List-o-mania

I’m not sure where it comes from, because I don’t think anyone else in my immediate family suffers from this like I do.  Perhaps another reason to suspect the stork dropped me off at the wrong house, but that is another subject for another day.  Back to my near-manic obsession to categorize and list things.

This has come to light because of my recent work compiling and updating my Reading Lists.  As I combed through the reading lists I knew there should be more books on some of the lists and the problem became how do I recall the lost ones.  The answer: make a list of my favorite authors and then from that list make lists of the books they have written so I can check which have been recorded and which have not.  There was a little anxiety there because even if I recall that I have read the book, I know I can’t recall what year I read the book.  So after a couple of little sit-down discussions with myself I realized that I could deal with having a list of books categorized by the decade in which they had been read, such as the 1980s and 1990s.  Imperfect, but I can now cope with that.

So now, you see the problem I am faced with – one list branches off and creates an unending amount of other lists that must be created to support and finish the first one.  And that is just the list of books already read, there also exists lists of books I want to read in the future.  Is that one I have had my eye on a part of a series?  If so, is it book 1 or book 2?  How will I know?  I’ve got it – I’ll make a list.  For some reason, there is a part of me (perhaps an English major’s curse) that is curious to know how many Pulitzer Prize winning books I have read in my life. You can see where this is going – another list.

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.  So far I’ve only mentioned books, of course I also own CDs, DVDs, PlayStation games, baseball cards, football cards, all in different stages of cataloging.

Time to sign off now – I need to go make a list of all the lists I need to make.

THE FINAL STORM by Jeff Shaara

Shaara proves again why he should be a top pick on everyone’s list for military reading. He brings a “you are there” feeling to his writing that never once bogs down even while his soldiers are slogging through mud pits, digging foxholes, and facing long rainy nights on alert for the enemy. The Final Storm takes the reader to the Okinawa campaign and the dropping of the atomic bomb in the final stages of WWII. Viewpoints alternate between grunts on the ground and officers on both sides of the campaign. The seamless writing style brings a novelistic feel to the book even while discussing strategies, describing conditions, and explaining mindsets of those involved. Having received this as an unedited advanced free copy as a LibraryThing Early Reviewer book it is now on my list of books to purchase as well as the preceding three in this WWII series.

MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

The heart of the book is a coming of age story, an individual’s struggle to understand one’s own evolving self-identity. However, it is not a tale told in a straight forward manner, instead it weaves its way through a multi-layered and multi-generation tapestry. Beginning on Mount Olympus and winding its way to Michigan, this story follows the Stephanides family from their Greek heritage to their new American home. Just as the family itself faces difficulties of assimilating into their new world, so too does the narrator Callie face her own troubles assimilating into adulthood. Callie doesn’t understand why she never feels like she fits in with all the other girls, until Callie discovers she is actually a hermaphrodite and thus begins her transformation into Cal.

Middlesex is fascinating, epic in scope, and difficult to categorize as a particular type of book. Eugenides uses rich descriptions of background settings and historical context that transports the reader exactly where he needs to be at that moment of the timeline. The slow reveal of the secret that sets Cal up for his genetic destiny is tantalizing as well. With prose that is lyrical and often mesmerizing, this book is one that invites the reader to return again and again to its pages.

MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER by Robin Oliveira

Great historical novel set during the onset of the Civil War. Mary Sutter is a midwife, as was her mother and her grandmother. Yet she is driven by a greater amibition – to become a physician in a time period in which that was unthinkable for a woman. Against the odds, her mother’s wishes and by sacrificing love and more she follows her dream until she finds the two men who out of necessity begrudgingly take her under their tutelage. Oliveira succeeds in producing a story that reveals both the physical and emotional wounds and scars that the war inflicted not only on the front lines of the battles, but also on the home-front. Vivid and grim descriptions of medical practice in the era highlight the struggles encountered by all. If you are looking for an inspiring story with a strong heroine, then look no further than My Name is Mary Sutter

FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follett

The first of a trilogy, Fall of Giants follows the lives and events of five families during the events leading up to and through the First World War. These families – American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh – cross paths in intriguing, yet believable as written, ways. This cross-section enables Follett to show the war from multiple perspectives and voices spanning from those higher in the social scale who are on the fringes of influencing decision makers to those on the opposite end who are swept up by forces beyond their control. In most of these cases, Follett successfully creates dynamic and well-rounded individuals that evoke pity, sympathy, and disgust when appropriate. Even with so many voices and story lines, the reader is able to follow the action and plot throughout. This book was a wonderful read for me until the last quarter of the book, which seemed to suddenly became plodding and bordering on the boring. With that said, it was enjoyable enough that I do intend to continue with the series.

Reading List Updates

I am finally making some progress on updating my Reading List pages, although I still have a ways to go.  Either I have lost some copies of some of the years or my dog has eaten them.  I am trying to re-create from memory what I have read during those periods as best as I can.  Will continue to work diligently on this part of the blog site.  Additionally, I have a stack of books here at my elbow that are patiently awaiting a written review.  Those too, are soon to be forthcoming.  Now that school has finished I can re-claim some time for my own projects rather than what is assigned to me.  My hope is that my reading lists and reviews will be a useful tool in helping you find interesting and engaging books that will inspire, educate, or amuse depending on what your heart desires.