Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reading Miss Oprah

It's safe to say that reading is one of the passions of my life. I love to read. Make that--I LOVE TO READ. I am ALWAYS in the middle of at least one book. And I love to find and read "terrific reads"--I've even written about a few of those on this blog.

As an English lit major, I had better love reading. Out of curiosity, I began recording all the books I have read--as well as I can recall them. I try to write them down as I read them. Going back to my English lit days, I have read about 450 books. That means I have been averaging about 10 books a year. Hmmmm--I must have missed some on that list, as I know I read more than 10 books a year.

Painting: Young Girl Reading by Fragonard
Now that I have a Kindle (which I got as a Christmas present), I can read several books at once without making the book pile next to my bed too high. I have downloaded 6 books on my Kindle, and have finished one of those.

I haven't recommended a book as a terrific read for quite some time. The last book that I did recommend was Water for Elephants, which I finished in September, 2007. A few books that I read since then came close: Purple Hibiscus by the young Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was very good. I also enjoyed Monica Ali's Brick Lane--but each of these fell short of "terrific read" because of a few flaws--example Brick Lane's fizzled ending.

So, what do I mean--Reading Miss Oprah. When it comes to picking books, I tend to eschew someone else's list: The NY Times bestseller list, or
Oprah's list. Pfffftttt--if I am not inclined, I won't read the book. But, this time, I did buy one that has the big OPRAH sticker on the front: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I am still midway in the book, so I won't know if I like this one or not for a bit.

Right before starting into Edgar, I read This Republic of Suffering. I found that work to be a marvelous piece of careful research. Written by Drew Faust Gilpin who is president of Harvard, the book details how the Civil War changed our view of death. Prior to the Civil War, death was a family affair--people died at home, surrounded by loving family. They were prepared for burial by family, and were lovingly laid in graves near their homes. The Civil War changed all that. Soldiers died under horrific circumstance, far from home, in absolute anonymity. Sometimes families did not even know if their sons, fathers, lovers, or brothers had died. The men died in battle, and lay on the abandoned fields of fighting for weeks and months after combat had ceased. Their corpses were left to the elements, and to scavengers--both human and animal. Rarely was a body shipped home. As a result of these radical changes in the manner of death, we never recovered that idyllic view of death that dominated pre-Civil War.

While the book is a terrific read (in my "book"), I recommend it only if the subject matter appeals to you.

So, now you can see why I needed to read Miss Oprah--after This Republic of Suffering, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, about a mute boy whose father dies under mysterious circumstances, seems like a light read!


Liza Lee Miller said...

Sounds fascinating. You read more deeply than I do. I look for escape . . . fantasy, romance, escape. I enjoy your reviews, however and maybe you'll inspire me to dive in to the deep end again and read some books "worthy" of a Lit Major.

Lynne said...

I love a good read and I always look forward to your reviews too. I tried The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and stalled. I hate not finishing a book so I'll try it again later. I shy away from Oprah's list as I found most of those book too emotionally intense. I too tend to read for escape. I did read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and even though it was very difficult for me, I was glad I stuck with it.

NCmountainwoman said...

I picked up "The Republic of Suffering" when I saw it on your book pile. Very interesting, although painful to read. I love books that teach me a lot of things I didn't think about.

I can highly recommend my most recent read. It's "The Help," a first novel by Kathryn Stockett. Fascinating novel about women in the deep South in the 60s and the relationships between the black maids and the "gentlewomen."

Dog_geek said...

I just finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle myself, since my mother got it for Christmas, read it and then loaned it to me to read. It got very mixed reviews from my dog-training friends - some liked it, some really hated it. I liked it, I think. (It is still digesting.)

Jayne said...

I love to read too, and have found, since I got my Kindle, I am reading more than I have in a long time. It's with me wherever I go and I find so many more opportunities to read now. I'll have to check out Water for Elephants. :c)

Ruth said...

Like Lynne, I find Oprah's recommendations too depressing. I deal with sickness and death every day at work and need something else to inspire my leisure time. Sometimes though I am up for a challenge and plan to start reading Middlemarch this week.

KGMom said...

To all-thanks for joining in the reading discussion. My own epiphany regarding reading: never continue reading a book you are not enjoying. STOP--read something else. You have only so much time to read, and life is short. So read what inspires you!

Liza--I can understand why you would want to use reading as escape--when I taught lit. I didn't want to read anything weighty in my spare time.

Lynne--Edgar Sawtelle is a quick read for me; that's how I am reading it. Not pausing. We'll see. I do understand quitting a book that is not rewarding. Why bother reading?

NC--I will have to look up "The Help."

DogGeek--I thought of you as I started into the descriptions of dog training. Some of that is a bit overdone in the book (IMHO).

Jayne--Oh do do do check out Water For Elephants. I just loved it.

Ruth--you find George Eliot inspiring? Actually, I just went back & read a summary of Middlemarch. Hmmm--that's what I call heavy reading. I have always, though, found George Eliot herself to be inspiring. She lived her life on her terms--never mind what Victorian England might have thought.

JeanMac said...

I read most anything and have read 2 books on Civil War - last year - can't remember titles. It was really different from how school presented the history.

grammy said...

hi, I stopped by and read a little here. 'I get by with a little help from depends'...lol...Remembered how much I liked Fahrenheit 451...wonder if I should read it again. Did you like Edgar Sawtelle? I also thought about reading that.

KGMom said...

Welcome Grammy--I am about half way through with Edgar.
I think I will do a review when I am done. I am not sure if I will be recommending it or not. SO far it is too plot driven

RuthieJ said...

I love to read too, but usually not anything from the bestseller or Oprah lists. My recommendations usually come from Amazon or friends and relatives. I saw that book about the Civil War on your blog here Donna and need to get it checked out from my local library.

Ruth said...

I don't know yet if I find Geo Eliot's writing inspiring. Our psychologist at the hospital recommended Middlemarch to me and my daughter had a copy, so I will give it a try. Will let you know...Perhaps I will just end up watching the miniseries.

Mary said...

You are definitely a deep reader. I read more lighthearted books - romance, comedy...

Oprah's list doesn't disappoint, so I've heard.

femail doc said...

I quit 'Edgar' mid-read, skimmed to the end, what am I missing? Very dull and weird. Civil War book sounds great. Just finished "The Wilderness" by Samantha Harvey, also a bit weird and a difficult read as it centers on the disordered inner life of a man with Alzheimer's disease. Wonderful though, her writing reminds me of Ian McEwan's. Also recently read "Lost Horizons" which was thought-provoking and so well-written complete with a you-finish-it sort of ending.