Saturday, January 31, 2009


A while back, I mentioned that I had some ideas about what I wanted my New Year's Resolutions to be. Soon, I'll be talking again about my word for the year - wellness - but right now, I want to talk about my most concrete resolution. I resolved to read all the unread books in my bookshelves by the end of the year (if not sooner) or relegate them to the donation pile.

I've been a book fiend all of my life. I never have enough bookshelf space and I usually have a stack or two of books living in various parts of my apartment. Every time I expand my bookshelves, I fill them up in record time, and it's not unusual for my books to be hiding in drawers, since I have no other place to put them. My dream is to have a library in my house some day with whole walls of shelves. I especially would like door with bookshelves above it. You know what I'm talking about? Like there's so many books that every available space needs using, including the space above the door? I want that.

But I don't have that space. Not yet. Not for a long time. So I'm paring down my whole life. My books are just one part. The only ones that are staying are books that I would read again or that I would recommend to a friend. The rest are out.


This month I have read six books.

Ghostgirl by Tanya Hurley. A fun trip into teen-land ala an ABCFamily original feature. The analogy makes even more sense as Hurley is involved in many facets of teen entertainment, including writing for TV. Charlotte Usher feels invisible and overlooked. After a summer spent carefully planning how to change her social invisibility, she chokes on a gummi bear and finds herself permanently invisible, as in dead. This isn't going to keep her from the guy she loves, however, and in the process she discovers the true nature of invisibility.

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson. A wonderfully written book. The voice of the author is sure and steady. Birdie, Leeda, and Murphy are three very different girls who find themselves thrown together one summer on a peach farm in Georgia. Though the book is billed as a tale of friendship, the real gem lies in the way that adult problems effect children and the way the girls see and handle them. Lovers of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will want to snatch this one right up.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. I've never read any Chabon, though I'd heard good things about him. This book, unfortunately, does not make me inclined to read any more. Meyer Landsman is a homicide detective in the Federal District of Sitka, Alaska, a temporary Jewish safehaven and refugee camp after the Holocaust. As the District is about to revert to US control, a murder takes place in the hotel where Landsman lives. I spent so much time wondering how much of the story is based in reality (a Jewish controlled settlement in Alaska? When did I miss this?) that I was unsure whether I needed to bone up on my history and Jewish studies (not being Jewish, I'm not very familiar with the different kinds of Judaism and their customs) or just go with it. When I finally reached the end, I discovered the "interview with the author" section and it was made clear that nearly everything was fictious, from Sitka (which, confusingly, is an actual place in Alaska) to a lot of the Yiddish words (which are real words but are used here in a kind of "slang" way that Chabon made up as if the settlement had evolved unique word usages.) I might have been able to enjoy it more had I been comfortably aware of the fiction of the whole premise of the book.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I love fairy tales, so how is it I haven't read any Neil Gaiman before? I don't know, but I can tell you this won't be my last. Tristran Thorn has promised to bring back a falling star in exchange for the hand of his beloved and crosses into the enchanted land that lies just beyond the boundaries of his town. Magic, adventure, and love with a libral dose of practicality. I loved it.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. Aislinn has always seen faeries while other haven't. The first rule of being able to see, she learns from her grandmother, is to not let the faeries know she can see as they are both powerful and dangerous. When the faeries start to seek her out and learn she can see, an inevitable series of events unfolds. An interesting take on faeries, as these are of the Celtic doom-and-gloom variety and not the enchanted-forest kind we are used to, however, the book introduces a great number of huge life-effecting senarios that it glosses over in favor of the big finish.

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji Li Jiang. A heartbreaking story of a girl coming of age in a "black" family during the Cultural Revolution. An interesting counterpoint to the class in East Asian music I took in the fall. Fact: During the Revolution all music was banned with the exception of eight pieces which showed the proper balance of patriotism, non-bourgeois influences, and non-historical ties. Eight pieces for 10 years. Think about it.

The verdict: Peaches, Stardust, and Ghostgirl are staying.

If you are interested in any of the rest (except for Red Scarf Girl which belongs to my aunt) let me know!


ithaca_chick said...

Neil Gaiman is my favorite!!! Warning though, Stardust is definitely his most fairy tailish. He's a lot...cruder? at times in many of his other books. Of what I have read, I think I'd recommend that you go with Neverwhere or Good Omens.

Kara said...

I love hearing about new books. Thanks for the recommendations.