Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Readers Ourselves--the List Continues

As I've reported before, one of my favorite conference sessions every year is called "Readers Ourselves." Facilitated by the same four people every year, the session invites participants to sit in a circle and talk about what we've been reading lately. There are a few loose rules: write down the titles you mention (and authors if you know them); talk about books you are reading, not the books you are teaching; focus on adult reading; try not to monopolize the discussion.

Michael Moore, one of the facilitators, takes all the lists and compiles them, trying to check spelling and fill in authors' names. He includes annotations readers left behind (and sometimes some of his own.) I'm posting the list here without further comment. Unlike the list of books circulating on Facebook right now, the BBC doesn't care who has read these:

Readers Among Us – 2010 Orlando, Florida Version

This is the special session at NCTE each year that focuses on what was as adults are reading. We don’t care what your students or children are reading…there are hundreds of such sessions. This session is for big people and their books. These are the books NCTEers are reading to inform their personal lives.

* Room: A Novel – Emma Donoghue – 20-something-year-old mother who is confined and creates her own world. Short listed for the Booker
* Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann – Multiple narrative center around Philippe Petit 1974 tightrope walk between the twin towers.
* Ape House and Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen—A scientist tries to reconstruct her life after an explosion in her research lab releasing the apes inside
* Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – Rhooda Janzen – Rhoda’s memoir about her life after her husband leaves her for a man and she is in a terrible car accident. She returns to her parents home in a Mennonite community to recuperate
* Island Beneath the Sea – Isabelle Allende – Follows the lives of the Blacks and plantation owners before and after the slave revolt in Haiti.
* Little Bee – Chris Cleave – Incendiary – A stunning, beautiful, brutal book. It’s so hard to imagine that a story this harrowing could possibly end on such an affirming uplifting note…but it does. The voice of Little Bee is captivating-this book feels true on so many levels, An important novel
* Summerland – Michael Chabon – Young Adult novel by the author of Kavalier and Clay
* Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek and American Childhood – Annie Dillard
* Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – Tom Franklin – Two Mississippi men black/white involved in a missing girl case *
* The Help – Katherine Stockett – anyone whose reads it loves it
* Wolf Totem – Jiang Rong
* Lit – Mary Carr – author of Liar’s Club
* Just Kids –Patti Smith – About Patt’s relationship with Robert Maplethorpe
* Black Swan Green – David Mitchell – Takes place in 1982-83-in small town England. Also the author of Cloud Atlas
* Stoner – John Williams – Beautifully written novel of a poor farm boy who goes to college at around the time of WWI and becomes a college professor – Also wrote Butcher’s Crossing –featured in NYRB Classics
* Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese – A great story with cultural and family conflict. Makes one question homeland and family and what we leave behind when we mature. The book follows twin brothers who become doctors.
* The Invisible Bridge – Julie Orringer – Paris 1930s, Hungarian Jews – an ALAN recom
* Was God on Vacation – Jack van der Geest – WWII - 16-year-old young boy when Hitler invades Netherlands. Became a member of the Dutch Underground, becomes a political prisoner, escapes from Birenwald concentration camp, becomes a member of the French Underground, becomes a member of the 101 Airborne Division, etc.
* Skeletons at the Feast – Chris Bohjalian – Another WWII
* Those who Saved Us – Jenna Blum – A college professor interviews Germans who lived through the holocaust hoping to get some insight into her elderly mother’s behavior and the mysteries of her early childhood
* Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay – Another WWII – Paris and Jews
* Guernica – Dave Boling – Germany’s bombing of this idyllic Basque town featured in Picasso’s famous painting
* Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman – Rome
* Mr. Peanut – Adam Ross – Stanger story of three marriages including Dr. Sam Shepherd
* Juliette – Anne Fortier Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby (back to his High Fidelity themes) – A young woman is surprised when a recluse famous rocker begins emailing her. The rocker is the idol of her boyfriend who is in the process of breaking up with her
* The Bullfighter Checks her Makeup : My Encounters with Extraordinary People – Susan Orlean – A collection or profiles by a NYer writer

