Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Reading

I decided to sign up for Summer Read at the library this year. The kids do this every year, signing up as soon as the program opens, then spending about 2 weeks in a reading frenzy during which they complete the entire number of books/hours needed to turn in a completed form. On the other hand, I'd never tried the adult version.

The choices for adults were to read 10 books or read 50 hours. I thought the hour count might work better for me, given that I rarely finish entire books.

I started out withHow Lincoln Learned to Read by Daniel Wolff. After about 3 chapters it became quite apparent that 1) I really didn't care about the subject as presented (summary: sometimes people get interested in stuff they aren't taught in school, so they pursue that knowledge and learn it outside of a classroom ... not really a startling concept for a homeschooler) and 2) it's really annoying to keep track of how many minutes I read, since it tends to happen in little bits and pieces.

So, I decided count my reading on a per book basis. And, furthermore, I'd concentrate on reading fiction that's written about an 8th grade level, figuring if I read fast enough I wouldn't notice how silly it was and therefor not toss any given book before I finished it.

First up was The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. Someone had given me a 2 volume hardback set ("book club edition") of this, and I'd been using one of the volumes to prop up the bathroom window when the sash cord broke. I'd never read the book in all the years since it came out. The kitchen remodelers flipped off the electricity for a few hours, and with nothing better to do, I picked up vol. 1, sat down near a sunny window, and started reading.

It was really an engaging book. We'll be studying this period of history this coming fall, and this really gave a sense of the tone of the times. I can see why it was such a popular book, and why people love it so.

After I finished vol. 1 I tried to start vol. 2, but, alas, the covers of the 2 volumes were exactly the same and I kept picking up the wrong book. Finally I decided to come back to it later, and to count vol. 1 as an entire book (after all, it was about 500 pages long on its own).

Whenever I see a book by Elmore Leonard on the New Book Shelf at the library I pick it up, and thus read Road Dogs. You gotta love an author whose advice to other authors is to "try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip." Quick, fun read, leaving me with a desire to swear a lot.

Next, I indulged a passion that typically doesn't work out. Whenever I watch a bunch of video of certain franchises -- Star Wars, Star Trek -- I get an urge to pick up one of the fiction books of the series. This is pretty much always a terrible mistake. For example, last Christmas we watched all 6 Star Wars movies back-to-back; later that week I picked up a Star Wars novel at the library and it was soooo bad ... ack.

So when we went to see the new Star Trek movie I had an urge to read Star Trek novels. I grabbed one,Gods of Night by David Mack, wondering if I'd make it past page 50. Imagine my surprise to discover that it was fairly engaging. Also, it was the beginning of a trilogy, which I ended up reading at the pace of a book per day, the next books being Mere Mortals and Lost Souls.

Of course, I do have some quibbles. Deanna Troi and William Riker are now married, and Deanna is pregnant and insufferably whiney. I was never a huge Deanna-Riker-romance fan anyway, so that undoubtably influenced me. Also, Picard and Crusher are now married and, get this, Crusher is pregnant ... I found this very disturbing. Also, the author apparently had the word "susurration" on his word-a-day calendar, as it appears at least once per book; it's a cool word, but throwing it around in every. single. book. is a bit much.

Of course, zipping through those 3 books at high speed left me with no library books. So I grabbed another book someone had given me, a used copy of Dorothy Sayer's The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. I'd never read a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery before. He seemed to be a twit, frankly. I only finished the book so I could put it on my Summer Read list.

Next up, another trip to the library revealed a new Lisa Lutz book on the New Book Shelf, Revenge of the Spellmans. There's something about these books ... the characters are beyond quirky, the writing fairly clipped. Also, I'm consistently entertained by novels with footnotes.

By this time I'd purchased the latest edition of The Well Trained Mind and was perusing it for ideas on spiffing up our homeschool experience. I didn't count TWTM towards my Summer Read total because I just read the bits I'm currently interested in.

For example, I was looking over literature suggestions for 8th graders, which are matched up to history studies by using authors from the era under study -- in this case, the Modern Age. The pointless, random, fluffy reading I'd been doing all summer was beginning to wear on my (I really, really wanted to read Pride and Prejudice or something of that sort by this time) so I decided to switch over to pre-reading some of the suggested literature. First up, another Lord Peter Wimsey -- Strong Poison. Which turned out to be a fairly engaging novel. Lord Peter Wimsey's character wasn't nearly as irritating, or maybe the strong supporting characters diverted my attention. Who knows. Anyway, Thalia will be reading it this year, and we can discuss what we like and dislike about it.

In a totally out-of-character move I purchased a current best seller for myself for my birthday -- The Guernsey LIterary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I was a little nervous about this bold move -- generally when people tell me I've gotta read something I end up hating it (I'd gotten 3 pages intoThe Likeness, another currently popular book, and decided I didn't like the characters and probably never would, so I stopped reading it). Honestly? I loved this book. It was engaging, and mildly educational. It's set in the time period we'll be studying this coming year, and touches on some of the events. I might have Thalia read it for history.

And for book number 10 I chose a book out of Story of the World Activity Guide vol.4 The Modern Age -- Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang, which was a fascinating look at life in China during the Cultural Revolution. A young adult book, it took just a few hours to read. And I think it will be a good choice for our history studies this year.

And now? Back to nonfiction, of course!


Bridgett said...

I don't buy the Crusher-Picard pairing or the Troi-Riker. Especially that one. That's old news. I loved at the end of the series how it looked like Troi-Worf would happen, although it didn't, it was a much more amusing thought for me.

Just my inner geek emerging again...

Ami said...

Our library doesn't have an adult reading program.

Did you win any cheesy prizes?

Gail said...

No prizes! Wah! Not even a coupon for a shake at a fast food place ... not that we ever use those, but still, it's exciting to get them. I'm not sure what the point was, other than the intrinsic satisfaction of reading the books.

Bridgett, I'm with you. The series made it pretty clear that Troi-Riker was done and over. But I think they were back together in Nemesis, and although we all thought we'd just pretend it never happened in that movie, it is now apparently part of the canon.