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In a Perfect World, I’d Be Reading These Books This Fall

7 Oct


Long Live All Things Bookish

(If you’re reading along on an e-book, I forgive you and we can still be friends)

Making a full list for the remainder of this season is not only possibly but almost certainly too ambitious, but I just have to keep the dream alive. Someday there will be ample room in my life for reading for pleasure. The similarly ambitious among you can attempt to read along- check out the “currently reading” widget on my sidebar to see what’s currently on the docket. I’ll be sure to give some recommendations along the way. So, here it is, Maggie’s (in-a-dream-world-there-would-be-hours-to-spend-curled-up-with-these-books) Autumn Reading List:

1. The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling (currently reading)

2. The End of Men – Hanna Rosin (next up)

The following are in no particular order:

3. Freedom – Jonathan Franzen

4. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie

5. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace (so this is how you know I’m being too ambitious)

6. Crazy Salad – Nora Ephron

7. A Visit From the Goon Squad – Nora Egan (Recommended by: YourHarto)

8. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

9. NW – Zadie Smith

10. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

11. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

12. Saturday – Ian McEwan

13. The Love of a Good Woman – Alice Munroe

14. The Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai

15. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

The BEST place to access these books is of course your local public library because…

But if you’re looking for a good place to buy books, try to bypass a big box store (we’ve all seen ‘You’ve Got Mail’- we know that even though Tom Hanks is awesome, bookstore chains are the worst) in favor of an independently owned new or used bookstore.

The latter is SO MUCH cheaper and the former keeps your money in the local community.

If you’re in Chicago try: Open Books off the Chicago Brown Line Stop- one of so many wonderful used bookstores, but the added social mission makes it extra-awesome) or The Book Cellar– in Lincoln Square for new books!

If you’re in Toledo try: Ukazoo Books – near UT and close enough to the flashy new Barnes and Noble for you to flaunt your used book store bravado as you drive on past.

If you’re somewhere else- what’s your favorite local bookstore? What brings you there? Comment below and share the love!

Also, if you have more book recommendations, comment below and more love will be shared.


Rushdie and Naipaul

10 Mar

This quarter I took a class on V.S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, which has kept my reading load for class high and my pleasure reading time correspondingly low. Luckily, these were books were more than pleasurable to read, so I hardly felt the loss of my own curl-up-with-any-book-you-want time. I am so glad to have been introduced to these two splendid authors, and really I recommend all their work highly, but here are some of my favorites:


In particular, if you are in the mood for some enjoyable, diverse,  interesting essays check out Salman Rushdie’s Step Across This Line, written during the ten years he was on the run with a price on his head due to a fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The topics range from 9/11 to the Wizard of Oz to Bono, and they’re all pretty great.


If you’re looking to read some Naipaul non-fiction, I would try A Turn in the South a collection of essays written on the American South around 1989. Naipaul writes more like an investigative journalist than Rushdie, whose essays read like a column. Someone in my class described the two as opposite uncles, the lovable curmudgeon and the fun uncle you wish you could get drunk with. While Naipaul is a bit caustic, curmudgeonly and definitely politically incorrect, his subtlety won me over. While Rushdie is more exciting and fun to read at the outset, Naipaul has some really interesting things to say as well.



I’m a sucker for allegory, and this is one of the, if not the most well-crafted allegories I have ever read. In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie’s second novel, the life of the protagonist, Saleem Sinai is allegorical with that of the independent Indian nation. I love finding the parallels between the two levels of the metaphor, which I was able to do for the most part thanks to some previous knowledge of Indian history and help from my professor for this class. If you want to really appreciate the novel, I would at least Wikipedia contemporary Indian history just to at least get the gist.


A House for Mr. Biswas is a semi-biographical novel based on the life of Naipaul’s father (Naipaul himself also makes an appearance as Anand, Biswas’ son). Naipaul’s grandparents came to Trinidad (in the Carribean) from India as indentured servants, forming a large Indian diasporic community on the island. Where Rushdie is exuberant, Naipaul is snarky, so if you like snark (or dry humor in general) Mr. Biswas is your guy. Also, I love this cover art- mine is way less interesting.

Winter Reading List

20 Nov


While this is not to suggest that I finished my summer reading list, here are my general plans for the holiday season…

1. Rereading some Harry Potter- this might end up being pushed back to July to help console me as the LAST Potter release comes and goes, but the recent Potter-mania has me longing for those late nights reading by the light in the hallway absolutely wrapped up in a Harry Potter book.

2. The reading list for my Russian Literature in Film Class- a little light reading. I’m hoping the cold Ohio winter will heighten the effect of the Russian masterpieces I’ll be delving into.

3. Finish The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I’ve been briefly interrupted by a. Finals and b. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

4. Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke- I guess I just missed it- I read the rest of the series when I was younger, and loved it, but must have missed the window on this one.

5. Something by C.S. Lewis besides Narnia (which I also would love to reread…also, The Lord of the Rings. {A note on that note, I am already looking forward to reading the Chronicles of Narnia to my kids before bed.) Suggestions? I’m thinking either Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters

That’s probably more than sufficient for six weeks of snowy evenings by the fireside, but while I’m on the subject of books I’d like to read- check out this awesome find I noticed while in line to buy the aforementioned Sedaris book.

