What are YOU reading?

[Categories: Literature, Reading.]

But enough about YOU.  What about ME?

It seems like I’m reading EVERYTHING (exaggeratedly of course).

I’ve been reading a lot of ‘stuff’ lately and still have a lot of ‘stuff’ to read.

[Click on photos to enlarge, if you are so inclined.]

Since December I’ve read or I’m reading:
Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes mystery). [Finished reading.]
Sycamore Row, John Grisham.  [Finished.]
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.  [Finished.]
Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Mayhew editor. [Re-reading.]
LIFE World War II photo history.  [Reading.]
A Time To Kill, John Grisham.  [Read half.  On hold.]
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins.  [Finished.]
Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers.  (Yes, Mary Poppins.  I’ll explain.)  [Reading.]
Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2014: Comedy.  (Digital copy FINALLY accessed.  Still waiting on print edition.  (Finally arrived.))  [Reading.]
(I’m NOT reading L.Q. Winter 2012: Family pictured above.  It was just in the stack.)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins.  [Reading.]

Hound of the Baskervilles

‘Hound’ was a free book from Apple’s iBooks store.  Who hasn’t heard of if not read some of the Victorian-era mysteries about the great London detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson.  Who also hasn’t admired the almost super-human powers of deduction and reasoning from Holmes’ superb (albeit fictional) intellect.  (See here and  here for further info on Holmesian deduction.)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings have translated to a GREAT many movie and TV works over time.  The 1939 movie Hound of the Baskervilles starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (“Watson!  The needle!”) is one.  The current TV series Elementary has a modern-day Sherlock (played by Jonny Lee Miller) and female Dr. Watson (Lucy Liu).  Masterpiece Theater, PBS, (home of Downton Abbey) is starting Season 3 of Sherlock.  Even the non-Holmesian TV series The Mentalist is based on fictional police consultant Patrick Jane’s powers of inference.

I thought I had read ‘Hound’ as a teen but a few things surprised me that I didn’t recall.  They were the discussions between Holmes and a character doctor about skull shapes and thusly inferred characteristics of ‘the negro’ and the Esquimaux (French for Eskimo apparently).  I don’t know if Doyle had an interest in this pseudoscience of phrenology and the similar pseudoscience of physiognomy.  I know from other reading that these 19th-century studies contributed to ongoing condescension, persecution, and prejudice toward Jews that culminated in the WWII Holocaust.  I haven’t researched Doyle’s interest in the subjects and assume it was harmless by-product of existing but fallible science of his time.  (Somewhat like ‘global warming is a settled science’ (Al Gore).  But that’s a whole other story.)

Otherwise ‘Hound’ is a classic representation of the Sherlock Holmes genre.  I recommend it for that.

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John Grisham’s latest lawyer-oriented mystery novel Sycamore Row was yet another page-turner, page-burner that I inhaled in a very short time.  According to my Goodreads list (sign on required?) I’ve read about 8 of the 22 or so Grisham novels.  I have no desire to read every one but Row was the usual tightly-woven story with suspenseful plot lines that twist and turn to a surprising conclusion.  I recommend it for Grisham and/or mystery lovers.

Sycamore Row is actually a sequel to Grisham’s 1989 very first novel A Time To Kill which many may know from the 1996 movie starring  Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson.

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As the later paperback edition’s Author’s Note explains, Kill was first published in 1989 and relatively unnoticed until 1991’s The Firm “aroused new interest”.  Sycamore Row refers to Kill so much I felt like I know a lot of the story.  I’ve read half of Kill and I’ve set it aside.  It’s the first Grisham work that I did not find gripping and unstoppable.  The basic familiarity with the story due to Sycamore Row spoiled it somewhat.  I also find the story to be a bit more meandering and disconnected than usual.  Perhaps I’ll start it again when I’ve caught up a bit on the rest of my reading.

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M’lady and I have been wanting to see The Hunger Games movies because of superb young actress (actor to you PC’ers) Jennifer Lawrence, she of the fine performances in the quirky Silver Linings Playbook and equally quirky American Hustle, both of which we have seen.

M’lady bought the trilogy of books, Hunger Games, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Hunger Games: Mockingjay, as part of an online order to bump her into free shipping.  (Funny how that works.)  She has finished the three, I’m on the third.  They are adventuresome and entertaining.  They are essentially one single book.  I suspect they would be unfulfilling read alone or in reverse order.

