• Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese
• Hardcover: 256 pages
• Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing, 2011
• ISBN: 1451605870
• Genre: Cookbook; Foodie Memoir
• Recommended For: Cooks looking to cut back on their grocery store expenses; readers interested in food-related memoirs.
Quick Review: Borrow the Book, Don’t Buy It.
How I Got Here: My husband heard an interview with Reese promoting this cookbook on NPR and knew that I enjoyed learning how to make grocery store staples like chicken stock from scratch. He immediately ordered it off of Amazon and gave it to me for Christmas. Such a thoughtful man!
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Known to her online foodie following as The Tipsy Baker, Jennifer Reese brings a realistic—and very funny—perspective to the homemade trend, testing whether to make from scratch or simply buy over 100 foods, in what is destined to become the new go-to reference for home cooks.
When Jennifer Reese lost her job as the book critic for Entertainment Weekly, she was overcome by an impulse common among the recently unemployed: to economize by doing for herself what she had previously paid for. And so began a series of kitchen-related experiments with the practical purpose of breaking down whether it makes sense to make household staples—or just pick them up at the corner store.
By no means straight kitchen science, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter tells the often funny stories surrounding these experiments and offers a full picture of what is involved in a truly homemade life. On the practical side, Reese asks a handful of questions about each item to decide whether to make or buy: Is homemade better? Cheaper? How much of a hassle is it to make? And what about sustainability and animal welfare—what value should we place on knowing that our eggs came from happy chickens, for example? Is it somehow ennobling to slaughter your rooster yourself? Full of recipes and featuring an extensive chart at the end that summarizes the make-versus-buy status of every food, this eminently practical yet deliciously fun book reminds readers that they don’t have to do everything by hand—and shows how to get the most out of your time in the kitchen.
My Analysis and Critique:
I read this cookbook rather quickly, and it was, indeed, a book to read, not scan. There is as much text space devoted to Reese’s vignettes related to the included recipes as there are recipes, and I really enjoyed each experience shared. Reese is very humorous and is a good storyteller. Reese sounds like the blogger that she is in her writing style, and her stories reminded me a lot of Julie Powell’s of Julie and Julia fame. Yet, after a while, I started to scan through her vignettes, as I was more interested in her recipes and advice on what to buy.
The book is set up like this: 1-2 page story that tells how she got to the making of the food profiled in the chapter (i.e. the eggs chapter tells of her chicken-raising experience and her honey chapter discusses cultivating bees), and then a few recipes related to the focused food with their own anecdote on the experience of making the food featured in the recipe or examples on how or why to use the recipe. Then, each recipe begins with three notes on whether you should make it or buy it. For example, here is the opener to the recipe for bagel chips:
If your bagels are getting stale, this extends their life. Bagel chips are great with hummus, or plain, for mindless snacking.
Make it or buy it? Make it.
Cost comparison: A 6-ounce bag of New York Style bagel chips (they contain both palm oil and sugar) costs $4.39. To make 6 ounces of chips from bagels you’d otherwise throw away: less than a dollar.
At first, this section of each recipe really appealed to me. Reese has done all the research I needed to help me decide what to make myself and what I should just buy! Excellent concept for a cookbook!
But then, I started to notice how wishy-washy her analysis was.
Her vignettes and anecdotes for each recipe can be very confusing. Reese sounds like she’s saying to buy it, as she describes the hassle to make it and/or her family’s poor reaction to the food. But then, the following recipe says “Make it with slight hassle”. Or “Try it yourself and decide”. No thanks, I want you to decide. That’s why I’m reading this book! Why would I make it if it’s as big of a hassle as you’ve described?
Another problem I had with this book was that some of her analysis just didn’t check out with me. She includes a recipe on lemon curd, and states “Make it”. Although it requires hard work, it is cheaper than what you’d buy in the grocery store. Yet, looking at the recipe, I noticed that it only lasts for a week. That’s not cheaper, when the jar at the grocery store lasts a very long time in the fridge. And who uses lemon curd anyway? She uses it in her lemon yogurt recipe, but I’m not even sure if I like lemon yogurt, and even if I do, I know I don’t like it enough to go through a whole container of homemade lemon curd in a week!
