Nothing to read

Augh! I don't have a book at present.
Post your comment on what I should read right now.


It's already building

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard that Bill Clinton’s new book My Life comes out today. There’s been a lot of hype. The picture above shows the lines of fans waiting for a Manhattan book signing.

To be honest, I’m sad about it. Not because it’s Bill Clinton. I’m on the fence about him—I feel like he was a good President, but I don’t like him. I’m sad because I wish people were excited about reading.

The line around the block isn’t about his awesome book. From what I hear, at 900 something pages, it’s daunting and loses its steam around page 600. That’s not why people are there. People are there because it’s Bill Clinton.

The same thing happened with Madonna. When her children’s book, The English Roses came out, there were lines around the block. The book turned out to be pretty good. She teamed with Jeffrey Fulvimari, a fantastic illustrator, and the book has a Bratz learn a lesson feel. That's not the point, though. Fans were there because they wanted to see Madonna, not because they were excited about literature. (I read the book in an airport bookstore.)

In recent years, the only fiction book that has generated this crazy hype is the Harry Potter series. I love how these books captures the imagination. When the Harry Potter books are released, there are lines around the block and everyone, children and adults, are in costume. JK Rowling is an international recognized celebrity, pretty rare for authors.

I know it’s a business. Knopf wouldn’t have given Clinton over a million dollar advance, almost unheard of in the industry, without knowing there was a desire for this book. I know I’m greedy, but I want more. More authors getting recognized celebrity status. More publishers dumping money into authors. More hype about reading.

My dream is that it becomes the norm for people to line the streets for new releases. No matter if the author is a former president or not.


Page Turner Test

A friend asked me last night how I determine what to read. There are a couple of ways:

1. Buzz. Who else has read it? Did they love it? Did they think it ended well? (I think the most depressing part of reading is investing all the time and finding the writer just stopped-- creating an ending that is completely unsatisfying.)

2. Genre. I'll read just about anything. Some genres I'll just move to the top of the list quicker.

3. Page Turner Test. This is the biggest one. If I'm in the library or a bookstore, I'll pick the book up. I'll flip to a random page. I'll read it. The whole page. If I'm interested enough to turn the page, I'll bring the book home with me. If I'm doing a mental happy dance because the blasted page is finally over, it stays unread.

Today's Reads

Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson, Pg. 193.


Winnie The Pooh

There's something very satisfying about finishing a children's book.
Just finished Winnie-the-Pooh.

I had never read it before. I've only seen the Disney version on TV, but this was the original. I checked it out for the nephews, but never got around to reading it with them. I knew it was a children's classic and thought I should get around to reading it.

The stories are short enough to be read before bedtime (although I read them in two big chunks) but challenging enough to get the imagination jumpstarted. My favorite story was when Kanga and Roo moved into the forest. The gang plans on tricking Kanga into leaving by replacing Roo with Piglet. They succeed, but Kanga realizes it is a trick and proceeds to treat Piglet like Roo, under his great protests. It's great.

I also love the original illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The pen and ink drawings are simple and stunning.

This is a world I'd like to live in. I would be Rabbit. Or Kanga--she is the only girl.


My Sister's Keeper

Okay, I finished it.

My Sister's Keeper is a wonderful hack book. My face is still wet from the tears I cried. My heart broke as I read. Jodi Picoult does an amazing thing, she gives you the climax and then turns the book on its heels in the denouement. But, it's not enough.

My Sister's Keeper is the story of the Fitzgerald family. Specifically, about the Anna and Kate Fitzgerald. Anna is thirteen, genetically harvested by her parents to be a perfect donor match for her older sister, Kate. Kate is on the brink of death from a rare form of leukemia and has been since her diagnosis at the age of two, fourteen years prior. The family has asked Anna to donate yet another organ, this time a kidney, to save her sister. Anna hires attorney Campbell Alexander to fight for her medical emancipation.

The narrative jumps back and forth between characters, and for one character, time. This, and the positive reviews, was one of the initial reasons I wanted to read the book; however, the characters are not strong enough to speak in their own voices. Picoult's character switch made me think of Faulkner and wish I was reading him: his character differentiation is what Picoult strove for.

Picoult is clever. Her word choice is wonderful--she knows exactly what to say to punch the reader in the gut. Even during blatant and cliched situations, it's clear she understands empathy and knows how to evoke an emotional reaction.

