Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book-It 2013


Did any of you do Book-It when you were in elementary school? Today as I was agreeing to give up processed foods, soda, and most dairy products - think cheese - yet again for the remainder of the month my mind drifted to Pizza Hut's Personal Pan Pizzas, and I ended up at Book-It. Book-It is a reading rewards program sponsored by Pizza Hut wherein you set a goal for reading and, if you achieve it, you are given a free personal pan pizza to celebrate. It still exists, although when I was a child we were given buttons and applied star stickers for each book we completed. Now it appears they are tracking number of minutes read, versus number of books. I suppose this is the politically correct thing to do. Some readers are slower than others, and we wouldn't want anyone to be shorted their own pizza at the end of the month now, would we?

For my own adult Book-It, I had so much fun researching and putting together my 2013 reading list the past few days, and I am excited to get some feedback! Furthermore, I'm excited and nervous about all the monthly book reviews I will have to write. Since I'm sharing the list on my blog, and with whoever reads it, I feel somewhat accountable to actually read the books and finish each one on time. I can't imagine why I didn't think of this before. Somehow, free pizza sounds more fun, but I suppose a review will have to do as my reward. Unless you have any other suggestions?

I do have a prepared disclaimer, of course:
Enjoyment Disclaimer: I have to be flexible a tiny bit to what is going on in my life, and what I need to be reading. For any of you who have a strong emotional connection to books, you probably understand my meaning. The rest of you are probably laughing. Some of these are heavy hitters, and if I'm going through a low spot my pleasurable reading shouldn't be lowering me even further. Further, I reserve the right to discard a book that I am really, really, really not enjoying or for which I have no appreciation. My research and familiarity with 90% of these authors leads me to believe that won't take place, but the ultimate point of this 2013 goal was to help me rekindle a love of reading. There is a time and a place to plow through a tome to make a point. This is neither.

Now... on to the literature! I have - in my opinion - rustled up a marvelous selection here. I am not going to summarize each one, you can follow the link to the Amazon reviews and read for yourself, but I will let you know why they made the cut. I tried to throw in a bit of everything, and plotted each book for a particular month, based on topic and writing style, and what I'm usually in the mood for (ex: lighter summer reading).

2013 Proposed Reading List

As I said before, this book was a Christmas gift from my mother. She knows my taste, and so far her guess was spot on. It has been a pretty light read so far, and I'm zooming through! In the middle of "winter," it is rather nice to escape both to sunny California and picturesque Cinque Terre all inside the same cover. I'm excited to add Jess Walter to my list of authors who are readable. It makes picking out future books so much easier if you know you like a particular author. In this case, I think I do.

I always wanted to read Atonement, but I really, tragically hate reading books when I've already seen the movie. It utterly inhibits my ability to detach from the images already fixed in my mind and invest in the story. So, for my first shot at McEwan, I opted to read his newest novel, and form my own opinions. As February is considered a month where we focus on affection and relationships, I thought this unique love story would be a good fit. Plus, anything set in any British war-time era, is usually going to peak my interest.

I foresee a long-ish roadtrip this month, and that is why I casually placed Rowling's newest novel for adults here: my mom has it on audiobook. Not sure that's the way I want to experience it firsthand, but just in case I'll reserve it for March. Besides, it's not as if I could wait until some far off date to see what it's all about! Of course I loved the Harry Potter series, but I also have a fondness for J.K. Rowling, her storytelling, and her imagination. I am going to try very, very hard to see this as a stand alone work, and not with "but there was no quidditch!" goggles on.

Life After Death, by Damien Echols
I caught an interview on NPR with this death-row prisoner turned author about his autobiographical work and was instantly fascinated. After being convicted for the murder of three 8 year old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, and serving 18 years in solitary confinement, Echols and two co-defendants were released in August 2011 on a plea agreement. The three maintain their innocence, and their controversially mishandled case received the publicized support of celebrities like Johnny Depp. For the month when many people contemplate salvation, redemption, and forgiveness, I couldn't think of a better book to be reading.

