Cate is a bit of a braggart with her “only” six books. I “only” read four books this month. Of course, one of them was Anna Karenina, so perhaps I can be “cut some slack.” I like quotation marks.
Overall, I was pretty pleased with my reading. I finished another of the big books and now have just one to go. School starts this month, and that is going to make for interesting reading as I embark on teaching an AP class for the first time.
1. The Unswept Room by Sharon Olds (2/5) - I did not like this collection of poetry. A 2 is equivalent to a D for me. There were a handful of poems here that I really loved, but overall, I found the collection dull and repetitive. Too much religious imagery (which has already been done anyway) and too many poems about how she likes sex with her husband.
2. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (4.5/5) - I do so love Bill Bryson. This is a wonderful account of his explorations of Australia where, it seems, the people are lovely, but everything else is actively trying to kill you. As always, he does a great job of blending humorous accounts of his own travails with fascinating bits of history (often chronicling the ineptness of early Australian explorers). He doesn’t glaze over anything and gives a good amount of space to the treatment the Aborigines have received. A very entertaining book, even if it isn’t as transcendent as his very best stuff.
3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (5/5) - The second in my series of enormous books for the summer. And, as with most classics, I finished it and thought, “Oh,that’s why they make such a big deal about that book.” It was absolutely fantastic. I had heard that all of the characters were unlikable, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Rather, I found all of the characters to be flawed, human, generally likable, and thus, relatable.
Further, while the book is, in many places, as sad and depressing as the famous first sentence leads you to believe, it also has moments of hope and redemption, and it manages, by the end, to do something rather amazing. Rare is the writer bold enough to write a book that closes by divulging the meaning of life. Rarer still is the writer who presents the meaning of life in a way that makes you think he might have it right. Tolstoy does.
4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (2.5/5) - This was the summer read for our school this year. I’m always underwhelmed by these books and this was no exception. I had high hopes for this one as Cate and I saw the film version a few years ago and rather liked it. While the book has its moments, I found it to overflow with incidental material that was added to get a magazine article to book length. Further, Krakauer fetishizes his subject in a way that makes him a less than reliable reporter. Some nice prose, but overall, not something I’d have bothered to finish if I hadn’t had to.
Summer Book Queue:
- 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy