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The Story of Charlotte's Web: E. B. White's Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic
Michael Sims
The Oxford Companion to Beer

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 7

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

A book that makes you laugh...


Very first reaction, gut instinct kind of answer: anything by Kurt Vonnegut. And it's true. The man was hilarious. (Rest in peace, you magnificent, shaggy man.)


Although I like all of his books (but I have issues with the plethora of posthumous publishings), my favorite will always remain Breakfast of Champions. It's funny, poignant, and it features some of his quirkiest writing. Plus, there are illustrations! By the author! Really good stuff. Now I think I'll go re-read it. 


*walks to shelf*

*looks for Breakfast of Champions*

*realizes all over again that she lent it to a friend years ago and they never returned it*

*experiences a familiar wave of regret, loss, and rage*


Ok seriously, I just need to let it go and buy a replacement. 


So it goes.

30 Day Book Challenge Day 6

We the Living (75th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) - Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff

A book that makes you sad...


One that stands out is We the Living by Ayn Rand.


Now, I am not one of those crazy obsessed capitalist lovers of all things Rand. In fact, her philosophy and visage creep the hell out of me. But when I was a freshman in college, I decided to pick up her first novel. While it does have the strong anti-communist feel Rand is famous for (understatement), I feel that its philosophy isn't overt or offensive. (Keep in mind I'm writing these opinions 10 years after I read the book.) 


The reason this one stands out in my mind is because it's the first (perhaps only? I can't remember) book that I actually shed tears during. I don't want to give too much away, but there are some wretched happenings in this book that just broke my little heart. 


Busy Monsters

Busy Monsters: A Novel - William Giraldi

I didn't really have any expectations coming into this book, which may have made the experience that much better. The whole thing came as somewhat of a surprise.


The way Charlie Homar speaks and writes is melodramatic, verbose, often pretty funny. The novel mirrors his serialized memoirs that he writes throughout the adventure, and there are hints that the novel might actually be what's being published in the New Nation Weekly. For instance, almost every character speaks in the same distinctive tone as Homar, and one character actually points that out, saying that normal people don't talk that way. The idea that Homar is narrating his everyday for publication is a reflection of the self-referential micro-blogging that is modern social networking. Homar stometimes tries to prevent people from reading the things he has chosen to publish - a parallel to the person who posets to Facebook and then crows about privacy. 


Elements of the story certainly resemble Vonnegut (as touted on the back cover). There's a flawed anti-hero; precise and blackly funny language; and near supernatural shenanigans. (However, I love Vonnegut too much to let the comparison go much deeper - Giraldi has some big shoes to fill, even if he wanted to.) 


The monsters of the title. are literal - giant squids, aliens, Bigfoot, ghosts - but also figurative - lying, cheating, abandonment, vanity, sexual proclivity, violence.


I was expecting a strange, twisty, dark ending to match the strange, twisty, dark plotline, but was actually pleasantly surprised when Charlie and Gillian live happily ever after. Sometimes the cliched endings are refreshing to my cynical reader's brain.

"Man of jazz and all items sacrosanct. Shaves with obsidian. Has razzle and the necessary dazzle to mix it with. "
Busy Monsters: A Novel - William Giraldi

William Giraldi, Busy Monsters, describing Romp, the Sasquatch hunter

"The man who does not care about the beer he drinks may as well not care about the bread he eats."
The new world guide to beer - Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, The New World Guide to Beer

How Wild is better than Eat, Pray Love

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed

This was a book club pick, but book club is no more, because three members moved away. But I decided to give this book a shot anyway. And I'm glad I did!


As I was reading it, I couldn't help making parallels to Eat, Pray, Love. Mainly, that those books were striving for the same catharsis - shitty things happen, so a woman goes on her own sort of walkabout to get shit straightened out. But while EPL was a self-indulgent memoir written by a rich lady who goes on to patronize brown people the world over, Wild is something much more relatable, and much better written. Strayed makes no bones about her imperfections and describes in detail her numerous fuck-ups both on and off the trail. And her journey isn't about finding meaning in the exotic culture or relgion of some far off population - it's about testing herself physically and mentally, on her own.


Her memories of her mother are heartwrenching but beautiful. You see her come to terms with her mother's life and death, flaws and all. And that's a theme that pervades - at the end of the book, Strayed is accepting of flaws and strengths at the same time - hers, her mother's everybody's.


The descriptions of the trail itself are beautiful. I'd love to go there. 


Also - she's a feminist English major from Minnesota, who brought William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor on the trail with her. YESSSS!!!

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 5

Charlotte's Web - Garth Williams, E.B. White, Kate DiCamillo

A book that makes you happy...


