Monday, April 27, 2009

Musing Mondays

Do you read non-fiction regularly? Do you read it in a different way or place than you read fiction?

I read quite a lot of non-fiction on a regular basis. I think that I go in cycles. For a while I might read mostly fiction, but then I will start to read more non-fiction. But, I always have a non-fiction book in progress. It is just a question of how much time I spend reading each type of work.

For the most part, I read non-fiction at a slower pace than fiction. I am more likely to underline things or take notes in the margin (if I own the book). Finally, I am much more likely to purchase non-fiction than fiction. It seems to me that I refer back to non-fiction more often than I do to fiction. But, that being said, I am still a sucker for owning my own books.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is nominally about Oscar, a Dominican nerd. But more than anything else, the novel is about a fuku, a curse that afflicts Oscar's family. What follows is the tale not only of Oscar and his misfortune, but the misfortune of his mother and grandparents as well. But, be warned. The novel is full of Dominican language and nerdish allusions.

Junot Diaz tells his tale with humor and tenderness. I thought this novel was absolutely fabulous. However, it may require a little work on the part of the reader. My twenty year old high school Spanish was no match for Diaz' Dominican idioms. Nor did I understand all the nerdy allusions throughout the novel. (I did, however, understand a little too many for my comfort, if you know what I mean.) The website The Annotated Oscar Wao provided all the help I needed. I would recommend the site to any reader that does not speak Spanish and/or was not a nerd during the eighties. I would also highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winning novel.


King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard

King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard is a classic adventure tale set on the "dark continent" of Africa. It is the tale of three men on a search for a missing brother and the untold riches of King Solomon's Mines. It is full of wild animals, warring tribes, and an evil witch.

King Solomon's Mines is what could be called a good yarn, nothing special perhaps but enjoyable nonetheless. I definitely enjoyed it enough to add H. Rider Haggard's other classic tale, She to my TBR list.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

I am, despite its physical impossibility, in several places at once:

  1. I am in New York City on Wall Street trying to figure out what happened. (House of Cards by William Cohan)

  2. I am in Durban, South Africa, about to set out towards King Solomon's Mines (King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard)

  3. I am also in the lamely named Megacity. (For the screenplay I am writing for Script Frenzy.)

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett is the story of an anonymous Continental op, a private dick, that is hired by newspaper man Donald Willsson to come to Personville for a case. As soon as he arrives in Personville, which is sometimes called Poisonville, his employer is murdered before they can meet. So begins the story of intrigue and deceit in which the Continental op finds himself in the middle of a war between four men who want to run Personville.

I was quite disappointed by this novel. I love the movie Yojimbo, which is said to based, in part, on Red Harvest. Perhaps this led me to set the bar too high, but I did not feel that Red Harvest lived up to its billing. It was entertaining, sure, but it really wasn't anything special. So, if you like noir, give it a try. Otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere for your fill of crime and punishment.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Musing Mondays

Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favourite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favourite? (question courtesy of MizB)

That is a really tough question. I read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books. It is too hard to pick an overall favorite. So, as an added bonus for you the reader, I will pick my favorite of each.


The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa is easily my favorite work of fiction so far. It is so elegantly written and it is a great story about friendship and love. I highly recommend it to you.


It is a tough choice, but I have to go with How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. This is a book about the neuroscience of how we make decisions, which may sound dry and boring. It isn't! Lehrer begins each chapter with the riveting story of a really hard decision someone had to make: the pilot of a plane who cannot control any of the flight surfaces, a Lt. Commander who has just seconds to decide whether to fire on unknown targets threatening the lives of those serving on an aircraft carrier at war, and many more. It is a great book.

Least Favorite

All the Names by Jose Saramago. I know he is a nobel prize winner but I just cannot get into his novels. I abandoned this one earlier this month. It is the second one I have tried by him. I also attempted to read Blindness several years ago, but didn't get that far in that one either.

Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

Louis L'Amour's Silver Canyon is the story of Matthie Brennan, a drifter and gunslinger who rides into dusty town of Hattan's Point and finds more than he bargains for. Almost immediately, he finds the woman he loves and, he insists, is going to marry, Moira Macleran. To win her hand, Matt vows to settle down. He hears that there is a bitter, sometimes violent, dispute over the land of the Two-Bar Ranch. Sensing the opportunity to make a settled life that would allow him to marry Moira, Matt leaps into the fray by forming a partnership with the owner of the Two-Bar. What follows is an adventure, for Matt and the reader.

The plot, while intricate, is easily followed. L'Amour's prose is simple and clean, making the book an easy read. It was my first western and I have to say I enjoyed it more than I thought.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 24

I made it! I finished Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett this hour.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

The last one, it was really hard to stay awake.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

My books were pretty good overall, but nothing special enough to recommend specifically for the read-a-thon.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope! It is great as is.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The cheerleaders were relentless with their encouraging comments.

