Saturday, August 28, 2010

Books and Music

I find that I really enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, so I'm going to make fairly regular book posts about what I'm reading and ask you all what you've liked lately too. The last one we did was very successful, I think.

But first, some music.


After I finished "The Chiropractor" a bunch of people were dying to know what the cd was that I had been accused of stealing and fired over. For the record, I did not steal or take or even touch that cd and while there were various conspiracies theorized in the comments, all of which were way more exciting than the truth of the situation, all I think happened is that Harlan himself misplaced the damned thing. I did not include the name of the cd in the story because I could not for the life of me remember what it was, but for you all, I did everything short of regressive hypnosis to jog my memory. I have narrowed it down to the cd I think it was. At first I thought it was a Buddha Bar or a Cirque de Soleil soundtrack (shut up), but then I realized it wasn't. I wouldn't have asked to borrow those because my dad had them at home. I am pretty sure the cd in question was Hed Kandi Winter Chill Volume 3 . It's a pretty good collection if you're into that sort of thing. This was the winter of 2002 after all and that kind of music was really popular then, especially in very spare modern art galleries that also sold soap and tea.


Now on to books.


Being jobless and homeless and massively pregnant in the hottest part of the summer in the hottest part of the country, I have opted not to leave the house much during the day unless I absolutely have to. It is akin to being under house arrest and there's only so much bad TV I can watch. As an aside, I have this terrible habit of watching reality shows on Discovery Health and TLC about things that go terribly, violently, appallingly wrong during pregnancy and childbirth and I've really had to force myself to stop watching this crap, even though I'm slightly addicted to that show about people who didn't know they were pregnant. I still can't understand how someone could not know she was pregnant. It would be 100% impossible for me to not know I was pregnant. Believe me, I would love to not know I was pregnant for just a little while each day, but nope, I've got alien baby rolling around in me, heartburn and a bump I keep knocking into things because I can't accurately judge my own size.  The other thing I have forced myself (at times unsuccessfully) to stop watching is Sixteen and Pregnant, though I still occasionally watch Wife Swap with my sister on the phone. I can't give up the Wife Swap and it's a good thing The Bachelorette has ended. Luckily, I couldn't get involved in Bachelor Pad or I'd be trying to tear myself away from that mess too.

Because nothing about this pregnancy has gone the way I wanted it to, I try to balance things out by reading a lot. The Kindle has helped me achieve this goal because I don't have to leave the house to acquire new books. They just magically appear when I want them.

If you haven't noticed now, my tragic flaw is idealism. I have had a lifelong bad habit of imagining the way I wanted things to be only to be disappointed by the un-idealistic reality of them. Pregnancy is one of these things. I imagined that I would glow and do yoga and eat all organic fruits. I would play classical music to my baby so she would be a genius, which seems to be the goal of every parent. Why is that? I realized that I actually don't care if Baby Lawns is a genius or not. I don't think there is any evidence linking geniuses to happiness and I just want her to be happy. In fact, I think there is probably more evidence linking stupidity to happiness, so maybe we should all focus on dumbing down our babies instead of trying to make them into Einsteins. But I digress, again. I haven't played Baby Lawns much classical music, although she's gotten a good dose of Burning Spear the past couple days. Eating all organic is too expensive and inconvenient and so is freaking yoga. I can't afford yoga classes. I do some stretches I found on the Internet when I can remember them. Hell, I don't even remember to take my vitamin every single day and it's been two weeks since I slathered myself in cocoa butter.  As for glowing, well, that's not happening at all. I look bloated and haggard and have a big broken blood vessel smack in the center of the right side of my face which looks like a sore. My wardrobe consists of eight year old hand me downs of maternity work clothes from a dear friend (she worked at a bank), my husband's tee shirts and some stuff I borrowed from my mom which fits but not well enough. So I look like a 55 year old woman from 2002 who works at a bank and spends all her money on Chicos. The sum of these parts does not equal glow. I don't even want to get into what my hair looks like right now.  As soon as the baby is born and I get moved into my house I am demanding a spa day and I'm going to have a cocktail. I know I don't drink, but I intend to start. Then I'm going to eat sugar straight out of the bag like the little sister from the movie "Pecker" just because I won't have diabetes to worry about anymore.

