Thursday, May 8, 2008


I have been, in certain stages, a voracious reader, but my little business venture replaced spare reading time with computer work & needle-felting in my home hours. I do work though quite a number of books on CD, b ut admit I'm less likely to "read" great books this way. I like cheesy mysteries on tape, frankly. I've turned back to reading in the last couple of months, likely due to my whole-soul fatigue from the surprise project it's working on (longhand for accidentally pregnant...due 11/7. Ay-yi-yi.).

I stocked up on books for the hospital stay, and have cranked through quite a few. I read while I eat (cannot eat in her room) and at night and when she's napping and when she doesn't want interaction because she feels lousy (much less often now!). I slowed down a little bit last week when I (1) nearly ran out of books, and (2) started embroidering mother's day gifts (lavender sachets--satisfyingly old-fashioned!), but still have done pretty well. I used the beloved request-from-other-branches feature on my library website (seriously a big factor in making living in a small town with a library in an old house bearable) to order books from these two lists: The Independent Mystery Bookseller's Association 100 favorite mysteries of the 20th Century and Random House Modern Library 100 Best Novels. There are actually 2 of these lists, from readers & their author panel, and I picked from both titles that I hadn't read yet.

I have a shelf-full from my recent trip home that I'm eager to start and finished a batch that I sent home a bit at a time with my weekend visitors. I didn't write down the titles, but a look-through-the-lists yielded these. My brief reviews, first from the mysteries:

*Ambler, Eric. A Coffin for Dimitrios: My library only had this in a large volume with Ambler's 4 best-known mysteries and I loved them all, though now I'm sad I swallowed them up together & don't have the rest to look forward to. Smart writing with lots of European pre-WWII history that was all new to me. Like the intro by Alfred Hitchcock said, one of Ambler's great features is that he uses ordinary could-be-me people as his main characters, finding themselves wrapped in international intrigue :). My most enthusiastic endorsement of the bunch.
*Barr, Nevada. Track of the Cat: A book that reminded me I really like older ones better. Or at least set in the past. In retrospect, it was a pretty well-structured plot, and I happily kept reading, but I guess I weary of the saucy modern woman heroine and the obligatory current details.

*Cain, James M.. The Postman Always Rings Twice: A sparse 20's-ish book that reminded me a lot of Catcher In the Rye, as did the Samarra book in my next list. A sort of stream-of-consciousness feel that follows an independent young male soul and sort of begins and ends mid-stream and is blessed by a couple of brilliant moments, but is ultimately unsatisfactory (to my untrained self, of course). It didn't have a really original feel to it, but I suspect that it is one of those books that has been copied and was very much an original in its day.

While I'm at it, these old favorites are on the list & I certainly think you should read them:
*Peters, Elizabeth. Crocodile on the Sandbank (I read the whole series, and that is a formidable feat)
*Barnard, Robert. Death by Sheer Torture (his books are not particularly memorable for me, but reliably good)
*Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (read all of these in high school and have found, on the occasional revisit, that they're still awesome)
*Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles (gotta read Holmes)
*DuMaurier, Daphne. Rebecca (the first book that really blew me away, Rebecca was my "favorite book" for years)
*King, Laurie. The Beekeeper's Apprentice (though built on a potentially cheesy premise--what if Sherlock Holmes, now retired, took on a young lady as his apprentice and they fell in love?--all of the series are smart, introspective, and extremely well-written, though this, the first, is the best of the bunch)
*Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird (of course! I re-read this last summer and remembered why it's on everyone's favorite list. Marvelous characters & snapshot of 50s life)

I have a bunch more from this list waiting for me. yum!

Modern library: I've read lots on this list, and most are famous, but I was still a little surprised at how many I haven't...yet!
*HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow (I enjoyed this read. Henderson is absolutely unique, and I suspect I'll be thinking of him for a long time. Lost-soul-finds-himself-in-Africa plotline that's been done a lot, but definitely differently)
*APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA by John O'Hara (what I said about The Postman... above)
*TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald's favorite novel, it was beautifully crafted, but I do agree with the critics that the hero's fall was a little too quick. Still a very elegant book.)
*THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder (the short pearl sort of book. Lovely, and my favorite of this batch. Plus my parents are pictured in their high school yearbook kissing during their performance as the leads in Our Town, so I owe something to Wilder).
*THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain (above, but on both lists, so here again!)


nyjlm said...

woah, hey, you trying to slip something past us here? I had to read that first paragraph a few times before I got it! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the pregnancy! And thanks for the lists of titles.