Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” – thoughts on Part II (and Nook app issues…)

I finished reading part two of this novel for Allie’s read-along on Sunday. On Memorial Day, however, “disaster” struck. I open up my Nook app on my iPad and none of my highlighting and notes from yesterday are there. This was, needless to say, very annoying. I’m not sure why/how this could have happened. I did notice when opening the app later in the evening, it initially acted like my library was “empty” (what?!) so I closed and reopened and there were my books. “Phew!” on that at least. I don’t sync my iPad (which includes a backup step) that often so now I have concerns about losing all “my brilliant highlighting.” Has anyone out there who uses the Nook app ever had this happen before? Any thoughts on how to prevent a recurrence?

But anyway, back to The Idiot…

“I declare, this is a lunatic asylum!”

So says Mrs. Yepanchin near the end of part two. I must say I often found myself in complete agreement with her. What stood out to me in this part of the book was that, while part I ended in a mad dash of men who were after the hand of Natalia Phillipovna, part II seemed to contain a whole flock of men who wanted a piece of Prince Myshkin’s “fortune.” I began to think of the common phrase “It’s a man’s world!” (certainly more true in the 19th century than today) and wondered, what is it that most men want the most? Why, women and money (or power) are most often near the top of the list. I don’t know if Dostoevsky is making a comment on this in the first two parts of The Idiot or not.

In part II we also find our hero, Prince Myshkin, suffering an epileptic fit. In this case it happened at a fortuitous time as it saved him from violence at the hands of the scoundrel, Rogozhin. I found Dostoevsky’s thoughts and descriptions of the Prince’s “state of mind” in the time leading up to the attack fascinating. Did he have personal experience with mental illness or epileptic episodes? Perhaps one of my fellow read-alongers will know…

Later, Mrs. Yepanchin also offers up, “I certainly shall go mad if I stay here!” I, however, think I shall “stay here” and continue reading this novel…

Sent from my iPad

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“a genius of unspeakable evil…”

One would think that a book written in the first person with the words “I am a genius of unspeakable evil…” in the title would be dark and horrific. One would think that UNTIL he finished reading the title: “I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President.” Josh Lieb’s humorous book was a nice ‘reading break’ for me. I chuckled several times, grinned a lot, and even “lol”ed a couple times. I also realized while reading this book how rarely I read books whose main purpose is to entertain us through humor. Maybe I should change that…

***very minor spoilers included***
Anyway, set in Omaha, Nebraska, this book is the story of a middle school student, Oliver, who was born a genius but has been hiding the fact all his life, secretly creating a financial empire with amassed wealth that makes him the “third richest person in the world.” (Later he drops to fourth as he has to finance a revolutionary campaign in an African nation in order to acquire the current regime’s ruler’s rare Star Wars action figure to use in a bribe, but that’s kind of a spoiler…). Apparently, Oliver is biding his time until his eighteenth birthday, when he will no longer be legally required to live under his parents’ control.

In spite of his genius (of unspeakable evil), Oliver has issues with his dad, who is continually dwelling on his past glories in a student election of his own from years gone by. This makes Oliver obsessed with entering – and winning – his own school’s (class) presidential election, and he sets the machinery of his vast “empire” in motion to achieve this goal. His empire includes a former alcoholic who he has rescued to become the figurehead of his empire, mysterious personal bodyguards, unlimited bribery, coercion, and several Batcave-esque locations, one below his house, one behind his school locker, etc. All make great fodder for humor, which is there in abundance.

The book has a dark side too, though (I guess the title should give us plenty of warning of that), and it remained uncertain to me why such a genius would be so intent on earning the acceptance of a father he despises. Overall, however, this short book (188 pages) was a pleasant diversion. I learned later that he author is a former writer for both The Simpsons and The Daily Show, which elicited an “oh, of course…” from me based upon the style of writing. Thanks also to Two Bibliomaniacs (link to the left on my blogroll) the blog where I first learned of this book back in April.

What about you? What are some of the most humorous books you’ve read lately? Any recommendations?

Sent from my iPad

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“…the soundtrack for the rumbling of rebellion” – thoughts on “Life” by Keith Richards

I know this book is largely only about “sex drugs and rock-n-roll,” but I like it. While it didn’t quite give me the level of satisfaction I hoped for (I got a bigger bang out of Eric Clapton’s autobiography for example) I still got a lot out of it. I was late getting started on this book – which my book club is meeting to discuss tonight – but having taken some vacation days this week, you might say time was on my side. 🙂 (please don’t groan yet, I’m just getting started!).

