Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Catching up

I have a confession to make:

I love lists. Love them. I make them all the time, posting them on my desk, my front door, the palm of my hand. It'll be a rare day when I don't have at least one list floating around me, with things to do, buy, read, check out, or eat on it.

That said, I hate book lists. Not all of them, mind you, but bestsellers lists? Please, like I care what you (whoever you are, nothing personal) think is a good book? (And the definition of a good book deserves its own post.) A lot of these lists end up looking like popularity contests, with big names getting the top spots, deserved or not. And anything that a celebrity (coughOprahcough) suggests...I'm automatically turned off from it. That's not to say that celebrities don't read or have good book recommendations, but no. Just no. (Nothing is worse than seeing a book with that "seal of approval" on it. Or worse, the movie adaptation cover.) And then there are the "BEST" Just, no. (Sometimes, I wonder if it's just me. Actually, it probably is. I hate being told what to read. Hate. It. Even when I'm being told in the nicest possible way. Mom always said I was the type of girl who'd "cut off her nose to spite her face".)

And yet, I troll the internet looking for book lists. I check out book publisher sites, my libraries' "new and interesting reads", book blogs, 'zines... I want to know what other people think are good, new, interesting reads. I read their reviews, or their recommendations, then head to one of the libraries to check it out for myself. Which leads me to this.

It's a list, and a rather well known list at that. It should be the sort of thing I shudder at the very sight of and hurriedly click away, and yet...I seem to be drawn to the list. I printed it out during a slow time at work and looked it over. There are 9 books that I've read from the Board's list...but twice that many off the Reader's list. There are five books off the Board's list that I tried and/or hated...15 from the Reader's list. And 7 books from each list that I think sounded interesting, of which four are the same. (Well, okay, so that part's not entirely honest. There are several more books in the Reader's list that I know I won't read or that I know I will read, but I didn't want to pad my results. Why? I don't know.)

(I don't think I have a real reason for this post, but it's something I think about off an on. Why do I hate book list so much? It it just the 'author' of the list that I don't like? Or the being told part? Am I really just that stubborn? Sigh. Maybe my mother really is right.)

Also, I have been reading, I just haven't had a chance to write any of them up. I finished both "The Letter Home" (near the bottom of the post) and "Landed" over the weekend. They are both picture/young children books that actually have a story to tell, rather than the "Dick and Jane" motif of my youth. The first one is about a father writing home to his son; he's been writing a letter about his experiences, but he didn't want to send it until he knew he'd be coming home. The second book was about a Chinese boy and his experience with emigrating to the United States during the early 1900s. I'm going to have to go to my local bookstore and see if they have copies I can purchase for my niece. She's a bit young for them, but I think that my mom will read them to her when Emily visits her and I know she'd enjoy them, if for nothing but the pictures right now. (To be honest, I want "The Letter Home" for myself; the drawings are really fantastic.)

Another recently finished book was "Firebirds", a collection of fantasy stories by various authors. It was one of my library binges; I went on this one after reading "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull. There were several excellent stories in there, most from authors I'd never heard of before, which is not going to help my to be read pile...Delia Sherman, Diana Wynne Jones, Sherwood Smith, Megan Whalen Turner and Nina Kiriki Hoffman (to name a few).

Lastly, I just read on Monday "The Bookseller of Kabul" by Asne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist. A white "Western" woman, Asne is allowed into the home of Sultan Khan (a liberal bookseller, but a fundamentalist husband/father) and his family for a period of about three months. It was more a collection of essays than a cohesive story, as the author never once referenced herself in any of these experiences. Instead, she was either an observer or the story was recounted to her by various members of the family. I have to say that I honestly didn't enjoy this book, but I think it was an interesting book. We hear from all of the members of his family, from his widowed mother to his youngest son and we get to see how an Afghanis family lives. It's rather funny that when Asne started this book, she thought that Sultan was much more liberal and forward/Western thinking than he turned out to be; rather than this being an unusual family, it really seemed to me a much more typical family, at least from what I've read.

I'm still working on "Before the Fallout" by Diana Preston; it's interesting and all, but it's taking me forever to get through. And as I have the semi-annual Seattle Public Library booksale this weekend...well, let's just say that the bookcase I just ordered is not going to arrive in time.


Danielle said...

I like lists, but I don't always agree with them. I still have to look them over and compare what I have read with what the list says I should read. I do admit that I have started (from the bottom) reading the ML 100 list. I am going to at least try and read each one (though it will take me forever to do). There have been so many books "that I should have read", but I didn't. How to choose which to read. I thought this would be a good way to be exposed to authors I would never have picked up before. I figure there must be some literary reason for them to be on the list to begin with. And if I absolutely hate it, I will go on to the next one. I would never have read them otherwise (only on #97 as I just started this year). I really like the Magnificent Ambersons, and love The Sheltering Sky. I could have lived without the Ginger Man though!

Heather said...

I really don't know why I'm so anti-list, or in such an odd way. I've toyed with the idea of reading the Modern List, or one of the other 100 best/classsical whatnot lists, but...

Good luck with reading them all; I look forward to reading your reviews about them. Maybe it'll inspire me.