June 4, 2016

Mid-Year Book Check-In

This year has been light on visual reading.

Audiobooks have definitely taken over as my preferred method of consuming literature.

It's not that I don't enjoy visual reading, but it's *much* harder to multitask and time is a limited resource.  Stuff I can do while listening to an audiobook that I can't do while visually reading includes: driving, running, walking outside, doing dishes, doing laundry, and gardening.  In other words, there's stuff in almost every day that allows me to enjoy an audiobook while I do it, whereas with visual reading, I have to find the time.  These days, visual reading (unless I'm on the treadmill or a plane) feels like an unearned indulgence.  

Given that we're culling our physical belongings in preparation for the Sabbatical year, I've cut myself off from buying any more physical books.

At this point, I'm just doing my best to get through the pile by my bed which is primarily the books that E has finished and I want to read as well as a few others I either bought for myself or received as gifts.

E and I both bought Kindles with the assumption that we'll want to visually read while traveling (you guys, my reading wishlist for the year is already MUCH too long!), and we won't want to lug paper books.

I've only read one Kindle book so far (The Sellout, see review below).  I suspect visually reading a paper book (and possibly taking notes in the margins) will always be my preferred method of enjoying literature.  But, I have to consider the tradeoffs.  As I noted above re: time and audiobooks, I'll take more literature in exchange for an audio format.  Similarly, I'll take the electronic visual format in exchange for loss of weight while traveling.  The one major improvement in the digital visual xperience for me was the ability to tap a word or phrase and immediately get a definition or historical explanation -- the future is cool!

So, without further adieu, here's the visual reading list with reviews for the year so far:

The Story of My Teeth
Valeria Luiselli
A very unique book.  Histerically laugh out loud Fiction.  Surrealism.  An installation art project.  A translator who added a section of the book with a timeline explaining all the pop and historical latin american and hispanic cultural references.  A very clever work of art that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Blue Mars
Kim Stanley Robinson
I *could* not get through this book in any reasonable time frame.  It dragged on, and on.  The last book in a very enjoyable trilogy -- in other words, I had to find a way.  So I did.  But this is definitely the weakest of the 3 books and a bit all over the place.  As a stand-alone book, I don't think I'd recommend it, but I'm a sucker for finishing series, so in that light, when considered as part of a whole, it's still worth it.
My Brilliant Friend
Elena Ferrante
This book completely blew me away.  The language was sparse and descriptive and powerful and so evocative of the Italian it came from in a manner I've never really encountered.  The story of Elena and Lila is a very honest portrayal of young female emotions -- raw jealousy, love, competitiveness, hope, concern and more.  I immediately ordered the next book in the series for my Audiobook fun. 
Rule 34
Charles Stross
Typical Stross -- fast, smart, clever, confusing, futuristic fun.  True to the name, this one was a little dirtier and darker than most of his stuff.
Saturn's Children
Charles Stross
Extremely fun.  Sex-robots built to please humans in a post-human futuristic world.  Transferable soul chips, space travel, intrigue and betrayal. 
Neptune's Brood
Charles Stross
A more clever exploration of the world established in Saturn's Children with a decreased focus on sex and an increased focus on what it means to have soul chips and similar bodylines plus time travel, slow sleep, and monetary transactions between planetary systems.  Very thought provoking and enjoyable.
Singularity Sky
Charles Stross
Classic space opera with spying, interplanetary turmoil, futuristic maker-machines, and general goodness.
The Sellout
Paul Beatty
I came into this book blind, it was a book club assignment, so I read it as my first Kindle book.  It's weird.  Like really weird.  But also, it is one of the most beautifully linguistic and hilarious things I've ever read.  And, even while you're ogling the gorgeous language (Beatty is also a poet) and laughing out loud, in the back of your head, you realize this stuff is going to stick with you and make you think real real hard.  I regularly found myself reading snippets to E, just so he too could enjoy the the satire that interwove the painful and uncomfortable with truly Californian reality and very odd imaginative shit from Mr. Beatty's head.  I tried to explain the book to a friend at a party and my explanation was something like, "Well, it's a hilarious book about 'post-racial' america where the main character is a young black man on trial for keeping a slave, who turns out to be one of the original Little Rascals actors.  And, oh, did I mention he lives on a farm and rides a horse in a name-removed farming ghetto in the middle of Los Angeles?  There's a bus ride party with a post-party segregation movement.  Oh, he smokes weed in the Supreme Court of the US while waiting for his hearing.  It's so good.  No. Really."

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