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Summer Reading

Now that T. has started back to school, summer is officially over. I can tell, not by the fact that I had to buy a bunch of school supplies, but because we tallied the results of our summer reading contest. The multiplier is four (i.e., T.’s pages get multiplied by four before the total is compared to my pages.). I am happy to say that T. won this time around, since my secret plan with these contests is to get him to read more. Even better, he wants it to be more challenging for our fall contest, so the new multiplier is 3.5. The winner has selected a sushi dinner as his reward, to be paid next Thursday.

“But wait!” you say. “What did you read?” Ah, yes. The details.

I’ll begin with what T. read, because I read everything on his list myself. He read almost seven books and 2,647 pages. Four of them were in the Temeraire series and we both anxiously await the new installment in October. We celebrated August with the latest in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. He likes to read series books, so we chose the Bartimaeus books as our next read-alouds, except that he keeps reading ahead of me. We both finished The Amulet of Samarkand. He is 335 pages into The Golem’s Eye and I am on lowly page 85, but I will catch up!

I read almost 36 books for a total of 9,400 pages. As usual, I read a lot of middle grade and young adult books. My excuse this time is that I cleaned out T.’s bookshelves both here and at his dad’s house. There were plenty of books that T. didn’t want that I hadn’t read and I couldn’t decide whether to give them away or not until I checked them out. This doesn’t explain the ones I bought, but I’ll call those “professional research.”

I read Because of Winn-Dixie which is wonderful, but not better than Edward Tulane. I continue to explore the works of Caroline Stevermer, having polished off A College of Magics and River Rats. Of the two, I liked the latter one better, but both were good. I don’t know why I hadn’t read it before, but at last I have read The View from Saturday, which was awesome. My friend Opal was reading Joan Aiken’s Arabel and Mortimer, which made me want it as well as everything else she has written that I don’t already own. I read The Stolen Lake this time. Captains Courageous is a spiffy book that I had read before, although I didn’t realize this until I was a ways into it. Usual disclaimer about racism in older books, but otherwise an excellent adventure.

I found Basil of Baker Street, a Hardy Boys mystery, Footprints Under the Window, and four Meg Macintosh books in T.’s shelf. The Hardy Boys are better than I remember (unlike Nancy Drew, who is not as good. Sigh.), Basil was far more charming than the movie version of himself, and Meg Macintosh was awesome for the early-reader set with many opportunities to figure things out along with the sleuth.

In Sweden, I bought World’s Best Karlson, which I did not like as well as I expected I would, but it was still fun to read. (N.B., I did not pay the Amazon price, but rather bought a nice inexpensive paperback right there in the store...)

To round out my experience of kid lit for the summer, I read Not One Damsel in Distress, an interesting collection of pro-girl folktales. Also The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil and the first two volumes of the complete Moomin cartoons.

I read four non-fiction works. Nicholson Baker’s The Size of Thoughts, which I adopted from my friend Elizabeth’s book clear-out, has sent me off to buy more of his books because he’s just that cool. I kept talking about the essays in a lot of my conversations. My fascination with comic books led me to The Ten-Cent Plague. I was interested in the topic, particularly because it seems so parallel to the way people have subsequently freaked out about role playing games, the internet, music labeling and the like. The book is thoroughly researched, but I don’t think it paid off quite as well as it could have. Several people I respect loved Three Cups of Tea. Me, not so much. The work described is wonderful, but the book is crap. It is possible to do good in the world, inspire people, AND have good grammar. I also don’t much enjoy hagiography as a genre because it gets boring really quick. Nonetheless, I have to say, again, the work the foundation is doing is important and wonderful and cool. If they get to do more of it by selling this book, that’s great and I’m glad I contributed to it. For spiritual development, I read The Cloud of Unknowing, a medieval work on contemplative prayer. It manages to take the subject seriously without becoming boring, mostly by having a sly sense of humor. It gave me plenty of material for reflection, although not perhaps in the way the author intended—I ended up thinking a lot about the way we conceptualize things in spatial terms (kind of like the thoughts I had after reading Metaphors We Live By).

R. Scott Bakker has a new book out, so I read it. It’s called The Judging Eye and it picks up after The Thousandfold Thought left off. Good, dark fantasy.

Two mysteries at opposite ends of the spectrum. At my mom’s house I read Double Take, which is entertaining beach reading. By contrast, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo kept me up late at night reading because I had to know the end. It was smart and well-crafted and totally absorbing. Must read sequel…

And finally, four novels. Henderson the Rain King is a weird book. I liked it, but it’s weird. I won’t even try to explain. Jasper Fforde is wonderful, and so was Thursday Next: First Among Sequels. I ought to have read The Old Curiosity Shop a long time ago, but didn’t. Classic Dickens and many allusions in other works now suddenly make sense. I already wrote a whole long thing about my reading of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court so I won’t repeat myself except to say that everyone should read it.

Phew! On to a new semester of reading!

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