Fat Books & Thin Women


30 Day Book Meme, Day 27
August 28, 2011, 9:04 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , ,

The most surprising plot twist or ending:

I’d like you to all have an image of me spending hours a day struggling to think of what to write on this blog, so let me start by saying: man, I really struggled over this one. As I went about my day (killing mice, doing dishes, walking to the store with my host sister, coloring with my host sister, doing laundry, talking with my host sister about baklava [Bajram {best holiday ever, end of Ramadan, lots of coffee and baklava and “sugar money”} is the day after tomorrow], making falafel [falafel mix, whatever I want to think now that I live in a country without falafel, will never come close to real falafel {which I'm too lazy to attempt to make}], moving mouse traps, discussing potential Bajram outfits with my sister [just picture her going through my closet saying, “no, no, no”]) the question of my favorite plot twist was ever on my mind.

I couldn’t think of a thing, not a single answer. Do I read novels with “plot twists”? Am I ever surprised at the end of a book? Have I been surprised by the end of the novel since I was twelve-years-old reading a Nancy Drew mystery, or can I just write about a disappointing ending and return to Harry Potter to discuss the lame close to the series?

There are books with stunning ends. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Nabokov’s Ada, to name just a few that have been on my mind recently. None of them have surprised me, though, and I can’t think of a book I’ve read that closes with a plot twist. This isn’t a bad thing; I think it says something positive about the books I’ve been reading (Dennis Lehane! Dennis Lehane! Dennis Lehane!) and the quality of the writing, because if you’re shocked by a plot twist at the end of a novel it’s probably more a sign that the author didn’t do his job when it came to characterization and not-ridiculous plotting. I swear, I can recall reading books and being surprised by the end – but there’s a reason I can’t remember what novels these were, because I’m always disappointed when the end is something so nuts that I had no chance of predicting it. Sometimes, it’s the feeling of being let down and realizing that the world you’ve been immersed in was nothing but the author toying with you for three hundred pages. What’s the fun of reading a novel, then learning it was a dream? What would be the fun in Harry Potter if we learned at the end that Harry had turned to the dark side? Do you ever want to read a mystery in which the least likely suspect turns out to have committed the crime, for the simple reason that he or she was the only character no reader could pin as the killer?

Dennis Lehane’s Gone, Baby, Gone has a pretty good twist, though the movie has probably crushed the “surprise” out of it for most of the American reading public. Can you forgive me for offering an answer after all that moaning about how I couldn’t give an answer?

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 26
August 27, 2011, 4:48 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , , ,

A book that changed your opinion about something:

My cooking used to be a sorry affair. When I first moved into a house, in college, I considered opening a jar of pasta sauce a major accomplishment, the result something that would impress any home cook. I ate cereal two meals a day and this seemed alright, since they were different types of cereal.

Then I became a vegetarian. (Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I read around this time, was a close contender for today’s book. Pollan lost out simply because his book didn’t change my views – it simply solidified them.) This meant, first, that I no longer had to prod fearfully at a piece of a chicken, debating if it were done, and second, that I had even less idea how to cook than I had had before.

Enter Mark Bittman and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. If you’re wondering how a cookbook can change your view on something, you’ve probably never been the sort of person who approaches the kitchen fearfully, skims past recipe after recipe because the spice list is too confusing or you’re not sure what a certain instruction means or you’re missing one ingredient. Bittman’s book isn’t just a great cookbook, though it is. It’s a book that changed the way I think about cooking: it woke me to the fact that if you’re missing ingredients or spices or don’t really know what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter. It taught me that if you put a bunch of delicious things in a pot together with some olive oil and some salt it will taste pretty good, and that if you make something that doesn’t taste good you don’t have to eat it – you just add stuff to the pot until it tastes better. The parts of my Peace Corps service that have been in a kitchen have built on Bittmann’s book, as I’ve realized it’s not just ingredients you can fudge but the tools. When recipes say you need a blender, an immersion blender, a mixer, a rolling pin, a whisk, you don’t need these things. Everything you make in the kitchen can be adjusted based on what you have, your skills, your tastes, and I owe Mark Bittman for helping me to realize that.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 25
August 26, 2011, 7:33 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , ,

A character who you can relate to the most:

I already kind of covered this, but to be more serious: I’ve always identified with Hermione Granger. (I know! Just when you thought I wouldn’t mention Harry Potter again.)

I’ve always been the sort of person who is always reading a book. At times it’s easy to feel persecuted for this, especially when you’re a kid (who should be playing soccer) or a Peace Corps Volunteer in a country where there isn’t much of a reading culture (who should be watching a dubbed soap opera). I’m sure Hermione has gotten questions like, “Why do you read so much?” or comments like “You know that it’s bad to read that much – stop, now!” and even in her more obnoxious moments in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I’ve felt for her. By the end of the series Hermione’s actions are the best defense of her reading – it’s because she reads that she’s able to do things neither Harry nor Ron can, not in spite of her love of the written word. It’s nice to see a female heroine, nicer to see one who reads as much as I do.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 24

A book that you wish more people have read:

When the Coen brothers’ True Grit adaptation came out late last year, Charles Portis’s novel jumped to the top of bestseller lists. It got a special movie tie-in cover. I saw a few reviews of it on blogs not written by me. Awesome!

I just wish everyone who took the time to read True Grit would look into Portis’s other works. The man is a god as far as I’m concerned; funny without ever cracking a joke, writing characters who are absurd and sympathetic at the same time, revealing the whole of a personality in one or two lines of dialogue.

I’ve done a poor job this month of limiting myself to the one book title most of the prompts ask for (even if I do choose just one, I can’t stop myself from detailing the runners up), and don’t expect me to change now. If I could force just one book on someone…well, it would be something by Charles Portis, either Gringos or The Dog of the South or Norwood or True Grit. Portis is, I am convinced, one of the best writers America’s produced, and while The Believer or The New York Times will occasionally honor him with an article, I rarely find someone who has heard of him, let alone read him. Let me beg you all, as I have a few times before: read Charles Portis! read True Grit if you want, but then read one of his other novels! you will not regret it! (I promise.)

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people have read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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30 Day Book Meme, Day 23
August 24, 2011, 5:23 pm
Filed under: 30 Day Book Meme | Tags: , , , , , , ,

A book you’ve wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t:

If you’re wondering what happened to Day 22 of the meme (favorite book you own), I skipped it. Because, duh, my favorite book I own is the same as my favorite book, period. Wouldn’t it be better to ask about the favorite book you don’t own? (Just because I’ve thought of that question, though, don’t expect me to answer it.)

If I were to write down all the books I have intended to read for years but have yet failed to touch, this post would never end. It is a lot easier to buy books than it is to read them, and I suspect that some in my possession (say, the complete works of Dostoevsky) may never get read.

Gotta choose one, though, so it’s Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, by which I pretty much mean the entirety of In Remembrance of Things Past. Bought the first three volumes a few years ago when I first tried to write a personal statement for grad school, focusing on “time and memory” in literature and thought, “Shit, I’d better read about those madeleines.”

Unfotunately, like Lorelai Gilmore (who was loaned Swann’s Way by early boyfriend Max Medina [the man who makes me think teaching high school English might be the career for me]) I’ve proven incapable of finishing even the first sentence of Swann’s Way. I’m about two years into my three-year reprieve (see: why I didn’t pack any Proust when I left for the Peace Corps), and things are going to have to get serious when I’m back in the States. I am going to finish that first sentence.

30 Day Book Meme:
Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than three times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

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