Saturday, August 28, 2010

Measuring my summers in books

While the good people from Rent measure their seasons in daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee, I tend to miss sunsets, rarely make it to midnight these days and have tried to reduce the amount of coffee I consume, so I measure my summers in books.

Only this summer, there have not been that many books.

Maybe I've read less because I've spent much more of this summer reading blogs, or we recently switched to Netflix and now have live streaming (and therefore have watched almost every episode of Weeds). Most likely, those three weeks abroad didn't do much to help my reading schedule, although I did manage to read two books while we were gone.

On Monday I go back to work (teacher week -- students return on September 7) and on Tuesday the entire English department gets together. Our annual icebreaker is to share our favorite summer read. I inevitably choose the book I read most recently, and this summer that book is The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, a novel that reads more like a series of interconnected short stories about the lives of a bunch of (mostly) Americans working in Rome for an international newspaper.
 Besides the fact that I love journalism and Rome, I also love this little passage:

"[Herman, copy editor] opens the paper to the culture pages, which have improved considerably under Arthur Gopal. Nevertheless, Herman spots an offender: the word 'literally.' He snarls, wakes up his computer, and types:
  • literally: This word should be deleted. All too often, actions described as 'literally' did not happen at all. As in, 'He literally jumped out of his skin.' No, he did not. Though if he literally had, I'd suggest raising the element and proposing the piece for page one. Inserting 'literally' willy-nilly reinforces the notion that breathless nitwits lurk within this newsroom..."

Reason #174 that I know my husband loves me: He read this book before I did and subsequently dog-eared this page for me.

A quick look at my Google doc spreadsheet containing the list of books I've read lately reveals my other summer reads:
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz -- Great examination of the dog experience. Best takeaway point: No, Cesar Milan, dogs are not wolves, and therefore the be-the-pack-leader mentality isn't always the best solution for understanding your animal.

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank by Randi Hutter Epstein -- Both the practices of old and the practices of today are equally fascinating. Weird phenomenon I don't understand: Mall stores specializing in 3D sonograms. OK, but then couples invite their 25 closest friends and family to the live viewing. Appropriately enough, the book from my library queue I'm scheduled to pick up tomorrow? America and the Pill: A History of Peril, Promise and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May.

 The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore -- Two men named Wes Moore grow up within blocks of each other. One winds up in jail, the other becomes a Rhodes Scholar. This book looks at how they got to be the men they became.

 The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman -- (September's book club pick) This book introduced me to Hmong culture, something I know nothing about, while it examines what happens when a Hmong child who has severe epilepsy is caught in between her family's practice of traditional medicine and the Western medicine they encounter as recent immigrants to America. Takeaway message: It's human nature to think that what we're accustomed to is normal and right and that other peoples' practices are wrong. This, of course, is not always an admirable trait.

 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- I wish I could say I reread this book in light of its 50th anniversary, but shockingly I have made it through life up until this point without ever reading it. I consider myself pretty well-versed in American and British classics, so I had to get this one under my belt. Now I'm on the lookout for other books that I've somehow missed along the way.

What books have you read lately that you'd recommend?

1 comment:

  1. I teach To Kill a Mockingbird every year to my ninth graders. I love it and am so glad you finally got to enjoy it!

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