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Beehive Book Club Vol. 4: What are you reading?

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In my Sunday Spotlight column, I offer an excerpt from the latest edition of the Beehive Book Club. Here’s the extended entry:

Books are amazing, aren’t they? I’m in awe of them because they can be portable little worlds, all compact and self-contained, that you can drop into at any time. It enthralls me when a book wraps me up in its comfy little world as if I’m breathing its air, smelling its smells, feeling its vibrations, knowing its characters. To me, it’s the tone of a book that really sells it: If, when I’m away from a book, I actively anticipate and even crave crawling back between its pages, then it’s a winner for me.

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I’ve read quite a few books since my last edition of the Beehive Book Club back in May, from classics and biographies to contemporary novels and science fiction. (Newcomers: I envision this occasional series as kind of a “virtual” club of people bound together not so much by common titles but simply a love of reading; I tell you what I’m reading, and you tell me, and we get a sense of satisfaction by knowing there are other people out there who love text in an image-based world.) The title that sticks in my mind is a definite oldie: W. Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage,” a wallop of a novel. It isn’t the cheeriest experience, mind you. Maugham is no hyperactive optimist. Yet this amazingly meaty, compelling story of a club-footed orphan boy growing up in late 19th Century England isn’t just doom and gloom.

Yes, Philip Carey gets some bum luck in life – from losing his parents to being called a “cripple” to getting stuck with a glum, loveless uncle. But he also gets some tremendous advantages as well: a station in life that means he won’t starve (which is something during that time in England), an aunt who loves him, the sensitivity to be able to stand back a little from life. He’s a philosopher, which some might see as a curse, but he has the self-awareness to really contemplate his place in the universe.

As we plow our way through Philip’s life story – his early years with his aunt and uncle, his tumultuous time at boarding school, his insistence on being an artist, his obsession with the young London waitress he meets, his slog through medical school – interesting themes emerge. One is truly bleak: In a reference to the slow, sordid death of his friend Crenshaw, Philip muses: “It all seemed inane … It was quite unimportant that he had lived; he was dead and forgotten … And Philip cried out in his soul: “What is the use of it?”

Another persistent theme is societal expectations. We live our lives as we think they ought to be lived, rather than how we really want to live them: “Always his course had been swayed by what he thought he should do and never by what he wanted with his whole soul to do.”

The thing that struck me most about the book is the idea of self-awareness, of stepping outside your life to analyze. The danger, Maugham seems to say, is that when you’re spending all your time analyzing, you’re not spending enough time living.

Time and again Philip demonstrates this extraordinary self-detachment. He’s reminded of a memory as a child, when he was told of his mother’s death, “and though he could not speak for crying, he had insisted on going in to say good-bye to the Misses Watkin so that they might see his grief and pity him.” It’s as if he sees himself in performance and is always aware of his “backstage” even when he’s in the moment. (All of us do this, to an extent, but with him, it seems much more pronounced.) When he’s kissing a woman, for example, he enjoys it – but what he enjoys more is witnessing the effect he has on her when he’s doing that kissing.

One might ask how Philip’s obsession with the waitress, Mildred, squares with his excessive self-detachment – and, make no mistake, he is obsessed, willing to grovel and humiliate himself and pretty much screw up his life just so he can be with a woman who barely appreciates him – but I think, again, it’s as if he’s doing a performance of obsession. He thinks this is what love is, and he’s determined to perform it to the best of his ability. He takes it too far, of course, and there’s one scene in the book that is positively excruciating: when he realizes that Mildred and his good friend, Harry, have the hots for each other, and rather than do everything he can to discourage the flirtation, Philip actively brings them together, even going so far as to suggest they take the holiday together that he and Mildred had been planning all along.

Still, with all of Philip’s self-destructive tendencies, I felt myself liking him so much — and rooting for him. I got completely wrapped up in his tight little world, and even as he dragged me as a reader through his anguish, I felt glad to know him. That’s a high
compliment indeed.

Some of the other books I’ve recently read:

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** “Feed” by M.T. Anderson. A sly, subversive, raucous little book set in a very scary near future in which babies’ brains are physically linked to the Feed, the successor to the Internet. It’s a horrific world: no nature left to speak of, overpopulation, environmental catastrophe, strange lesions suffered by the majority of the population. In “Feed,” the protagonist is something of a weak-willed teenager named Titus. One night at a club on the Moon he bumps into a girl named Violet. Disaster strikes when a “terrorist” – someone who opposes the Feed – causes a weird short-circuit effect amongst the people he touches.