My Sister's Keeper does not quite fall into the light summer read category because the subject matter is heavy and Picoult does challenge you to think, even though you can see her challenges as clearly as if she wrote them in the margin. It's not literature, either. But it does take you through one family's heartbreak in a visceral way.


Currently Reading

Henry and Mudge In The Green Time, Cynthia Rylant, Pg. 12. Side note: this is one of books my nephew read to me. He read it to me on the train--about 6 pages. He's just graduated kindergarten. The book was a lot of fun and easy for a 6-year-old mind.

Winnie-The-Pooh, A. A. Milne, Pg. 90.


Thursday, for the first time since moving to Chicago, I stepped into the Children’s Library. My nephews are in town and the eldest just learned to read. I want to celebrate this accomplishment, and, hopefully, help instill a love of reading into them. So, off to the Children’s Library I went.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but there were so many books and categories of books that I had never even thought about. I got a nice introduction a few weeks ago when I attended CWIP’s Writing Children Literature seminar. There was a nice panel: authors, illustrators and editors explained the current market. So, I had a little knowledge and asked a really good librarian for help. I spent an hour in the library roaming through the kids’ stacks.

Some of my favorites that I’m excited about reading with the boys: A Perfect Day, Eric Carle’s The Very Clumsy Click Beetle(I remember reading his The Grumpy Ladybug when I was a child), The Three Little Pigs—this book won the children book prize—it takes the original story and morphs it as the pigs tear the pages to shreds and skip through other books collecting characters along the way, and the old standby, Winnie The Pooh. I also took out a book that is mostly pictures where you imagine the story, a book about trucks, a book about building a skyscraper, and two books about brothers. I’ll report back how well they go over.

I’m reading fiction again. When I started BookADay, I was only reading nonfiction, as a little experiment with myself. I hardly ever read nonfiction, but as I stated in an earlier blog, it’s an election year, and I get a little crazy. While I love absorbing all the information, I miss the freedom I feel with fiction. The creatures in nonfiction are real people, and I must compare their daily actions from other information sources with the personas detailed in the books. With fiction, I am free. These characters are what I imagine them to be. I will never meet them and can compare them to who I know or would want to know. I’ve missed it.

I started My Sister’s Keeper yesterday. I hope to finish it today. It’s this kind of behavior that my spouse refers to when he mentions what a voracious reader I am. It’s true, I can devour some books. I’m reading this book as part of my book club.

I’m disappointed with my book club. I rarely get to discuss literature with people—perhaps that’s why I turned to blogging. I joined a group that was forming through Craigslist. I had hoped we would have insightful discussions about books. The first one we read was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Our meeting was unorganized at best. We tried to discuss the book, but the discussion was stop/start. I felt like I was doing a lot of the talking. Pardon the pun, but we weren’t on the same page. One woman kept sandbagging the discussion by returning to her original question of whether we thought it was fiction or not. (This is even though the book is clearly labeled fiction, copyrighted under fiction, has a fictional disclaimer and a good portion of the book is about a boy who crosses the ocean in lifeboat with a tiger.) We elected to read My Sister’s Keeper, which was my suggestion. I regret that, so far, the book has less leaping off points, even though it does pull at the heart strings—I’m worried that our discussion will be short and inconsequential. We’re all going to bring questions and discussion topics, as well as finish the book, so hopefully, that will make things more interesting.

Back to reading. I’ll post a children’s book review and review of My Sister’s Keeper in the next three days.

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult, Pg. 200.
Casanova: The Man Who Really Loved Women, Pg. 129.
Attack of a Nation, Bob Woodward, Pg. 142.



I went to the Printer's Row Book Fair this weekend. I've always wanted to go and this was my first opportunity. People drove all the way from Michigan and Wisconsin to see it. I love that people are as enamored with books as I am.

There were so many wonderful independent book stores and quite a few small publishers as well. Everyone was incredibly approachable. Including the author of The Bernstein Bears.

Two things: one, why was Borders there? They had a gigantic tent and also were selling on the bottom floor of the library. Two, my favorite small press: preaching the doomsday. The end of the world, the aliens that are coming to get us, how the capitalist pigs are ruining this country. Not to belittle someone else's political ideals, but I find it quite amusing that the UFO guys are now being grouped in with the socialists.

Today's Reading:
Human Biology, Sylvia S. Mader, Pg. 34.
Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Pg. 123.


