jfetting's 100 book challenge in 2021

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jfetting's 100 book challenge in 2021

Redigeret: dec 30, 2020, 5:27 pm

Hello again! Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...

My name is Jen and I'm a 40-something former scientist currently working in medical communications. I read a relatively broad variety of subject areas; favorite genres include literary fiction, the classics, spy novels, depressing Scandinavian police procedurals, and essays about food.

My reading goals for the year are as follows:
1) 100 books
2) 12 from the Reading Women's challenge (linked below). I'd like to say all 34, but I know myself better than that
3) As a counterpoint to that, 12 books from Harold Bloom's The Western Canon
4) 50 will be books sitting on my own bookshelves (owned as of 12/31/2020)
5) 12 from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list
6) 12 re-reads
7) 12 Shakespeare plays that I HAVEN'T read yet (re-reading Much Ado About Nothing does not count)

jan 1, 2021, 2:15 pm

Hi, Jen! A Happy New Year, and a year of good reading to you!

I really like your pairing of Goals 2 and 3, and especially Goal 7. Shakespeare for me is like Dickens: I keep reading the same 6 or 7 works over and over...

jan 2, 2021, 1:46 pm

Good health and good reads in 2021!

jan 2, 2021, 4:07 pm

Happy Reading!

jan 2, 2021, 7:33 pm

1. Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym **** (book off my shelf #1)

I like early Pym better than later Pym. The same types of characters and themes and settings, but early Pym is much funnier and more upbeat. I enjoyed this story of 2 middle-aged unmarried sisters and their ridiculous neighbors very much.

jan 2, 2021, 7:34 pm

Happy reading! Don't let those Scandinavians get you down.

jan 2, 2021, 7:58 pm


jan 5, 2021, 7:10 pm

2. An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England by Brock Clarke *.5 (book off my shelf #2)

What a great title! I can imagine several funny, clever, original novels with this title. Unfortunately for me, none of them actually comprise this book. It is supposed to be funny... but I'm afraid the humor went right over my head.

The novel is about a guy named Sam who accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson house when he was a teenager, which accidentally killed 2 people. He went to jail for a few years (?), rebuilds his life, and then it unravels. I feel like the book couldn't decide whether to be a serious family study or a quirky comedy and failed at both.

Still, what a title!

jan 11, 2021, 12:57 pm

A belated Happy New Year, and best wishes for a great 2021 for reading.

jan 14, 2021, 8:57 pm

3. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien ***** (reread #1)

I reread the trilogy every few years. Its a comfort read; reading something about clearly defined good and evil and honor is a comfort in these times.

jan 17, 2021, 8:58 am

>9 jfetting: I heartily agree with your assessment. That title drew me in immediately, but the book fell flat.

jan 23, 2021, 11:48 am

4. The Self-Care Solution by Jennifer Ashton ****

The author is apparently the MD who appears on GMA all the time. I don't watch it, so I don't know anything about her. This book is basically about a year she spent doing 1-month wellness challenges, and how she because happier, healthier, etc. It was a quick and easy read. I'm doing the same this year, which is why I was interested in the book (January = Dry January; February = meditation challenge, etc).

5. Summer by Ali Smith *****

And thus concludes her seasonal novels. These were hit-or-miss for me, and I'm still interested in seeing just how relevant these very of-the-moment novels are (COVID shows up). I liked this installment and its characters a lot.

6. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi ****

This was the big book to read this summer during the demonstrations after the police killing of George Floyd. There was almost no chance of getting one's hands on a copy then, either at the library or via bookstore. However, there was literally no wait at all last week when I was putting holds on books - apparently we no longer care about being antiracist? Surely, surely this summer's interest in the book wasnt... performative allyship. Sigh.

I found it slow going in parts but excellent in others, and I agree with the premise that "nonracist" is a useless concept that allows people to not actually work to counter racism. I also like his thesis that self-interest leads to racist power leads to racist policies leads to institutional racism, which is where the attention should be focused (do I like that idea because it neatly lifts the blame off of my own white, non-policymaking shoulders?) as opposed to just going around fighting individuals. Lots of food for thought here.

jan 28, 2021, 8:48 pm

7. Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami ***** (reading women challenge #1)

I'm using this book for challenge item #23 (nonfiction focused on social justice). There is no shortage of books about how differently US citizens are treated by the police/government/other US citizens/etc based on their race and ethnicity; I haven't read one before from the point of view of a Muslim woman and academic who became a US citizen in 2000. She discusses the way that US citizens who are Muslim are repeatedly asked to explain the acts of other Muslims, are not considered "full" citizens with "full" rights, etc. The experience of immigrants from majority Muslim nations is very different from that of my own father, who immigrated from Europe. The book is thought provoking, upsetting, and well worth reading.

Redigeret: feb 7, 2021, 7:50 pm

8. Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin ***** (reading women challenge #2)

This one fulfills the challenge item #4 (cookbook by a woman of color). Holy smokes this is good! It's part cookbook, part history book. She sprinkles in examples of old, old, old recipes with her actual recipes. While I often read cookbooks as if they were novels (I like the photos), this one is actually meant to be read that way, I think. I haven't cooked anything from it yet but I'll be trying the red beans and rice recipe this weekend and if it turns out well, I'll be adding this to my collection.

ETA: I made the red beans & rice and the honey-soy glazed chicken wings and the cornbread and the biscuits and will be purchasing this cookbook.

feb 2, 2021, 8:55 pm

9. Persuasion by Jane Austen ***** (reread #2, reading women challenge #3)

I'm counting this as the challenge item #7 (reread an old favorite). While P&P remains my favorite Austen novel, I think Persuasion may have just sneaked past Emma for the #2 spot. I'm going to have to reread Emma again to be sure, of course. Anne Elliot is not as flashy as Lizzie Bennett or Emma Woodhouse, but she grows on me with each reread. And that letter, of course, from Captain Wentworth towards the end of the book... I'm all twitterpated. Highly recommend!

10. The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare **** (Shakespeare #1)

Some of the comedies are very silly. This story of 2 identical twin brothers and their identical twin male servants, separated from babyhood, is one of those. Lots of mistaken identity. Hijinks occur. I'm becoming convinced that Shakespeare wrote every comedy/rom com plot in existence and there are no others.

feb 3, 2021, 10:59 am

>16 jfetting: I agree on Pride and Prejudice as my favorite, it's the only one I've reread though I enjoyed the others.

Now I'll have to do a reread of Austen to rank her books...

...or maybe I should just read my reviews?

feb 5, 2021, 8:04 pm

>17 fuzzi: Reread!

feb 5, 2021, 11:04 pm

>18 jfetting: perfect LT response!

feb 6, 2021, 9:59 am

>16 jfetting: I’ve read through Austen, but your post reminds me that Persuasion needs a reread. I don’t like it the first time, but it’s Austen, so I’m sure I’ve missed something, or several somethings.