5. How many books did you read?

I read from 5 books and completed 4.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

  2. On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind

  3. Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

  4. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett

  5. The Graveyard Book by N. Gaiman

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

The Graveyard Book, not only because it is a great story, so far, but also because I am reading it to my seven year old son.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Red Harvest, but that may be just because it was my last read and I am so tired.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I was a reader.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I am definitely game to be a reader again!

Final stats -- 709pp in 15:57:17 | 5 books read from, 4 books completed | awake for 24 (well, actually 25 1/2) hours.

To my fellow readers, good night or good day in whatever part of the world you live. Go to bed! To the cheerleaders, thank you for your encouragement. Finally to the organizers, thank you for making this event possible.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 23

Breakfast was yummy, but it did not wake me up. But with only one hour left, I am sure I will make it.

I am approaching the end of Red Harvest, but I don't think I will be able to finish it during the read-a-thon. I have 41 pages left, but I haven't been able to get anywhere near that number of pages in an hour in the last few hours of the read-a-thon. But, I will make a valiant effort.

Running stats: 668 pp in 14:51:47 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 22

I have hit the dreaded wall! If I am still for more than a few minutes, I start to doze off. But it's OK, I just keep moving. I am going to try eating some breakfast to see if that helps. Only 2 hours left!!!

I continued to read Red Harvest in hour 22, although at this point I find myself rereading paragraphs when I start to lose track of what is going on. I'm sure this is a product of fatigue rather than poor writing on Hammett's part.

Running stats: 650pp in 14:07:41 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 21

In this hour, my caffeine has deserted me. I started doing that thing where you start to fall asleep, but when your head falls you immediately awake. So, I made myself another cup of tea. I continue to read Red Harvest at a crawling pace. But, just like the end of a marathon, as long as you keep moving forward, you will reach the end.

Running stats: 631 pp in 13:32:38 | 5 books read from, 3 books complete.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 20

Still awake, still reading Red Harvest, still reading slowly.

Running stats: 612pp in 12:53:51 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 19

I am starting to get into Red Harvest now. I am also feeling a little more awake now. It is a little after 2:00 a.m. here in the Houston area. I just might be getting my second wind. Hopefully it can carry me to the finish.

Running stats: 586pp in 12:07:53 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 18

All right! The tea has helped a little. I have also started standing to read instead of sitting. Lying down is definitely out.

This hour I continued reading Red Harvest. The story hasn't really grabbed me yet. I am reading much more slowly than I did earlier in the day. It might take longer for me to get into the book because of the more leisurely pace.

Running stats: 565pp in 11:28:17 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 17

I started Red Harvest this hour. I also started to become quite sleepy. I have brewed a cup of tea. I hope that helps.

Jessica's mini-challenge:

1. Go back to your blog, and tell us about the books you’re rereading during the mini-challenge. Maybe post a picture of each book and describe why you love it enough to reread it.


2. Go back to your blog, and give us a list of your top favorite rereads of all time. You know, those books that you can go to time and time again for comfort and escape. Again, pictures are good. :)

I am not re-reading any books during the read-a-thon. At least I don't plan to. I am not really much into re-reading at all, to be honest. There are only a few works of literature that I have returned to:

  • Gilgamesh

  • The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer

  • Beowulf

  • The Mahabharata by Vyasa

Running stats: 542pp in 10:50:07 | 5 books read from, 3 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 16

In this hour I finished Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I read this for the Colorful Reading Challenge. My next book, Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, is also for the Colorful Reading Challenge.

It was in this hour that my wife went to bed. So now the house is silent. Without the hustle and bustle of family, I can finally focus on reading. But of course, now that it is getting later, I find myself getting sleepy. And the quiet is so conducive to sleep ...

Running stats: 522pp in 10:19:21 | 4 books read from, 3 books completed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 15

Alas, story time did not continue into this hour. My son became cranky and so my wife decided it was bed time. After help putting him to bed, I continued reading Silver Canyon. I have enjoyed it more than I expected. I am hoping to finish in in the hour 16, or early in hour 17.

Running stats: 462pp in 9:21:35 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 14

This hour I read some more of Silver Canyon. But I also got to read my son part of The Graveyard Book for story time, which will continue into the next hour.

Running stats: 424pp. in 8:42:42 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 13

I am still reading Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I am starting to get into the story now. I wish I had held this book in reserve though. The plot, while engaging, is hardly difficult to follow and the author's prose is clear and simple. This would have been a good book to read later, when I am very tired. Oh well. I am too interested now to put it aside.

