Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
LIBRARY CHICKEN PLAY-BY-PLAY: So today I dropped by the library to return three books (that I had not yet read, prompting much gnashing of teeth on my part) so that I could pick up three holds that would expire tomorrow. (I still have three additional holds waiting for me, but I’m hoping I can read three of my new books quickly — meaning in the next six days — and return them before those holds expire.) Meanwhile, I returned a couple of books from my husband’s card. (REMINDER: PLEASE DO NOT INFORM MY LIBRARY OF MY ILLICIT USE OF THE SPOUSAL CARD.) I had to wander around for a few minutes to give the librarian time to check in my newly-returned books before grabbing the holds, and I perhaps maybe might have picked up an additional book (by the author of one of the books I had to return unread) to check out on the spousal card. But there’s no problem here because I CAN QUIT ANYTIME I WANT. (In my defense, A.S. King’s I Crawl Through It looks bizarre and amazing and I was very sad about returning Please Ignore Vera Dietz unread.)
- GREAT SHORT STORIES BY AMERICAN WOMEN edited by Candace Ward
- BLACK AMERICAN SHORT STORIES: A CENTURY OF THE BEST edited by John Henrik Clarke
- GROWING UP ETHNIC IN AMERICA: CONTEMPORARY FICTION ABOUT LEARNING TO BE AMERICAN edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Jennifer Gillan
As you may be able to tell, I’m still working on my massive backlog of anthologies, along with trying to read more diversely. The American Women collection is a Dover Thrift Edition with 13 stories. It has a few classics I’ve read before (yes, I’ll read “The Yellow Wallpaper” again!) but mostly I picked it up because it included Louisa May Alcott’s fictionalized satire of her father’s (failed) utopian community: “Transcendental Wild Oats.” Black American Short Stories was a great introduction to writers I would like to read more of (and had surprisingly little overlap with another anthology I’ve read recently: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers 1899-1967). By far my favorite part of this chronologically organized collection was towards the back of the book, where we started to get some wonderful female writers, including Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, and Eugenia Collier. The anthology that I most enjoyed, though, was Growing Up Ethnic in America, which collects authors like Sherman Alexie, Amy Tan, and Louise Erdrich in stories ranging from humorous to heart-breaking. This collection would make a great spine for a homeschool high school lit class, so it’s definitely HOMESCHOOL RECOMMENDED.
(LC Score: +3)
THE POISON ORACLE by Peter Dickinson
Peter Dickinson has written some of the most bizarre mysteries I’ve ever read and I’m having a great time working through his backlist. This one is set in an Arabian palace that’s shaped like an upside-down ziggurat and follows a British linguist who runs the Sultan’s private zoo while performing language experiments with his (the linguist’s) best friend, a chimpanzee. And then things get odd. Once again (as in the first of the James Pibble mysteries, The Glass-Sided Ants’ Nest), Dickinson has created a fictional primitive tribe and once again I’m a little worried that the entire premise falls somewhere between “very concerning” and “straight up super-racist” (and that’s not even including the racism in the linguist’s depiction of his Arab employer) but I just can’t resist Dickinson’s strange little books.
(LC Score: +1)
Two entries from two different mystery series by the same author. The Detective Wore Silk Drawers is the second Sergeant Cribb mystery, set in Victorian England, where Cribb investigates a murder linked to illegal bare-knuckle boxing. The Last Detective is a contemporary mystery (circa 1991) introducing detective Peter Diamond. And here’s where I admit that I did NOT like Det. Diamond AT ALL. Why did I continue reading the book, you ask? Because one of the plot points in the murder (which took place in Bath, England) revolved around the discovery of long-lost Jane Austen letters and OF COURSE I’M READING THAT. By the end of the book... well, I still didn’t like Diamond all that much, but if I could grow to love the sexist, racist, determinedly un-PC Andrew Dalziel (in Reginald Hill’s great series of mysteries beginning with A Clubbable Woman), I’m willing to give Diamond one more chance.
(LC Score: +2)
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles
I know y’all have heard of this one because EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU must have been on the hold list ahead of me at my library but oh my gosh was it ever worth the wait! In 1922, 30-year-old Count Rostov is sentenced to permanent house arrest (for the crime of being an aristocrat) at Moscow’s Hotel Metropol, but he’s determined to enjoy life nonetheless. It is SO CHARMING and DELIGHTFUL and we all need more of that right now so run out and read this immediately (or at least put yourself on your library’s hold list and settle in for the wait).
(LC Score: +1)
THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS by Jo Walton
This sequel to The Just City, continuing the story of the time-traveler philosophers who attempt to create Plato’s Republic in an experiment set up by the goddess Athena, is tied with A Gentleman in Moscow for my favorite read of the fortnight. As usual, I can never guess where Walton is going, but I always enjoy the ride. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I will say that we get to meet another one of Athena’s relatives in this one.
(LC Score: +1)
HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff
This was YA author Rosoff’s debut novel and wow, she started off with a bang. (No pun intended.) Rosoff’s narrator, Daisy, is an anorexic American teen who is sent off to England to stay with cousins just before the start of a massive world war that results in England’s occupation. The details of the war are deliberately left vague, leaving the reader to focus on Daisy’s powerful tale of determination and survival. Sometimes grim, but so good.
(LC Score: +1)
VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar
This time around in my Girl Who Read Woolf project I picked up this fictionalization of Virginia’s relationship with her sister Vanessa, told in Vanessa’s voice (with occasional letters to and from assorted Bloomsburians) and covering the time period from the beginnings of Bloomsbury up until Virginia’s marriage to Leonard. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Parmar does a wonderful job with the characters’ voices and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
(LC Score: +1)
EDGAR ALLAN POE: HIS LIFE AND LEGACY by Jeffrey Meyers
We’re reading Poe in this semester’s short story class so I wanted to brush up on his life story. The short version: he was super-talented but also terrible. Meyers is, I think, overly generous to the irascible and thin-skinned author (and I found that I enjoyed Kenneth Silverman’s very scholarly Edgar A. Poe: A Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance a bit more) but this is a solid introduction to Poe’s eventful life.
(LC Score: +1)
- RETURNED UNREAD: LC Score -5
- Library Chicken Score for 1/31/18: 6
- Running Score: 12
On the to-read/still-reading stack for next week:
- 100 YEARS OF THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor (more short stories!)
- SISTER BERNADETTE'S BARKING DOG by Kitty Burns Florey (a mini-history of the art of diagramming sentences because why not?)
- NECESSITY by Jo Walton (final book in the Thessaly trilogy)
- ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman (after another long wait on the hold list)