And I have a terrible time with ACOE. I’m hoping that seeing a performance will help my understanding.

feb 7, 2021, 7:16 pm

>19 fuzzi: I am happy to enable reading choices!
>20 Matke: I think it is definitely one of the ones that would benefit immensely from being watched as opposed to read.

feb 7, 2021, 7:19 pm

11. Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope *** (book off my shelf #3)

This was apparently one of Trollope's earlier novels and I don't think he quite hit his snarky stride in it yet. Not terrible, but he wrote much, much better novels.

feb 7, 2021, 7:27 pm

12. Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil deGrasse Tyson ****

My goodness was this interesting and also terrifying. It is a very long history of the very very close relationship between physics and war, from telescopes and longitude to nuclear weapons to space warcraft. Back in my research scientist days, the PI received DoD funding for some of the work (we were making organoids). It's a complicated issue. On one hand, defense gets dumpsters full of money, and basic science really doesn't, so why not collaborate? On the other hand, academic scientists tend to be a fairly liberal bunch and not very war-mongery. Most would be horrified if their work led to new and exciting ways to kill people.

feb 14, 2021, 9:59 pm

#13 Rasselas by Samuel Johnson **** (1001 book #1, Western canon #1)

This was actually pretty enjoyable - about a prince of Abyssinia who lives in the Happy Valley where everything is "perfect" and also tedious. He and his sister and a couple servants sneak out and go look for true happiness. **Spoiler alert** They don't find it - this is as much a philosophy book as it is a fiction story - but they meet quite a few interesting people along the way. For an older book, it is refreshingly not super racist.

#14 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty ****

I don't like Westerns, but this one was excellent. Just compulsively readable; I finished all 900 pages in a week. I loved Newt and Captain Call and Deets and Gus and Po Campo and Clara. Its a tearjerker, though. **actual spoiler alert** If I had written this book, I would have called it "Everyone Dies" because for real, it seems like everyone dies. They even killed the pigs. Just horse death after horse death after child death after child death. Some of the subplots could have been dispensed with (July & Elvira, I'm looking at you).

Redigeret: feb 15, 2021, 7:36 am

>24 jfetting: good spoiler. I read this book just after the mini-series came out. I liked it, but have no interest in ever reading it again. When I am walking my dog outside at night I often recall the part where Blue Duck kills the little boy, his father's friend, and the homeless girl in the black, dark night...not sure if that was in the book or just the mini-series as it's been a while.

feb 16, 2021, 9:12 pm

>25 fuzzi: Yep, that is in the book, too. I can understand not wanting to read the book again; I probably will not either. I was considering reading the rest of the books but then I saw that in between this book and the next book Newt dies, and I love Newt so much that I'm angry at McMurty for not giving him an on-scene death.

feb 17, 2021, 7:14 am

>26 jfetting: thanks for the heads up about the character who dies "off screen". Although I loved the movies Alien and Aliens I never watched Aliens 3 due to a similar situation.

feb 28, 2021, 5:02 pm

#15 Faust: part 1 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ****

I read this because Faust, Part Two is part of Bloom's Western Canon, and I don't see the point in reading part 2 and not part 1. Before reading this, my experience with the Faust story was limited to Mann's Doctor Faustus and Gounod's opera. Faust Part 1 is basically the opera, with some changes. Faust is bored and disillusioned; he sells his soul to Mephistopheles (who is easily the best character in the book; the devil always has the best lines in fiction) in exchange for basically whatever he wants. Tragedy ensues.

#16 How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell ***

NOT a how-to book on how to separate oneself from social media and technology and the need to be busy all the time. I don't really know how to describe it, actually. It was disjointed, and I felt that the author tried to do too much. I wish she had explored bioregionalism in more detail, for instance. I'm interested in how the flora and fauna of discrete regions differ, and how this is changing with the climate crisis.

#17 The Duke and I by Julia Quinn ***

Like practically everyone else in the United States, I binge-watched Bridgerton on Netflix over winter break and loved it - fun, light, trashy. The book was ok. I actually think that Shonda Rhimes added several interesting plotlines and background to the show, which is one of the rare adaptations that is better than the source novel.

feb 28, 2021, 5:03 pm

#18 The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1001 book #2)

A good one! Very Catholic, but very good. It's the story of an affair, and its end, and its aftermath, before and through WWII.

mar 7, 2021, 2:28 pm

#19 Animal, Vegetable, Junk by Mark Bittman ****

I really like his cookbooks, but I haven't read much of his non-recipe-based writing. This is a good summary of the history of food since humans first separated from their most recent common ancestor. He points out ALL of the places were we have gone wrong starting with... the development of agriculture. This is a very political book; Bittman is justifiably upset at the current climate crisis and Big Ag's role in it. This is a very anti-capitalism book as well, and anti-colonizing, and anti-government, to an extent. AND, on top of all that, it is an incredibly depressing read. It is difficult to put this down and think anything besides "We're f***ed". I share a lot of his biases although I have to say that self-flagellation is not helpful. Yes, European colonization was terrible and has led to many of the problems my country and our world is facing today. However, we're here now, so what do we need to do to move forward and fix things? Bittman is less interested in that.

mar 12, 2021, 6:51 am

#20 The Searcher by Tana French ****

Not a Dublin Murder Squad mystery, but still wonderful. The main character is a retired police officer from Chicago who moves to a teeny tiny village in Ireland to start over after a divorce and leaving the police force. He is visited by a kid who talks him into finding out what happened to the kid's missing brother.

I am getting better at mysteries; I figured out whodunnit about halfway through. One line that French wrote really stuck with me. The ex-cop is reflecting on why he left the squad, and he thinks (paraphrasing here) "Everyone is mad right now. The black people are mad about being treated badly. The bad cops are mad about being called on their bullshit finally. The good cops are mad because they are now the bad guys" and for someone who doesn't live in Chicago, French understands my city quite well.


Redigeret: apr 6, 2021, 7:43 pm

#21 How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates ***

I wish I was as optimistic as one of the wealthiest men on the planet. He thinks that technology will save us all, even if the technology needed is vague. He is also vague about how to overcome the way that the climate crisis is so politicized, at least in the US. How on earth are we going to convince congress to help pay for R&D and implement limits for a topic this controversial? I'm obviously very strongly Team Climate Change is Humanity's Fault, and I don't see how anyone cannot be (see? see? very polarizing).

#22 The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis ***

I watched the Netflix series and loved it. It is better than the book.

