The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Each evening the snail awoke and with astonishing poise moved gracefully to the rim of the pot and peered over, surveying, once again, the strange country that lay ahead. Pondering its circumstance with a regal air, as if from the turret of a castle, it waved its tentacles first this way and then that, as though responding to a distant melody.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a gentle, slow, sweet book.

A book for savouring.

A book that I would like to read all over again – this time an actual physical book, not just the e-book the library lent me. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoy e-books, their immediacy, their availability, their readability (yes, readability, you read that right – with a 14-month-old in the house, reading on an iPhone is better than not reading at all! Wee reader loves to turn pages, especially those not of board books, so put one of my books on a sofa and he’ll head straight to it, patting the pages, turning them).

Anyway, back to the book. Elisabeth Tova Bailey (an alias) was travelling in Europe when she was struck by some mysterious illness that left her with severe neurological symptoms and resulted in being bedridden. On a visit, a friend brings some flowers and a snail. And Bailey is struck by this little snail, which wanders off the flower pot and down the crate at night, and as her interest in gastropods grows, she reads more about their history, lifestyle, habits, and observes her little friend as it slides and glides its way to her – and her readers’ – hearts. Who would have thought that a little book about a little creature could say so much?

“I listened carefully. I could hear it eating. The sound was of someone very small crunching celery continuously. I watched, transfixed, as over the course or an hour the snail meticulously ate an entire purple petal for dinner.”

There are some photos of her terrarium and gorgeous garden here and an interesting slide/talk by the author, complete with sound recording of a snail eating here.

Among Flowers

There is something about Nepal, something a little magical, a little mystical, completely absorbing and intriguing. Sometime during my university days, I joined a group of fellow students (from that other university in Singapore) who were going trekking in Nepal, specifically making the trip to the Annapurna base camp. It was an 18- day trip and as I had been a member of the Outdoor Activities Club in my junior college (that’s kinda like the last two years of high school) where we did plenty of hiking and camping, I thought it sounded great and hoped it wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Alas, it was. All that climbing and steps and steps and steps. Steps into the village and out of the village and in again. But it was also just amazing. The porters and their ability to carry most of our stuff around in gigantic towering packs were just astonishing and the food they managed to whip up in the middle of nowhere – they even made an apple pie and roast chicken once! And every morning, you were greeted by a friendly voice outside your tent and a steaming mug of tea. And at the end of the day as we headed into the day’s campsite (usually almost all set up by the time we arrived – I was usually at the tail end of the group) a refreshing drink of pineapple juice.

Food and steps aside, among my favourite memories of the trip is one as we were leaving one of these mountain-side villages, down a step, and another, and another… And as we treaded our careful way down (these steps, I should add, tend to be larger than your typical stairs – usually requiring both feet to be on the one step, unless I suppose you have really long legs or are just used to these kinda of steps), these two kids in greyish, worn school uniforms, a boy and an older girl, fly past us. They dash down these very steps and head off into the distance, off to school which seemed to be a mountain away. I could follow their journey a little way as they raced down and out of their village and across to the next set of mountains until they were such tiny figures I could hardly see them anymore.

“And it was brought home to me again, that while every moment I was experiencing had an exquisite uniqueness and made me feel that everything was unforgettable, I was also in the middle of someone else’s daily routine, someone captured by the ordinariness of his everyday life.”

Luckily Kincaid has managed to put those similar feelings into far more eloquent prose as she travels Nepal with botanists collecting seeds.

And there are many moments like these in her travelogue, Among Flowers, some pretty little gems that made me reminisce of that time not so long ago when I took was in Nepal. A time when I was younger and more carefree and more willing to put up with nights in a tent and bathing from a pail of water.

However, Kincaid’s voice is at times a bit whiny and the book reads quite like a diary, very personal, pretty honest, and has some mundane details – so it might put some readers off. But I could understand – even that 20-year-old me, so used to outdoorsy stuff, was just completely overwhelmed by Nepal, its beauty, its people, and its lack of plumbing.

Among Flowers is a short enjoyable read and it left me wanting to learn more about the Maoists and the tumultuous history of Nepal (which reminds me – a few days after we returned from Nepal, the royal massacre took place). The book is part of the National Geographic Directions series, which includes books by writers like Oliver Sacks and Francine Prose, definitely worth checking out!

