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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Extreme Book Nerd

It may come as no surprise to some that I love me a good book, and attach a challenge to it, and I'm all over it.  I picked up this "Extreme Book Nerd Year-Long Reading Challenge" at my home library in Bear Lake last summer, and the race with the clock was on!  Whether you want it or not, here's my list of 50 with attending categories and comments, AND just because you did your chores without me nagging I have also separately featured my Top 17 or 5-Star Goodreads Ratings books:
  1. A book with more than 500 pages--The Chinese in America in America:  A Narrative History (Chang) I started out the year with this one--read it on a train as we tooled through Italy.  I found it fascinating, and it gave me perspective on the China experience in America of which I had only heretofore had a small ethnocentric glimpse.  Why oh why do we make suppositions?  This provided unlimited fodder for discussion in my Peking University classes as well.  They were mesmerized by the history of their own in far off America!
  2. A classic romance--Nothing Daunted (Wickenden) A few years ago I ripped an article out of a New Yorker to read at a later time, and lo and behold THIS was the entire book of the same story!  Two spinsters answer an ad to teach school in remote Colorado at the turn of the century!  My kind of gals!  Loved this book!!!
  3. A book that became a movie--The Accidental Tourist (Tyler) I cannot tell a lie.  I love Anne Tyler.  I think this was my favorite of the entire challenge.  Go get it.  Now.  I mean it.  See my review.
  4. A book published this year--My Name is Lucy Barton (Strout) I think I mistook this book for one that was supposed to have a surprise ending.  You can imagine my dismay when none came!  I finished this on a 10 hour flight last night and was disappointed--not just because it ended normally but because it never got off the ground for me.  All the family secrets lurked but never really came to light.  The mother was so shallowly portrayed, and the husband was just a ghost.  Nobody really stood out.  I will give it credit for fairly good dialogue.