#23 Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck by Thug Kitchen **** (book off my shelf #4)

This month's personal challenge is to eat a vegan diet (and BOY am I struggling with it). This vegan cookbook has been on my shelf for a couple years, so I read it through and have been cooking from it. The book's gimmick is a lot of cursing. Whatever. The recipes are pretty good; I've enjoyed the coconut lime rice with red beans (I used black) and mango, the peanut noodles with tempeh and sauteed kale, and the grain bowl and salad mix suggestions. I miss cheese and eggs and butter and real milk, though.

mar 21, 2021, 4:04 pm

>32 jfetting: Good on you for giving it a shot! Are you doing whole foods plant based? I found it was easier to transition using “crutch” foods. (Like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream made with coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. I didn’t feel deprived that way.) There’s truly a vegan version of everything nowadays. Anyway, good luck with your challenge!

mar 23, 2021, 4:26 pm

>33 LibraryLover23: I am trying to do whole foods as much as possible, but have used Beyond meat to make spaghetti sauce and am relying on Miyoko's vegan butter for toast. AND I saw that B&J just came out w/ plant-based Tonight Dough, which I'm going to try. You're right - there is a vegan version of almost everything! Moving forward, I'd like to eat mostly whole foods plant based with occasional eggs and dairy and animal protein. This challenge has me eating a lot more vegetables and grains, and trying ones and recipes that I normally wouldn't, which is fun and also good for the planet.

I wonder if part of the struggle I'm having is the idea that I can't have something, because I don't actually like meat all that much. Maybe if I can have it if I want to, I won't miss it as much? I am going to eat honey though.

I'm also finding it interesting how vegan food is either entirely unprocessed OR super processed and in a fancy section of the grocery store. Dairy is in EVERYTHING, even bread! So all sorts of supermarket breads and baked goods are a no, which on one hand is sad but on the other hand is much healthier. And if I want a cupcake the size of my head, this vegan diner/bakery a block away from me has absolutely delicious baked goods.

mar 28, 2021, 1:54 pm

>34 jfetting: You’re right, it’s not so much that you can’t have things, it’s more like if you choose not to have them all the time or with every meal, it becomes easier. And you are supremely lucky to be that close to a vegan restaurant! :)

mar 28, 2021, 3:45 pm

>35 LibraryLover23: oh, there are a bunch in my neighborhood! A couple of vegan diners, a vegan Jewish deli, a vegan noodle place, a vegan bahn mi restaurant. Most of the coffee shops have vegan donuts/empanadas/etc; all of the vegetarian food at the Ethiopian restaurant 0.5 miles away is vegan. So I am very lucky.

#24 Work Won't Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe ****

This is another one that sounded kinda like a self-help book but it turned out to be about unions. I liked it.

mar 28, 2021, 3:46 pm

#25 Book Lust by Nancy Pearl *****

Books about books is one of my favorite genres. Lots of suggestions here!

apr 6, 2021, 7:47 pm

#26 The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien **** (reread #3)

This middle book is not my favorite of the 3; Tolkien splits the two stories (Aragorn/Gandalf/Rohan/etc and Frodo/Sam) into the first and second half of the book, respectively.

apr 10, 2021, 6:04 pm

#27 Faust part 2 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe **** (Western Canon #2)

Well this bit is not in the opera! Faust and Mephistopheles conjure up Helen of Troy for an emperor, Faust falls in love, heads into the underworld, etc. This book is a giant crazy mess; Mephistopheles steals the show, as always.

#28 Gilead by Marilynne Robinson ***** (reread #4)

The fourth book in the series came out a few months ago and Oprah picked the series as her book club books recently, so of course I had to revisit. It has been a few years since I read this and its as wonderful as I remembered.

apr 25, 2021, 5:39 pm

#28 Home by Marilynne Robinson ***** (re-read #5)

I have memories of being disappointed by this after reading Gilead, but I also see that I rated it 5 stars so memories can be deceiving! Loved it again the second time around; the description of the Boughton family and how they love each other but can't always seem to understand each other was wonderful.

#29 Lila by Marilynne Robinson ***** (re-read #6)

Unlike Gilead and Home, which are set at roughly the same time, so we see the same events through different eyes, Lila is about the life of John Ames's wife before she comes to Gilead; also a bit of her life in Gilead and their strange courtship. In the first 2 books, Lila is seen as this quiet, kind, unknowable person, so her backstory was a bit of a surprise.

#30 The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien ***** (re-read #7)

Not much to say that hasn't already been said. Sometimes you want to read about the triumph of good over evil.

maj 23, 2021, 11:42 am

#31 Call for the Dead by John le Carre ****

The first George Smiley book! The writing style is a little different from his later books, and it wasn't quite as good, but still an enjoyable spy read.

#32 The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey **

This combination of mystery and genetic engineering should've been a hit with me but I didn't like it at all. I can't even say why I didn't like it because I read it several weeks ago and completely forgot what it was about until I looked at the book page.

#33 Jack by Marilynne Robinson **** (book off my shelf #5)

Not my favorite of the quartet, and I think that is because I find the character Jack really, really annoying. I don't like characters who are the black sheep who is "bad" for no real reason (well, alcoholism is one reason, I suppose, in this case). And the WHOLE BOOK is Jack. Della is too good for him.

I was hoping that at least part of it would cover his time in Gilead, because I really enjoyed how we saw the same events from different perspectives in Gilead and Home, but nope.

#34 Black Wave by Kim Ghattas ****

I don't know much about the Middle East at all. This was a really interesting summary of the events that occurred in Iran and Saudi Arabia, in particular (Syria and Pakistan also to a lesser extent) in 1979 that led to the rise to power of highly conservative and quite violent groups of extremists such as Khomeini. It was enlightening.

#35 Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey **** (book off my shelf #6)

This is the meandering memoir of the food writer/actress Jaffrey. I really enjoyed it and her stories of her privileged youth in India. It's funny how similar kids are the whole world over - the book's title comes from a scene early on where she describes how she and her cousins used to climb the mango trees at her grandparents' house and eat the sour, unripe mangos with salt and chili powder. My cousins and I used to climb the apple trees at my grandparents' farm and eat the sour, unripe apples with salt (delicious).

#36 Dark Matter by Blake Crouch ****

Ooh, this was a fun read about parallel universes and jumping between them.

jun 1, 2021, 4:29 pm

#37 Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende **

So you want to know the secret for how to live off the grid for a year, even if you are an academic/intellectual with no real skills? What you do is you move to an Amish-like community, mooch off of the residents, are super lazy and unreliable, move away after a year, and write a book. Cool cool cool.

#38 Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May **

If you want to winter as a verb and experience the power of "rest" (ie, quitting your job) and "retreat" (somehow still managing to fly to Iceland and north of the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights and then bitch about how they aren't as pretty as you expected because you do not understand that photographs are different than real life), you better have either 1) bank or 2) a rich spouse. The real power of rest and retreat in difficult times is money.

#39 The Death of Expertise by Thomas M. Nichols ***

Too many people consider themselves experts and are thus not sufficiently deferential to true experts like Thomas M. Nichols.

#40 The Midnight Library by Matt Haig ****

Another parallel universes book about the choices we make and the lives we do or do not lead. Quite entertaining.

#41 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and James G. Stavridis ****

Extremely entertaining military strategy thriller.

jun 10, 2021, 8:17 pm

#42 Weather by Jenny Offill **

I'm writing this review about a week after I finished the book and I have literally no memory of it besides that I did not like it but it wasn't written terribly. There are a million books called Weather on LibraryThing (I know because I had to scroll through all of them to find the right touchstone). Read one of those.