I read this book for the travel section of the Mixing it Up challenge

Library loot (7 June 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Yay, we finally made it to the library. There were no baby sessions on today so wee reader just did his usual roaming and checking out fellow babies and rummaging through the board books.

The Song of Achilles: A Novel – Madeline Miller

So I finally get my hands on this book!

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

I’m not sure why I’ve yet to read any of Kingsolver’s fiction (I’ve read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) but I’ve wanted to read this one after hearing her talk about it on the BBC World Book Club (yup yet another one).

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

Overdrive e-books
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – Elisabeth Tova Bailey

A woman, confined to her bed, watches a snail on her night stand, living a life that mirrors the limitations of her own. What follows is an oddly compelling story of her discovery of companionship and beauty in the most unexpected of creatures.

The Storm: A novel – Margriet de Moor, translated by Carol Janeway

For Dutch Lit Month. Just realised that it’s been a while since I’ve read a book in translation! Plus, I kinda love that cover.

On the night of January 31, 1953, a mountain of water, literally piled up out of the sea by a freak winter hurricane, swept down onto the Netherlands, demolishing the dikes protecting the country and wiping a quarter of its landmass from the map. It was the worst natural disaster to strike the Netherlands in three hundred years.

The morning of the storm, Armanda asks her sister, Lidy, to take her place on a visit to her godchild in the town of Zierikzee. In turn, Armanda will care for Lidy’s two-year-old daughter and accompany Lidy’s husband to a party. The sisters, both of them young and beautiful, look so alike that no one may even notice. But what Armanda can’t know is that her little comedy is a provocation to fate: Lidy is headed for the center of the deadly storm.

Margriet de Moor interweaves the stories of these two sisters, deftly alternating between the cataclysm and the long years of its grief-strewn aftermath. While Lidy struggles to survive, surrounded by people she barely knows, Armanda must master the future, trying to live out the life of her missing sister as if it were her own.

A brilliant meshing of history and imagination, The Storm is a powerfully dramatic and psychologically gripping novel from one of Europe’s most compelling writers.

Wee reader’s loot


The best thing to do when sick – curl up with a good book and a good friend!

Clare Beaton’s Action Rhymes – Clare Beaton

The Untidy House of Mrs. Tittlemouse (A Tiny Tale) – based on the original tales by Beatrix Potter

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
What did you get at your library this week?

The huh where did the time go post

Because I have been reading. And you know, all those other necessities of life. And running after the now too-mobile wee reader. Because of all that and more, I have not been writing about what I read. And it is a pity because some of what I read has been Awesome (capital A there, in case you didn’t notice), of course others were more like an eh. As in, eh, shouldn’t have bothered.

So the Awesome

The Lions of Al-Rassan. The word to describe this book by Guy Gavriel Kay is perhaps not Awesome, but Magnificent. Its swooping soaring battles, its love, its heart, its bro-mance. Magnificent.

Castle Waiting Volume 2. What fun I had revisiting the castle and its quirky inhabitants. And now, dwarves! Or Hammerlings as they are known. And a chance to explore the castle and learn more about Jain’s childhood. Awesome!

The Last Werewolf. And once again, I go into a book written by a new-to-me author with no expectations, and am blown away. Clever, intriguing, kind of exciting. Written as a journal, The Last Werewolf is Jake Marlowe and he is being pursued by World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena (WOCOP).

Somewhat Awesome/Not too bad

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not). Cute and kinda geeky, this graphic novel features Jimmy, who works in a library, and whose best friend Sara is moving from Oakland to NYC. Jimmy decides to hop on a Greyhound to go find her and win her back. It’s sweet and awkward.

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1. Another geeky graphic novel, a lot of fun, but first I have to get onto the rest of the series – and then check out the movie – in order to say more.

The Kingdom of Gods. So I gushed about N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms, books one and two of the trilogy, but have yet to say anything about book three. Well, I didn’t really like it as much. Perhaps because the main character is the godling Sieh, the trickster god, the child, and he is (horrors) growing old. It took me a while to get into the story, but it grew on me.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. A gorgeous snow-filled setting, a mansion with secret passages, a vile governess and wolves. I wish I had read this as a kid. But I had great fun reading it as an adult.

