Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thoughts on THE IDIOT by Elif Batuman

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Penguin Press, 2017
423 pages

Motivation for reading:
This is a book I pulled off the library shelf nearly a year ago during my inaugural "book sampling hour." Sitting in a comfy chair at our pleasantly cool library on a spring afternoon, I read 15-20 pages of several books, including The Idiot. I ended up choosing another book, but continued to think about this one and knew I would come back to it eventually.

Opening lines:
I didn't know what email was until I got to college. I had heard of email and knew that in some sense I would "have" it. "You'll be so fancy," said my mother's sister, who's married to a computer scientist, "sending your e, mails." She emphasized the "e" and paused before "mail."
My thoughts:

The Idiot  is a coming-of-age story about the daughter of Turkish immigrants as she begins her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. It's a literary novel, cerebral and full of ideas... exactly what you might expect with a Harvard freshman protagonist.

It turned out to be an unusual reading experience for me. Far from a page-turner, this book required more than my average amount of concentration. I was not especially drawn to the main character, didn't fully understand her, and yet was curious to see how her year would unfold. Additionally, I was never in a hurry to get back to this novel, but was happy to continue whenever I did. 

This was a read/listen combination for me, listening on my walks and reading at home. The audiobook is read by the author. Her narration was adequate, though not memorable.

The Idiot is very well written and said to be autobiographical. It was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018. Batuman has written other books, both fiction and memoir, and is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

A sequel to The Idiot, entitled Either/Or, picks up as the main character enters her sophomore year. In a smart marketing move, a sample is included at the end of the paperback edition. After reading it, I think I'll tag along for another year at Harvard.

My rating:


Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Pre-Thanksgiving Sunday Salon

Hello, friends and welcome to a pre-Thanksgiving edition of The Sunday Salon. It really doesn't seem possible that we are here already, does it? Do you have big plans for the holiday or are you looking forward to a quieter weekend? Our house will begin filling up on Tuesday and reach maximum capacity by Wednesday night when both NYC daughters with husbands/fiancés, our grandpup Winnie the Whippet, and a guest pup, Miss Moonshine, AKA Moonie, will all be in residence. My SIL has (wisely) opted for a nearby hotel!

We are at home this weekend and resting up. Friday we went out to dinner in New Haven and to the combined Yale-Harvard Glee Club Concert. We did not attend "The Game" yesterday afternoon, but I did go to my fist post-pandemic library book sale. That was almost as good... plus I picked up five books!

Today we are having brunch with friends, then attending a pre-holiday wine tasting at a local wine shop. On the reading front, I finished three books, including two novellas.

Recent reading//

An enjoyable novella (short story?) to read in a single sitting, this little book contains sparse prose, an intriguing storyline with a gentle mystery, and even a bit of humor. I first learned about it from The Book Club Review  podcast, then Ann Patchett mentioned it in her “New to You” Friday Instagram videos. I was happy to find the ebook available through my library! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

I plan to write a review post about this litereary novel. I think that will help in sorting out my thoughts. In short, it's a coming-of-age story about the daughter of Turkish immigrants as she begins her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. It was nominated for the Pulitzer and Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. Look for a post in a week or so. 

We The Animals by Justin Torres
audiobook narrated by Frankie J. Alvarez

Justin Torres won the National Book Award last week for his new novel Blackouts. That was not available from any of my libraries, but his 2011 semi-autobiographical debut novel was. The audio was also available in the audible plus catalog. At under 130 pages, it qualifies for Novellas in November which I seem to be unofficially participating in.

This novel is beautifully written and quite sad. It's one I'll continue to think about about, and I have a feeling my rating will increase over time. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Current Reading//

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This was a 5-star read for me back in 2017 and now it's the December selection of the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I just started my reread yesterday and, so far, it is every bit as good as I remembered.

by  Kwame Alexander, narrated by the author

I learned about this memoir from author and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander through the MMD Summer Reading Guide. A month or so ago I picked it up as a daily deal from Audible. I started listening to it on my walk yesterday. Very good, so far.