#43 Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory *** (book off my shelf #7)

So after reading a bunch of modern books without a plot recently, I decided to head back in time and read this book from the middle ages (modern translation, thank God!). Turns out it, too, largely lacks a plot, and is mostly a series of sentences about various men pushing each other off of horses. There were even box scores. But, overall, this was actually kind of entertaining; at no point was I wondering if it was over my head and I was missing the point. The beginning chapter and the last couple of chapters are the best parts.

#44 Big Green Purse by Diane Maceachern ***

Fairly dated but still full of useful ideas to use one's spending power to help the environment. The first rule is still "buy fewer things".

#45 Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng **** (Reading Women Challenge #4)

This fits the category "A Book With A Biracial Protagonist". The book starts by letting you know that the family's daughter Lydia is dead. The rest of the book is a character study of the family and the secrets they keep from each other and their struggles. You find out what happens to Lydia. It is a sad book but well worth reading.

jun 20, 2021, 7:29 am

>43 jfetting: I read Malory's book, probably abridged, in high school. Can't recall a thing...

jun 20, 2021, 5:02 pm

#46 Life and Death of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan *****

HOLY SMOKES this book is equal parts horrifying (what Homo sapiens did to the Great Lakes by opening up the St. Lawrence Seaway) and terrifying (what is coming to the Great Lakes due to climate change and invasive species). I had no idea that the lake 1 mile away from my little condo is literally carpeted in zebra and quagga mussels that are destroying native species. And the pollution. Jesus.

jun 20, 2021, 6:11 pm

Oh boy. I have this on my kindle to read and I'm not sure I can stomach it. We're going to Glen Arbor and the the UP this summer for a family vacation. Maybe I'll wait til after we go?

jun 22, 2021, 3:32 pm

>46 japaul22: Bring shoes/sandals you can wear in the water! Those shells are sharp, apparently.

jun 22, 2021, 3:36 pm

>47 jfetting: good tip, thanks!!

jun 22, 2021, 4:39 pm

#47 French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano **** (re-read #8)

Honestly, I just really love lifestyle books or essays written by wealthy women who lead lives I will never, ever be able to attain.

jun 23, 2021, 9:11 pm

#48 I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider *****

Yes, I will, actually, judge you by your bookshelf if you ever invite me into your house. I will head to it almost immediately and find out exactly who you are.

This is a book of comics about reading and writing and books and people who love reading and writing and books. Its absolutely wonderful, especially the Haruki Murakami bingo card one.

jun 24, 2021, 6:25 pm

#49 The Man Who Went Up In Smoke by Maj Sjowall **** (Reading Women Challenge #5)

This fulfills the extremely specific category 10: Crime Novel or Thriller in Translation. Obviously I'm going to try to find a Swedish police procedural that fits the bill, and I'm counting this one cowritten by Sjowall and her husband. It's great! Martin Beck, a mopey Swedish policeman who very clearly inspired Henning Mankell, gets sent to Budapest during the 1960s Cold War era to find a missing journalist. I'm going to have to finish this series, I think.

jun 24, 2021, 7:41 pm

>50 jfetting: This is the first ever comic I've added to my wishlist.

jun 25, 2021, 1:11 am

>50 jfetting:. Me too..

Redigeret: jun 27, 2021, 5:47 pm

#50 The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot *** (book off my shelf #8; Reading Women Challenge #6, 1001 book #3)

Fits Reading Women Challenge category #18: A Book With a Rural Setting. Oh goodness. So it has this incredible sentence in it that I shall reproduce almost in its entirety below:

“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it, if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass, the same hips and haws on the autumn hedgerows..."

Isn't that beautiful? Isn't it true (what are hips and haws, though)? Doesn't the love of a patch of nature as a child (in my case, the fields and woods and streams on my grandparents' farm in central Wisconsin) so often instill a love of this beautiful planet of ours? Don't we wish the whole book had been sentences like this and not the (here I go) honestly stupid and pointless struggles of Maggie and the rest of the Tullivers? The downfall of the Tullivers (sorry guys, spoiler alert) was inevitable and you can see it coming from almost page 1. I liked Maggie when she was a kid but she just grew up into the worst sort of nonsense Victorian character. For crying out loud, Maggie, COMMIT already. Do you want Philip? Have Philip. Do you want your brother to love you? Don't have Philip. Do you want independence? Go back to your job/ And once you have started making out with Stephen and running away with him, you have ALREADY hurt everyone you know. So why go back at that point? UGH

I am not in a very romantic mood at the moment, apparently. I wonder if i would have liked this better when I was feeling less grumpy and impatient.

ETA: it has come to my attention that this is also 1001 book #3. I probably could have lived without reading it

jul 15, 2021, 8:05 pm

#51 The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong **** (book off my shelf #9)

Sometimes, buying a book and then waiting 15 years to read it is a bad idea because the book becomes a little out of date. The history parts of this one, explaining how modernity and Enlightenment thought was perceived as a threat by different groups of Christians, Muslims, and Jews, who then invented fundamentalism to deal with the crisis, are very good. It's just that reading this 20 years after she wrote it, her guesses at how fundamentalism is back on the downswing are jarring, because that isn't how it all worked out. This book could use an update! Add a couple more chapters and go into the whole Arab spring movement and the way fundamental Christianity has just taken over the US Supreme Court and settlers in occupied territories in Israel.

I'm very interested in Armstrong's thesis that has popped up in a couple books by her that I have read now about how premodern thought divided ideas into "logos" (logic) and "mythos" (myth), but how since the Enlightenment we have lost mythos and judge everything by how it fits into logos, which doesn't leave a whole lot of room for religion but does leave a great big hole in the human psyche. I also find really interesting her theory that fundamentalism is a response to modern culture and that the very ideals so beloved by liberal believers and secularists are exactly what fundamentalists despise (liberal believers have a God of love, whereas fundamentalists have a God of vengence, for example), so there isn't much room for compromise, which unfortunately makes a lot of sense. Also, the fundamentalists basically want the rest of us dead, so that's a downer.

I just talked myself into giving this a 4th star. Its certainly worth a read.

jul 16, 2021, 2:30 pm

>55 jfetting: which fundamentalists want you dead? 🤔

I think she's way off on what liberal vs fundamental believers have for God, if she's referencing Christians. Or was that her blanket statement on all religions?

jul 17, 2021, 5:49 pm

>56 fuzzi: Her blanket statement on all religions (also blanket statement on the fundamentalists wanting us dead, exaggerated somewhat).