D’Aulaires’ book of Norse myths. Gorgeous illustrations that fill the page (and they are big pages). And cross-dressing Norse gods! And a one-eyed Odin, and magic apples that revive one’s youthful looks (that illustration of befores and afters is worth the book)!

The eh

Dating Mr December. Read it to fulfill the ‘romance’ portion of the Mixing it Up challenge. What was I expecting? Silly, frivolous, lust-filled. Check, check, check.

There, that wasn’t too bad was it. Just in time for breakfast.

Geek Love

“A carnival in daylight is an unfinished beast, anyway. Rain makes it a ghost. The wheezing music from the empty, motionless rides in a soggy, rained-out afternoon midway always hits my chest with a sweet ache. The colored dance of the lights in the seeping air flashed the puddles in the sawdust with an oily glamour.”

“The sky above Molalla was aching blue but I walked from Arty’s tent to our van in the same air I’d sucked all my life. It was a Binewski blend of lube grease, dust, popcorn, and hot sugar. We made that air and we carried it with us. The Fabulons light was the same in Arkansas as in Idaho – the patented electric dance step of the Binewskis. We made it. Like the mucoid nubbin that spins a shell called ‘oyster’, we Binewskis wove a midway shelter called ‘carnival’.”

What is a geek?
For me, the TV series Big Bang Theory pretty much sums it up. And that’s what I kind of imagined this book to be – a relationship between nerds, or perhaps a love story between a erm, non-nerd and a nerd. Or something along those lines.
And then I read Geek Love and I realised that ‘geek’ has another meaning – a carnival performer. And in the end, while I was completely thrown off at the beginning, I too was all about the geek love.

That Katherine Dunn. What an imagination. What a crazy, messed up world she has conjured up.

There’s Crystal Lil, the “star-haired mama”. And Aloysius Binewski or Al or Papa, who inherits the traveling carnival he was raised in and lands on that brilliant idea of breeding his own freak show. How? With drugs, insecticides and radioisotopes.

They begin with Arturo/Arty/Aqua Boy, whose hands and feet are flippers. A fascinating, evil  genius kind of character.

Electra and Iphigenia, Siamese twins sharing one set of hips and legs. Completely absorbed in themselves.

Then Olympia/Oly, our narrator, a disappointment with her “commonplace deformities” – a bald albino hunchbacked dwarf. A bit of a pushover. Utterly devoted to Arty.

Then Fortunato/Chick, who looks normal but later reveals his own specialty. Innocent, sweet.

By this point you’re either completely turned off or intrigued. At least that’s what the reviews on Goodreads seem to suggest.

And for me, it was just complete absorption into this bizarro, freaky world. I mean, what a cast (and these are just the main ones), what a show!


Library Loot (9 May 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Oof, I am just so tired today that I really struggled to put up this post! But I think I picked up a pretty good haul this week. A little bit here, a little bit there. That will make for some interesting reading.

Girl Reading – Katie Ward

Thanks to Buried in Print

Seven portraits. Seven artists. Seven girls and women reading. A young orphan poses nervously for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena. An artist’s servant girl in seventeenth-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in tales of knights and battles. An eighteenth century female painter completes a portrait of a deceased poetess for her lover. A Victorian medium poses with a book in one of the first photographic studios. A girl suffering her first heartbreak witnesses intellectual and sexual awakening during the Great War. A young woman reading in a bar catches the eye of a young man who takes her picture. And in the not-so-distant future a woman navigates the rapidly developing cyber-reality that has radically altered the way people experience art and the way they live.Each chapter of Katie Ward’s kaleidoscopic novel takes us into a perfectly imagined tale of how each portrait came to be, and as the connections accumulate, the narrative leads us into the present and beyond. In gorgeous prose Ward explores our points of connection, our relationship to art, the history of women, and the importance of reading. This dazzlingly inventive novel that surprises and satisfies announces the career of a brilliant new writer.

Dating Mr. December – Phillipa Ashley

So not my cup of tea, but I’m trying to finish more categories for the Mixing it up challenge.

Emma Tremayne leaves her high-powered PR job and moves to the Lake District looking for peace, quiet–and celibacy. So perhaps it’s not the best idea when she agrees to help the local mountain rescue team raise funds by putting together a “tasteful” nude calendar.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths – Ingri D’Aulaire, Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

We recently rewatched the movie Thor, and I was curious about the actual myths behind the comic/movie.

