Here we are. 52 weeks after I set my goal of reading 52 books in 2012, and I made it! This past month was a bit of a challenge, as I had six books to read, but I made it a little easier on myself by only reading books that were 150 pages or less. With that as my criteria, I actually charged my way through the last six books in only two weeks. So if you're looking for some good, short reads to help you get to your goal, or just get you back into the habit of reading, these are some really good choices.
When I first started getting back into reading eight years ago or so, I specifically wanted to read a lot of the books that most people read in grade school that I either hadn't gotten to, or had completely forgotten about. The Old Man and the Sea is definitely one of those quintessential books that most people read at some point before graduating high school, and at only 96 pages you can even get through it in one sitting. On the surface, it's the story of an elderly Cuban fisherman catching an enormous marlin, but the themes of the book go much deeper. Beautiful book, if you haven't read it yet, but it high on your list.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway -
This was recommended by my best-friend-in-law Tasci, and I'm really glad she suggested it. I have a rule when rating books, that I won't give out a 5-star rating unless I've read a book at least twice; I'm breaking my rule on this one, because I loved it so much. Each chapter in this book is a fictionalized examination of a universe in which time, or the way we are affected by time, is somewhat different than we know it. In one world, time is circuitous, so that all of life's events repeat over and over. In another, time moves more slowly as your elevation increases. But while it sounds like a scientific thought exercize, it's really more of a philosophical investigation. At 144 pages, it's really the perfect book to spend a rainy, thoughtful weekend with.
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman -
I'm sure I've read this at least twice before, but all I really remembered was that it focused on a man who killed an Arab on the beach, and was standing trail for his crimes. I don't think I've been in a place before where I could really appreciate the story for the themes the author was trying to explore until now, so I'm glad I gave it another read. Only 123 pages long, it's not a huge commitment, and it's really not as heavy as the philosophers among us would have us believe. Or at least it doesn't have to be. At the very least, it can just be read as an interesting story of a troubled man's life, and it's perfectly enjoyable at that level. If you haven't read this classic -- or at least haven't in the past five or ten years -- maybe it's time to give it another try.
The Stranger by Albert Camus -
I found this book listed on the Lawrence Public Library's blog post featuring 50 good books, 150 pages or less. It didn't have great reviews, but the story sounded interesting, and I'm glad I gave it a shot. It's not the best mystery I've ever read, but it was a short 132 pages and I was able to knock it out in just more than a day. It's nothing memorable, but it was an enjoyable whodunit style novel.
The Lemur by Benjamin Black -
The classic story of time travel, Morlocks and Eloi. I was shocked at how quickly Wells jumped right into the story, without nearly the amount of setup that went into the movie version. While the result is a compact 104-page read, it was surprisingly difficult to get through. Something about the writing style of these older books makes it a little more sluggish to get through. Not to say it isn't well written or enjoyable, but just noticably more concentration was required to get through it. If you're into science fiction at all, though, you owe it to yourself to read this classic from one of the fathers of the genre.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells -
For my last book, I decided to read this collection of short stories from a collective of Columbus-based authors. Some were very good, some were mercifully short, but overall it was a very easy 112 page read. I don't completely understand how the seven stories were supposed to be connected thematically, but that may be nitpicking. At the crazy-low price of $4, I will definitely check out some of the other collections from the Columbus Creative Cooperative.
Overgrown: Tales of the Unexpected by Various, Columbus Creative Cooperative -
That about does it! I'm planning on a wrap-up article early next month, featuring my top 10 books that I read in 2012, along with some details about my reading challenge for 2013, so be sure to check back.
How did you do on your reading challenge? Any goals you're setting for yourself in 2013?
October was a pretty crazy month and I was only able to read one book, so I knew I had some catching up to do if I was going to meet my goal of 52 books in 2012. In order to help get back on track, I decided that my November reading would consist solely of books 350 pages or less. I managed to get six books in over the past month, so here's a quick look back at what I've been reading.
My good friend Jason has recommended many of the books I've read over the years, and this recommendation didn't disappoint. I've always been a sucker for scientific "what if" scenario books, where the author explores what would happen to our society of some random change was thrust upon us. The Long Earth explores the question of what would happen if it was suddenly discovered that there were an infinite number of earths, and that anyone could travel through them with almost painless ease. Suddenly gold and silver isn't quite as rare as it once was, entirely new continents are available for exploration and development, and overpopulation is a concept that simply doesn't exist anymore. I really enjoyed reading this book, and the only reason I'm docking it any stars is that I wish it had explored the idea a bit further, and possibly not let me down quite as much on some of the big mysteries that were presented early on.