  5. A book with numbers in the title--Fast Metabolism--Lose 20 Pounds in 4 Weeks (Promroy) Now if I told you I DID this...
  6. A book written by someone under 30--Opposite of Loneliness (Keegan) This was a Goodreads nonfiction winner last year.  I was haunted as I read it because I knew that this young talented essayist died in a car accident on the way to a graduation party at her grandmother's within days after she received her diploma from Yale.  She had nailed a job at The New Yorker.  Dang.
  7. A book with non-human characters--You Had Me At Woof:  How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness (Klam) I love memoirs, and I love dog books, and I apologize for neither.  I was on a run last year--read so many dog books, but this was my token one for 2016.  It's a goodun.
  8. A funny book--Sum:  40 Tales from the Afterlives (Eagleman) See my review.
  9. A book by a female author--Saint Anything (Dessen) I confess that I seem to have turned on YA lit.  It used to be my mainstay.  But then it started to drift over into Skankville, and I just gave up on it.  This author is so highly rated that I broke my own policy if just for a moment.  Was it jaw-dropping?  Nope.  Do I feel compelled to read more of this author?  Nope.  Would I have liked it as a teen?  Probably yes.  
  10. A mystery or thriller--A Short Stay in Hell (Peck) See my review.
  11. A book with a one-word title--Everything Everything (Yoon) Someone somewhere told me to read this.  I need to keep better track of how I come across books and who recommends them to me.  This was a teen love story about a girl who lives in a bubble because of a dramatic immune deficiency condition.  Not too memorable.
  12. A book of short stories--A Horse in My Garage (McManus) This author has made a silo of money writing what everyone seems to think is hilarious literature.  I slugged through it.  I guess my humor is tuned in a different key.  I don't begrudge him his fortune in mediocre humor, really.  I could be funny too if I put my mind to it.  At least a little.
  13. A book set in different country--The Road to Little Dribbling (Bryson) See my review.  I always do right by Mr. Bryson.
  14. A nonfiction book--Little Victories:  Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living (Gay) See my review.
  15. A popular author's first book--The Joy Luck Club (Tan) See my review.
  16. A book a friend recommended--Every Last One (Quindlan) See my review.
  17. A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet--Come Rain or Come Shine (Karon) Paco and I read each other ALL the Mitford books.  It was delightful. This wraps up Dooley and Lace's story, I think.  Maybe not!  Mitford is my go to happy place when life upchucks on me.
  18. A Pulitzer prize-winning book--One of Ours (Cather) This was a close tie for my favorite of the year.  Ms. Cather is truly one of the greats.  See my review.
  19. A book based on a true story--When Breath Becomes Air (Kalanithi) See my review.
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list--Raymie Nightengale (di Camillo) I guess I'm naiive to think that this author has another Edward Tulane in her, but a girl can hope, can't she?  I would not hesitate to recommend this to many of my young friends.  
  21. A book that scares you--The Stranger She Loved (Hogan) Remember that Mormon doctor guy whose wife died in the bathtub, and then they found out after a long time that he'd done it???  And so it goes.  This was my jet lag book I read through the dark of the night while the rest of the U.S. was sleeping.  Probably not a good choice.
  22. A book more than 75 years old--Anne of Avonlea (Montgomery) Lest you think I kick puppies, I don't.  But (she whispers) I didn't like this book.  
  23. A book choice based entirely on the cover--Belly Up (Gibbs) I was on this road trip from almost hell in the middle of a cold cold February in Gettysburg this year, and I met a 5th grade teacher in the pool with whom I immediately bonded.  He told me about all manner of books that his kids like, and this was among them.  It was a zoo mystery of sorts.  I confess that I am mystery deficient in my life, and it shows.  This was actually quite good.
  24. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't--The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne) Can we just all take a breath here and decide that it's OKAY to dis classics?  We won't die, our houses won't burn down, and humanities teachers won't haunt us.  Whew...that felt good.  So, what is the big fat hairy deal over this book??  Huh?
  25. A memoir--The Dirty Life:  On Farming, Food, and Love (Kimball) See my review.
  26. A book you can finish in a day--A Change is Coming (Sosa) We all need to be better and fast.
  27. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit--The Wonder (Donoghue) This is that new book by The Room author.  I snatched it right up.  Hmmmm...unique.  Family dynamics.  Think extreme eating disorder.  Ireland.
  28. A book that came out the year you were born--Brighty of the Grand Canyon (Henry) I fell head over for this little burro!  Do not be one bit surprised if there is a burro in my post China.  Not one bit!  See my review.
  29. First book in a series--Ana of California (Teran) Anne of Green Gables retold--this time in California.  A raven-haired Spanish American girl.  Is this even legal--to take a book and re-set it????
  30. A trilogy--Cole Family Trilogy (Gordon) OK.  The challenge challenged me to read a trilogy.  So I put that into amazon, and this one came up with high rave reviews.  It was very very very interesting BUT soooooooooooooooo long!  Like thousands and thousands and thousands (get a grip, Mad) of pages long.  The first two were excellent, but the the third was a little lame-ish, so it brought the rating down.  If you want to open your eyes to medieval surgery (and never really get a good night's sleep again), get this.  The Physician, Shaman, and Matters of Choice. Read the first two.  I gave them each 5 stars!!
  31. A book from your childhood--Homer Price (McCloskey) See my review.
  32. A book with a love triangle--We Are Unprepared (Reilly)  I hadn't really spent much time thinking about what would happen if the biggest storm in the history of mankind hit the U.S., but NOW I do, thank you very much!
  33. A book set in the future--Arabella of Mars (Levine) Disclaimer:  This book was actually set in the past.  Silly me thinking anyone living on Mars would probably mean the book was in the future.  I won't make that mistake again!  This was really quite a cool story with some space pirates and a spunky heroine.  It would make a smashing movie.
  34. A young adult novel--Code Name: Verity (Wein) We read this in our book club here in Beijing.  It took me a while to appreciate it, but eventually I did.  WWII, women pilots, espionage.
  35. A book with a color in the title--Rainbow Pie (Bageant) See my review.
  36. A book that will make you cry--The Book of a  Mormon (Miller) A dissociated Mormon reflects quite bitterly (and sometimes too honestly) on his mission in Sweden.  It saddened me.  He had such true moments of brilliance, but he just couldn't quite hold on to his faith.
  37. A book with magic--A Monster Calls  See my review.
  38. An audiotape--Collapse (Diamond) This was an interesting treatment of failed societies in world history and the surprising sometimes insignificant circumstances that contributed to their demise.  
  39. A book by an author you've never read--Sing Them Home (Kallos) This is a Welsh family saga set in Nebraska.  Now doesn't that just sound gooooooood?  It was only pretty good because I'm getting prudish in my old age.  I am not at all interested in your sex life--not even.
  40. A book you own but have never read--Planted (Mason) Excellente!  See my review.
  41. A book that takes place in Idaho or by an Idaho author--Small Town Ho (Diercks) Ho here is just short for Idaho.  I had high ho-pes for this book.  I've thought of writing something similar.  The reviews (I am starting to be very suspicious of reviews...sort of like I am about some Chinese antiquities) said it was hysterically funny.  Myeah...I did appreciate a chapter towards the end of the book where the author finally got to the meat of why people live in small towns.  Sandpoint is light years away from my small town tucked away in the opposite end of the state.  Now that one of my genetic extensions is a resident there, I'm sure we'll do our share of comparing and bashing.
  42. A book that was originally written in a different language--China in 10 Words (Hua) See my review.
  43. A book set during Christmas--Angel Tree (Benedis-Grab) I dearly love the friend who recommended this, but the book was m e d i o c r e to me.  A Christmas mystery that heats up and then ends in a yawn.
  44. A favorite re-read--Best of Happiness Project Blog (Rubin) See my review.
  45. A "classic" book--You Can Heal Your Life (Hay) I was sitting under a summer Idaho moon last year, and a friend told me this was the book she would take to a desert island.  It was written forever ago.  Not sure how I missed it, but I ran right out and read it.  Very enlightening.  Of all the books of 2016, I am going to reread this one. We are all broken and need to heal.
  46. A banned book--Are you there God?  It's Me, Margaret (Bloom) All little girls should read this.  It deals very matter-of-factly with something that most kids just titter about.  I know because I tittered.  Wish I'd had Judy Bloom to get me through a lot of that.  I was just a little early for her.
  47. A book you started but never finished--Journal of Best Practices (Finch) I am interested in Asperger's because I think I'm on the spectrum, and I know others who are.  We all need to talk about it.  The charm in this book was the gusto with which this father/husband decided he would CHANGE!!  Admirable.  We could so ALL do with some changing.  This guy's humor was contagious, and I found myself cheering for him AND his wife who took it all in stride and got a new improved husband to boot!!
  48. A book "everyone" but you has read--Bridgett Jone's Diary (Fielding) Why have I never read this?  I've seen the book in bookstores a hundred times.  I enjoyed it actually.  Bridgett has spunk, but sometimes she also had a mouth.  British tend to be even more nonchalant (if that's possible) about sex than us Yanks are, but fortunately that was minimal.  I have no desire to read the next one or even see the movie.
  49. A book written by a celebrity--Best. State. Ever (Barry) Dave Barry tickles me.  To be more precise, he often makes me cry painfully doubled over. with laughter.  One time that happened on an airplane.  I own all his books, I've read them multiple times, and I guess I'm a bona fide fan.  I think he's ridiculously clever.  This book had delightful chapters interspersed with some edgy ones.  I WILL, however, pick the book up again as a travel guide when I get to Florida the next time!  
  50. A book of your choice--David O. McKay and the Rise of Mormonism (Prince) See my review.