Then there’s the problem with wasted space in this cookbook. Reese spends a lot of book space on recipes that she recommends not to make! Why? Meanwhile, there is only one recipe for chicken in her chicken chapter, and she doesn’t even recommend making one’s own chicken stock, one of the easiest and most useful cooking processes ever! I couldn’t relate to her reasoning behind this recommendation, as she states that she doesn’t know what to do with the leftover chicken bones and cooked vegetables, and she doesn’t know how to store the stock. Come on! This is the most useful and resourceful recipe to regular cooks, and you’re not even recommending it! Well, cooks out there, I recommend using your leftover carcasses to make stock, and so does Julia Child. So there!
More on the wasted space: while Reese has only one chicken recipe in her chicken chapter (though you find other chicken recipes sprinkled in other random chapters), she spends lots of space on completely useless topics that also get their own chapters (and more recipes!). Some useless chapters include: honey, duck eggs, goats, and turkey. Come on, now! Where am I going to find duck eggs? I live in the city, so I’m not going to raise my own. Am I supposed to buy my own ducks, goats, bees, and turkeys? Maybe I’m not getting her purpose here.
Finally, there is the major issue: the applicability of the recipes.
I made the eggnog French toast, it was easy and delicious, but it was also a 2 sentence recipe: soak the bread in egg nog, fry the bread in butter.
My next recipe was the Biscuit Pudding. I had leftover biscuits, I love bread pudding, win-win. So, as I began to prep for the endeavor, I noticed a major problem in the recipe. Reese states in Step 2 to melt 4 tbsp of butter. Then the butter just disappears in the recipe. No more mention of the 4 tbsp of butter at all. And that’s a lot of butter! So, I consulted the good old internet, and found a recipe that informed me that I was to mix the butter with the chunks of bread before pouring the custard on the bread. Thank you internet! After reading on with the internet recipe, I decided to hybridize my recipe by adding some internet steps to Reese’s recipe, as well as using an internet recipe for rum sauce. I will share this recipe at the end, as well as a picture of the finished product (it was delicious!).
So, the point of that anecdote was that now I don’t feel that Reese is reliable. If you leave out a step in a 5-step recipe, what else are you screwing up on? And the order of her steps was wrong too, having me make a meringue that would just sit for forty minutes (the actual amount of time it takes to soak up the custard, not the 5-10 minutes that she states) while I waited for the bread to soak up custard. I changed her recipe all around!
On the positive side, Reese’s vignettes and content were interesting and fun to read. I don’t really see it as a cookbook, but more as a foodie memoir that inspires me to cook, like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence or Francis Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. It will inspire me to try to make certain things, like hummus, yogurt, and hashbrowns, but I don’t think that I’ll necessarily use Reese’s recipes. For this reason, I recommend that this book is borrowed from the library, and not bought.
My Hybridized Version of Reese’s Recipe for Leftover Biscuits Bread Pudding with Light Rum Sauce
Sources: Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, p.76 and a couple of different internet recipes
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
Six 2 ½- inch biscuits (or thereabouts)
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Big pinch of salt
4 large egg whites (save 1 yolk for rum sauce)
1. Generously butter a 1 ½ qt casserole or baking pan. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Melt 4 tbsp of butter. Break the biscuits into a big bowl in large chunks. Blend chunks with melted butter. Fill the casserole with the bread mixture.
3. In the same large bowl, beat the 2 large eggs with 3/4 cup sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour this over bread and leave to soak–do not allow bread to float in the mix. Save the leftover custard for later. Allow bread to soak for 40 minutes, and add leftover custard periodically.
4. With a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and whisk until combined.
5. Heap the meringue on top of the bread mixture and place casserole in larger casserole. Fill larger casserole with hot water until it reaches halfway up the small casserole.
6. Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the meringue is browned, and when shaken, the pudding doesn’t quiver too much.
7. Remove from oven and serve just slightly warm with rum sauce on top. To reheat, simply warm up oven to 250 and place casserole in oven for 5-10 minutes, until the meringue is crusty again.
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup light rum
1. Place butter and powdered sugar in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until butter is completely absorbed and mixture is thoroughly blended. Do not allow to boil.
