Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Clearing off my shelf

Basically, I didn't follow through on my pledge to read 20 books off my shelf before I read a library book, but I did live up to this challenge. I read 11 books off my self out of 20, which is 55 percent. Here's the list:

"The Good Life" by Jay McInerney
"All Shall be Well; and All Shall be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall be Well" by Tod Wodicka
"The Afterlife" by John Updike
"Road Trip of the Living Dead" by Mark Henry
"The Secret of Lost Things" by Sheridan Hay
"The Calligrapher's Daughter" by Eugenia Kim (it's a little new for the challenge, but it is on my shelf)
"Heroes: Saving Charlie" by Aury Wallington
"House at Riverton" by Kate Morton
"The Spiral Labyrinth" by Matthew Hughes
"Magestrum" by Matthew Hughes
"Living With Saints" by Mary O'Connell

Of this list, the ones I most enjoyed were "Magestrum" and "Spiral Labyrinth," which were short, clever and funny SF titles set far into the future when humanity has spread across the universe, which is about to switch back from a rationality-based system to a magic-based system. I received them as a gift from my sister-in-law, and I am grateful. The oldest book was "The Afterlife," which I've had since 1994 (a gift from my wife), but I loved re-experiencing Updike's obsessions with his childhood in Pennsylvania and adulteries in New England and elsewhere. I was plagued by issues of mortality at the time, something that I guess happens when you're about to have a child (my wife was pregnant with Rachel), and I was reluctant to read so many stories about death. I'm cool with it now, even after Updike himself has died.

"Living With Saints" is a book I found browsing one of my favorite bookstores, which has since closed -- Tower Books in Sacramento. (Yes, it was a chain, but it felt like an independent store, and it was in a fun neighborhood.) The short stories focused on different female saints and how their lives reflected something going on in the life of contemporary characters; I'm surprised the Lawrence, Kan.-based author hasn't published a book since. The worst book was "Heroes"; the charm of Hiro from the series didn't translate into print. So now the Tuscaloosa County Public Library's friends store is going to get a pile of donations. I'm ready to do the 20-book challenge for 2010.

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