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter -
I'm actually not sure how this book ended up in my to-read shelf, but I'm glad it was. I was browsing my list for something short to read, and stumbled upon this one. It's an interesting story about our perception of ourselves and our life experience, and how malleable it is based on how we choose to remember things. Tony, the story's protagonist, is a middle-aged man who is suddenly put faced with dealing with some events from earlier in his life, and he gradually realizes that the things that happened when he was younger didn't go exactly as he had recalled, and perhaps he didn't behave quite the way he remembers behaving. I wasn't completely sold on the way the book was wrapped up, but the style of writing really spoke to me. Lots of highlighted quotes in this book, and definitely a story I'll be going back to in the near future.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes -
I love Kurt Vonnegut. He writes with an honesty that I really enjoy. His final novel, Timequake, is a strange mashup of memoir and fiction that was a little hard to follow at times, but it had a really conversational tone that I had fun reading. I'm quite certain that I ended up highlighting at least 25% of this book as I read it, and while it wasn't a very cohesive book, I was absolutely worth the time.
Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut -
This was "the book" in Christian circles several years back, with everyone insisting that it was amazing and that it would change the way you thought about your faith. On our drive out to California in 2009, January and I read a different Donald Miller book to each other and I remember really enjoying it, so I was hopeful that I would also enjoy this earlier work of Mr. Miller's. Unfortunately, I felt like it just came across as a strange mix of self-deprecating and self-congratulatory. Repeatedly, the author would write about some thoughtless, thing he did back when he was younger and it turned out to be something really smart instead. It just got kind of grating. I have no doubt that the author is a good guy, but it just didn't feel all that genuine.
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller -
Truman Capote's classic non-fiction novel about the murder of a family in rural Kansas in the 1950's. My problem with this book may have been my expectations. I didn't really know much of anything about the actual events the book was based on, but I was expecting a sort of true crime novel, and that's not really what I got. There was no mystery, no suspense. Within the first chapter, Capote tells you exactly who perpetrated the murders, and then just spends hundreds of pages going over what happened, from the days before the murders through the prosecution and sentencing, and agonizing detail. "Agonizing" being the key word here. I was just really bored through the entire book, with the exception of the killers' confession.
In Cold Blood by Truman Copote -
This is the book I was referring to when, on speaking with January one of the first times we met, I said that I didn't "read books other people read." This book seemed to be everywhere at the time, and I think I found it kind of annoying. I did read David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd finally give this one a chance. Like Holidays on Ice, this is a collection of short stories, and it's really easy to read. Each chapter took anywhere from 5-15 minutes to read, so this was a great one to read in small bits over the course of a day or two. If you like clever, self-deprecating humor, definitely put this one on your list.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris -
One month and six books left to my goal of 52 books in a year, and I'm feeling pretty confident. The holiday season will be busy, but I'm also taking a week off work between Christmas and New Years, so I'm hopeful that six more short books won't be hard to pull off. Check back in January for my final reviews, after which I will, naturally, put together a top ten list of this year's best books and quotes.
It's a short one this month. With all the work we've been doing on The Salt Mines, I've been left with very little time to do any reading. In fact, the only reading I was able to get in was a furious 48-hour session during a business trip to DC. But one book is still progress, so here's the review.
I wasn't 100% sure what to expect when I started this book. It's one that pretty much everyone has been aware of since becoming super popular over the past several years, but I still didn't really know anything about it. I got the vague impression that it was very raw and gritty, and while it didn't turn out to be that intense, it was still fairly dark. If you're as unfamiliar with the story as I was, I won't spoil anything for you, but it's a pretty heavy mystery novel wherein the protagonists are working to solve a crime whose trail has, at least seemingly gone cold more than forty years prior. As with many grand crimes of this scale, nearly everybody comes under scrutiny at some point, and by the end nobody is really left untouched by what is discovered. Really easy read, and if you enjoy crime novels it's definitely recommended.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson -
So, two months to go, and 12 books to read. Check back next month, when I review six very short books.
It's been a quiet month here on the blog, but it's been far from quiet otherwise. Yesterday, January and I opened up two new businesses in our neighborhood, so we've been running around like crazy getting last minute renovations and details ready for our grand opening last night. Now that I finally have a minute to catch my breath, I wanted to write a little bit about the business that I'll be most directly involved with: The Salt Mines Coworking Space.
When we bought our house back in 2007, two bedrooms seemed great. Four years later, we lost that second bedroom office to our little Lucy, and my office turned into whatever chair I happened to sit in around the house. By the time she learned to walk, she started to get confused about why Papa couldn't play with her during the day. So we started to look for some space outside of the house where I could go during the day to get work done.
So when we saw a storefront office space available less than half a mile from our house, we were definitely interested. The space was pretty perfect, but the rent was a little higher than we could justify on our own. We wondered to ourselves if there were other people in our neighborhood in similar situations, who just needed some space outside the house where they could focus on work during the day. So we took the leap, did some minor renovations on the space, and opened it up as The Salt Mines, Clintonville's newest coworking space.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, coworking spaces are offices where individuals -- usually the self employed, telecommuters, or small business owners -- can rent some office space with other individuals to work. Typical office setups are highly collaborative, without cubicles or walls, so people can work on their own or bounce ideas off each other as the need arises. Our space is fairly small, but we have room for a dozen or so people to come in, set up their laptop, drink some coffee, and get some work done.
If you're interested in coworking, you can read more about The Salt Mines web site. I'm excited to have a new office space to go to every day, and I can't wait to see who joins me over the coming weeks and months!