Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Night by Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel is the heartbreaking memoir of Wiesel's experiences in Nazi concentration camps. It was an emotionally difficult read, probably not the best choice for the Readathon. But, if you haven't read this book, get a copy and read it as soon as possible. Remembering the injustices of history can help us prevent injustices in the future.


Disquiet by Julia Leigh

Disquiet by Julia Leigh starts off with a intriguing air of mystery. Olivia, with her two children in tow, returns to her mother's house in France. Olivia seems to be on the run, but why? Soon after Olivia arrives, her brother, Marcus, and his wife, Sophie, return to the house with tragic news. It seems that Sophie has given birth to a stillborn child. Unhinged, Sophie has taking to treating the corpse as if it was a live baby. Would she ever regain her sanity and allow the poor dead child to be buried?

In the end, I was horribly disappointed with this book. Leigh doesn't ever answer the first, and most intriguing, question about why Olivia has returned to France.


The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu

Xiao Yanqiu was a rising star with the lead role in The Moon Opera. But before the opera could open, Xiao, in a jealous fit, flung boiling water into the face of her understudy. Disgraced, Xiao is demoted to being a mere music teacher. But twenty years later, a rich businessman who remembers Xiao's beauty offers to underwrite a new performance of the The Mood Opera. But can Xiao, who hasn't been on stage since her disgrace, be the star she used to be? And what will happen when her new understudy begins to show signs of enormous talent?

The Moon Opera is a tragic look at the world of Peking Opera and of China. I enjoyed the story, despite the sad ending (which I won't spoil for any who want to read the book). This was one of the better short novels I read during the Readathon and I would recommend for Readthoners next time.


Koula by Menis Koumandareas

Koula by Menis Koumandareas, a Greek novelist, tells the story of an affair between a young university student and an older woman who works for Greek IRS. They meet on the subway, where they often ride in the same car. Eventually, the begin to talk. Soon enough, they are carrying on an affair. The woman, Koula, becomes obsessed with the younger man. Realizing it, she breaks off the affair despite, or because of, her genuine affection for the younger man.

I read this during the Readathon for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge. It's pretty good novella, but not spectacular. But at 88 pages, it's a good read for the Readathon.


The Pink Insititution by Selah Saterstrom

The Pink Institution by Selah Saterstrom is a short novel that chronicles four dysfunctional generations of a post-Civil War Mississippi family. A prose poem, many parts of it were touching, many disturbing, but they were well written. But there were also parts where the novel jumped the shark and became a little to "artsy" for me; parts where the narrative was absent or too difficult to find.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Readathon End of Event

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 24 by far. I had a horrible time trying to stay awake.

  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Night by Elie Wiesel was probably the best book I read during the last 24 hours, but it is a pretty heartbreaking story.

  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope. The organizers do a fabulous job of putting on the readathon.

  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Once again, the cheerleaders were awesome!

  5. How many books did you read? 3 unfinished + 5 finished.

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

    1. The Number Devil

    2. The Greatest Show On Earth

    3. Black Dogs

    4. The Pink Institution (finished)

    5. Koula (finished)

    6. The Moon Opera (finished)

    7. Disquiet (finished)

    8. Night (finished)

  7. Which book did you enjoy most? Night

  8. Which did you enjoy least? The Pink Institution

  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't a cheerleader.

  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Are you kidding? I'm definitely going to do this next time too.

Readathon Hour 24

Yeah!!! I made it. The whole head-nod-no-I'm-awake think prevented me from finishing Black Dogs or reaching the 1000 page mark. But I had a lot of fun.

Thank You Organizers and Cheerleaders. And to my fellow Readers, Well Done!

Final stats: 981 pages and 5 books completed in 13:40:02

Readathon Hour 23

I'm still awake with only one hour to go. I'm still reading Black Dogs and still fighting to keep from falling asleep. With only one hour to go, I'm pretty sure I can make it now.

Running stats: 947 pages and 5 books completed in 13:02:50.

Readathon Hour 22

Still slowly making my way through Black Dogs. I have resorted to reading while standing up in order to keep from dozing off. Only 2 hours to go. Maybe I can hit 1000 pages with a big push. We'll see ...

Running stats: 915 pages and 5 books completed in 12:26:07.