New Reading Style

It's been awhile since I've been back in school. I decided to return earlier this year. Next week, I start my first class: Human Biology. This will be the first of a year's worth of online classes I complete. I like the idea of online classes because that way I can go to class and study on my own time, as opposed to during the day, when my employer likes me in the office. I still have to go into school for exams and lab days, but that's not quite so bad.

I received the books in the mail earlier this week. I downloaded the syllabus, so I figured that I might as well get ahead. I began reading. The textbook, Human Biology by Sylvia Mader, is clear and concise.

I changed my reading style. Under normal circumstances, I'm not a skimmer; however, I looked at the course objectives. My instructor gave the class a comprehensive question list for each unit. My first read is specifically to answer these questions. I'm not spending my time concentrating on the interesting, but not necessary, factoids. Straight to what I need to know. Even with the skimming, the first quarter of the first chapter took me an hour to read and take notes on. With three chapters a week, that's a lot of reading time. I'm going to see if this modification works on the first test. I'll report back.

Yesterday's Reads:
Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward. Page 81.
Human Biology, Sylvia Mader. Page 24.


Just A Label, Right?

Okay, I'm a touch political. Not political enough to volunteer for a campaign or join a protest, but I read up on politics voraciously, especially in an election year. And I always vote. (I think it's a waste of our civil liberties that people don't vote.)

So, it's an election year and I'm trying to read every new political book on the market. As you may have noticed, I'm currently reading Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward. Woodward is one of my personal heroes. Ten years of journalism will do that for you. Seriously, his professional ethics paralleled with his clear and concise writing style makes him a standout in the profession. And then you add on his list of accomplishments. All the President's Men is another fascinating read.

Enough raving about Woodward. I picked up Plan of Attack from the library. I love our library. My local library is the Harold Washington Branch of the Chicago Public Library. I cried the first time I was in it because it was the first time I was in a building fit for a library. I know, sentimental. I'm a bibliophile. Even my father in law, who is an architect, thinks this is a beautiful building. It's housed in brick with these cool green gargoyles guarding the sides. If you want to read more about the building history, click here.

So, I checked out Plan of Attack. I'm the first person to borrow this copy. It's a nice looking book. A book obviously about current events. Simon & Schuster, the publisher, was even nice enough to print "Current Events" on the back jacket. The Chicago Public Library didn't think so. The book is based on "interviews with 75 key participants" (according to Simon & Schuster's own website), and is discussed by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on the White House website. I heard it was on the White House's official non fiction reading list, but I couldn't find their reading list anywhere on the site. Anyway, this book is definitely about current events. The Chicago Public Library labeled it "Historical Fiction."

I feel this does library patrons a disservice. I come to the library because I want to expand my horizons. I plan on reading Who's Looking Out For You by Bill O'Reilly. I like to decide what the facts are for myself. I do not want the library making political decisions about books. I expect the library to present me with a vast array of books, hopefully more books than I can read in my lifetime.

You might say that I need to calm down. It's just a label, right? It shouldn't be that big of a deal. I disagree. It'll be shelved in fiction or literature. It won't be shelved with all of the other current event books. This is an annoyance now, but as time buries the specific political arguments, this book is going to be shelved incorrectly. Students doing research about the early 00s (I hate our new decade name) will miss this perspective of our time. It won't be pulled up on subject searches. It will be entirely overlooked. Simply because someone in the library classification system decided to make a political statement.

I'm not arguing this is the best book in the world. (Frankly, I'm a few chapters in and it's a little dry.) That's not the point. The library has a myriad of badly written and simply awful books. I'm arguing that the library shouldn't classify books outside of their published genre. Don't make a political decision about a book that affects me. Just give me my book, thank you very much.

I took matters into my own hands. I tore the sticker off. I've never defaced any kind of book in my life. I was hesitant to highlight college textbooks. But, I had to do something.

I'm also writing two letters. One to put into the book for the next person. Make sure to tear the sticker off, I did. It says historical fiction. Don't you want to evaluate the book on its own merits? I'll ask. If there's a historical fiction label, tear it off, too.

The second letter is to the library. I'm going to lobby that they change this book's classification. Let the readers decide for themselves whether or not it's political bunk. Put it on the shelf next to all the other books about politics.

Today's Reading
Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward. Page 57.
Casanova: The Man Who Really Loved Women, Lydia Flem. Page 121.