WWW Wednesday — Vacation Version

FullSizeRenderIt’s WWW Wednesday, where I (sort of) answer these questions:

What did you just finish reading? What are you currently reading? What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m visiting my mother (and enjoying some beautiful weather) in Hilton Head, South Carolina, so it’s been a treat to be able to read outside. Yesterday, I spent some time on the beach, where it was fun to see real-life “beach reading” — lots of people stretched out on the sand, reading trashy books and magazines. My unscientific survey showed that 90% of the beach readers found their reading material at a local grocery store (mass market paperbacks by Danielle Steel, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Debbie Macomber) or on the shelves of their rental house (The Red Tent, The Black Swan, The Hot Zone,The Shack).

9781594633669MThe other 10% — including my niece — were reading The Girl on the Train. (One of them was reading an ARC, and I was dying to ask her how she came by it, but I thought it was time for me to mind my own business. People were probably already wondering why I kept walking by and craning my neck to see the titles of their books.) My favorite beach reader was a little boy who dug a big hole in the sand (possibly trying to reach China), then climbed in, and curled up with Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief.

the-childrens-crusade-9781476710457_lgNobody seemed interested in what my husband and I were reading, but if they had been, they would have seen that I was engrossed in The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer. I’ll be posting a full review of this wonderful book, which focuses on four siblings raised by a loving, attentive father and a neglectful mother. In today’s New York Times review, Katie Kitamura says:

How do we become who we are? There are many ways of approaching this slipperiest of questions, from the experimental rigor of cognitive neuroscience to the teasing excavations of psychoanalysis. It is, of course, natural territory for the novel, and though The Children’s Crusade follows one nuclear family, its scope is broadened by its attempts at an answer . . . After a brief prologue, in which the origin myth of the family is related in some of Packer’s best and most rapturous prose, childhood emerges as the true sacred space of the novel — not because it represents innocence, but because it might contain the key to decoding the adult self.

9780767919418Jeff’s beach book was One Summer: America 1927, by Bill Bryson, which he’s thoroughly enjoying — even though he typically reads serious history books, the kind that have lots of footnotes. He’s been sharing fun facts with me as he goes along — for instance, that the 1920s were “the golden age of reading”. Some reviewers tend to be a little snobby about Bryson. The Washington Post disdainfully compares One Summer to a Danielle Steel novel, a Cracker Barrel pamphlet, and CliffsNotes. Lighten up, Washington Post!  A lot of us may be part of that “mass-circulation audience” who enjoy and “need more accessible, easy-to-read history”.

9781605986883My mother is not a fan of the beach, but she has plenty of comfortable reading spots at home. She’s reading and enjoying The Listener, by Rachel Basch, which I absolutely loved. Unlike so many novels I’ve read recently, every sentence in it is necessary. I feel like I read many novels that are slightly bloated . . . just a little too long, with elements that don’t contribute to the development of the plot or characters. The Listener is about our need to be known. A psychologist, the widowed father of two grown daughters, treats a college student who is confused about his gender identity. He becomes romantically involved with the mother of this student — without knowing she is the mother of his patient. Complications ensue, involving his daughters and their shared past. The resolution is not pat and tidy, but it’s perfect. I thought Tricia Tierney’s comment was apt: “Rachel is one of the smartest writers around with such a finely honed craft delivered with heart. Don’t you find yourself re-reading her sentences?” (Tricia manages events at the Westport, Connecticut Barnes and Noble and blogs at Tricia Tierney’s Blog.)

1000H-9780805095159It’s time for me to pack up and head back to Chicago — currently cloudy and 41 degrees. On the plane, I think I’ll finish reading Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. There’s no better time to contemplate mortality than while flying above the clouds, right? I can also indulge in a favorite travel activity, walking up and down the aisle to see what people are reading. Too bad for me that e-readers have made it much more difficult for me to snoop. I saw very few e-readers at the beach, by the way — must have been the fear of sand and water damage. I’d love to know what you’re reading — on the beach, at home, or anywhere!

Advertisements

It’s Monday, March 30 — What Are You Reading?

