5

Waiting It Out: Paperbacks

I have been waiting all year for the 5th book in the Buckshaw Chronicles to come out in paperback. I started buying the books in paperback and they are so good looking sitting side by side in the same format, that I’m doomed to have to wait it out each time a new volume is released. The fifth book, Speaking from Among the Bones did the paperback thing on Tuesday.

I went on Tuesday to collect a copy for myself. But I couldn’t find it anywhere and since I was on a time crunch, I figured I’d just come back the next day (one of the perks/curses of working near a bookstore – I can always come back the next day). Wednesday found me back in the bookstore searching and searching and searching, circling around the store with zero luck until I happened upon a store employee who took pity on me and helped me out. They did have paperbacks of the book but they were still in the box in the back! 

She went back and minutes later came out with her arms full of brand new, never-been-touched, fresh-out-the-box copies of Speaking from Among the Bones paperbacks. And then I got to choose one.

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Book nerd glory.

Since the season of giving is upon us and some of us really do wait for paperback versions of our favourite books to come out, I thought I would run down a couple of my personal paperback favourites that have just been released.

The Dinner by Herman Koch. I actually already own this in the hardcover format but I see that it has just come out in paperback and that’s excellent news for my book club as this is our next selection. Two brothers and their wives go out for dinner one summer night in Amsterdam to discuss their teenaged sons’ recent activities. Tension runs just below the surface of the meal at a fancy restaurant until the whole thing blows up. I can’t wait to read this again and then get to talk about it. It is twisted and uncomfortable and oh so current.

One of the best books I read this year (and possibly that I’ve ever read), Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. This book is massive and if paperback had been available earlier this year, I might have gone for it. Would have saved myself some neck pain. This book is incredible. Whether you have children or not, this book forces you to take a closer look at what it means to be human. Often it is a tough book to read, I personally had a really hard time with the chapter about children conceived in rape, but I think it’s an incredibly important one.

J.K. Rowling’s fans were heavily divided on The Casual Vacancy but if you were waiting for the paperback version before you got in on the debate, wait no more. I really liked this book – it was different from Harry Potter but that was the whole point. Rowling proved that she is a gifted storyteller no matter the genre and the end? The end was one of the most spectacular endings I’ve ever experienced.

Finally, if you’re on the Buckshaw Chronicles wagon and adore Flavia de Luce (and if you’ve read any of the books, you do), the 6th book (The Dead in their Vaulted Arches) is released (in hardcover, boo) in January. So next fall I will be all over that paperback!

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2

Trivia Collecting

Last year I didn’t read enough non-fiction. This was a conclusion I reached after doing my 2012 Year in Review. I typically enjoy reading non-fiction (mainly biographies, histories and certain works of cultural significance) but for whatever reason, last year was mostly about fiction for me.

So I decided that in 2013, I would make more of an effort to read non-fiction.

As of this writing, I have definitely kept my word. With myself, but really if you can’t keep a promise to yourself…this seems to work with books and reading but never quite stretches to when I try and make myself go for a run. I can rationalize all kinds of ways not to do that.

But non-fiction I did read.

As of writing, I have read 64 books this year and just over 20% of those have been non-fiction! I even did math to make that come out in a percentage.

I read some completely irreverent books by some very funny ladies (Jen Lancaster, Mindy Kaling and Jenny Lawson) that totally count as non-fiction. Bill Bryson took me on a tour of the home through the ages, giving me all sorts of trivia that is sure to come in handy for ice breakers or games of Trivial Pursuit. I satisfied some of my Downton Abbey withdrawl with a closer look at one of the women who was mistress of Highclere Castle and enjoyed a very gossipy biography of the Churchills.

I loved Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead and recognized a lot of my own behaviour and hang ups in her words. I read Howard Schultz’s Onwards about the culture at Starbucks which did absolutely nothing to curb my daily Starbucks addiction. I loved Nancy Jo Sales’ The Bling Ring even though it made me want to watch a seriously trashy reality show (Pretty Wild) to see firsthand some of the events she described. (It’s on Netflix if you get the same urge)

Overall I know that my very favourite non-fiction read this year (and maybe ever) was Far From the Tree: Children, Parents and the Search for Identity. That book still pops up in my life every once in a while – like this morning when the cover of my local paper showed a transgendered girl grinning from ear to ear in her new identity while her parents fight for her right to be identified as a girl in school. Far From the Tree was one of the most honest, eye-opening, heartbreaking, hopeful and brilliant books I’ve ever read.