With the way my book club picks books to read, you can’t always get (read) what you want, but this was a book I had my eye on anyway, and I was happy when one of my fellow members put it on our bookshelf and even happier when another picked it as our May book. I do have some mixed emotions about it though, and I know some girls who read it will likely condemn him as a misogynist (he often refers to them as “bitches”). It did shine a light on a lot of previously unknown (to me, anyway) incidents, and there were some passages where wild horses couldn’t drag me away from it. I had no illusions that were shattered during my reading and this morning – since it’s all over now – I’m finally ready to write about it… Okay. Enough silliness trying to work Stones song titles, etc. into this post; (how many did you spot, by the way?) let’s get to a “review.” 🙂

“Life” by Keith Richards

It seems allowances are often made for geniuses. I guess that’s one way a fan (such as I) can forgive bad behavior on the part of musical geniuses such as Keith Richards. There’s a lot in this book to be disgusted by, most notably his many years spent as a junkie, and his tendency to abandon or discard certain women in his life (at least until he met and married Patti Hansen), yet you can’t help liking him in spite of it all. And make no mistake, Keith Richards is also a very intelligent man; don’t believe all the drugged-out rocker stereotyped images you might have of him. One of my favorite pictures in the appendix of the book is of him in his vast library at his Connecticut home. I envied him when I saw that.

This is a book where the author seems as equally at ease dispensing recipes (bangers and mash, anyone?) as he is dispensing advice on the important art of knife fighting. Really. A book where we hear his side of the stupendous rumors we’ve heard in the media over the years: Did he really get his blood changed? Did he really mix some if his father’s ashes with cocaine to snort? (to mention just a couple)

There is also great humor throughout. One story I particularly liked was when the band was touring America and learned from their American counterparts that changing clothes several times during a performance was common and indeed expected. They looked at each other and agreed that was a good idea, so at a break in their next show they did in fact change clothes – with each other! On his often stormy relationship with Mick Jagger, he offers that when he (Keith) “picked up the smack, Mick picked up the slack.” at one point, when describing the family of longtime companion Anita Pattenberg, he says they were “a family that had gone down, apparently, in a blaze of syphilis and madness.” Perhaps my favorite was a sentence that began, “Then, unfortunately, the bedroom caught fire.” Oh, if I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me… An autobiography of Keith Richards is one place, however, where that sentence doesn’t even sound out of place.

What I liked best about the book, though, was when he talked about music and about the creative process. How “you never stop learning an instrument,” and how he met and worked with so many famous names in the music world – maybe as many as anybody ever has. The quotation from the title of this blog post comes from a passage where he is discussing the song, Satisfaction, and other songs of that era: “There was trouble in America; all these young American kids, they were being drafted to Vietnam. Which is why you have “Satisfaction” in Apocalypse Now. Because the nutters took it with them. The lyrics and the mood of the sings fitted with the kids’ disenchantment with the grown-up world of America, and for a while we seemed to be the only provider, the soundtrack for the rumbling of rebellion, touching on those social nerves.”

I’ll finish with a quotation from Tom Waits, who is lamenting how a “sense of wonder” at music and maybe art has kind of leaked out of humanity’s consciousness in the modern world, but that Keith doesn’t share this “defect of wonder.” He says, “…Keith seems to still wonder at this stuff. He will stop and hold his guitar up and just stare at it for a while. Just be rather mystified by it. Like all the great things in the world, women and religion and the sky… you wonder about it, and you don’t stop wondering about it.”

A very enjoyable book, especially recommended to those who are already familiar with the Rolling Stones and their music.

Below: The Rolling Stones (probably their most well known line-up)

“The Signal-Man” (and The Mothman) – thoughts on a short story by Charles Dickens

One of my favorite supernatural story themes is that of the premonition, or the forewarning of disaster. The legend of the “Mothman” as told in the great movie, The Mothman Prophecies” is one example. This story was of great personal interest to me since it involved the “Silver Bridge” collapse at Point Pleasant, West Virginia; a regular crossing of the Ohio River at this location was done by my family on our twice-yearly trips to visit my Mom’s family in the interior of West Virginia. I was just old enough to remember hearing the news of the bridge collapse and our subsequent crossing of the river via a ferry during the interim period when a new bridge was being built. (below: the mothman statue in Point Pleasant)

I was reminded of “The Mothman” by the Charles Dickens short story “The Signal-Man” wherein a lonely railroad employee, whose forlorn outpost is located in a dank, dark cut along a railroad line, is repeatedly visited by a supposed phantom, and each time an accident of some sort follows his encounter. Our narrator startles the signal-man by coincidentally calling out to him in the same words that the phantom used once to address him. He spends some time with the signal-man and learns of his troubled visions. Sometimes the warning spectre only gestures to him, once with a pose of mourning upon which he remarks that he has “seen such an attitude depicted on stone tombs.”

