Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Salon: A Reading Retrospective (December 2004)

December is a month that seems to encourage reflection of what was and planning for what will be. Frankly, I'm still caught up in finishing up what I began this year and haven't had much time to look ahead. I have one more book to read for the War Through the Generations: World War II Challenge and am finishing up my book for the 50 Books for our Times Project. Some serious reading for this time of year, I must say.

It wasn't that way five years ago. It was a month of many books and much frivolous reading. I read the first three books in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. Each one great fun, but by the time I finished the third book I was ready to move onto something different. The books feature three orphan children who are bounced around from relative to relative. The children seem to have the worst of luck, and yet they somehow always come out on top. The series is funny and dark, and I can see why so many adults and children are fans.

In December 2004, I also read the first three books in Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, featuring Rebecca Bloomwood, a woman addicted to shopping. I found the series both charming and entertaining. I admit that Rebecca did get on my nerves more than once--and, boy, did I want to shake her and tell her to get her act together more than once!

My husband introduced me to Greg Rucka's Queen and Country that year, and I read the first of his non-graphic novels in the series, A Gentleman's Game about a female MI-6 spy. Tara Chace is a very independent and capable woman who relies on only herself. Another first in a new series, that month I read was Michele Martinez's legal thriller Most Wanted. Melanie Vargas is a U.S. Attorney juggling both her career and being a soon-to-be-divorced mother of an infant. Both were exciting reads and promising starts to two new series.

I followed that up with crime fiction novel, this one by Abigail Patchett called Moonbird Boy, featuring another strong female protagonist. This one is part of a series that starring Bo Bradley, a social worker in San Diego who also happens to have Bi-Polar Disorder. I wasn't quite as thrilled with this one as I'd been with an earlier book in the series I had read, but I still enjoyed it. I next read Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris, the second book in the Southern Vampire series. As always, it was great to spend time with Sookie and learn more about her and her friends.

The highlight of December 2004, however, lay with the author Amulya Malladi. I read two of her books that month and fell in love with each of them. I read Mango Season and Serving Crazy with Curry. Both books touch on Indian culture, but also deal with relationships and involve the main characters coming into their own. Amulya Malladi was one of the first authors who instilled in me a love for reading about all things Indian. And for that, I'll always be grateful.

Looking back over my reading in 2004, it's fair to say that much of my reading was made up of mysteries and series books, although not exclusively. It was a good year overall.

Bringing us back to the present, this past week I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, a tale about an unusual friendship in the midst of the Holocaust. After I finished that one, I dived into the novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, wanting to lighten the mood. I will be posting my reviews for both later this week.

I am in the process of deciding what book will be my final choice for the War Through the Generations: World War II Challenge. I sat in my TBR room yesterday, looking through all my books, trying to find the perfect one. I narrowed it down to 27 books I really want to read and from there to 13. Now I'm stuck. I keep telling myself I'll get to them all eventually. I just need to pick one to read before the end of the year.

Current Possibilities:
Guernica by Dave Boling
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Bloody Good by Georgia Evans
The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Before I resort to throwing a tantrum and stomping my feet because I can't decide (and then throwing all the titles in a hat and having my husband choose one), I thought maybe I would reach out to you for help. Tell me which one of the above titles I should read before the end of the year. Pretty please?

Until I can decide, I will be finishing up Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah, which I really must do. It's actually very good. I just keep getting distracted.

I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and a great week. Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

This Week In Reading Mews:
Reviews Posted:
The One in Which I Attempted to Write Mini Reviews (but still used too many words)

Reading Now:
Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis
by Mark Bowden

Posts of Interest This Week:
Monday at the Movies: What I Have Been Watching Lately
Why I Do What I Do - A Guest Post by Author Karen White
The Search for the Perfect Gift - Virtual Advent Tour
Christmas Came Early This Year

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Oh! The Book Thief! Read The Book Thief! It's on my top 10 all-time favorite books list, and it's magical and special and there's just nothing like it. I loved it... you couldn't tell, could you... lol. I want to reread it, too.

    I agree with you about Rebecca Bloomwood. I so wanted to just scream at her for all her lying!

  2. I'm seconding thekoolaidmom's vote! The Book Thief is an outstanding book. Read it NOW!!!

    Happy reading, Wendy ...

  3. With all of my obsessive reading of all things WWII, I can't believe I've not read any of those books. However, I've heard of nearly all of them. Based on the reviews and my TBR lists, I would recommend Guernica, Out Stealing Horses or The Book Thief!