FullSizeRender
Cowboy boots are a must in Nashville.

After a whirlwind weekend in Nashville, I need some R and R — reading and recovery! I’d never been to a bachelorette party before, but I did know that I wouldn’t need to bring my usual quota of reading material. I managed to make it through People Style Watch on the plane before falling asleep. (I’m not falling for their suggestions on spring fashion — bellbottoms and overalls were not attractive when I wore them back in the 1970s, and they haven’t improved in the last 40 years.)

This week promises to be quiet and peaceful, with the schools on spring break and lots of people out of town. Last week was a flurry of activity in the bookstore as customers rushed in to pick up books to read on the beach and the plane.

Some readers are serial monogamists, sticking with one book and then moving on to the next. Others are polygamists, juggling several books at once. (I just Googled the term “book polygamist” to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently plagiarizing, and stumbled upon a list of “popular polygamy books”. Turns out I’ve read most of them — is that weird?) I am, and have always been, a polygamous reader. I like juggling several books — usually one novel, one or two nonfiction books, and an audiobook. I like at least one of the books to be an e-book so I can read it in bed after my husband falls asleep.

9780385538985This week’s e-book is The Folded Clock: A Diary, by Heidi Julavits. I started it last week and was immediately captivated. It’s a memoir based on the author’s discovery of her childhood diaries. The Folded Clock earned a rave review on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times Book Review. Here’s what the reviewer, Eula Bliss, has to say:

“She lost herself to me,” Julavits writes of her younger self. And so did I, with great pleasure. Losing one’s self is, after all, one of the rewards of reading. The opportunity to inhabit another self, to experience another consciousness, is perhaps the most profound trespass a work of literature can allow.

9780812993158In two weeks, beloved author Elizabeth Berg will be launching her first work of historical fiction at a couple of events hosted by Lake Forest Book Store.  I started reading The Dream Lover a couple of weeks ago and sadly had to put it aside so I could finish my book club books. Berg delves into the heart and mind of writer George Sand, born Aurore Dupin, who was the first female bestselling author in France. I’m planning on finishing the book this week, because I have an upcoming interview with Berg — stay tuned!

9781250063779I just finished Mimi Malloy, at Last!, by Julia McDonnell, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. The title character is a sixty-something Irish-American divorcee with six daughters. Mimi has recently been forced into retirement, and is reluctantly exploring her sad family history. She’s a wonderful character, full of wit and humor, with plenty of sharp edges. (One of the blurbs aptly compares her to Olive Kitteridge.) The novel includes a sweet love subplot between Mimi and her apartment building’s superintendent, which is oddly juxtaposed with the disturbing story of Mimi’s horrific childhood. Readers looking for light “beach reading” will find that although the novel is a page-turner that reads quickly, it’s much darker than it initially appears. Even the title seems inappropriate — it sounds like the title of a children’s book about a plucky tomboy. It’s strange that the ARC I have has no exclamation point in the title, while the published book (both hardcover and paperback editions) includes an exclamation point.

9781605986883I just started The Listener, by Rachel Basch. I’ve mentioned before that I am a complete sucker for books set on campuses, so this book — about a psychologist who counsels students at a small liberal arts college in Maine — had my name all over it. I loved an earlier book of Basch’s, The Passion of Reverend Nash, which covers some of the same territory as The Listener: the complicated relationship between the healer and the patient.

9780767919418And finally, my current audiobook is One Summer: America, 1927, by Bill Bryson. Our couples’ book club is discussing this book in a few weeks, and I think it’s a great choice. Bill Bryson is one of my favorite nonfiction authors — he’s really mastered the art of writing books that simultaneously entertain and inform. However . . . I think maybe he should stick to writing and his publisher should hire a professional narrator for his audiobooks. His voice has a strange, prissy quality that is driving me crazy. I think I may have to switch to the print book and find another audiobook for my walks.

The sun is shining and the temperature in Chicago is heading toward 50 degrees, so I’m heading out to take a walk with Bill. I’ll let you know if I decide to end our relationship!

It’s Monday — What Are you Reading? is hosted by Book Journey.