Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting Back to Filling in the Gaps in 2015

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things...

Which for me usually means books.

It's been years since I mentioned my "Filling in the Gaps" list, and for good reasons. One, I have knocked a few more off my list (including, but not limited to, Ender's Game and Tobacco Road).

Second, the list evolved into an interactive project with Carole regarding Weighty Reads. We chose 20 books to read in the ensuing years, with a few related books included along the way.

For those of you playing along at home, "Filling in the Gaps" is a list of 100 books the reader strives to finish in five years. I first posted my list in 2010. I have not finished all 100 books. 

My list has changed little since 2010, usually because I realized I already read it. A few others fell off the list because I didn't want to read them after all, while others have regained their seat at the table. For example, does Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance really deserve to be on the list after all? How about Love in the Time of Cholera? Three Men in a Boat?

So, without further ado, I give you
Fill in the Gaps, 2015
  1. 1001 Nights / Arabian Nights            
  2. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  3. Highsmoor, Peter Ackroyd
  4. Foundation, Isaac Asimov
  5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  6. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  7. √ Sundays With Vlad, Paul Bibeau
  8. √ The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
  9. The Early Fears, Robert Bloch
  10. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  11. A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  12. Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns
  13. √ The Land that Time Forgot, Edgar Rice  Burroughs
  14. √  Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. √  Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
  16. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
  17. O Pioneers!, Willa Cather
  18. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes
  19. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
  20. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  21. The Stories of John Cheever, John Cheever
  22. Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
  23. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  24. Moll Flanders, Daniel DeFoe
  25. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  26. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  27. Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens
  28. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
  29. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  30. The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas
  31. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
  32. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  33. So Big, Edna Ferber
  34. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  35. Where Angels Fear to Tread, E.M. Forster
  36. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  37. In the Woods, Tana French
  38. The Talented Mr. Ripley Patricia Highsmith
  39. √ Unbroken, Lauren Hildenbrand
  40. √ Goodbye, Mr. Chips, James Hilton
  41. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  42. The Bone People, Keri Hulme
  43. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  44. The  Lost Weekend, Charles R. Jackson
  45. √ The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
  46. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
  47. Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
  48. √ Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman
  49. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  50. √ Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Jean Kerr
  51. √  The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
  52. The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling
  53. The Man Who Would Be King, Rudyard Kipling
  54. A Separate Peace, John Knowles
  55. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John LeCarre
  56. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  57. Sliver, Ira Levin
  58. Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis
  59. The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis
  60. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  61. √ The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, H.P. Lovecraft
  62. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  63. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  64. The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
  65. √ Atonement, Ian McEwan
  66. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty
  67. Peyton Place, Grace Metalious
  68. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  69. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  70. Suite Française, Irene Nemirovsky
  71. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O'Toole
  72. The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  73. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  74. Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  75. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
  76. Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
  77. Remembrance of Things Past/In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust
  78. All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
  79. Home, Marylynne Robinson
  80. The Human Stain, Philip Roth
  81. The God of Small Things, Arundathi Roy
  82. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
  83. √ A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
  84. Prayers to Broken Stones, Dan Simmons
  85. Enemies, A Love Story, Isaac Bashevis Singer
  86. Angle of Repose, Wallace Steigner
  87. √ Dracula, Bram Stoker
  88. The Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Suzanne
  89. The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
  90. The Man Who Fell to Earth, Walter Tevis
  91. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
  92. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  93. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
  94. Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt
  95. All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
  96. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
  97. Night, Elie Weisel
  98. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
  99. The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
  100. The Inimitable Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse

I tried very hard to choose only one book per author, or maybe two. Charles Dickens was an exception with three, but that may change in the future. Narrowing Jane Austen to two was a challenge as well.

There is a dearth of non-fiction, and I may have to include A Brief History of Time. Stay tuned.

I tried to make my list as inclusive as possible. If you have suggestions, please share your ideas with me.