2. Remove from heat and beat in egg yolk. Place over low heat and gradually stir in rum until mixture is well blended. Makes about 1 cup.
Notes: If you don’t have rum on hand (as I didn’t), you may substitute Disarrono liqueur for the light rum. I did this, and the almond flavor was quite delightful with the bread pudding.
The Finished Product:
Jennifer Reese’s Blog: The Tipsy Baker
Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads. It is “is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. “
• Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk
• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Doubleday, 2007
• ISBN: 0385517874
• Genre: Science Fiction, Transgressive Fiction
• Recommended For: Not everybody. See my post which discusses Palahniuk’s transgressive writing style.
Quick Review: If you’re a Palahniuk fan, I recommend that you check out Rant. I don’t usually do ratings in my reviews, but if I did, I would give it 4 out of 5 spider bites. Or 4 out of 5 car crashes. Or 4 out of 5 maxi pads.
How I Got Here: I was first introduced to Chuck Palahniuk almost ten years ago, when I read Lullaby, and was impressed by his literary style and shocking plot. Since then, I have read only a few more novels, although I have almost the entire Palahniuk collection on my shelf. My husband read Rant in late December, and urged me to read it after him.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
“Like most people I didn’t meet Rant Casey until after he was dead. That’s how it works for most celebrities: After they croak, their circle of friends just explodes.…”
Rant is the mind-bending new novel from Chuck Palahniuk, the literary provocateur responsible for such books as the generation-defining classic Fight Club and the pedal-to-the-metal horrorfest Haunted. It takes the form of an oral history of one Buster “Rant” Casey, who may or may not be the most efficient serial killer of our time.
“What ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mallon was to typhoid, what Gaetan Dugas was to AIDS, and Liu Jian-lun was to SARS, Buster Casey would become for rabies.”
A high school rebel who always wins (and a childhood murderer?), Rant Casey escapes from his small hometown of Middleton for the big city. He becomes the leader of an urban demolition derby called Party Crashing. On appointed nights participants recognize one another by such designated car markings as “Just Married” toothpaste graffiti and then stalk and crash into each other. Rant Casey will die a spectacular highway death, after which his friends gather testimony needed to build an oral history of his short, violent life. Their collected anecdotes explore the possibility that his saliva caused a silent urban plague of rabies and that he found a way to escape the prison house of linear time.…
“The future you have, tomorrow, won’t be the same future you had, yesterday.”
Expect hilarity, horror, and blazing insight into the desperate and surreal contemporary human condition as only Chuck Palahniuk can deliver it. He’s the postmillennial Jonathan Swift, the visionary to watch to learn what’s —uh-oh—coming next.
My Analysis and Critique:
It is very difficult to write a review on a Palahniuk novel for readers who aren’t familiar with his style. For that reason, I have written a corresponding profile on Palahniuk’s literary style, and if you haven’t read any Palahniuk, I recommend that you start there.
Rant is a typical Palahniuk novel as it uses completely atypical narrative techniques and characters. In Palahniuk fashion, I will stray from the norm in this review, and like in Rant, I will provide my information in snippets:
Palahniuk Staples, and How They Are Used in Rant:
– Characters find meaning via seemingly useless actions and events:
Rant and his friends engage in rather violent actions to understand themselves and the world around them. These include intentionally getting bitten by wild animals and poisonous snakes and spiders, as well as crashing their cars into each other for fun.
-Non-traditional narrative structure:
Palahniuk utilizes an oral history style of narrative as numerous characters discuss the deceased Rant Casey in a series of interview snippets. This style calls to question the trustworthiness of the details provided on Rant’s life, as there are so many perspectives.
-Recurrence of motifs and themes:
Here are some tags connected to Rant: animal/spider bites, poison, saliva, smell, honesty, taste, traffic, authentic experience, rubbernecking, grotesque, anthropology, motive, history, counterculture, mediocrity, sex, exploitation, time travel, and addiction.