I read Pamuk's Snow when I was in college. I don't remember loving it, but I do remember appreciating it, largely for its middle-eastern influences. However, this plot is much more appealing to me: "It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters F├╝sun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation, he becomes enthralled. And once they violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie." Since I wanted to read books by authors of varying cultures and ethnicities, this Nobel Prize-winning author seemed a good place to start.

Apparently this thriller has been topping bestseller charts, but I hadn't heard about it until I started my search. It was a totally random choice, but I wanted some "fluff" for summer reading and this seems to be that. June is also shaping up to be a busy month with weddings, I needed to pick something easy and fast, so I wouldn't just automatically fail. I found it ironic that this murder mystery is a husband and wife whodunnit. During the day I'll help happy people say I dos, and in the evenings I'll read about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong: till death did them part.

One thing Tim and I have in common is our love of conspiracy theories and a good political thriller. I think we solidified this by living in our nation's capital of Washington, D.C. for two years, but the common ground in political fiction (ha, is that even a term?) was established by watching all seven seasons of The West Wing together when we lived in Kentucky. I'm hoping that I can give this bestseller to him for his 30th (gasp) birthday in June, and maybe he'll be done with it by July so that I can read it. I've never read any Stephen King before, either. Oh boy, oh boy.

Mystery Book Month!
Just for shits and grins, I left one novel TBD.
I'm taking suggestions of course, and I might be specifically interested in a novel to pair with our possible summer vacation destination: Edinburgh, Scotland! We're going to try to make it across the pond to see my sister and brother-in-law while they are still living there. So keep in mind this is a) for summer, b) for vacation reading, and d) for Dreadfully hot in Texas. I am going to need to escape in more ways than one. Now, send me your very best.

I am fairly certain that come September, any healthy-eating resolve I have right now could be suffering from summer gluttony and vacation "exceptions to the rule" mentality. I placed Pollan's eater's manifesto, which has been on my must-read list for years, strategically to help reboot and redirect my attention to healthy food, good choices, and environmental awareness. It might also go nicely with plotting our "winter" garden, which I would reeeeeeally like to fiiiiiiinally get around to doing this fall. I just hope I don't end up in the fetal position with each chapter, like I did after watching Food, Inc.

I have had hits and misses with T.C. Boyle. I loved Drop City, but failed to ever finish The Women. However, his narrative style is different from many of his contemporaries, and I'm always curious about male authors who insist on repeatedly writing female protagonists. Sometimes I'm just not "in the mood" for his irony, but his newest book interested me enough to have it kick off my fall season reading: "On a tiny, desolate, windswept island off the coast of Southern California, two families, one in the 1880s and one in the 1930s, come to start new lives and pursue dreams of self-reliance and freedom." October marks the beginning of fall, and it's time to change the tone.

Farewell, My Queen, by Chantal Thomas 
November is one of my favorite months. In Texas, it is the first month we are usually justified curling up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good read. I wanted a delicious story for this month, one with a bit of intrigue, but not too heavy. I actually discovered this novel when I heard about the movie, which was released earlier this year. It is a subtitled film, and I'm not positive it was widely released in the U.S. I can't recall how I stumbled upon it, but being that I like most things period and all things royal, I added the film to my watch list. When I realized the movie was a book adaptation, I decided to read it first.

At the last second I switched December novels. I had a novel here by a Danish author, which would have made my list a little less heavy in American writing. Then I remembered that this book was one that I'd been intending to read for quite a while, and I didn't want to put it off any longer. With the plot circling human trafficking in Indian and on a global scale, it's sorta heavy for a month of cheer and celebration. But maybe that's apropos: a reminder that my luxurious life as the white American, middle class housewife isn't the same card every female is dealt. Maybe I'll be a little more grateful during the season of thankfulness.

I would love for you to share your 2013 reading lists with me! 
I've also started using Goodreads to create book lists, and keep track of books I have read. Check it.

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