The LDR International Book Club

Books that Matter

In Which Beth Keeps Her Books by David Malki!

“You do realize you have two copies of this book?” said the Barnes and Noble’s cashier. She held up the offending copies of  Jo Walton’s Farthing.

My boyfriend and I nodded, grinning. I had a feeling we’d be asked why.

“You can’t share?” she asked.

“We live a bit too far away for that,” I replied.

And it’s true. The Atlantic Ocean means that reading a book together simultaneously requires two copies. While we do have a fairly fluid library, we’re two bibliophiles. We enjoy reading books, we share favorites with each other. When I moved back to America, we wanted to come up with something we could do together apart from watching TV shows.

So we started simple. Both of us are fantasy/science fiction fans. We looked to an author who we both enjoy (and a book in his collection he hadn’t read yet): Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. We started slow, a chapter or two a week as he is finishing his PhD and I was interning/job hunting. Plus, we weren’t sure how well it would work.

Every couple of days we would read a chapter or three and then discuss what we liked/didn’t like about it, with the aim of finishing before his visit so we could watch the miniseries together during his first visit.

Mission accomplished!

We’re now in the middle of Farthing, an alternative-WWII murder mystery largely taking place at a wealthy home in the English countryside. It’s fun to read a book at the same time as a friend, to discuss what’s going on. “Can you believe what happened? What do you think will happen next? I really don’t like this part” are common phrases from us while we Skype.

Now, we think about which books to read well in advance. We’re thinking of reading Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker soon, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s fun to pick out a book and say, “we might both enjoy this, let’s read it together!”

Our international book group is a great way for us to talk about things we both love: books and reading. We still recommend each other books to read (from he, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, from me, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother). But we have books that we read and discover together, even across the Atlantic Ocean.

A Girl Who Reads…

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

A poem by Mark Grist.

I had to share this. Because girls who read are brilliant (if I do say so myself).

I do feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve only finished one book since January, Barry Miles’s London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945. In my defense, it was several hundred pages long (and I’m working hard on my degree).

But I am a girl who reads. A reader of fiction both literary and pulp (and where the two crossover), of histories (mostly pop), of biographies, of critical theory, of academic articles. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as I love television, movies, even the internet, I wouldn’t trade reading for it.

Not reading for myself hurts. It aches as my brain grows weak, my attention span dwindling, when all I want is to read and find I can’t.

I still wander through libraries and bookstores, my eyes lusting over the beautiful book covers, the words on the pages…I long for the day where I can read for myself again (I may end up cheating a bit and reading before going to bed. All PHP and no books makes Beth a dull girl). Just today, I found myself at both Blackwell’s and the Edinburgh Central Library, perusing the shelves, holding books in my hands.

And yes, I gave in to temptation. I couldn’t resist. I never can. The printed word entices me, it draws me in, it is irresistible. I picked up a couple at the library, and am considering buying one for myself from Blackwell’s (Catriona Child’s Trackman). Perhaps as a reward for surviving this first round of submissions.

And, as a girl who reads, I have to say there’s nothing sexier than a guy who reads.

Maybe I’ll write a follow up poem.

Book Challenge: Pirates, Paratroopers, and me

What's On the Bookshelf?

Nearly done! Finally. So glad that I’m just answering these three at a time.

Twenty-five: Favorite book you read in school

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read this in the seventh grade. It was the book that made me love Stevenson’s work, and search out more of it (I’ve read most of his novels now, I think I’ve just ignored the Master of Ballantrae, which I own, I just haven’t read yet, and one or two others).

Part of what made this a great in school read was my teacher’s plan to get us to learn. He passed out print outs of a ship’s interior, so we could understand what Stevenson was writing about.

Also, Long John Silver is just a great character. One of my favorites.
Twenty-six: Favorite nonfiction book

Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. I encourage all of my friends to read it, particularly those who have seen the miniseries. Well written, researched…I want to reread it now that I think more about it…

Twenty-seven: Favorite fiction book

You can’t do this to me. Besides, I don’t have a favorite book. I think I’ve already mentioned this a fair few times. Particularly answering question one.

Book Challenge: Traitors, Inferno, Favoritism

What's On the Bookshelf?