All books make me happy, just by being books. Most of my favorite books, in their plots, don't make me happy, but make me feel other things - awe, disgust, fear, inspiration, excitement. To find a book that makes me happy, I'd have to go back to my childhood, where stories were simpler. My absolute favorite children's book was Charlotte's Web. A spider who writes words? An adorable pig? A gluttonous rat? Lasting friendship and tenderness? How can you not be happy when you read that? I still have my original copy, that I got for one Christmas from my parents. 


Not only did that book make me happy at the time, but it makes me happy still. 

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 4

Lilith's Brood: Dawn / Adulthood Rites / Imago - Octavia E. Butler

Favorite book of my favorite series...


So as you may remember from the last post, I chose Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy as my favorite series. Now, when I say that it's too difficult for me to choose a favorite book from this series, it's not a cop out. I read this series as an omnibus called Lilith's Brood. It was like one big amazing book to me. 


So my answer to this question is: ALL OF THEM! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I WIN. 

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 3

Dawn - Octavia E. Butler Adulthood Rites - Octavia E. Butler Imago - Octavia E. Butler

Day 3 - My favorite series


I'd have to say Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series. Her style of writing pulls me in and completely immerses me in this complex and fascinating science fiction world. Her other series are great as well, but this one is her best (in my opinion). 


Now I want to go read all three books...

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 2

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

A book I've read more than three times... This one is tough, because I seldom re-read books. 


For various courses in high school and college, I ended up having to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness three times. When I read it for the first time I thought it was boring and kind of weird (I was in high school, so I thought most things were boring and kind of weird). But in college I read this book for two classes both dealing with postcolonial literature, and the book started to mean so much more. The juxtaposition of black/white, good/evil, sanity/insanity is fascinating to me now. What I thought was weird about the book in high school, I actually came to love. The quiet, yet deeply disturbing manner in which Conrad describes Kurtz's descent into madness is timeless, even if the worldview of Africa is clearly outdated. That same timelessness is proven in the movie based on the plot, but not the setting, Apocalypse Now!


It's been around six years since I've last read it, and now I'm getting the itch to read it again...

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 1

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

Favorite book that I read last year: 


This is tough, as I read some pretty great books last year. And even though I loved Toni Morrison's Home (and read it in one sitting), I'm going to have to say my favorite of 2012 was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It took me three months to read, on account of it being over a thousand pages long, as well as me being in graduate school at the time. 


What I love about this book, and about Murakami's writing in general, is just how little information he trusts you with during the early parts of the book. Until close to the end, I had little idea what the heck was going on, but the little plot tidbits I did learn, along with the intense imagery, kept me going. 


I traditionally enjoy crazy fiction. Parallel universes, mysterious magical beings, cults, conspiracy, secret societies. If I'm saying "WTF" regularly while reading a book, it usually means I'm going to like the book as a whole. This is definitely a book filled with amazing WTF moments. 

Book Challenge

Reblogged from Woman Reading:

Giving it a shot!  Starting tomorrow!


Mixed Feelings

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3, Part 1) - George R.R. Martin

I, like most people, love the show. But unlike most people, I read the first book (Game of Thrones) when I was in high school - 12 years ago. I loved it, but didn't read the others until recently.


Now I'm on the third book, and while I am enjoying it, I can't help but feel bogged down. The books are sooooo loooooooong that I feel like I'm missing out on reading other books. Is that weird? I'm enjoying it, but it feels like a waste of time? I've never really felt that way about a book before. 


Curse you, Martin, for bringing on new feelings. 

Not her best

Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica - Zora Neale Hurston

I came to this book expecting a lot. I love Their Eyes Were Watching God and a lot of her other work. While this book had some really fascinating stories and solid writing (I loved the chapter on zombies), I couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed. The book was disjointed in its chapters - more just like a random collection of travel jouranls. And, I hate to say it, but parts of it were pretty boring. But the nonboring parts were very good (That may have been the stpuidest thing I've ever written about a book). 


No but seriously. Zombies. 


The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food - Garrett Oliver, Denton Tillman, Denny Tillman

This is not just a delightful book about how to enjoy beer with food, but it's also a great education in beer style and history. Oliver is knowledgeable and knows how to write to keep a reader's interest. Funny, smart, very readable, and with a great reference in back.

Loved It

The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling - Peter Ackroyd

I love the Canterbury Tales, but the Middle English is a huge downer. My early Brit Lit prof in college made it seem like the language was just like modern English, just spelled differently. Yeah right. It might as well be a foreign language. 


Peter Ackroyd knows his stuff, and does great justice to the tales in his prose retellings. Bawdy and hilarious at times, melodramatic and spirtual at others. The original should obviously still be read and treasured, but this book makes the spirit of Chaucer much more accessible to the lay person.