Day 28: Classic novel you haven’t read but plan to: I looked up my “want to read” books on Goodreads, and right at the top was Middlemarch by George Eliot. There are 57 books currently on my “want to read” list on Goodreads! And instead of reading them, I read other books that interest me at a particular time.
Day 29: Book cover you love: That’s a hard one! Some books are great but their covers are awful. Yet I suppose people may be attracted to a book by its cover art. The cover I love is a book I have not read, but the cover art is by Gustav Klimt. It is a biography of the artist, Gustav Klimt: 1862-1918 by by Gilles Néret.
Day 30: Book you are reading right now: I’m just starting 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This is not one of his usual horror books and is the book that will be reviewed in September at one of the book groups I am in. It is a very long book (!) about a time traveler who tries to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy. In order to read it, I am putting aside The Twelfth Transforming by Pauline Gedge, a novel of ancient Egypt set in the time of the “heretic” king Akhenaten. (I’m obsessed with ancient Egypt right now – it takes my mind off the pandemic and Trump.) This is also a long book, but it’s on my Kindle and the Stephen King book is from the library.
Day 25: Book villain you actually love: This was a hard one! I finally came up with Severus Snape, from the Harry Potter series. That is, I THOUGHT he was a villain, working for Voldemort. Of course, this turned out not to be the case, so he wasn’t really a villain, but he seemed like one long enough to qualify, in my opinion!
Day 26: Biography you think everyone should read: I don’t read many biographies, but I think everyone (especially white men) should read a book about a strong and influential woman or person of color, to understand a different perspective. The two I recommend are actually autobiographies: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Day 27: Book you read every year: I don’t! There are too many books, too little time! So I will say The Bible, because I have not read it from cover to cover but I read bits of it frequently. I’m not a particularly pious person, but I do attend church and often there is something in the Bible reading that I want to explore more about. And there certain parts I enjoy reading over and over. Right now, I’m slogging through the Book of Exodus, more for historical context, sort of a reference book. I’m interested in ancient civilizations.
Day 22: An LGBTQ love story: Two excellent novels are Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.
I read The Great Believers last spring. The story moves back and forth between the 1980s AIDS epidemic in Chicago and 30 years later in Paris. The protagonist, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery, has witnessed friends dying from AIDS, including his partner, Nico. His circle of friends continues to narrow until all he has left is Nico’s sister Fiona. Meanwhile, we find Fiona in Paris looking for her daughter, whom she suspects has joined a cult. It is a different kind of love story, and very sad in parts, but I loved the book.
Song of Achilles was written by the same author, Madeline Miller, as Circe, which I chose for Day 17. The novel is set in ancient Greece and based on Greek mythology and sagas, such as The Odyssey and The Iliad. Achilles is the “golden boy” whose destiny is to fight in the Trojan War. Before that, however, the author takes us through how he matures into adulthood with his constant companion, Patroclus, whose only claim to fame is his friend Achilles. The story is about how and why Achilles and Patroclus ended up at a battlefield near Troy, centering on the love affair between Achilles and Patroclus. I highly recommend this book!
Day 23: A book quote you know by heart: Because of my ADHD brain, my ability to memorize a quote of any kind is shaky at best. So my memorized quotes are short. But I saw the Franco Zeffirelli movie version of Romeo and Juliet eight times! This is from that famous love tragedy by William Shakespeare and just about everyone knows it: Juliet is on her balcony, remembering the young Romeo who has captured her heart: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so Romeo would…” Romeo meanwhile has heard this and makes his appearance known. After professing their love for each other, Juliet finally says good night: “Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night until it be morrow.”
Day 24: A book collaboration by two or more authors: A Very Stable Geniusby Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. The title is ironic – using an exact quote by Donald Trump about himself, the book is a factual account of the first 30 months of the Trump administration.
Day 19: An audiobook you like because of the narrator’s voice: I have listened to very few audiobooks because my ADHD doesn’t allow my brain to concentrate for long on spoken narration. But one that I really loved was Angela’s Ashes read by the author Frank McCourt – this is a sad story but listening to him read it, I about died laughing! His Irish accent and expression really made it for me!
Day 20: A book with an unreliable narrator: This one really stumped me. Is the character that is narrating unreliable or is the narration itself unreliable? I confess I have no answer for this one.
Day 21: An anthology you love: I can’t think of any anthology that I have read except poetry, and I don’t read a lot of poetry. Here are three poetry anthologies that I have either read in their entirety or have read parts of: The Heath Guide to Poetry – edited by David Bergman and Daniel Mark Epstein. This was the textbook for a poetry class I took in grad school. I like it because it has a variety of poems & poets, and there are notes about each of them, helping me to understand them. I gained an appreciation for poets I had never heard of and poetry in general in that class. (I even began to write poetry once in a while!) Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States, edited by Lori M. Carlson with an Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos. There are several of my favorite Latino poets in this anthology and the poems are sometimes funny, sometimes relevant, sometimes sad, sometimes poignant.