Violet, it turns out, is more adversely affected than Titus and the rest of his friends. She’s an odd duck anyway, home-schooled, a rebel who is always trying to subvert the incessant corporatism that has taken hold of life in the United States. The teen-age love affair that develops between the two isn’t typical, and it matches the novel’s brisk, sardonic tone.

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** “The Heights,” by Peter Hedges. This adequate novel — that’s the best word I can find — is about a young Brooklyn Heights family with storybook lives. Tim Welch teaches history at an elite high school. His wife, Kate, stays home and takes care of their two small boys. While all their friends seem to be getting divorced, their marriage is rock solid.

This is a novel, after all, and there are cracks in the façade. But this isn’t a story of extremes. Tim isn’t a killer; Kate isn’t having an affair with a priest. Perhaps the best thing about the book is its lack of hyperbole – it’s more realistic in terms of human
foibles. What the conflict comes down to is garden-variety adultery – Tim with a wealthy neighbor named Anna Brodie, Kate with an ex-boyfriend who’s now become a big TV star.

There’s great character development and descriptive writing, but I just didn’t care for the narrative flow of the book. A side plot involving Tim’s abusive father — a winning woman’s basketball coach who was sleeping with his students over the years — is
just sort of awkwardly attached. So, too, is a plot thread involving a student who has a crush on Tim. This book just didn’t click for me.

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** “Theodore Rex,” by Edmund Morris. This second of a planned three-part biographical series on Teddy Roosevelt focuses on the presidential years: 1901-1909, in which an “accidental” leader (who came to power when President McKinley was assassinated. It was a tumultuous time as the “modern” era came into being, and Roosevelt was a larger-than-life character who knew how to harness the power of the presidency. The book includes Roosevelt’s great successes (the Panama Canal, the Great White Fleet, environmentalism, progressive values) and also his failures (race relations, for one, for which he could have done so much more.

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** “Consider Phlebas,” by Iain M. Banks. Talk about getting burned. Amazon readers raved about this first “Culture” novel, which details a galaxy at war. I found it disjointed, plodding, inconsistent and awkwardly written. There were times during the final third of the book – when the protagonists are running around a subterranean network of tunnels trying to find the renegade “Mind” (a massive, sentient computer) – that I actually laughed, it was so slow-moving. I like many of Banks’ concepts: the idea of “Minds” so powerful they’ve far outpaced the living things that created them; the idea of thousands of inhabited planets throughout the galaxy; the idea of a game (Damage) so bizarre that players have to recruit “Lives” (which are lost if the player loses). But the storytelling here sucks. If this is “Space Opera,” then it’s not for me. I’m writing off the rest of the Culture series.

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** “Rash,” Pete Hautman. In the USSA, otherwise known as the United Safer States of America, you have to wear a helmet and protective gear just to run track in school. Set 75 or so years in the future, this odd and endearing dystopian novel – written specifically for grades 8-12, and a great listen as a book on CD – is a fascinating extrapolation of what could happen if the risk-averse among us took over. It’s hard to imagine an America that bans football, or example, or makes road rage a felony, but that’s the case in the world of Bo Marsten, 16, who feels like he’s doomed because of his father’s angry genes. When Bo gets into a fight at school with another boy over a girl, he winds up doing hard labor (16 hours a day) at an isolated juvenile institution run by a warped warden who wants nothing more than to field a killer football team.

While there are aspects of the book that seem a little preachy/obvious, the kind of stuff that would give libertarians hives, what I did find more than plausible was the book’s emphasis on the prison labor complex. How long will it take for capitalists to really
grab hold of all the labor potential of our increasingly incarcerated population? In Bo’s time, unfortunately, a society has formed that practically requires all that free labor.

Additionally, a storyline involving a rogue artificial intelligence program – one created by Bo for a school project – is deftly handled, especially when it “evolves” into a super lawyer who can fight for Bo’s freedom. I found this book intriguing and insightful – and while not totally plausible, close enough to make me think twice about people calling for more prison labor.

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** “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin. A beautiful, tragic, sublimely written experience that left me in tears. It’s a simple story: A married woman with a wealthy husband and two children starts to realize, slowly and surely, that her life is less than it could be.

