Tag: reading

2011 reading wrap-up

This post is the book-end to my reading in 2011. I put a lot of books down this fall, thankful for the 50-page rule, and still managed to consume 3504 pages:

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave (232 pages)
    My husband is continually accusing me of giving away the story, and that’s definitely a danger when describing this book. All you need to know is that what happens on the beach is brutal, and that it braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple — journalists trying to repair their strained marriage with a free holiday — who should have stayed behind their resort’s walls. The story isn’t nearly as depressing as it might sound, and it is definitely worth picking up for the characters and narrative style.
  • Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman (70 of 320 pages)
    For hundreds of years kings had flings, extramarital affairs, and sexual escapades. A book about them certainly has the potential to be a scintillating read. Unfortunately, this book read too much like a history book — full of names and dates — and was a little short on story for my taste. While I found most of it pretty interesting, I just didn’t keep my attention. History buffs might like this much better than I did. If you pick it up, be prepared for the author to jump around quite a bit, as the book is organized by theme, not time.
  • Little Princes by Conor Grennan (304 pages)
    Child trafficking was one of the unfortunate byproducts of the Nepali Civil War. This is the story of one person’s attempt to care for displaced Humli orphans and reunite them with their families. The writing is fantastic, and the story is heartwarming – full of hope and romance. It is definitely worth picking up if you’re interested in this part of the world or how war affects families in a very personal and painful way.
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (785 pages)
    This is a modern fantasy novel that takes you into a world where where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime. It is the first a trilogy, but I wasn’t captivated enough by the writing to bother with the next two. More seasoned fantasy readers and fans may choose differently.
  • Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky (104 of 670 pages)
    DON’T bother reading this book. It was assigned as pre-reading for a networking event. I didn’t meet a single person who read the whole thing. Most of us were bored by the end of the first chapter, and even when we skipped ahead to the potentially juicy chapter on sex, were disappointed. If you like biology and don’t really care about getting a shred of useful, applicable information, then be my guest. Otherwise, forget it.
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (53 of 276 pages)
    The premise of this book is awesome: a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. The beginning of the book is so depressing, though, that I dreaded reading it. Perhaps one day, I’ll pick it up again.
  • Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (311 pages)
    This is the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard as told by a Puritan girl from Great Harbor (now Martha’s Vineyard). It’s got it all: secret friendships, Wampanoag shamens, 17th century sexism, and a window on early academia.
  • Chi Running by by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer (230 pages)
    I organized a Chi Running seminar earlier this year with some girlfriends. This is the companion book that helps you understand the technique which promises to “transform your running from a high-injury sport to a body-friendly, injury-free fitness phenomenon.” My running is still a work in progress.
  • Murder in the High Himalaya by Jonathan Green (267 pages)
    Loved this book! It describes the unforgettable and brutal killing of Kelsang Namtso — a seventeen-year-old Tibetan nun fleeing to India — by Chinese border guards in 2006. Witnessed by dozens of Western climbers on the flank of Cho Oyu, Kelsang’s death sparked an international debate over China’s savage oppression of Tibet.
  • The Affair: A Reacher Novel by Lee Child (381 pages)
    I’ve been reading Jack Reacher novels for many years. This is the prequel…the story of when and how Jack defected. A must read for fans!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (495 pages)
    This book is best described as a hallucinogenic road trip across the American psyche. The premise of Gaiman’s tale is that the gods of European yore, who came to North America with their immigrant believers, are squaring off for a rumble with new indigenous deities: “gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon.” They all walk around in mufti, disguised as ordinary people, which causes no end of trouble for 32-year-old protagonist Shadow Moon, who can’t turn around without bumping into a minor divinity. The story is bizarre and wonderful at the same time.
  • Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald (272 pages)
    This book won the Banff Mountain Book Festival grand prize in 2011 and is basically a documentary of Polish climbers in the 80s, who were renowned for their winter ascents in the Himalaya and for putting up incredibly daring routes on 8000m peaks. I was fascinated by what climbers locked behind the Iron Curtain had to do to plan and execute major mountain adventures.
  • The Best British Mysteries IV edited by Maxim Jakubowski (306 pages)
    Nick picked this up in the airport on the way to Calgary. It was the perfect read after the seriousness of Polish climbing.  The book is full of short crime stories that are written by some of my favorite authors – Lee Child and Alexander McCall Smith to name a few.

Next up:

I’ll gladly take recommendations for other books!

