It’s my birthday and I’ll buy books if I want to! And, lucky for me, the public library’s used book sale coincided nicely with my birthday so I was able to spend the morning of perusing the tables of books and seeing what I could find that caught my fancy. For fifteen dollars, I came away with eleven books — three hardbacks and eight paperbacks — including three books selected by my book club for the upcoming months.
I was most surprised to find A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin considering the popularity of the series. I’ve already read the book and, admittedly, did not love it, but Martin swears he will finish the next one in the series by 2016 and the television show is going to start diverting from the books in the next series so I’d like to have a copy on hand to help me brush up on what happened.
I was also thrilled to find a copy of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings given the wait list at my library still numbers in the hundreds for the book. My book club selected Kidd’s novel this past December for our meeting, and I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy before then. Other book club selections I was able to find at this sale include Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, and South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami.
The three books published by Persephone were birthday presents from my parents and all were written by Dorothy Whipple. I started Because of the Lockwoods on Saturday and am already entranced by Whipple’s writing once more. (I’ve previously read her novel Someone at a Distance back in November.) I’m looking forward to tucking into The Priory and Whipple’s short story collection, The Closed Door and Other Stories, soon.
To get straight to the point, I failed the TBR Double Dog Dare. I managed to avoid bringing home any books from the library (with the exception of those I needed for book club) for about six weeks. Yet, in mid-February, an opinion piece in the local paper referenced David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld, which I then had to read, and in March I came down with such an awful cough and cold that all I wanted to read were graphic novels and memoirs. So I broke the dare and went to the library. Whoops.
Of the thirty-one books I read between January 1 and March 31, ten books were print copies from my physical to-read pile (nearly all of which found new homes via PaperBackSwap upon completion), nine were audiobooks on my iPod loaded back in 2014, and seven were from the library for book club meetings. The rest were from the library for the excuses explained above.
So, yeah, I failed the dare. But looking at the glass half-full — ten books off my shelves and nine off my iPod is great progress in culling down Mt. TBR! In that regard, the TBR Double Dog Dare was a success. Plus, I have two more print novels and an audiobook in progress that will also help to create more space on my shelves
for all the books I’ll buy or receive for my upcoming birthday.
If I can continue with finishing roughly three books in print a month for the rest of the year, I’ll only have seven books in my physical TBR pile left at year’s end. And, if I can’t keep that momentum going, hopefully James Reads Books will choose to host the dare again in 2016.
This has been quite the year for me — finished my last semester of school, graduated with my masters degree, moved across the country (twice!), started working full-time, and settled into life as a adult (whatever that means). I read 63 books in 2013 and thought my goal to read seventy-five books in 2014 would be a stretch. This year certainly felt busier than last year, and I think the fact that I read zero books in February and April and only two in March is a testimony to that.
Yet, here I am on the last day of 2014 with 150 books read! So I guess there is an upside to being hit by a car and unable to do much beside lay on the couch. Although, I would gladly trade away some of my stats for the year to avoid ever reliving that experience.
According to GoodReads, I read 37,678 pages in 2014 ranking this year fifth out of the seven I’ve logged on the site. The numbers might be a bit skewed — this year ranks as third in terms of the number of total books read — because nine of the 150 books I read were comics/graphic novels and 36 were audiobooks.
I didn’t keep a spreadsheets of my stats this year so I can’t break down my reading to the detail I have in the past beyond the basics — 62% fiction versus 38% nonfiction, 63% female authors versus 37% male, 81% library books, and 65% printed books. (For the first time, audiobooks jumped to double digits — a whopping 23%.) Instead, I thought I would offer up ten of the best and most memorable reads of the year. Continue reading
I would have missed this month’s used book sale at the public library yesterday if my phone had not chirped loudly enough with a reminder fifteen minutes before the doors opened. Since I cannot resist a book sale and the library is (sort of) on my way to the grocery store, I slipped on my shoes and headed over to browse the shelves.
Less than an hour later, I left the library with six books for a dollar a piece and a bag filled with what was supposed to be groceries. Food for the mind and soul, I say. Add these six to the three books plus a cookbook my mom brought me at Thanksgiving and my recent acquisitions include:
- Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
- The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
- Catherine the Great (Robert K. Massie)
- The Cold Song (Linn Ullmann)
- Exploring Boston and New England (Fodor’s)
- Mary Boleyn (Alison Weir)
- Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)
- Prague (Arthur Phillips)
- The Space Between Us (Thrity Umrigar)
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
I had to do some rearrange of my shelves to find a space for each book in their new home hence why I will be signing up for the TBR Double Dog Dare hosted by James Reads Books. The TBR Double Dog Dare is not a challenge but a dare to read only those books from your TBR pile between January 1 and April 1. And everyone on the playground knows you cannot refuse a double dog dare.
You can still buy books so, lucky me, I won’t have to skip the library book sale in February. You just can’t read new purchases until the TBR Double Dog Dare is over.