#52 Utopia by Thomas More ****

This was funnier than I expected, meaning that either More is funnier than I expected or the translator took more liberties than I expected. Still, this was not the anticipated slog. Personally, I would not want to live in this Utopia.

jul 18, 2021, 2:13 am

>57 jfetting:. It is a long time since I read Utopia - I was only about 16, and it was a very dry old Penguin Classics translation- but I remember the same feeling that I really wouldn’t want to live there. The idea of Utopia as the ideal world didn’t work for me.
I am glad I read it, though.

jul 18, 2021, 4:16 pm

>58 Eyejaybee: My favorite bit, besides the part where the desire to hold public office automatically disqualifies one from holding public office (agree wholeheartedly), was that before agreeing to get married, young men and young women were allowed to look at each other naked one time (properly chaperoned of course!) so that they could decide if this was the person they really wanted to marry.

jul 19, 2021, 5:59 am

>59 jfetting: I've owned a copy for many years but not read it. Sounds like I should!

jul 26, 2021, 6:30 pm

#53 Blake by Peter Ackroyd ****

I'm so sad for William Blake, being born so far ahead of his time. This biography was a fascinating look at the evolution of his art and his poetry, with lots and lots and lots of photos and color plates so that we can adequately admire his talent. I enjoy the way Ackroyd writes nonfiction, but I've not tried his fiction yet.

jul 27, 2021, 4:52 am

>61 jfetting: I read his mammoth biography of Dickens back in 2009. Exhaustive, and a bit exhausting, to be honest! I preferred Claire Tomalin's. I think I have a bit of an issue with his writing style at times.

jul 27, 2021, 5:26 pm

>62 john257hopper: You know, I've never read a biography of Dickens, and I'm wondering if I should. Ackroyd is certainly exhaustive!

jul 30, 2021, 2:38 pm

#54 Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr ****

This popped up as a suggestion on Amazon based on their almighty algorithm, likely because I enjoy mysteries and I just read the Malory book? Anyway, this is an incredibly entertaining murder mystery set at King Arthur's court. Queen Guenever throws a dinner party, invites a bunch of knights, one gets poisoned, she gets accused and will be burned alive if no one defends her and finds her innocent. No one at court wants to do this. Sir Lancelot is AWOL and so a bunch of knights go looking for him so that he will come back and fight and whatever.

The twist here is that the story is told from the POV of Sir Kay, who is King Arthur's foster brother and who like runs the castle and makes sure everyone gets fed. Instead of (or maybe in addition too but honestly he doesn't try too hard) looking for Sir L, who this version of Kay HATES and who comes across as a total douche, he teams up with Sir Mordred and tries to solve the mystery of Who Poisoned What's His Name, which leads him to also solve the mystery of Who Killed Gawain's Mom and Who Killed Gawain's Mom's Sidepiece.

Kay and Mordred in this book are super sarcastic and bitchy; the knights and the knightly behavior praised in Malory and centuries of these stories are shown to be conceited, ridiculous, hypocritical, etc., while the Bad Guys (and Women) like Mordred and Morgan le Fay et al are practical, useful, kinda sad, etc. It's also so funny. Laugh out loud funny.

The mystery is kinda not a mystery; anyone who has read TH White knows exactly what Mordred's deal is, and who killed Gawain's mom and her boyfriend, and who poisoned what's his name. Thats not the point; it's the journey, not the destination. And the journey is Kay's hilarious internal monologue and interactions with other people. I don't even know if this is in print anymore (its like a $1.99 kindle book though), but I would highly recommend. It wont be nearly as funny if you haven't slogged through Malory or thoroughly enjoyed White, though.

aug 5, 2021, 7:45 pm

#55 Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer ***** (Reading Women challenge #7)

This fits Reading Women challenge category 11: About the Natural World. It's absolutely wonderful and made me cry in several places. Wall Kimmerer is a plant biologist and academic, as well as a member of the Potawatomi nation. This book is a love letter to the planet and to the relationship that indigenous peoples in North America have with it. It is also a cry for help, begging people to care about the planet and what our culture of overconsumption is doing to it. A must read.

aug 5, 2021, 7:49 pm

#56 The Great Crash by John Kenneth Galbraith ****

This book has been on my to-read list since the Great Recession of '08. It's a very comprehensive, probably a little bit biased, unexpectedly funny account of the events that led up to the great stock market crash of 1929.

aug 9, 2021, 1:20 pm

#57 The Cellist by Daniel Silva *****

Every summer I eagerly await the latest installment in the Gabriel Allon series, every summer it is essentially the same as the previous books, every summer I eat it up and love every minute of it. This one includes A LOT of recent events (COVID, the attempted coup at the US Capitol on January 6), which feels a little weird.

Should you not know, Gabriel Allon is an Israeli assassin/spy turned art restorer turn back into an Israeli assassin/spy turned director the Israeli secret spy division. The bad guys here are the Russians. Gabriel has a private jet. He does end up restoring a piece of artwork. Chiara is mentioned in passing a couple of times; the only thing that makes me mad about these books is that Silva turned Chiara from fun Italian super spy/assassin into a boring stay at home mom. I'm considering putting together a spotify playlist of all the classical music pieces mentioned in the book.

#58 We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto by Alice Waters *****

So Alice Waters is very against fast food culture and overconsumption, as am I, so this is really just preaching to the choir. I enjoyed it.

aug 12, 2021, 12:25 pm

#59 World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain ***

Ok, so I love Parts Unknown and No Reservations, and I loved reading Kitchen Confidential, and I was sad in 2018 when I heard that Bourdain had died by suicide. So I was really looking forward to this book and irreverent style (it's even in the title). However, this wasn't actually very good. Turns out he had had a meeting with his coauthor about writing this book a couple months before he died, but they didn't get started, so he didn't actually write any of it. She ended up writing the whole thing. It's this weird mishmash of travel guide (airports, suggested hotel) followed by restaurants. All of this is based off of places he went while filming his shows, and the only text that is his text are quotes lifted directly from his TV shows or his previous writing. There are a lot of these. Couple random essays by other people who knew him.

I would have loved to read this book if he had actually survived to, you know, contribute to it. As is, it feels like they tried to capitalize off of his fame. Maybe it is actually 2.5 stars and not 3.

aug 14, 2021, 5:29 pm

#60 A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul ****

Like every book I read these days about nature, this one was fascinating and heartbreaking and infuriating. Migratory birds are amazing - the book has all these maps of the flight paths of different species at different times of year - and H. sapiens is once again pretty much ruining everything. There is a dramatic reduction in the numbers of migratory birds, largely because we are destroying their habitats. We are the worst.

#61 I'm A Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson (book off my shelf #10)

This was really funny and also kind of dated, which wasn't bad in this case. These started out as columns that he wrote for some publication in the UK after he moved back to the US after living for 20 years in the UK. They were supposed to point out/explain/etc differences between life in the US and life in the UK. It is funny at a distance of 20 years to see the differences between late '90s US and 2021 US.

