Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Quite some time ago, a blogging friend challenged me to a meme but I let it go so long that I can't remember exactly what the subject was. I know it had to do with reading, and I think it was about listing my particular quirks as a reader.

That's a list I will thoroughly enjoy composing.

1. I hate magical realism, as evidenced in books like "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"by Tom Robbins or "Like Water for Chocolate", by Laura Esquivel. Now, I have no problem with a book if I know there is magic coming, as in "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman. Or, if I know that time travel will be involved, as in "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger or "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon. As I learned in English lit classes, this is called "willing suspension of disbelief", a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

However, I can't stand it when I'm reading along, enjoying a book and everything is realistic, following the laws of physics and the universe, and then something utterly impossible sneaks in and ruins everything.

2. My all-time worst book is "Middlemarch" by George Eliot. You would think that I, an English major in college, would have loved it, but I found it dull, dull, dull. And I had to finish it because it was for a class. I recently saw a list on GoodReads of "Books You Were Forced To Read and Would Rather Have Had A Root Canal." Add "Middlemarch" to that list, please. I'm also not that into (shock, horror), Jane Austen. I think her books are dry and difficult to read.

3. Some books have been so heavily hyped that I purchased them and then regretted wasting the money. Two examples are "Paris to the Moon" by Adam Gopnik and "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers.

The most overrated book I have purchased is "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle. I have never cared much for self-help books but this one was hyped to such an extent that I though it must have value. What a bunch of psychobabble it turned out to be.

The most overrated book I have NOT purchased is "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne.

4. I have a passion for true crime books (and also a fascination with serial killers). The best true crime book I have read is "Strange Piece of Paradise", written by Terri Jentz, one of the victims of a horrific crime. While camping, Jentz and a friend were brutally attacked by a man wielding an axe. She spent years tracking him down, and though he has never been convicted, she believes she has found the right man. Warning, this book is not for the faint of heart. Jentz often revisits that blood- and gore-soaked night of two near axe-murders, and the portrait of the psychotic (accused) killer is very disturbing.


5. The first book I can remember owning is a Little Golden Book called "Baby Susan's Chicken". Unlike her siblings' chickens, Susan's chicken wouldn't lay eggs, but all's well that ends well: He turns out to be a rooster. In first grade, I won a blue ribbon in a county competition for my recitation of "Seven Diving Ducks." One of my favorite children's books was "Make Way for Ducklings". Did I have an obsession with fowl?

6. One of the best books my book club has read in the past couple of years is "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. One of the best books my book club is going to read this year (courtesy of moi), is "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows.

7. A book I have been pushing on everyone lately is "The Red Leather Diary" by Lily Koppel. Koppel, a NY Times Reporter, found an old diary written by Florence Wolfson when she was a teenager in the 1930s. Koppel tracks down Wolfson and finds her still alive and living in Florida. The book is a wonderful portrait of NYC and of free-spirited Miss Wolfson.

8. If you want to be in my good graces, don't ever combine the words "Danielle Steele" and "good writer" in the same sentence.

9. I loved Oprah's book club when it was in its heyday and for a long time I kept up with reading them all. If pressed, I would say the best among them include "Stones From the River" by Ursula Hegi and "Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris. But Oprah did pick some doozies, including "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen.

10. In my teens and 20s, I loved Gothic novels and gobbled up every book written by Victoria Holt. I also loved Mary Stewart, who wrote more modern mystery/romance/thrillers, with heroines who were independent, intelligent and sophisticated. My first Stewart book at 16 - and still favorite to this day - is "The Moonspinners." Enticing locales like Greece, France, Syria, Austria, Scotland, or even good old England, created dramatic backdrops to the stories.

11. I love trilogies (and beyond), including the "Stonewylde" series by Kit Berry, the Fair Isle Sisters series by Susan Carroll and the "Odd Thomas" series by Dean Koontz. (I must be the only girl/woman in the world not to have read "The Twilight" series. But I will.) However, as much as I loved the previously-mentioned "Outlander", about a WWII nurse who unexpectedly time travels to 1740s Scotland and meets the love of her life, the sequels got progressively worse. I never even purchased the last book.

12. I am known as "The Book Nazi" by certain members of my book club who get upset that I chide them for not reading the book (not finishing, or worse, never even starting it). When you are in a book club, you read the book, right? Isn't that a given?

I recently made a concerted effort to push my GoodReads list over 1,000. I think I have 1,025 books listed now. This link will take you to my list: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1202093?/shelf=. I still haven't finished going through all the stacks in my house, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the books I read before I lost my possessions in a fire in 1982, but it's a start. It may seem like a lot of books, but considering that I was a pretty good reader by age 9, that's only about 20 books a year for 50 years. Even these days, I read closer to 40 books a year.


Janet said...

