also able to review passages or double check names and spelling. The read/listen combination allows me to listen in the car or on my morning walk, then pick up the book at home in the evening.


by Barbara Demick, narrated by Karen White
This is also title I have recommended most often throughout the year. Originally published in 2009, it provides a basic overview of life/culture in North Korea. A read/listen combination.

by Rebecca Mead, narrated by Kate Reading
 If you've read Middlemarch, you really owe it to yourself to read (or listen to) this book.

By Michael Ruhlman, narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
If you're at all interested in grocery stores and how they operate, this is the book for you. Click here for the link to my mini-review.

by David M. Oshinsky
What an interesting read... the combination of history and medicine gets me every time. Oshinsky's history of NYC's most famous public hospital begins before the Civil War and takes us through AIDS, Superstorm Sandy, and the ebola virus. That is a lot of history and a lot of medicine! It's almost unfathomable to contemplate an era before anesthesia and antiseptic procedures. This book was completely fascinating, but the amount of information presented is vast and, at times, dense. Alternating between the print and audio versions was helpful.

by Barry Estabrook
Ever wonder why those perfectly red, round tomatoes you see in the grocery store, especially during the winter months, have no taste? Or how about the tomatoes on your fast food burgers and subs? Chances are they were grown in Florida, picked green, and gas ripened. This book is an eye-opening look at the tomato industry, especially in Florida. Another read/listen combination for me, the audio is skillfully narrated by Pete Larkin.

by Pamela Paul
A wonderful book about books and life from the editor of The New York Times Book Review.

My hopes for Nonfiction November are simple... I want to hear about all the books! And read them before next year ;-)

Visit JulzReads for links to more My Year in Nonfiction posts.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Classics Club: My Second List

The Classics Club - List #2

With the first challenge complete, it's time to move on to round 2. The goal once again is to read 50 classics in 5 years... November 1, 2022?? The date seems unreal, but here we go.

I prefer reading from an evolving list, so there are more than 50 books here.

My Evolving List #2

Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale (reread)
Austen, Jane - Persuasion (reread)
Balzac, Honore - Cousin Bete
Beston, Henry - The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth - Lady Audley's Secret
Brittain, Vera - Testament of Youth
Bronte, Charlotte - Villette
Cather, Willa - A Lost Lady
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Cather, Willa - The Professor's House

Christie, Agatha - Murder On the Orient Express
Collins, Wilkie - No Name
Collins, Wilkie  - Jezebel's Daughter
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Dickens, Charles - David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)
Dumas, Alexandre - The Black Tulip
DuMaurier, Daphne - My Cousin Rachel
Faulkner, William - A Light in August
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - Tender is the Night (reread)

Fitzgerald, F.Scott  - The Beautiful and the Damned
Fontane, Theodor - Effi Briest
Forster, E.M. - Howards End (reread)
Galsworthy, John - The Forsyte Saga (reread first 3, finish series)
Gaskell, Elizabeth - Wives and Daughters
Gaskell, Elizabeth - Life of Charlotte Bronte
Gissing, George - The Odd Women
Hardy, Thomas  - The Return of the Native
Hemingway, Ernest - The Sun Also Rises
Ishiguro, Kazuo - The Remains of the Day

James, Henry - Portrit of a Lady (reread)
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon (reread)
Larsen, Nella - Quicksand
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain
Mann, Thomas - Buddenbrooks
Mitford, Nancy - The Pursuit of Love
Morrison, Toni - Sula
Oates, Joyce Carol - Them
Oliphant, Margaret  -  Miss Marjoribanks
Orwell, George - 1984

Powell, Anthony - A Dance to the Music of Time (first movement)
Pym, Barbara - A Few Green Leaves
Rølvaag, O. E. - Giants in the Earth
Stegner, Wallace - Crossing to Safety (reread)
Stegner, Wallace - The Spectator Bird
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath (reread)
Tan, Amy - The Joy Luck Club
Tanizaki, Junichiro - Naomi
Tanizaki, Junichiro - Some Prefer Nettles
Thirkell, Angela  - Wild Strawberries, Barsetshire #2

