Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 Book Report: Second Quarter

Research for my history project helped me reach 28 books read in the first quarter, a good start on my 100 per year goal. How did I do this quarter, and I did read anything for fun? Check out my list below.

Key: C: Children's; F: Fantasy; H: Historical; Hr: Horror; M: Mystery; MG: Middle Grade (ages 8-12); NF: Nonfiction; P: Poetry; SF: Science Fiction; SS: Short Stories; V: Verse novel; YA: Young Adult (age 13+); *not in the last ten years at least; ^for work; #e-book.

04/03/11: Jane Austen-Leigh, A Visit to Highbury (H, 1)
04/10/11: John Steele Gordon, The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street^ (NF, 1)
04/12/11: Kenneth D. Ackerman, The Gold Ring^ (NF, 1)
04/18/11: Clark, Judith Freeman, The Gilded Age^ (NF,1)
04/23/11: Joan Aiken, Jane Fairfax (H, 1)
04/24/11: Charles R. Morris, The Tycoons^ (NF, 1)
05/01/11: Jane Gillespie, Aunt Celia (H, 1)
05/05/11: Robert C. McMath, Jr., American Populism^ (NF, 1)
05/14/11: David Weber, Field of Dishonor# (SF, 5 or 6)
05/18/11: The Rise of Big Business and the Beginnings of Antitrust and Railroad Regulation, 1870-1900^ (NF, 1)
05/20/11: Weber, Honor in Exile# (SF, 5 or 6)
05/25/11: The Great Strikes of 1877^ (NF, 1)
05/27/11: Robert V. Bruce, 1877: Year of Violence^ (NF, 1)
05/27/11: Weber, Honor Among Enemies# (SF, 5 or 6)
05/29/11: Weber, In Enemy Hands# (SF, 5 or 6)
05/30/11: Milton Meltzer, Bread—and Roses^ (NF, 1)
06/01/11: Weber, Echoes of Honor# (SF, 5 or 6)
06/07/11: Weber, Ashes of Victory# (SF, 4 or 5)
06/16/11: Paul Krause, The Battle for Homestead, 1880-1892^ (NF, 1)
06/21/11: Ian McEwan, Atonement (1)
06/26/11: McEwan, Solar (1)
06/26/11: Pete Hautman, Godless (YA, 1)
06/27/11: R. Hal Williams, Realigning America^ (NF, 1)
06/29/11: McEwan, On Chesil Beach# (1)

I'm amazed I managed 24 books this quarter. It felt like all I was doing was reading history books to research my project, but when I look at the stats, only ten of the books I read (just over 40%) were for work. (To be fair, though, I probably read part or half of another dozen books that I didn't list.) I did manage three variations on Emmaalthough I've only managed to blog about one of themand just to give my brain a break I read half a dozen books in one of my favorite sci-fi series.

Which brings me to an aside: I attended a workshop by author Pete Hautman (see the 6/26/11 entry) in May, and we talked about how people read. He asked if anyone skipped a lot while reading, and said he often skipped whole chapters in books, or put a book aside altogether if it didn't hold his interest. I thought I'm not like that at allI can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've started a book for fun and not finished itbut then while I was re-reading these books I realized I was skimming quite a bit. Every time there was a long description of a space battle, with the captains giving commands about acceleration and heading and gravities, I started skimming. I wanted to get to the more personal bits, the character development and political intrigue, which are what I really like about the series. Granted, this was the fourth or fifth time reading some of the books, so I knew I wasn't missing anything, but still ... I skim on occasion.

So anyway, of the few (7) non-research books that I read for the first time this quarter, which was my favorite? It was clearly Ian McEwan's Atonement, which was made into a very good film a few years back with James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. I actually saw the movie first, and was reminded I liked the other books of McEwan's I had read while I was living in England. I wrote a piece on him last summer, so I decided to read a few of his more recent works. Atonement has a historic sweep (it's mainly set before and during World War II), characters driven by strong passions, and a doozy of a final twist. Even more intriguing to me was how it was a meditation on writing, and it inspired this weekly haiku from me:

Words: a blend of sound
and revelation; with them
we remake the world.

So with 52 books for the first half of the year, I'm on pace for my goal of 100 books. Will I keep up during the "lazy summer" months, or will my not-so-lazy summer be too filled with writing for reading? Check back in three months for a progress report.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Photo of the Week--6/27/11

Now this is what we're talking about! You probably can't see that Boy has a smile on his face—a rarity on our later trips—but it's definitely there because we found a trebuchet! Treb-oo-what, you may wonder? It's an old-fashioned siege engine, sort of like a catapult but using counterweights to fling projectiles through the air. It was just one of the things that made our visit to Urquhart Castle in Scotland such a fun time, although we did not detect a monster in the Loch behind the castle.