April Reading – The Month Ahead

I’m a little behind schedule here with what has become a traditional monthly post, but here’s what’s on tap for me in April:

“Obligatory” reads: I have two. My book club is reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I am actually the one who put this book on our club’s “bookshelf” after reading so many great things about it from my blogging colleagues last year. Someone else picked it to read, but in a sense it is “my” book. The way my club works, usually every three or four meetings you’re either reading a book you added to our shelf or a book someone else added but you picked. I like that, as members have a “connection” with double the books than a normal club where everyone just takes turn picking a book they recommend. In our club, you have to pick a book someone else recommends. My other book club, the KVMLBC, is reading Slaughterhouse Five this month. It’s the second month in a row we’re reading a book I’ve already read, but I plan on reading it again to refresh my memory for the meeting.

Other books? Well, I’m about 200 pages (out of over 600) into Trollope’s The Small House at Allington now, and have gotten more into the characters and more used to the writing style. I’m likely to finish this one in the next couple weeks. I’ve also started and paused Desert Spear by Peter Brett, the sequel to one of last year’s more pleasant surprises, The Warded Man. I’ve also started the depressing book, The Fear, by Peter Godwin. I heard about this on NPR on the way home one day, and it sounded interesting. It’s a non-fiction book about Robert Mugabe’s “reign of terror” in modern Zimbabwe. (A lot of unpleasant material in it, but hard to put down)

Let’s see… What else? Oh, a former boss gave me a copy of a non-fiction book his sister wrote about hiking the Continental Divide Trail. I’m really looking forward to this one as well, since I have hiked a lot in the mountains myself. Another non-fiction book I hope to get to is Dr. Richard Gunderman’s book about the nature of philanthropy, We Make a Life by What We Give. This book is a little out of my comfort zone as far as reading genre goes, but Gunderman happens to be a former college roommate of mine and one of the smartest people I’ve ever actually known personally.

Well, I’m sure I won’t get to all of those this month, but probably four or five will be completed. I also have my ongoing short story reading project. I drew a new card Saturday, and it turned out to be Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll have that one and probably three more stories to be randomly determined as the weeks unfold.

What about you? What are you reading in April? Are we reading any of the same things? Is there anything you’d recommend I consider for my may list?

Oh, I almost forgot: Go Butler Bulldogs!!

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In Defense of the “Nerd” – 19th Century Style…

I am always intrigued when I read something written long ago that rings true across the passage of time.  Most of the time the subject is human nature, and that was the case when I came across Anthony Trollope’s near perfect description of a nerd (or “hobbledehoy” in the parlance of the day when The Small House of Allington was written in 1864).  I mentioned in an earlier post that I was struggling to get into this book.  I think this passage has won me over.  I suspect, too, that having written this ‘defense of the nerd’ so eloquently, the author surely must’ve counted himself among those considered hobbledehoys in his youth…  Just read this:

“I have said that John Eames had been petted by none but his mother, but I would not have it supposed, on this account that John Eames has no friends. There is a class of young men who never get petted, though they may not be the less esteemed or perhaps loved.  They do not come forth to the world as Apollos, nor shine at all, keeping what light they may have for inward purposes.  Such young men are often awkward, ungainly, and not yet formed in their gait; they straggle with their limbs, and are shy; words do not come to them with ease, when words are required, among any but their accustomed associates.  Social meetings are periods of penance to them, and any appearance in public will unnerve them.  They go much about alone, and blush when women speak to them.  In truth, they are not as yet men, whatever the number may be of their years; and, as they are no longer boys, the world has found for them the ungraceful name of hobbledehoy.