Do you have a Fill in the Gaps list? What's on it? If you haven't compiled such list yet, what would you put on it? Let me know!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Year in Review: My Reads of 2014

The year began with a bang but ended with a bit of a whimper, I am sorry to say. My total book consumption was a little shy of six dozen books, but I read only one novel in December: All the Light We Cannot See.

I started the year out favorably with one of my favorites of the year: The House of Silk, a Sherlock Holmes novel authorized by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is worthy: while still writing in the style of the original, Anthony Horowitz brings The House of Silk — and Holmes' usual suspect — gingerly, but strongly, into the modern-day mindset (review).

Horowitz's follow-up, Moriarty, hit the shelves right before Christmas, and it's on my list of January reads.

A favorite read from 2011, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (review) was followed up in 2014 by Hollow City. It also was wonderful, but it wasn't the end — which will please author Ransom Riggs' fans.

It was not the only series on my reading list in 2014. I consumed the entire All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, including re-reading Discovery of Witches (also from 2011). The series was far-reaching in time and geography,. It was very intriguing, and very worthy.

Another favorite read was One Summer: America, 1927. Who knew so much happened during a few months in a single year? Well, I suppose Bill Bryson, one of my favorite authors, who did not disappoint with this book (review). It's incredible, and a worthy read.

Another fascinating historical read was was American Decameron, a series of stories written by another favorite author, Mark Dunn (review). Based on the structure of  Giovanni Boccaccio's The Decameron, a classic short story collection (which I also read in 2014), Dunn wrote one story for every year of the 20th century, set in every state and a couple of geographical locations outside of the United States. Many of the stories have stayed with me, especially 1948.

If you think human culture and society is strict and complicated, try living life as a bee. Laline Paul showed readers that in another fabulous novel, The Bees. Told from the perspective of Flora 717, a bee in the hive, Paull shows us what life in the hive is like — and helps us understand their lives and plight. I cannot see the world the same way after seeing it through the eyes of Flora 717.

The Book of Unknown Americans took my breath away. The character-driven novel features people who live in a particular apartment building in Delaware. Latino residents had come to the United States for their own reasons, bringing their families for a better life, for safety, for opportunities. How many left prosperous lives, how many were far from everything they knew, how many sacrificed everything to be in a country not their own — at least, not yet. How do people adapt, how do they cope, how do they relate? Cristina Henriquez's characters take us places we never could have imagined.

My least favorite book of the year was Unbroken — not because Louie Zamperini's story is not compelling or interesting, but because Laura Hillenbrand's storytelling did not feel compelling or urgent. I felt the same way about Seabiscuit, another of the author's books.

What were your favorite books of 2014? Which did you like least? Did any disappoint you? Let me know!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Poetry Wednesday: What lips my lips have....

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, 
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain 
Under my head till morning; but the rain 
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh 
Upon the glass and listen for reply, 
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain 
For unremembered lads that not again 
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. 
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, 
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, 
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: 
I cannot say what loves have come and gone, 
I only know that summer sang in me 
A little while, that in me sings no more.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Poetry Wednesay: When the Year Grows Old

When the Year Grows Old


I cannot but remember
  When the year grows old—
  How she disliked the cold!
She used to watch the swallows
  Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
  With a little sharp sigh.
And often when the brown leaves
  Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
  Made a melancholy sound,
She had a look about her
  That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
  Sitting in a net!
Oh, beautiful at nightfall
  The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
  Rubbing to and fro!
But the roaring of the fire,
  And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
  Were beautiful to her!
I cannot but remember
  When the year grows old—
  How she disliked the cold!

- by Edna St. Vincent Millay
courtesy poets.org

Monday, December 29, 2014

Polar Book Club Selection: The Winter's Tale

Winter is the perfect time to bundle up, grab a cuppa and climb into a good book. Who's with me?

Let's form the Polar Book Club!

The 2015 Polar Book Club selection is Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin.

