Tag Archives: reading

Friday Seven

  1. Heading to a Syrian wedding today: the sacrament is this afternoon in Woodbridge and the party tonight in Etobicoke at the Edessa Banquet Hall. I won’t know many people there, but my partner-in-crime is getting less patient with loud music so it likely won’t be a late night.
  2. For a complete change of pace, we’re heading up to Wyebridge (near Midland) tomorrow morning for a Goddard family reunion. I think it’a actually referred to as the “3G” annual event, for Goddard, Gear, and Graham families. I’m looking forward to meeting some new-to-me cousins and fleshing out my family tree. Our hosts are Stephen and Frieda Goddard. Stephen is my mother’s first cousin, the son of her uncle Percy Goddard.
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard

    I blogged about another branch of my Goddards here. Two brothers emigrated to the Barrie, Ontario area (John in 1970 and William in 1871). I descend from William and the branch at the link descend from John.

  3. For my book challenge this quarter (my booklist here – I won’t read them all, but it’s a goal), I’m reading a memoir by Vladimir Nabokov called Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. It’s achingly beautifully written, and I’m doing a slow, close read to enjoy it. Here’s a snippet, a memory of a young Nabokov sitting on the veranda while his nanny reads french novels to him.

    From "Speak, Memory" by Vladimir Nabokov.
    From “Speak, Memory” by Vladimir Nabokov.
  4. For my Toronto readers: I just discovered an interesting website called Tabs Toronto. It sends automated alerts any time key words that you select are identified in city government records. You can do a search and then decide whether you’d like an email alert based on it. I’ve registered for my street name, neighbourhood name, and local BIAs. It’s a great initiative intended to improve civic participation.
    TABS
  5. Every since we moved in to our house seven years ago, we’ve known that we had issues with poor air circulation (basement too cold, second floor too hot). We finally got around to having an HVAC professional in to look at our system and he gave us some good advice about improving our duct work, and noted that our AC had been incorrectly installed, effectively blocking the path of air in to the ducts. (Or something.) Our furnace maintenance people had told us that our furnace was on its last legs, and so we took the plunge and replaced both furnace and AC. What a difference. We can actually feel cool air coming out of the ducts in our upper floor. He also recommended that we put a shade or covering of some kind on the large skylight in our stairwell so that’s the next job.
  6. My last post on my Berkman ancestors got a lot of hits, and I’m hoping to get in contact with some cousins. In the meantime, I finally scanned this business card of my grandfather David’s fur company. He moved back to Ontario in the early 30s and had some retail businesses. More about that soon.

    D Berkman Fur Company
    D Berkman Fur Company
  7. My book club had an excellent discussion of Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch last Sunday. It got pretty high ratings for the group (average 8/10), a surprising amount of sympathy for Boris, and totally expected love for Hobie. We also sniffed at the critics who looked down their noses at the accessible writing.  We met on the patio at the lovely Grenadier Restaurant in High Park (well, the food is fine but the venue is lovely) and will meet there again next month when we move to non-fiction with The Massey Murder: The Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray.

We’ve got a long weekend here in Ontario so Sunday and Monday are going to be read-and-relax days. On Tuesday, I’m heading to Ottawa to see my mother and some friends, and then back on Friday.

Leave me some love in the comments!

The reading (and travelling) life

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy
Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

I’ve got a five hour car trip ahead of me today and last night I fell asleep reading. Which means the light was on and I wasn’t wearing my CPAP. So I may be puling off for micro-naps today.

I’m heading in to the final stretch of my reading challenge in a Goodreads group, so I’ve got a very defined book list.

In printed text, I’ve got just a few pages left in The Woman Upstairs by Clarie Messud. I’ve owned this book for a while and thought it was a kind of thriller or something. But it’s not. And it’s terrific, resonating on a number of levels. More to come when I review it.

Next up in will be Projection: Encounters with My Runaway Mother by Priscilla Uppal, a non-fiction memoir that I’ve been hearing great things about. I’ve also got The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (Keep Toronto Reading and my next book club selection) on my pile, as well as Washington Square by Henry James (for TIFF Books on Film).