My two exceptions are those books chosen by my book club during the TBR Double Dog Dare and audiobooks I’ve borrowed from the library. I am restricting myself to those audiobooks I had loaded onto my iPod before the TBR Double Dog Dare begins on January 1, but I cannot ban them outright otherwise I’ll have nothing to listen to at work.
I’m looking forward to finally reading those books on my TBR shelf. After all, there’s a reason I purchased them in the first place. And I’m sure the public library is looking forward to me returning the forty or so books I have checked out at the end of the month.
Since beginning this blog in 2008, I have read two fictional accounts of Japanese internment during World War II and one nonfiction account, Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. One of those fictional accounts, Obasan by Joy Kogawa, is set in Canada and was required reading for me in high school while the other, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, is set on an island off the coast of Washington in the United States and was one of the seventy-five books on my classics club list. I would recommend all three books especially Guterson’s novel, which is one of the best explorations of the affects hysteria and prejudice can have on a community long after a horrific event occurs.
I remember being utterly shocked as a child when I learned between 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese-Americans — many of them citizens since birth — were moved from the West Coast following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor to internment camps across the United States. It was so hard to reconcile such an action while simultaneously learning about the internment of gays, political prisoners, and Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
Reading Guterson’s novel back in October reminded me of how woefully ignorant I remain about this dark chapter in American and Canadian history so I’ve pulled together a list of nine books to help me “become the expert”. Since I cannot speak to the quality of each book, I’ve copied a snippet of the description from GooodReads in the hopes that will be enticement enough to pick up a copy of the books, which are mostly memoirs, listed below.
- Desert Exile (Yoshiko Uchida) — “To better understand how such a gross violation of human rights could have occurred in America, and how the Japanese reacted to it, the author takes a backward look at her parents’ early years in this country and her own experiences as a Nisei growing up in California. She evokes the strong anti-Asian climate of the years preceding the war, and provides an intimate glimpse of life in one Japanese American household.“
- I Am an American (Jerry Stanley) — This children’s book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs and follows young Shi Nomura, who was among the 120,000 American citizens who lost everything when he was sent by the U.S. government to Manzanar, an interment camp in the California desert, simply because he was of Japanese ancestry. According to School Library Journal, “this eloquent account of the disastrous results of racial prejudice stands as a reminder to us in today’s pluralistic society.”
- Justice At War (Peter Irons) — “Peter Irons’ exhaustive research has uncovered a government campaign of suppression, alteration, and destruction of crucial evidence that could have persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down the internment order. Irons documents the debates that took place before the internment order and the legal response during and after the internment.”
- Looking Like the Enemy (Mary Matsuda Gruenewald) — “Mary Matsuda is a typical 16-year-old girl living on Vashon Island, Washington with her family. On December 7, 1942, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and Mary’s life changes forever. Mary and her brother, Yoneichi, are U.S. citizens, but they are imprisoned, along with their parents, in a Japanese-American internment camp. Mary endures an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps, struggling for survival and dignity. Mary wonders if they will be killed, or if they will one day return to their beloved home and berry farm.” There is also an adaption of this book geared towards young readers.
- Nisei Daughter (Monica Itoi Sone) — From the New York Herald Tribune review: “In this book, first published in 1952, she provides a unique personal account of these experiences.Monica Sone’s account of life in the relocation camps is both fair and unsparing. It is also deeply touching, and occasionally hilarious.”
- Only What We Could Carry (ed. Lawson Fusao Inada) — “In the wake of wartime panic that followed the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, more than 100,000 Japanese Americans residing along the West Coast of the United States were uprooted from their homes and their communities and banished to internment camps throughout the country. Through personal documents, art, and propaganda, Only What We Could Carry expresses through words, art, and haunting recollections, the fear, confusion and anger of the camp experience.”
- Prisoners Without Trial (Roger Daniels) — “Part of Hill and Wang’s Critical Issues Series and well established on college reading lists, Daniels’ book presents a concise introduction to a shameful chapter in American history: the incarceration of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.”
- Silver Like Dust (Kimi Cunningham Grant) — “There was one part of Obaachan’s life that had fascinated and haunted Kimi ever since the age of eleven—her gentle yet proud Obaachan had once been a prisoner, along with 112,000 Japanese Americans, for more than five years of her life. Obaachan never spoke of those years, and Kimi’s own mother only spoke of it in whispers. It was a source of haji, or shame. But what had really happened to Obaachan, then a young woman, and the thousands of other men, women, and children like her?”
- Within the Barbed Wire Fence (Takeo Ujo Nakano) — “In 1942, Takeo Nakano was one of thousands of Japanese men interned in labour camps in the British Columbia interior. Their only “crime” was their Japanese origins. Wrenched from his wife and daughter, placed in a labour camp and then an isolated internment camp in northern Ontario, Takeo wrote of his experiences, feelings and reflections with the sensitivity and perception of a poet.”