My Pulitzer Project

Motherhood has afforded more time to read than I expected (Keep eating, Nolan! I want to finish this chapter!), and over the last two months I’ve polished off nearly a dozen books. Yesterday I was moseying around the library looking for inspiration in the fiction section when I picked up Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I noticed that it won the Pulitzer and an idea struck me! I should (try to) read all (some) of the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction. I looked over the list of winners and counted that I’ve only read seven so far: Olive Kitteridge, The Hours, A Thousand Acres, Beloved, The Killer Angels (I have no recollection of this one), To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Old Man and the Sea. Finalists after 1980 are also listed and I’ve only read two of those: The Poisonwood Bible and The Things They Carried.

So I am going to work my way through the list. If I think a book looks awful, I will probably skip it. If I get 100 pages into a story and it is sucking the life out of me, I’ll leave it. I know some people HAVE to finish a book once it is started but I am definitely not one of those people. Life is too short and there are too many books out there to waste my time on one I dread reading (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom). 

Take a look at the winners’ list and see how many you have read! Any books there that you loved or that I steer clear of?

What I’m Reading / What I’ve Read

Ok, so I just finished the third installment in the Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Oy. I have very mixed feelings. Before I describe my feelings, I will give my rating: 3 out of 5.

I know the author tragically died before the books were published, so I feel a little guilty saying this, but he is probably the worst judge of women’s thoughts and behaviors I’ve ever encountered. While the books purport themselves to be feminist, they’re not. Just because several men are vilified, doesn’t make the books feminist. Any heroines in the book are either bisexual or swingers. Now, I love bisexuals! Swingers are lovely! But I found it insulting that the only way a woman could be deemed strong or independent was to fit into one of those categories. He pretty much implied that monogamy means you’re weak and submissive.  And the way every single woman fawns over the leading male? ENOUGH!

I also found that I was actually skipping past pages that were just so unnecessary and dry. Ugh. If I hadn’t been so invested in the characters from the previous two books, I probably would have rated it a 2. So there.

Next up is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Angel’s Game. It was decent, I’ll give it 3.5 out of 5. One thing is for sure, I definitely want to visit Barcelona. The book makes it sound beautiful and mysterious and wonderful. There were some interesting twists and turns, a few gasps, and several dozen eye rolls, but I enjoyed it.

The book club at my job is discussing it in September so I may have more to say then. I’m very curious to see what my coworkers thought about it.

Now onto what I’m reading. I just started Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. So far, so good!

Kathryn Stockett

From the publisher:

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

What I’m Reading

With hopes that I’ll be a diligent book clubber this year, I’ve started our summer read, The Angel’s Game. Written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, it’s a supernatural-ish mystery set in Barcelona in the early 20th century. Zafon also wrote The Shadow of the Wind, which I’ve heard wonderful things about but have not yet read.

Image: Barnes and Noble

From the publisher:

From the author of the international phenomenon The Shadow of the Wind, comes a riveting new masterpiece about love, literature, and betrayal.

In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. Thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy.

I’m 170 pages in and it was a little drawn out in the beginning, but it’s starting to get good. Only 300 pages to go…

Blogs I Love – Part II

In case you missed the first few, here is my post about what a blog is and a few you should check out.

On to the next:

Dooce – Heather Armstrong is probably the most popular (and most successful) blogger out there. She began several years ago writing a little blog about her job, wound up getting fired for it, and now has a booming business that all stems from her website. She is funny, honest, and a recovering Mormon.

Project Rungay – Tom and Lorenzo do hilarious write ups of most reality shows on Bravo, judge people on red carpets, love Mad Men and Lost, and are “fabulous and opinionated.”

Girl’s Gone Child – Rebecca Woolf is a hip mom in California and writes about being a mother, a woman, cooking, design, music, everything. Good stuff.

Happy reading!

Cool Website

Need some inspiration before you head to the bookstore? Check out and get some recommendations! Each time you visit the site, you’ll receive a slightly different greeting and empty fields to fill with a book and author you like.

Then it spits back some recommendations. For example, when I entered The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it suggested:

Fun, right?

What I’m Reading

The first 40 pages of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were “eh.” Then I couldn’t put it down. 400 pages later I’m done and very excited to read the second part of the trilogy, Girl who Played with Fire. For some reason I was under the impression that the books in this series were geared toward teens but I was wrong with a capital W. There is some sick stuff in there and some very naughty $ex. (The dollar sign is so I don’t get bombarded with spam …because I would).

The story takes place in Sweden and the names of people and places are a little tough to deal with at first. I had no idea that so many consonants could be arranged together but apparently in Sweden they can. Hammarbyhamnen. Allhelgonagatan. Sodermanannagatan. Those are actual cities and streets. A Swedish movie was made and an English film is supposedly in the works. The title character is a real badass and very fun to read about.

For now though, I need a break from the characters so I’m about to start The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

From the publisher:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this one so I’m looking forward to getting started. Have you read it?

What I’m Reading (and something I just read)

I am proud to announce that I finished my book club’s book in time for this month’s meeting! Ok, so it was only 120 pages…

Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution was entertaining. It’s chock full of SAT words and some vintage language (that’s not really something; I just made it up). Although it’s short, it takes a bit to get through because of the density and all the characters, but it was unique and I was definitely curious to see how (and if) the mystery unfolded in the end. Another of Chabon’s books, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is supposed to be … amazing, so perhaps I’ll give that a try over the summer.

For now, I’m joining the party rather late by starting Eat, Pray, Love. Yeah I know everyone was reading it four years ago when it came out, but I procrastinate so here I am. Have you read it? Thoughts?

What I’m Reading: UPDATE

Remember when I said The 19th Wife was good? I was wrong. I finished it over the weekend and not only felt disappointed, but also a little insulted. I really had a problem with the author’s portrayal of one of the main characters, a gay man – it was one big clichéd stereotype.

And the ending SUCKED.

This month’s book club pick is Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution. It seems quirky and different so I’m looking forward to starting it.

Image: Book Cover Archive

From Barnes and Noble:

In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, prose magician Michael Chabon conjured the golden age of comic books, interwining history, legend and story-telling verve. In The Final Solution, he has condensed his boundless vision to create a short, suspenseful tale of compassion and wit that re-imagines the classic 19th-century detective story.

In deep retirement in the English countryside, an 89-year old man, vaguely recollected by the locals as a once-famous detective, is more concerned with his bookkeeping than his fellow man. Into his life wanders Linus Steinman, nine years old and mute, who has escaped from Nazi Germany with his sole companion: an African grey parrot. What is the meaning of the mysterious strings of German numbers the bird spews out-a top-secret SS code? The keys to a series of Swiss bank accounts? Or do they hold a significance at once more prosaic and far more sinister?

Though the solution to this last case may be beyond even the reach of the once famed sleuth, the true story of the boy and his parrot is subtly revealed to the reader in a wrenching resolution to this brilliant homage. The Final Solution is a work from a master story-teller at the height of his powers.

A Must Read

My friend Loren (what up, girl!) shared this article with me today and it seriously made my day. The New York Times has a weekly series called Modern Love and it’s definitely worth a read. This particular piece, “The Boundaries of a Breakup,” made me laugh out loud so many times that I disturbed the writing conferences that were going on around me. Sorry, colleagues!

On a side note, can I just say how upset I am about LOL? Those letters have basically stolen the whole phrase from me!

Anyway, read “The Boundaries of a Breakup.” It’s clever and smart and just wonderful.