Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading Retrospective (December 2002 to January 2003)

Sunday SalonI don't know if anyone noticed but I haven't posted a Reading Retrospective in the last few months, when up until November of last year I'd been posting them monthly. As you know, blogging kind of collapsed for me in late December, but I still like the idea of looking back on what I read so I hope you don't mind if I reinstate this mini-feature. I often wish I'd started keeping track of the books I read even earlier, but as it is my reading spreadsheet goes back to 2002. Since I started doing these retrospectives last year, in 2009, for each retrospective I've been reminiscing about the books I read 7 years previously. So today I'm going to look at December 2002, and January 2003. Then I'll do February and March next month to get back on track. I may continue to post bi-monthly after that but we'll see. But now to step into my literary time machine...

I started off the month of December, 2002, with Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season by James Finn Garner, which was quite fun to read, at least for the first few stories. What can be better to get in the holiday spirit than some tongue-in-cheek spoofs of beloved holiday stories? Sure, the humour in some of them was a bit forced, but overall it was a humorous read.

Next up was Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. In my notes on the book I wrote that the ending was a bit cheesy but that the journey there was very enjoyable. I'm pretty sure I have another book by her around here somewhere. I actually still have a few chicklit books that I never got around to after I got over my chicklit phase. I might have to try to slip a few into my reading schedule this year, or just give some away, so I can clear them out.

A Week in Winter by Marcia Willett was my next read, and my highest rated book of the month with an 8/10. Some of my thoughts at the time: Simple, straight-forward writing but a touching story with characters that positively shine through. A cosy family story perfect for the season. Sounds good, doesn't it? I feel like I haven't read a good, cosy family drama for a really long time. Maybe I'm due.

Milkrun by Sarah Mlynowski was the next book I read, apparently a fairly typical chicklit title, that I have to admit I remember absolutely nothing about now. Not too surprising I suppose. These kinds of books all kind of run together for me, with a few exceptions like Bridget Jones's Diary, which I think, is partly thanks to the movie being imprinted on my subconscious. But I digress...

My last book of December was Dirt Music by Tim Winton, which had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2002. Apparently I was a little disappointed with the book in that I loved the descriptive setting but felt that the book had more to say than I got out of it. That could've been my own failing as a reader though. I wonder if I'd have the same response if I were to read it again. I've actually been meaning to read something else by Winton ever since, but have yet to do so. Any Winton fans out there? I'd love to hear your suggestions.

On to the new year, my first read of 2003 was Snow by Maxence Fermine. A lovely little book translated from the French. I still remember picking this up in a book store in Hampstead because the simple cover, with the kanji character for snow on it, caught my eye. I didn't give it a top rating as it wasn't perfect, but it truly was a beautiful little tale, very poetic. It's so short, I really should pick it up and read it again sometime.

The Keepers of Truth by Michael Collins, on the Booker Prize shortlist in 2000, was next. Hmmm, I honestly can't recall this one, but at the time I thought it was a thought-provoking read. I followed this apparently clever book with another chicklit title, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella. A fun story that I read all in one day! This was actually my very first ARC, pre-blog, that I'd won from the Transworld Books website.

Next up was Life of Pi by Yann Martel, winner of the Booker Prize in 2002. This is one of those books that people seem to love, or not. I still remember how annoyed I was by the, what I considered, anti-climactic ending. I loved the first third of the book about the religions, but, after that, all the time spent in the life boat (not a spoiler) just dragged. For me anyway. This is one of those books that I think deserves a re-read someday, just not quite yet.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett was my next book. I have to say I'm really quite impressed that I read 7 books that January, including this 1000 page chunkster, especially since I only seem to average 4 or 5 most months. Some of my thoughts at the time: A long but enjoyable epic story. Writing quite simple with some unnecessary repetition, but good characters, that really came alive. Later on we visited Salisbury, and the cathedral there, on which the book was loosely based. It was certainly fun thinking back on the story while taking in that impressive structure.

Following that epic story was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. A unique coming-of-age story. Very "real". Insightful. Thought-provoking. Hmm, I only wish I could actually remember the story now.

Last book of the month was Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold, and my highest rated book for January 2003. A sometimes harsh, but very open, account of the author's rape. Despite the dark subject matter, it was actually a very engrossing read. Reading this, I could certainly understand how she was inspired to write The Lovely Bones. I later got my copies of both books signed by Alice Sebold when she had a reading and signing event at Waterstones Piccadilly. Ah the good ol' days of living in London and being able to go to author events.