Trollope, Anthony - Phineas Redux (Palliser #4)
Trollope, Anthony - The Prime Minister (Palliser #5)
Trollope, Anthony - The Duke's Children (Palliser #6)
Trollope, Anthony - Rachel Ray
Trollope, Anthony - The Way We Live Now
Trollope, Anthony - Miss Mackenzie
Taylor, Elizabeth - A Game of Hide and Seek
Updike, John - Rabbit, Run
Welty, Eudora - Delta Wedding
Wharton, Edith - The Bunner Sisters

Whipple, Dorothy - The Priory
Woolf, Virginia - A Room of Ones Own
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Woolf, Virginia - Night and Day
Zola, Emile - The Fortune of the Rougons (Les Rougon-Macquart #1)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Classics Club - COMPLETE!

Five years, fifty books...

When I joined The Classics Club back in April of 2012, my goal was to read fifty classics in five years. On October 10, 2017 I turned the last page of The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope, classic #50.  That's actually closer to five and a half years, but what a wondrous journey it has been. Along the way I discovered new authors and favorite books, learned more about classic literature in general and, even more importantly, connected with an incredible community of like-minded readers. I joined read-alongs, hosted a year-long Clarissa project with Terri, participated in Classics Club Spins, and even visited a famous literary site or two.

My 50 books:

Austen, Jane -  Emma (12/15)
Austen, Jane - Sense and Sensibility (7/17)
Bly, Nellie - Ten Days in a Mad-House (11/16)
Bowen, Elizabeth - The Hotel (11/14)
Brontë, Anne - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (12/12)
Brontë Anne - Agnes Grey (10/16)
Brookner, Anita - Hotel du Lac (7/13)
Buck, Pearl S. - Imperial Woman (8/14)
Calvino, Italo - If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (11/13)
Capote, Truman  - Breakfast at Tiffany's (9/14)

Christie, Agatha - And Then There Were None (4/12)
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy (9/14)
Dreiser, Theodore  - Sister Carrie (1/15)
Eliot, George - Middlemarch (4/14)
Gaskell, Elizabeth - Cranford (6/16)
Gaskell, Elizabeth - North and South (8/12)
Greene, Graham - The End of the Affair (11/12)
Jackson, Shirley -  The Haunting of Hill House  (9/14)
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw (10/16)
James, Henry - Washington Square (1/13)

James, Henry - What Maisie Knew (3/16)
Hardy, Thomas - Far From the Madding Crowd (5/15)
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles (7/13)
Hemingway, Ernest - The Old Man and the Sea (9/12)
Markham, Beryl - West With the Night (5/16)
Maupassant, Guy de - The Horla (7/15)
Plath, Sylvia  - The Bell Jar (5/14)
Pym, Barbara - A Glass of Blessings (2/13)
Pym, Barbara - Some Tame Gazelle (5/13)
Sagan, Françoise  - Bonjour Tristesse (7/15)

Stewart, Mary - The Ivy Tree (9/13)
Strachey, Julia - Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (11/13)
Tanizaki, Junichiro - The Makioka Sisters (5/12)
Thackery, William Makepeace - Vanity Fair (3/13)
Thirkell, Angela - High Rising (4/13)
Thirkell, Angela - Christmas at High Rising (12/14)
Trollope, Anthony - The Warden (2/15)
Trollope, Anthony - Barchester Towers (3/15)
Trollope, Anthony - Doctor Thorne (5/15)
Trollope, Anthony - Framley Parsonage (7/15)

Trollope, Anthony - The Small House at Allington (10/15)
Trollope, Anthony - The Last Chronicle of Barset (11/15)
Trollope, Anthony - Can You Forgive Her? (3/17)
Trollope, Anthony - Phineas Finn (7/17)
Trollope, Anthony - The Eustace Diamonds (10/17)
Wharton, Edith - The Age of Innocence (9/13)
Whipple, Dorothy  - They Were Sisters (1/15)
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray (3/13)
Williams, John - Stoner (10/13)
Zola, Emile - Germinal (9/16)

Links to my reviews (and I use that term loosely!) may be found by clicking on the Classics Club tab under the header photo.