The Norse myths are some of the greatest stories of all time. Weird monsters, thoroughly human gods, elves and sprites and gnomes, with grim giants nursing ancient grudges lurking behind—the mysterious and entrancing world of Norse myth comes alive in these pages thanks to the spellbinding storytelling and spectacular pictures of the incomparable d’Aulairse. In this classic book, the art of the Caldecott Award—winning authors of d’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, a longtime favorite of children and parent, reaches one of its pinnacles. It offers a way into a world of fantasy and struggle and charm that has served as inspiration for Marvel Comics and the Lord of the Rings.

Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

A friend recommended this series. And I was just so pleased that the library actually has it that I went out and grabbed what I could find.

Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them…. and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all…! Acclaimed suspense novelist and New York Times best-selling author Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box) creates an all-new story of dark fantasy and wonder, with astounding artwork from Gabriel Rodriguez.

Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

New York Times bestselling writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez, the creators behind the acclaimed Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, return with the next chapter in the ongoing tale, Head Games. Following a shocking death that dredges up memories of their father’s murder, Kinsey and Tyler Locke are thrown into choppy emotional waters, and turn to their new friend, Zack Wells, for support, little suspecting Zack’s dark secret. Meanwhile, six-year-old Bode Locke tries to puzzle out the secret of the head key, and Uncle Duncan is jarred into the past by a disturbingly familiar face. Open your mind – the head games are just getting started

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not) – Jason Shiga
Ok so I also did some browsing of the graphic novel shelves too…

Jimmy is a stereotypical geek who works at the library in Oakland, California, and is trapped in his own torpidity. Sara is his best friend, but she wants to get a life (translation: an apartment in Brooklyn and a publishing internship). When Sara moves to New York City, Jimmy is rattled. Then lonely. Then desperate. He screws up his courage, writes Sara a letter about his true feelings, and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building (a nod to their ongoing debate about Sleepless in Seattle).

Jimmy’s cross-country bus trip to Manhattan is as hapless and funny as Jimmy himself. When he arrives in the city he’s thought of as “a festering hellhole,” he’s surprised by how exciting he finds New York, and how heartbreaking—he discovers Sara has a boyfriend!

Jason Shiga’s bold visual storytelling, sly pokes at popular culture, and subtle text work together seamlessly in Empire State, creating a quirky graphic novel comedy about the vagaries of love and friendship.

Wee reader’s loot:

Don’t Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books) – Lara Bergen, Betsy Snyder (Illustrator)

Daisy’s Day Out – Jane Simmons

Mangia! Mangia! (World Snacks) – Amy Wilson Sanger

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
What did you get at your library this week?


So the first couple of pages of Villain don’t exactly make you want to jump into the fray. Because it reads like a rather boring travel guide, written by somebody who is rather into transportation and roads. You can know all you need to know about the tolls for vehicles between Nagasaki and Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Hakata.

I went along with it, and then comes the trigger. The last paragraph (of the first section) tells the reader of an arrest, of a crime, essentially spelling it out for you.

And that’s the thing I realise about Japanese crime fiction, at least the three that I have read so far (Out, The Devotion of Suspect X). That it is not about the mystery, it’s not technically a whodunnit, because you already know whodidit. Because it’s right there in your face, in the first few sections, the first few pages even. These books are more about the ‘why’, and the effect the murders have – on the murderers themselves, the victim’s family and friends, the other suspects.

Villain, by Shuichi Yoshida, brings out a different part of Japan, one of love hotels and online dating, and ageing seaside villages full of elderly residents. It is a quite ugly, rather lonely view of Japan.

“The scenery flowing past changed, but they never seemed to get anywhere. When the interstate ended, it connected up with the prefectural highway, and past that were city and local roads. Mitsuyo had a road atlas spread out on the dashboard. She flipped through the maps and saw that the highways and roads were all color-coded. Interstates were orange, prefectural highways were green, local roads were blue, and smaller roads were white. The countless roads were a net, a web that had caught them and the car they were in.”

Told from multiple viewpoints especially towards the end of the book, Villain shines when the focus is on the victim’s father, who struggles to come to terms with his daughter’s death, and his painful realisation that he didn’t really know his child at all.

