Friday, September 16, 2011

Still reading... Books #42 & #43

Yep, I've still been pretty darn busy. This week I did my first baby program at my new job, and I hosted one of my favorite picture book author/illustrators at my library--while wearing a pink tutu and hair bow, mind you. Both events went incredibly well.

But I've also been reading! I've been reading a whole lot, in fact. I've been reading so much that I'm rather behind in updating you all as to what I've been reading. So today I'm going to talk about two books I finished sometime last week, and then, once I finish this sweeping children's series (of which I finished book 5 last night), I'll talk to you about that. Sound good?

I love Maira Kalman. (The handler [har har] of the author of that sweeping series I mentioned loves Maira Kalman, too!) I loved her illustrations in Strunk and White's Elements of Style, I love having her picture books on display at the library, and I loved The Principles of Uncertainty when I read it a few years ago. Thus you should not be surprised that I loved her newest book, And the Pursuit of Happiness, which was created from her 2009 year-long blog on the NYT website all about topics in American civics. Does that sound boring? Because it's totally not. Each chapter is beautifully illustrated and includes just enough informative and wandering text to really capture some aspect of American history/government/political culture in a whimsical way. Think the crazy hats of founding fathers. Think brief mentions of the cafeteria food available at various sites of federal import. Think uplifting thoughts about what this country has done and can do--a necessary point of view in these times of political vitriol, if you ask me. I love that I can pick up this book, read a chapter, and just feel better about things in this country. I'd suggest it to folks who like art books, who like short, first-person reflections, and who like Kalman's previous projects.

I also just finished Catherine Reef's biography-ish book on Jane Austen, Jane Austen: A Life Revealed. While I new a lot of the biographical information about Austen and her family already, I did learn some interesting tidbits about some of the less frequently written-about "characters" from her life. I was disappointed by how many assumptions the author made about Austen's relationships and her personal life similarities to her works, however, and I was surprised that a good portion of the text was actually taken up by the author's own synopses of Austen's novels. Maybe it's just me, but if you want to know about Jane Austen's books, wouldn't it make more sense to read them? I did learn some new things, but I would have to conclude that this book is more of a Cliffs Notes version of Austen and her works than an in-depth, serious scholarly biography. Still, I might suggest it to readers who don't have time or inclination to delve into a more substantial biography or who just want brief synopses of the novels. It's still better than Wikipedia!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What I've Been Reading: Or, Books #39-41

Sorry for the prolonged absences from blogging. I've been reading, I swear! It's just that working full time compounded with not having the best internet connection at home means blogging about what I've been reading isn't as easy as it used to be.

I have been reading, though. Here's a relatively quick synopsis:

First, there's the first two of three graphic novel companions to Joss Whedon's awesome Firefly universe. I got both Serenity: Those Left Behind and Serenity: Better Days from my library--unfortunately they don't have the third volume, which I'm working on getting some other way. When I started watching Firefly and its follow-up film Serenity last month, I went through everything very quickly. I loved the characters, the story, the world Joss Whedon had created... Happily, the graphic novels continue that excellence in every aspect, and I enjoyed getting to find out more about the crew of the ship Serenity. I'd suggest these graphic novels to anyone who is a fan of the original show.

Then I read Ally Condie's Crossed. No, it's not out yet--but I was fortunate enough to get an advanced reader's copy at ALA this past June, and I devoured the book once I had started it. The book picks up a little bit after Matched ended, with Cassia pursuing Ky in his "fighting" exile in the Outer Provinces. After struggling to find one another, the pair test their limits while trying to steer clear of Society Officials and simultaneously attempting to join up with a rebellion whose existence Cassia has just discovered. This volume in the trilogy has chapters narrated alternately by Cassia and Ky, which is a fresh change--it serves the story well to be able to explore what both Cassia and Ky are thinking and feeling. I still think the characters are a bit too much in their own heads, but maybe that's just part of the isolation they feel in their dystopian world. Now I can't wait for the third installment, which doesn't come out until November of 2012. Hopefully I can get my hands on one at next summer's conference.