But this was supposed to be about books. Yes, books.  Because the rest of my life is a mess, because I am poorly dressed, eating chemicals, dry skinned and reality TV addicted, I have to balance things out by reading. I feel proud of reading and it gives me an escape. The Kindle has saved my life and my intellect.


It took me most of the summer to read Zadie Smith's White Teeth and I didn't love it. It had good parts. I liked certain characters and I tended to enjoy the humorous parts the most. I was interested in how she satirized the radicalization of Muslim youth post-colonialism (how's that for a grad school sentence?). But other parts were annoying. There was a similar tone I thought to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, but White Teeth didn't come together for me quite as brilliantly as The Corrections. Maybe it's my crush on Jonathan Franzen that makes me biased.  Honestly, I was glad when I finished the book so I could move on to something else.


Namely, Franzen's new book Freedom, which comes out in a couple days and which will magically appear in my Kindle. I hope it's good. I read the reviews and it sounded like I would like it a lot.


While waiting for Freedom to be available, I read some other very good books. I decided to go on a little creative non-fiction streak. Being a memoir writer, aka a narcissist, I like to read true stories about other people's lives more than anything else, just as I like to write stories about my own life more than anything else. 


I loved Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. I needed this book. This book helped me and is still helping me. Every single woman with children or who is pregnant needs to get this book and read it immediately. Ayelet Waldman is my hero and we'll just all have to get over our jealousy that she is married to Michael Chabon who sounds like pretty damned close to the perfect man. I mean, he's not as hot as Jonathan Franzen by any means, but the way she describes him makes him sound truly ideal.


After that I read Life Would Be Perfect if I Lived in That House by Meghan Daum. I think it's pretty obvious why I chose that book and it was extraordinarily well written. Remember how last time I wrote about books I explained how I read books for the quality of the writing now because school ruined me? This is a perfect example of that and it proves that if something is well written, the topic barely matters because basically this is a book about a girl who moves a lot and is a chronicle of those moves. Of course she explains the psychological and emotional reasons for her excessive moving and she ties this in to the mindset that caused the housing boom and collapse, so it's very timely and very interesting. Frankly, I loved this book. I loved it so much that I'm going to get into it a lot further in its own post in a couple days because it gave me some insight into some of my own bizarre behaviors. Let's just say that my version is going to be called "Life Would Be Perfect if I Subscribed to That Magazine."


Currently I'm finishing up The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I'm enjoying it so far. I plan to have it done by the time Freedom appears in my Kindle. Since I'm not done with it, I can't write much about it, other than that I like it so far. I think I chose this one for obvious reasons as well. In fact, it had come down to my reading this or The Hunger Games and I realized that with my current mental state that reading a book about a post-apocalyptic society where an oppressive government forces teenagers to murder one another, was probably not the best choice and that reading a book about a regular woman trying to be happier in her everyday life (without getting a million dollars to go to Italy, India and Bali for a year) would benefit me more at this time. We'll see and then I'll probably still go back and read about murdering teenagers anyway. In the meantime, while I'm finishing the book, there is an accompanying Happiness Project Blog, which I've really been enjoying too. My husband has been reading it with me each night. Even if you don't read the book, the blog is a good one to bookmark. We could all stand to be more mindful of our happiness.


So what were your favorite summer reads and why?

11 comments:

Jenny said...

This summer I've been trying to plow my way through some books that I purchased the last few summers but never got around to reading. I've read Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter and Getting Warmer. I'm reading a collections of Emily Dickens Poems and Pride and Prejudice. I still have 6 more Jane Austen novels to read (all in a compilation book with P&P from B&N), Picture of Dorian Gray and I am now reading a lot of play scripts that have been assigned for my Theatre History class. (My fall semester started 8/23)

I also read the Harry Potter series for the 47 billionth time, can't go wrong with him!

I'm hoping the rest of your pregnancy goes a little easier for you and that you have a bouncing, healthy baby!

jennifer said...

oh - i love "Pecker" and to quote Jason Stackhouse from "True Blood" - "I thought i was to dumb to get depressed" Love that line - made do an internet search for a correlation of high IQ w/ depression...but my ADD got the best of me and I never found anything out. Best of luck w/ the pregnancy - belly shot please! No face is needed :)

Wanderjenn said...

