March Reads

Welcome to my March Reads!

For those of you new to the nest, I have a neurotic reading process. Each month I read at least part of a non-fiction book, a book about reading/writing/editing/language, and as many books from my color stacks as I can (my books are organized by spine color and I’m going through each color stack, reading every book I haven’t yet read).

This month was mostly focused on the green stack. I read a new book that will go into the yellow stack, which I’m finished with. I’m trying not to buy any new books, so hopefully I’ll stop back tracking now. I worked on the green stack, and I’m done with everything but a few giant works: the complete works of Shakespeare, the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, and the complete works of Robert Frost. I won’t be done with those any time soon. My non-fiction book for the month was a bit of stoic philosophy and my book on reading for the month was on post-colonial theory. I also added on a children’s book just for fun and the last book in a trilogy because there’s no way I could wait until I get to the silver books.

March Reads

Here’s March’s reads:

Hornet

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (2010) Stieg Larsson

I raved about the first two books in the Millennium series and my opinion hasn’t changed after reading this one.

I read the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, last July and the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, in February. I don’t want to be too redundant, so you’ll have to click on those links to read about Larsson’s incorporation of feminism and the overall quality of the writing.

What I’d like to add to the first to reviews is my utter amazement that this trilogy covers the entire scope of the non-mystical mystery genre (try saying that five times fast). The first book was a classic Agatha Christie style “who done it”, the second was an “on the run”/organized crime novel, and this, the third, makes it all the way to government conspiracy. Also, the main characters are an investigative journalist and a hacker. I might just be acutely aware of this after reading a giant collection of classic mystery and detective novels last year, but I find it pretty amazing that Larsson touches on pretty much every mystery sub-genre in three books that are one story, bound by chronology and characters.

I definitely couldn’t have pulled it off.

P.S. The Swedish version of the movies are awesome. I wasn’t too impressed with the American “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which is surprising, because I love director David Fisher. I shouldn’t have watched the foreign version first.

And now for a quote:

“Jonasson met the emergency team in the admissions area. The other doctor on duty took on the first patient who was wheeled in — an elderly man with his head bandaged, apparently with a serious wound to the face. Jonasson was left with the second patient, the woman who had been shot. He did a quick visual examination: it looked like she was a teenager, very dirty and bloody, and severely wounded. He lifted the blanket that the Rescue Service had wrapped around her body and saw that the wounds to her hip and shoulder were bandaged with duct tape, which he considered a pretty clever idea. The tape kept bacteria out and blood in. One bullet had entered her hip and gone straight through the muscle tissue. He gently raised her shoulder and located the entry wound in her back. There was no exit wound: the round was still inside her shoulder. He hoped it had not penetrated her lung, and since he did not see any blood in the woman’s mouth he concluded that probably it had not.”

The Reptile Room

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) (1999) by Lemony Snicket

Just as awesome as the first book from “A Series of Unfortunate Events“, which I raved about in January.

Good children’s literature doesn’t gloss over danger, includes sneaky vocabulary words, has brave and courageous characters whom you’d love to spend time with, teaches kids to empathize with others, inspires a sense of adventure, and keeps you turning pages. Check, check, check, check, check, and check. I’d read these even if I didn’t have kids, but as I do, I can’t wait for Eliza to read them!

We’ve collected the whole series, so I’ll probably read one or two of these a month when my brain needs a break.

And now for a quote:

“I am sorry to tell you that this story begins with the Baudelaire orphans traveling along this most displeasing road, wand that from this moment on, the story only gets worse. Of all the people in the world who have miserable lives–and, as I’m sure you know, there are quite a few–the Baudelaire youngsters take the cake, a phrase which here means that more horrible things have happened to them than just about anybody.”

Old Yeller

Old Yeller (1956) by Fred Gipson

Not the best children’s book ever.