On the blog//

The Week Ahead//
... will likely be a busy one. I'd like to wish all of you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Nonfiction November Week 3: Book Pairings

Nonfiction November continues this week with Book Pairings. Our host is Liz at Adventures in reading, running and working from home and this is the prompt:
This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. Maybe it’s a historical novel and the real history in a nonfiction version, or a memoir and a novel, or a fiction book you’ve read and you would like recommendations for background reading. You can be as creative as you like! You can feel free to use books you’ve read any time in this last year or whenever.

My book pairing this year deals with Climate Change... a topic that became a reality in my life on September 28, 2022 when Hurricane Ian devastated Sanibel Island, Florida.

by Jake Bittle

This nonfiction title was a 5-star read for me and will easily make my list of favorite books of 2023. My review is here.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Cli Fi seems to be a popular micro-genre at the moment, but I can't quite summon the courage to read this novel... yet. It is a nominee for the 2023 Goodreads Choice Award in the Science Fiction category and comes highly recommend by my friend Les. You can read her review here. I'm planning to read it next year, after a little more time has passed.

Last Week's Nonfiction November post:


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction


Nonfiction November is back and already underway! We're into Week 2 now, but I'm late to the party and this is the Week 1 prompt.  The host was Heather from Based on a True Story.


Overall, my nonfiction numbers are down this year. After hitting an all-time high of 42% nonfiction in 2019, it has been decreasing steadily. For the past several years, nonfiction has accounted for 30-35% of my reading. This year it has only been 22%. 

Preferred reading format//

I read nonfiction, of course, but I also love listening to it. Memoirs narrated by the author are the best! Having both an audiobook and a print copy is ideal. That way, I never miss out on photographs, maps, charts, or recipes. With a read/listen combination, I usually listen on my morning walks and read in the late afternoon or evening. Occasionally I'll even read and listen at the same time.

What I'm reading about this year//

I've read mostly memoirs this year, but also a couple of books about the Supreme Court and one on climate change. Noticeably absent this year are books about social justice, race relations, history, and biographies.

My Book List

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt: A Memoir by Duchess Goldblatt/ Anonymous
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (reread)

(listed in the order I read them)

Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic

by Jake Bittle

My goal for Nonfiction November//
This year, like every other year, my goal is to learn about interesting nonfiction titles I may have missed.

What are your nonfiction favorites of 2023?

Sunday, November 5, 2023

October Reading Wrap- Up and Plans for November

Hello from Connecticut, where fall colors are fading fast and leaves continue to fall from the trees. October ended on such a high note, and now November is here. Our daughter's wedding last weekend was positively magical! We should have photos to share soon... we're waiting on the official proofs and our phone photos have yet to be approved. This weekend we are recharging at home before the November flurry of activity begins.

Surprisingly, October turned out to be a great month on the reading front, too. I read a total of seven books (unusually high for me) two of which were very short audios.

Books Read in October//

⭐⭐⭐⭐  fiction in translation, read/listen combination

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash  
⭐⭐⭐💫  fiction/mystery, MMD book club 

Open Throat by Henry Hoke, narrated by Pete Cross
⭐⭐⭐⭐  fiction/fantasy, audio

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ debut fiction

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, narrated by the author
⭐⭐⭐💫  classic, YA fiction, audio

Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly
⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 literary fiction (pandemic novel)

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
⭐⭐⭐💫 fiction, MMD book club, read/listen combination

Favorite book read in October

November Reading Possibilities//

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt (novella, completed)
The Idiot by Elif Batuman ( current read/listen)
Somebody's Fool by Richard Russo
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (reread)

Also in November//

Today we're meeting family in Rhode Island for brunch, midweek we travel to central New York for my nephew's wedding, then it's back home to celebrate my husband's birthday. We're looking forward to a houseful of family to help him blow out the candles, and a slightly larger contingent over the extra-long Thanksgiving weekend. Our upstairs bathroom renovation is set to begin immediately afterwards. Fingers crossed it's finished well before Christmas, otherwise we're in big trouble! At this point it looks like we may not get back to Florida until early 2024...

How was your month? What was your favorite October read?


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