Day 22: Book you plan to read next

I’m going to reread Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre! I don’t think I’ll get the biography on Gertrude Bell read before I leave. Tinker, Tailor is going to be my plane read. I’m hoping to reread most of it before I see the movie.

I really like my copy of the book. It’s a beat up, well loved tie in edition from the Alec Guinness mini-series (which I haven’t seen). I picked it up for 50 cents, even better for me!
Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

Dante’s Divine Comedy. I don’t think I’ve explicitly said that I’ve read it, but I allude to it, quote it, etc. But I haven’t finished. I haven’t even finished Inferno. That’s a constant work in progress. I have trouble reading poetry. More accurately, I have trouble concentrating when I read poetry. I once read one of Tolkien’s epic poems. Wow.
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I love the scene where Fred and George decide to leave Hogwarts. Its funny. There’s much mayhem. Fred and George. Love it.

Book Challenge: Recitation, Frightenings, Nausea

What's On the Bookshelf?

Day Three of the Book Challenge. You sick of this yet? I’m not. But I think I will be, quite soon.

Seven: Book You Can Quote/Recite

Recitation. Quotation. I actually have great difficulty remembering exact words if they aren’t sung, so rarely do I quote books perfectly. There’s usually some mess ups here and there.

I’m most proud of the fact that I can quote part of Inferno (in Italian) and I know what it means. Continuing on the Dante kick, I would love to be able to quote one of the poems out of La Vita Nuova.

Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare

la donna mia, quand’ella altrui saluta,

ch’ogne lingua deven tremando muta,

e li occhi no l’ardiscon di guardare.

Ella si va, sentendosi laudare,

benignamente d’umiltà vestuta;

e par che sia una cosa venuta

da cielo in terra a miracol mostrare.

Mostrasi sì piacente a chi la mira,

che dà per li occhi una dolcezza al core,

che ‘ntender no la può chi non la prova:

e par che de la sua labbia si mova

un spirito soave pien d’amore,

che va dicendo a l’anima: ‘Sospira!’

I love that poem. I really, truly do.

Eight: Book that Scares You

By and large, I don’t read books that are scary. I’m more likely to watch scary movies than read horror books.

But you know what does scare me? Diseases. Real world stuff. So, book that scared me? My textbook for my Emerging Infectious Diseases class.

My friends and I would read the book, and end up diagnosing ourselves. Never wise. Also, in Boston you are highly unlikely to get any of the exotic diseases found in Africa.

Nine: Book that Makes You Sick

No book has made me physically ill, I’m proud to say. But there are some where the descriptions have moved me to grimace (I’d love to watch my face as I read. I’ve noticed that I make some really funny feeling expressions if I get really into a book).

Sick with dread, perhaps.

I recently finished Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. I read it following a biography on the man, which made following it easier. But there was also a sense of dread. I knew about some of the more terrible instances in the book because the bio addressed them, in some cases I had even read these sections, as Korda felt Lawrence’s words were better than his for certain situations, particularly Lawrence’s abuse at the hands of the Turks in Deraa.

Reading the Deraa section, indeed, knowing it was coming, put my stomach in knots. It didn’t make things any better when I got to that part.

On a more humorous note, reading about sheep-pyramid feasts didn’t help the hunger level. Ugh…

30 Posts on Books.

What's On the Bookshelf?

So, this is supposed to be a 30 day challenge. As those who read my 30 Days of Writing posts last year know, I don’t post anything on time. Instead of doing this as 30 consecutive posts, I’ll come back to the list. I may even combine some of the topics. And I don’t think I’ll answer them in order! And I’ll probably skip a whole mess of them! Woohoo!

I found the challenge on the Storytelling Nomad blog.

Day 1: Favourite book
Day 2: Least favourite book
Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud
Day 4: Book that makes you cry
Day 5: Book you wish you could live in
Day 6: Favorite young adult book
Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite
Day 8: Book that scares you
Day 9: Book that makes you sick
Day 10: Book that changed your life
Day 11: Book from your favorite author
Day 12: Book that is most like your life
Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you
Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry
Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child
Day 16: Longest book you’ve read
Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read
Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like
Day 19: Book that turned you on
Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times
Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood
Day 22: Book you plan to read next
Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene
Day 25: Favorite book you read in school
Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book
Day 27: Favorite fiction book
Day 28: Last book you read
Day 29: Book you’re currently reading
Day 30: Favorite coffee table book