Archive for the books Category

Another Book Meme

Posted in books on 28 April 08 by mikevc

So, here is another book-related meme I spotted on mamacita’s blog. Quick rules:

  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.

Not too exciting in my case, but away we go:

The book is Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, which I was inspired to start reading thanks to the last post. I bought Oblomov a year ago and never started it. So, it does have more than 123 pages. Here are the three sentences following the on page 123:

“The fascination of the Oblomovka atmoshphere, way of life, and habits extended to Verkyhlovo, which had also once belonged to the Oblomovs; except for Stolz’s house, everything there was imbued with the same primitive laziness, simplicity of customs, peace, and inertia. The child’s heart and mind had been filled with the scenes, pictures, and habits of that life long before he set his eyes on his first book. And who can tell when the development of a child’s intellect begins?”

Leave it to Russian Literature to take the fun out of a good meme.

As if there were any doubt…106 Books of Pretension

Posted in books on 28 April 08 by mikevc

So, I was reading Otrops blog and he has a bit on there about the “106 books of pretension,” compiled from the books most frequently marked unread by Library Thing users. He closes by tagging all readers to identify books they have read; books they have started and not finished; and those owned but unread.

Here are my stats: For the love of…I know it would be bad but…

I have read 68 (and really enjoyed most) and started and not finished 3 (I have read 3/4 of Don Quixote about ten times but never made it to the end).

And my list:

  • Books I have read are in bold
  • Books started and unfinished are in italics

And here’s the list:

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
  2. Anna Karenina
  3. Crime and Punishment (2 times)
  4. Catch-22
  5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. The Silmarillion
  8. Life of Pi – This overrated and frankly silly book was part of the reason I gave up reading fiction for several years. Maybe if I had finished it…
  9. The Name of the Rose
  10. Don Quixote (This is the book I cannot finish. I have read it a dozen times but never gotten through it.)
  11. Moby Dick (2 times)
  12. Ulysses (at least 3 times)
  13. Madame Bovary
  14. The Odyssey
  15. Pride and Prejudice
  16. Jane Eyre
  17. The Tale of Two Cities
  18. The Brothers Karamazov (4 times – I reread whenever I need to be reminded of great lit…oh, how pretentious)
  19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
  20. War and Peace
  21. Vanity Fair
  22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
  23. The Iliad
  24. Emma
  25. The Blind Assassin
  26. The Kite Runner – read it but think it overrated and sentimental
  27. Mrs. Dalloway
  28. Great Expectations
  29. American Gods
  30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  31. Atlas Shrugged
  32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
  33. Memoirs of a Geisha
  34. Middlesex
  35. Quicksilver
  36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
  37. The Canterbury tales
  38. The Historian : a novel
  39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  40. Love in the Time of Cholera
  41. Brave New world
  42. The Fountainhead
  43. Foucault’s Pendulum
  44. Middlemarch
  45. Frankenstein
  46. The Count of Monte Cristo
  47. Dracula
  48. A Clockwork Orange – read by accident; forgot books on a trip and this was in apartment we were staying in; surprisingly good
  49. Anansi Boys
  50. The Once and Future King
  51. The Grapes of Wrath (at least 4 times)
  52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
  53. 1984 (3 times)
  54. Angels & Demons
  55. The Inferno (in 3 different translations) – Please withhold comments until the end of the list
  56. The Satanic Verses – Perhaps the only Rushdie I have never read
  57. Sense and Sensibility
  58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  59. Mansfield Park
  60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  61. To the Lighthouse
  62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  63. Oliver Twist
  64. Gulliver’s Travels
  65. Les Misérables
  66. The Corrections
  67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  69. Dune
  70. The Prince
  71. The Sound and the Fury
  72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
  73. The God of Small Things
  74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
  75. Cryptonomicon
  76. Neverwhere
  77. A Confederacy of Dunces – Good God, Otrops!! Waste no more time and read it!
  78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
  79. Dubliners
  80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  81. Beloved
  82. Slaughterhouse-Five
  83. The Scarlet Letter
  84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  85. The Mists of Avalon
  86. Oryx and Crake : a novel
  87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
  88. Cloud Atlas
  89. The Confusion
  90. Lolita
  91. Persuasion
  92. Northanger Abbey (3 times – love it – hilarious)
  93. The Catcher in the Rye
  94. On the Road
  95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
  97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
  98. The Aeneid
  99. Watership Down
  100. Gravity’s Rainbow
  101. The Hobbit
  102. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
  103. White Teeth
  104. Treasure Island
  105. David Copperfield
  106. The Three Musketeers

So, consider yourself tagged as well. And ‘fess up to your reading pretension.