Sometimes our planets align. My reading of this book coincided perfectly with the 2016 presidential election. As I was reading this dramatically eloquent author's memoir of growing up in rural West Virginia as a part of America's white underclass, I was witnessing my country's election results. The book helped me understand what I was seeing firsthand, and the election gave credence to the author's personal story.  This book is dynamite!  I found myself marveling that the author whose language was so rich and descriptively vivid came from a "disadvantaged" childhood and not exactly an intellectually stimulating environment.  Just goes to show you...

My feelings about growing up and the part books played are so warm and wonderful.  I cherish them.  The hours and hours and hours spent propped up on my bed or lounging across my bed or hunkered down over the heating vent are pleasant and have helped define who I am.  You can imagine my delight to drop back into that as I read this book.  It ALL came back in rich abundance.  I confess that the writing is dated--perhaps that edges Homer out as a classic.  I'm sure others would disagree.  But the stories are just so charming.  Once the image of a donut producing machine run amok is placed in your head, it never truly leaves--even if 55 years come and go.

This guy can WRITE! His chapter on reading will resonate with bibliophiles. This book is a must for anyone seeking more pieces in the great China puzzle.  I wish I had hutzpah enough to read it in the original Chinese.  This should be handed out with Chinese visas.

Eery. I'm going to turn around and read it again. I wonder if this book is the account of the author's nightmare. He's a philosopher. I could register terror at this book if I allowed myself.  All those years at BYU never had this effect on me, but apparently this author's BYU habitat is sending him into deep thinking!  Think C.S. Lewis meets Alfred Hitchcock.  I LOVED this book!!

I used new brain cells reading this book. Highly creative, refreshingly cerebral, delightfully humorous. Fabulous read. Would make a remarkable philosophy 101 text!  I want to tuck this into everyone's Christmas stocking!  Then we'll read one a day and WeChat about it each morning before we start the day.  It was in my top 5 easily.