Readathon Hour 21

The pushups helped me stay awake this hour. I'm still reading Black Dogs by Ian McEwan. This one is probably going to see me all the way to the finish line.

Running stats: 886 pages and 5 books completed in 11:51:29.

Readathon Hour 20

Wow, it is really getting hard to stay awake now. I find myself starting to doze or reading the same sentence more than once. I think I'm going to have to do another round of pushups or yoga to stay awake. But only 4 more hours to go!

Dana asks what your four favorite books are. Right now, mine are:

  1. Dante's Inferno

  2. Homer's Iliad

  3. Vyasa's Mahabharata

  4. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

But if you ask me again tomorrow, they'd be different.

Running stats: 855 pages and 5 books completed in 11:22:33.

Readathon Hour 19

Not getting a good night sleep last night is coming back to haunt me. My eyes sting and have started to get that gummy feeling. I started Black Dogs by Ian McEwan this hour. It happens to be a large print book; I was hoping the large print would make it easier to read, but it really isn't working out that way. But hey ... we're more than 3/4 of the way through the readathon. As they say in marathoning, "It's all down hill from here!"

Running stats: 834 pages and 5 books completed in 10:53:13

Readathon Hour 18

Despite the suffering a few times from the "I'm falling asleep head nod," I was able to finish Disquiet by Julia Leigh. It is a creepy little novella about a woman who can't let go of her stillborn child. >Shudders< Finishing this book also means that I have completed the Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

Running stats: 809 pages and 5 books completed in 10:28:37.

Readathon Hour 17

I didn't do much reading this hour. I am really tired now and eyes hurt so it was easy to distract myself by puttering around. I need to refocus and try to finish Disquiet during hour 17.

Running stats: 733 pages and 4 books completed in 9:36:42

Readathon Hour 16

This hour I completed The Moon Opera and started Disquiet. I am starting to get sleepy now, so my reading pace has declined significantly. But, that's OK. I remember this from previous readathons. It's temporary, like the Wall in marathons. You just have keep pushing until you get your second wind.

I also completed the Wisdom of Aging Mini-Challenge hosted by Care. In addition, Lynn asks for your favorite five books from your childhood in the Give Me Five Mini-Challenge. Well here are my favorites:

  1. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

  2. Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

  3. Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

  4. The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

  5. Any Choose Your Own Adventure or Fighting Fantasy book.

Running stats: 715 pages and 4 books completed in 9:23:16

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon Hour 15

This hour I continued reading The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu. With only 14 pages left, I will finish it in hour 15. From there I will move on to Disquiet by Julia Leigh. If I can finish that one, I will have completed the Orbis Terrarum Challenge.

Running stats: 673 pages and 3 books completed in 8:50:57

Readathon Hour 14

This hour I started The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu. It is the story of a young opera star that disfigures her understudy. Then, after twenty years away from the stage, returns to the role that made her famous when a rich man sponsors a new production of the Moon Opera.

I also did some yoga, at the suggestion of Soleil at The Yoga Mini-Challenge.

Running stats: 618 pages and 3 books completed in 8:13:03

Readathon Hour 13

In this hour I finished Koula by Menis Koumandareas, the story of a brief affair between a young man and an older woman. In the next hour, I plan to either read some more of The Number Devil to my son or read The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu.

Despite not reading as many pages or hours as I had hoped, I am succeeding in my goal to knock out some of my reading challenges. I think I have a pretty good chance of finishing both the Orbis Terrarum Challenge and the Colorful Reading Challenge.

Running stats: 571 pages and 3 books completed in 7:37:39

Readathon Mid-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey:

  1. What are you reading right now?

  2. How many books have you read so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  9. Are you getting tired 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?

My Answers:

  1. Right now I am reading Koula by Menis Koumandareas

  2. I have completed two books of the five books I've read during the readathon.

  3. Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, for two reasons. (1) I enjoyed the previous McEwan book I read, Amsterdam. (2) It is a large print book which will be easier on my eyes.

  4. I skipped the NaNoWriMo kickoff for the Houston area and had to arrange for my wife to take over my usual household duties: dinner, shuttling our child around, etc.

  5. I've had quite a few interruptions. But I deal with them by understanding from the beginning that I'm not going to read for the entire 24 hours. This is supposed to be fun, not a joyless slog.