They are supposed to be teen/young adult reading.  Though we are not prudes m’lady and I both took a bit of exception with the overriding plot of selected 12-18 yr. olds being forced into annual ‘games’ of fighting to the death in a post-apocalyptic society.  It’s a free world, I’m good with that, and this is fiction.  It does emphasize how much violence pervades our ‘entertainment’ culture in books, movies, and television.  It’s a good thing we are civilized in the real world.

We will soon be viewing the movies already released of the first two books.

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Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has been sitting by my bedside for ages, having first read it 3 years ago.  It is superb and I highly recommend it, if you have read Atlas Shrugged.  The first essay clearly explains the structure and story of Atlas but is not a shortcut to avoid reading it.  Atlas does not translate well to Cliff’s Notes or any other abbreviated explanation for non-readers, IMO.  I’m looking forward to continuing this insightful and educational re-read.

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Mary Poppins?  Why not?  I’m one of 2 or 3 people in the U.S. who haven’t seen the 1964 Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke kid’s movie musical by Walt Disney.  I was in college and never looked back.  I was prompted to inquire about the book because m’lady and I, looking for some light movie viewing last month, went to see Saving Mr. Banks.  It is about Walt Disney, played by a somewhat heavy-looking Tom Hanks, attempting to get author P.L. Travers, superbly played by Emma Thompson, to allow him to make a movie of her book.  In addition to Disney’s interactions with the stubborn Travers, the back-story is intriguing, about Travers’ childhood with a loving but self-destructive alcoholic father, and how perhaps the Mary Poppins book was compensating for those sad memories.

The book is entertaining, from a child’s perspective (8-10 yr. olds I’d guess?), and mercifully short from my perspective (109 pages on my free local library e-book reader).  Perhaps not unlike Travers’ own desire to escape bad memories the book adds periods of fantasy to episodes of everyday life.  I like it, though it’s not as deep as Winnie the Pooh.  If you really want to know about children’s books there is a woman on Goodreads, midnightfaerie, who reviews 10-20 books a week.  Enjoy.

LIFE photo history of WWII.

I lost in the bidding on a copy at our August reunion of the 104th Infantry Division Timberwolves and Pups but m’lady thoughtfully found a copy on the internet to give me for Christmas.  My copy is a new 2001 edition with a nicely bound and embossed hardcover, gold-colored edging on the pages, shiny ribbon-like material inside the covers, and a bookmark ribbon attached.

There are short essays covering various periods of the war and each photo has an explanation and credit.  Most of the photos are in that now-surreal black and white format.  Dead and/or naked bodies are scattered about, just like in war.  Even though I’m a veteran I’m not a WWII buff per se nor a fan of any war, but IMO WWII may have been the last war in which we were united in a clear purpose, though they may not have thought so at the time.  As wars grow dim and distant, something that happened or happens ‘over there’, I think a reminder of the horrors is healthy, lest we forget.  This is a good book for that.

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In the spirit of last but not least and saving the best for last, my Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2014: Comedy FINALLY arrived mid- to late-January.  I struggled, STRUGGLED I tell you, to get my digital access and print edition.  Lapham’s apparently has a new publisher and my copies were not sent until I politely but virtually pounded on the publisher’s desk with my Krushchev-like virtual shoe and Stalinesque iron fist.  (Something about those Russians.)  LQ is the finest compendium of literature about various themes covering the beginning of written history to the present and the greatest authors thereof.  A few copies can be found every quarter in finer bookstores (my local Tattered Cover sells them, sniff, sniff) but a subscription is a decent cost savings and the high quality, artful print editions add more than a touch of class to any bookshelf, large or small.  I highly recommend it.  Click HERE to see my previous posts reviewing or referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.

OK.  If you must, tell me what are YOU reading?

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About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
Gallery | This entry was posted in Book review, Books, Fiction, Lapham, Lapham's, Lapham's Quarterly, Literature, Murder, Mystery, Non-fiction, Periodicals, Philosophy, Reading, Science fiction and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What are YOU reading?

  1. cindy knoke says:

    I am reading, “A Doubters Almanac,” by Ethan Canin. It is excellent~

    • JohnRH says:

      Intriguing. Kudos of this book include those by recently deceased author Pat Conroy. I suspect you are a high-energy person to be plummeting the depths of my blog and actually reading posts to like. From the time it takes me to compose a post on my own blog I know you must spend a huge amount of time maintaining and replying to your own posts. A monumental task. Thank you for viewing my pedestrian efforts.

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