A heroic tale of one bright man's search for meaning in a senseless cancer. He quotes the great thinkers on the mysteries of man's mortality. I felt simultaneously vulnerable and deeply comforted by the author's honesty. Good insightful writing.  Reminded me yet again of the glories of the best in humanity.

This book appealed in a monstrous way to a very visceral part of me. I couldn't read it fast enough. This couple...oh my goodness. They are truly something. I want to meet them and shake their dirt-lined hands!  Now I am going to begin a full blown study of CSA--Community Supported Agriculture! READ THIS BOOK!!  Plant some stuff!!  Eat that stuff and plant some more!!  Sweat!!  Oh my.  Humans are incredible inventions.

All hail Bill Bryson!  I'm so pleased you were born!  This book got me sanely through a 14 hour flight. Now if it could have just helped me find my two bags which took a joy ride to Shanghai...I want to plot this book out and personally go to all of the high points. One of my heroes, Ken Jennings, makes a cameo appearance too when he sends Mr. Bryson a copy of his book, Maphead. Even though Bryson notes this and even inserts a quote, he misses the mark by not giving a nod to Jennings as the Jeopardy wunderkind. I am also keenly curious about the lawsuit in the U.S. the author was interrupted by. Hmmm....As always Bill Bryson is a rolicking cerebral adventure. I wonder what he would say about China. 

You owe it to yourself to find this book and read it.  You're a good person, you work hard, life knocks you around a little, but basically you're all right.  Take a break and read this.

This was enjoyable on so many levels. The author transitions adeptly between the multiple generations and back and forth between continents.  I have become a bit of a Chinophile and immersed myself in all things Chinese for the past 2 1/2 years.  Knowing history, visiting museums, reading student essays about grandparents who breathed during the Cultural Revolution and Japanese occupation have all left their indelible mark on me.  I see the world differently because I am seeing China through new eyes.  Amy Tan captures it masterfully.

As I was reading this book, I was reminded of reading somewhere that Atticus Finch was the most perfect character created in American fiction. I suppose that could be contested, but I found myself thinking, "Claud Wheeler is the most perfect character ever created." This story of redemption is almost without fault. Poetic. Real. I truly truly loved it. A well-deserved Pulitzer.  

I read this book several whiles ago, but as with any good writing the second time around was just as exhilarating. As with other reviewers, it is difficult to block the movie version out of your mind--not a bad thing--the movie is a treat. I think Anne Tyler is the master of quirky characters. They are believable, they are unforgettable, and they are perfectly content to worm their way inseparably into your heart. I read her books when I want to reaffirm my faith in humanity.  I recently discussed this book with a friend who came away with a completely different emotion from the book.  That fascinates me!  I found it filled with hope and optimism.  She not so.  Interesting.

I can't remember the last book or movie in which I put my face in my hands and sobbed. Now, THAT'S good writing that can elicit such a visceral response. Anna Quindlan is a master. I can almost picture her writing just flowing--in little or no need of editing.  I remember one time finishing a particularly useless book and thinking, "I'll just read a little Anna Quindlan to cleanse my pallet."  This story is dramatic.  Be prepared.  

A gem of a book. I can see putting this in a kid's hand at just the right time.  The need for books about loss will never diminish.

Seldom do you read a book that speaks so eloquently to a private place in your heart. You can imagine my delight when just a day after I finished it, I was sitting in a congregation and look up to see a man and wife who had been quoted extensively in this book sitting on the front row. Now THAT, my friends, is a textbook tender mercy.  I seized the opportunity to discuss this book with them  If only EVERY book afforded such a fitting conclusion.

Enjoyable. I think I'll go back and write down some of her categories to explore in my bullet journal.  If you haven't read The Happiness Project, go thou hither and do that!  This book is sort of a synthesis on the author's blog and the world's response to the first book.  Great reading.  

This was soooo interesting! I appreciated such a straight forward revelatory look into the inner workings of the general authorities of the L.D.S. Church over the time period of David O. McKay. My favorite chapters were the ones dealing with the priesthood issue, the rise of BYU, the conception
of correlation, the building of temples, the growth and transformation of proselyting, and the world views of Mormonism transformation. Reading President McKay's views on education, gospel scholarship, and excommunication philosophies was worth the reading.  Mind expanding and very enjoyable.

I surprised even myself at how quickly and intently I ate up this book. Falling in love with a burro? Yep. Thoroughly. I chose this randomly as a book to read that was published the year I was born. I consider that serendipity!  And when we return stateside, I'm going burro shopping!

The End

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley