The Half-Finished Books to Read in 2009

Seeing everyone’s top-ten lists made me want to create my own list.  I thought about my favorite books this past year:

Inkdeath, Dead and the Gone, Papertowns, Home (Marilynne Robinson)…and realized that I lost my list of books I’ve read and I didn’t use GoodReads all year.

I really wanted to make a list and as I was starting to box some of my books to prepare for moving later this year, I saw how many post-its I had in these books.  And most of the post-its were either in the middle or thirty pages in, so I thought I’d make a list of the books I hope to finish in 2009.  I don’t think I’ll have a chance to read much today, so its a safe bet that none of these books will be finished in 2008.

~ On Persephone’s Island by Mary Taylor Simeti

~ One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

~ The Din in the Head by Cynthia Ozick

~ Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

~ Misreadings by Umberto Eco

~ Essays by George Orwell

These are the books I want to finish at some point hopefully in 2009.  The others, well it would be great if I finish them, but they’re not a priority.

Tonight a group of us are going to spend the night on Colorado Blvd in anticipation for the Rose Parade.  Seeing that California has had much warmer weather in the past few days, Brian and I thought that this would be the best and only chance we’d have to try this again.  Last time we tried sleeping on Colorado, we ditched the group we were with, as it had been raining and windy for over four hours.

See you in 2009!

Cheerfulness Abounding

Now that Christmas break has begun, I find that I am able to catch up on all the reading that I’ve missed lately.  Yesterday I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Pox Party: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson.  Today I plan to read The Kingdom on the Waves, the sequel to the Pox Party.  Octavian intrigues me; mostly for the subject matter of the book (for those unfamiliar with Octavian Nothing series — it is a fictional slave narrative by a child who is 16 and raised by a group  of philosophers).  Who isn’t intrigued by the subject matter?  For what happened to us as a nation while slavery was an accepted practice is still felt today.  Maybe in some areas it is not, but in literature is still is felt; just like we are still riveted by the Holocaust.

Besides these cheery books, I’ve also finished the books Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Pfeffer.  Out of the two, I liked The Dead and the Gone much better.  The main character in The Dead and The Gone goes through a more believeable transformation I think, and his story is more horrifying than Miranda’s in Life as We Knew It.  It should be duly noted that both of these stories are dark and horrifying, but The Dead and The Gone is especially so.  The reader follows Alex, a 17yr old Puerto Rican kid, as he is faced with caring for his younger sisters after a huge natural diasaster.  Through the story he has to make tough decisions, do what we would think are horrendous things, just to guarantee his sisters (and his) survival.  A fascinating dystopia novel that leaves the reader stunned by the end of the story.  I finished this book actually a couple weeks ago when I supposed to finishing up my papers and finals, but I couldn’t put it down and I find that still now the images in the story are on my mind.

Besides reading more today, I have all the Christmasy things left to do: wrap our presents (all 20 of them), make sugar cookies, and start the crust for apple pies.  Maybe I’ll watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, just to lighten the mood.

Its a story of a mouse…

If asked to describe the story, “Tale of Despereaux”, I would have to say that it is a cute fairy-tale story of a mouse who loves a princess.  To adults, this may sound absurd, and on a simple level “Tale of Despereaux” is that.  Thankfully, being a good storyteller, Dicamello, does not have the mouse become a prince, kiss the princess, nor do they wed (sorry to spoil the ending for some).  The movie trailer also mostly shows the story of Despereaux only, but if anyone actually reads the story, they will find that there are other stories besides the tale of Despereaux.

For instance, there is the story about his arch enemy, a rat.  He isn’t a true villain however, just misunderstood.  And perhaps that works well in the storyteller’s favor as after all, this is a fairy-tale.

And then’s there the story of the royal family — the princess, the king, and the queen who loved soup. The king and princess grieve the loss of the queen, but the princess is overjoyed at the end for welcoming of soup again in her kingdom.