Here is a description from Helprin's website:

Set in New York at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Winter´s Tale unfolds with such great narrative force and beauty that a reader can feel that its world is more real than his own. Standing alone on the page before the book begins are the words, I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me. In that world, both winter and the city of New York (old and new) have the strength and character of protagonists, and the protagonists themselves move as if in a vivid dream. Though immensely complicated, the story is centered upon Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young heiress whom he encounters in robbing her house, and who eventually will die young and in his arms. His love for her, and a gift of grace, will allow him after the most extraordinary and painful explorations and discoveries to stop time and bring back the dead. To follow him, his predecessors, his inheritors, and his companions is to experience one of the great stories of American literature.

 The book is available in bookstores and libraries.

After we finish the book — let's aim for March 5, 2015 —  club members can join an e-mail conversation about the book.

This isn't a lit class, so how (and with whom) you participate is up to you. However, think about why you liked (or didn't like) the book, and consider telling other readers about it to spur discussion. No one is right or wrong. It's all about the book and reading.

E-mail me to join the Polar Book Club — and the ensuing conversation.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poetry for the Holidays: When Giving Is All We Have

When Giving Is All We Have

Alberto Ríos, 1952
                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.
— by Alberto Ríos
Courtesy poets.org

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Summer Clubbers Come Clean — Just in Time for Winter!

So, did you read a lot this summer? I know of a few readers who did, and it will earn them a book of their own!

One of the most enjoyable parts of the summer reading club is coming up with new books to read. I invited my buds to join the club for summer reading, and two readers took me up on it.

Both Karen and Stacy  tantalized me with their amazing reading lists. I think I found a few more tomes to add to my (growing) "to be read" list and was pleased to see an unexpected name among the authors. (Oh, there were more than a few favorites in there, too. I know how to pick them — friends and books.)

Karen read the following, for a total of 20 tomes:
  1. The Bone Chamber, Robin Burcell
  2. Misery, Stephen King
  3. Coming Home, Mariah Stewart
  4. Desperation, Stephen King
  5. Feels Like Family, Sherryl Woods
  6. The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Spear
  7. Escape from Andersonville, Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan
  8. The MacGregors-Alan Grant, Nora Roberts
  9. The Walking Dead:Rise of the Governor, Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
  10. The Hazards of Hunting a Duke, Julia London
  11. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  12. The Help, Kathryn Stockett 
  13. Stoker's Manuscript, Royce Prouty
  14. Sixth Sense, Ramona Stewart
  15. The Eye of the Tiger, Wilbur Smith
  16. True Believer, Nicholas Sparks
  17. The Trap, Tabitha King
  18. Soldier Dogs, Maria Goodavage
  19. Global Warning: Are we on the Brink of World War III? Tim Lahay and Ed Hindson
  20. Supervolcano:Eruption, Harry Turtledove

Stacy is "claiming a total of 40," which include:
  • Frozen, The Kraken King part 1, novellas by Meljean Brook
  • Magic Breaks by Illona Andrews
  • Warlord, Warprize, Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan
  • From the Dark Hunter series by Sherrlyn Kenyon: Fantasy Lover, Night Pleasures, Night Embrace, Dance with the Devil, Kiss of the Night, Night Play, Seize the Night, Sins of the Night, Unleash the Night, Devil May Cry, Upon the Midnight Clear, Acheron, One Silent Night, Bad Moon Rising, Time Untime and Styxx.
  • Once Burned by Jeanine Frost
  • Demon Bound by Meljean Brook
  • The King, Lover at Last, Lover Avhenged and Lover Reborn by JR Ward
  • The Winter King by CL Wilson
  • Body Guard by Jenifer Ashley
  • Archangel's Legion by Nalini Singh
  • Bound by the Vampire Queen by Joey W Hill
  • The Little Prince
  • Le Petit Prince
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
  • Macrieve by Kresley Cole
  • Thankful in Death, Concealed in Death and Festive in Death by JD Robb
  • Hiawatha by Longfellow 
Both readers will receive a copy of the book of their choice.

Speaking of books, who's in for a winter reading club? Let's choose a book to read it during the chilly winter months. (Just one because I know you're busy, and you'll have a few months to fit it in!)

Do you have any particular titles in mind? Do tell!