As convener of this challenge, it’s my privilege to make the rounds of your reviews, reading about things that I wouldn’t have otherwise, well, read about. In some cases, this means that your reviews are directly contributing to the growth of my To Read list, as with The Girl Works and her brief but evocative review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the flip side, many of us are using 12 Books to challenge ourselves to read things we’ve been meaning to read but have thus far avoided. In Eric‘s case, this means an in-depth read of the United States Code, Title 17 §101-3 [review pt 1, 2, 3]. I envy his dedication and interest in the subject, and I expect to learn a great deal about what and who precisely are covered by copyright – something I’m unlikely to do on my own.
Lanea read A Mercy: A Novel after listening to the audiobook (read by Toni Morrison herself), and greatly preferred the former to the latter. On the page, Morrison’s meticulously researched exploration of the multi-racial slave system and the many associated issues made for a compelling read [review]. Eva enjoyed the way the author of Little Bee conveyed the sense of the main character’s foreignness without making her speech difficult to read. The author does a similarly wonderful job with the big issues encountered in the story, allowing the reader to interpret without feeling manipulated [review].
In a completely different direction, Meghan read Out and found herself feeling conflicted between her identification with the main character and her horror at the character’s actions [review]. Mike didn’t experience the same sort of conflict with the monstrous main character – Ignatius J. Reilly – in A Confederacy of Dunces. Where many readers perceive Reilly as repulsive, Mike found him hilarious, though he felt that other characters were less well-written [review].
Mike had no such problem with Asterios Polyp, which he found to be among the most subtle and ambitious graphic novels he’s read [review]. I read it last year and had a similar experience of wondering how I was reading and processing the interaction between text and image. J Harker read The Sandman: Book of Dreams, in which physical characters are sometimes little more than evoked concepts – an intriguing challenge [review]
Anj read Inkdeath, the last volume in a trilogy that she seems to have otherwise enjoyed. Inkdeath, however, plodded on towards an ending that seems to have been determined before the rest of the plot [review]. Jill read Soulless and came away with many of the same impressions – an entertaining and clever read, but with serious tone and plot issues [review]. I had a similar experience with The Winter Queen, which was both plodding and a bit predictable, though I realized after the fact that this may have been the author’s intent [review]. Grace read Norwegian Wood and felt like her experience of the book was shortchanged by the author’s influence on two decades of subsequent fiction. The aspects of the book that might’ve been ground-breaking in the 80s felt trite 20 years on [review].
To end on a positive note, our final entry on the fiction front is Rebekah‘s read of Under the Dome, which she gave a qualified B-, not great in terms of the King oeuvre, but an entertaining read nonetheless [review].
Amber read The One-Week Job Project: One Man, One Year, 52 Jobs, which didn’t quite live up to her expectations. Instead of an overview of 52 different careers, she found it to be a somewhat pedantic exercise in finding oneself [review]. On the flip side, Shane read Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and found it refreshingly honest. Rather than presenting the world of professional chefdom in the soft light favored by the Food Network, Bourdain makes it clear that it’s “a very hard job, with very long hours, surrounded by people talking about their dicks” [review].
Jenny read A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – the first of the David Foster Wallace reviews of this challenge. In summary, reading DFW reminded her “of the depressive English major we all dated in college.” Jenny ALSO read and was underwhelmed by Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness, a collection of short stories that was more about author Jon Ronson’s family than about terrorists (or psychiatrists!). The last two stories redeemed an otherwise disappointing read [review]. Leah was put off by many aspects of Songs of Three Islands: A Story of Mental Illness in an Iconic American Family, not the least of which were the author’s exceptionally privileged circumstances. As a result, she found it hard to engage with the author’s lifestyle or journey to enlightenment [review].
Mark read The Footnote: A Curious History and found it to be both more and less than he expected. Unless you’re really, really into footnotes, you can probably just read the epilogue [review]. More interesting was The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century, read by Mary, who works at The Henry Ford. I love the anecdote she shared about the Fords going “camping”, complete with servants and fine china [review]! Similarly intriguing was Sara‘s review of A Short History of Myth – the first in a series of authors from different countries interpreting their cultures’ myths. Sara said that “the last twelve pages of the book are some of the best twelve pages [she has] ever read,” which is as stunning an endorsement as I can imagine. I feel like whatever I say here gives short shrift to Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology, which sounds like a fascinating volume with a very self-explanatory title. Just go over and read Grace‘s review.
In summary, some hits, some misses, and a few new books added to my To Read list. I’m already looking forward to the next round of reviews, and I’m loving The Points of My Compass, which is surprisingly moving and timely for a book of essays published half a century ago. Speaking of which, I think it’s time to go read in bed…