Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten “Beach” Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme sponsored by the literary folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. A different topic is introduced each week and participants are charged with coming up with a top ten list. This week’s topic: “Top Ten Beach Reads (however YOU define a beach read)”. I’ve decided to define it as a book I’ve read during a vacation of any kind since I’m more of a mountains and canyons guy than a beachgoer. Another “requirement” for me would be a book read more for fun and entertainment than one read to learn something from its great literary merit.

I’ll start with a couple from my childhood and move on from there.

10. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

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This series was The Lord of the Rings of my youth. Great adventure and quite the page turners – all five of them.

9. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

First read for school (maybe 5th or 6th grade), I remember having this with my on summer vacation camping trips with my family, reading it multiple times. I had little choice than to read the same books. More than once – it wasn’t like we took a big library with us; space in the pop up camper and car was limited.

8. The World of Null-A by A.E. Van Vogt

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Although you’ve likely never heard of this pulpish sci-fi novel, I have memories of reading this one multiple times during summer vacations during high school. It was a slim volume, which also made it easy to take along since it didn’t take up much space. I believe there were several “Null-A’ novels in Van Vogt’s oevre.  I’d like to do a nostalgic re-read some day…

7. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Probably the most ’edifying’ book on this list, it made quite an impression on me, and I’ve taken it with me on multiple trips – just like an old friend.

6. Lightning by Dean Koontz

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I have a friend who was a big Dean Koontz fan when I first met her. I remember being impressed that she had a list of all his books in her purse with the ones she had read marked off. She recommended this one and I took it with me on a trip in the early ’90s. Easy read,intriguing time-travel-ly plot.

5. Wonderboy by Simen Agdestein

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This is the story of the youngest Chess Grandmaster the world as of the time of its writing. I read it in 2004 when I travelled to Minneapolis for a “vacation” and to participate in the HP Global Chess Challenge (the biggest chess tournament in U.S. History). It was a great vacation, and this book was perfect reading during my down time during the event. Oh, and by the way, Magnus is now the highest rated chess player in the world and will challenge world champion Viswanathan Anand of India in a match this fall.

4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I guess if you’re going to read ‘magical realism,’ a vacation is the right time to do it. I remember reading through this at the lodge at Hawks Nest State Park in West Virginia in 2010. Almost incomprehensible, the book was still somehow enjoyable to me.

(below: Hawk’s Nest Lodge and it’s cable cars descending down into the New River gorge)

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3. Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I read this during a vacation in the nineties. The only problem I could find with it was that it ended too soon.

2. Insomnia by Stephen King

I have quite fond memories of reading this one in Utah’s Zion National Park in 2006, more than once throwing it in my backpack and, while cooling down after a hike, reading it on the lawn of the Lodge or in one of its comfy rocking chairs, soaking up the sun in that beautiful setting.

(below: Zion National Park Lodge – right where I read a lot of Insomnia)

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1. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

While I wouldn’t argue this book has great literary merit, it IS memorable to me for sentimental reasons. Practically my whole family read it during one of our annual “getaway weekends” – this one at Clifty Falls State Park. One nephew and I have lobbied to make a ’group read’ a tradition at subsequent years’ weekends, one time reading the same author’s novel, Deception Point, but he and I seem to be the only ones willing to continue to carry the banner. We were disappointed that this year’s annual “getaway” was just before Dan Brown’s latest novel, “Inferno,” came out.

(Below: view of the Ohio River from the grounds of Clifty Falls State Park Lodge.  I like sitting out there and watching the barges go up and down the river)

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Well that’s it for me. What about you? How did you define a “beach read” and what were your selections? Did we have any in common. I’m off to The Broke and theBookish to find out…

February Reading – The Month Ahead

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile, but I thought I’d share what’s in store for me, reading-wise, in the month ahead…

Starting with my “required reading,” I have two books and one short story I’ll be reading for book clubs or discussion groups.

First, for the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library book club, we’re reading “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater.” This will be a re-read for me, as I read it last year “immediately” upon discovering it was the only one of Vonnegut’s novels that I hadn’t read. I look forward to giving it a deeper reading this time, though, in hopes of being better prepared to “discuss it intelligently” with the largely erudite membership of that group…

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I’ve also just started today in reading Willa Cather’s “The Professor’s House,” which is the February selection of a discussion group at a local library whose last meeting I crashed when I learned they’d be discussing Muriel Barbery’s “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” I became hungry for more Willa Cather after reading her wonderful short story, “The Old Beauty,” as part of my annual short story reading project last year.

