Happy Sant Jordi: Books on my Lit List

rose and bookThree years ago, I learned about the glories of La Diada de Sant Jordi—This Catalonian (and spreading!) holiday takes its name from St. George, the patron saint of Catalonia, and it falls on the anniversary of his death (also his Catholic Feast Day). Think of Sant Jordi as a nerdy Spanish Valentine’s Day. Every year on April 23rd, lovers in Catalonia, Spain, exchange gifts—boys give girls roses and girls give boys books.

Roses have been associated with the holiday since Medieval times, but the incorporation of books is more recent. In 1923, a bookseller began to advertise the holiday as a way to commemorate the deaths of two renowned authors: Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes and a little-known author who goes by the name William Shakespeare. Both men died April 23, 1616 (cue creepy sci-fi music).

Catalonians took to the trend and some celebrate by doing 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (Woof). Others flock to Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, to take advantage of the numerous makeshift stands selling flowers and books. Throughout the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books are purchased in celebration of love.

Well I love love. And books. And can’t think of a better reason to compile a spring book wish list—with the weather finally warming up, I’m dreaming of beaches, so forgive me for the chick lit.

BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette
I’ve been meaning to purchase this book for a while now—after all, it was on my graduation-gift-to-self post!—but still haven’t managed. To Bernadette’s Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. This book is the literary equivalent of multi-media art: email messages, official documents, and secret correspondence come together to create what’s a reportedly “compulsively readable and touching novel” about a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
$9.99 on Kindle.

WanderlustThe World of Wanderlust Story
I recently started following Brooke Saward’s World of Wanderlust blog (for obvious reasons). This book is an insight into her endeavors since the first time she traveled through to the creation of World of Wanderlust, as well as an insight into what the future holds. Most importantly, this book is an insight into her travels to date and provides the backstory of her life. It sounds to me like memoir meets inspirational mommy blogger? But the reviews seem relatively positive, so I’m intrigued. Plus, $2 from every book download (given her global audience, Saward only sells digital copies) is donated directly to the Destiny Rescue project, fighting child prostitution.
$17.99, available for download here.

I’m a huge Colum McCann fan, and loved—lovedHow the Great World Spins. His more recent TransAtlantic came independently recommended by my mentor, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. McCann brings to live different story- and time-lines, eventually weaving them together in a 6-degrees-of-separation spin. In TransAtlantic, he does the same with his female characters from the mid-1800s through to the 1990s. From Ireland to Missouri and Newfoundland, their journeys mirror the progress and shape of history.
$10.99 on Kindle.

Dear Google, what should I read next?

Voila. I did it. After all that talk, I finally put my money where my mouth is and bought myself a kindle. And though it was a rough ride (delivered it to the wrong address; mother almost claimed it for her prize), it’s finally in my possession, shiny and new and smelling like plastic rather than ink and paper.

I’m excited and have absolutely no clue what I plan to read first. I’m currently enthralled by Adam Gopnik’s rolling prose and insightful observations of the ever frivolous French in “Paris to the Moon.” But it’s a physical book, so there’s no rush to just immediately use the kindle.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about what’s next. What will be the first thing I read on my beloved device? What book could possibly deserve the honors?

I’ll warn you that I still haven’t decided. I’m thinking either a fluffy beach read (if the weather ever bothers to warm up) or something Hemingway or France-related. We’ll see. But in my thinking and research, I came across the following sites that offer insightful suggestions for confused readers.

WhichBook.net is by far my favorite resource because its so interactive and suggests books that I’ve never heard of. In short, the site offers various filter “sliders.” Readers can adjust to four factors (samples include length, sexuality, happy or sad, etc.) to specify their tastes, and generate recommendations. The titles–as far as I’ve seen–are small-name books that I oftentimes have never heard of, but who’s to say they aren’t small-name gems? This site is best if you literally don’t have any jumping off point, or if you want to delve into a new style, genre, amount of sex, etc. If the generator doesn’t peak your interest, there are also numerous lists (by both administrators and users) from which to draw inspiration.