Audio books are a terrific accompaniment to long drives and boring housework. I’m halfway through Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer, a fascinating look at memory and how memory champions train for competition. Next up will be The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which will (hopefully) be good prep for my trip to 221b Con in Atlanta next month. I purchased that through Downpour which has great deals on the ACD canon at the moment.  I’ve also got The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the OneClick Digital Recorded Books program through my public library, but the app seems to be glitchy so I’m not sure that I’ll be able to listen to it unless there’s an update.

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This week, I hope to get my mom’s condo ready to put on the market. There’s still a lot of stuff to clear out, and I need to find a cleaning crew to give it a once-over. I’ve got some friends and family to see in town, and I’d love to catch the new Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Blogging may be light as I won’t have wifi chez moi, but who knows? I’ll try to at least keep busy on Instagram.

And finally, my indoor herb garden in rocking my world! Everything’s up except for the garlic chives. The cilantro suddenly appeared yesterday and I’m very pumped about that one as it’s the hardest to find in garden stores.

Reading as imaginative co-creation

As the lights darkened in the TIFF cinema Monday night, I leaned over to my friend and said “We’re so lucky to live in this city.”

We were there for the season opener of the Books in Film series. Eleanor Wachtel had just introduced Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and special guest flown in from Lahore for the screening of Mira Nair’s film based on the novel. From his brief comments before the film, it was clear this was going to be a highlight of the series.

No spoilers here. This Man Booker nominated novel is a must-read. But it was an interesting exercise in teasing out the differences between the experience of reading and that of watching a film. The novel has two basic acts: Changez (the protagonist, pronounced Chong’-iz) at Princeton and working as a financial analyst in New York City; and Changez after he returns to Lahore. The novel is written in the second person: Changez is telling his story to an American while sitting in a cafe in Lahore. We don’t know much about the American and the ending is not tidy.

In the film, there is a third act that ties the story together. There are other significant changes, and much more of a back story. Hamid stated that movie-goers don’t want to leave the cinema not knowing what “the ending” meant. But more than that, he had interesting things to say about the experience of reading versus watching a film.

In his view, a book leaves greater space for “imaginative co-creation” on the part of the reader. And particularly so in this novel where one half of the conversation is missing. Readers are required to imagine a lot, to create their own reality, to “engage in make-believe, or imaginative play for adults.”  He said that film is more “pre-chewed”, with less space for the viewer to enter into their own minds. Hamid stated that “books and film are completely different art forms.”

There was more. A discussion of the meaning of a beard. Nair’s changes to the screenplay to highlight powerful women. The importance (or not) of 9/11 in the novel. How one’s identification as part of a group can be (always is?) uncomfortable.

This was an evening to remember, and one of the reasons that I love my adopted city, and TIFF in particular. If you’re a reader and love film (and live in Toronto), single tickets are now available for this terrific series.

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It’s Monday … what are you reading?

it's monday

I just finished up a second read of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for my book club that met yesterday. I originally read it a year or so ago and, and as introvert married to an extrovert, it made a huge impact on my personal life. Our book club is made up of mostly introverts, with one who wasn’t sure. If you’re an introvert, married to one, or parenting one, it’s a highly recommended read.

I’m close to the end of Andrew Pyper‘s The Killing Circle. The book club read Pyper’s The Demonologist last month with a kind of “meh” reaction. I’m finding this one better, although I”m not really a fan of the supernatural thriller. I’ll post a review when I’m finished.  Next up in paper is Timothy Findley’s Spadework.

I’m also listening to the audiobook of Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens by Andrea Wulf. I originally picked it up to fulfill a part of a reading challenge I’m participating in over at Goodreads, as I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction history books, but it’s quite exciting. It details the attempt to measure the size of the solar system based on the collection of data regarding the transit of Venus past the sun on June 6, 1761. This exercise required astronomers, professional and amateur to travel to and take measurements from locations around the world, specifically relating to the timing of this phenomenon. If you’re interested in navigation, history of science, or astronomy, this fast-paced book may be for you. Next up in audiobook format is a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami from 1995 called The Elephant Vanishes.

What’s on your night table, or in your bag, or next to your sofa?

Book club: The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper


This novel had been getting a lot of buzz when we decided to include it in our reading list. As today’s moderator suggested, it would appear that Andrew Pyper was trying for that sweet spot where genre fiction overlaps literary fiction, but as a group, we were not convinced that he was successful.