  6. I was surprised at the amount of joy I got from reading to my son. I read to him all the time, but it was really cool to read to him for that long.

  7. I think the readathon is very well organized and I wouldn't suggest changing a thing.

  8. I think next time as a reader I will perhaps try to find more large print books. Also, audiobooks might allow me to "read" while doing household chores.

  9. I didn't sleep well last night, so I'm already tired and my eyes hurt. But if it was easy, everybody would do it.

  10. I don't have any tips right now, but I'll let you know about the large print book later.

Readathon Hour 12

This hour, I had dinner with my family. I also completed the two mini-challenges of the hour:

What I didn't do is get a lot of reading done. But I did start a new book, Koula by Greek novelist Menis Koumandareas. It is a really short novella, just 88 pages. Perhaps I can finish it in the next hour.

Running stats: 521 pages and 2 books completed in 7:08:46

Readathon Hour 11

This hour I finished Elie Wiesel's Night. A truly sad tale, but a good read.

Earlier this hour I completed Joy Renee’s Reading is Fundamental mini-challenge. I was the first because I've already spent a couple of my readathon hours reading The Number Devil to my son, so I just linked to my hour 8 update. I'm looking forward to reading more to him when he gets home from his friend's birthday party.

Running stats: 483 pages and 2 books completed in 6:45:58

Readathon Hour 10

I continued to read Night during hour 10. I am surprised that out of 10 hours I have only spent 6 hours reading. That's only 60% of the time. I was shooting for 75%. Hopefully I can bring the average up over the remainder of the readathon.

I also completed Erika's minichallenge:

What book or books do you return to read again and again and why?

I am not really one to reread entire books, although I often refer back to books that I have read. But there are a few that I have read more than once:

  • Buddhist Sutras especially the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breath. I find the sutras can often help me on my path to "peace of brain."

  • The Mahabharata and the Ramayana. I have read more than one translation of each of these great Indian epics because I love epic poetry.

  • The Iliad and the Odyssey. See answer above.

  • Beowulf. See answer above.

  • Gilgamesh. See answer above.

  • Hamlet, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing. C'mon ... it's Shakespeare!

Update from hour 21: I just thought of another classic that I reread often: Dante's Inferno. It is one of my favorites. I can't believe I forgot it.

Running stats: 422 pages and 1 book completed in 6:00:40

Readathon Hour 9

I didn't get much reading done this hour. I spent some time getting the pictures that I added to my hour 8 update. Plus, it is difficult to read about the horrors described in Elie Wiesel's Night; it is hard to believe that humans can do such things to other humans.

Running stats: 402 pages and 1 book completed in 5:36:09

Readathon Hour 8

My family returned from the Halloween party. So, this hour I resumed reading The Number Devil to my son. He's really enjoying it and so am I. This hour we read about squares, square roots, and triangular & quadrangular numbers.

Bonus update ... Some pictures!

Reading to my son.

Keeping me company today while I'm reading.

Running stats: 382 pages and 1 book completed in 5:19:36

Readathon Hour 7

During hour 7 I did indeed resume reading The Greatest Show On Earth. I'm already getting a little tired, so I had a hard time following some of what I read. It was a chapter full of scientific names. So, after finishing that chapter I switched to Elie Wiesel's Night. I'm only 14 pages in, but I can feel the sadness begin to build already. I hope to finish Night in the next couple of hours.

Running Stats: 341 pages and 1 book completed in 4:41:12

Readathon Hour 6

The Pink Institution got weird again. I finished it, but it didn't make a lot of sense. It is a prose poem, so perhaps it doesn't have to make sense. Anyway, it is the first book I have completed during this readathon. Woot!

I think I will go back to Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth for hour 7 and then on to another book during hour 8.

Running Stats: 298 pages and 1 book completed in 4:04:02

Readathon Hour 5

I started reading Selah Saterstrom's The Pink Institution. It is a strange book. A sparsely told tail of a family on the decline in post-Civil War Mississippi. I didn't like it at first, but now that I am over 80 pages into it, I am starting to see an engaging plot.

