Pictures of Books

 Eek, I stayed away too long again. We had the most wonderful long week-end away and it was totally worth the resulting exhaustion. I had trouble sleeping when we got back, worked and hosted book club the next day which I kind of knew would be tough but went into denial about, and then shopped for book club groceries like a drunk person but everyone rolled with it. Some people liked the book, some people didn't like the book, which is better than everyone hating the book but also better than everyone loving the book and just saying 'oh it was wonderful' and then all of us staring at each other for ten minutes and then talking about what the kids are up to .

The book: 

I loved it. I really liked All the Light We Cannot See, but I was a bit intimidated by the size and scope of this. The format is like Cloud Atlas, The Overstory and Greenwood - like tree rings, concentric layers of story that travel from the past to the future or vice-versa, and back again. I loved it the first time, and then when I read it again to refresh my memory before book club, I had tears in my eyes for most of it. 

How do you feel when someone doesn't like a book you love? I do hold the opinion that different books hit different readers differently (lol, so deep), and I try very hard not to take it personally. Also, there are ways that people can dislike a book I love that are fine and very understandable, and then there are ways that make me have to try and forget what they said so our friendship can remain unaffected. And I'm also guilty of the reverse thing, where sometimes I can see why someone liked a book I didn't and sometimes I'm like whoa, baby, noooo. It's a touchy thing, when you love talking about books but there are definite pitfalls. I used to rush to give copies of books I adored to people I love, and then I realized this is NOT the smartest thing, and now I mostly guard my most treasured books in the vault of my mind (okay, and on Goodreads and on this blog, I am bad at guarding) and just give away books I merely liked.

A couple of weeks ago my Thursday school had a Book Bonanza, which I though was just a grandiose name for a book sale but holy shit, you guys, this was a good and proper "large amount of something desirable". I went down after school with the other librarian to shop for books for the library, but then, well, the books were ONE or TWO dollars, and I was left unsupervised.

Have you read Joan Aiken? I find her name immediately recognizable, and I assumed when I looked up her list of books I would have read several, but I was wrong. I haven't even read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, so it was possibly foolish to buy this, which is the sequel, but I have a shelf of classic children's books and it seemed silly to pass this up. I am currently reading her book of short stories The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories and finding it delicious.

I often prefer older editions of classics, but I LOVE this edition of A Wrinkle in Time, and will always buy a good-condition used copy to give away to young people, preferably coupled with When You Reach Me.

I am fine with tattered books, as long as they're not stained. I read this years ago as an ebook from the library and it is lovely and haunting and bittersweet, and I am happy to own a copy and planning to reread it outside this summer.

Haven't read this yet, but Ursula Le Guin is a must-buy.

A bit surprised to find an Ann Patchett I hadn't read yet - Bel Canto is one of my Top Ten of All Time, and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is one of my favourite books of essays ever. And it wasn't 20 dollars, it was two, did I mention that?

I feel like this won an award of some kind. Oh - shortlisted for the Giller Prize (I managed to read ALL the Giller Prize shortlist books and ALL the Canada Reads books this year for the FIRST TIME EVER). It is a time travel book, and I am a whore for time travel books, even ones that are more philosophical and meditative rather than science fiction-y and plot-driven, and I found this utterly captivating, although very sad.

Every time I read a Lynn Coady book I wonder how I could have forgotten for a minute how wonderful it is to be reading a Lynn Coady book. We did Mean Boy in book club and it was the first Canadian Literature book I had read in so long that wasn't Gothic and incesty, and it felt like a moment of revitalization. I know I've read this but I don't know if I own it - if I do I'll give it away.

I had amassed a large collection of children's books before I ever had children, and I still pick up one or two every now and then. Clementine is an alias I often use on websites where I don't use my real name, and 'Mungo' struck me as amusing and odd - I thought maybe the author would be Australian (why? unsure), but she's from the Southern United States. I like children's books that are a little weird (the class I read to on Thursday is appealingly on the same page, which is gratifying), and this fits the bill.

And the most exciting find of all:

It is tiny and perfect and I love Frida Kahlo, one of the bad-assest badasses of all time.

It is whimsically illustrated but also surprisingly packed with information

Yesterday I finished a book outside and remembered I was halfway through a book I had gotten from the library as an ebook that had then expired, and I needed it immediately so I bought the Kindle version, and the life got busy and I wanted to savour it, so I let it be for the time. I started reading it again and was as enchanted as before, but I kind of wished I had a paper copy to read outside.

