Monday, May 23, 2016

What I'm reading this week (5/23/16)

Last week I finished my 50th book for the year. Time was, I couldn't imagine finishing that many books, but over time, I believe I've become a faster reader (I must have, though I don't feel I have). Also, I've learned to become intentional about what I read together. I've also learned that I love having four books going at once, so I'm always finishing or starting something, which really gives a boost to my reading overall.

My husband asked me last week if I ever enjoy reading a book as much as I enjoy finishing one, which made me bristle. I don't talk to him much about what I read, mostly because it changes so much I'd be dominating conversation with book talk. I don't like to talk much about myself and my interests, even to him. Maybe that's going to have to change!

Last week I finished:

I was forced to leave Australia when I finished In a Sunburned Country. I loved that book, and while I'd never had a desire to visit the country-continent before, I do now. Bryson is so skilled at giving a comprehensive overview of a place, then bringing the conversation down to the human level with interactions with locals. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Australia or traveling.

I also breezed through Killing Lincoln which means I've read all five books of the O'Reilly/Dugard  Killing series. This is one of my favorites, right behind Killing Kennedy. I remember studying the Lincoln assassination in school (perhaps grade school?), but it's been so long ago, I only remembered the basic details: John Wilkes Booth, Ford Theatre, rider-less horse. I'd forgotten that the Lincoln assassination was part of a larger assassination plot that failed on all other accounts--the Vice President and Secretary of War lived. These books read like thrillers and are chock full of well-researched facts and trivia. This was a great refresher on not only the assassination but the Civil War as well. Recommended.

And I finished the poetry collection Risking Everything. It's always fascinating to me how poetry anthologies are put together. I've always wanted to create one myself. Roger Housden has put together a number of such anthologies, and while I've enjoyed some an not so much others, I don't know that I'd call him a great anthologizer. (For that, the honors go to Garrison Keillor and Kevin Young, whose books I can't recommend highly enough.) This book contains 110 poems, but only 48 poets; some poets were presented as many as six times. That seems sloppy to me. Also, there was a lot of use of ancient and foreign poets, that while not offensive in a collection, got a little tiring. It felt like half of the poems were in translation, which feels suspect to me. All this makes it sound like I didn't like the collection, which is far from true. It didn't hold the same magic for me as it did years ago, but it's still a strong collection that uses many of my favorite poems.

Last week I began:

Almost the moment I finished Killing Lincoln, I reached for The Beekeeper's Apprentice, the first in the Mary Russell mystery series (now 15-ish volumes strong) about the relationship between Mary Russell, a bright teenage feminist in WWI-era England, and Sherlock Holmes. I'm enjoying it so far. The writing is dense and English-y for a mystery novel, which makes it much more like literature than a mystery. I've not gotten to the mystery itself yet, so I can't comment on that.

I'm re-reading (re-looking at) the photography collection Dancers among Us, which is superb. If your library has a copy, and you need a pick-me-up or a moment of wonder, check it out. The photos are of trained dancers striking a move in public. Some of these feats are jaw-dropping. It's not quite as remarkable on my second perusable, which is disappointing, but I encourage you to check it out.

On a whim, when I finished my poetry book this month, I decided to check out The 50 States, a children's book that provides loads of information on each of the 50 states. It's a large book, and each spread includes a map of the state, pertinent information, key dates, six famous or important figures from the state, and fun facts and pictures. It's a chaos of information, and I'm actually learning a lot. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a kid. So would my big brother.
Quick Quiz: Which two states border eight other states? (Answer below.)

My audiobook:

Last week I also started a new audiobook. I'd wanted to read the book Five Days in November, Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin's second book about Hill's days as Mrs. Kennedy's secret service detail. He was there that fateful day in Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated. (In fact, the famous photo of the agent on the back of the car is Clint Hill.) Hill & McCubbin's third book, Five Presidents, was just released and I'd really wanted to read this one before the next, so I found it on audio. I have the book at home, so I look at the accompanying photos in it. Go through two presidential assassination books in as many weeks is kind of a kick to the spirits, but it just kind of happened.

And I continue with:

Okay, Harry and I are kind of becoming friends. I'm up to the chapter on the first quidditch game. I marvel at Rowling's ability to create the Hogwarts universe. She must have had a blast doing it.

I'm unsure what's next. I should finish most of these books before the long Memorial Day weekend, and I'll likely move on the Five Presidents, my chunkster book for June.

 ((Which two states border eight other states? Missouri and Tennessee.)) 

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