Running stats: 400 pages in 8:09:43 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 12

Halfway there! This hour I continued to read Silver Canyon. I also had dinner which has given me a renewed vigor. Also, the storms have abated and I can look out on blue skies over Texas this evening.

The newest mini-challenge is the mid-event survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

2. How many books have you read so far?

I have read from 4 books so far. Of those 4, I have completed 2.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I am most looking forward to story time this evening when I get to read The Graveyard Book to my son.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Yes. My wife and son have been pretty cooperative in allowing me time to do this. I am grateful to them for that because I have enjoyed myself so far.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I have really only had three classes of disruption. First, normal family stuff. I helped my wife cook dinner, I watched my son when my wife took a nap. The second was eating. I was able to read during some of those two disruptions, but just let the rest be a break. The third disruption was the stormy weather that plagued the Houston area for most of the day. I really don't like thunderstorms. They distracted me, but I just tried to keep on reading.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I don't remember as many people participating last time, so that surprised me.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope. I think the Read-a-Thon is great the way it is!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year?

Nothing really. Maybe I would like a better chair to sit in, perhaps, but that's about it.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I am getting tired, but fortunately I do not feel sleepy yet.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Nothing really. Although I would like to applaud the Cheerleaders. It lifts my spirits when I read their comments.

Running stats: 380pp in 7:40:35 | 4 books read from, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 11

This hour I continued reading Silver Canyon. It is kind of interesting because I have never read a western before. It is pretty good, but so far nothing really special.

Running stats: 356 pages in 6:56:10 | 4 books read, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 10

I didn't get much reading done this hour. I started Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour. I have only read the first two chapters, but it starts off at a rip-roaring pace.

My eyes are starting to sting a little and I am getting a headache. I tried to get a good night's sleep last night, but I awoke in the middle of the night and slept restlessly, if at all, after that. It is unfortunate that I am feeling this way this early in the Read-a-Thon. But, if it was easy, everybody would do it, right?

Running stats: 333 pages in 6:37:08 | 4 books read, 2 completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 8 & 9

The thunderstorms here got so bad during hour 8 I thought it prudent to turn off all my computer equipment, so I shall combine hours 8 & 9.

First, the mini-challenge for hour 8:

  1. What is the name of your local library? What city is it located in?: I am fortunate to have two local library systems to use. The Fort Bend Public Library System (mostly the First Colony Branch in Sugar Land) and Houston Public Library System.

  2. How often do you go to the library? If you're a regular, do the staff know you?: I probably go to the library twice a week. I am sure the staff recognizes me, but I wouldn't say the know me. When I lived in a smaller town outside of New Orleans called St. Rose, I got to know a couple of the librarians, but here the libraries are much busier.

  3. Do you browse while you're there or just pick up items you have placed on reserve?: Oh I browse! I cannot go into the library without at least perusing the New Books shelves. But most of the time I feel compelled to walk through the stacks to see if there are any interesting books that remains undiscovered.

  4. What is your favorite thing about your local library?: The books, of course!

During the last couple of hours I finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (yeah!!!) and read a little bit of The Graveyard Book to my seven year old son. I will provide a full review of Junot Diaz' book in a day or two. As for The Graveyard Book, it is fabulous. I read it aloud for story time. My son, wife, and I are enjoying it immensely.

Running stats: 315pp in 6:16:57 | 3 books read, 2 books completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 7

This hour the storms continue unabated, and I continue my reading of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I have less than 100 pages now, so hopefully in the next hour or two I will be moving on to another book, probably Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour

Running stats: 224 pages in 4:39:26 | 1 book completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Go For A Walk?

The challenge for this hour is go for a walk. Well, as you may have gathered from my previous posts, that is kind of a problem here in the Houston area. We're getting some really nasty thunderstorms here (severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, flood watches, the whole enchilada). So, no dice on the walk.

When I look outside I see dark clouds, and so much rain that it is pooling in large puddles in the street (which is normal for this area). We are in for a little bit more stormy weather, but hopefully by later this afternoon all these thunderstorms will be out of here.

I took some pictures, but the camera is set up for my wife's computer, so she has to put them on her laptop and send them to me. I will post then when I get them.

Here are the pictures I took:

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 6

I read some of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, had lunch (which my lovely wife brought to me), and checked the weather frequently to find out about the yucky weather we are having.

Running Stats: 200 pages in 4:10:15 | 1 book completed.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 5

I finished On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind and started back on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Meanwhile, the storms here in Houston are getting nastier.

Running stats: 177 pages in 3:19:07 | 1 Book Completed

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 4

During hour 4 I decided to take a break from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I started On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind. It is a very short book of 76 pages. I didn't quite finish it this hour. I will do so in the next hour before returning to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Running stats: 150 pages in 2:49:49

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 3

Still working my way through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. What started as a very funny book has become a little sad now. But it is still a great read so far.