Collected poems of Ogden Nash – I have several anthologies of Nash’s poems, which I inherited from my mother. His poetry is light, funny, and often a veiled critique of society.
Day 16: A book you’ve read more than once: I don’t often do this, much as I’m tempted, because there are too many other books to read! However, every few years, I need an injection of Jane Austen, so I reread Pride and Prejudice. Each time I discover something I didn’t notice before!
Day 17: A book with a person’s name in the title: There are so many! Two that I have read within the last year are 1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman. Quite an interesting and humorous book – much of it is her interior monologue in judgment of other people, often people she hardly knows. It is wickedly funny!
2. Circe by Madeline Miller. Miller is an excellent writer and has written at least three novels which are based on Greek mythology. She is an expert in Greek classics, and her stories draw from The Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey. I admit that I have not read either one of these, but Miller inspires me to be tempted! She uses characters in these epic works and builds a very believable story around them. Circe was a minor goddess and hardly mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey except that she was banished to an island for all time. When men land there on their voyages, she turns them into pigs – well, not all the time; only if they behave badly! The whole novel is engrossing and clever, so much so that I as the reader began to think I really knew some things about Greek mythology! Circe (the book) has a definite feminist viewpoint. I loved it.
Day 18: a book you like by an author no longer living: Many come to mind! My siblings and I were raised on the classics, and there were many complete collected works to choose from at our house. My favorite series as a kid was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series of books about her life in a pioneer family: Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, etc.
The most recent one I’ve read is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was actually surprised I had never read it before! It is the story of the life of the four March sisters, who are very close growing up, and each of them follows her own path – women did not have as many options open to them in the 1860s as they do now. But the main character, Jo, is the sister who bucks the system and becomes a writer no matter what she has to do to get there! In the end, she also marries (even though she had vowed not to for years), and puts her writing on hold to start a school for boys with her husband. That is the subject of the next book in the series, Little Men.
Following is the official trailer for the latest (2019) movie version of Little Women.
Day 13: A book with a color in the title: The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, which happens to be one of my favorite books. It was made into a movie, which I liked, but the book was much better (which is what so often happens)!
Day 14: A Fairy Tale Retelling: The only ones I remember are children’s books, which I read to my students. One that I thought was really cute was Las tres javelinas (The Three Little Javelinas in English), by Susan Lowell. Because my students were learning in both English and Spanish, sometimes I read the book in Spanish, sometimes in English. Either way, the kids really loved it and I’ve always had a strange affection for javelinas (which are basically an American version of warthogs, quite ugly in reality!) because of the book. The story takes place in the Southwest, with two of the javelinas having built houses out of tumbleweeds and cactus ribs (from a dead saguaro cactus). When the hungry coyote comes to capture them (he fantasizes barbecuing them and eating them with red chile sauce), they run to the house of their wise sister, who has built her house out of adobe bricks. The wolf tries to come down her chimney – with burning results!
Day 15: A book that makes you cry sad tears: One of them was The Color Purple, although it has a happy ending. Much of the story concerns Celie, who is abused and impregnated (twice) by her father, in rural Georgia. Her life is so horrible that she escapes by writing letters to God. There’s a line in the book, “God gets really pissed off when you walk past the color purple and don’t notice it.” (I don’t remember the exact words.) I found that line to be so profound because purple represents the person who goes unnoticed even though if you get to know her, she’s really beautiful – sort of like the color. Anyway, after a lot of other things happen, Celie eventually gets away from an abusive husband through her pretty sister Nettie, who befriends a missionary couple who take the girls to Africa where they are doing missionary work.
I tear up easily but not usually while reading books, more often when I watch sad movies.
Day 10: A book that makes you cry happy tears: Anne of Green Gables
Day 11: Literary character you want to have dinner with: Egyptian pharaoh Hatshepsut – She is actually a real historical character but I have read three books about her (two fiction, one non-fiction) so she is also a literary character who has fascinated enough female authors to attempt to write her story. Since she lived 3,500 years ago or so, nobody knows exactly what she was like, but must fill in the details from the scant historical evidence available.
I also want Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice to time travel to the 21st century and I would escort her around to show her what life is like now! She would be horrified by some things, puzzled about others, but I know she would be delighted to find that women today have many choices in life!
Day 12: A “popular” book you hate: Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – highly overrated; the writing isn’t that great and it is way too long. “Hate” is too strong a word. That said, I only read a fraction of it. I just didn’t care for his writing style and never got into the plot. I’m also not into vampire books which seem to be hugely popular, especially among Gen Xers and younger. Perhaps I’m just too old for the “Goth genre!”
