The Five Worst Books I’ve Loved

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Blood-Vessel-Grescoe-Paul-9780771035548

I was having a chat with my mom the other day about the fact that I have never read Jane Eyre. I don’t know how I’ve managed to live this long as a book lover without having read Jane Eyre. I have a copy of it hanging around, but other books keep getting in the way. For instance, a new book about a sportswriter and his 13-year effort to out Lance Armstrong as a lying, cheating, remorseless bully has just been returned to the library and is waiting patiently for me to pick it up. Jane Eyre will have to wait (again).

My mom pointed out that even though she loves Jane Eyre and thinks I should read it right way, I have read a lot of classics that she hasn’t tackled yet. That led us to discussing the classics we like. And later, that led me to think about all the really awful books I’ve loved over the years. Books that I’ve (in some cases) read more than once. Books that I’ve hidden under the bed so no one would know I was reading them.

But no more. It’s liberating to stop living a lie. Here goes:

1) Blood Vessel – Paul Grescoe
I found this book in a dollar store in Huntsville, Ontario. It looked so ridiculous (and the price was right!) that I couldn’t resist it. The plot involved a murder on a cruise ship. Blood Vessel? Get it? Even though I normally hate punny titles and not-very-mysterious mysteries, something about this book was charming. Maybe it was the fact that the author is from Winnipeg, in friendly Manitoba. It’s a friendly book. Despite its many faults, it was just so likeable. Just like Winnipeg.

2) Phantoms – Dean Koontz
I read this book in high school while I was babysitting the children of my biology teacher. It’s a very silly book about (spoiler alert!) an ancient shapeshifter that devours an entire town (and possibly also the dinosaurs and the Mayans – I can’t quite remember). It’s silly in retrospect, but while I sat in that house alone (apart from some sleeping toddlers) it scared the heck out of me. Maybe everyone in my town is dead, too.

3) The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory
I’m so embarrassed about this one. As a bit of a history buff (and an anglophile, as I’ve discussed elsewhere) I’m so ashamed of myself. This book is a complete travesty, as far as historical accuracy is concerned. It just find it so difficult not to devour books about the Tudors, even if it’s pulpy and fluffy and ridiculous.

4) Where the Heart Is – Billie Letts
Yes, this is the Oprah-approved book about the girl who gives birth in a Wal-Mart, and then makes a life for herself among the local quirky townsfolk with whimsical names. I should hate this book. I should hate everything about this book. But for some reason I don’t. I don’t want to delve too deeply into this.

5) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
I don’t actually love the Da Vinci Code. In fact, I raged at it, all the way through. But I couldn’t put it down. I believe this is called “hate-reading.” The flat characters, the non-sensical theories, the pandering to ladies’ book clubs, all of it annoyed me. And yet I kept reading, and thinking, “Hey! I know that painting!” and “Hey! I’ve been to that famous landmark!” That Dan Brown is a diabolical fellow.

Don’t leave me here with my embarrassing book-shame all by myself. What are some books you’re loath to admit you loved?

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A Year in Books

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A few months ago, I posted about struggling to finish a book.  I used to be a voracious reader but I found, especially when C was an infant, that I had trouble fitting books into my schedule.

I read a decent amount of books in 2011, mostly before I had C in August of that year.  Here’s 2011’s list:

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene

The End of the Affair – Graham Greene

Paris 1919 – Margaret MacMillan

The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene (I really, really love Graham Greene)

Prisoner of Tehran – Marina Nemat

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Room – Emma Donoghue

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The Birth House – Ami McKay

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson

Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

Photo via Wikipedia

Aaaaand, here is what I read in 2012:

Drop Dead Healthy – A.J. Jacobs

Why Have Kids? – Jessica Valenti

How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles – Peter Brown & Steven Gaines

A Nation Worth Ranting About – Rick Mercer

Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene

1982 – Jian Ghomeshi

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

So that’s it.  It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose.  If I included What to Expect the First Year /Toddler Years, Barnyard Dance and Animal Boogie, the list would probably be a better representation of what I actually spent my time reading.

I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be a better year, literature-wise.

And I’m hoping that you, readers, can give me some suggestions.  From my lists, you can see what I tend to gravitate towards.  I’m currently tackling a book about the Cuban Missile Crisis (the fantastic Armageddon Letters).  But I’m open to other things, and I think it’s important to branch out and broaden one’s horizons.  So, please, send me your suggestions!

Happy reading!

Setting My Literary Sights a Little Lower

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For the past six weeks, I’ve had this book sitting on my coffee table, taunting me with its starkly beautiful cover photo:

I’ve wanted to read this book since I first read a review of it, shortly after C was born.  The Guardian writes that it is “a magnificent account of the British assaults on Everest in the 1920s [that] puts Mallory’s adventures in the context of war and imperialism.”  I love reading magnificent accounts of assaults on Everest.  I stayed up until all hours reading Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.  And as a history buff and political science grad, I’m even more pumped about putting these adventures in the context of war and imperialism.  World War I is endlessly fascinating to me, and this book manages to bring these themes together in a vivid and poignant narrative, or so I’ve been told by various book reviewers.  I haven’t managed to read even the first chapter.

We’ve had so much going on, including lots of company, various doctors’ appointments, and a teething baby.  And since the library is becoming impatient with my renewing shenanigans, I’ve decided to return Into the Silence and to try to read something a little lighter instead.  So yesterday, on a whim, I picked up the newest book by A.J. Jacobs:

A.J. Jacobs writes lighthearted books that are similar to a blog put to paper.  He usually lives some sort of wacky experiment and hilarity ensues.  I’ve read three of his books and loved them all: My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself; The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible; and The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.  I’m chuckling to myself as I write these titles.  I really enjoyed these books, particularly the latter two.  Jacobs really commits to his experiments in his books, including stoning a suspected adulterer in The Year of Living Biblically (as far as I recall, he throws a pebble and then scurries away).  In The Know-It-All, Jacobs reads the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica and becomes so frustrated with the monumental task by the letter F that he becomes enraged about Daniel Fahrenheit’s temperature scale.  It’s hilariously nerdy.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading Jacobs’ latest book.  His interview with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q was great and reminded me how much I enjoy his writing.  Now the only challenge is to wrestle this book away from Pete, who has managed to start reading it first.  He has been home for two days, ill with a fever, so I think I can overpower him.

And now for a quick question: what are you reading right now?