– Excessive and seemingly meaningless details that all tie in nicely by story’s end to tell the true story (there is a purpose in the plot for all the “gross elements”!):
There is so much embedded meaning in Palahniuk’s writing. Everything matters in Rant. There isn’t a wasted word. You read his lines, notice the connectivity between each plot element, and you almost start to consider that the writers of Lost were lazy.
– In media res and “the hidden gun”
Palahniuk begins the novel somewhere in the middle, as readers immediately know that Rant is dead and is responsible for the mass spread of rabies. From there, his story is told via characters telling their version of his life story.
As with most of Palahniuk’s books, there is the “hidden gun” (Palahniuk-coined term), as there is always a major plot twist at the end that calls everything you thought you knew into question and ties together all the seemingly unimportant details. This is one of my favorite parts of reading Palahniuk.
Palahniuk, as always, has a lot to say about our society, and does so in his very unique way. Some of his commentary is very subtle, while other statements are rather bold. Two aspects of society that Palahniuk goes deep in discussing in Rant are society’s need to rubberneck when driving past an accident, and society’s dependence upon manufactured experience, as opposed to authentic lived experience.
A New Step in Rant
-Science Fiction: Rant is very much a science fiction novel, very similar to Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan (that could be a spoiler if you’re familiar with Vonnegut’s amazing novel). It’s also a dystopian novel. I can’t say more than that because it would ruin the “hidden gun” effect.
I really enjoyed my Palahniuk experience with Rant. It wasn’t my favorite novel by Palahniuk, as I didn’t feel that its resolution was as clean as my previous readings of Palahniuk. However, I truly read Palahniuk for his satire, and this novel provided all that I desired in typical Palahniuk (that almost feels like an oxymoron) fashion. If you’re a Palahniuk fan, I recommend that you check out Rant. If I did ratings in my reviews, I would give it 4 out of 5 spider bites. Or 4 out of 5 car crashes. Or 4 out of 5 maxi pads.
• A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
• Paperback: 341 pages
• Publisher: Knopf Doubleday, 2010
• ISBN: 0307477479
• Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction; Literary Fiction; Pulitzer Winner
• Recommended For: Anyone who doesn’t mind exploring the highs and lows of humanity and alternative writing structures.
Quick Review: Egan’s novel is highly relatable and imaginative. It appealed to the rock music lover in me, the jaded listener that I am today, and the avid reader of books like Generation X by Douglas Coupland and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. If you share my interests in music and alternative writing styles, I highly recommend this book.
However, while I loved this book–5 stars loved it–many readers hated this book. There seems to be no middle ground! So, if you are interested in A Visit from the Goon Squad, follow this special recommendation: if you check it out, read the first three chapters. If you don’t like them, stop. That simple.
How I Got Here: My interest was piqued when I began seeing glowing reviews alternating with seething reviews for it on Twitter. Then, I joined the Award-Winning Challenge, and saw that Egan’s novel was the 2011 winner for the Pulitzer. So, I put it on my wishlist, and voila! It appeared under the Christmas tree!
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
A New York Times Book Review Best Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR’s On Point, O, the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Village Voice
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.
My Analysis and Critique:
Note on my review: This is the first and only time that I have read a book and absolutely had to write a review immediately after! I finished this book on December 27, wrote the review right after, and have been waiting for an opportunity to publish. My point is, I was compelled to share about this book right away–a sign of a good book!
As with all books reviewed, I read Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad without reading any other (full-length) reviews, immersing myself in the book and jotting down notes and connections as I read. Then, upon finishing the book, I hit up Goodreads to read other reviews. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I already knew that Egan’s novel got mixed reviews just based upon comments on Twitter. However, I just can’t believe how expansive the divide is between fans and haters of this book!
So, I’ll start with my feelings on Egan’s novel. I loved this book. Unlike many readers, I connected with all of the characters (and there are many!). This novel spans many generations connected to music: the 1970s gritty punk scene to the modern jaded scene to a future “connected” music scene. Each chapter focuses upon a different character who is somehow connected to previous chapters’ characters, weaving one long narrative on what it means to age and change and be affected throughout the decades. Each character is human and flawed and I could relate to each one. This might be because I’ve known people in my life in some way similar to each character. My parents raised me surrounded by rock music, and I have my own little punk rock past, and I have always been friends with musicians and people who work in the music industry. And, I have always known people who had major flaws and made major mistakes. So, all of Egan’s characters felt like people I might know.