Bahh I’m geeking out over this new translation of Madame Bovary. Check out that cover art!! I read a much older translation originally, I wasn’t a huge huge fan (of the translation that is, not the book itself). While rereading at the moment is probably not going to happen, this new version is definitely on my long term list.

On my longer term list? —  Reading it in it’s original French. I’ll get back to you in about a year and a half. Summer Reading List 2012? It just might be a possibility.

Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

24 Oct

Frankly,  I am conflicted about the work of Mr. JD Salinger. On one hand, I think it might be too angsty for my taste. I tend to not want to be dissatisfied with the world in such a persistent kind of way. On the other hand, having read Catcher in the Rye in high school, I am coming back for more with Franny and Zooey, and I will probably read some more of him. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. The work is punctuated with moments of such brilliance, that I can’t bear to dismiss Salinger to the ‘dislike’ category (a category that very very few…if any…well-respected authors make it into in my book). For example, from Franny and Zooey,

“God damn it, there isn’t any prayer in any religion in the world that justifies piousness”

“Jesus realized there is no separation from God”

The last few pages in general…hold out for it, because that’s where it’s at. Brilliant.

“There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s fat lady”

…I dig that JD.




A Daily Ratio of 30 minutes studying : 30 minutes Pride and Prejudice

11 Oct

As it is mid terms week and I have a particularly nasty breed of paper to write, I am unable to really post something good, even though I’ve had some delightful ideas. So, I’ll just do a little quasi-post. It’s small, but I think you’ll quite enjoy it.

Today was a day of intervals. My roommate had been assigned a project on Sense and Sensibility for an English class, so she had the movie on, which compelled me to pull out my DVD(s) (so plural!) of the BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice over the past two days I have completed the series in bits and pieces- while I’m making dinner, cleaning the kitchen and mostly, in between bursts of inspired paragraph-production and chapters of The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier. As Jane might say, it was quite a pleasant diversion. (If you haven’t noticed I am an avid Jane Austen fan. Books first, of course, but the movie adaptations are and this one in particular is delightful)

So, I’m in a little bit of a Darcy and Lizzie high right now. It’s just so. good. Plain and simple. I would pontificate on the merits of Austen as applicable to my life, as academic, as genius. But, I’ve been writing all day, and I have more to read before bed. Instead, I’ll post some of the wonderful scenes that have gotten me through today on a little cloud of well-crafted literature…

I like my men…sweaty, tortured, covered with pond water?

One of Colin Firth’s best moments: Darcy is falling in love with Elizabeth’s tact and friendliness toward his sister. One of the hidden gems of the series.




I am cutting myself off. And now, back to homework.


Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

3 Oct

Like Let the Great World Spin I originally heard about this book on National Public Radio. I forget the exact interview or reviewer, but the title and idea of the work stuck with me. Olive Kitteridge is a textbook example of a short story cycle- a genre I have become interested since I read Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri- which can also be catagorized as somewhat of a short story cycle. A short story cycle is a series of short pieces contained in one volume which relate to each other through common themes and which usually actually share characters.

The common character in Olive Kitteridge tends to be, well, Olive Kitteridge. Described quite universally as a rather large woman, Olive is the hinge upon which this narrative of the small town of Crosby, Maine rests. Sometimes Olive narrates, sometimes she only appears for a few moments as a guest in another person’s story.

The tone of the novel tends to be rather sad. Beautiful, but sad. The prose is very honest, each character is portrayed very intimately and with great care.  I suppose it’s about everyday troubles. The kind of problems every  person in places like Crosby might have. Strout sheds light on these people and this place and by doing so really illuminates the beauty of the ordinary- a theme I quite appreciate, coming from a quite ordinary place myself.

“…And there would be for Henry Kitteridge a flash of incredible frenzy, as though in the act of loving his wife he was joined with all men in loving the world of women, who contained the dark, mossy secret of the earth deep within them. ”

“‘God I love young people,’ Harmon said, ‘They get griped about enough. People like to think the younger generation’s job is to steer the world to hell. But it’s never true is it? They’re hopeful and good- and that’s how it should be.”

Atonement by Ian McEwan

21 Sep

“Until that moment, there was still something ludicrous about having a familiar face so close to one’s own. They felt watched by their bemused childhood selves.”

Okay, admission, I saw this movie before I knew there was a corresponding book. The movie is, to say the least, one of my favorites. A great love story shot in an elegant, sensitive way- it’s beautiful. My love of the film was really what prompted me to pick the book off the shelf at a local Chicago bookstore in the Spring. I just finally got around to reading it. And, like the book it was simply wonderful!

The narrative is as elegantly spun as the movie is shot- but what really sets the book apart is the artfully developed characters. Briony, Cecilia, Robbie- an amazing triad of characters that I felt so connected to- I loved them in the movie, but the book (as books so often do) brought so much more depth to them. The book, like the movie, is divided into two distinct parts. Essentially, it is before and after… the incident that requires to be atoned for (trying not to spoil the plot without using the oh-so-kitschy ‘spoiler alert’ warning). The characters are introduced and really developed in the first part, and then we see how ‘the incident’ that marks the center of the narrative changes them. Ah! So great!

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