Overall Favorites//

  • The Barsetshire Chronicles (all six of them!) by Anthony Trollope - read with Audrey and a few other friends
  • Germinal by Emile Zola - a readalong with Care and Melissa
  • Stoner by John Williams
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser - for a Classics Club Spin
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy earned a spot on my list of favorite authors

An unexpected treasure//
The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

Most anticipated//
An American Tragedy... it had been on my shelf for 35 years

Biggest fail//
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson - an epic fail of a year-long project I co-hosted. Several brave souls actually made it through and they're listed in my wrap-up post.

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope - 890 pages

The Horla  by Guy de Maupassant - 79 pages

Most important lesson learned//
Classics are more fun with friends :)

A few observations//
 I fell for Trollope in a big way.
When it comes to reading the Russians, I tend to procrastinate.
I'm better at finishing classic series than contemporary series.
My original list of 50 became an evolving list, and that worked for me.
There are still SO many authors I want to try and SO many books I want to read.

Perhaps it's time to start a new list.
Stay tuned...


Monday, October 16, 2017

October 16: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, and it's great to be reading again! My reading slump is finally over... now let's see if I can resurrect the blog.

Finished last week//

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
This 800 page tome is the third of Trollope's six Palliser novels and the first novel I have read since August. As usual, I approached it as a read/listen combination. Reading Trollope is always a treat, and I posted briefly about the book here.

The Eustace Diamonds is also my 50th classic since joining The Classics Club, so I have achieved my 50 classics in 5 years goal.  Technically it's closer to five and a half years, but still quite a milestone.

This probably deserves a separate post and I will do that within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I need to decide whether to start on a new list... it's not like I'm going to stop reading classics ;-)

Current reading//

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

At last.  I enjoyed Rebecca  many years ago and have wanted to read more Du Maurier ever since. I'll see the new film version of My Cousin Rachel as soon as I'm finished. Very good so far.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Here's a book I felt compelled to purchase the day it was released, yet a year later am drawn to the audio version instead. Read by Nicholas Guy Smith, a new-to-me narrator, it is elegant, atmospheric, and seems perfectly suited to my mood. Towles earlier novel, Rules of Civility, was a favorite and he will be speaking at my Florida library in January. Fingers crossed I "win" seats in the ticket lottery!

 New to the TBR pile//

We visited our daughters earlier this month and no trip to NYC is complete without a visit to Book Culture, my new favorite indie bookstore. This time I selected two relatively short novels:

Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante - The four books in the Neapolitan series set me off on a mission to read Ferrante's entire backlist. Plus, I just love Europa Editions.

Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki -  The Makioka Sisters is one of my favorite Classics Club discoveries, but have I have never come across any of Tanizaki's other novels in a bookstore... until now. Very excited about this find.

On the blog//
The Sunday Salon: I Finally Finished a Novel!

Coming soon//

Nonfiction November, one of my favorite blogging events of the year, is just around the corner. Get all the details here, then go mark your calendar and start selecting your books!

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Sunday Salon: I Finally Finished a Novel!

It's mid-October, the leaves are changing, and I'm finally reading again!

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope is the first novel I've read since August and I loved every page! My reading slump is finally over. The 800 pages never dragged, and I was always happy to pick up my kindle or pop in my earbuds. Trollope's characters and multiple plot lines kept me thoroughly entertained, as always.

Three-sentence summary (from goodreads):
Following the death of her husband Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover Lord Fawn states that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie's truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate acts. 
The third of the Palliser novels, "The Eustace Diamonds bears all the hallmarks of his later works, blending dark cynicism with humour and a keen perception of human nature." Politics doesn't play as large a role here as in the first two books... which was a plus for me. I think this novel would work as a stand-alone and might also be a good, though somewhat long, introduction to Trollope.

Thank you, Audrey, for being my #PalliserParty reading companion once again... sorry to race ahead toward the end, but I just couldn't put this one down!

My rating:


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