Villain was an engrossing, thought provoking read, and leaves you wondering, who – or perhaps what – is the real ‘villain’ here.

Reading in May

I was walking wee reader around the children’s section of the library the other day when I spotted the black and red cover of Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. And while I didn’t pick it up that day, it made me wonder what other children’s or young adult books have I missed out on?

Like The Phantom Tollbooth, A Wrinkle in Time, Perks of Being a Wallflower. So I hope to read some of these this month.

Also I’m still chugging my way through the Forsyte Saga – and enjoying it far more than I expected. I doubt I will complete this book in May as the kindle app tells me I’m just 13% through!

Next, I’ve neglected quite a few categories in the Mixing It Up Challenge, so I hope to remedy that in May by finishing at least half of these categories:

James Tiptree, Jr. : the double life of Alice B. Sheldon – Julie Phillips
The man who loved China : the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom – Simon Winchester

The secret history of the Mongol queens : how the daughters of Genghis Khan rescued his empire Jack Weatherford
The last empress : Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the birth of modern China – Hannah Pakula

Full dark, no stars – Stephen King
The last werewolf – Glen Duncan
I, Lucifer – Glen Duncan

Dating Mr. December – Phillipa Ashley
The Winter Sea – Susanna Kearsley

Between the woods and the water : on foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland : the middle Danube to the Iron Gates – Patrick Leigh Fermor
Among flowers : a walk in the Himalaya – Jamaica Kincaid

Journalism and humour
Al-Jazeera : the inside story of the Arab news channel that is challenging the West – Hugh Miles
Reporting from Ramallah – Amira Hass

Science and natural history
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming – Mike Brown
Wicked plants : the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother & other botanical atrocities – Amy Stewart
The sound of a wild snail eating – Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Library Loot (18 April 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

I had four books waiting for me on the hold shelves and managed to pick up a good number of books for wee reader today, as the board books area was stocked with fun books. And wee reader just couldn’t get enough of those books – he kept wandering out of the area where the baby programme was and heading over to the board books to pat them.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 7: Twilight (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)) – Joss Whedon et al
And it’s the last two books in season 8! Sad but true.

Buffy Summers and her Slayer army have suffered heavy losses throughout Season Eight and faced scores of threats new and old, but the one mystery connecting it all has been the identity of the Big Bad Twilight! In this penultimate volume of Season Eight, New York Times bestselling novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer (The Book of Lies, Identity Crisis) joins series artist Georges Jeanty in beginning the buildup to the season finale in the story line that finally reveals the identity of Twilight! In the aftermath of the battle with Twilight’s army, Buffy has developed a host of new powers, but when will the other shoe drop, and will it be a cute shoe, or an ugly one? Still reeling from the losses of war, Willow goes looking for missing allies, and discovers a horrifying truth about several of the Slayer army’s recent ordeals. Adding to the mayhem is the unexpected return of Angel, in his Season Eight debut! This volume also features two stories from series creator and executive producer Joss Whedon! In the Willow one-shot, Whedon and Fray artist Karl Moline reveal for the first time what Buffy’s witchy best friend was up to between Seasons Seven and Eight, with a mind-blowing cameo by a frequently requested character. And in “Turbulence,” Joss spotlights the complicated relationship between Buffy and Xander with a conversation that changes it forever.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 8: Last Gleaming – Joss Whedon et al

The Season Finale is here, and Buffy must face the ultimate betrayal! Seems like a perfect time for Spike to come back.

Series creator Joss Whedon writes the final story arc of Buffy Season 8, taking his greatest characters to places only he can! Teamed with series artist Georges Jeanty, Joss reunites the dysfunctional gang of Buffy, Angel, and Spike, in the thick of it together for the first time since Season 3, and gives the Scoobies their gravest challenge ever – defending reality itself from an onslaught of demons. It’s the biggest Buffy finale ever!

Villain – Shuichi Yoshida, translated by Philip Gabriel
After reading The Devotion of Suspect X, I was interested in reading this book, thanks to JoV.

A chilling and seductive story of loneliness, desperation, and murder, Villain is the English-language debut of one of Japan’s most popular writers.

