By in Books

22 books, and counting- Advantages to being stuck offline

I finally made it back online yesterday after being stuck offline for 3 weeks. Since I am unemployed (or really lousy at being self-employed), my mom has kindly supplied me with Internet since I moved home, but it is not a priority for her, since she is still computer-phobic. So, when money was getting somewhat tight she decided garden gnomes and donuts were more important than paying the Internet bill. We all know what eventually happens when one doesn't pay the Internet bill. So, starting December 26th, I was without Internet, and with no phone either I spent the entire time from Boxing Day through January 14th reading books and crocheting blankets with just my trusty cat for company. It was a maddening way to spend the first few weeks of the year, but at least I got a lot of reading done.

In fact, I am almost done reading the first shelf of my local library branch, with just 3 books to go (based on what was on that shelf today- they shift a bit as books circulate). So, for my Read Your Library project I have started checking out books onthe 3rd shelf as well as the first 2, and since there are 4 shelves to a column at our library, I can start guestimating how long it will be till I reach the next column of library books. I may in fact be on to the next letter of the alphabet, adult fiction by authors whose names start with B, by March or April. Granted, if I only read library books, they'll go that much quicker, but since when was life that simple for any serious reader?

Anyway, as of yesterday I had finished 22 books for 2015, and for 2014 I finished a grand total of 218 books. The last book I finished in 2014 was Anya von Bremzen's lovely memoir, The Art of Soviet Cooking . It is written by a successful cookbook writer who left the USSR with her mother as a child. She and her mother set out to recreate the foods of pre-revolutionary Russia and the various eras of the Soviet Union. This memoir talks about food and cultural history, the intersection between food and world events that makes foods capable of evoking such powerful memories. At the end of the book there are also recipes, some of which look very tasty.

So far in 2015 my favorite books have been

- Words of Radiance , by Brandon Sanderson, a grand 1080 page second novel in Sanderson's ongoing fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive.

- The Sorrow of Angels , by Jon Kalman Stefansson, a poetic, gloomy, but beautiful story of a relatively newly orphaned boy and an intrepid but conflicted postman who set out together to deliver the mail along a particularly difficult stretch of the Icelandic coastline during the tail end of winter. I was reminded of the stereotype about Scandinavian filmmaking that Anthony Bourdain drew on for some of his travel show episodes, but the way Stefansson writes makes this stark, glum aesthetic work. It seems that the English translation (from the original Icelandic) has been available for a short while, I'm guessing in Europe, but it has an American edition coming out this spring, and I read an ARC of this new edition.

- The Vineyard , by Michael Hurley, which reminds me a bit of Stranger in a Strange Land , by Heinlein. In The Vineyard , a woman is saved from her carefully planned suicide, her friend is perhaps saved from a bout with breast cancer, and the man who saved them both is painted as a miracle worker, perhaps a sort of saint or even the Messiah, but he is also painted as a criminal vagrant and dangerous sexual predator.

I am now reading several books by Rudolfo Anaya, and next on my stack are a few Stephen King books (Insomnia, Dreamcatcher, and a few others), a couple books by Susan Wittig Albert (lovely light mysteries), and a bunch of Clive Cussler novels. What are you reading?

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Deema wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:20 AM

Wow, that is truly impressive. This is actually one of my new year's resolutions, because as an English major I feel like I need to. Additionally, I love reading and learning. Some I have been looking at some lists and decided to try Amazon's top 100 must reads...wish me luck and thanks for giving me hope lol :)

scheng1 wrote on January 17, 2015, 9:21 AM

Wow, that is a lot of books in less than 3 weeks. I think you really live inside a book.

Feisty56 wrote on January 17, 2015, 10:00 AM

I find most of my reading is in the same general genre, that of crime, detective stores, mysteries and police procedurals. Jeffery Deaver's "The Bodies Left Behind" is on my nightstand right now, having just completed Laurie R. King's "The Beekeeper's Apprentice." I thought I was a voracious reader, but I am no where in your neighborhood!

SandraLPetersen wrote on January 17, 2015, 10:47 AM

You are amazing! I do so much stuff online (surveys, Swagbucks, and other sites like that) that I cram reading in often the last thing at night and only get one or two pages read before I nod off. I have three books beside my bed that I want to read in the next eight weeks (the time I can have them checked out from the library). 'State of Wonder' by Ann Patchett, 'Wisconsin Lore' by Robert E. Gard and L. G. Sorden, and 'Mulberry Park' by Judy Duarte. I also have Anne Perry's 'Execution Doc,' one of her William Monk Victorian-era mystery novels, on audiobook format that I hope to listen to.

ChickJ wrote on January 17, 2015, 11:56 AM

I gave heard of Brandon Sanderson. Tried one of his books and couldn't even finish it. At the moment I am reading The Forever Gate series by Isaac Hooke. A pretty good SF. So far it is very interesting.

