Friday, January 6, 2012

Things I've Read

Since today is the birthday of that most amazing of consulting detectives, Sherlock Holmes, I thought it would be an appropriate time to talk about some of the books I've read and loved in 2011.

For the last year of so, I've been making good use of my profile over at Shelfari to keep track of all of the books I'm reading. You get to keep a virtual book shelf and everything, but since I wrote a quick post about it a while ago, I'm not going to get into the details of the site right now.

Anyway, I brought up Shelfari because I joined a group over there called 50 Book Challenge, where members challenged themselves to read 50 books over the course of a year. 50 books certainly sounded like a lot, but I thought it would be worth trying. So I joined the group, and started logging a list of books that I'd read during 2011. I've always been really into lists and logs (and challenges) so it was a lot of fun, and a great way to get myself to read more. I didn't quite make it to 50 books, but that's how life works. I read 41 books cover-to-cover from January to December, and I'm really proud of that.

So right now, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about some of the wonderful and not so wonderful books I read last year. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about all 41 books, we’d be here for a while with that one. I’m just going to talk about a few of the books now, but I might blog about some more at a later time.

In February, I read Albert Camus’ The Plague. Back in high school I was forced to read The Stranger, and I hated it. My friends and I called it the most boring book ever written, and I swore up and down that I’d never read anything else by Camus, ever. But then a year or so ago, I re-read The Stranger, and I didn’t hate it. I’m still not its biggest fan, but it wasn’t that bad. So I decided to give The Plague a try. I have to say, I am so glad that I did. I’ve read this book twice already, and I loved it both times. The story centers on the inhabitants of a coastal town that has been quarantined because of an outbreak of the bubonic plague. The book is set in ‘modern-ish’ times. I don’t know the exact time period, but there are cars, and the town has a movie theater. The stories of the different characters weave together brilliantly to give a stunning portrait of the town, as they are all faced with illness, death and an uncertain future. Honestly, I picked this book up because I have an interest in epidemiology, but I ended up loved the story for its plot, not its plague.

In April, I read Nekropolis by Tim Waggoner. Nekropolis is a novel about a zombie detective living in a city of the dead (hence the title). Nekropolis is a city that has been specially created by the ultimate dark power, a being known only as Father Dis, to house all of the dark beings in the world. From ghouls and ghosts to vampires, werewolves and creatures that really can’t be named. The five dark lords who are in charge of the city never exactly get along, and are constantly fighting one another. Matt Richter is just a simple zombie detective trying to survive in the big scary city, helping people and getting himself into trouble along the way. This book is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. But the characters are very alive (so to speak) and the settings are wonderful. It’s such a fun story that I’ve already read through it several times, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor.

In July, I read Chaz Bono’s newest auto-biographical work, Transition. I’d seen his movie on OWN and was intrigued by his story. The idea of changing one’s gender has always fascinated me, and when I was still toying with the idea of becoming a nurse I wanted to work for a surgeon who performed SRS. For those of you not familiar with Chaz Bono, he started life off as the only daughter of Sonny and Cher, Chastity Bono. Over the last several years he has undergone the process of changing his gender from female to male. He has put out two documentary films about the process, as well as the book. He has also recently appeared on the show Dancing With the Stars. I didn’t really know anything about Chaz before reading the book. I’m a little too young to have grown up watching The Sonny and Cher Show, though I certainly knew who they were. It was very interesting to read the biography of a celebrity in his own words, and to be able to follow his journey both from female to male, and from child of a celebrity to an individual in his own right. It was a fascinating book, and a quick read since I couldn’t put it down.

In August I took on another autobiographical work, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman. If you don’t know who Feynman is, you’re missing out. He was a Nobel Prize winning physicist, who worked on the Manhattan Project, among other things. But he was so much more than just another physicists. He was an artist, and a drummer, and a lock-picker, and a jokester. He was probably one of the funniest physicists of all time. He had a fantastic sense of humor that really shows in his writings about his life. I’m not really all that into physics, though my boyfriend is, and Feynman is certainly one of his heroes. He loaned me a copy of the book, sat me down and told me to read it. I’m so glad he did, I loved this book. There were tons of passages that literally made me laugh out loud. I never thought physics could be so funny. I recommend this one to physics nerds, and people who love to laugh.

Okay, confession time. Though I am a huge Miyazaki fan, I’d never seen Howl’s Moving Castle until a few years ago. And I’d never read the book until December. I really don’t know why I waited so long! It’s a wonderful movie, and the book didn’t disappoint either. It’s by Diana Wynne Jones, and differs in significant ways from the movie. The book is the story of a girl named Sophie, who ends up venturing out to seek her fortune, though she is the eldest of three. She encounters the great Wizard Howl and his young apprentice Michael, as well as their fire-demon Calcifer. It’s a fantastic story filled with wizards and evil witches and family drama and love. I really enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the movie. Like I said, it’s different than Miyazaki’s version, but it’s every bit as amazing.

Alright, I think that’s enough out of me for now. Again, happy birthday Sherlock Holmes, and a lovely weekend to the rest of you. I’ll be back before you know it with more long and rambling posts, so stay tuned!

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