Could Science Fiction be not as bad as I thought?
For those who listen to The Readers, you will know that Simon accepted a challenge when he recorded a special episode with Michael and Ann from Books on the Nightstand. They decided that the four of us would read each others' favorite books. Ann's choice was The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. I groaned when I heard that it was science fiction. Despite my absolute love of Atwood's "speculative fiction" MaddAddam trilogy, I can't say that the genre interests me much. I (most certainly wrongly) equate it with all kinds of too colorful covers, made up facts, unpronounceable names, and pimply, greasy-haired teens with "Why be Normal" buttons pinned to the lapel of the vintage overcoat they picked up at Ragstock for $5.
Much to my surprise I ended up liking The Sparrow quite a lot. It hooked me quickly. I founded it compelling enough that it pushed aside about four other books I was reading at the time. I was going to write a quick paragraph about it in this post, but then I realized I actually want to write a real review of it. There were so many things about the book and my experience reading it that I feel the need to talk about it. No doubt I will have a chance to do that on The Readers but I don't think we are going to have that discussion until 2015. It's one of those books you want to talk about. Even absent knowing anyone in real life who has read it, or who would read it, I started talking about it with friends. That conversation didn't go very far.
So I figure it this way, any book that I find so compelling to both read and talk about can't be too bad right? I know there are large swaths of sci-fi that I would not find compelling at all, but it made me think there might be more opportunities for me to enjoy the genre than I previously thought.
Why don't I have a favorite book?
Choosing my book for the above mentioned favorite book challenge on The Readers and Books on the Nightstand was not easy for me. I just don't have a favorite book. I know that many real readers (like some of you all) are capable of coming up with one book about which you don't mind saying "this is my favorite book". Even though you have ten other books that are closely jockeying for the top spot, you still feel okay, perhaps even good, choosing just one. I just can't. I have had favorite books at different times in my life, but to look at all of them and say "this is the one" seems like a ridiculous and ultimately unfulfilling activity. Heck, even if I segment it into periods of my life I can't narrow it down to a single book.
Grade School: Harriet the Spy (Fitzhugh) and The Ark (Benary-Isbert)
Junior High: I read a lot, but no real recollection of a favorite.
High School: Narcissus and Goldmund (Hesse) and On the Beach (Nevil Shute)
College: The Edible Woman (Atwood), Where Angels Fear to Tread (Forster), and The Carnivorous Lamb (Gomez-Arcos)
And then, after that it degenerates into a mass of really good books that I really liked and sometimes loved, but nothing that comes close to being able to beat out all the others that I also really love. In the end, for the challenge on the podcast I made my choice not just by choosing a well loved book by one of my favorite authors, I also kept in mind what I thought others might enjoy and what I thought deserved a broader audience. A book that I knew that bookish people would love if they knew it existed. That's how I came up with my choice of Swann by Carol Shields. But even with that, I haven't read it in years. Will it still be a favorite?
Anyone else annoyed by Goodreads' iPad update?
I've never been much of a fan of Goodreads' iPad app. Compared to the webpage interface, I always found it a bit clumsy and lacking in easy functionality. I tended only to use it for viewing information. For any sort of input I would go to the web version. Well they updated the app and I must say I find it even worse than it was before. Has anyone else been similarly annoyed? I thought since the deathstar purchased Goodreads and began scooping up NSA-level data on our habits the product would get better. Then again, I also expected all sorts of aggressive advertising, and pay-walls for certain features. Of course that might be still to come. Still, don't you hate it when something new turns out to be something worse?
|The good old days before they made an okay thing worse.|
How is it possible I didn't enjoy a book sale?
My new job is walking distance to the Arlington County Central Library which has a big, blowout book sale each year. When I showed up with my empty book bags two weeks ago, it was a week too early. My disappointment was palatable. So when I got there on the right day this past Friday I was loaded for a good time. The fact that I was able to go during a week day rather than on the crazy, busy weekend also had me quite excited. But when I got there I was almost immediately disappointed. As I looked at the first shelf I thought "you didn't like this book sale last year". Then I tried to figure out why. One of the big reasons is that it takes place in a parking garage and I think the light levels are a little too low for good book hunting. Unlike many other big book sales this one has most of its offerings on shelves rather than tables. This makes it much hard to comb through the stock. They also have the fiction broken down in a way that isn't very helpful. Mass market classics, trade paper, hardcovers that seem to also have mystery and sci-fi mixed in, a section called literature, and then one simply called "old books". And aside from the rather dusty, not very interesting old books, most of the stock seemed to consist of lots of recent titles. I tried my best to focus but realized this sale, as big as it is, just isn't for me. Still I did manage to buy three. But none really made me jump up and down.
Are we really here for the books?
I know we all found each other over our love of books and reading (two different things in my estimation), and I know I couldn't turn this blog into just a big dump about the ups and downs of my life and have you all still show up from time to time. But it is amazing to me (in a good way) how posts about more than just books always do better in both page views and comments than the ones solely focused on books. I know other bloggers have found this as well. Is this the online equivalent of the book club that is really a wine drinking in the presence of books club? Even if that is so, I don't think it matters. If book are the very pleasant excuse for humans to interact with each other, why not?