I’ve been collecting children’s classics whenever I find them in thrift stores. It’s crazy that I read as much as I do and made it to 24 without reading Old Yeller. Well, now it’s off the list. I know, I know, I’m supposed to say it’s awesome. But as far as frontier books go, I’ll take the The Little House books. And for a boy and his dog type sob story, Where the Red Fern Grows is where it’s at. Old Yeller was only okay.

Also, I’ll have to have a talk with the kids when they read this about the immorality of animal abuse, as Travis has no problem kicking the crap out of Old Yeller.

And now for a quote:

“We called him Old Yeller. The name had a sort of double meaning. One part meant that his short hair was a dingy yellow, a color that we called “yeller” in those days. The together meant that when he opened his head, the sound he let out came closer to being a yell than a bark.

“I remember like yesterday how he strayed in out of nowhere to our log cabin on Birdsong Creek. He made me so mad at first that I wanted to kill him. Then, later, when I had to kill him, it was like having to shoot some of my own folks. that’s how much I’d come to think of the big yeller dog.”

Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked (2009) by Nick Hornby

Realistic relationships and obsession with music: Hornby’s best topics.

A rock star in hiding for years, an obsessive fan, a girlfriend who’s sick of playing second fiddle to the obsession, and a new album that changes everything. Full of wit, heart, deep sadness, and questioning of the meaning of life. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

I love that Hornby’s characters are so normal and human. You can’t help but identify with them. There’s nothing melodramatic about their problems. It’s everyday unhappiness, everyday conflict, a dissatisfaction with life that captures the reality of contemporary life: something that’s missing from most current literature. I also love his endings. Nothing’s perfect, but everyone changes for the better, it seems.

And now for a quote:

“Well, I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, and it still doesn’t feel to me as though I’ve emptied it. So I must be daft. It’s all just facts, isn’t it, as far as you’re concerned? It’s a rotten album, fact. And if I can’t grasp the facts, then that makes me stupid.”

The Tempest

The Tempest (1610-11) by William Shakespeare from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

I’m going to work my way through all of the Shakespeare plays I haven’t read, and I’m glad The Tempest was the first in the giant book. I’ve always wanted to read it. It’s referenced in a lot of the books I read. One of my favorite books, Brave New World, even takes its title from it. And there happened to be five pages about the play in one of the other books I read this month (Empire Writes Back). So even if it was less than amazing, I’d be better off by understanding all the allusions to it.

But it was amazing. I can’t believe I’ve been putting off reading Shakespeare for so long. I bought the complete works mostly for reference; I always figured I’d eventually buy the New Foldge Library editions for the plays I want to read. The Foldge editions are super useful and have the play on the right pages and word definitions, and explanations of allusions on the left. While I’m sure I missed some of the puns and words that have changed their meaning over time by reading the play without any extra help, I found that I don’t need all that to get enjoyment out of a work of Shakespeare’s. I might not be ready to write a dissertation on The Tempest, but I never felt that I didn’t understand what was going on. So now I feel better about tackling the rest.

As for the Tempest: it’s sexist and racist, but that’s almost a given with Shakespeare, so I’d rather focus on the plot and beauty of the language. It’s amazing that there’s so much action packed into one short play: a father and daughter alone on a mostly deserted island, spirits, a son of a sorceress forced into servitude, a shipwreck, mutiny, betrayal, struggle for power, royalty, Disney-esque fall-in-love-with-the-prince sub-plot, and the return of the prodigal son. There’s a lot going on there, and it’s in iambic pentameter. Go Shakespeare.

And now for a quote:

MIRANDA: “O, wonder!
“How many goodly creatures are there here!
“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
“That hath such people in ‘t!”

The Empire Writes Back

The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures, 2nd Edition (New Accents) (1989, 2002) by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin

Empire was the textbook for my Post-Colonial International Literature class in college. I love that Jake and I kept our textbooks. When we were taking 18 credit hours, even if we were assigned an entire book to read over a semester, there was too much to learn to really soak up a text as a whole. I like that I can go back to them now to fully understand the arguments presented and the information given.