Also, there is the tale of a girl who is useless and quite simple-minded.  All she wants is to be a princess, but she is stuck bouncing from servant position to servant position in the royal household as she can’t seem to do anything right.

Lastly, there is also the story of Despereaux’s father who feels guilty for his treatment of his son.  He is able to find redemption in the end.

“Tale of Despereaux” is a good fairy-tale story for any child to read.  Mostly girls will probably love reading it just because of its fantasy nature, but there is a little sword-play and action that may interest very young boys.  Above all, “Tale of Despereaux” shows that it is good to be unique and though people may misunderstand you at first, in the end they will appreciate and love your creativity and uniqueness.  Essentially, remember, you are special.

She pluck'd…

Happy 400th Birthday John Milton!

Some of the birthday celebrations:

Exhibition at the Bodleian Library

Exhibition at the Cambridge Library

Podcasts of an all-day reading event of Paradise Lost

List of numerous events that have taken place throughout 2008 in England in celebration of Milton

I intend to sit back and read major portions of Paradise Lost today.  I recently just acquired a large hardback illustrated version of Paradise Lost complete with Gustave Dore’s pictures.  It is gorgeous.  The cover has the picture of Satan overlooking the Garden for the first time.  Perhaps my favorite picture of Dore’s, and its amusing to see the reaction of others as at first they think its beautiful, but are shocked to find its Satan overlooking the Garden.  If it wasn’t for papers that were due tomorrow, I’d try to read the entirety of Paradise Lost over again.  I think it would be my fifth or sixth time completely through (does not include partial re-readings).

Celebrate!

Mercies: Collected Poems

All Hallows Eve

by Sheldon Vanauken

Tonight, while weighing wild winged hope with fears

Of loss, again the girl’s voice crying gay

And sweet — O playmate of lost pagan years! —

Comes ringing in the glory of the May.


O singing beauty! singing though there nears

The moment of all finding and all loss:

Together in our laughter and our tears,

Wind-driven to the centre where ways cross.



Rose garden in blue night, where souls embraced

In holy silence, timeless ecstasy:

Truth grew between us, final beauty laced

The stars, and awed we knew eternity.


A secret sharing passed from eye to eye:

In death the singing beauty does not die.


I read a copy of Sheldon Vanauken’s “Mercies: Collected Poems” today.  While his poetry is touching, it is limited to those who know his story (which can be read in “A Severe Mercy” by himself).  His poems echo of his love with his wife, nicknamed “Davy”.  His poetry is tinged with melancholy tones, even those written when he and Davy first met and fell in love; obviously he was influenced greatly by the English poets, Byron and Coleridge (amongst others of that era).  My favorite poem, but again only due to having previously read “Severe Mercy”:

Dying




Bright with God’s spirit

Awed at that beauty

— You who are near it —

Unafraid at that footstep

Now that you hear it



Reckless in pity

Eager in loving

— High in the City —

Wearing in beauty

Holy simplicity.

Finding time to read

More than ever now, I find that I have to set a time aside to read.  And that reading does not include any wedding magazines.  With the end of the semester coming up and a wedding to plan, the free time in which to read is diminishing quickly.  I am trying to work my way through the book “Th1rteen r3easons” by Asher, but the only thing that barely keeps me reading it is seeing why the central character, Hannah, has committed suicide and how these teenagers actually have cassette tapes.  If I was going to commit suicide (not that I have any reason to or would), and wanted to leave cryptic messages to revenge myself upon them, I would record myself on a recordable mp3 player, or make recordings on my laptop and email them to everyone.  Sure, it takes away from the anonymity of it all, but in the end as these cassette tapes are passed, everyone finds out how they are connected to her reasons why she committed suicide.  On the flip side, cassette tapes is a good story device and portable too.

I look forward to starting “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Pynchon.  I picked it up on Halloween as I was shopping for a costume at Goodwill, but haven’t started it yet.  It seems like it would be a good break from the wedding planning.