Edna is spending a summer at the seashore, and she spends time with a solicitous young man named Robert, the kind of guy who flirts full-time with married women. The fascinating part of the story is that it doesn’t unfold as a traditional love story. Robert is almost an accessory to the story: a prop used by Edna to cultivate her own blossoming. I’m not saying she doesn’t have strong feelings for Robert; she does. But as the author, as the creator of this little universe, Chopin molds the story in a different way. That’s especially true considering when the book was written – shocking, really, that a woman character develops a sense of purpose and sexuality.

The story unfolds with a gentle, purposeful rhythm. When Edna returns to the city after summer, and with Robert off to Mexico, she takes all her steps without a man. Her husband, off on a lengthy business trip, is slowly and methodically removed from her life – almost as if he fades away to invisibility. First Edna rebels against expected social conventions by cancelling her weekly “visiting day.” Then she declares herself an artist, starts a studio and dedicates time to herself. She sends her children away to their grandmother (double, no, triple, shocking). Then she finally moves out of her
mansion. (Interestingly, her husband pretends he’s remodeling the house.) She even starts an affair with another man – someone she doesn’t love but obviously lusts after.

The ending is tragic, of course, and it really bummed out. I was even a little angry – here, again, is the “fallen” woman who pays for her sins with death. But then I had to think of when this book was written and how daring it was. I’m still not happy about the ending, but I guess I understand it. By the way, I read this book because of the recommendations of a couple of Beehive Book Clubbers — and I thank them for that.

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** “A Spot of Bother,” by Mark Haddon. This author was another Beehive recommendation, and the book was a fun romp. I’m not sure I did the right thing by reading this newest book by Haddon before his acclaimed “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” because by most accounts this later book was far different from that one. But he’s a good, snappy writer, very lean and crisp, and he managed to take a very slight family drama (older father going crazy, older mother having an affair, grown daughter contemplating getting remarried, grown son trying to find a meaningful gay relationship) and put a nice, solid spin on it. I enjoyed Haddon’s frequent viewpoint changes (all the major characters get their chance) and his no-nonsense style, and even though the plot builds toward a rather predictable climax involving a wedding in which many, many things go wrong, this is an example of how strong writing can egg the reader along to enjoyment.

UP NEXT: I’ve been eying Margaret Atwood’s “The Year of the Flood” ever since it came out, and that’s what I’m at the start of now. It’s the sequel to “Oryx and Crake,” which I liked a lot. What can I say? I’ve been on a dystopian-future kick this year. It probably has something to do with the toxic state of our nation’s discourse.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: What are you reading? Tell me in a comment, as long or short as you want, below.

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PREVIOUS ENTRIES

Beehive Book Club Vol. 3
Beehive Book Club Vol. 2
Beehive Book Club Vol. 1

Responses to "Beehive Book Club Vol. 4: What are you reading?"

pk says:

a perennial summer favorite:
Carl Hiaasen
Just re-read Skinny Dip (it is bust-a-gut funny!) …and starting Stormy Weather, but Strip Tease and Skin Tight are also great fun, light summer reading….topical and wickedly funny, with that Floridian nutty twist!

On the table….The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon

blake says:

I’m reading “The Joke” by Milan Kundera (famous for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”).
One thing I enjoy about his books, is that it’s from a perspective of someone who’s lived behind the Iron Curtain’s version of Socialism….so it’s neither the American Right’s demonification nor the American Left’s idealistic dreams of this system and how it played out in Eastern Europe.

@PK—I LOVE that book “The Curious Incident…” and have read it a couple of times.

re:Somerset Maugham…this is one of those books I read because I felt I ‘should’. Sort of sad book about a guy who idealizes a waif and pays the price for his idealization…but then it’s been like…18 years since I’ve read this?…so maybe I’m completely mis-remembering! I knew I had to read it when I heard a Beatle’s bootleg of some BBC sessions where the interviewer asked Lennon (when his own book of funny verse and such was being released) if he was a blooming ‘Somerset Maughan” and he said something like….”No, I’m not blooming.”

kb says:

Do you know anything about bridge? I don’t, which is one reason I liked Louis Sachar’s new book-The Cardturner. It’s a novel about a teenage boy who turns cards for his blind uncle at bridge tournaments. Included are segments where the author explains the basics of bridge. For example: The seven of diamonds is “the beer card”. If one wins the last trick of the game with the seven of diamonds, their partner has to buy them a beer. Sachar is funny and his characters are good people. He quotes Steinbeck-”The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding, and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.”
I relate to his point of view and I like his choice of quote. Now, I’ve got to read Cannery Row again!