Is the signal-man not of sound mind (as our narrator may suspect)? Or is he the only sentinel for a forthcoming new disaster (as he himself believes)? Read this short story and find out. In fact, reading a short story by Dickens is something of a pleasant “revenge” for those of us who have slogged through many of his longish novels… 🙂

Read this story online at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/Ubooks/Branline/shtml

Dickens once narrowly missed being involved in a rail disaster in his own life, The Staplehurst Train Crash of 1866… Several cars of a train which he was on (but not his own car) tumbled into a river and several passengers died. Many think this experience was something of an inspiration for this short story, which I was unaware of until I “discovered” it as part of my 2011 short story reading project, “deal me in.”

Sent from my iPad

Ready, set, read! A new family reading tradition?

Each May for the past 21 years my (immediate) family has had an annual “Getaway Weekend” at one of Indiana’s State Parks. I think it was eight years ago(?) when we were at Clifty Falls S.P. (near Madison, Indiana) and Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code was making the rounds and being read by several members of my family. Now, I’m not here to argue any great literary merit on this particular author’s part, but at that time – as you probably recall – that novel was being talked about everywhere you turned, and I guess we got caught up in the hype.

Before last year’s Getaway Weekend I got a text message from one of my nephews asking if I had a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. This was just a couple months after I had purchased my Nook e-reader (but before my iPad, where I do most of my e-reading these days) so I texted back, “No, but I will in a minute…” and promptly downloaded it for reading availability over the weekend. This year the same nephew texted me again asking “What Dan Brown book r we reading this time?” Always a sucker to participate in reading traditions, I looked around a bit and saw two that I hadn’t read and could fit the bill: Digital Fortress and Deception Point. Actually these are the only two other Dan brown books I could find – is that really it (I’d already read Angels and Demons years ago for my book club)?

So I downloaded Deception Point as it sounded more interesting (hey, it had NASA in it!) and we were off. I initially thought one of us could read it on my Nook, and the other could read it on my iPad, but then a fellow reader at work loaned me a paperback copy. Somehow, this year’s reading also took on the character of a “race” to see who could finish first. Luckily, it was a rainy weekend, so we didn’t do much hiking (the traditional invite for these weekends – penned by my Mom and Dad – always closes with the phrase, “Come to hike, loaf, play, or just… getaway!”) and was able to work lots of reading time in between meals, conversation, and card games to finish it Sunday morning (ahem… BEFORE my nephew finished), although my struggles to stay awake to keep reading saturday night (in fear of his staying up and taking advantage of his “college student sleeping schedule” and passing me while I slept) were amusing to many.

How did I like the book? Well, it’s about what I expected. A page turner with a nearly unbelievable plot that really stretched the limits of my willingness to “suspend disbelief.” The sitting U.S. President is a supporter of NASA, while his challenger considers it a waste of money. The book starts off with a mysterious “discovery” in the Arctic that an orbiting NASA spacecraft has found. The president drafts the daughter of his challenger (!!) who is a federal security agent of some kind, to independently verify the find, along with four other civilian scientists, one of whom is kind of a Jacques Cousteau meets Carl Sagan meets Steve Irwin meets MacGyver amalgam and becomes a gratuitous love interest for our heroine. As you might guess, all isn’t quite what it first seems with this “discovery” and many powerful people have a lot to lose or gain depending on how it’s handled. I’ll let you read it yourself for the details. At 533 pages, it went pretty fast for me – aside from the 20 page head start I got before the weekend began, I read it in a day and a half.