We have a lot in common but I do not like crime stories! Blood and gore are not my thing. For the life of me I don't understand how something horrific can be entertaining! To each his own!

I agree with most of your other choices and dislikes. Reading is such a huge part of my life.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Great post - interesting how people can be so alike, and yet like completely different types of books. I read the Red Leather Diary - great book, it really kept my attention and if a book doesn't catch my attention in the first few pages it is history. Also loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Not sure I could make a list of 1000 books I've read - but then maybe I could.

My favorites are journals - like the Red Leather Diary - of actual events that happened to people - from pioneers to modern journals. I just can't get enough of them.

Annie Jeffries said...

I have to say that I sooooo totalllllyyyy agreeeeee with you about "The Secret". What a ridiculous book all packaged to make the old new again. Someone made $$$$$ with that packaging and fooled a lot of people. Every time I picked that book up, I cringed. I finally started ignoring it. Sadly, soon enough the same stuff will come along again. New packaging, same old ideas and thoughts.

gma said...

Forget Oprahs list although I read alot of the first ones also.
I like crime stories but not gore, magic books like Chocolat and the sequel.(Did you read those?)
Red Leather Diaries was great.
Oh I didn't like "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" either....
What was with that giant thumb?

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

I like your first commenter,seem to have a lot in common (except the crime ones too!) I'm reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society now - so far so good. If one doesn't grab me, I cannot force myself to get to the "good parts" - it's kind of like those foods that are "an acquired taste"..I think "why?" if you don't like something the first time, why keep going until it gets better??

But that's just me :-)

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

OH, ps - I am another one in a gazillion who have NOT read the Twilight books...

Sheila said...

I enjoy true crime, and good police procedural and murder fiction. I bought Eat,Pray,Love and could not understand what all the fuss was about, as everyone seemed to be drooling over it at the time.I have a few perennial favourites, like 'Lark Rise to Candleford', 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter', and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'The Prophet'. I also enjoy biographies, most Barbara Erskine books, and travelogues.
As for The Secret. I Have to say something her. I've found that the people who do not like or cannot understand the appeal of this book are generally well grounded, down to earth folks to begin with.
A copy was recently given to my husband when he was diagnosed with cancer. He has always been a glass half empty person, and suddenly he was shown a new way of looking at life. Had he not been ill, he would not have read it, but as he did, I feel it has helped change his perspective on many things. All of which have helped him deal with his new circumstances.
I'm with Janet, to each his own.

Tom Gray said...

Loved Eckhart Tolle, kinda liked Middlemarch also. So it goes ...

On the other hand, I also don't care for the gore.


Sevenbeads said...

You're so right about the psychobabble books. My book club (subject of my latest blog) has been assigning Self-Help books of late. I'm ready to jump ship. OK, I really won't because we've been meeting for 10 years and I absolutely love all of the members, but I wish we could get back to novels, biographies and (non-Self-Help)other non-fiction. All time recent favorites are Water For Elephants and The Good Earth.

Lila Rostenberg said...

Thanks for sharing your reading passions with us! I am disciplining myself to read Jane Austen's last novel, "Persausion" because I think I will be able to get through it, and it has a happy ending. I do find her insights into friends and neighbors of the heroine to be droll!

Rowan said...

I'm afraid that I could never join a Book Club because I don't generally like the kind of books they seem to read! Mostly because the ones I enjoy were written about 50+ years ago by people like Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers etc. I really agree with you about Jane Austen, I'm glad I'm not the only person in the world who finds her books boring! The best books I've read recently have been a series by C J Sansom called Dark Fire, Dissolutuion,Sovereign and Revelation - not necessarily in that order. Brilliant historical series. Might try the Red Leather Diary though, it sounds interesting.

Tom Gray said...

@lila, if you can make it through Persuasion, you are likely to love Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. All are better IMHO. Yes, her observations on human nature are very witty.


Casey said...

What a great posting~I love to read and find I have so little time to do it while I'm still in school. One of the things I'm most looking forward to when I graduate in June is being able to read "real" books again!

Interesting bit about Oprah's book club. The only one of her recommended books I read was "House of Sand & Fog" and it turned out to be one of my favorites.

One summer I found myself with nothing to read, so I decided to check out those "Harry Potter" books everyone was talking about. It's the best book thing I've ever done! I've only found a few books that I truly couldn't put down, and all the Harry Potter books make that list.

I pushed myself to read a few of Jane Austen's books, and found the one I liked the best was "Pride & Prejudice."

And I have no desire to read any of the "Twilight" series.

Kim Campbell said...

The Red Leather Diary sounds really good. I always loved reading "diary" books, whether true or fictional.

And Kit Berry is amazing. Thank you so much for turning me on to her. I look forward to getting book 2.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

I first heard "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" as an audio version on BBC Radio 4 and got it out of the library the next day, just loved it.