Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Reading for Prizes!

This summer I'm taking part in my new library's summer reading program. The theme is "Reading Is So Delicious," which has little bearing on what books count. (The only important thing to note is that library patrons receive one extra entry in the raffle if they read a food-related book.) The rules are any adult books count, but YA/juvenile books do not. (No Hunger Games for me--but really, this is just a good excuse to continue avoiding them.) Unabridged audiobooks also count.

I've mentioned many, many times how Doctor Zhivago almost ruined my desire to read completely. Reading it in January last year was a terrible idea. I've read many books since then, but I read about a third the amount last year that I had read the year before. Thankfully, "Reading Is So Delicious" (as well as revised interest in book clubs) is drawing me back out. It turns out external incentives are working--at least for me.

My goal for the summer is to read fifteen books, one of which is food related (for a total of four entries in the raffle). Here's what I have mapped out so far:

1. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
2. The Big Short by Michael Lewis
3. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

1. Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith (this is a reread for me, but I love his Von Igelfeld series. I'm listening to the audiobook when I drive to work)
2. When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
3. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (another reread--this is one of my favorites)
4. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (I'm listening to the audiobook when I ride my bike to work)


  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (I've wanted to read this for some time, and this would count as a food-related book)
  • Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival by Kenneth Davids (Yes, my love of coffee is branching into the more arcane areas of coffee enjoyment)
  • The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (my favorite of the series)
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Ecco (I've wanted to read this for a long time. I made it halfway through once, but circumstances drew me away. I'd love to finish this one.)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (I really enjoyed The Big Short, and I have this one as an e-book.)
Any suggestions for my to-read lists? Looking for any suggestions for your summer reading? Feel free to leave a comment (I try to respond).


  1. If you're looking for some philosophy to read, I'd recommend "Loving to Know" by Esther Lightcap Meek. It doesn't get bogged down in heavy philosophical jargon while addressing some important ideas concerning the role of community and relationships in knowing.

    I'd also recommend "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt. He's a moral psychologist who is trying to understand how people approach morality, how people can come to such drastically different moral conclusions, and how that influences the political divide in America.

    What are your thoughts on the Mann novel? I have a friend down here who recently read it and thought very highly of it. I'm curious what someone who doesn't think it fits perfectly into his dissertation thinks about it.

  2. Read "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman! It's the best book I've read all year and is a great example of a self-contained fantasy novel for adults. It's a pretty quick read, too—I finished it in about a week.

  3. Joel--Thanks for the recommendations! As for Death in Venice, I liked the writing, but the overall whole didn't do it for me. It was a little strange. It isn't the kind of thing I'd read again for enjoyment, but I might read it again for understanding and appreciation...but it's not high on the reread list.

    Kevin--Thanks for the recommendation! I think I tried listening to the audiobook once (Matt recommended it as well), but I didn't care for the audiobook. I think it might have been a reader issue. I'll have to try again without that distraction.

  4. Jon, though I know that you have mentioned several times that you loathe Dr. Zhivago, after a quick search (including Goodreads where you gave it a one star but no formal review) I couldn't find a post where you give your argument for why it is so bad (the links you put above didn't seem to say exactly beyond the non-trivial fact that it made you want to stop reading). If you could provide that link or give a bullet point analysis I would be interested to see it.

    With respect to books, one writer I've been reading lately that I've really enjoyed is Mark Edmundson. He is an English prof at Virginia (who has a reputation as a great teacher) and I have really connected with his books and many articles. I've enjoyed all of the books of his I have read (I think I've read four now). Two short books of his I would recommend for you would be either "Why Read?" (a reflection similar to Alan Jacob's book on the pleasures of reading) or "The Last Days of Sigmund Freud." It really disgusts me how misrepresented Freud is in the Christian community and in much of popular culture, and Edmundson does a good deal to correct false narratives while explaining the importance of Freud's legacy and his effect on the world in a way that is *mostly* plausible (based other credible biographies I have read it seems to me that he downplays Freud's cocaine addiction) and enlightening. In general, Edmundson is one of those writers who definitely inspires me to be a more reflective person and seems to be someone who really cares about the intellectual life while also being aware of its many pitfalls. He did an interview on Booknotes that you could see here to get a feel for his personality:

  5. I, too, read "Portuguese Irregular Verbs" this summer. It was good, but I've really enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series. Of course, having been in Edinburgh, I appreciate the setting a bit more than the average reader, but his writing is clever (as always) and the characters are entertaining and lovable, quirks and all. I'd highly recommend the series.

    Here's a question for you: How do you find time to read with a baby? I'm lucky if I get 15 minutes in before falling asleep at night.

  6. Dave, I regret to say that my opinion of Doctor Zhivago is not based on argument. That is to say, I have no reason why other people should not like Doctor Zhivago, only why I didn't like it, and that reason is almost purely subjective: that is, it nearly killed my love of reading.

    Thanks for the tip about Mark Edmundson. I've read an essay by him (and, in fact, chose it as a reading group selection once). It appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but the name escapes me. I'll have to check his other stuff out.

    Erin, I've considered his 44 Scotland Street series, but I've been hesitant to try another of his series after The Sunday Philosophy Club. I read the first four in that series before realizing it wasn't for me. Time heals all wounds, so they say, so maybe it's time to try a new series. (Have you read the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency? I haven't, but the TV series was phenomenal.)

    That's a good question. I usually read before bed. Also, Thomas has been sleeping longer and going longer stretches without eating, so that has helped both of us read a little more. (Abby is also reading for prizes.) Audiobooks and lunch breaks have also aided my efforts. And coffee to artificially lengthen the hours of the day.

  7. My library does the summer reading thing, too, but unfortunately I don't get that much time to read, so I don't usually sign up. Also, I have at least 10 books at home that I haven't read yet. My goal for the year is 15 books, because it's realistic for me this year. I think I'm behind by 2 right now. Ah, well. My overall goal each year is 10,000 pages. I've come close (eight thousand-something, I think) one year, but I think being in 2-3 Lit. classes at Bethel that year helped out a bit. :)