Pyper’s protagonist in The Demonologist is David Ullman, a Milton scholar who is offered an all-expenses paid trip to Venice if he will visit a particular address and use his expertise in the area of demons to assess a situation. He brings his daughter Tess with him and she is captured and drawn into the underworld.  The rest of the novel follows Ullman in his attempt to find and rescue her.

What worked:

We agreed that the story was interesting.

We thought he had moments of good writing.

There were some good action sequences.

We liked the relationship between Ullman and fellow professor Elaine O’Brien: a non-sexual, cross-gender friendship.

The cover (both dust cover and hardcover) were well done.

What didn’t work:

The novel reads too much like a screenplay. It seemed made for film, and not the literary fiction audience that we suspect he was going after.

We didn’t understand what was really going on. Does Ullman really believe there are demons that can intervene in our lives? Did important bits in flashbacks in the novel really happen, or were they subject to perceivers’ error?

Many of us were simply not very engaged in the novel. In a comparison between Pyper and Dan Brown (for example), those of us who admitted to being familiar with the latter rated Brown as better at engaging the reader in the story, and better at owning up to the agenda of the protagonist (in Brown’s case, and anti-Vatican stance, for example.)

The novel needed a(nother) good edit.

Overall rating: 6/10 (with a range of 5-7)

I hosted this month and decided to go for a Venetian theme, even though a relatively small part of the novel takes place in Venice. (As someone pointed out, this was probably a better theme than roadside diners/motels in terms of meal options.) Because of my Sunday morning committments, I chose a mainly cold buffet meal.

We lunched on a caprese salad, scampi alla Veneziana, crostini al radicchio Trevisano, proscuitto e melone, cheeses (a Romano sheep’s milk cheese and some asiago), and drinks made of prosecco, campari, and peach juice.  My spouse picked us up a Cappuccino Dacquoise for dessert.

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A July photo project: #DailyBookPic

Cassandra Neace who blogs at Indie Reader Houston and is a contributor to BookRiot, has initiated #DailyBookPic, a little book-related photo project that I’ve been participating in. For full details, you can check out her post here. Essentially, she’s come up with a set of book-related topics and asks for a photo a day. You can tweet your pics with the hashtag #DailyBookPic.

Here are the topics:

Dailybookpic2-page-001

My contributions so far:

Day 1: Favorite Reading Spot

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Day 2: Current Read

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Day 3: Book Browsing

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Day 4: Book Shelf

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Day 5: Book Mark

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I’ll send future pics directly here!

Book Riot is hosting a read-along of The Great Gatsby!

This post is related to our Riot Read of The Great Gatsby. Check out related posts here.

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Alright folks, here we go. The inaugural Riot Read begins today, and we are kicking off with a few Gatsby-inspired posts, including an extended discussion of the first two sentences, a new literary term to describe Nick Carraway, and a look at what some notable readers said about it.

Also, our forums are live today, and there is a special sub-forum for Gatsby discussion. To get things started, our friends at Out of Print Clothing are giving away a Gatsby tote. To enter, leave a non-anonymous comment in this thread. We’ll draw somebody to win one. Out of Print has a few other prizes for us as the Riot Read moves along, so stay tuned there.

While there is no official schedule, some folks might want to pace themselves. So if you want to read at a steady pace, here is a possible roadmap

June 26 – July 2: Chapters 1 & 2

July 2 – July 9: Chapters 3 & 4

July 9 – July 16: Chapters 5 & 6

July 16 – July 23: Chapter 7

July 23 – July 31: Chapters 8 & 9

We hope there will be discussion happening at various paces, so there are dedicated forums for each chapter should you want to dip in and out at your own speed.

We hope you’ll read along with us. Any ideas about what we can do to make this more fun, interesting, and just plain better, please let us know.

I’m doing this, and am going to follow their reading pace.

I first read this to support Alex when he was reading it in high school (when we were in Atlanta). I’d never read it before (horrors!) and very much enjoyed it. Am looking forward to learning more about it this summer.

What’s on my nightstand?