The weather here in the Houston area is turning nasty. I don't like thunderstorms and we're getting some doozies here this morning. I know some others are buried in snow, but how is the weather where you are? Is it conducive to your reading?

Running stats: 95 pages in 2:09:47

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Introduction Post

Three facts about me:

  1. I am a married to a wonderful woman and together we have a really great son.

  2. I am a freelance programmer/stay-at-home-dad.

  3. I am doing Script Frenzy this month too.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?

See my pre-read-a-thon post.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon?

I would, of course, like to stay up and read during the entire 24 hours. I think I can do that, I did last year. I also would like to finish The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Silver Canyon, and Red Harvest. But at my current pace, that isn't likely to happen. But most of all I want to have fun!

Where are you reading from today?

Right now, from my home office. But I will be reading from several different places in the house. As a matter of fact, in the next hour I plan to read while walking around a little bit.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?

I have done one other Read-a-Thon. But my advice comes more from running several marathons. Pace Yourself! This is going to be a long event. Don't come out of the gates at a sprint. You will pay for it later. Take breaks. Get up and walk around. Rest your eyes by looking at stuff in the distance every so often. But most of all, even though it may get grueling, have fun!

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 2

I am still reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I feel like I read a little more slowly this time. It seemed there were more allusions or Spanish expressions to look up in the chapter I just finished.

Running stats 57 pages in 1:21:49.

Read-a-Thon April 2009 -- Hour 1

For the first hour, I read from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I have enjoyed the book so far. It is quite funny. My only complaint is that there are quite a few Spanish expressions in the book that I cannot read. However, I did find The Annotated Oscar Wao where you can find translations. Others have complained about the allusions to sci-fi/fantasy culture, but as a geek, I have understood most of them.

This is my second Read-a-Thon. This time I decided to use a stopwatch to keep track of how much time I spend actually reading. My running total on time 0:46:43. In that time I have read 32 pages.

Read-a-Thon April 2009

The Read-a-Thon for April 2009 starts in less than 20 minutes. When I ran marathons, this was the pre-race time when you limbered up and tried to relax because you had a long way to go.

Like most people I spent the last few days preparing for the Read-a-Thon. I got some last minute books from the library. I made sure that I had enough tea to last me for 24 hours. I tried to clear my schedule (with mixed success) so I could devote all my time to reading.

I also gathered some books to read during the 24 hours. I make no promises that these are the actual books I will read. I am fortunate enough to own a fair number of books from which to choose, so I reserve the right to go "off course" if I want to.

  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: I am going to finish this one off. It is for the Book Awards II Challenge

  2. Silver Canyon by Louis L'Amour: This is for the Colorful Reading Challenge. I have never read a western, so it should be interesting.

  3. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett: Another book for the Colorful Reading Challenge. I liked Yojimbo and Last Man Standing, both of which are said to be based on this book, so I am looking forward to it.

  4. On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind: Is a small books of essays, which I suppose I could use for the Seconds Challenge after reading Perfume for the Book Awards II Challenge.

  5. On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State by J. R. Strayer: A small history book that has been sitting on my shelves for a while. May be a little too heavy for the Read-a-Thon.

If I finish those before the end of the 24 hours, I have a few other short books or graphic novels to read.

Good luck to everyone!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Musing Mondays

As a follow up to last week's question, Joseph asked how you keep track of your tbr list. Do you have a paper list or on your computer? Do you take it with you when you go shopping? How do you decide what gets added to it?

Wow! That's my question. That is so cool!!!

Sorry, I guess I geeked out there for a moment. Anyway, since I suggested it, I had better answer the question!

Like many of you, I am somewhat obsessed with books. I am constantly finding new books that go on my TBR list. Reviews by fellow book bloggers; author appearances on Book TV, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, etc; reviews in print; the bibliographies of other books I have enjoyed. Needless to say, my TBR list is quite large. But it really isn't a single list per se. It is actually a disorganized set of lists. I have notebooks with lists of books to read. I have a folder in my desk with reviews that I have clipped from newspapers and magazines. I have a page on Backpack with books to read. I have an Amazon wish list. And if I were to clean my desk, I would find many scraps of paper each with a book or two that I found interesting in some way. And that is only the books that I don't own already. My bookshelves are bursting with books, many of which remain unread.

Caite asked:

So, who is this Joseph...and why is he so interested in my books? ;-)

I am interested because my list(s) is/are so disorganized, I wondered if someone else might have a better way to keep track of all the books that I want to read (even though I will never be able to read that many books). So, I can't wait to see what everyone else says. Oh, and I hope somebody shares some magical way of reading all those books on my list too ...