  4. I vote for Sarah's Key or the Book Thief. Both were excellent!

  5. So many great choices there Wendy. I'd choose The Book Thief, Tallgrass or Out Stealing Horses.

    Good luck!

  6. I wish I had a TBR room! The only book I have read from your list is The Book Thief, which I found to be a fast read, despite being a large book.

  7. I love that you have a TBR room! I want one.

  8. I wish I had kept reading records in the past like you have done - it is so much fun to review a life by the books read. Oh well, at least I started in 2009.

    The only book that I have read on the TBR pile is The Book Thief, and I must say it was an amazing read.

    Have a great holiday week!

  9. Alisha (Koolaidmom) - LOL My husband read my post this morning when he got up and asked me why I even asked. He said The Book Thief would probably get the most votes. :-)

    Laura - The Book Thief is winning the vote at the moment, so it's very likely that'll be the one. :-)

    Sandy - I have so many books about WWII. Seeing them all piled together was a bit daunting. I decided against reading any of the nonfiction books and a few of the "heavier" books since I'm reading Bowden's book about Iran right now.

    I've wanted to read Guernica since it first came out and Out Stealing Horses since I first heard about it. Just about everyone I know loved The Book Thief (with a couple of exceptions) . . . I wish I could read them all right now. Haha

    Laza - I've heard such good things about Sarah's Key and The Book Thief. Thank you for the recommendations!

  10. Diane - I think so too. I'm having such a hard time choosing!

    Charley - Being a fast read is a good right now. :-) My current read is so full of information that it's taking me a long time to get through. Nonfiction books usually do though, so I'm not complaining.

    Kathy - I have a feeling my husband wishes it was only the spare bedroom again. LOL

    Molly - I wish I'd started keeping track earlier than I did. And you have to start somewhere, right, so this year was a good choice on your part!

    Thanks for the recommendation!

  11. Either Sarah's Key or The Book Thief.

  12. I loved The Book Thief, but since it's already got so many votes, I'm going to say The History of Love. It was beautiful, surprisingly funny, and very moving.

  13. I loved the Book Thief. I think if you put it on your list to read before the end of the year, it would probably make it into your list of favorite books for the year.

    LOVE your posts showing what you read some years ago, too. So fun to see!

  14. I always love your retrospectives Wendy! It's fun to look back at what we were reading and remember what was going on in our lives and how it influenced what we were reading and our reactions to it. I'm excited to hear what you think of Mark Bowden's book. I met him at the LA Times Book Festival a few years ago and he was incredibly gracious to me and my son. I think I'd be willing to read anything by him based on that!

  15. I think I've not been by here in a while becuase I just noticed the new banner with all the pictures of your pets.

    Love it. How do I do that???

  16. Listen missy, you pick up The Book Thief and you get it read. Pronto.

  17. I haven't read The Book Thief myself yet, but I have heard how good it is. My daughter keeps telling me to read it.

    There are two books on your list I have read - Guernica and Winter in Madrid. Both were really good but for different reasons so I can't decide which I would recommend! Winter in Madrid has tons of atmosphere and is a bit creepy in an oppressive sort of way (if that makes any sense) and Guernica was just such a great story. Maybe you should go with The Book Thief!

  18. Jill (Softdrink) - I'm really looking forward to reading both of those.

    Ana (Nymeth) - I read the first page of The History of Love yesterday and have a feeling I'm really going to love that one.

    Aarti - It does sound like something I will really like so I wouldn't be surprised. :-) This is why I always wait until the very end to make my favorites list.

    Kathleen - Thank you! I really enjoy looking back on my reading and am glad you all don't mind!

    I am really enjoying Bowden's book. I read Black Hawk Down by him a few years ago and loved it--and it's not even my type of book! He's written a few other books I'm interested in reading as well.

    C.B. James - My husband created the banner for me. He did a great job, didn't he?

    Elizabeth (Raidergirl3) - Haha! You make a very compelling argument for reading The Book Thief.

  19. So many great ones to choose from!! I loved looking back on 2004...I only read the first two of Snicket's series and that was good enough for me. However, the kids devour these like candy!

  20. I read the first page of The Piano Teacher and I think that one is going to be really good. I love the writing style and the story looks interesting and seems like it will develop right away. So that gets my vote. I plan on reading it sooner rather than later.