Kasman wrote on January 17, 2015, 2:57 PM

I no longer have much time free to read books. At one time I used to listen to audio books in bed but they just made me fall asleep!

msiduri wrote on January 17, 2015, 4:17 PM

Not a bad list for a couple of weeks! Those I'm not familiar with, though I've heard of Clive Cussler and Stephen King, obviously. I'm reading "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wallstonecraft. Rather heavy reading, but it is funny and sarcastic in spot as well.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 5:57 PM

Good luck! I think the trick to reading more, besides getting your internet shut off, not having a TV, and having very little to do but read, is to not spend too much time picking out the next book to read. When I get in a reading slump, I can spend hours playing with lists of books and reorganizing my shelves, all to decide what to read next. Having a variety of reading helps too, so I keep track on my reading log of genre and try not to read too many fiction or nonfiction books in a row. If I am reading multiple books at once, I usually have one long novel, one short and easy novel, a non-fiction book, and a book I want to spend longer on (or something I am rereading), so I can switch gears a lot and not burn out. I'm sure as an English major you know haw exhausting it can be to read too much of any period and style of English literature without a break. :)

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:01 PM

I do, when I can. :) Actually though, I am glad to be back online, and miraculously the weather has warmed this week so I can play in my garden too, which is a nice change of pace. One's reading pace improves with practice, so it gets easier to read more books, the more books you read, but I was getting stir-crazy cooped up with just books and a cat for company, and with icy cold winter weather to keep me indoors most of the time.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:11 PM

My whole family, my siblings anyway, are unusual in how much we read. I don't think everyone ought to read as much as I do, but if I can manage to support myself as a book critic (something I am still figuring out how to do), I'd love to spend the rest of my life reading tons of books and helping less crazy readers find great books they might not have know about or tried otherwise.
I have been gradually absorbing more crime/mystery novels, though it is a huge genre, and the established critics for the genre can be awfully territorial. I read a few of Frederique Molay's books (she's a French crime novelist whose books eventually turn up in translation), and a few other European crime novels, which I'll do a post about soon. I watch Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple a lot, and I've read all the Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories, along with a lot of other crime authors, so I'm sure I'll be keeping crime/mystery as one of my book blogging genres. I haven't read any Deaver or Laurie R. King books yet, but I'll keep an eye out for them.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:14 PM

Yeah, I do enough online that I doubt I'll manage 1.3 books per day for the remainder of the year, but one a day might happen, averaged out anyway. I still plan to tackle War and Peace, Middlemarch, and a few other long books this year, which might make the book-a-day plan tough to maintain. I've heard of Ann Patchett, but not the rest. You'll have to let us know if these books are any good. :)

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:19 PM

Sanderson is the guy brought in to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, after Jordan died. He writes great middles, and maybe even good endings, but I had an awful time getting into his Stormlight Archive series. He just dives in with the story so that it feels like you've missed about 300 pages of set-up and development, and it takes a lot of stubbornness and coffee to get caught up with his story and work out all the characters. But, once I got past the first 500 pages, the second half of Book 1 and the second book were great. Of course, not everyone wants to slog through 500 pages to get to the part where it makes sense, but folks who love the sort of fantasy like Wheel of Time might enjoy some of Sanderson.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:24 PM

If I try to listen to audio books while in bed, i fall asleep too. I like putting on audiobooks while I am crocheting or doing dishes, where my hands are busy and can't hold a book, but where I am alert enough to follow a story. I've been listening to a lot of Doctor Who books lately through youtube, though so far I don't count them when tallying up the books I've read for each month. Occasionally I also tuck myself into bed, turn out the lights, and put on an audiobook of something I've already read, to lull me to sleep when I can't get to sleep otherwise. It works every time.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:26 PM

I haven't read Wallstonecraft yet, but I always intend to, someday. Every few years I get on a feminism kick and read lots of gender theory and gender politics books, so I'm sure I'll get to her eventually.

who_wants_a_fish wrote on January 17, 2015, 7:37 PM

Oh wow that's amazing! Maybe I should just cut off my internet,well no lets not do that I'm an addict.I do LOVE to read though! I am more of a chick lit kinda girl and things like the morganville vampires :D

ChickJ wrote on January 17, 2015, 8:34 PM

I didn't care for the Wheel of Times series either. And people think I am strange because I read between 60 to 90 books a year. (And my Nook has over 800 books in now.)

BarbRad wrote on January 17, 2015, 10:25 PM

I can only remember reading two books since the year started, but that doesn't mean I haven't read more. I just don't keep track. I guess I should.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 10:47 PM

I read a bit of chick-lit too, but I spent too many years grading college papers during grad school, so I tend to be the sort of critic who gives low reviews to sappy or poorly constructed books. Chick-lit and romance genre novels are often meant to be light reading, and the sort of book you read once and discard, so a lot of 'em are pretty sloppy and easy to review harshly. I would love to read good chick-lit and good romance, but finding it requires wading through lots of crappy and mediocre stuff, it seems.
If you like vampires, you might enjoy the short story collection I read last month, By Blood We Live, edited by J. Anderson. It has some really great authors in it, and really good stories.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 10:51 PM

If you only read a few books each month, you might try keeping a book journal, where you jot reactions and notes after every 50pgs or so that you read. I used to do this in high school, and I found that I got more out of my reading when I paused to reflect and write occasionally, plus I had a record of the books I read, and any quotes or other information I might want later from each book.

Ravenmount wrote on January 17, 2015, 11:01 PM

My mom coudn't stand the Wheel of Time series either. And, while I have been slowly making my way through them, I am really not into the Outlander series that my mom loves (Gabaldon's, of course). I grew up on CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia and JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, though, so I love epic fantasy series, the longer and more complicated the better, so long as the world in the series is internally consistent. For me epic fantasies are like candy. :) 60-90 books per year is a respectable total. I'm pretty sure my brother averages about that many, and his friends are pretty amazed at his reading totals. I think it's a lot healthier than watching the equivalent hours of TV.

BarbRad wrote on January 17, 2015, 11:15 PM

Good idea, but I only do it for important books or books I hope to review.

scheng1 wrote on January 18, 2015, 5:03 AM

I think your cat loves to sit on your lap during the cold season.

who_wants_a_fish wrote on January 18, 2015, 5:51 AM

Oooh I shall definitely look that up thank you for the recommendation! I have read some pretty awful chick lit ones but I love Cecelia Ahern's stuf and the I heart series I can't get enough of them!