Summer reading update

In May, I documented all the books I’d read in the first semester of 2011. Now that it’s the beginning of August, I thought I’d do the same thing for my “summer semester.” Total for the summer is 4,391 pages, which is probably a bit higher than normal, considering I made two trips Europe.


Out of all the books on the list, I’d have to put The Art of Racing in the Rain and Sister at the top of the list. Both had a unique narrative perspective that added to already great stories. You should also consider reading The Hunger Games before the movie comes out next year. It is written at a teenage level, so adults will most likely find it a pretty easy-breezy, end-of-summer read.

The Hypnotist was probably the most overly hyped book on the list. Yes, it’s written by a Swede. And yes, it’s a fast paced thriller. I found the multiple story lines a bit disjointed, though.

Here’s what’s next on my reading list:

Bicycling-related books to enjoy during national bike month

If you are even remotely interested in bicycle riding, you are probably aware that May is National Bike Month. (In Seattle, that means the Group Health Commute Challenge and f5 Bike to Work Day.) Gene over at Biking Bis wrote an inspired post this morning regarding books you might enjoy reading when you’re not riding. Gene’s list included:

Click over to the post to read the write ups and reviews.

Here are a couple more that Gene did not mention that are also worthy of your time:

  • Put Me Back on My Bike: In Search of Tom Simpson by William Fotheringham
    For those trying to make sense of doping in professional cycling, Fotheringham does an in-depth exploration of doping in the early stages of the sport and tries to make sense of the tragedy of Tom Simpson’s death on the flank of Mont Ventoux. This is not another story about a bunch of finger-pointing wimps. Rather, it is a sincere look at the lengths to which men will go in the pursuit of victory.
  • Flying Scotsman: Cycling to Triumph Through My Darkest Hours by Graeme Obree
    You probably saw the movie, but (as usual) the book is way better.  Graeme spins a tale of how he broke the world’s toughest cycling records as an upstart nobody of a cyclist while battling bipolar disorder and addiction. He is both honest and funny, making this a worthy book to read.
  • Around the World on Two Wheels by Peter Zheutlin
    The lives of women in the 1890s were constrained by social mores, family obligations, and restrictive clothing. Annie Kopchovsky, immigrant, wife, and mother of three, bucked the trend and cooked up a scheme to circle the globe on a bicycle—even though she had barely been on a bike.
  • The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa by Neil Peart
    A detailed account of Neil’s physical and spiritual journey through photographs, journal entries, and tales of adventure. Neil’s “masks” are the masks that we wear–culture, psychology, labels, expectations–and his book reveals how traveling in a very foreign land allows us to peer behind them.
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbe
    It’s perfectly reasonable, I think, to judge a book by the opening sentence or sentences:  “Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”
  • Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by BikeSnobNYC
    “After reading Bike Snob I put a brake on my fixie, started wearing a helmet, then punched myself in the stomach for spending so much time as a stupid hipster. This is a social manual that should be bundled with every bike shipped in America.” – Christian Lander

Whew! And if you get through all of these you might just best my reading record.

Old habits die hard

In law school, I read something like 3500-4000 pages every semester. That included assigned homework in textbooks printed with 8 pt fonts, hornbooks and other study aids, and miscellaneous cases and materials turned up in the course of researching a topic for various classes.

Since this week marked the anniversary of my last law school class, I thought I’d tally the number of pages of fiction I’ve read since January – sort of the equivalent time period.

Turns out, I’m pretty much reading the same amount of pages. Who’d a thunk?! Here’s what I’ve read:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (544 pages)
Under the Dome by Stephen King (1088 pages)
squirrel seeks chipmunk by David Sedaris (91 of the 159 pages)
Dune by Frank Herbert (544 pages)
Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien (272 pages)
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (496 pages)
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (985 pages)

Adding it all up, I’ve read 4,020 pages! Looking at the list, it’s clear that I’m fond of historical fiction. Although you might think that I really like science fiction too, it’s actually quite rare for me to pick one up. Dune just happened to be one of those “life list” books I hadn’t read yet, so I thought what the heck. And even though Under the Dome could be considered sci fi, I’d classify it more as a brainless beach read than sci fi.

What’s next? I’ve got a copy of Pickets and Dead Men (189 pages) sitting on my shelf on loan from one of my climbing students. I also think I’ll check out an ebook from the library.  My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (608 pages)  is at the top of my library wish list right now.

What about you? What have you read lately? Anything you’d like to recommend?