It’s been a bit of a wild reading ride recently, mainly because we’re in the middle of some home renovations and I’m also trying to get some progress on my genealogical work. But there’s always time at the end of the day (or on the subway) for a good book.

I’m finishing up Howards End. 

  1. Howards End by E.M.Forster –  I wanted to have it read before the TIFF screening yesterday, at which James Ivory was interviewd by Eleanor Wachtel as part of their Books in Film series. But I didn’t quite make it through, so that has to be number 1 on my list (and in my bag.)
  2. The Outsourced Self: Intimate LIfe in Market Times by Arlie Russell Hochschild. – I’m about a third of the way through this fascinating look at the impact on family life of the outsourcing of what were traditional family/village tasks. Online dating, wedding planning, childcare, cleaning, personal coaching, etc all fall under the authors eye.  
  3. The Cure for Grief by Nellie Hermann – This is our July book club pick. I don’t know much about it, but it was highly recommended by one of our members.
  4. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Moira Kalman. – This graphic novel is (I believe) an investigation into democracy. I’ve checked it out of the library a couple of times before but have never gotten to it.
  5. Aerogrammes and Other Stories by Tania James – A book of short stories recommended in the NYT Book section
  6. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Our August book club pick, and a response to my suggestion that we choose books that put us outside our comfort zone. I’m not a big fantasy reader, and a couple of our members thought that this would be a good place to start. I picked up a paperback at Value Village, but the print is too small and the contrast too low, so I’ve downloaded it onto my Kindle.

How do books get there? Mainly recommendations from friends, book reviews in one of the papers I read, online at places like Book Riot, and of course, the book club. I also like to read books from anyplace I’m planning to travel, although we don’t have much coming up, vacation-wise. I don’t browse in bookstores or the library much…I have a huge hold list (sourced from the above) so I’ve always got books being fed to me.

Shelf Awareness hits it out of the park

I subscribe to Shelf Awareness‘ weekly newletter and it was just chock full of good stuff today.

You can check out the rest of the newsletter here.

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    I’m currently reading Mindy Kaling‘s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and it’s a fast, light, and very funny read. Kaling is a producer and writer for the American version of The Office and also plays Kelly Kapoor. 

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      Here Comes the Sun….

      Little darlin’…it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

      Little darlin’… it seems like years since it’s been here.

      Today felt like the right day to get back to my blog. My last post was in December and I’ve been carried through the last few months on the backs of those who love me. 

      Some of the things that I look forward to, cultural events, travel, singing, have been whizzing by me and I’ve only been able to partially engage. These past two weeks I have struggled with a very bad cold that started in my chest, and is ending there. My allergies have compounded the problem, but I feel like I’m coming out on top.

      I am feeling the need to write more, to find creative ways to express myself, both publicly and privately. I have signed up for a webinar that introduces LifeJournal software to see if that might be a platform that I could use for my personal writing. I need to pick up knitting needles, or an embroidery needle, or set up a sewing space to get back to a quilt I’ve started. My plan is to claim a basement bedroom that is normally used for guests as a place where I can leave my work out for short periods of time.

      We have some interesting things on the cultural calendar this month, and I hope to use this space to blog about them.

      We’re seeing the play High starring Kathleen Turner at the Royal Alex next week. We’ve also got tickets for the TSO’s performance of Holst’s The Planets for which Michael will be joining us. His school music program does their May Lyrics concert that week as well. The following week we have another Books on Film event at TIFF featuring Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man and 1949 film starring Orson Welles.

      My reading life has suffered somewhat recently, but I recently finished Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. My review over at Goodreads read:

      I love Hollinghurst’s prose, and would have given this five stars. But I can only take so many pages of coke-fuelled gay sex and this novel went over my limit. 

      That aside, it captures the times so aptly: the British class structure; and the world of rich young men (and their hangers on) who want to DO something, like publish a glossy art magazine; the intersection of race and wealth; and what sexual sins are forgivable.

      I also had a quick re-read of the Keep Toronto Reading pick Girls Fall Down prior to Sunday’s book club gathering. I’m currently at work on The Vault by Ruth Rendell. Next up will be Peter Robinson’s latest(?) called Before the Poison, a stand-alone mystery, not part of the Inspector Banks series.

      Enough for today but I’ll be back soon. May is looking up!