So what do you think of Dan Brown? Worth reading as a break from “deeper” material?Brilliant? Avoid him like the plague? Do you and your family have any reading “traditions?” I’m curious to know…

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Thank you, General Ivolgin (Dostoevsky read-along, Part I)

For some reason, I’ve always liked reading Russian Literature.  It may be the names – which I know so many people struggle with – since my lifelong involvement with chess has made names of Russian origin more common to me, and hearing conversation in Russian at countless chess tournaments almost makes me feel like I could speak the language myself if I had to.  Of Dostoevsky, I’ve only read Crime and Punishment and The Inquisitor, but I’ve dabbled in Tolstoy and Chekhov and Turgenev over the years as well.  Chekhov’s “The Black Monk” remains one of my all-time favorite short stories.  I had bought an ancient, yellowed paperback copy of The Idiot at a Marion County Public Library book sale a year or so ago, figuring it would be an edifying read at some point; then along comes Allie at A Literary Odyssey with another read-along of that very title.  I couldn’t resist.

This first post of the read-along deals with Part 1 of the book (roughly 175 pages).  I feel like I am still getting to know these characters, but they are almost all quite interesting.  The Idiot himself, Prince Myshkin, is eminently likeable.  He takes people at face value and there is not a shred of artifice in him – at least not in part one.  One can tell he often doesn’t quite know what to make of people and their behavior.   The other characters often mock him, often blatantly at first, but later more gently or only to each other.  His demeanor endears him to many, even though he is known to have recently returned from a sanatorium in Switzerland and subject to “fits.” For my part, I found him the most sane character thus far introduced.

The action takes place in St. Petersburg (I own a chess set purchased there!) and much of it revolves around the mysterious Nastasia Phillipovna.  A compelling, somewhat mysterious woman whom men swarm around like flies to a rib roast.  The first section of the book ends at a surreal ‘party’ at her house with multiple suitors all there because they want to marry this woman.  One of the suitors is Myshkin, who has fallen in love with her after seeing only a portrait of her.

Minor characters abound as well.  One of my favorites was General Ardalion Alexandrovich Ivolgin, a retired general drifting into senility that Myshkin apparently will share a boarding house with and one who he ‘goes out drinking with’ as well. Ivolgin gave me my only ‘laugh out loud’ moment (at a point where I could really use one “in real life” too) in part one, where he is telling a story of a train trip he was on where he was smoking a cigar in his carriage, admitting it was ‘not allowed, but not prohibited either’ he is later joined by two ladies with a little poodle.  They were haughty and angry over his smoking a cigar, but didn’t complain verbally (he argued, “if they didn’t like the cigar, why couldn’t they say so?”).  He goes on to say:

                “Suddenly and without the very slightest suspicion of warning, ‘light blue’ (the lady in the light blue dress) seizes my cigar from between my fingers, and, wheugh! out of the window with it!  Well, on flew the train, and I sat bewildered, and the young woman, tall and fair, and rather red in the face, too red, glared at me with flashing eyes.  I didn’t say a word, but with extreme courtesy, I may say with most refined courtesy, I reached my finger and thumb over towards the poodle, took it up delicately by the nape of the neck, and chucked it out of the window, after the cigar.  The train went flying on, and the poodle’s yells were lost in the distance.”

I found this passage terribly amusing and was disappointed to learn a couple pages later that the story did not likely actually happen to the poor old general, but was only a repetition of something he read about in the paper.  (He swears it actually happened to HIM, however).

I think of interest to note is that the term “idiot” has, I believe, somewhat a different usage today than in the 19th century.  Today’s common usage would be something like, “Oh, him? He’s an idiot” or “I forgot all about it. I am such an idiot!” Whereas I think it was once more of a clinical term.  I remember reading old census records when doing genealogical research and the form asked the respondent to note if any children were “idiotic.”  Somewhere I read that idiot referred specifically to an adult with a mental age of three years old.  Oh well, I’m enjoying the book so far and look forward to part two…

Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Imprinting” and Slaughterhouse Five

“Imprinting” isn’t really the right analogy to use, but I remember back in the 80s sitting in Professor Lovell’s Psych 101 class and first hearing of this term.  As defined by Merriam-Webster, it refers to : “a rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal (as a goose) and establishes a behavior pattern (as recognition of and attraction to its own kind or a substitute).” I have to admit the photo image of Konrad Lorenz, who coined the term or defined the phenomenon, walking in his yard with a group of goslings waddling after him (they thought he was their ‘mama’ because he was the first image they saw) in his wake is hard to forget.  I do think, though, that many times authors may experience a ‘defining moment’ – or “learning process that takes place early” in their life, the echoes of which forever reverberate in their subsequent works.  I would suggest Kurt Vonnegut’s experience at Dresden would fall into this category.

