Reading Report: January 2008

In my efforts to read the books I’ve already bought, I made modest progress. I read 9 books, and only acquired 3, as well as checking out two from the library. I only bought one, which was justified because (a) I had a $25 certificate to Amazon.com, and (b) I had decided going into my New Year’s Resolution that two books were exempt: Jeff Kinney’s next Wimpy Kid volume, and the final book in Anne Ursu’s Cronus Chronicles (due later this year). Incidentally, I’ve also exempted myself for anything I get for Guys Read purposes. I better mention that now so you all don’t think I’m making these rules up as I go along.

Here’s what I read:

  1. Maximum Ride, by James Patterson (for Guys Read)
  2. The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
  3. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
  4. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, by Jeff Kinney
  6. Socks, by Beverly Cleary
  7. It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Cheney Neville
  8. Whittington, by Alan Armstrong
  9. Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin (started)

The other reason I acquired books is because my brother gave me two by his latest favorite author, Cormac McCarthy. I think one or two others have also crept in from my wife’s pile, so while I read a whopping nine books, I’ve only shaved one or two from the stack of books I’m trying to get through: I counted 93 this time.

Of the nine I read, I would say the one that impacted me the most was Hosseini’s, though it’s closely matched by Satrapi’s. I would say both are must reads. In the old fashioned, but not obsolete, idealistic notion that literature can make us into smarter, gentler, wiser people, these are must reads.

The most fun was Kinney’s marvelous new Wimpy Kid book. It didn’t quite have me laughing myself to tears the way the first one did, but I still had a very enjoyable evening reading it. Kinney’s first book is slated for Guys Read in February, and I can’t wait to find out if kids the age (more or less) as his unpretentious hero like it as much as I did. If you’re going for a book that’s flat-out funny, you can’t go wrong with Wimpy Kid.

Water for Elephants deserves a mention, too. I’ve always loved elephants, and there’s a special role for the elephant in this historical circus story. There’s a single sentence in this book that made me laugh out loud and tear up at the same time, which is the most I can ask for any book.

It’s Like This, Cat was a book I enjoyed as a kid, which introduced me to the urban, cat-hoarding lifestyle I now enjoy. I don’t know if it was my favorite book as a kid, but it was definitely one of the ones that made me think, “this is how I want to live, in a city, with cats!” I enjoyed re-reading it. Whittington reminded me — surprisingly — of E.B. White. Coming from me, you know that’s high praise. Socks reminded me of… well, of good ol’ Beverly Cleary. Also high praise! I hadn’t read any of her books in 25-30 years, and keep thinking I should re-read more. Ralph and Ribsy are among my childhood heroes.

So far Winter’s Tale is amazing, but I’ve only just begun. I bought it at a used bookstore in Ely, Minnesota. My wife and I vacationed up there this late summer, and kept finding the one bookstore closed. When we finally found it open, I felt compelled to buy something. I chose this one for the randomest of reasons — because I’d recently read that it was the inspiration for the song The Whole of the Moon by The Waterboys. I love the song, and considered it the “theme song” of the book I was working on at the time. Winter’s Tale is a very thick, dense, book, so February’s post might just be a progress report on this remarkable tome.

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