In the High Peaks

Monday, September 26, 2011

Autumnal Wishes

First of all, I am terribly embarrassed to confess that I have been unable to read any book whatsoever for several weeks. I have been totally incapable of concentration. I have tried everything I can think of, but nothing has helped. No book appeals to me, I'm so sorry to say. Is there a Book God I should be praying to?

This is a temporary situation, of course, but I feel enormous discomfort about it. The world has been spinning a wee bit too quickly for me and my mind is a jumble.

I am determined to participate in Beauty is a Sleeping Cat's German Literature Month in November. I'm going to read a 1950 novel by Heinrich Boll for November 26. I will get there, and it's not a long novel.

The autumn colors are glorious now, and unfortunately, it's been so dreadfully HOT! Much too hot to manage miles and miles of hiking as my friends and I would like to do. Temperatures were near 80 degrees today and humid. This is highly unusual for late September in the Adirondacks.

I do hope that you, my reading comrades, are happily ensconced in your unique reading bungalows, curled up with a book! Do report on your reading adventures

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fall Books 2011?????

Have you happened to browse through the lists of new books for Fall 2011? I just studied Amazon and the Barnes & Noble websites, and I am appalled. I did not see a single new book that interested me. I have never been so turned off by new offerings. I keep hoping that perhaps books to be published later this fall will appear and make me feel more faith and trust in book publishing, but so far, I want to GAG. Sorry for the all caps, there. I cannot hold back the extremity of my reaction.

Fortunately plenty of older books are demanding to be read! That encourages me quite a bit after the depressing journey I just took through the websites.

Please surrender your opinions about Fall Books 2011. I'm all ears!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Teacher's Reading Challenge

Making my tiny footsteps to get back into the reading game.

I read Leningrad this morning for about 45 minutes, which is a triumph for me, given all that's been going on.

And now I have selected a crime fiction read, thanks to Maxine at Petrona. For a minimal price, I purchased Into the Darkest Corner by English writer Elizabeth Haynes on the Kindle. Many, many reviewers have stated that it's an "I can't put it down" read, which is exactly what I need to get back on the horse of reading fiction. Haynes, who lives in Kent, wrote this debut novel as part of NaNoWriMo, the global phenomenon known as National Novel Writing Month. I, too, have participated in this event, three times over, and know the power of group encouragement, synergy, and a 30-day deadline to get the bare bones of a plot fleshed out from start to finish. Once that is done, writers can go back and add, edit, and revise. If I weren't teaching, I would be participating once again for certain.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I also need to read a banned, censored, or "challenged" book. I have finally! chosen Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, which created a huge sensation in 1982 when it was first published. It was the very first book written for teenagers about a girlfriends' relationship that turns into a love relationship. Very sensitively done, too. The censoring sort of people went wild with it. "If my daughter reads this, she'll become a lesbian!" and all that rot.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Banned Book Week: September 24--October 1 and Robert Cormier

My Children's Lit class is doing a Banned Books Week project. We're getting started a bit early, so everyone has time to locate and borrow their chosen banned book from the library and finish reading it in plenty of time.

I'm not sure what I'm going to end up reading, but I would like to read another novel by Robert Cormier, whose book The Chocolate War has been read in high school classrooms all over the country since its explosive publication in 1974. In that year, The New York Times and Newsweek magazine named it "one of the best books of the year," for adults, mind you, not teens. And every one of Cormier's subsequent novels continued to smack up against the censor's teeth, making him the most censored novelist for young people from 1974-2000. No matter, many teachers and schools ignored the cries of terrified parents and school administrators and continued and still continue teaching his books.

Communities have listed many reasons for banning his books over the years, but if I may cut to the chase, experts acknowledge that the real reasons, though frequently unstate, were largely political in nature. Cormier's prose is exquisite, his dialogue pitch-perfect, but his novels are dark and shine a bright light on the underbelly of society, government, and, most of all, of human nature. He is known as a master of psychological suspense, but he never pits one lone human against another lone human. Society always looms large--that's why The Chocolate War is so frequently compared to The Lord of the Flies.

It's absolutely true that parents and school administrators freak out about young people's books that deal with anarchy and rebellion of the young.

