I love the idea behind the What's in a Name challenge. Even though I have not completed the challenge for the last two years, I am trying again. Maybe 2012 will be a lucky year for challenge completion.
Here's How It Works
Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories. My selections will appear after the category name as I finish reading:
- A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title:
- A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title:
- A book with a creepy crawly in the title:
- A book with a type of house in the title: Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult My review is here.
- A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Operating Instructions: A Journal of my Son's First Year by Anne Lammott My review is here.
- A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: March by Geraldine Brooks My review is here.
One miscarriage too many spelled the end of Max and Zoe Baxter's marriage. Though the former couple went quite separate ways, their fates remained entangled: After veering into alcoholism, Max is saved in multiple senses by his fundamentalist conversion; Zoe, for her part, finds healing relief in music therapy and the friendship, then romantic love with Vanessa, her counselor. After Zoe and Vanessa, now married, decide to have a baby, they realize that they must join battle with Max, who objects on both religious and financial grounds.
Pages: 496 (hardback)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the public library
The only thing I had been reading since the beginning of the year was bar exam study materials; one of the many reasons I was excited to be finished with the test was the chance to read again. While we were on vacation, Partner's aunt and uncle were able to watch the Little Lady while I pumped. As a result, I got to read!
Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult is the selection for the March meeting of the Partners and Professors book club. The book is a good read for when you are hungry for a good story. I did not know much about the plot before I began. I watched an interview that Picooult did with Ellen Degeneres about how some of the proceeds from book sales were going to the the Trevor Project.
My favorite thing about the book was how the lives and relationships between the characters illustrated that love makes a family. The contrast between what is assumed for heterosexual couples and what must be proven for same sex couples is striking. Instead of being preachy, the point is made simply by getting inside the characters' heads as they grapple with various hurdles.
I also appreciated that none of the characters were one dimensional. When I think of religious zealots who attack homosexuals, picket abortion clinics, or who constantly try to push their religious world view on others, I get VERY upset. One thing I learned from the novel is that even within the religious community there are different degrees of how to practice, judgment, and methods of making a point. While it is not my world view, I could relate to Max grappling with wanting to belong to the church community and accepting their beliefs while feeling a connection to his ex-wife.
I wish that the ending had been a bit stronger. I love sweet and happy endings, but the ending of this book did not fit as well with the rest of the novel. I wanted the story to be unpacked a little more. Although, I think that would have made a pretty hefty book much longer. I am looking forward to our book club discussion to see what everyone else thought.
This is my first full read of 2012 and I hope that enjoy the rest of the books I read this year as much or more than this one!
I am counting the book for the following challenges:
Last year, I made a resolution to read one more book than I did in 2010. My goal was to read 20 books this year and I read 10. I was also hoping to do better with the challenges that I had signed up for, but I broke a record of not finishing a single challenge this year. In some ways I had more time to read because I had a job for which I took the metro to and from work. The job was demanding in a way that made it hard for me to focus at the end of the day. I wanted to zone out or sleep which cut down on my reading time. In January, I found out I was pregnant. Morning sickness, fatigue, staring at my swollen feet, and touching my belly in wonderment were all distractions from reading.
About a month before I was due, a pipe burst in our house. We had mold and flood damage. It was very stressful to not know if we were going to be in our house before our baby arrived. While I technically had time to read between finishing my job and the baby's arrival, I was stressed and trying to do as much preparation as I could from our extended stay hotel. Six hours after getting back to our house, before anything was unpacked, my water broke. My daughter arrived on September 17th. Since then, I have been in a whirlwind of adjusting to parenthood and setting up house. I am amazed that I managed to read even a little bit to finish The Emperor of All Maladies which I had begun in May and got to double digits in my reading.
With all of that in mind, I am going to have a modest goal of reading 12 books in 2012. Because I love the idea of them, I will also sign up for a few challenges, but not expect to finish. Until March 1st, I will be preparing for the MA bar exam which is incredibly stressful. Most of my pleasure reading will be magazines until then. As a reward and to make it easier to read when I am holding a baby, I think that I will get an ereader. In spite of a low number of books completed, I still had an amazing year! I am glad that books were part of that and I look forward to more in the new year!
The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer.