WhatShouldIReadNext.com is also promising. And, yes, I found this by Googling literally “What should I read next?” (Google can be so inspiring!). This site takes a book you know you like and then offers suggestions. It’s nice because you can enter numerous personal favorites and get a wide selection of recommended reads. The downside, of course, is that you get a wide selection of recommended reads, and they’re based largely on similar subjects, rather than similar styles and quality. It’s a simple site, as well, not particularly interactive, and if you want to actually purchase a book, you’ll have to go to amazon or some other site all by yourself. Continue reading

New Thoughts on “To Read or to E-Read”

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post on e-readers, evaluating whether or not I thought they were worth the investment. In the original post, I applauded the stylish covers and the sleek appeal of the readers, but didn’t really understand the appeal. It’s hard to deny my love for the feel and smell of new and old books. Whether they smell like fresh ink or delicious mold, the experience of reading a physical book, of flipping the page and moving a bookmark each night–it’s intoxicating.

However, since writing that post, I’ve also moved a whopping three times. In one year. And in the next couple of months, I’m moving several more times.

And however obvious this may be to regular folk, I’ve come to the realization that books are freaking heavy.

I probably have two or three boxes worth of books in my current apartment. And before I left for school, I packed up another eight or nine meticulously labeled boxes… chick lit, classics, antiques, and personal favorites. I’m a book nerd, I know. For years, I’ve imagined a dream apartment with hardwood floors, brightly painted walls, lofted ceilings,  a spiral staircase and floor-to-ceiling books. And a dog (obviously).

I love books, but–what with moving around the world and such–I’m in a purge mode right now, and am not all that keen on lugging and storing countless boxes of crap.

So, in the spirit of minimalism, I’m thinking about it… and in true Marian form, I’m reevaluating the pros and cons. Hypothetically speaking… If I were looking for an e-reader, it would be simple. No need for colorful gadgets, no need for games or tablet-like features. I have an iPhone, already. Let’s get serious.

Ideally, it would be small, portable, last forever with one battery charge, have a super adorable case, and frequently emit that new book scent from some hidden sensory disbursement thingamajigger.

Obviously, it doesn’t exist. Continue reading

What I’m Reading: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Cutting for Stone. By Abraham Verghese. VINTAGE.

I have this theory… Oftentimes, I opt to read nonfiction books because they are easy to relate to, easy to get through, and because I think that nonfiction books are more consistently good.

But if I’m being honest, fiction is my true love. Though some novels are too dense or too unimportant, un-relatable, some are extraordinary. Fiction books may not be as consistent, but when they’re good, they’re great.

And every once in a while, a novel tend to sneak up and surround me in its quiet embrace. What starts as simply another book turns into a mild obsession. I read while I walk to work, I read on the train, I read while hanging out with my friends. I carry the book around me even when I’m not reading it. Without it, I feel like I’m missing a limb.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is equal parts comforting and lovey-dovey, but also harshly realistic and honest about the mistakes of fate. And while it took me more than a month to finish (Eek!), I blame working weird hours and not the book itself.

It begins in Ethiopia with the births of two conjoined twins, and follows one—Marion—through his loss, his love, his naivety, struggle, and his journey home—wherever that may be. It’s a carefully crafted, “Hero’s Journey”-esque book, rich with historic detail (real and imagined) and personal experience. The author, himself a doctor from Ethiopia spent years interviewing and researching a variety of subjects, and his thorough work is evident.

But what takes Cutting for Stone to the level of greatness isn’t the careful compiling of historical facts; it’s the careful compiling of sentences.

Sometimes the words in his book read more like poetry than narrative, which is exactly what makes the book so engrossing. In his “Acknowledgements,” Verghese credits many phrases to authors, poets, experiences, even Shakespeare. He put in just as much work an effort into the crafting and presentation of his words as to his story—something, as a writer, I can’t help but be in awe of.

Marion’s story, written by anyone else, would be sad but forgettable, good. But paired with Verghese’s carefully chosen diction, it’s great.


Random Thought To Ponder: Amortentia

So… in Harry Potter, there’s this super powerful love potion (Amortentia) that smells different to every person depending on what they like.

It’s similar to Sebold’s description of heaven in The Lovely Bones.

Anyway, ever think about what your potion/heaven would smell like?

Mine would be… jasmine flowers and Love Spell perfume and conditioner and Old Spice and salt air and sunscreen and green tea and the waxy lipstick smell. All that mixed with books. And by books I mean the fresh crack, ink-and-paper, new book smell, as well as the musky, moldy, has-a-life-story smell of old books. Both are so intoxicating-ly delicious.

Like I said… random thought.