What in the world are you British doing at your post offices, though? We buy stamps and mail letters/packages. Thats it. It sounds like you do more things? Lottery tickets and savings accounts? Is this true? I need one of these explaining British life to the US, and I'm pretty sure that is his book called Notes From A Small Island which I have not yet read.

aug 14, 2021, 5:37 pm

#62 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro **** (book off my shelf #11)

I love Ishiguro's writing; he's one of the very few authors whose books I preorder. This was tbh quite similar to Never Let Me Go in style and theme; maybe not quite as good, but I enjoyed it. It's about an Artificial Friend named Klara who goes to live with a child, but there is a lot more to it than just that. There are all these tantalizing hints of the ways that this alternative universe is different from our own, but it's Ishiguro so we never get to know much about them. The narrator is less unreliable than most of his, but still pretty unreliable. I can't even figure out where he set the story (like which continent, even). Maybe the US? Still, I read it in one sitting.

aug 26, 2021, 8:52 pm

#63 Outlander by Diana Gabaldon **** (reread #9)

The trashy historical romance novel against which I judge all trashy historical romance novels. Still good.

Redigeret: sep 2, 2021, 4:59 pm

#64 Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg * (1001 book #4)

My love for Scandinavian Crime Fiction is, I hope, well documented at this point just 2 months shy of my 15 year Thingaversary. I am an uncritical fan of the genre, and the darker the better as far as I am concerned. This book, however, is terrible. Absolutely terrible, poorly written, makes no sense, seems to serve solely as a vehicle to demonstrate how deeply the author researched Greenland and ice before writing it. It has some of the worst sex scenes I have ever read. Ever. Hoeg does not appear to have researched such things as, for example, how bodies work, although he does manage to fit terms like "urethra" into a sex scene (hott).

The story is told from the POV of a character that the author insists is female, although without her name and pronouns, I would not have guess that Smilla was supposed to be a woman. She comes across as more of a poorly programmed genderless AI, to be honest. My Zojirushi rice cooker has more of a personality. I was rooting for all of the characters who tried to kill her to succeed. I was disappointed.

I could easily have lived the rest of my present life and the entirety of several others without reading this book. I'm going to have to curl up with a nice, cheerful Wallander novel soon to make up for this garbage.

sep 2, 2021, 5:03 pm

>72 jfetting: Your review started my day with a laugh. Thank you.

sep 3, 2021, 5:39 am

>72 jfetting: One of the best reviews I've read for a long time in making me decide this is one I need never bother with! Thanks :)

sep 6, 2021, 4:15 pm

>72 jfetting:. I was amused to read your review, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

There was so much hype about that book, but I have never been able to understand why it was so fêted. I have tried to read it a couple of times, but never managed to persevere beyond about halfway, so I salute your resilience in managing to complete it.

sep 6, 2021, 7:34 pm

>74 john257hopper: No need to read this; in addition to its many flaws that I have listed in the above review, it is ALSO very long, so you have to wade through a lot of flaws

>75 Eyejaybee: I'm glad that I'm not the only one; when I dislike a book that is often praised, I generally wonder if I am missing something.

sep 6, 2021, 7:45 pm

#65 More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl *****

I enjoy reading books that are essentially lists of other books that someone thinks I should read.

#66 Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah ***

So I despised The Nightingale when it came out; only made it about 50 pages before I googled to see if I guessed the twist ending correctly (I did; I almost never do, which means that this one must have been almost offensively easy). When I saw this book in the Little Free Library outside, I grabbed it because 1) I did not recognize the author's name and 2) it was at least partially about the siege of Leningrad during WWII and that is an interesting topic. This book wasn't nearly as terrible as The Nightingale, but it also wasn't something that I'm ever going to think about or want to read again.

There are 2 sisters; 1 stays home and takes over the family business despite her own dreams (of course), the other is a free spirit who skips out at the earliest possible moment (of course). Their mom is beautiful and cold and unloving and mysterious (of course). After their father dies, everything falls apart (wow plot twist) and they have to come together as a family (blah blah blah) and they learn about their mom's mysterious past bit by bit and then go on an Alaskan cruise together where they meet a waitress at a Russian restaurant who turns out to be their long lost sister and the mother's long lost child AS ONE DOES. It's fine. I'm adding it to the stack of Little Free Library books that I'm saving to give to my own nice, normal, loving mother to read before putting it back in the LFL.

Redigeret: sep 7, 2021, 6:56 am

>76 jfetting: indeed. I already have way more books than I can read in the final few decades of my life (even if I were never to reread any old favourites!)

sep 13, 2021, 5:45 pm

#67 Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi **** (book off my shelf #12)

Late to this one, but I enjoyed it. It's meant to be a memoir of the author's literature classes and her life in Iran during the revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, and the following years, but because she is an academic she cannot stop herself from adding literary criticism about the books around which she organizes her memoir (Lolita, The Great Gatsby, the works of Jane Austen, and others that I am forgetting). I found it a bit disjointed but interesting.

sep 14, 2021, 5:30 pm

#68 The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprinte by Paul Greenberg ****

All common sense, nothing new here, refreshing emphasis on voting and activism in addition to the standard "eat less meat".

#69 The Day the World Stops Shopping by J.B. MacKinnon *****

Loved this one! An interesting thought experiment that looks at the impact of a 25% reduction in consumption on both the environment (good!) and the economy (oh shit!).

sep 19, 2021, 11:48 am

#70 Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani *****

Honestly, one of my favorite genres is "books about books that enthusiastic readers are enthusiastic about", and this one from the former NY Times book critic is great. It's fun to agree with her, or strongly disagree with her, or add new books to my TBR. This is also just a wonderful book to have in ones hand - the pages feel fantastic.

sep 26, 2021, 5:10 pm

#71 The Overworked American by Juliet B. Schor ****

This is pretty dated, written back in the early 1990s when life and work were very different. Quite a bit is still relevant and interesting though. Schor compares the workday/year for medieval peasants, factory workers in the industrial revolution, workers after the labor wins of the mid-20th century, and workers at the end of the 20th century. Shocking to me, medieval peasants had it better than the industrial revolution workers, and the "modern" worker (scare quotes because 30 years ago) is increasingly working longer hours for less pay.

Schor's big thing, through the decades, has been that people in general tend to spend way too much money on stuff, thereby ruining the environment and forcing themselves to work really really hard to pay for all the crap. She would like us to have more free time and leisure time and less stupid stuff cluttering up our houses.

#72 After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy Got Hijacked and How to Win It Back by Juliet B. Schor *****

Much more modern (from 2018 or 2019 I think) and FASCINATING look at the sharing economy and its idealistic beginnings and how Uber and Airbnb and Lyft but mostly Uber have ruined it. One interesting point from this one is that while we hear a lot about how working for services like Uber or Postmates or Taskrabbit is the worst, the experience of the gig workers varies greatly based on whether they need this income to survive (bad experiences), or if they are using it as a second job to fund play money (good experiences).