Well, there you have it, what I was reading seven years ago. Have you read any of these books? If so, did you like them?

Returning now to the present, in the past week I've read a little more in The Pillow Book (of which the discussions will resume next Friday), read Naoki Urasawa's Monster, Vol. 3, the manga. And I'm now reading Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui. I read his Paprika last year, which was a totally bizarre story to say the least, but I am quite enjoying this one so far. It's quite slim so I hope to finish it in the next day or two, and then I need to dig into some Murakami. Murakami March is almost upon us!

I hope you're all having a good weekend, and congratulations Canada on a fabulous Olympics!

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  1. I hate how books run together like that. I find this is especially true of books I read of a similar genre within weeks of each other. I have to look up my review or a summary to remember why I liked or disliked the book. Looks like you've read some good books in the past few months though!

  2. I'm a big Winton fan, and 'Dirt Music' is a wonderful book. My favourites though are 'Breath' (his latest work) and the utterly magnificent 'The Riders'. Both made my Top 10 list of 2009 (the year I read them in!), and I have posted about both on my blog if you'd like to have a look!

  3. That was the year I first started keeping records of what I read: 2003. I make better choices now than I did then.

  4. I would like to try Dirt Music, here say it's good. Read "Lucky" 3.5 years ago, it was an honest and harrowing read, but a good one. Always tempted to read Follet's "The Pillar of the earth" but I'm daunted by the size of it. Read "The Life of Pi" in 2005, can't seem to recall how it ended. Perhaps I'll re-read it one day again.

    Can't say enough what a fantastic blog you have here, certainly a reading reflection that made me reflect upon mine. :)

  5. Wow, someone else who has read Dirt Music! My book club read it several years ago, and it may have been out most-disliked selection ever (but to be fair, I don't think I hated it quite as much as everyone else).

  6. I've read "Snow" (which I too bought for the beautiful cover, though it was a different cover than yours), "The Pillars of the Earth" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," though all quite some time ago. Though I still remember something about all three, none of them were books I ended up caring for.

    When I visited Salisbury Cathedral, I had read "Sarum" prior to it and felt as you did with the Follett book.

  7. I was just looking over my shelves at my mom's house this weekend and thinking over some of the reading I've done in past years. I happened to notice In Her Shoes (Jennifer Weiner) on the shelves, and while I haven't read one of her books in quite a long time, it might be nice to revisit some of her stuff.

    Yay for reading retrospectives! I love these.

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. After commenting on the books I read in your retrospective and didn't like, I can't believe I forget to comment on the one I read and did like! In fact, I loved it: "Life of Pi." I liked the ending -- I thought it 'made' the book.

  9. I like roundups because sometimes I miss the original. So I'm glad you're doing this.

    I remember enjoying Life of Pi but I recall next to nothing about it. I guess it wasn't so memorable afterall, huh.

  10. Ash - It's annoying when books start running together, isn't it? I think that happens more often with some genres than others, at least for me. Or reading series books too close together I find it's sometimes hard to remember what happened in which book.

    Tony - Thanks for the suggestions, I'll have to try one of those sometime. I really would like to read something else by Winton.

    readerbuzz - I like to think I make better choices now too. :)

    bibliojunkie - I think I should re-read Life of Pi someday too, but maybe not quite yet. Pillars of the Earth IS huge, but in some ways a pretty straightforward story so from what I remember it does read quite quickly.
    And thank you so much for you kind comments! Those are the kind that make it all worthwhile. :)

    Florinda - LOL. I really can't remember much of it at all now, but feel like Winton deserves another chance from me especially since I have heard great things about him.

    Teresa - I read Sarum too, but even longer ago. I wonder if I've confused them.. it's entirely possible given my bad memory! lol
    I enjoyed the three you mentioned but I certainly wouldn't consider any of them a favourite. And I probably need to read Life of Pi again someday. It would definitely be a very different reading experience going into it knowing the ending.

    Andi - I don't think I ever did read In Her Shoes. I might have a copy around here somewhere though. I may just have to pick it up sometime this year.

    Rebecca - I wasn't blogging yet in 2003 so this is the first time around to mention most of these books, but I know what you mean. I like round-up posts too. It's impossible to keep up with everyone all the time.

    My strong reaction to the ending of Life of Pi does mean that parts of it have stayed with me, even all these years later. Hmmm, is that the sign of a good book then? ;)


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