A woman is killed at a ghostly mountain pass in southern Japan and the local police quickly pinpoint a suspect. But as the puzzle pieces of the crime slowly click into place, new questions arise. Is a villain simply the person who commits a crime or are those who feel no remorse for malicious behavior just as guilty? Moving from office parks and claustrophobic love hotels to desolate seaside towns and lighthouses, Shuichi Yoshida’s dark thriller reveals the inner lives of men and women who all have something to hide.

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction – Alan Jacobs

In recent years, cultural commentators have sounded the alarm about the dire state of reading in America. Americans are not reading enough, they say, or reading the right books, in the right way.
In this book, Alan Jacobs argues that, contrary to the doomsayers, reading is alive and well in America. There are millions of devoted readers supporting hundreds of enormous bookstores and online booksellers. Oprah’s Book Club is hugely influential, and a recent NEA survey reveals an actual uptick in the reading of literary fiction. Jacobs’s interactions with his students and the readers of his own books, however, suggest that many readers lack confidence; they wonder whether they are reading well, with proper focus and attentiveness, with due discretion and discernment. Many have absorbed the puritanical message that reading is, first and foremost, good for you–the intellectual equivalent of eating your Brussels sprouts. For such people, indeed for all readers, Jacobs offers some simple, powerful, and much needed advice: read at whim, read what gives you delight, and do so without shame, whether it be Stephen King or the King James Version of the Bible. In contrast to the more methodical approach of Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book (1940), Jacobs offers an insightful, accessible, and playfully irreverent guide for aspiring readers. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of approaching literary fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, and the book explores everything from the invention of silent reading, reading responsively, rereading, and reading on electronic devices.
Invitingly written, with equal measures of wit and erudition, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction will appeal to all readers, whether they be novices looking for direction or old hands seeking to recapture the pleasures of reading they first experienced as children.

Wee reader’s loot:

Animals (Baby Touch and Feel) – Dawn Sirett

Peter Rabbit: Show Me Your Ears – based on the original tales by Beatrix Potter

One Blue Fish: A Colorful Counting Book – Charles Reasoner

Pony Brushes His Teeth – Michael Dahl

Commotion in the Ocean – Giles Andreae (Author), David Wojtowycz (Illustrator)

Move! – Robin Page (Author), Steve Jenkins (Illustrator)

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
What did you get at your library this week?

Library Loot (12 April 2012)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

The library has just started a new programme for those under 2 – it’s a bilingual Mandarin-English singalong/story session. Hopefully it will expose wee reader to more Mandarin, since we don’t speak it at home (his grandparents don’t really speak Mandarin either, as technically their backgrounds are Hokkien/ Teochew/Hainanese/Peranakan). He seems to be enjoying it so far!

Predators and Prey (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 5) – Joss Whedon et al

It was about time I get going with this series!

Buffy’s world goes awry when former-classmate-turned-vampire Harmony Kendall lands her own reality TV show, Harmony Bites, bolstering bloodsucking fiends in the mainstream. Humans line up to have their blood consumed, and Slayers, through a series of missteps, misfortunes, and anti-Slayer propaganda driven by the mysterious Twilight, are forced into hiding. In Germany, Faith and Giles discover a town where Slayers retreat from a world that has turned against them, only to find themselves in the arms of something far worse. A rogue-Slayer faction displaces an entire Italian village, living up to their tarnished reputation as power-hungry thieves. And finally, with the help of a would-be demon lover, Dawn addresses her unfaltering insecurities.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 6: Retreat (Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dark Horse)) – Joss Whedon et al

Buffy Season Eight Volume 6 showcases the first failure of the Slayer legion. Vampires have solid footing at the top of the totem and Slayers have been crushed to the bottom – in short, no one likes Buffy anymore… least of all this season’s mysterious Big Bad, Twilight, who is hot on her magical trail! Now that it’s the world against Slayers, Buffy must find a way to return the status quo to… status quo – and keep her girls alive long enough to do it! Enter Oz, the only person/werewolf Buffy knows who is down with the suppression of magic, and can take the Slayer army off of Twilight’s magic-specific radar. With Oz’s assistance the Slayers and Wiccans try to become “normal” through meditation and hard labor – although, not everyone sees the advantage of being magicless, namely, Willow, Giles, and Andrew. And they could be right; after all, is a peaceful life for a Slayer even possible?