It’s an advanced textbook and is pretty dense, as it is theory based. A working knowledge of colonial and post-colonial history and literature theory in general are pre requisites to reading this. If you don’t want to throw it across the room, that is.

I thoroughly enjoyed the arguments presented and I feel as if I have a much deeper understanding of the techniques used and the political aims underlying post-colonial literatures. When I’m reading non-fiction, I’m usually searching for holes in the argument. Every time something in the book threw up a red flag for me (example: “Why are you only talking about English post-coloial literatures?”), the book had an answer. I didn’t find all of the arguments bulletproof, and the work is definitely biased towards appropriating English into english rather than returning to native language, but I was mostly convinced by what the authors had to say.

And now for a quote:

“This dismantling has been frequently accompanied by the demand for an entirely new or wholly recovered pre-colonial ‘reality’. Such a demand, given the nature of the relationship between colonizer and colonized, its social brutality and cultural denigration, is perfectly comprehensible. But, as we have argued, it cannot be achieved. Post-colonial culture is inevitably a hybridized phenomenon involving a dialectical relationship between the ‘grafted’ European cultural systems and an indigenous ontology, which its implies to create or recreate an independent local identity. Such construction or reconstruction only occurs as a dynamic interaction between European hegemonic systems and ‘peripheral’ subversions of them. It is not possible to return to or to rediscover an absolute pre-colonial cultural purity, nor is it possible to create national or regional formations entirely independent of their historical implication in the European colonial enterprise.”

Poe

“MS. in a Bottle” (1833) from Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works, Deluxe Edition by Edgar Allan Poe

Just as I’m diving into the giant Shakespeare book, I’m diving into Poe. I only read the first short story in the book in March, but I’ll probably read several in April.

The first short story, “MS. in a Bottle” is the first person account of a seaman whose crew, save one man, is taken in a great sea storm. They end up on another ship–which is pretty much a ghost ship–and the sense of impending doom mounts as the ship travels to the end of the Earth. It’s good and expertly written, but it’s pretty ridiculous that the narrator would be writing during all of the scary happenings.

And now for a quote:

It is long since I first trod the deck of this terrible ship, and the rays of my destiny are, I think, gathering to a focus. Incomprehensible men! Wrapped up in meditations of a kind which I cannot divine, they pass me by unnoticed. Concealment is utter folly on my part, for the people will not see. It was but just now that I ventured into the captain’s own mate–it was no long while ago that I ventured into the captain’s own private cabin, and took thence the materials with which I write, and have written. I shall from time to time continue this journal. It is true that I may not find an opportunity of transmitting it to the world, but I will not fail to make the endeavor. At the last moment I will enclose the MS. in a bottle, and cast it within the sea.”

Meditations

Meditations (161–180 CE) by

Meditations is a classic in stoic philosophy. And people, I am definitely not a stoic. Marcus Aurelius is clearly a moralist, but it’s hard to take heed to “be good” advice from someone that writes that he values simple (stupid) subservient women, being kind to slaves, and free speech for only the privileged. This writing comes from an emperor, so it’s no surprise that it’s written from a place of privilege. I’ll take Socrates any day.

Upside: for a philosophical primary source, this is a pretty easy read.

And now for a quote:

Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.

Frost

Complete Poems of Robert Frost (1949) by Robert Frost

I love the few Robert Frost Poems I had read, so I felt like I hit the thrifting jackpot when I found the complete works. It takes me a little longer to read poetry, as I read each poem twice, and I’m 73 pages in so far (out of 642).

Most of Frost’s poems center around nature, even the ones focusing on relationships are in a clear romantic nature setting, but I didn’t know that Frost was so good at capturing human interactions. I’ve only been exposed to his short poems, so I was surprised to find many long poems that included dialogue. I still tend to like the short ones better. I’m excited to see how his work changes as I continue through.

And now for a quote:

TO THE THAWING WIND
Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But what’re you do tonight, Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of the door.

Megan

Those are my March reads! Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading lately?

Megan