Tag Archives: books

The Books I Read in 2013

This blog started with a post about the books I had read the previous year, so it only makes sense to re-start it with the books I read in 2013.

Last year, I read 39 books. This includes:

  • 10 YA titles (partly due to a class I took on young adult materials)
  • 6 graphic novels
  • 2 short story collections; and
  • 3 non-fiction titles

Of those 39, here are my top 3, in no particular order.

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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – A fascinating narrative structure weaves a tiny Italian town in the 1960’s with modern day Hollywood.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris – The new Sedaris did not disappoint (unlike the one previous, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, which left a lot to be desired).

Fifth Business by Roberston Davies – This was a re-read and it did not disappoint. A Canadian classic and rightfully so.

What were the best novels you read this year? 

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Books: My Favourites of 2012

Moving provinces and being in an intense Master’s program meant that 2012 was a bit slow on the book front. While in 2011 I read 42 books, I only managed to get through 30 in 2012, and that includes a few embarrassing pop. literature titles (50 Shades of Grey and Twilight anyone?).

However, there were still some gems among those 30 books. Here are the best books I read in 2012.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

hunger games triology

This trilogy (blogged about here, here, and here) is so compelling I could hardly put the books down. The first is my favourite, but the other two are definitely worth reading.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

bel canto

An unusual premise dealing with a group of dignitaries and government representatives held hostage, this novel is beautifully written and crafted. Looking forward to reading other work by this author.

True Grit by Charles Portis

true grit

Even though I saw the (Cohen brother’s) movie first, this book was still so much fun to read. The young protagonist is precocious and charming and stubborn, but incredibly likable and seeing the narrative through her eyes is at times exciting, hilarious, and sad. An absolute riot of a read.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

marriage plot

Jeffrey Eugenides can really do no wrong. I might have loved this book more than the average reader as it deals with an English student and her friends as they navigate post-secondary and graduate into the real world. A relatively straightforward premise, but Eugenides makes it a page-turner.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

sisters brothers

Another western, though written much more recently, this book won a heap of well-deserved awards. The story of two contract killers who are at once lovable, brutal, and sad. A fabulous protagonist whose intelligent mind is juxtaposed with the brutal acts of violence he commits.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

the sparrow by mary doria russell

This book was recommended to me and I had no idea it was science fiction until I took it out of the library. The story of a group of people, including half a dozen Jesuits, who travel to a distant planet after intercepting the sound of music coming from it, this books reads like the best literary fiction. An incredible interplay between science and religion, this book had me doubting my atheism.

Happy new year everyone! I’m going to try to be a better blogger in 2013.

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Currently

I feel like a good way to get back into this blog is for a currently post. So.

Reading: I did something I never do. I got 200 pages into a book and then abandoned it. Maybe A.S. Byatt’s Possession will speak to me at a later time in my life, but at present, it did not. Picked up a pile of holds at my local library today – J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Daniel Handler’s (aka Lemoney Snicket) novel Adverbs, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – and I’m looking forward to digging in.

Enjoying: The fabulous fall colours Eastern Canada has to offer. Cuddles with the cat. Ginger peach tea. Post-it note to-do lists. Leftover quiche. The fact that as of today, I am halfway done my library degree.

Watching: K and I finally got around to starting The Wire. We’re halfway through season 2, and while I’m enjoying it, I don’t yet see what the big deal is. Also enjoying Mindy Kaling’s new show The Mindy Project, and the new season of Project Runway (go Dimitri!).

Working On: A presentation on how social networks are used as a means of surveillance; putting together a storytime for 3-5 year olds!; a paper on assessing organizational performance for my management class; and developing a public library collection on vegetarianism.

What’s new with you, Internet?

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Where were we?

jumping for joy last night after my last ever cataloguing class
  • It is the last week of my first semester of library school. I have a paper due at 1:30 and another tomorrow morning, but then I am done! It’s been a pretty intense three and a half months and I’m so looking forward to the break.
  • Took a long weekend trip to Calgary for some family events which was lovely. That trip, along with this article, has me sort of falling back in love with that city.
  • I’m currently reading The Stand by Stephen King. I was looking for something easy and entertaining for the last few weeks of school and it fits the bill.
  • K and I have booked a trip to Winnipeg later this month. We’re flying in and then going to drive his car back, as we’ve found London to be not particularly accessible. There’s also a lot of exciting places to go within a few hours and a car would allow us to take advantage of that. (We’ve already bought tickets to see Jens Lekman in Toronto in October.) We’re driving back through the states, hitting up Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Detroit. Any must see, do, or eats in those cities?
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Books: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This book has been on my to-read list for years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. Bel Canto revolves around a party in an unnamed country (though most likely in Central or South America) where various dignitaries and government representatives from the host country and from around the world have been invited. The party is to celebrate the birthday of Japanese businessman, Katsumi Hosokawa, in the hopes he’ll build a factory in the country. Hosokawa isn’t much interested in building a factory; what got him to the party is the presence of his favourite opera singer, Roxane Coss, who has been specially hired for the evening.

