The Monday Agenda 7/8/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

I’m back, busily bustling through bunches of books (and amusing myself with alliteration, it would seem).

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

This is really a two-week check-in, since I was away (on a lovely vacation, thanks for asking!) and skipped a week of blogging. Here’s what I’ve read since my last update:

Vacation books:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: Done! Loved it. My review is here.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: Done! My review is here.

A Small Death in the Great Glen by A. D. Scott: Done! My review is here.

Post-vacation reading:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: Done! Beautiful book. My review is here.

Saga, volumes 1 and 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Amazing new graphic novel series from the author of Y: The Last Man, one of my favorites. I loved the two volumes of Saga, and can’t wait to read more.

Fresh Catch:

Well, I was away, after all, so the fresh catch collection is on the smallish side:

Saga, Volume 2When You Were HereThe Girl You Left BehindOpenly Straight

Yes, I did read Saga, volume 2 already, the second it reached my hot little hands! The other books are from a giveaway (When You Were Here — thank you, Perpetual Page-Turner!) and two ARCs that were just approved. Looking forward to all of them!

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

I’ve just started Joyland by Stephen King, and I’m hooked!

Next up, one of my pending review copies, either Mist by Susan Krinard or The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold.

Mist (Mist, #1)The Book of Secrets: A Novel

Plus, I’d really love to get to more of the books on my summer TBR list!

My kiddo is safely home from an “awesome” time at summer camp, and ready to resume our nightly reading tradition. We’re continuing our Narnia quest, and will be starting The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this week. Four books down, three to go!

boy1So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

The Monday Agenda 6/24/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

True fact: I’m away and not actively blogging this week. Oh, the power and beauty of scheduling! Just because I’m off to parts known and unknown, it doesn’t mean I can’t post a Monday Agenda for this week.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler: DNF. I read about 30 pages or so, but it just never really clicked for me.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce: Done! My review is here. Warning: Contains rants and spoilers.

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis: Done! My son and I have now read four Narnia books together, and plan to continue as soon as we’re back home. We loved The Horse and His Boy. We managed to squeeze in a quick Q&A With The Kiddo post on our Narnian adventures — you can see it here.

That’s it! It was a low-volume reading week, thanks to the typical pre-trip frenzy of packing, laundry, and last-minute dashes to the store for insect repellant and other such nonsense.

Fresh Catch:

Neil Gaiman! Plus, two paperbacks — bought cheap! — arrived from the UK this week. I’m so looking forward to reading all of these!

The Ocean at the End of the LaneRose Under FireThe 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)

Yes, I’ve already read (and loved!) The 5th Wave… and now I have my own copy!

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Instead of choosing my own vacation reading, I asked my blog visitors to do it for me! Based on my poll results, here’s what I’ll be reading in the next week and a half:

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

A Small Death in the Great Glen by A. D. Scott

… and possibly Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, although I doubt I’ll fit all this into my not-as-long-as-I’d-like vacation.

Thank you to everyone who voted and offered an opinion (or two)! I’ll report back — when I get back!

boy1

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

The votes are in!

Thank you to everyone who voted in my vacation reading poll! I suppose you could consider this the height of indecision — rather than choosing my own books, I let you do it for me. 🙂

There’s a clear winner, and a few runners-up:

The top vote-getter is:

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next #1)

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde! I’ve been wanting to read this one for years — nice choice, you guys! I’ve already read the first few chapters, and I’ve got a good, good feeling about this one. Plus, the cover blurb compares it to Monty Python, Harry Potter, and Buffy! I mean, they might as well just write my name on an engraved invitation.

The runners-up in my vacation reading poll are:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A Small Death in the Great Glen by A. D. Scott

Let’s face it, I’m only going away for ten days — I do not need to pack four books! Although I suspect that I shall…

Thank you, thank you, to all my voters! I’ll let you know how it all works out. Meanwhile, time to go throw the books into ye olde suitcase and get on with my packing…

Help Me Choose My Vacation Reading!

I love to travel. I hate to pack.

I have a little over a week to get ready for my trip. Passport? Check. Insect repellant? Check. Cute new sundress? Check?

Decision on what books to bring? Um, not yet.

Here’s the deal. I have a huge fear of running out of reading material, so I always bring bunches of books, and then throw in even more, just in case. Because, yes, I have once had the awful experience of finishing all my vacation reading one hour into my return flight — and had nothing to do for the next four hours. It still makes me shudder, just thinking about it. In more recent years, I’ve been relying on my Kindle, because then of course I never run out.

Fair enough. But on this trip — coming up in 9 days (!) — we’ll be in a rain forest, in rainy season, and we’ve been advised to not bring electronics… and to store our books and other paper items in ziploc bags to protect them from the damp. Seriously.

So while I have bunches of shiny new books, all pretty and perfect, just waiting to be read, I’m not going to bring any of those with me. Instead, I’m thinking I’ll bring some of the older paperbacks on my shelf, the ones I’ve had for a while and haven’t read. Maybe I bought them used to begin with. Maybe they’re just enough years old that they’re starting to look a bit tattered around the edges. Whatever the case, that’s my plan.