Then I thought, wait - didn't I order a paper copy, because Indigo had that big sale? 

Then I looked all over and couldn't find it.

Then I went on the Indigo website and found it still in my cart, so I thought I hadn't clicked submit, and was about to.

Then I checked my order history and saw that I HAD ordered it, so not sure why it was still in my cart.

Then I looked some more and finally found it.

Don't judge a book by its cover and all, but I fucking love this cover

And finally.... I started getting offers of review copies pretty soon after I started this blog. Early on, I accepted most of the offers because free books is a thrilling thing. This was largely a mistake. There was an overwhelming amount of dross. Drivel. Dreck, even. The first time a publisher hounded me for a review I was like "I'm happy to review it, but the review will be 'this sucked', and they were like, okay, don't rush." For a while I had a great contact at a Canadian publisher and she would just tell me to look at the catalogue and say what I wanted, but she moved on. So I mostly started skimming the pitch emails and not answering them.

But today, friends, today it is all worth it:










Swistle said…
WASN'T BEL CANTO SO GOOD??? I have never loved a book more that destroyed me so thoroughly.
StephLove said…
Wolves of Willoughby Chase was a childhood favorite of mine and Noah liked it, too. The villain is so satisfyingly villainous. Somehow I missed the sequel.
NGS said…
I thought Cloud Cuckoo Land was so clever, but in the end, I wasn't sure what it was about. Like, in ninth grade literature class, what would the answer be to the question of what was its theme? (I brag about this all over the Interwebz so forgive me if you've already heard this, but I was an undergrad when Tony Doerr was a grad student and my best friend was a creative writing major and we were attached at the hip, so I went to a number of readings that Doerr gave. He was in a different league in terms of writing even then, and he's a funny, charismatic guy. I'm so happy he's having so much success.)

Also, I want to talk about Bel Canto! I listened to the audiobook and I was so confused by it, too. Like, I don't get its theme either and the writing made me IRATE, but I cared about that characters so much and how did she sneaky write that book in a way that made the ending so powerful? Like, it felt like I was tricked somehow! Fascinating writing.
Ernie said…
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is one of my all time favorite books for kids. I didn't discover it until I read it with my kids. I had no idea there was a sequal. I must find it. I love that this book opportunity was so fruitful for you and I laughed that you were unsupervised. I LOVED Hamnet and I almost fell over when a woman from book club gave it one star. Had we read the same book? I don't read nearly as much as you and I don't recommend books very often (usually because I'm the last to read something - such as ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE . . . haven't yet read that, but I intend to), but I have a hard time grasping how some people dislike a book that I loved, or vice versa.
I haven't read ANY of the books you mention in this post except three: A Wrinkle in Time, which I desperately want to read with my kid who is so far uninterested; All the Light We Cannot See which is one of my top favorite books ever; and Bel Canto, which I absolutely adored. I own Dutch House and Cloud Cuckoo Land but have yet to get to them. I am so afraid that I won't like Cuckoo that I can't bear to start it, which is one of the most ridiculous reasons for not reading a book but I am adept at ridiculous reasons for not reading so there it is.

I love and agree with everything you say about sharing books with other people.

One thing I find highly useful is to find a person who is your book opposite, because then you KNOW that they will probably hate a book you love and vice versa and it takes all the pressure off.
Unknown said…
Allison and my book club read Bel Canto just before (or was it after?) Lord of the Flies. So I'm here to report that Bel Canto is the anti-Lord of the Flies. Are people naturally good or bad and is civilization a control on evil or a corrupter of our natural goodness? Oh, and Allison, I'd love to read that Lynn Coady collection if you are sharing. Carolyn
I Know What You Mean about trying not to take it personally when others in the book club don't like the book I love.

For instance: everyone everywhere in the entire world, including all book club peoples, loved "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles but I did not like it. And I love the Barbara Pym novels I have read, but have yet to encounter anyone else who likes them.

I read "An Ocean of Minutes" for book club. I don't usually like or read dystopian lit but I finished this one, and it has stuck with me. I don't want to say too much for fear of saying a spoiler.

I really loved "All the Light We Cannot See". But don't have it in me to read a long book like Cloud Cuckoo Land right now.

Really liked "The Dutch House" (read it for book club) but could not get into "Bel Canto" AT ALL, so go figure.
Sarah said…
BUTT OR FACE? I literally am clicking over to buy this right now.

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