Running stats: 246 pages in 3:24:42

Readathon Hour 4

This has been my favorite hour so far. I read The Number Devil by H. M. Enzensberger to my 7 year old son. It was a pretty interesting read, covering number theory in a kid friendly way. Alas, my son is off to a Halloween party, so I will be alone in the house again. But, he asked if I could read to him later. I'm looking forward to it!

Running stats: 164 pages read in 2:55:45

Readathon Hour 3

Well, I didn't switch books because I wanted to finish the chapter I was reading in The Greatest Show On Earth. But, I will be switching books in hour 4 because my family is home from the gym and I will be reading to my 7 year old son.

Running stats: 98 pages in 2:04:42

Readathon Hour 2

Well ... that's 2 hours done. I have to say that I am disappointed with the pace of my reading. Perhaps reading a nonfiction book on evolution isn't the best choice for a readathon. I think, perhaps, in hour 3 I will switch to something a little easier to read.

Running Stats: 67 pages read in 1:22:56

Readathon Hour 1

So, I started the readathon with one of the books I am currently reading, Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth. It is about the evidence for evolution. It is a pretty easy read, but surprisingly snarky. I would have prefer Dawkins to argue his case rather than make fun of the opposing view.

Mini challenge for this hour:

Where are you reading from today?

3 facts about me …

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

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?

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

I am reading in Sugar Land, Texas, a suburb of Houston. My readathon goal is to use the time to polish of some of my reading challenges. To that end, I went to the library and checked out a bunch of novellas that meet the criteria of my challenges. I am afraid I went a little overboard and checked out way too many to list. But, here a some that I want to finish:

  • The Greatest Show On Earth by R. Dawkins (for the Chunkster & Seconds Challenges)

  • Night by E. Wiesel (for the What's In A Name Challenge)

  • The Pink Institution by S. Saterstrom (for the Colorful Reading Challenge)

  • Black Dogs by Ian McEwan (for the Colorful Reading & Seconds Challenge)

  • Double Indemnity by J. Cain (for the Seconds Reading Challenge)

  • The Moon Opera by B. Feiyu (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

  • Koula by M. Koumandareas (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

  • Disquiet by J. Leigh (for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge)

I checked out a bunch of novellas, books of less than 200 pages, because I found last time that these books are the easiest to read. As you get tired, holding the events and characters of longer books in your head becomes a little difficult. In addition, shorter books give you shorter, achievable goals that can motivate you to keep going. So, a little late I know, I would recommend that novice readathoners choose shorter books to read. But, the most important advice I would pass on is that readers need to take breaks. Get up, walk around, change your eyes' focus distance. Remember, you have 23 more hours to go!

Running Stats: 31 pages read in 00:40:15

Pre-Readathon Thoughts

It's that time of year again when over 350 of us readers get together over the internet to read for 24 hours straight. If you are one of the readathoners, people might say, "Why would you want to read for 24 hours? That's crazy!" But, if we have to explain it to you, you won't get it. Don't make any mistake, it will be grueling. It's worth it though; the thrill of finishing is definitely worth it.

I have my big pile o' books sitting next to my reading chair. I have plenty of caffeine, I mean tea, and a willing attitude. I tried to get a good night's sleep last night, but I'm a light sleeper and my wife snores. (What can you do?) But I'm ready!

Before we start, I want to wish all my fellow readers good luck. To all the cheerleaders, thank you in advance. When it's dark and the house is silent, your encouragement keeps me going. See you all at the finish line!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder…

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I purged my library once in my life. When I got married and moved out of my parent's house, I gave away or sold many of the books that I had collected through high school and college. To this day I regret having done so. I have repurchased some of the books I got rid of and vow to never purge again.

For more answers to this question and others, check out Booking Through Thursday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hellenistic Philosophy by A. A. Long

I have had a long time interest in Hellenistic Philosophy. I admire the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Sceptics. Over the last few years, I have read several to learn more about them. I looked forward to reading A. A. Long's survey of Hellenistic Philosophy for some time. So, I was highly disappointed when I found it nearly unreadable.

I am sure that for someone with more technical knowledge of philosophy this book is an excellent overview of Hellenistic Philosophy. However, I don't have that technical knowledge. I was looking for a book written for the lay audience. Hellenistic Philosophy is not that book. So, unless you are ready for a slog through a dizzying array of technical topics on Hellenistic philosophy, find another book to read.