On the first page of the novel, the party is overthrown by terrorists who wish to kidnap the President. However, the President is not there. Instead, the terrorists hold the party goers hostage and the plot follows their months of captivity. Despite language and socio-economic barriers, friendships flourish between the most unlikely of characters.

The strength of this novel really lies in Patchett’s ability to get inside her characters and the passion with which she writes. I’ve never been much interested in opera, but as Patchett describes it through her characters, my interest was piqued.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last 30 or so pages when Patchett gets a bit carried away in the relationships between two couples. I also felt that the ending was weak. However, I’m still so glad I read this novel. Halfway through the year, I can say that it’s been one of the most fulfilling books I’ve read in 2012.

Seven and a half kidnapped opera singers out of ten.

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Books: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The only thing I knew about this book before starting it is that it is a parody of the Gothic novel, a popular genre from the 18th century. Gothic novels were often set in “exotic” locales like Italy and featured brooding heros, castles, thunderstorms and climactic moments set on precipices.

So that’s what I was expecting of Northanger Abbey. However, the parody here lies more in the main character of Catherine, who, as a big reader of Gothic novels, imbues her world with sinister imaginings that never come to pass.

The first of Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey isn’t her best work. She doesn’t seem to know what to do with the characters or the narrative and so it wanders until hastily wrapping up in the last two pages. However, one can see Austen’s characteristic writing style blooming, and for that (and the fact that the book is quite short), it is worth reading.

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Currently….

cataloging exercise

Reading: Northanger Abbey (among a whole bunch of mostly boring library-related articles). In moments stolen away from school work, I’ve been enjoying unwinding with some Jane Austen. It’s taking me a long time to read it due to school, but I’m just happy to have any time at all for pleasure reading.

Watching: Very much enjoying the current season of Mad Men, Girls (still), and Top Chef Canada (go Trevor!). So looking forward to the return of Breaking Bad and True Blood.

Eating: Berries, berries, and more berries. I cannot get over how good (and cheap!) the blackberries are in Southern Ontario.

Working on: Five assignments that are all due in two weeks. I’m working on: a paper on the differences between AACR2 and RDA cataloguing; the evaluation of an abstract and the writing of a new one for a article on copyright and Canadian academic libraries; a literature review concerning non-resident use of public libraries; figuring out a topic to write for a paper that needs to deal with the development of ‘information’ and/or the ‘information society’; and a subject guide dealing with the slow food movement. Phew!

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My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

I picked up Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook My Father’s Daughter on a whim from the public library thinking it probably wouldn’t have anything I would make, but maybe there’d be some pretty food photography to oogle. I was surprised to find recipe after recipe that I wanted to, and would be able to make. Some of the recipes are a bit out of range for the (thrifty) home chef, calling for ingredients like an “organic large duck,” “dried wakame seaweed” or “cooked lobster meat,” but a lot of them are totally accessible for plebeians like me.

From the book, K and I have made her delicious cheese stuffed turkey burgers (OMG, so good), traditional deli coleslaw, and this morning, her buttermilk pancakes. Yum!

 

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A big move

the new apartment

I apologize for the lack of posting, but here is what happened since the end of April:

  • K and I drove from Winnipeg to London, Ontario in a Uhaul with Mr. Whisker in tow
  • we got settled into a new apartment and are finding new routines for our new lives in this new city
  • I started another degree, this one in library science
  • I finished Megan Mayhew Bergman’s book of short stories, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, which was enjoyable, but she has a tendency to write different versions of the same story over and over again
Life is good, if different.
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Books: The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes

I had this book on hold for months so I was thrilled when I got it with just enough time to read before the big move. Winner of the 2011 Booker Prize, The Sense of an Ending is about Tony Webster, a retiree who remembers his youth and the three friends he was close to. However, it seems that memory is not as reliable as he thought.

I really liked the beginning of this book where Tony reminisces about his youth and what happened, but less so when we get to the present and he spends most of his time ruminating on the past, the imperfections of memory and other philosophical questions. However, at 150 pages, that part was easy to get through. The ending was a bit puzzling and I’m not sure I quite got it, but overall I enjoyed the book, not enough to recommend it, but enough to be glad I read it.

I give it seven and a half English school boys out of ten.

 

 

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