And I just went to the library and picked up 3 more non-fiction titles (Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens, High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly and Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric) so we’re not done with 2013 yet!

I think a lot of people tend to dismiss non-fiction as boring or hard to read. But there are some insanely well-written non-fiction books out there. Sometimes they even make you forget that you’re learning new things.

And you know that when I’m done with 2013, I will totally be able to kick your butt at Trivial Pursuit.

7

Far From the Tree

After reviewing my Books Read 2012 list, I told myself that in 2013 I would read more non-fiction. I love non-fiction – history, biographies, culture – I love it all. But for some reason, there wasn’t a lot of it in 2012 (for me).

Nearly 2 months into 2013 and I’m off to a good start: Onward, Lady Almina and At Home have already been added to my Books Read 2013 list.

But the one I was most looking forward to reading was Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.

I first read about this book on the Huffington Post’s Book section. When I was next in the bookstore I made a point of searching it out, read the first 2 lines and knew I had to have it. But it was Christmas time and any book hoarder will know, you can’t buy yourself books at that time of year. Far too risky. So I waited.

Good things come to those who wait – I got a whole bunch of book gift cards for Christmas and Far From the Tree was the first book I ran out to buy.

Andrew Solomon started writing this book as a way to work through his own complicated relationship with his parents. He is gay and it was always something that separated him from his parents in a negative way, something that he struggled with for a very long time. As a way of working through this relationship he decided to research how otherness affects the relationship between parents and children. He interviewed families of children who are deaf, dwarfs, have Down syndrome, are Autistic, Schizophrenic, commit crimes, are a product of rape, have severe mental and physical disabilities, or are Transgendered.

The central theme of his research seemed to be the decisions surrounding acceptance or trying to find a cure. For example people that have Down syndrome and a lot of their families, don’t think of Down syndrome as something that needs a cure – it is just a different way of being. Other families wish that there was a cure, or are very open about the fact that had they known before, they would have terminated the pregnancy. Each in their own way struggle with the acceptance of difference and/or the wish that things were different.

This book is heavy and if you read it in public, be warned that there is a high possibility of you crying in front of strangers. The chapter about children conceived in rape was particularly difficult to get through. But there are also lots of stories that are inspiring, like the parents that embrace their transgendered children despite the fact that in a lot of communities this is actually a very dangerous thing to do (what’s that about anyway? They are children).

I loved this book. I’ve been telling a lot of people about it and I know at least one person that has bought it for herself and I’m working on a second person. She won’t be a hard sell I don’t think.

I think that this book is an eye opener. A reminder to celebrate our differences, even the ones that terrify us.

4

Big Books

I’m making my way through another big book. This time it’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity. Which actually looks worse than it is. It’s a massive, very heavy hardcover absolutely crammed full of information. But while the page numbers run well past 900, once you factor in all the notes and the bibliography, it’s only 700 pages of actual reading.

The same could not be said for Les Miserables, because my copy did not have any notes. I read all 1202 of those pages.

Because I have a goal of the amount of books that I read every year, I tend to shy away from tackling really big books. The thinking is that taking time on those books will hurt my chances of achieving my goal. (One year I was one book short of my goal and I was super sad about it.) I clearly also have terrible memories of taking 3 weeks to get through Daniel Deronda.

But I digress.

I’ve been working at 2 very intimidating looking books in a fairly short amount of time and, as we’re all aware, people like to comment on reading material. Especially if they also fancy themselves readers (I’m afraid that I have a rather lofty impression of what actually constitutes a reader). Aside from the “whoa that’s a big book” comments, what I’m hearing most often is that they would never read a book that big.

And I’m left wondering why that is?

Don’t you ever finish with a book and wish that there was more to it? Big books have more!

Don’t you ever feel like maybe the book was wrapped up too quickly, like they ran out of space? Big books do not do that. They wrap up perfectly in their own sweet time.

You could argue that big books are heavier and you don’t want to lug them around. I’d be inclined to agree with you today – Far From the Tree is a heavy mofo. But with ereaders as popular as they are, there’s no reason for you not to attempt to read War and Peace (there shouldn’t be any pages missing anyway) or Anna Karenina or Middlemarch.

Are long books always classics? No – there are plenty of recent books that are long too. I just can’t think of any… biographies can be long! The Queen Mother’s biography was massive. But then, she did live until she was 102 so that was a lot of life to cover. I know that you can get a 3-volume biography of Winston Churchill as well. But that’s broken up into sections.

What’s my point here?

Don’t be afraid of long books! Sometimes they are the very best ones.