Heather says:

I recently reread Austen’s “Mansfield Park,” which I hadn’t read since college. My opinion on certain characters in that book has changed a bit since I last read it (not Mrs. Norris — she’s still a bitch. Possibly related: is Mr. Filch’s cat in Harry Potter named after this character?)

I also just read “Turn of the Screw,” which I began years ago and never finished. It was easy to see why — what a waste of time. I’m of the opinion Henry James didn’t fully know the meaning of half the words he threw into those overstuffed sentences.

hilary says:

I just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy. I highly recommend all three. now I’m working on a collection of short science fiction stories from Australia called Centaurus. it’s excellent. I love science fiction and dystopian-future type books!

Kristin says:

@Hilary – I just devoured ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy as well, they were fantastic. It’s so refreshing to see a young adult book that dealt with grief and loss in such an honest way.

I just started ‘The Wetnurse’s Tale’, ‘War and Peace’ and a trashy romance. Also, thinking I might re-read ‘The Handmaiden’s Tale’ after hearing Margaret Atwood interviewed on NPR.

Matt says:

I’m currently plowing through the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010. Hooah!

dianna decoste says:

‘Of Human Bondage” sounds very interesting. Right now I’m reading the Rebel’s of Ireland, by Edward Rutherfurd, with this one I’ll have read all his books, He writes historically accurate novels, I especially enjoy learning little known facts of societies’ customs and conditions, which Rutherfund researches and writes in. Ken Follett is another favorite of mine, ‘eye of the needle’ and ‘pillars of the earth’ at the top of that list.

Betsy Lumbye says:

A few I’ve read lately:
“Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers. Non-fiction that reads like a novel, and especially timely now. A New Orleans paint contractor decides to brave Katrina to look after his business and clients’ homes. He puts his skills to use, saving lives and property. Then his Syrian heritage becomes a huge liability. A real-life reminder of how thin the veneer of civilization can become in extreme times, and how the democratic ideal of equal protection can dissolve in the blink of an eye.

“The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel” by Aimee Bender. I loved this book. It’s a coming-of-age story written in a magical realism vein. On her 9th birthday, a child is visited with a special gift and burden: When she eats, she feels the emotions of whoever prepared the food. As she learns to deal with this secret that sets her apart, she also learns the sad lessons of how others in her family have handled their own gifts. The ending is sweet, poignant and satisfying. The writing throughout is lovely.

“The Imperfectionists: A Novel” by Tom Rachman. The story of a quirky English-language newspaper in Rome that unravels as the world changes and its founder’s gene pool runs thin. Sometimes this book is hilarious and dead-on in its depiction of newsroom characters. Sometimes it’s moving as it captures the almost indescribable pull newspapers exert on journalists and readers. And sometimes it turns into cartoonish slapstick that undermines the whole endeavor. That’s too bad, because so much of the book is brilliant.

Polly Brewer says:

Think that Cutting for Stone by Abraham Vergese is a remarkable book, in its breadth , insight and compassion. Big long tale but engrossing all the way. For mystery lovers, of which I am one, there is a little known English writer, Elizabeth Ironside whose books are a huge treat. Death in the Garden, A Private Affair and The Art of Deception are perfectly delightful- witty, smooth,neatly plotted, gorgeously written . They all come as a treat. And new book by Fresno State’s Steven Church . The Day After The Day After My Atomic Angst is a small volume but huge in its feeling, sense of place, look into modern society and the struggle of a child growing up into a compassionate man, all done with such a sense of grace.

famous says:

* Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The last thing I read of his was Gatsby and that was in high school. Read this for a book club I am part of. Talked it over and I am still not quite sure what I think about it.

* The Great Perhaps, Joe Meno. Joe Meno is a young-ish writer from Chicago, I think. Maybe my favorite (for the time being). This is his latest, and might be his best.

* The Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It is a graphic novel, yes, but totally literary in its approach. Not just for nerdy-types.

* Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, Bill Clegg. A memoir of Clegg’s time as a crack addict, if you couldn’t tell from the name. A quick, if not particularly fun read about what people will do (and give up) for the drug.

* Blue Movie, Terry Southern. Pretty much porn masked as a novel. Which is funny, being as it’s about porn masked as the art of film making. Written (and set) in the 1970s, I wonder if a book like this could be taken seriously now.