Egan also gets rather experimental with the structure of her novel. Much ado has been made about the PowerPoint chapter, a first person narrative from a 12-year-old girl. Many reviewers see this chapter as Egan being cute, but I disagree. Egan uses this and other chapter formats as a tool to further illustrate who each character is. In this case, it’s a “tween” girl journaling about her family, who, at one point, defends her use of PowerPoint slides in a conversation with her mom:
Mom: “Why not try writing for a change?”
Me: “Excuse me, this is my slide journal.”
Mom: “I mean writing a paper.”
Me: “Ugh! Who even uses that word?”
Makes sense to me! Kids find it “boring” to write formally (ask any of my 12-year-old students learning how to write a thesis statement). Just be glad it wasn’t an entire chapter written in text messaging (although, in the following chapter, it seems that no one feels comfortable conversing, it all takes too much work, so they text each other while sitting/standing with that person right in front of them!). Her other chapters switch POVs, from third person to first person to one chapter being written in the second person (the character feels that he is looking at himself from beyond as he lives life, so it fits!).
The way I see it is this: I’m not into art, and yet I am into the art of fiction and narrative. If I want a Michelangelo, I’ll read Shakespeare. If I want a Monet, I’ll read Austen. Sometimes, I’m even in the mood for a Thomas Kincade, and I’ll read a book like The Peach Keeper–lovely, but light. Yet, I can also appreciate the Dalis– the Palahniuk novels, House of Leaves, and Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. This is my art, and I dig it.
Overall, this is a novel about the inescapability of time (the “goon”) and its effect, both positive and negative, on all of us. Oriented around the music scene, it delves into selling out, drugs, disorders, disease, heartbreak, sex, money, truth, family, and love. Yet, without being in the music business, I have, as I’m sure most people have, dealt with all of these issues in some way in my life. In this way, Egan’s novel is highly relatable and imaginative. It appealed to the rock music lover in me, the jaded listener that I am today, and the avid reader of books like Generation X by Douglas Coupland and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. If you share these feelings about fiction and interests in music and alternative writing styles, I highly recommend this book.
Cassie’s Review: “Pissed at Pulitzer” (Although we disagree, she is a damn good reviewer!)
It seems like forever since I wrote about real time, the present, rather than looking back. Well, actually, it just seems like forever since I just wrote lightly about what I am reading. It’s been two weeks since my last check in with a WWW Wednesday, so I think it’s overdue!
What I Am Currently Reading:
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I am only about 50 pages into this, but so far I am really enjoying this classic novel! I even bought a Charles Dickens candle to go along with my reading–smells of tangerine, juniper, and clove.
Because I am thinking that it will take me at least two months to read Bleak House, and because it is rather a difficult book to read while the TV is on (which is how I often read, next to my TV-watching husband), I think I will be reading two books this week. I will also be reading
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (which I just bought yesterday at the bookstore, YAY!)
What I Recently Read:
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Review coming tomorrow)
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (Review coming Friday?)
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese (Not sure when this review is coming)
What I Am Reading Next:
Probably The Gunslinger by Stephen King, as I want to read the first four books in the Dark Tower series before The Wind Through the Keyhole comes out in March. Of course, it depends upon my mood, because I have a lot on my TBR shelf right now!
This is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.
• Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
• Ebook: 100 pages
• Publisher: Public Domain Books, 2004 (first published, 1853)
• A SIN: B000JML2Z6
• Genre: Classic (19th Century American Lit.)
• Recommended For: Anyone who enjoys classics; anyone who enjoys absurdist literature.
Quick Review: Overall, I highly recommend this quick read to anyone. It was amusing and fascinating and quirky; I won’t forget it.
How I Got Here: I was assigned to read this novella by a friend who recently wrote an analytical essay on it and Kafka’s “A Report to an Academy”. I wanted to make sure that I had an understanding of the stories before reading his analysis of the rhetoric in each piece. Downloaded the novella onto my Kindle app.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
“I prefer not to,” he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared.
Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-Dick—Bartleby the Scrivener is simply one of the most absorbing and moving novellas ever. Set in the mid-19th century on New York City’s Wall Street, it was also, perhaps, Herman Melville’s most prescient story: what if a young man caught up in the rat race of commerce finally just said, “I would prefer not to”?
The tale is one of the final works of fiction published by Melville before, slipping into despair over the continuing critical dismissal of his work after Moby-Dick, he abandoned publishing fiction. The work is presented here exactly as it was originally published in Putnam’s magazine—to, sadly, critical disdain.
My Analysis and Critique:
This novella was a quick read (a couple of hours, tops) that compelled me to continuously comment on the plot to whomever was around me. In short, I loved it.
The story is narrated by an unnamed lawyer who is pondering and explaining his short relationship with Bartleby, an unconventional scrivener (human copy machine) that he employed at his office. Bartleby is rather unconventional because he routinely refuses to do the work that he is assigned with the baffling statement to his boss “I prefer not to.” Rather than send him packing, the boss (our narrator) leaves him be, all the while wondering what Bartleby’s motivation could be; why does he insist upon using the word “prefer” rather than “will not”? Bartleby eventually refuses to do anything, simply standing in the office, staring out the window, until finally, with much reluctance, the boss is moved to fire Bartleby. Yet, Bartleby would “prefer not to” leave, and so the boss is forced to consider what is to be done with someone who prefers not to do anything.
I loved the absurdity in this story! More often than not, the boss ends up catering to Bartleby’s will, and he has no idea why. At one point, the employer gets to his office early, only to find that Bartleby is already there and is not ready for anyone to enter the office, he is busy at the moment. He asks that the boss return to his office a little later, when Bartleby is ready for him to enter. Rather than being enraged, the boss actually takes a walk around the neighborhood and then returns to his own office, letting Bartleby prepare himself for his return to his own office. What?! The narrator/boss ruminates on Bartleby’s power, commenting
Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. If the individual so resisted be of a not inhumane temper, and the resisting one perfectly harmless in his passivity; then, in the better moods of the former, he will endeavor charitably to construe to his imagination what proves impossible to be solved by his judgment.
This story also employs excellent characterization. I loved the three characters employed by the narrator at the law office–Turkey, Nippers, and Gingernut. They were highly amusing with their own individual quirks that pop up throughout the narrative.
Overall, I highly recommend this quick read to anyone. It was amusing and fascinating and quirky; I won’t forget it.
It’s December 31st, the last day of 2011, and looking back, I realize this has been a really big year for me! I have had a lot more ups than downs in my life this year, and I think it might be hard to top in 2012. Here are some 2011 highlights for me…should I start with the bad or the good? Or should I just create a timeline? I’ll create a timeline like one finds at the beginning of classics books. Then, I’ll follow with all of my 2012 reading stats!
A CHRONOLOGY OF MANDY IN 2011
Historical and Cultural Background
2011 in Numbers
– I successfully met my reading goal of 100 books read in 2011!
– Total Number of Pages Read in 2011: 35, 359
– Number of Books over 1000 pages: 4
– Number of Books over 750 pages: 7
– Number of Books over 500 pages: 15
2011 Reading Challenges
– Spring Seasonal Reading Challenge–Almost completed
– Summer Seasonal Reading Challenge—Not even close
– RIP Reading Challenge: Complete!
2011 Reading Events
– Dewey’s Read-a-Thon: Read for the full 24 hours!
So, that was my 2011 year! Currently, I am reading my 101st book for 2011, and then I’ll be all amped up tomorrow (if I’m not hungover) to declare my 2012 goals!
Please note: This list is compiled in no particular order. It is simply a list of my favorite books for this particular genre read in 2011.
• On the Beach by Nevil Shute (Post Apocalyptic)
A very realistic, adult dystopian novel. Published in 1957, an era of living with “the bomb”, Shute explores life (or the lack thereof) after World War III. The radioactive cloud hasn’t hit Australia yet, so the last of the world’s survivors cope with their impending deaths in the coming months. What do you do when your clock is ticking? Some party it up, some buy race cars, and some continue in their social traditions of country clubs. But, death is coming, and it is heartbreaking to watch the well-developed, diverse characters succumb to this fact. Highly recommended along with the excellent film version starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire.