10 Newish Books I am Dying To Read

Posted in books, reading on 17 March 08 by mikevc

A long while ago, I used to do these types of lists on Amazon and some folks really liked them (or so I convinced myself). I have recently been inspired to do these again if for no other reason than to keep myself aware of what new books are coming out–something I absorbed easily when my job involved ordering books.



Now, the interesting thing is to check on GoodReads or facebook a few months from now and see if I actually get around to reading any of these.

Hey, It Works for Movies. Why not books?

Posted in books, rambling on 17 March 08 by mikevc

I had read articles a while back about trailers and commercials for books. My thought at the time was that it was a great idea. I had seen a commercial or two but they were brief and for popular authors like James Patterson. I think a well done commercial could really inspire interest in both readers and non-readers. So, all of this because a friend I haven’t heard from in a long time (a fellow librarian and literary fiction fanatic from way back) sent me the following trailer for Peter Carey’s new book, an author we went to see read together when we were at UT.

A few questions: Does this trailer pique your interest in Carey’s new book? Would a video teaser (shown on TV, at the movies, or via e-mail/facebook/etc.) for a book inspire you to read it? Does anyone know of any other trailers for quality books–nonfiction and/or fiction?

BTW, here are some of the articles I remember reading:

Seeking Readers via ‘Book Trailer”. San Francisco Chronicle. 9/18/2006.

Seen Any Good Books Lately. Newsweek. 5/22/2006

There were a bunch others from roughly the same period (mostly in library journals or blogs I think). Anyway, I find the idea fascinating.

Samantha Power: Committed Advocate for Human Rights vs. Hillary Clinton: Committed Advocate for…Hillary Clinton

Posted in books, politics on 8 March 08 by mikevc

As everyone knows, Samantha Power recently resigned from her role as foreign policy adviser to Obama after calling Hillary a “monster”. What folks may not (but definitely should) know is that Ms. Power is a very well respected expert on human rights and a Pulitzer Prize-winner who wrote one of the most important books of the past decade: A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.
While she did the noble thing (for the campaign) in resigning, I think–given her intellectual and academic background–it is worthwhile to look at her comment not as an attack but as an honest assessment (read non-political) of the Clinton campaign that slipped out in an unguarded moment. It just really upsets me that most folks will just read her name in passing and not probe deeper to discover the amazing humanitarian work she has done.

Ever since I read her book I have had tremendous respect for Power and how she fearlessly and passionately speaks her mind and argues for what is right. I think this comment, though admittedly ill-advised, speaks to that aspect of her character. It must be hard for someone who feels passionately about what is right to play the political game. Politics requires saying what people want to hear, which quite often is in conflict with what needs to be said. It was not a “personal attack”, it was instead an “off the record?” and honest assessment of a calculating politician who has placed her desire for a political office before all else–and, as Ms. Clinton herself and others have shown, honesty has very little place in a political campaign.

Though this may be a setback in her political career, I am sure Ms. Power will continue to fight and advocate for human rights and will continue to make the world a better place. It is a shame she has left the Obama team, the nation and the world could have used someone with her passion for basic human rights in a high cabinet position. The very fact that someone of her character was a part of the Obama team is just one more reason for me to support Obama.

Oh, and read her new book on Sergio Vierra de Mello . I have it on hold and can’t wait until the library gets it in.

Hundreds of Fancy Pigeon Breeds!?!? I Had No Idea

Posted in birds, books, rambling on 4 February 08 by mikevc

I am reading a quite entertaining and informative book: Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird. After finishing a chapter on the Grand Nationals, which is a competition for breedersbf03.jpg of fancy pigeons, I had to go online to see pictures of some of the bizarre breeds mentioned. I stumbled on a Wikipedia article (you gotta love good ol’ Wikipedia) on fancy breeds and find myself stunned by the number of breeds that exist and the lengths folks will go to in creating these unique breeds. The title of the chapter–“Drs. Frankenstein”–is quite apt. Ioriental-frill.jpg include here photos of two breeds: Jacobin (the aristocrats of the pigeon world apparently; I looked at numerous photos and can’t find the birds freaking heads in all of those reverse feathers) and the Oriental Frill, who has been bread to have such a small bill that the breeders have to assist them in breaking their eggs at birth and eating. Truly bizarre (and seemingly cruel). And these are only the tip of the iceberg.

Will the Kindle fulfill those decade-old eBook prophecies?