It's probably a little dated already too because of how quickly these companies come and go; also, it'd be so interesting to see how COVID affected the gig economy. I personally didnt use Uber or Lyft or Airbnb (but I almost never use that, I hate it, I prefer hotels where someone else cleans up after me) at all for much of 2020, but my use of delivery apps skyrocketed.

#73 Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi *****

Ok, so this was not the easiest cookbook to cook from because I dont have access to a lot of these ingredients and/or was not interested in eating that much butter sometimes. But those I did make (black pepper tofu, cabbage and kohlrabi salad, etc) were delicious.

okt 11, 2021, 10:34 pm

#74 Martita, I Remember You by Sandra Cisneros ****

A nostalgic little novella about being young and broke and a writer and in Paris. Sometimes I wish I had been young and broke and a writer in Paris instead of being young and broke and a graduate student in St. Louis.

#75 A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore ****

This book is a fresh installment of one of this year's accidental reading themes, "This Was Not The Book I Thought I Was Going To Read". I expected it to be one of those pop history books about things that were inexpensive over time and how that changed the world. Instead, it is a book about how capitalism has ruined absolutely everything. I'm sympathetic, but not convinced.

#76 Henry VI part 1 by William Shakespeare *** (Shakespeare #2)

So I'm slacking on my Shakespeare challenge this year and I blame this largely on the fact that I decided, after the first one I read this year (The Comedy of Errors), that I was going to change my approach and start with the play at the beginning of my giant Complete Works book. Readers, those are the history plays, starting with this. This one is about a bunch of cranky angry English dukes who are wielding all the power because Henry VI is apparently a child? They bicker and sabotage each other while they are trying to attack and/or keep various parts of France. Joan of Arc is in it but she doesn't come across very well and actually conjures up some demons at one point. I'm rooting for the Duke of York; Somerset seems like a jerk.

Did you know there are 2 more of these? There are! Stay tuned for further scintillating reviews and shameful displays of my lack of knowledge of English history.

Also, I just saw the Verdi opera Macbeth and I am going to be rereading that and counting it towards this challenge. I had forgotten how quickly the killing began. UNLIKE in Henry VI, which is mostly talking.

#77 How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith *****

An interesting look at the history of chattel slavery in the US through Smith's visits to a number of places (Monticello, Whitney plantation, NYC, a confederate cemetery) that are influenced by slavery. Lots of food for thought here.

#78 The Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff ****

Continuing with another of this year's accidental themes "Arthurian Legend Books That Nancy Pearl Recommends" is this super heartbreaking book set in the actual Dark Ages about an alleged "historical Arthur" (IDK, he's obviously totally imaginary, but see book #76 re: my knowledge of English history) trying to save Britain from the Saxons. Everyone has different names, there is no shining armor, everyone is dirty, there is a lot more about horses and battles than I normally care to read. The ending made me cry, which is why it gets 4 stars.

#79 The Body Artist by Don DeLillo * (1001 book #5)

What the hell did I just read?

Redigeret: okt 15, 2021, 7:03 pm

#80 Henry the VI part 2 by William Shakespeare **** (Shakespeare #3)

More bickering dukes; a populist uprising; "kill all the lawyers"; a cardinal, a queen, and her lover (also a duke) conspiring to murder yet another duke; said queen carrying around said lover's decapitated head after he, too, becomes a murdered duke; witches (not Joan of Arc this time); an attempted coup (go York!); and the introduction of a character named Richard who I think is ultimately going to turn out to be my favorite English king. Lots of killing in this one.

#81 Having and Being Had by Eula Biss **** (book off my shelf #13)

Thought this was going to be about buying a house, similar to a Chicago version of Under the Tuscan Sun but it is about... wait for it... the evils of capitalism and the discomfort of well-educated, progressive, upper middle class academics about both acknowledging the evils of capitalism and wanting to enjoy the benefits of capitalism. Hit uncomfortably close to home.

okt 24, 2021, 12:15 pm

#82 The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank **** (book off my shelf #14)

I've had this sitting on my shelf forever, having read and loved her The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing (no hunting or fishing included). This is one of those collections of short stories that follow the same person over the course of their life. We meet Sophie as a teenager sneaking out of her cousin's bat mitzvah and then again in college, falling in love, suffering through dating, spending time with her family, etc. She's one of those rich New York people who are often insufferable in novels, and many people might find this one insufferable as well, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

okt 25, 2021, 7:19 pm

#83 Henry the VI part III by William Shakespeare ***** (Shakespeare #4)

OK, this is where it starts getting good, mainly because instead of being about boring Henry VI and his bickering dukes, it is about those same bickering dukes stabbing each other and also my personal favorite English king, Richard III (yes, the Richard from part 2 was, in fact, him). I don't blame Warwick AT ALL for turning against Edward IV - he deserved it.

okt 25, 2021, 7:20 pm

#84 The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei **** (book off my shelf #15)

Entertaining little novella about a guy who builds high-end stereo systems for very wealthy people in China. He builds one for a highly suspicious guy. It ends better than you would expect. This one reminded me a lot of some of the less-magical Murakami stories.

okt 26, 2021, 6:26 am

Delurking just to let you know I've been reading your reviews!

okt 31, 2021, 12:56 pm

#85 The Magician by Colm Toibin *****

Toibin gave Thomas Mann the same treatment he gave Henry James in The Master and honestly, I think I like this one even better. What an unusual family! I'm now planning to read some more Mann in 2022 - doesn't do much for my 100 books goal, though! His novels can be looonnngggg.

okt 31, 2021, 1:07 pm

This one was already on my wishlist and now I'm even more excited!

okt 31, 2021, 1:23 pm

>90 japaul22: I read it in a weekend. It was hard to put down!

nov 10, 2021, 7:42 pm

#86 Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun **** (1001 book #6)

I really enjoyed this! It's the story of a man who heads into the Norwegian wilderness sometime in the 1850s and starts a farm and acquires a wife and kids and expands the farm and modern progress keeps swirling around him. I kind of liked how not dramatic the problems in the story were. For example, there is a scene where it turns out he didn't file the proper paperwork or whatever to own his property that he worked so hard to improve, but this is basically resolved in like a page as someone tells him what to do and he does it. The glimpse into life in this time and place was really interesting, too.

Then I looked up the author! Hey, suggestion, don't do that for this guy. You'll be happier not knowing.

nov 10, 2021, 8:36 pm

#87 The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge **** (book off my shelf #16)

A fiction account of the Scott expedition to try to be the first to reach the South Pole (they aren't the first and everyone dies), told from the points of view of 5 of the most unreliable narrators in fiction. Poor choices are made. Tragedy ensues. Great writing though.

nov 15, 2021, 5:20 pm

#88 The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare ***** (Shakespeare #5, reread #10)

One of my favorites. This version of Richard III is just so deliciously evil, no redeeming qualities, always scheming and plotting and lying. So much fun. The film version w/ Ian McKellan in the title role is great too.