Robert Cormier resided in the town where I lived (Leominster, Massachusetts) when I taught elementary school from 1975-1985. During that time and later, I heard him speak many, many times and was always captivated. He was so humble, so unpretentious, and full of anecdotes about the forces in society that pushed him to write each book. He died in 2000 at the age of 75, a great loss to teen readers and those who love freedom from tyranny.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Scottish Crime Fiction: Gordon Ferris, Anyone?

I'm delighted to discover that Scotland's Gordon Ferris's The Hanging Shed, the first book to introduce his new detective Brodie, has been quite a Kindle bestseller since Christmas 2010. I find it wonderful (and amazing) that certain titles are becoming e-book bestsellers without ever gaining a huge following in hardcover or paper. It's a fascinating phenomenon, and a global one. Perhaps folks in the UK can pick up Ferris's books no problem, but here in the US, forget it, unless you have the Amazon Kindle. The Hanging Shed has received the highest accolades from European Crime Fiction afficiandos (click on the link for a review), and I hope to read it very soon, via my Kindle, of course. Only nine dollars! I have to ask Katrina, of Pining for the West, do you know Gordon Ferris's work?

The Hanging Shed is set in Glasgow, 1946. Fantastic for my postwar fetish!

The first week of school has wreaked TOTAL HAVOC with my personal reading. School work from early morning til dinner. May this phase pass soon!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Whither My Direction in Books?

From May until mid-August, I read dozens and dozens of books and enjoyed the freedom of following my fancy, like a guest at a gourmand's banquet, while also pursuing my interest in German literature in translation.

So, with the fall teaching semester beginning this week, what plans do I have for my reading? I have oodles of books on tap, in every genre, to suit every mood, stacked next to my reading couch.

From September through December, I plan to be in the midst of reading one book of history at all times. I love history, spent a decade writing and publishing my own works of history, so perhaps I feel I have distanced myself too much from this genre.

Yet, concomitant with my history reading, I also intend to be in the midst of reading a work of fiction at all times. I hope I continue my exploration of European crime fiction because I have enjoyed these novels immensely all summer long. Still, I don't expect that all my fiction reads will be ECF.

On the days I am not teaching, I plan to read for a minimum of one hour each morning. On the days I am teaching, I will read for 30 minutes before dinner. (This is a bare minimum--I hope to spend more time reading than this.)

So I'll wish myself luck with this plan and see how it goes.

I also plan to post a blog entry at least three times per week.

What's Up Next!
My current history read is Leningrad:The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid, a British historian, who is also the author of The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia and Borderland: A Journey through the History of the Ukraine. Leningrad has already received high accolades, for incorporating recently published scholarship and a new examination of Soviet archives. Reid does not intend to surpass Harrison Salisbury's 900 Days, but her examination and analysis supersedes all that Salisbury had access to back in the 1970s. The Siege of Leningrad was an epic human cataclysm in which thousands of people managed to survive despite all the odds stacked against them.

My Fiction Read: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. I imagine many of you have read it. Did you like it? Did you go on to read additional titles in the series? I'm hoping this will be a relaxing, get-away-from-it-all read.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rafa Saw Me Through

First off, I am wholly and truly OKAY, through and through.

I'm sure you all know by now that I am a diehard tennis fan. I truly don't have a favorite player, or, to be more precise, I have many, many favorite male and female players. I also have a very, very few whom I dislike intensely, but you won't find their names here.

That's because what I'm trying to say is that the new biography Rafa made my pre-hospital and hospital experience easy. Yeah, it's a recently published celebrity bio, with lots of tennis strategy and stories of his family and favorite matches. Perfect for a tennis fan who loves Rafa, which I do, but then again I also love Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Mardy Fish, Gael Monfils, and so on and so on. I'm inspired by many women players as well. I admire these champions' physical endurance, their guts, their inspiration, and their ability to turn a very bad day into a great day.

Thank you for indulging me in the previous discussion.

Now, on to the future of my books and reading. I was so stunned to pick up a new hardcover history I purchased from Amazon at the post office morning, because it was not expected to be published until the end of September. (I had pre-ordered it.) Voila! Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid is here and ready to be read.