Posted in books, rambling, technology on 19 November 07 by mikevc

kindle.jpgWhen I first started in libraries about a decade ago, I remember hearing much about the death of the book. The book was supposedly going to go digital. While this has happened w/ research materials such as scholarly journals and some reference works, it has failed to occur with books, magazines, and other printed paper that we read daily. Part of the problem has been inferior and overpriced technology (remember the Rocket e-Book). And no matter how much I tried to pretend, reading on my PDA was never the same as reading from a book–although I did read my share of books on that sucker.

More recently, the folks over at Sony seemed to have a major breakthrough with their Reader and its paper-like eInk technology. The problem is that no matter how cool the devices become they will not be successful until someone realizes folks will never pay the same amount (or close to the same amount) for a digital book as they will for a physical one. We realize that it is much cheaper for a company to create a downloadable book that has no costs for materials, transportation, or stocking and until they pass that savings on to the consumer, I hope the consumer is not stupid enough to embrace eBooks. Witness the iPod and iTunes. It has been so successful not only because of the device but because Steve Jobs offered complete digital albums for $9.99, which was significantly cheaper than most CDs.

With Amazon’s heavy holiday press on the Kindle, which is undeniably cool with the wireless and all, they might be headed in the right direction. Though the thing is quite pricey ($399), I am sure it will come down in price. But, where I am convinced they are on the right track is what they are charging for books. As an example, say you wanted to read David Halberstam’s final book The Coldest Winter: American and the Cold War (and I do), you could but the print version from Amazon for $20.99 plus shipping; the Sony store eConnect sells their digital version for $20.76; the Amazon Kindle version is available for a mere $9.99 as is every other title I saw. Magazines and newspapers are equally cheap and it is all available to be downloaded wirelessly. I think Kindle (even with its’ Buck Rogers looks) is a step in the right (if still overly expensive) direction…finally.

As for me, this pricey technology does not factor into the budget of a librarian; I will observe this from the sidelines and continue checking out books until a wide array of eBooks for a reasonably-priced device are freely available from my local library–much as MP3 players have become the cost equivalent of a few CDs and free downloadable audiobooks services are currently proliferating at public libraries.

Do you ever…

Posted in books, rambling on 14 November 07 by mikevc

…sit down at the computer to do one thing and get so side-tracked with e-mail, blogs, etc. that you completely forget what it was you meant to do in the first place?

Oh yeah, check to see if Matthew Brzezinski is the son of Zbigniew.

For those who care, he is his nephew and the author of a great new book on Sputnik.

Woo-Hoo!! Here Come the Best Lists

Posted in books, rambling on 13 November 07 by mikevc

One of my favorite things at this time of the year is the proliferation of year end best lists. I like to compare my opinions with others and find suggestions. I am particularly fond of book lists. One of my favorites is Amazon’s Best Books of 2007, which was just released. In general, I think it is a quite good list. A quick perusal indicates I have read ten books on the list and would have read five more if I were not still waiting for holds to be filled at the library. Of the top ten, I have read four. My favorite of those of which I have read is Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis.

If you want to make it fun, I challenge any readers to guess which four books in the top ten I have read.

Music to Read By

Posted in books, music on 17 October 07 by mikevc

Today, I was given two free CDs by a colleague that they had gotten free and did not want. The first is Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack to Into the Wild. As I listened to it, it occured to me that–despite my being no Pearl Jam fan–he really does a good job of capturing the mood–of the book at least. The second is the soundtrack to Wes Andreson’s Darjeeling Limited, which as I listened to it I thought what a perfect companion it was for me as I wrapped up reading India After Gandhi.

So, these book-related soundtracks got me thinking of other book-music connections I have made in my recent listening and reading past: my soundtracks to my books–if you will. And, I though I would present a list of any of these where a clear association springs to mind. I will make no attempt to provide reasoning for the connections since in some cases there isn’t really a connection other than that was what I was listening to when I read a particular book. In other cases, there are clear connections. In no particular order:

  • BOOK: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson; MUSIC: O.C.M.S. by Old Crow Medicine Show
  • BOOK: Parting the Waters: America During the King Years by Taylor Branch; MUSIC: Southern Rock Opera by The Drive-By Truckers
  • BOOK: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird; MUSIC: Monkey on a Chain Gang by House of Freaks
  • BOOK: Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor; MUSIC: Delusions of Banjer by Bad Livers
  • BOOK: Dubliners by James Joyce; MUSIC: Translate Slowly by The Reivers
  • BOOK: Goodbye to a River by John Graves; MUSIC: GP/Greivous Angel by Graham Parsons
  • BOOK: The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (& Grapes of Wrath (but that’s cheating)); MUSIC: The Ghost of Tom Joad by Bruce Springsteen
  • BOOK: Rejuvenile by Christopher Noxon; MUSIC: Dial-A-Song by They Might Be Giants