Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Try

A girl can change her mind, can’t she?

I realized if I am going to commit to writing at least one post a week about books and put it on my Nourish blog, I might as well just put it here. So that is what I’m going to do…

Back to my Kindle. I, a person who reveres books and had sworn to uphold the printed word, have only read about five hard copy books in the past year. The rest, over 120, are all on Kindle. I never imagined I would be so enamored. But convenience definitely wins in this case. I no longer have the luxury of hopping in the car and driving to the bookstore to browse. It is so easy, actually too easy, to just peruse the Amazon site to find something I want to read, whether it is 3 o’clock in the afternoon or 3 o’clock in the morning. The disadvantage is how deceptively ‘reasonable’ many kindle books appear to be. “Only $8.99?!?” “Only $9.99?!?” The next thing you know, those $8.99 and $9.99’s have really racked up. I have found many free books on line, though, as well as some that are a dollar or two, so there are bargains out there.

Looking at my overflowing bookshelves, it amazes me I could have brought another 100 books in the house. I am not sure if I am sorry or not. Some of what I have read has been wonderful and some simply awful. It would be nice to have a hard copy of the books I really loved, but I always can do that anyway. And the books that fall into that category are few. More are in the “I enjoyed that” group and can easily forgo owning. And, of course, the awful ones are no great loss.

So while I will always prefer a real, in-my-hands book to read, the Kindle is a great alternative for someone like me who is virtually housebound.


A few of the things I’ve read this year:

I found a really fun, beautifully written series by S. J. Rozan. Set primarily in New York City, it follows private detectives Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, at first tentative and then firm partners. I love the details on Chinese culture that come from the Lydia Chin character and Bill Smith is utterly believable as a jaded, wounded misanthrope. Rozan uses the interesting technique of having the novels alternately narrated by Lydia and Bill, so the tone of the story is completely different depending on the narrator. Their bond is platonic on the surface but full of tension underneath. Great ancillary characters, too.

Two non-fiction books I had really looked forward to left me with differing reactions.

The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker should have been riveting. I wanted it to be riveting, I kept waiting for it to be riveting, but…it just left me cold and bored. Which is some feat because I LOVE stories about other people’s lives. What could be more fascinating than all the characters at the New Yorker during the 1950’s?!? Surely a beautiful, brilliant and educated receptionist who watched the comings and goings for more than 20 years would have a fantastic story to tell. But Janet Groth just didn’t engage me for some reason. I could not muster all that much interest in her and her angst-ridden love life (which was entirely separate from the New Yorker.) The best part was at the end when she goes into detail about the travails her family had endured due to her father’s alcoholism, something she had made veiled references to throughout the book. But it is too little too late. And I was entirely creeped out by her description of Joseph Mitchell, a writer I have revered, who apparently, although married, had a penchant for lunches with pretty young women. She was his Lunch Partner for a time until she was replaced by someone younger. Ick.

On the other hand, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund De Waal was riveting (his website is beautiful as well; I've linked it to his name.) Dramatically written in elegant, poetic prose, it is the story of De Waal’s secular Jewish family and their talent for collecting valuable art, beginning in nineteenth century Paris, continuing through to Vienna and the horrors of the Nazi regime to present day. Going back over a century, he describes various relatives and the roles they played in creating this treasure trove, with the focus on a collection of antique netsuke purchased by his fifth great uncle. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking story that will fascinate anyone who loves art and history and the triumph of a family over changed circumstances.


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Anji said...

Thank you for sharing some of your reads... Now we know what you were up to.

Don said...

Glad to see you back here!! I like this blog, and read it often to see what is new on your book shelves, and now in your Kindle, and have picked up some of your books myself, mainly on the Kindle if they were available there, as they are typically cheaper, and I'm out of room too.

Also, check out daily for free books! They are only free for a day or two (and they are on Amazon when you click the links) before they go back up in price. Enjoy!

Friar Don, OBR

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