#89 Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare *** (Shakespeare #6)

HOLY SHIT what did I just read. Why don't they assign this on in high school? Is it all of the rapes, all of the cutting off of hands, all of the murder, all of the feeding people their own murdered children?

nov 17, 2021, 3:02 pm

>94 jfetting: I read Titus in college and we watched the Anthony Hopkins film version and it all stands out in my mind pretty clearly. I couldn't tell you 90% of the other books I read in college, but that one I remember!

nov 17, 2021, 5:18 pm

>95 LibraryLover23: So I think that most Shakespeare is probably better watched than read but IDK if I can watch Titus! Although Anthony Hopkins is the best so maybe...

nov 18, 2021, 1:35 pm

#90 Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton **** (book off my shelf #17, 1001 book #7)

I'm of two minds with this one. The first mind is simpler and thinks that this is very sweet and awwww, Edith Wharton is capable of writing a happy ending. The second mind thinks that Nick and Susy are kind of awful, especially Nick. So it's ok to mooch off of one's friends and not actually have jobs or make money or even have family money, but it's not ok to do favors for those friends whose generosity is keeping one not only off the street, but in a Venetian palace? It is not ok to do favors for rich friends, but it is ok to tell leave town letting someone believe one is going to marry them, and then never ever return or even send a letter?

I have a very low tolerance and no sympathy for people, fictional or non, who seem to think they can have no-strings-attached access to other people's money.

nov 28, 2021, 3:04 pm

#91 The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde ***.5 (reading women challenge #8)

This fits the Reading Women Challenge category #13: Poetry Collection by a Black Woman. It was very complete (to the point of repeating poems that she revised and republished). The poetry is excellent; some of the poems about current events (lynchings, murders of women and children) are difficult to read. She's definitely a poet who makes you feel things.

dec 6, 2021, 8:12 pm

#92 Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena *** (book off my shelf #18)

Meh. Rich parents are murdered, whodunnit? Quick and uncomplicated and even I was able to guess the killer right away.

dec 12, 2021, 1:43 pm

#93 Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke **

This is a the nonfiction counterpart to a graphic novel. It was compelling and the pictures were great. It was also really depressing and made me uncomfortable in ways I have no interest in unpacking at this time. She also talks about these horrific psych studies where some asshole at the University of Wisconsin basically tortured rhesus monkeys by raising them totally alone, or putting them in an upside-pyramid-shaped hole, or doing other psychologically horrible things to them. Those parts made me cry and feel sick to my stomach. Honestly, very powerful book, but I hated it.

#94 The Book of Patience: 250 Ways to a More Patient You by Courtney E. Ackerman ***

I am not a patient person. I try very hard to be but am continually unsuccessful. This book did not help me become less impatient because most of the 250 ways are techniques to address anxiety. Anxiety is not impatience. I know this because I am ALSO an anxious person, and they are different.

dec 15, 2021, 9:32 pm

#95 Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories by Thomas Mann **** (1001 book #8)

All of these stories are about death, really, not just the title story. They're beautifully written. My favorites were "Tonio Kroger", "Tristan", and the title story. My least favorite story is "A Man and His Dog", this story is unforgivable.

dec 22, 2021, 5:41 pm

Getting a little close to the wire...

#96 The Birds Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin ***** (reread #11)

Very cloying and sad but I've loved it as a kid so there you have it. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

dec 29, 2021, 7:50 pm

#97 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ***** (reread #12)

Again, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it.

#98 Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman ***** (reread #13)

Same as above. This version has illustration by Sendek and is GORGEOUS.

#99 The Jealousy Man and Other Stories by Jo Nesbo *****

This is my favorite book of the year. These stories are DARK and so so so good. Do you like Harry Hole stories? Do you wish they were entirely told from the POV of the murderer and no one ever gets punished? Then you will like this.

(drum roll)

#100 Destination Bethlehem by J. Barrie Shepherd ***** (reread #14)

My standard Advent spiritual practice, especially with COVID cases rising and my until-recently unboosted self unwilling to go into a church with other people around me.

#101 In The Country of Others by Leila Slimani **


#102 Bedrock Faith by Eric Charles May ****

This was Chicago's One Book One City choice this year and I really enjoyed it, particularly the character Mrs. Motley. Its about a neighborhood kid coming back after a stint in prison as a religious zealot. It does not go well.

#103 Our Own Worst Enemy by Tom Nichols ****

An attempt to understand the rise of right-wing populism and left-wing socialism (maybe? he tries to be "both sides are bad" but honestly the book is mostly about the right-wingers because hell, they are the ones who stormed the Capital). Nichols is pretty pessimistic about the future of American democracy. I can't blame him.

But most importantly - I did it! I read 100 books! It has been years since I've managed this!!

dec 30, 2021, 1:02 am

>103 jfetting:. Congratulations on making it to 100! I like the sound of The Jealousy Man and will look out for that one.

dec 30, 2021, 1:13 am

Congratulations on the 100!

dec 30, 2021, 6:49 am

>103 jfetting: well done for your century :)

dec 30, 2021, 8:31 am

100 books! Way to go!

dec 31, 2021, 3:11 pm

I'm not going to be finishing any of the books I am currently reading before midnight tonight, so time for the end of year wrap up. This was an odd reading year for me in that most of my 5-star fiction reads were rereads. I read A LOT of 3-star books this year, which by definition means that they are merely average, and I prefer when my reading is good to great. I did read some absolutely fantastic nonfiction books this year, though. So without further ado, here are the superlatives for 2021

Best Book I Read All Year: The Jealousy Man and Other Stories by Jo Nesbo. His imagination, my word! What a criminal he could have been if he hadn't become a writer.

Top Nonfiction Books: The Life and Death of the Great Lakes, Braiding Sweetgrass, How The Word Is Passed, Ex Libris, A World On The Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migrating Birds, The Day The World Stops Shopping. Yes, there is a theme to my favorite nonfiction reading and that is environmentalism. I strongly encourage you to read any and all of these books, but if I had to pick one, it would be the one about shopping.

Good Fiction Reads (new to me edition): The Magician, Summer, The Cellist, Klara and the Sun

Good Fiction Reads (reread edition): Persuasion, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gilead, Outlander

Worst Book of the Year: A tight contest, ultimately won by Smilla's Sense of Snow

Other Terrible Books: The Body Artist (a VERY close second), An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England, Weather, The Echo Wife

dec 31, 2021, 3:16 pm

I'll close out the year by wishing you all a very Happy New Year! Here's hoping that 2022 is an upgrade to 2021, in every possible way. If you would like to continue to follow my reading in the new year, I can be found at the link below:

Jen's 2022 reading thread

dec 31, 2021, 3:21 pm

I bought A World on the Wing after you reviewed it and haven't read it yet. And I must read The Magician in 2022. Love keeping up with you through LT!

Redigeret: dec 31, 2021, 3:28 pm

>110 japaul22: I wasn't even that into birds when I picked it up, but I sure am now. I hope you like it! And you will love The Magician. It would've been the book of the year if I hadn't read The Jealous Man.