Dresden (before):

and after:

I also like to think most of us humans are born with a certain faith in – or at least capacity to have faith in – an underlying “goodness” in humanity.  And of course most of us also have this faith shaken from time to time by events we witness or stories we hear.  (My recent reading of Peter Godwin’s The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe is a personal example of a reeling blow to one’s faith in humanity)  It’s as if our faith is a castle – or at least has ramparts – that these attacks bang up against from time to time.  Sometimes, however, our castle of faith is so overrun and brought to ruin that we can never fully recover its use.  I suggest this is something that happened to Vonnegut as a result of his being witness to the horrors of the firestorm and destruction at Dresden.  It was hard for Vonnegut to view humanity optimistically knowing what he knew about its capacity for horror and brutality.  “So it goes,” as he would say…

Once our castle of faith is overrun and left in ruins, though we may patch up our defenses and try to carry on, it has as a result become much easier to overrun in the future.  Think of Ancient Rome.  The Eternal City made it until 476 A.D. before it was finally sacked and pillaged by Alaric and his Visigoths.  After that, however, it was sacked many times by future invaders.  Once the walls are breached, subsequent breaches are achieved by much less mighty attacks.  For a person whose faith has been routed in this way, a common aftereffect is an adoption of cynicism and pessimism in dealing with or describing the world around him.  I think if one reads Vonnegut’s novels with this in mind, it may be a lot easier to “get” him and understand why he chose to write the way he did.

My participation in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club has been enriching for me in many ways, but the way which I’m enjoying the most is that, for the first time, I’ve really focused on a single author over many of his books.  I find myself gaining appreciation as a reader having all that extra reading experience at my disposal when trying to figure out “what the heck he’s talking about” at times. 🙂

In Praise of Peter V. Brett’s “Demon Cycle” of Books

I recently completed the second book of this series, Desert Spear, and am looking forward to when the third book will be published. The first book, The Warded Man, was one of my great ‘discovery’ books last year. I’m not sure if I even would’ve learned of this series in my pre-blogging days, but I randomly happened upon a gushing review of it at Borough of Books last fall and figured I’d give The Warded Man a chance. I was not disappointed and have since recommended the books to several friends, and they were well received by them as well.

***very minor spoilers may follow***

This type of book (fantasy) is admittedly not my normal, preferred genre, but it comes alive for me because the main characters are so well conceived and heroic, and not necessarily heroic in the traditional sense. The basic setting is a (possibly) post-apocalyptic world which is plagued by demons on a nightly basis. These are not the “demons” of our familiar religious tradition, however. They’re not trying to possess humans (although the introduction of a “mind demon” in the second book may be a similar concept, I guess). They rise in a mist at nightfall, searching for prey, but they are destroyed in the presence of daylight. They come in different forms: wood, fire, rock, sand, wind, etc., to plague humanity on a nightly basis.

So how has humanity survived? Well, in this fantastical world, the demons are held at bay and helpless in the face of “wards” – magic symbols drawn or painted on the walls and doors of dwellings, drawn in the sand or dirt by those left out at night, and so on. “Warding” is naturally a much honored and valued skill in this world. Myths also abound of a prior time, where demons (often called “corelings” since they live at the world’s core, and return there nightly after their ravages) had been defeated by humans using “battle” wards and other mysterious technology only hinted at. Somehow, this knowledge has been lost to time though, and the nightly demon plague is once again upon the world.

This cycle of stories centers around the concept of a “deliverer,” who will lead humanity out of the plague and defeat the demons. The main character (and the title character of the first book) is Arlen, a young human who “has had enough” and is dedicated to fighting against the demon plague rather than cowering behind warded walls, as he disgustedly watches his father do. He becomes a “messenger,” one of a hearty breed who travels between the towns in spite of the obvious danger. Other great characters are Leesha, a “herb gatherer” who becomes a leader in her village, and Rojer, a “Jongleur” (a kind of traveling entertainer or jester) who is able to charm the demons by playing his violin and protects his fellow humans that way.

Add to the mix the “Krasians,” a warlike desert people who have always fought the demons in a nightly ritual of “alagai-sharak,” which is costly in lives but has led to a complex society where prowess in battle is revered to an amazing degree. Among these people we meet another of our main characters, Ahmann Jardir, ambitious and convinced that he is the “deliverer” of myth. Great minor characters also abound as author Brett has created a tidy, functioning fantastical world for which it is easy for the reader to become immersed.