Michelle says:

I’m actually reading The Shining by Stephen King. I have to read it for my popular fiction class at Fresno State. It’s definitely a book I would never have picked to read, but it’s completely different than I expected. I thought it would have been this horrifying novel the entire way through but I’m already nearing page 200 and there haven’t been many intense scenes. It’s just mostly King letting you get to know the characters and the hotel. I’m actually really enjoying the book this far. There’s plenty of pages left for the scariness to start but I’m actually looking forward to reading it all because I want to see how the characters handle it.

Cheen_Gao says:

Just finishing up Lies My Teacher Told Me. Great analysis of history books and how they’re written. Essentially, textbooks are filled with inaccurate information, and in some cases, bald-faced lies.

Sharon says:

Love this column! I keep wondering, is there anybody out there who still reads? I was in a car accident a while ago and couldn’t concentrate for awhile because of a neck and jaw injury. You know what I was saddest about? Not being able to read all those books still on my “to do list”. But this summer I was able to resume and oh, the joy is coming back. Thanks for expressing it so well! Leading from your May column, I read all of the Willa Cather I could get from the library. “Song of the Lark” was one of my favorites. Alexander Dumas’, The Three Muskateers-so much fun! Robinson Jeffers, “Tamar” and “The Roan Stallion”-disturbing stories of abuse and incest. Mark Twain’s-A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and a reread of Huckelberry Finn. I’d forgotten what a master weaver of words he was. What a great commentary of social problems.
And H. Rider Haggard’s “She”. So much adventure and fantasy. What an imagination he had! Anybody else read classics? I’d love to discuss them with a fellow classics devourer.

Donna says:

I am reading “Work Song” by Ivan Doig. He is one of my favorite authors. I have all of his books. His command of the English language is amazing. The story takes place in Butte, Montana and places fictitious characters into historical facts. Since I was reared in Butte, it has been fun and exciting for me.

mdub420 says:

i’m reading “How to Win Your 2010 Fantasy Football League”. It’s a great read.

Emily says:

‘of human bondage’ was one of my favorites as a teenager. it was my mom’s favorite book and she passed it on to me. i still remember poor phillip in the grubby cafes of paris, barely surviving, and an old absinthe-drinking poet ..

can i make a suggestion for a book you might like? i finished ‘solar’ by ian mcewan a couple weeks ago, and am still thinking of it! it follows a 50-something nobel physics laureate whose life has devolved into a string of speaking gigs, honorary titles and failed marriages. it’s full of subtle introspection and observation as well as a wild and sometimes shocking plot, and the ending is deviously satisfying. i was skeptical of the rabid praise on the back cover of the book, but after finishing this book, i am convinced that this author is a genius. four stars!

G. says:

I am reading The Great Gatsby and Another Country … I’m getting the plots mixed.

Jean says:

Currently, I am reading “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Interesting book, but not my favorite. I think that would have to be “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I just reread it for at least the third time. I also reread two other books, “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Fahrenheit 451″. I guess reading is my very favorite thing to do,
In the latest copy of AARP’s newsletter, there is a list of 50 books that have been banned by American schools and libraries. This list is incredible. Many of my favorite books are in this list–ex.: To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. How could this happen?

karen genovese says:

i am just starting “of human bondage”
I recommend all of Robert B. Parker Spenser series, which is considerably lighter than human bondage, but very entertaining, great dialogue, we lost a good writer when he passed.

I’ll be going back and re-reading The Great Gatsby, William Faulkner (genius) In Cold Blood, and Bury Me Standing (nonfiction about gypsies).

blacksidepress says:

I’d like to recommend my novel Billion Dollar Winner as one all should read.

My novel tells the story of a Chicagoan and community activist who was the biggest protester against the lottery games. The state of Illinois joins in with the other 49 states to create a nationwide lottery; the prize grows to be worth one billion dollars and my character comes to possess the winning ticket even though she has never bought a lottery ticket in her life.

My novel is funny, inspirational and positive. Learn more and pick up a copy by visiting my website at http://www.billiondollarwinner.blogspot.com

Thank you.

Oh Donald, I loved The Awakening. I read it as a teen and it really shaped me. Might be time to read it again.

Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s The Stand (the extended and uncut edition) for the first time. Loving the character development and what happens after an apocalypse — though it’s not the best book to read while coming down with a cold on an airplane.