I blew a little over $100 in bday money to catch up on a few series by authors that I love. It was one of my best ideas ever. I just finished The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold and it was excellent. This series is billed as fantasy/romance, but it could just as easily have been billed as a standard fantasy novel with a romantic subplot. There are some twitchy moments for anyone pregnant (been there, done that, know you have to guard yourself sometimes). Before that, I finished a series by Jack McDevitt. This is straight science fiction and I cannot put these books down. I can't remember the exact name of the series, but the protagonist is a female deep space pilot named Hutch. Now I am rereading some Dresden Files books by Butcher before I finish catching up with this series. These belong firmly in urban fantasy. The main character has an entry in the yellow pages under "Wizard." This is very high energy and could almost be under the thriller category. It's good stuff and he often surprises me - though not as much as McDevitt.

Courtney said...

I got sucked into The Hunger Games right before the final book in the trilogy came out, and I read the whole series in just over a week. I was so excited for the third book, I pre-ordered it from Amazon and kept checking my Kindle after midnight on the day it came out to see if it was there yet. It was a great series with surprisingly searing commentary about adolescence and war.


Yesterday, I read Tennessee Williams's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof for the first time, and it is probably one of the best plays I've ever read. I feel cheated that it took me 26 years to get to it.

Finally, right now I'm plodding through Absalom! Absalom! for a class on literary tourism. Meh. I know Faulkner's a genius and everything, but would the occasional short sentence have killed him?

ty-ping said...

Don't worry about the classical music, that whole "Baby Einstein" thing was fabricated from one study done only on Adults where their brain waves increased in vitality for only a few minutes after listening. And then it was found that the same effect occurs when you listen to any music. But someone took that research and just went Waaaaayyyy off the deep end with it to sell overpriced CD's of Bach.

And organic doesn't always mean what you think it means so as long as your eating foods that are not coming instant out of a box you're doing fine.

Bookwise, I just finished 1984. If you haven't read it, it's worth a read.

Pride, Prejudice and Zombies is also definitely worth it if you like Jane Austin to begin with... And zombies.
Even if you don't like Jane Austin the Zombies make it worth it, and vice versa.

If you like Fantasy the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix was good, I just got a hold of Sabriel (the first book in the set) and I'm re-reading it.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson was odd... Good but odd. Kind of futuristic sci-fi fantasy, it was interesting.

And if you like smut... And fantasy I recommend the Black Jewel books by Anne Bishop. They're not half bad for fantasy smut.

Good luck with the summer ^_^ you should watch more food network instead of all those reality shows.

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Ken Follett's "World Without End" which is a follow-up to his "Pillars of the Earth". A good insight to life in the middle ages.

I also enjoyed "Book of Negroes" by Lawrence Hill which shows a snippet of the history of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia.

These books are historical fiction; facts are true but the characters are fictional. I work in a living history museum so they are of particular interest to my 1850's trade of Village Spinster.

I love John Grisholm and was delighted to find one book, "The Last Juror", that I hadn't read.

I wish I could have a Kindle. I live in middle of nowhere and I doubt I could get service out here. *sigh* ... great view out the window but damn.

Maureen...

Jean_Phx said...

The Reliable Wife - took too long to get good. But seems to be worth hanging in there. I'll let you know. The Butterfly House - is wonderful, just wonderful.

FreshHell said...

Recently read: The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt; The Bolter by Frances Osborne; and now I'm reading Just Kids by Patti Smith.

Reiven said...

I took a long road trip and listened to "The Land of Mango Sunsets" it's an easy breezy chick book and the hours in the car flew by.

mcgrimus said...

Just finished "Accordion Crimes" by Annie Proulx. More like a series of short stories than a novel. I liked it. Proulx writes with authority, though sometimes she lays on the description a bit thick. Not as good as "The Shipping News" but worth the read.

♥ Calamity Anne ♥ said...

This summer I've read "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," and because that was so intense I had to top it off with Patricia Cornwell's "Blow Fly," and after getting myself all stressed out I decided it was time for some light reading, so now I've got "Chasing Harry Winston," by Lauren Weisberger on my bedside table.

By the way...great music choice for the bambino...Burning Spear!!!

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