Pages: 571 (Hardcover)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Source: Originally checked out from the library and then given to me by Partner as a second anniversary present
I started reading The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee in May and I cannot recall exactly why I picked up the book. I think it was a combination of curiosity and a need to have a book that would count towards many challenges. The book is really long and dense, so I created a strategy which would give me a built in break. I checked it out from the library and there was a long waiting list. I figured that I would read the book as much as I could for the three week period, then return the book and enjoy other things while I waited to return to the top of the list. My sweet Partner changed that approach when he gave me my own copy for our second wedding anniversary. I read the book during the last trimester of my pregnancy. This impacted my reading time because things got very hectic towards the end and then I had very limited reading time with a newborn. I wish I could say that the extra time gave me the chance to develop a more insightful review, but the reality is that I am writing the review in bits and pieces. Much like my reading, it will be sporadic and hopefully filled with at least something useful :)
What amazed me most about the book was how it is a combination of history and personal stories. At various points, I felt like I was reading a soap opera as I was learning about the various people who changed the approach to cancer treatment and diagnosis. Some aspects of cancer treatment are timeless-- fear, panic, and hope that a particular approach will work. Another common theme running through the book is that all the researchers, fundraisers, and doctors who had a breakthrough were both persistent and imaginative. They kept seeking an answer to various questions and then were open to novel ways in which to seek answers.
My favorite parts of the book were reading about the evolution of the patient doctor relationship. I liked the correlations and crossovers between the feminist movement and cancer patients. I also liked the links made between those who were advocating for better HIV/AIDS treatment and finding a cure for cancer. Patients as partners in the health care decision making is certainly a change of which I am supportive. I wanted to know more about the relationship between traditional medicine and "alternative approaches." The book did not discuss much about the emphasis on healthier diets and exercise on the battle against cancer; although, I imagine that more detailed discussions would have made the book much longer.
I was hoping for a happy ending or some type of resolution at the end of the book which went something like this, "We do not have a cure for cancer yet, but it should be coming in the next year." Instead, there is more uncertainty about when and what breakthroughs will come. What makes battling cancer so complicated is that there are so many variations and types of cancers. Each one responds to slightly different approaches. What is universal among all cancers is the genius with which the disease morphs and the hypnotizing hold it has on those who study it.
In addition to being the last book I read in 2011, I am counting the book for the following challenges:
- What's in a Name Four: I am counting it for the evil category as "maladies' is evil
- 2011 Global Reading Challenge: The book takes place all over the world, so I am counting it as the seventh continent.
- South Asian Challenge 2011: The author is South Asian
- Chunkster Reading Challenge 2011: The book is 570 pages.
With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters—the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle—she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another’s lives.
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
A few weeks ago, I got an email about the next meeting of the Professor and Partner book club. I was excited to find out that I would be in town and made plans to attend. I had not heard about Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, but was intrigued by the description. Since things were so crazy here in MA with trying to prepare for the upcoming baby arrival and nesting while waiting to get back into our house, I was not sure how much time I would have to read. Fortunately, things aligned well. The book was available from the library and the story went quickly, so I was able to finish over a long weekend.
Overall, I was glad to be able to be lost in the story. However, I found it very disturbing and sad. I wanted more positive resolution. It was especially hard to read about the unhealthy sexual relationships of many of the characters. At the book club meeting last night, we also discussed how sad it was that both daughters were in unhealthy sexual relationships. the patterns established by their mother's were being repeated in the girls. I also had trouble with the father who did not seem to be a very good catch, but had two great women who cared deeply for him.
I felt the most bad for the daughters. Dana was constantly trying to get her father's full attention and had orders to stay away from her father's other family. However, it seemed that she was always stuck with her dad's leftovers. Chaurisse had no idea that her father had another family, but wanted a friend. When she got a friend, it ended up destroying her family. By the end of the book, I felt sad that the two sisters had not been able to reconcile. With all the complications that occurred between their moms and their dad, it seemed like too great a divide to cross.
I was also confused by Raleigh's character. He seemed to have a lot of integrity, but ended up following and supporting James. I wanted either one of the women to end up with Raleigh or him to find a good partner and leave James behind.
Overall, I think the story is about two girls trying to find their way in a messy world. The odds were stacked against both of them. However, I was still hoping for a more positive outcome.