Reading Log, September and October, 2007
I have been keeping track of my reading, and I don't want to let that fall by the wayside. It's interesting--and instructive--to look back over a whole year of reading, and see the balance (or lack thereof) of topics covered, authors canvassed, byways explored, new authors discovered, and old favorites revisited. Looking back over the whole year cannot happen, however, if you don't keep track as you go. (I have no idea what I read in January and February this year, for example, but I do know that I recorded it on the blog, and I can go check when I'm ready.) So, in the interest of trying to keep up, here are the books I read in September and October.
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger--I so enjoy a story that plays around with time--whether the story is told out of chronological order, or as a story within a story, or involving actual time travel or time manipulation--that I could not resist reading this, in spite of some less-than-positive reviews I read. The negative reviews were deserved--there is much in this book that is gratuitous--but the story itself was fascinating. Clare and Henry's love story is one of the most unusual I've ever read, and at one level I enjoyed the story as such. But the philosophy of fatalism is abhorrent to me, and so I never could fully enter into sympathy with the characters. I don't really think I could recommend this, and unless the author's next book included an irresistible (for me) hook like time travel, I would probably skip it.
What Came Before He Shot Her, by Elizabeth George--I've been reading the Peter Lyndley mysteries for years, and I'm sure I'll continue with the series, but EG sure does know how to break to your heart. This book, with choices and consequences always at the fore, was more to my liking than the Niffenegger book, in spite of the gritty London characters and tragic ending.
A Woman in Berlin, (Anonymous)--This non-fiction book, based on the diary and notes kept by a German woman in Berlin across the six weeks covering just before and after the Russians entering Berlin is amazing. It was published during her lifetime, but not well received, and she refused to allow it to be republished until after her death, which occurred not long ago. It's not a pretty tale--what war story ever is?--but is definitely an important addition to the literature connected with Nazi Germany, and WWII literature, as always, is a draw for me.
Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt--I read Angela's Ashes in 2005, I think, but not the sequel, 'Tis. Nevertheless, because of my general interest in educational philosophy, I picked this book up when I had the chance. It is more a series of anecdotes that conveys the author's struggle to find his niche in life than anything else. The author has a style of his own--one that won him the Nobel Prize for literature, so it is worthy of noting. I think the most interesting thing, for me, was the paradox of a man who spent much of his life in the classroom trying to convince his students that the things most worth learning couldn't be learned in a classroom.
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand--At last! I have had this on my want-to-read list since I read Atlas Shrugged seven or eight years ago. The characters in this earlier novel are not as well developed as people as the ones in Atlas Shrugged. The are much more obviously representative of types that Ayn Rand wants to compare with each other than living, breathing people. I probably agree with less than 10% of her philosophy, which ranks selfishness as the highest virtue, and pity or mercy as a vice, but I am so fascinated with any author who can express a philosophy in novel form that I admire Ayn Rand's writing without liking her message at all.
Villette, by Charlotte Bronte--I needed my regular "fix" of Victorian lit, so I listened to this one as an audio book from www.Librivox.org . I like those folks! I've never read the book--I had meant to reread Jane Eyre this year, but ended up doing this instead. Lucy Snow, the main character is one of those "unreliable narrators" who don't tell the story exactly straight. She leaves out quite a lot of information, and the ending is so ambiguous, I did a google search to see which way the story ended. Charlotte, how could you?
Bryson City Tales, by Walt Larimore--I think this would be classified as non-fiction--a series of stories about a young doctor's first year of medical practice in the Appalachian mountains. There was a lot of humor in some of the stories--making him drag the lake until he was exhausted by way of "initiation" onto the emergency services team sounds awful, but the way he tells it, it is funny. Likewise his first call to a home birth, where the patient turned out to be a cow, and quite a few other stories. There are more books on the subject, and I would happily read them if they come in my way.
That's only 7 books in two months, although a few of them were substantial. Conspicuously absent is Dawn to Decadence, which I fear will not get finished in 2007, and any book in Polish. But this is a record of what was, and not a lament for what might have been.