March’s Reads #2015ReadingChallenge

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My book numbers for March were back up, but that includes one reference book and two books written for children: one a favourite from my childhood, which I happened to see mentioned on Facebook, and one that I had never read but was referenced in Gilmore Girls, which I’m marathoning my way through on Netflix right now. [As for Gilmore Girls, I’m over the target demographic by a few decades, but watched an episode or two and was hooked on the funny writing and the pop culture references.] This post is a bit late, since I was on vacation including three days on a train.

I was thinking about not listing two of the attributes from the 2015 Reading Challenge list – set in a different country, and written by a female author – since so many of the books that I read are one or both of those. I track them on my list, but it just seems silly to keep listing them over and over again here. Living in Canada, pretty much every book that I read is set in a different country, although I do read Canadian authors. The women author issue is interesting, since I’ve never thought much about the gender of the author except for explicitly feminist work, but I do tend to read a lot of women authors. What I found really interesting was a recent post that claims that men don’t read books written by women. I have no idea if there’s any data to back that premise. For now, I’ll keep them on the lists here.

The Paying Guests came up (I think) on one of the “best of” lists. It’s about a lesbian relationship between landlady and married lodger in the years following WWI, and the terrible secrets that they keep. Beautiful writing, especially dealing with the guilt feelings of the main character.

Categories checked:

  • Female author
  • Set in a different country
  • Love triangle
  • Author I’ve never read before
I burned through The Martian in a day, most of that on a 5-hour flight: it’s a great story that moves along really quickly and carries you with it. Lots of technical and scientific detail, fairly well researched from what I could tell. Passed it on to my other half, who almost never reads fiction, and he went through it in a day, too.

Categories checked:

  • Book that became a movie (or will, later this year)
  • Funny book
  • Mystery or thriller
  • Set in a different country
  • Based entirely on its cover (I’ve seen explanations of that this attribute means in this context, and most people interpret it as a book that you select to read based just on seeing the cover, which was the case here)
  • Can finish in a day
  • Set in the future
  • Made me cry (teared up a bit when he re-established contact)
  • Author I’ve never read before
When Judy Blume wrote Deenie in 1973, I was in the right age range but had already given up “kids’ books” and was reading  adult fiction such as James Michener novels. In fact, I don’t recall reading any of her books except Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. However, I’m on a bit of a Gilmore Girls binge on Netflix, and Deenie was mentioned in one of the episodes, and I read it out of curiosity. Some interesting issues about standing up to your parents’ opinion of what you “should” be doing with your life (I became an engineer in spite of protests from my family, so might have related to this), but a too-strong and outdated focus on female beauty norms. Blume wrote this after meeting a fourteen-year-old with scoliosis, using the attitudes of the girl and her mother as the basis for the book, although not biographical.

Categories checked:

  • Female author
  • One-word title
  • Set in a different country
  • Based on a true story (more like “loosely inspired by”)
  • Can finish in a day
  • From my childhood
I’ve been an avid Margaret Atwood fan since I read The Edible Woman back in high school, and Stone Mattress did not disappoint. The book contains “nine tales”, although several of them are interconnected. It’s very evocative of Toronto, especially bits about going to the Riverboat coffee house in the 1960s (I made it there to prior to its closing in the late 1970s, although a bit too late to see many of the famous acts that played there) and one story that used the recent ice storm as background.

Categories checked:

  • Female author
  • Short stories
  • Book from an author that I love that I haven’t read yet (well, now I have read it)
An Education is the latest read related to the Books on Film series at TIFF; the movie and discussion with Lynn Barber is coming up in mid-April. The movie is based only on the second chapter of the book, which she originally published as a magazine article; the full book came out the same year as the movie.  I found the book overly narcissistic (although I realize that anyone writing their own memoir, or a blog for that matter, has a dollop of that), and didn’t like the author very much by the end of it.

Categories checked:

  • Became a movie
  • Female author
  • Set in a different country
  • Nonfiction
  • Memoir
  • Can finish in a day
  • Author that I’ve never read before
I ended up buying How Companies Succeed In Social Business (the ebook) after reviewing the library copy: there’s a lot in here that I can use in my work on social enterprise. It has a number of good case studies on enterprise social collaboration, but also a lot about how to manage your external social media, which is not an interest of mine. I haven’t read it cover-to-cover yet, but expect to use it as a reference.

Categories checked:

  • Nonfiction
  • Antonyms in the title (many would consider “social” and “business” to be in opposition)
  • Author I’ve never read before
The Velveteen Rabbit was a favourite of mine from childhood, and I had completely forgotten about it until someone posted a quote from the book on Facebook recently. I read and reread this book, likely wearing it out as badly as the eponymous rabbit was worn. Delightful book about the magic of loving your toys.

Categories checked:

  • Non-human characters
  • Female author
  • Can finish in a day
  • From my childhood
  • Made me cry (c’mon: it’s about a stuffed bunny!)
  • Contains magic
Big Little Lies was hilarious in spots, but dealt seriously with issues of domestic violence and bullying using a deft hand. Throughout the book, there is an unrevealed (until the end) murder as context. Excellent writing and compelling characters. I’m looking forward to seeing it on the screen.

Categories checked:

  • Became a movie (actually a TV series: Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have signed up)
  • A funny book
  • Female author
  • Set in a different country
  • Antonyms in the title
  • Author I’ve never read before

I’ve included the Amazon links above, if you click through on one of those and buy something, I’ll get a few pennies. However, I encourage you to donate the money to your local library instead, and get the books from there.

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