The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy) – N.K. Jemisin

Yay! I got the second book in the Inheritance trilogy (I loved the first). I couldn’t find the third though… it seems that someone else in the area is reading Jemisin too. For Once Upon a Time VI.

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree’s guest is at the heart of it…

Life Is Meals: A Food Lover’s Book of Days – James and Kay Salter
I can’t remember where I first heard of this book, but I’ve been wanting to read this for quite a while. This is for the Foodies Read challenge.

From the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author James Salter and his wife, Kay—amateur chefs and terrific hosts—here is a charming, beautifully illustrated food lover’s companion that, with an entry for each day of the year, takes us from a Twelfth Night cake in January to a champagne dinner on New Year’s Eve. Life Is Meals is rich with culinary wisdom, history, recipes, literary pleasures, and the authors’ own stories of their triumphs—and catastrophes—in the kitchen.
For instance:
The menu on the Titanic on the fatal night
Reflections on dining from Queen Victoria, JFK, Winnie the Pooh, Garrison Keillor, and many others
The seductiveness of a velvety Brie or the perfect martini
How to decide whom to invite to a dinner party—and whom not to
John Irving’s family recipe for meatballs; Balzac’s love of coffee
The greatest dinner ever given at the White House
Where in Paris Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter had French onion soup at 4:00 a.m.

Sophisticated as well as practical, opinionated, and indispensable, Life Is Meals is a tribute to the glory of food and drink, and the joy of sharing them with others. “The meal is the emblem of civilization,” the Salters observe. “What would one know of life as it should be lived, or nights as they should be spent, apart from meals?”

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. – R.W. Apple Jr

And on the same shelf there was this one! Also for the Foodies challenge

Celebrated journalist R. W. (“Johnny”) Apple was a veteran political reporter, a New York Times bureau chief and an incisive and prolific writer. But the role he was most passionate about was food anthropologist. Known both for his restless wideopen mind and an appetite to match, Apple was also a culinary scholar: witty, wide-ranging and intensely knowledgeable about his subjects. Far Flung and Well Fed is the best of legendary Times reporter Apple’s food writing from America, England, Europe, Asia and Australia. Each of the more than fifty essays recount extraordinary meals and little-known facts, of some of the world’s most excellent foods —from the origin of an ingredient in a dish, to its history, to the vivid personalities—including Apple’s wife, Betsey—who cook, serve and eat those dishes.
Far Flung and Well Fed is a classic collection of food writing— lively, warm and rich with a sense of place and taste—and deserves to join the works of A.J. Liebling, Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher and Calvin Trillin on the bookshelf.

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 – Adam Hochschild
For the War Through the Generations challenge

World War I was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” Over four long years, nations around the globe were sucked into the tempest, and millions of men died on the battlefields. To this day, the war stands as one of history’s most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation.

To End All Wars focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war’s critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Many of these dissenters were thrown in jail for their opposition to the war, from a future Nobel Prize winner to an editor behind bars who distributed a clandestine newspaper on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain’s most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.

As Adam Hochschild brings the Great War to life as never before, he forces us to confront the big questions: Why did so many nations get so swept up in the violence? Why couldn’t cooler heads prevail? And can we ever avoid repeating history?

An Overdrive e-book
Beauty – Sherri S. Tepper
Also for Once Upon a Time

With the critically acclaimed novels The Gate To Women’s Country, Raising The Stones, and the Hugo-nominated Grass, Sheri Tepper has established herself as one of the major science fiction writers of out Time. In Beauty, she broadens her territory even further, with a novel that evokes all the richness of fairy tale and fable. Drawing on the wellspring of tales such as “Sleeping Beauty,” Beauty is a moving novel of love and loss, hope and despair, magic and nature. Set against a backdrop both enchanted and frightening, the story begins with a wicked aunt’s curse that will afflict a young woman named Beauty on her sixteenth birthday. Though Beauty is able to sidestep tragedy, she soon finds herself embarked on an adventure of vast consequences. For it becomes clear that the enchanted places of this fantastic world–a place not unlike our own–are in danger and must be saved before it is too late.

Wee reader’s loot:

The Baby Hustle: An Interactive Book with Wiggles and Giggles! – Jane Schoenberg, illustrated by Liz Conrad

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie? – Sandra Boynton

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
What did you get at your library this week?