Sarah says:

I am currently reading “A Lion Among Men” by Gregory Maguire – the third book in the “Wicked” series.

I just finished “Rebels of Ireland” and I too LOVE Edward Rutherfurd!! I only have “The Forest” and the new one “New York” that I haven’t read of his.

I need a book to read out loud with my 4th grade daughter (it is part of her weekly homework) any suggestions? Oh and she refuses to read Harry Potter or any Magic Treehouse books.

Lynn says:

I agree with Polly, just finished reading Cutting for Stone a fabulous read! I recently read Happiness in what Remains a riveting memior! I highly recommend. Book from several years past I really enyoyed was Cold Mountain (don’t hold the movie against the book) but authors second book (can’t even remember the name) was really terrible. I adore the Ladies Number 1 dective series, so easy to read and always puts a smile on my face. Most of all what I want from a book is to be engaged and maybe learn a little something along the way.

Brandon S. says:

Well I just finished reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” (So I can be ready for the final film installments). Now, I am completely immersed in Steig Larson’s “Millenium Trilogy.” You know, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.”

I watched the 2009 Swedish film of Tattoo and was mesmerized. I immediately went to Target and bought Tattoo and Fire, and I am waiting for Hornet’s Nest to come down in price. I recently heard they are re-making the films in the U.S. I just wonder how they’ll be, if done right they could be really cool hybrid versions of Silence of the Lambs/Bourne films.

Donald Munro says:

Here are a few more Beehive Book “Clubbers” from The Bee’s Facebook page:

Timothy Todd Anderson: I finally got around to reading “Tom Jones” by Henry Fielding. It had been sitting on my bookshelf since college yet I had never read it….and boy, am I glad I finally did it! Such life, memorable characters, and crazy adventures. Fielding’s celebration of the human spirit remains as full of zest today as it must have been when it came out in the 18th Century!

Jessie Keller Huebschwerlen: I’m currently reading “Saving Fish From Drowning” by Amy Tan. Very good so far.

Trinidad Vazquez: Last book I read: Love in time of cholera by Gabriel Marquez, always better than the movie.

Kathy Mahan says:

I just read Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,” which is a really interesting take on how we need to use the right-brain thinking more to stay competitive in business. Since I’m in school and have so much reading to do for class, my “fun” reading will have to be put off. It’s killing me that I don’t have time to dive in to “Mockingjay” just yet. Luckily, I have avoided the spoilers so far.

I really love to book club Donald. I get so many good ideas for books to check out.

Lynn says:

I had to add one more book that I read last January at the insistance of my 15 year old son. This book really did not fit into a category I usually read, but it was so beautifully written that I was hooked from the start. It was a sad, dark book, but I needed to see where it went. I can still close my eyes and imagine the terrifying world that remains in The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

john swift says:

“the complete short stories of Ambrose Bierce” Bierce is a California treasure…
“long past stopping/a memoir” Tom Canfield,the son of famed self-help guru and author, (“chicken soup for the soul”) Jack Canfield, who abandoned him when he was 1 year old, a very grim autobiography.
“Vineland ” Thomas Pynchon…Pynchon is a genius what can one say? if you like being challenged…
also read “Against the Day” by Pynchon he’s always smart, funny and prophetic
“the Serpent and the Rainbow” Wade Davis, ethnobotanist
non-fiction exploration of Voodoo in Haiti…
“Cahokia” anthropological tretise on the mound builders in pre-columbian north america
“Undaunted Courage” the Meriwether Lewis biography, somewhat romanticized, reads like high school textbook
“The Feathered Serpent” D.H. Lawrence, racsist, sexist, but still a great read
Saving Fish From Drowning” Amy Tan, maybe her best work,(and it’s not about her mother)…
“Babylon by Bus” 2 young Boston Red Sox fans decide to work for the ‘coalition’ and show up in Bagdhad to apply in person, early on in the occupation…
“California Desperados” Bill Secrest, (don’t quit yer day job Bill)
“Salt/grain of life” Pierre Lazzlo,a chemist…… a facsinating history of salt, translated from French, a linguistical/historical delight
“Everthing is Illuminated” jonathan Silverberg
too ambitious for a 20-something kid,
“The Mickey Mantle Novel”, the guy got a lot of leg in his day,…alcolholism is sad…but what a ballplayer!…a small sampling of my summer reading, thanks for the forun Donald
Support your Libraries! Kill your TV!