Here’s where you come in. I’ve narrowed my list list down to about 10, and I need to come up with a top 4 or 5. (BTW, I’m only going to be away for ten days, but like I said: DEATHLY AFRAID OF RUNNING OUT OF BOOKS.)

Take a look at my ten below (pictures link back to each book’s Goodreads page), then cast your vote and let me know what you think I should read. Top vote-getters win!

Cast your vote here:

Check back to see the results — I’ll leave the poll open until next Friday, June 21st, after which the winning books are going into the suitcase!

A rock in the sun: Reading and place memories

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the book Brazzaville Beach for my Flashback Friday post. And I discovered that my dominant thoughts about this book had less to do with the plot itself and more to do with the memories I have associated with the process of reading it. I read Brazzaville Beach during a family vacation to Israel one summer, several years ago, when the weather was unbearably hot and we spent quite a bit of time visiting my husband’s relatives. My son was still a toddler at that point and couldn’t take the heat very well, so by mid-afternoon each day, I’d usually take him off for a nap in one of the spare rooms, crank up the AC as high as it would go, and then, while he slept, I’d pull out my book and read. As soon as I picked up my copy of Brazzaville Beach again, I was tranported back to that little room, the cold air, and the sensation of snuggling in bed with my napping child.

In thinking about this, I started considering the ability that books have to transport us to another time and place. I don’t mean the obvious: When I read the Outlander series, for example, I imagine myself wandering through the Scottish Highlands. When I read Anna and the French Kiss, I couldn’t help daydreaming about walking the boulevards of Paris — and perhaps stopping for a baguette and café au lait along the way.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. Instead, what I really mean here is how strongly a particular book can evoke the memory of the time and place in which it was read. Of course, this makes me think of my high school French teacher, who — bless her heart (luv ya, Mademoiselle Littlefield!) — poured her heart and soul into getting us to understand not just French grammar but also what it means to be French. I remember her detailed explanations of Marcel Proust and his madeleines — those particular cookies that, with one bite, evoke such strong involuntary memories of a time, a place, and sensations of pleasure and love.

I think books work this way for me. On one level, there’s the pleasure of remembering a particularly beloved book, thinking about the characters, the plots, the feelings I experienced while reading the story, the puzzles and thought processes involved in figuring out or responding to an especially thorny dilemma or mystery. But on another level, my responses to certain books have almost nothing to do with the book’s content itself and everything to do with where I was and what I was experiencing at the time that I read it.

Yosemite

A Yosemite meadow. Not a bad place for a good book.

Another example: If you’ve read any of my top 10 lists or other posts about favorite things, you’ll know that I’m an ardent fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. But here’s a twist to why I love these books so much. When I first picked up Outlander, it had been sitting on my shelf for several months already — a somewhat beat-up mass market paperback edition that I’d found at a used book sale for $2. My husband, son, and I were packing for a family camping trip and I needed something I could throw in my bag and not worry about too much, but preferably something that would take me a few days to read. In went Outlander. So there we were, on the outskirts of Yosemite, staying in a rustic cabin on the edge of a meadow. Each morning, I’d grab a thermos of coffee and head out to a large rock out in the meadow, to bask in the sun, get my morning infusion of caffeine, and read for a little while before starting our day’s activities. And that’s where I started Outlander. I’ve read the book several times since, but each time I pick it up, my first association is with that rock in the sun, spring breezes, mountain fresh air, and peace. Lovely! I have to honestly say that those memories are part and parcel of my Outlander reading experiences — not that I wouldn’t have loved the book anyway, but I think those connections add to the reasons why it’s so special to me.

And another, maybe less positive but still strong (and forgive me if I’m entering TMI territory here): I read The Pact by Jodi Picoult about 12 years ago, while I was spending a few days at home in the midst of going through fertility treatments while trying to conceive my beloved son. The Pact is certainly a difficult book to read, regardless, but in that moment, so focused on children, it was perhaps a very bad choice to read a book about teen suicide and parents struggling to cope with the loss of a child. When I think about The Pact now, my strongest memories are of my experience at the time — sitting in the window seat of my house, trying to distract myself, but never really able to stop wondering whether my treatments had worked.

Other memories as well: Under the Dome by Stephen King makes me think about the hospital waiting room where I sat reading it while waiting to hear the outcome of a relative’s surgery. When I think about Deerskin by Robin McKinley, I think about a flight to visit my father soon after he’d retired and moved to Florida. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness makes me think of the hotel balcony in Sedona, Arizona where I sat reading each afternoon on vacation, watching the sun set over the red rocks.

Sedona views. Perfect reading location.

Sedona views. Perfect reading location.

Tastes, smells, sounds — all can take us back to a particular time or place, bring up memories of what we were doing, who we were with, how we were feeling. And I think books work the same way. A book can be savored for its own sake, but on top of that, there are the emotions and connections associated with experiencing a particular book at a certain significant time or location in our lives.

I’d love to hear the experiences of other readers. Do you have certain books that you especially cherish because of where you were when you read them? Please share your thoughts!

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