September 7, 2009

Summer Reading

My daughter signed up for the summer reading club at our local public library. She pledged to read at least 20 new books between the beginning of July and the end of the summer. I pledged to match her. Because it was summer, 'light' reading was fine. Here's how we did:


1. Kate Atkinson, When Will There Be Good News?
2. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
3. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
4. Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip
5. Dick (and Felix) Francis, Silks
6. Robert B. Parker, The Godwulf Manuscript
7. Nadeem Aslam, The Wasted Vigil
8. Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
9. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
10. Sarah Dunant, In the Company of the Courtesan
11. Penelope Lively, Consequences
12. Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
13. Ian Colford, Evidence
14. Louise Penny, Dead Cold
15. David Lodge, Deaf Sentence
16. K. Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism
17. Penelope Lively, Cleopatra's Sister
18. Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
19. Deborah Crombie, Where Memories Lie
20. Joseph O'Neill, Netherland (whew, I'm just squeaking this one in under the wire!)


1. Puppy Place: Princess
2. Princess Power: The Charmingly Clever Cousin
3. Puppy Place: Pugsly
4. Alice Finkle's Rules for Girls: Moving Day
5. What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows
6. Happily Every After
7. Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record
8. Clementine's Letter
9. Princess Power: The Awfully Angry Ogre
10. Junie B. Jones, Boss of Lunch
11. Judy Moody M.D., The Doctor is In
12. Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket
13. Ready Freddie, King of Show and Tell
14. Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes
15. Ready Freddie: The Pumpkin Elf Mystery
16. Junie B. Jones, Dumb Bunny
17. Canadian Flyer Adventures: Pioneer Kids
18. The Magic Tree House: Night of the New Magicians

She didn't quite make 20, but as she pointed out, she spent a lot of weeks in summer camps that didn't allow any time at all for reading--which strikes me as interesting and unfortunate, in retrospect. Two weeks were in a science camp, so she learned a lot, and two in a "mini-university" camp, also a good mix of education and fun. The YMCA camp was all outings and swimming; these are both good things, and I know we are all obsessing about keeping kids physically active, but aren't books important too? I'm sure Maddie would also want me to point out that we are pretty inflexible about bedtimes. But you see, that's important so that I can get some reading done! And she and I are both proud of all the reading she did.

I enjoyed most of the books I read, but the highlights for me were certainly The Wasted Vigil, Mrs Dalloway, and The Lost. In the Company of the Courtesans and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were the low points, the first because it was all show and no substance, the second because it somehow managed to be at once prurient and dull. I'm still thinking about Netherland, which I just finished. I have never thought so much about cricket, before, that's for sure; until I read it, the only other literary cricket scene I knew was the awesome match in Dorothy L. Sayers's Murder Must Advertise (I love that scene!).


Colleen said...

Question: You listed all the authors for the books you read and none for the books Maddie read - why?

nicole said...

"somehow managed to be at once prurient and dull"

You sure nailed that one! The second book is even more so, on both counts. Sort of amazing, really...and not in a good way.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Colleen: No good reason, just that usually when I was updating the list she would remind me of the titles and that's what I would jot down. I suppose I could (should?) go add in the authors.

Nicole: So what do you suppose explains all the effusive praise and hype? Maybe people think they'll come across as unsophisticated if they admit not liking the latest European sensation? (Clearly, you and I are not similarly inhibited.)

Jeanne said...

I'm laughing at "prurient and dull" even though I enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequel. I'll have to think more about why. I didn't read it in any intellectual way; just thought it was a grand mystery story.

nicole said...

I think the praise from ordinary readers is genuine, and I think it comes from a desire for prurience which is made licit here through the sophistication of being Scandinavian rather than simply trashy and American. Putting a sexy thriller in the context of a society that's ultra-progressive socially and full of sort of calm, rational people who spend a lot of time out in the cold makes it feel like a very different read than, say, Dan Brown. So I don't think it's fear of seeming unsophisticated, but a genuine feeling that this is sophisticated for Americans reading the book in this context of foreignness. And to stereotype some more, I'd guess a lot of the people who'd normally be reading something more literary would also be more apt to be attracted by that particular brand of foreignness. (That last comment makes me think it could be seductive for many professional reviewers as well, though I admit not really reading any professional reviews of these books.)

Perhaps your inhibitions are removed by being Canadian rather than American and therefore that much less impressed by the differences.

This idea of mine is also influenced by the fact that I've read a few of the Kurt Wallander mysteries by Henning Mankell, because those are qualities I really like: calm, cool, deliberate, unsuperstitious, largely unsentimental, but still righteous. That sort of thing. But Mankell is way better.