• The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Post Apocalyptic)
Another good adult dystopian novel imagining what humans are capable of when there is absolutely no hope. This novel is very bleak and somewhat depressing, but so well done. The world is dead and burned, but a father and son push on, trying to find salvation, though they are constantly plagued by the danger of murderous, desperate outlaws and starvation.
• Under the Dome by Stephen King (Dystopian)
While King is known as the Master of Horror, I definitely would categorize this under science fiction. It reads like an extended Twilight Zone episode. Here’s my review.
• 11/22/63 by Stephen King (Time Travel)
Another great science fiction novel by King, written in the vein of The Bachman Books. Highly recommended! Here’s my review.
• Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (Never sure how to categorize Palahniuk, that’s why he’s awesome)
I am still reading this one, the last book of 2011. However, it is definitely good. Highly recommended to those who don’t mind alternative writing styles or gritty realism and enjoy thinking. I tend to cogitate over each of Palahniuk’s sentences like lines of poetry, just considering how it will connect to the final turning point. Every line counts! I love Palahniuk.
• Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (Mythology)
Kind of a spin-off of Gaiman’s excellent American Gods, Anansi Boys tells the story of Fat Charlie, a regular guy who is the son of Anansi, the African spider god and brother of Spider, who is dashing, charming, and magical. Spider decides to infiltrate Fat Charlie’s life and all hell breaks loose for the poor protagonist. Very humorous and well-written, I highly recommend it!
• A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (Epic)
So, I re-read almost all of the books in the series this year, and loved them almost more having all of the background knowledge gained from last year’s readings. Here are quick reviews for each that I read this year:
– A Game of Thrones: Re-read this novel as I watched the HBO series. This is the set-up novel that hooks us all. Martin throws you right into the action with little back story, so if you feel overwhelmed, just keep going! It will pay off and you’ll be thankful that he didn’t bog you down with lots of exposition!
– A Storm of Swords: Skipped A Clash of Kings and went straight to this, the third book of the series. Had to re-read this novel as it was the last time I saw most of the characters featured in A Dance with Dragons. This is my absolute favorite of the series! Full of action, twists, intrigue, shocking deaths, and a major cliff hanger ending. Love, love, love this series!
– A Feast for Crows: In this novel, Martin focuses upon about half of the main characters, leaving the other characters’ stories to be told in A Dance with Dragons. There was some major politics and deception in this novel, as well as some surprising twists and, of course, a major cliffhanger for one of my favorite characters.
– A Dance with Dragons: As I was expecting only the stories of the characters left out of A Feast for Crows, I was delighted to find that Martin included most of the characters of his series in this book. This book was excellent and had the best epilogue I’ve ever read (So that was his hidden motive!) Can’t wait for the next book to be published (please don’t wait five years, Mr. Martin!).
• Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Time Travel)
Loosely do I place this in the fantasy genre, as it more often feels like historical fiction/adventure. I really enjoyed this novel and hope to read the next book in the series in 2012. Here is my review.
• The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Epic)
• Nightmares and Dreamscapes (Print and Audio, read by various) by Stephen King (Short Stories)
Another great collection of short stories by Stephen King. I really enjoyed the audio version, although I read about half of the book in print as well. Here is my review.
• We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Classic/Gothic)
I loved this novel by Jackson. It was an excellent kick start to my readathon in October. Here’s my review.
• Horns by Joe Hill (Supernatural/Fantasy)
This is another novel that is loosely categorized, as I never found it particularly scary. However, I did really enjoy it, particularly for Hill’s masterful characterization. Here is my review.
• The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch (TV spin-off/Paranormal)
• The Walking Dead series (Graphic Novel) by Robert Kirkman (Zombies/Post-Apocalyptic)
This graphic novel series is unique in its unflinching depiction of a group of survivors in a world decimated by zombies. Kirkman has no problem killing off favorite characters in the most heartbreaking ways, and that is one reason why this series is so amazing.
Tomorrow’s Post: No more lists! My 2011 in Review: Stats, Challenges, Blog Events, etc.