    I didn't like the looks of the Lemony Snickett movies so I am unsure about the books. I have been looking at the Septimus Heap books and I think I might try those and share them with my young cousin. I loved the first few in the Shopaholic series. After that they got a little too repetitive for me.

    Have a great reading week!

  21. I would recommend the Furst, because I am totally addicted to him! The CJ Sansom is also wonderful but very long. Let us know what you choose though!

    With all the best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and new year!


  22. I think maybe your past self had the right idea - I wish I would have chose some lighter more frivolous reading for this month (despite my happiness at having finally finished In the Country of Brooklyn!). I re-read A Christmas Carol last year before Christmas. If I were a big re-reader, I think I'd do it every year, but life's too short and I read too slow/have too many books to do a whole lot of re-reading, so once every few years or so will have to suffice. It's kind of funny because I've never really had much of an affinity for Dickens' other work, though I am determined to try him again....someday.

    The only one on your WWII list that I've read is The English Patient, and I would advise steering wide of that one unless you're looking for a slow, thoughtful sort of read. It's not bad - for me, it just called for a little more work.

  23. Staci - Three were enough for me. LOL I enjoyed the books, but they were repetitive and so I haven't felt the urge to read further in the series.

    Nicole - I read the first page of The Piano Teacher too and am sure I will enjoy it. :-)

    I was actually thinking maybe I should just keep all the books out and read them straight into the new year. Not sure whether I'll get tired of WWII that way or not.

    I did see the Lemony Snicket movie and thought it was okay. The books are better--but still dark.

    I haven't read any farther yet in the Shopaholic books, but I would like to. Hopefully enough time has passed so the newer books won't seem quite so repetitive.

    Clea - The Furst novel looks so good! I was thinking that might be a good fast paced one to try. I've yet to read anything by Sansom, but I'm dying to.

    Megan - Frivolous reading this time of year does make sense. With everything going on, something light is easier to get through.

    I've been wanting to read The English Patient for years now. I figured it might be a little too slow for me right now though. Maybe I'll save it for next year.

  24. I can't believe December is almost over. You are so organized. I am not planning my reading this month. It's sort of been all over the place and strictly based on mood.

    Everyone in my book club loved The Book Thief but it was a book that they read on the side so I never got to read it myself.

  25. Ti - I only look like I'm organized from the outside. It's pure chaos on the inside. LOL

  26. My vote would go for The Book Thief or Guernica - they're both excellent!

  27. That's easy: The Book Thief. It's my all-time favorite book. Ever. What a great way to end the year and decade!

  28. If you haven't already chosen your last book for the challenge, I'm voting for Sarah's Key. It's in my TBR collection too, and I'd love to get your take on it.

    I've gone the "light reading" route for the last few weeks of this year - re-reading some past favorites that were recently reissued after some years out of print. I'm having a good time with it. I think I'll be ready to dig into my reading challenges and review responsibilities soon, but I really want to do more "me time" reading in 2010.

    Have a great week, Wendy!

  29. I'd like to try the Series of Unfortunate Events series one day but I haven't gotten a chance. Instead of shaking Rebecca I just stopped reading the Shopaholic books. She did the same exact thing in every book. It's like she never learned from her mistakes even though she'd make all these promises and stuff.

    I'm thinking of re-reading A Christmas Carol myself this year :)

  30. Carrie - Thanks, Carrie! I've heard such good things about both books. :-)

    Les - And it probably would be my last book of the year. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Florinda - Sarah's Key sounds so good. If I don't read it this year, I'll read it next for sure.

    I think reading more for yourself in 2010 is a great goal. I'd like to squeeze more of that in myself.

    Jen - I hope you do get to the Series of Unfortunate Events someday because I'd love to read your thoughts on the books. Even if you just read one. :-)

  31. I'd vote for Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. I didn't know about this one and am running right to my keyboard to order it!

  32. Guernica is fantastic and Sarah's Key is a very quick read. I'd go for The Madonnas of Leningrad, because it is also fantastic, and a bit faster of a read than Guernica.

  33. History of Love is what I received from my not-so-secret Santa, so it must be good :) I have Tallgrass on my wishlist and Mother Night on my shelves. Good luck choosing.

  34. Pam - Tallgrass does sound good, doesn't it?

    Jen - It's so hard to choose as they all sound really good. LOL

    Stacy - I've heard great things about History of Love. I really liked the first couple of paragraphs.


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