Yertle the Turtle = 85 down, 15 to go

15 Sep

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
Dr. Seuss
96 pages

Yertle the turtle is the king of the pond and not satisfied with his kingdom as it is. So he piles his subjects one on top of another until he can see as far as he can see, convinced of his superiority and ignoring the throne of turtles piled under his four feet:

Your majesty, please…I don’t like to complain. But down here below, we are feeling great pain.

His stands high on his perch until one subject, the unlucky turtle at the bottom who has been trying to negotiate with the king, sneezes and brings the hundreds-tall pile of turtles tumbling down. The king quickly learns his lesson. Dr. Seuss brilliantly shares impactful lessons through engaging, catchy stories that appeal to kids of all ages. I never regret the time I spend with a Dr. Seuss book.

I found this great post on the Lessons Learned from Dr. Seuss. It’s worth a read.


Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight = 84 down, 16 to go

31 Aug

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Alexandra Fuller
336 pages

This book juxtaposes Uzis and land mines against adventure and family, cigarettes, war and mental illness against love, history and  loss. The author is a white African girl raised on the continent during a time of war and racial division. Her father, a farmer…her mother, a horsewoman…her older sister, her friend and tormentor…a number of other siblings lost to disease, tragedy or miscarriage.

The writing is creative and delightful, with portions that are dark and telling as Fuller shares all of the angles of her life. Every single description is vivid and eloquent, including her description of how tied African children are to the land, to their country.

In Rhodesia, we are born and then the umbilical cord of each child is sewn straight from the mother onto the ground, where it takes root and grows. Pulling away from the ground causes death by suffocation, starvation. That’s what the people of this land believe. Deprive us of the land and you are depriving us of air, water, food, and sex.

It’s hard to even begin to determine which parts of this book to share and include here. I enjoyed every page of it. All I can do is recommend you pick it up and consume it for yourself.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest = 83 down, 17 to go

27 Aug

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Stieg Larsson
576 pages

My original plan was to wait a couple of weeks before I purchased and downloaded the third book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. But just a day or so after I finished the second one, I couldn’t resist and gave into temptation. While the first book is the best, two and three were intriguing as well…making them required reading if  I wanted to discover Lisbeth Salander’s ultimate fate.

This book wraps up the story lines that I was left hanging onto at the end of The Girl Who Played with Fire and satiated my need for a conclusion that delivered some definition justice, although a bit convoluted version. Here are a couple of descriptive confessions into Lisbeth’s psyche:

Salander was sulky, and often just silent. When she did say something, she took a long time to think, and she chose her words carefully. Often she did not reply at all, and sometimes she would answer a question that Giannini had asked several days earlier. During the police interviews, Salander had sat in utter silence, staring straight ahead. With rare exceptions, she had refused to say a single word to the police.

She wondered what she thought of herself, and came to the realization that she felt mostly indifference towards her entire life.

The Trouble with Poetry = 82 down, 18 to go

22 Aug

The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems
Billy Collins
85 pages

I first heard Billy Collins on NPR a couple of years ago talking, at the time, about his new book, The Trouble with Poetry. His was not just refreshing approach to poetry, but invigorating approach. At the time he was the poet laureate of New York state, and he had previously served as poet laureate of the United States, where he introduced Poetry 180, a poem-of-the-day program for high school students.

This book skirts the rules of my challenge in that I can’t reread any books. Since I purchased the book, I have often read from its pages, marking those poems I enjoyed the most. But I never read all of the poems contained between its covers until this challenge, which is why I am permitting myself to include it here.

If you think you don’t like poetry you should read from the pages of this book. Its title poem is a nice hint of the joy you’ll find as you wander from page to page.

The Trouble with Poetry

The trouble with poetry, I realized
as I walked along a beach one night–
cold Florida sand under my bare feet,
a show of stars in the sky–

the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.

And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.

Poetry fills me with joy
and I rise like a feather in the wind.
Poetry fills me with sorrow
and I sink like a chain flung from a bridge.

But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.

And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.

And what an unmerry band of thieves we are,
cut-purses, common shoplifters,
I thought to myself
as a cold wave swirled around my feet
and the lighthouse moved its megaphone over the sea,
which is an image I stole directly
from Lawrence Ferlinghetti–
to be perfectly honest for a moment–

the bicycling poet of San Francisco
whose little amusement park of a book
I carried in a side pocket of my uniform
up and down the treacherous halls of high school.