What about you? Have you read – or even heard of – either of these books? You may want to check them out, even if on first blush you suspect they aren’t your cup of tea. I did and am glad…

(above: Author Peter V. Brett)

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New Book Purchases

One of my resolutions for 2011 was to NOT buy more new books than the total number of books I read this year. How am I doing? Well, so far it’s neck and neck, with my book purchases having fallen a few books behind until a recent trip to Half Price Books…

It’s always a dangerous operation for me to enter a bookstore. Dangerous both to my wallet and to my schedule (I can seemingly browse indefinitely). A couple Fridays ago I was forced to visit Half Price Books. My book club’s April selection, I Capture the Castle, was not available at Barnes and Noble.com, nor on iBooks. I searched the local Barnes & Noble store inventories online, and none nearby claimed to have a copy in stock. So I called the closest location of Half Price Books and was answered with the welcome news that they had “a couple copies” available and that they would leave one at the register for me. This led to an after work visit.

Once I crossed the threshold though, I realized I could not simply walk straight to the cashier and ask for my book, pay the bill and leave. I’m not made out of stone, after all!  Anyway, I first decided to check out what they had in the way of Anthony Trollope books, wondering if they even would have any – I mean, since I just discovered him recently, surely no one else had either(!)  Funny how egocentric the mind works sometimes, isn’t it?  Well, it turns out they had quite a few, so I bought two of them:  The Warden and Dr. Thorne, both being among “The Barsetshire Novels” – of which I’ve recently read The Small House at Allington.  So here’re two more for the TBR pile.

I also picked up – on the recommendation of a friend in Florida with whom I’ve recently reconnected – a collection of P.G. Wodehouse’s writings called The Most of P.G. Wodehouse.  I intend this to supply some comic relief to my reading.

And finally, on my way out, I even remember to pick up Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, which I finished just in time for my book club meeting last thursday.  🙂

Not a bad haul, wouldn’t you say?

May Reading: The Month Ahead

Well, April was not a stellar month for me as far as blogging frequency goes, but I got a decent amount of reading done.  In May I will try to do better about blogging, but here’s what I have on tap to read this month:

Desert Spear by Peter Brett

I feel like I’m kind of cheating here, since I had hoped to finish this in April, BUT… I have just over 100 pages to go, and the story is really picking up.  This is the second book of a trilogy (book three due out sometime this year? <fingers crossed>).  The first of the trilogy was The Warded Man (known as The Painted Man outside of America).  A fantastic (post-apocalyptic?) world populated by great characters and plenty of ‘demons’ to be killed.  A great adventure.

Life by Keith Richards

This is my book club’s May selection.  The biography of the iconic guitarist from The Rolling Stones promises to be entertaining reading, and I can’t wait to get started.  Our club has also read Eric Clapton’s autobiography, which was not surprisingly met with mixed reviews by my eclectic group…

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’m participating in Allie’s read along over at A Literary Odyssey.  I actually cracked the book this afternoon, reading the introduction to my 1969 edition.  I’m supposed to have Part I (about 175 pages) read by the middle of May for the first of four scheduled posts in this read along (it encompasses both May and June).  Can’t wait to read this one either.  I’ve already read Crime and Punishment years ago and felt it was quite good.

We Make a Life by What We Give by Dr. Richard Gunderman

Late in March, I went to a lecture by the author (who also happens to be a former college roommate of mine!) and was quite impressed and moved  by his thoughts on philanthropy and ethics.  It was somewhat of a reunion for me as well, since I hadn’t seen my old friend in many years.  The book is actually a collection of essays, several of which I’ve read already, but I need to give it my full attention for a few days and finish it.  It is very thought-provoking and full of ‘deep thoughts’ – and I don’t mean the Jack Handy kind…

The Fear by Peter Godwin

I’m about a third of the way through this book already (somehow I got entangled in April, reading more books at one time that probably ever before; I’m trying to right my ship in May).  It’s the disturbing story of Zimbabwe under the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe.  I first heard of this book on NPR and “just had to read it…”  Oh, and I’ll also have a Vonnegut title for the KVML Book Club meeting on May 26th.  I’m not sure which book we’re reading this month though, as I had to leave the last meeting a little early.

That’s it.  (Isn’t that enough!?)  How about you?  What are you reading in May?  (You know I can only read about five books a month, so I need to live, er… read vicariously through others to get enough of a fix…)