Booking Through Thursday: Bedside

What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

I’m actually in the process of cleaning my room (I conquered my closet yesterday!), so the only thing next to my bed is my Nintendo DS and a Tortuga Twins DVD. The bookshelf that houses my personal library is perpendicular to my bed, so that has all my favorites- The Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, Middlesex, Wicked, Boneshaker… the list goes on. My library books stay on my desk, when it’s clean, so they don’t get lost between my books and the various colonies my father’s library has settled in the house.  Because of my father’s library, I try and keep all my books in my room. I actually just cleared off a shelf in my closet that I can use for books I need to keep but don’t consider part of the personal library (mostly gifts and yearbooks), so my personal library is going to get a lot more organized. Yay!

The Sunday Salon: The Canon

After I finished reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, I realized I had, for the first time in my life, read the entire novels of a particular author. It was a weird feeling–I’d never done that before.

Obviously, I’m leaving out the short stories of Eugenides, which, to my knowledge, haven’t been released in a collection yet. But a novel, naturally, is different– while a short story can be just as devastating and freakish (I just read “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, can you tell?), I feel like a novel is more of a complete work. A short story can give us a window into a world–a novel can show us all the facets of that world.

So, what does reading an author’s entire oeuvre of novels mean to a reader?

I think, like any art form, it allows you to see how the author has grown. Eugenides’ writing has definitely grown between The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex. The Virgin Suicides pales in comparison to Middlesex. It’s actually interesting to see what improves between the books–Eugenides’ handle on a character, his descriptions, and such. It also shows how an author works up to a certain level of comfort. The Virgin Suicides focuses on a reflection on the youth of a group of men who grew up during the 1970s–like Eugenides. While Middlesex doesn’t waste that experience, it’s much bigger in scale, covering a family from the fateful union that produced the gene that produced Cal’s hermaphroditism.

While I haven’t read all of Neil Gaiman’s novels, I feel the same thing is mostly true. Neverwhere focuses on London, somewhere Gaiman is no doubt familiar with. American Gods, however, covers much bigger ground- not only America, but the occasional far-flung side story. I think if I’d read everything by Gaiman, I could produce a lot more patterns, but I haven’t. Watching an author’s writing grow is immensely satisfying to me, as a reader. I tell people to read Neverwhere first so they’ll give it a fighting chance against the magnificence of American Gods.

I’m still chugging away at King Hereafter. That’s my reading life right now, but I’m so, so close to the end. The Fellowship of the Ring is begging me to read it, and I will answer its siren call very soon.

What authors have you read everything by, and how has their work evolved?

Review: The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides
by Jeffrey Eugenides

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I’m not fond of languorous character studies. You see, part of the reason I adore fantasy and sci-fi is the sheer abundance of wild plots and premises that range from the interesting to the epic. Plot, for me as a reader and as a writer, is king. For me, Jeffrey Eugenides’ novels are the perfect balance between plot and character. Middlesex, which I adored, was able to combine its fascinating plot with marvelous details and astonishing imagery. I only wish Eugenides wrote more novels, but I can see why he hasn’t–both of his novels, while they feel effortless, are obviously the result of a great deal of work. Eugenides is one of the few authors I would read solely for their writing style. I barely took notes while reading The Virgin Suicides. I was entranced.

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Booking Through Thursday: Weeding

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We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore?  SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

The thing is, I rarely purchase books. My entire personal library can fit easily onto one (admittedly tall) bookshelf. I always want to make sure that I’ll love a book before I buy it. I’ll buy novels by Jeffrey Eugenides and Neil Gaiman without a second thought, but if it’s something I’m not sure about, I rent it from the library or borrow it from a friend first. It has to earn its place on my shelf. That said, I’ve been buying more books lately. I have a bit more of a disposable income at the moment, but I’m also trying to support my favorite independent bookstore, Little Shop of Stories.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t tossed out some books. I bought Gregory Maguire’s A Lion Among Men because I wanted to learn more about the green baby girl introduced at the end of Son of a Witch. A Lion Among Men explored nothing of the kind, and while it furthered one plot line from Son of a Witch, it by means resolved it. I was most dissatisfied. When that happens, I use SwapTree, which is amazing. I’m fairly sure I got a Disney soundtrack in exchange for A Lion Among Men. Or, if it’s just not my cuppa and somebody I know will like it, I’ll toss it into my gift tub.

The reason for my reluctance to commit a book to my personal library is simple–my father does not throw away books. His side of the master bedroom in my childhood home is awash in books. The garage is full of shelves, each crammed to the point of bursting with books. The same goes for his office at home. Frankly, as my personal library still lives there, it cannot compete with the behemoth of my father’s library. There’s just no space.

I like having a small library. Now, when I get a place of my own and many, many bookshelves, I think I’ll prove to be my father’s daughter…

Teaser Tuesday: The Virgin Suicides

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Meanwhile, Mrs. Lisbon burst onto the porch, trailing Cecilia’s flannel nightgown, and let out a long wail that stopped time. Under the molting trees and above the blazing, overexposed grass those four figures paused in tableau: the two slaves offering the victim to the altar (lifting the stretcher onto the truck), the priestess brandishing the torch (waving the flannel nightgown), and the drugged virgin rising up on her elbows, with an otherworldly smile on her pale lips.

pg. 6 of The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Sunday Salon: The List

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This spring, I finally decided to put together a notebook of book recommendations and books I wanted to read. I drew up the initial recommendations from Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust and More Book Lust, and wrote them all down in a small, green notebook in blue pen. It doesn’t have an official name as of yet. For now, it is simply the List.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk when I suddenly thought, Is Temeraire on the List? I began to flip through the List frantically. (Temeraire, incidentally, was not on the List. It is now.) After that, I decided to supplement the official List with a spreadsheet, to make it easier to determine what exactly I’ve put on it.

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