Don’t Reads:
* Freedom – Jonathan Franzen – One of the more famous do not reads
* Wolf Hall – Do Read but not before the sequel
* The Finkler Question – Howard Jacobson – sort of read
* On the Road – Jack Kerouc – Don’t read; instead, do buy and listen
* Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger – Comment from someone: Hated it! Author of Time Traveler’s Wife The Gargoyle – Loved or hated…take your pick
* The Cliff Walk: A Memoir of a Job Lost and a Life Found – Don Snyder – Colgate professor loses his job
* My Reading Life – Pat Conroy – True story – at our institution we have a freshman seminar all freshmen take. We also have all freshman buy the same book and we have a campus wide discussion. We’ve done Race Matters, Band of Brothers. One year we picked The Lords of Discipline. Conroy, who was close by in Beaufort, SC, was invited to come to a freshman convocation (academic get-up, a whole campus event). Length of talk – twenty minutes. Remember about 2500 kids bought this book. We offered a $2000 honorarium and expenses. Pat said, sure he’d do it for fifteen grand. I will never read another word this shakedown artist writes. Sorry…when you do the list, you can write your editorials too.
* The English Teacher – Jim Harrison – Don’t bother unless you really like Harrison
* The Lacuna – Barbara Kingsolver – Continuing along with the don’t bother books but we all liked the Poisonwood Bible
* The Swan Thieves – Elizabeth Kostova – Author of The Historian
*Luncheon of the Boat Party – Susan Vreeland – Author of Girl in Hyacynth Blue
* To the End of the Land – David Grossman
* Here, Bullet – Brian Turner – Poetry by author who served in Bosnia and Iraq- Powerful imagery. Reads more like a memoir than a collection of poems. Relatively short. Helped me understand the atmosphere of the Iraq War Zone than any other book
* The Good Soldiers – David Finkel
* Alexander Hamilton – Ron Chernow – a tome but worth it
* Griftopia – Matt Taibbi – Writer for Rolling Stone
* Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers - John Elder Robison
* Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Aspergers – Tim Page
* Mockingbird – Kathryn Erskine-girl with aspergers-brother killed in a school shooting
* Forger’s Spell – Edward Dolnick – nonfiction plot to full Hitler with fake vermeer
* The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine – Lost Jeffersonian case of wine…remarkably young
* The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal – Ben Mezrich – don’t read-watch the movie
* Columbine – David Cullen – Myth-busting good journalism
* Beslan – Timothy Phillips – Chechnian attack on an elementary School
* The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot—true story of woman whose cancer
cells were harvested in 1951 and still used for scientific study
* On Gold Mountain – Lisa See, nonfiction (her family story)
* Zeitoun – Dave Eggers – Author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – about Katrina
* Why Students Don’t Like School – Daniel T. Willingham
* I Shall Wear Midnight – Terry Pratchett - Fantasy that Connie likes – Author of Discworld (great in audio)
* The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollen
* Righteous Porkchop – Nicolette Hahn Niman
* In Defense of Food – Michael Pollen – How to eat healthy foods
* Slow Death by Rubber Ducky: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things – Bruce Lourie
* Star Island – Carl Hiasson
* Our Kind of Traitor – John LeCarre – Don’t bother…no one cares about these people but still well written go back and read the George Smiley trilogy
& Anyone But You – Jennifer Crusie
* Blindness – Jose Saramago
* A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrich
* The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Steig Larrson
* Prose Translation of the Canterbury Tales – Peter Ackroyd
* Gunnar’s Daughter – Sigrid Undset
* The Autobiography of Mark Twain – (Volume 1)
* The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
* The Snapper – Roddy Doyle – Poor Irish family and pregnant daughter
* A Charmed Life: Growing Up In Macbeth’s Castle: A Memoir: Liza Campbell
* Regeneration – Pat Barker
* Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
* Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
* The Green Sweater – Krystyna Chiger
* The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
* The Summer We Read Gatsby – Daniell Ganek
* The Double Bind – Chris Bohjalian
* A Fraction of the Whole – Steve Tolz – Interesting adventure with quirky characters
* The Disappearing Spoon –Sam Kean -Stories of the Periodic Table


Amber O said...

Thanks for the list. I read and enjoyed several of the "don't reads"... no accounting for taste, I guess. :)

Nancy said...

All the ones under "Don't Read" aren't don't reads, actually. That was interjected part way through, then we got back to the reading list. You can't tell by the way he published it.

I did too. (I also put the Conroy book on the list and Michael added his commentary--which I completely understand. I have similar feelings about Alice Walker, by the way) Honestly, if Satan published a book about reading habits, I'd probably read it, but I'd check it out of the library so he wouldn't make any money off me.