Ender’s Game = 81 down, 19 to go

22 Aug

Science fiction
Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card
384 pages

After being attacked by an alien race, humanity begins breeding soldiers who are removed from their families as young children and sent to Battle School for extreme training. Ender is identified by the government as the commander of the army that will be sent to destroy the alien race once and for all.

He is removed from his parents home and parted from the violent brother who has tormented him and the sympathetic sister who loves him more than anyone. Not aware of his decided fate, he faces deliberate isolation and extreme training at Battle School. He quickly advances through the ranks and excels at the games the school uses to teach the necessary skills and leadership. And before he’s old enough to officially be a teenager, he’s given “command” of an army during what he thinks is his final and ultimate examination. Ender has no way of knowing whether the exam is a game or a fight for the survival of the human race.

Ender’s character is shown as a sympathetic one, one torn from his family at a young age and told he won’t see them again he is old enough to legally make his own decisions. He is deliberately isolated so that he will turn into the leader the world needs to survive. Twice after he leaves his home, he is attacked, and twice he is forced to defend himself against perpetrators that he mortally wounds. This book is an interesting exercise to see the seeming justification of violent actions because of how the character is portrayed – in a way that results in the reader, at least this reader, even agreeing with Ender’s actions.

While science fiction is not my first choice for genres, this is the first book in a series that grew out of a short story – a series I may be more likely now to pick up at a later time. I guess this is a good example of how this book challenge has allowed me to move outside my reading comfort zone.

Bee Season = 80 down, 20 to go

22 Aug

Bee Season
Myla Goldberg
275 pages

Every family has its own dynamics. Some operate in sync with one another. Some orbit one another. Some contain members that seemingly operate independently one another, only colliding occasionally.

In Bee Season, sister, brother, mother and father live under the same room, but each – in some sense – exists independently of the others. Eliza is the seemingly ordinary, average daughter who only stands out on the horizon of her family when she begins to win spelling bee after spelling bee. She describes one encounter on the spelling bee stage this way:

There is a pause, like the split section between touching the thing that’s too hot and feeling the burn. Then, the bell.

Up until the time Eliza discovers her gift for spelling, her brother, Aaron, had been the golden child, consuming their father Saul’s time and focus.  The mother, Miriam, is an attorney and nearly always disengaged from the day-to-day interactions of her family.

With Eliza’s skyrocketing ascent to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C., her father becomes singularly focused on training her and eventually becomes convinced she will be able to obtain a level of enlightenment set forth by the teachings of a prestigious Kabbalah scholar. Simultaneously, Aaron has his own religious awakening after a chance encounter with a member of the Hare Krishnas, sneaking out of the house to attend services. The reader sees Miriam, at the same time, experiencing her long-time obsession with shoplifting escalate to breaking and entering into strangers’ homes…the goal to retrieving items that she intrinsically identifies as missing parts of herself.

The author shares observations and insights from each of the book’s four family characters. It’s interesting to wade your way through the myriad of competingperspectives of each of them.

Mic and Jack’s summer vacation reading list (via Loonyville)

22 Aug

I clicked on this blog entry off WordPress’ homepage when I saw The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo in the photo. I’ve finished the first two books, just downloaded the third on Friday and am about a third of the way through it. I also loved the images of reading wherever one’s feet may take you. Plus I always enjoy reading other people’s book recommendations.

And I loved Mic’s description of When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I’ll have to add this book to my list.

It had me crying with laughter by page two. No kidding. It’s embarrassing to read this book in public. I was completely unable to control my outbursts of laughter. My herculean efforts to suppress the mirth resulted in haphazard explosions of snorts, sniggers and high-pitched cackles often accompanied by leaky tears. I looked and sounded like a lunatic.

Mic and Jack's summer vacation reading list I started hiking the TMB with my trusty Kindle loaded with new books to read. By day two I realized that paperback books are better suited for backpacking; it can better withstand the hard knocks of trekking. I was terrified I would crush my Kindle, which I’ve grown to love and adore. With a tear and a pout I shipped it home from a post office in France. Sniffle. And then we headed to the nearest bookstore to find me a paperback book. Throughout … Read More

via Loonyville

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