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Speaking of short stories, I’ll be re-reading Isaac Beshevis Singer’s classic tale, “Gimpel the Fool,” for a local discussion group/chapter of the Great Books Foundation. It’s been so long ago that I read this one the first time, though, that it will be practically the same for me as reading it for the first time. (Memory problems…)

(below: Isaac Beshevis Singer)

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Other, non-required reading includes Lloyd Alexander’s “The Prydain Chronicles” of which I began a “nostalgic re-read” of last month. I first read these books when I was but ten or eleven years old. The fact that they were written for younger readers has not diminished my enjoyment of them this time, though. I’m already on the third book (of five), and they’re quick reads so I also am padding my book total for 2013 (heh, heh).

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I’ll also have four short stories for my 2013 short story reading project that I’ll Knock off this month. In fact, I finished the first one yesterday (Poe’s “The Devil in the Belfry,” which I had never even heard of before today.) but there will be three more, decided – as always – by the turn of (hopefully) a friendly card.

What else? Oh, I’m considering reading Anna Karenina for a discussion at a bookstore in March, and it’s so long I’d better get started on it in February if I’m to have a chance at finishing it in time. Dale at Mirror With Clouds has said he’ll consider reading it along with me too – any other takers?

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One other book I’m intrigued with is “Generations of Winter” by Vassily Aksyonov, a novel that I first learned about via Ana’s review at Ana the Imp. I’m a long-time pushover for “anything Russian” (perhaps a relic from all those years playing chess, that favorite of Russian pastimes…) so this would be a natural choice for me too.

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That’s about it for me, although I’m sure I’ll read some other random short stories as well. But what about YOU? What books and stories are in your reading plans for February 2013?

Top Ten Tuesday – Books that Should not be “Forgotten”

Top Ten Tuesday is a very popular (and fun) weekly meme that is sponsored by the creative folks over at “The Broke and the Bookish.” This week’s assignment: “Top Ten “Older” Books You Don’t Want People To Forget About (you can define older however you wish. Basically just backlisted books you think are great. Basically the point is to share books that could be forgotten about in the midst of all the new releases)”

Okay, I’ll take a stab at that. 🙂 (I fear my list is also sort of a “lesser known books people shouldn’t forget about,” though.)

1. Erewhon by Samuel Butler
More famous for The Way of All Flesh, Butler also Wrote this odd (for his era anyway) book. Kind of Shangri-La type theme (his is in remote New Zealand, though) and quite interesting. I love this book cover, too!

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2. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
Great “YA” adventure of a different era. Sadly, I rarely hear these being discussed in the blogging world today, but I just started re-reading the first one, “The Book of Three” this past weekend. High adventure!

3. The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
God, let us never stop reading these seminal works. They, and the Greek myths in general, served as a great inspiration for so much of later literature.

4. Silas Marner by George Eliot
Everyone else seems to talk about The Mill on the Floss instead of this Eliot work, which is my favorite. Poignant ‘reformation, of a miserly hermit. Once upon a time it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe me as such. 🙂

5. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
While not in danger of being forgotten, this one should be read more often. When I first read it, I was in something of a rut in my own life and identified with the re-awakening theme of the sickly child.

6. Earth Abides by George Stewart
An early sci-fi classic that I was unaware of myself until this year. Great, fun, post-apocalyptic (In this case the apocalypse is a plague) reading.

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7. The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
Wonderful story of the decline and fall of an “old money” family set in my home town of Indianapolis. Also a great movie – starring Timothy Holt (of Treasure of the Sierra Madre fame…)

8. The Sufferings of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Sometimes aka “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” I think some are scared off from reading this by Goethe’s intimidating intellectual reputation. I found it very readable, if very tragic.

9. Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott
Scott wrote a long series of “Waverley” novels that seem to be largely forgotten today. I’ve only scratched their surface myself, but Guy Mannering (subtitled “The Astrologer”) is my favorite so far. And the gypsy, Meg Mereilles, is one of my favorite “minor” characters in literature.

10. The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac
“Everyone” has read “On the Road” and many of Kerouac’s
other transparently autobiographical works, but this more traditional novel (admittedly still hugely autobiographical) seems largely forgotten. It’s one of my favorite books of the past five years.

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Well, that’s it for me. What books are in your Top Ten Tuesday this week? I’m off to The Broke and the Bookish to check some of them out. (their are so many participants in this meme you can’t read them all. I usually pick a number between one and ten and then read every tenth one. How do YOU pick which entries to read?