Such observations, however, as I have been enabled to make in this matter have led me to believe that the hobbledehoy is by no means the least valuable species of the human race.  When I compare the hobbledehoy of one or two and twenty to some finished Apollo of the same age, I regard the former as unripe fruit, and the latter as fruit that is ripe.  Then comes the question as to the two fruits.  Which is the better fruit, that which ripens early-which is, perhaps, favoured with some little forcing apparatus, or which, at least, is backed by the warmth of a southern wall; or that fruit of slower growth, as to which nature works without assistance, on which the sun operates in its own time – or perhaps never operates if some ungenial shade has been allowed to interpose itself?  The world, no doubt, is in favour of the forcing apparatus or of the southern wall.  The fruit comes certainly, and at an assured period.  It is spotless, speck-less, and of a certain quality by no means despicable.  The owner has it when he wants it, and it serves its turn.  But, nevertheless, according to my thinking, the fullest flavor of the sun is given to that other fruit – is given in the sun’s own good time, if so be that no ungenial shade has interposed itself. I like the smack of the natural growth, and like it, perhaps, the better because that which has been obtained without favour.

But the hobbledehoy, though he blushes when women address him, and is uneasy even when he is near them, though he is not master of his limbs in a ball-room, and is hardly master of his tongue at any time, is the most eloquent of beings, and especially eloquent among beautiful women.  He enjoys all the triumphs of a Don Juan, without any of Don Juan’s heartlessness, and is able to conquer in all encounters, through the force of his wit and the sweetness of his voice. But this eloquence is heard only by his own inner ears, and these triumphs are the triumphs of his imagination.

He has probably become a hobbledehoy instead of an Apollo, because circumstances have not afforded him much social intercourse; and, therefore, he wanders about in solitude, taking long walks, in which he dreams of those successes which are so far removed from his powers of achievement.  Out in the fields, with his stick in his hand, he is very eloquent, cutting off the heads of the springing summer weeds, as he practices his oratory with energy.  And thus he feeds an imagination for which those who know give him but scanty credit, and unconsciously prepares himself for that latter ripening, if only the ungenial shade will some day cease to interpose itself.”

(Anthony Trollope)

March Reading – The Month Ahead…

Good riddance to February and all the brutal and unpleasant weather that came with it. Now it’s March. The first month of Spring! (I know, the first three weeks are still Winter, but I don’t care) The only “problem” with Spring that I can think of is that, with the weather being nicer outdoors, its harder to curl up and read a lot and stay indoors.

I nearly finished my tenth book of the year last night (To Kill a Mockingbird, which I’m reading in “preparation” for attending a stage version with my Mom on Sunday), and with February being a short month, I feel I’ve kept up a good pace so far this year. But what lies ahead in March…?

Well, I have two book club obligatory reads. One is The Help, the wildly popular bestseller by Kathryn Stocket. I had thought about buying this as an audio book (I’ve never listened to an entire audio book before. I bought one once before, thinking I’d listen during my daily commute, but traffic’s command of my attention seems to easily trump audio book-listening) since I still have a gift card leftover from the holidays, but then I listened to an excerpt on iTunes and it didn’t really grab me. One of the members of my book club “reads” almost exclusively via audio books and some day I want to try it, but I don’t think this will be the book. The second book club read is Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut for the KVMLBC. This will be a re-read for me, but now that I’m more familiar with this author I hope to get a new perspective. I also started reading a strange novel, Under the Skin, by Michel Faber – a book that I learned of via the blogosphere.

Let’s see… What else? Well, of course I’ll be continuing my short story reading project, which I have enjoyed immensely thus far (like you couldn’t tell), but I think I may also wrap up the William Trevor collection of stories (only three to go!) and get that book under my belt as well. I also downloaded the Anthony Trollope book, The Small House at Allington after hearing about it in the story, After Rain. It’s dauntingly long, though, and I confess I’m afraid to start it. I’ve NEVER read any Trollope, though, and I’ve long thought that this is a serious gap in my cultural literacy that should be addressed (sooner rather than later).

What about you? “What’s in your wallet?” Er, I mean, what’s in your reading future for March? As always, I’d love to hear about it…

-Jay

Sent from my iPad