Day 7: Best audiobook to listen to on a road trip: I suppose it depends on the road trip. The only audiobook we’ve listened to on a road trip was one of Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn & Chee mysteries (see Day 1) – I don’t remember which one. I have listened to audiobooks on my commute to work (which in Chicago’s traffic may take as long as a road trip!). The Life of Pi is one, but afterwards, I read the book because I missed things in the audiobook when I got distracted. The other audiobook I listened to on my commute wasn’t really a book – it was a Great Courses series of lectures on Chinese history. I got really engrossed in it – it was fascinating! I think I was dreaming of going to China soon at the time. I still haven’t been to China, but when I get ready to go, I’ll review this course!
Day 8:Series everyone should read: People have so many different tastes so I am going to name two that have become classics. Harry Potter series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series – although these are books for young readers, I think they have become part of our cultural lexicon – the Little House books more so for at least girls of my generation; Harry Potter for my son’s generation and beyond, but everyone old and young really.
There are many classics I wish kids were still reading in high school English, such as novels of Mark Twain and Charles Dickens (not series, though). These authors’ works definitely enrich one’s understanding of history.
Day 9: Favorite book to give as a gift: I don’t give books as gifts, generally – again, people have different tastes and if I give someone a book as a gift, they may feel compelled to read it even if they are not interested in it. If I do give a book as a gift, I choose something the person has either asked for or has expressed interest in the topic. I have received cute little books as gifts – like the ones you see while standing in line at Barnes & Noble that are full of little poems or sayings, or maybe cute pictures of animals.
Day 4: Book you remember from childhood: There are so many! But in the interest of not repeating myself later, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and also The Secret Garden. Both were later made into movies which brought them to people’s attention again.
Day 5: Favorite classic novel: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I read this book the first time as an adult, after seeing PBS’s showing of the first series made from the novel. I loved it so much I proceeded to read all of Jane Austen’s novels. A few years ago, Pride and Prejudice enjoyed a revival, which many people were very receptive to after seeing PBS’s showing of the 2nd P&P series as well as the movie starring Keira Knightley (very popular, although I didn’t like it very much – too much of the original dialogue was changed for no good reason). I have read P&P at least 3 times and will probably read it again. (On Day 16 I will probably repeat this.)
Day 6: Book that broke your heart:Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. In the genre of narrative non-fiction, Boo tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities. This is a riveting account based on three years of uncompromising reporting by the author’s own experience in a Mumbai slum and the people she met and grew to care very much about – and so did I, as the reader!
I’ve missed a few of these lately, but I’m back in the game now. In Cee’s On the Hunt for Joychallenge, the subject this week is collections.
I have a lot of collections, most on display. Unfortunately, I don’t want to part with any of this stuff so I’ve had to figure out how to fit them in around our much smaller house!
I have a huge collection of refrigerator magnets from around the world. Why? Because they’re cheap, don’t take up much luggage space, and they make good souvenirs. I keep most of them! These are on the side of one filing cabinet but I have many more (that are holding papers on the actual refrigerator!) not shown here.
I keep my cat collection on two shelves – most of them are here. I acquired some of them abroad and others from my mother. On the far left is a bead and wire lion that I bought in a village in Tanzania. In front is my alebrije cat from Mexico (more on them below). Next to that, the tall one you can’t see very well is an Egyptian cat. In the back on the left is a ceramic Manx cat my mother bought me, and the blue & white one on the right was hers.
I put my cheetahs on a top shelf, peeking out at our living room. (The small one my son made in school, so I display it as the mother’s cub.)
I actually have more cats scattered around – one made of cement in front of the fireplace and another made of papier-machê, as well as framed artwork.
As you can tell already, I like ethnic stuff – things I buy in other countries or other cultures. My newest collection is Navajo kachinas, hand made and in different sizes. Each represents a character in Navajo mythology. They are quite expensive, and I treasure them because for many years, I wanted to collect kachinas but couldn’t afford them!
Alebrijes are brightly painted carved wooden figures from Oaxaca, Mexico. You can find these even in some international stores here, but all these I purchased in a village in Oaxaca that specializes in these little figurines made from a soft wood called copal. The large one, an otter, was specially made for me and brought to my hotel when it was finished. The cat’s and armadillo’s tails come out – they’re separate pieces, and so are the quills of the porcupine. (My real cat was curious about what I was doing!)
I happened to get a collection of birds, quite unintentionally, but they are all quite nice. The loons and the largest bird were my mother’s. She loved birds. The others are from Mexico. The two black birds on the front left are actually whistles! They were also made in Oaxaca, Mexico, out of black pottery, another craft Oaxaca is famous for.
Books! So many books, so little time… I managed to narrow my books down to mostly two bookshelves – I had four full shelves of books in our old house!
I have several coloring books and often work on them while “watching” the news. Most of the ones I’ve done lately are mandalas and flowers.
Finally, these are some of my drawings and paintings. I’m not sure I’d call them a “collection” but I suppose they are. I hope to frame some of them to hang on the walls.