Monday, May 1, 2017

What I'm reading this week (5/1/17)

Last week I finished:

Last week I finished Eat This Poem, and I'm still trying to formulate a review. Most of the 25 poems in the collection were new to me, which was surprising, as I have a deep fondness for food poems. The recipes, however, were very West Coast. There were a couple I'd try, but for the most part, they're too faddish for my liking. Plus, I'm just not going to ever make my own almond milk, I'm just not. The introductory paragraphs for each section were just generally uninspired and without much depth or feeling. At times the book felt more like a travelogue of all the fabulous, exotic, and far-flung places the author has seen. I enjoyed the personal stories that weren't so showy, though. So, overall, I was a bit underwhelmed as a whole, but I give at least one star just for the fabulous, new concept of the book. Combining food and poetry makes me very happy. My rating: 3 stars.

50 Artists You Should Know is the second book I've read in the "50 ___" art series. I thought it did a good job with selection of artists (though there was only one female artist represented, Frida Kahlo). They were arranged in chronological order, spanning many centuries. Many of the names were familiar, but there were quite a few I was unfamiliar with, and even among the artists I recognized, I don't know much about their work. I'm not sure this book worked as well as 50 Paintings You Should Know for one reason: brevity of information. For most artists only one painting was chosen, generally their most famous work (e.g. Mona Lisa), and I just didn't feel that was enough to learn much of anything about an artist. They artist information was all over the map, some focusing on personality, some on style, some on their major works. There wasn't a lot of uniformity throughout. I also had issues with the tiny font size and the numerous typos--just like 50 Paintings. Overall, I'd say I  enjoyed the book, although it's by no means comprehensive. My rating: 3 stars.

I absolutely loved my second pass through Garrison Keillor's Good Poems anthology. I think it's the finest anthologies of contemporary poetry out there. I believe it contains 285 poems, and there were literally only a handful that I didn't like. Almost every one spoke to me in some way, and many were old friends. If I ever get the chance to edit an anthology, I'd be hard-pressed to create one I like better than Keillor's. He does a good job of representing different poets; he doesn't seem to play favorites. All of the poems are accessible, many are humorous, most are on the short side. He organizes them into themes, some general, and some oddball, like the chapter of "Yellow" poems. I love that Keillor has fun with poetry and doesn't see it as homework or revel in the pedantic. This is the collection of poems I'd recommend to anyone looking to become familiar with contemporary poetry. One of my favorite books ever. My rating: 5 stars.

I had an absolute blast reading Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve. The book is the love child of statistical mathematics and literature, full of charts and graphs that will delight any word nerd. Blatt sets out to break down literature into numbers. He looks at things like: which bestselling authors use the most clichés, if authors follow their own writing advice, author's favorite words, the difference between writing by males and females, how reading levels of novels has changed over the years, and much more. It was fascinating and never boring, never gimmicky. I learned a lot, and I've looked at the books I've been reading since much differently. Blatt nearly ruined one of my favorite series, for instance, because I now see clichés on every page, and while that used to be something I found endearing about the books, I'm not so aware of them it's tiresome. Blatt comes at his work with an obvious passion for words and for quantifying them. I love reading books like this where the author is so engaged, having so much fun. He's careful not to make value judgments when comparing canonical writing with bestselling fiction, and he's quick to point out any unevenness in the metrics he uses. I only wish he would have spoken a bit about nonfiction and how his methods would have worked or not in evaluating books by Laura Hillenbrand, Erik Larson, and the like. Also, I think it would have been fun if he'd evaluated his own writing using the tools he evaluated famous books with. He did this once or twice at the beginning of the book, but not after that. I understand that it wouldn't have worked in all cases, but more of that would have been a lot of fun. I was fascinated by the whole process, and I recommend this one to anyone who loves books and how they're written. My rating: 4 stars.

Last week I started:

I'm liking The Chilbury Ladies' Choir so far, though it isn't exactly what I was expecting. More on that later.

 I also began all four of my evening reads for May, because why not: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, Beezus and Ramona, Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden, and Poems That Make Grown Women Cry. I'm enjoying them all. We'll see how much reading I'll get done this week while we're on vacation in Chicago, though.

My audiobook:

After I brought The Light between Oceans back to the library last week because I had a really hard time understanding the Australian narrator, I settled on the fourth book in Jan Karon's Mitford series, Out to Canaan as my audiobook. It's sort of like going home again.  

No comments:

Post a Comment