Tuesday, December 3, 2013

50 More Books

If you recall, I once mentioned that, years ago, I started keeping track of the books I'm reading. And I still am. (Goodreads has been a big help in this respect.) I've already commented on the first 50 books in that list, which I read from 2007 to 2010. (See books 1 through 50 here.) Well, now I'm up to 100 books. See books 51 to 100 below.

Books Read 2011–2013 (51–100)

51. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
52. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
53. The Awakening (Vampire Diaries #1) by L. J. Smith
54. Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler
55. The Struggle (Vampire Diaries #2) by L. J. Smith
56. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
57. The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi
58. Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
59. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins
60. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
61. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
62. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
63. Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale
64. The Vampire Stalker by Allison van Diepen
65. River Secrets (Books of Bayern #3) by Shannon Hale
66. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
67. Freak, the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
68. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
69. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls #1) by Ally Carter
70. Divergent (Divergent #1) by Veronica Roth
71. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
72. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)
73. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
74. Silas Marner by George Eliot
75. Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2) by Shannon Hale
76. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
77. The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
78. The Wishing Spell (Land of Stories #1) by Chris Colfer
79. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
80. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
81. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
82. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
83. City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
84. Emma by Jane Austen
85. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
86. Priceless by Robert K. Wittman
87. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
88. City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments #2) by Cassandra Clare
89. Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth
90. The Great Fire by Jim Murphy
91. Still Me by Christopher Reeve
92. Nothing Is Impossible by Christopher Reeve
93. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2) by Ally Carter
94. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
95. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
96. Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth
97. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
98. The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire #1) by Tui T. Sutherland
99. The Lost Heir (Wings of Fire #2) by Tui T. Sutherland
100. The Hidden Kingdom (Wings of Fire #3) by Tui T. Sutherland

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

-I'm reading faster. It took me only three years instead of four to get through this group of 50 books.

-Book series is becoming a dominant trend in the book world. On this list alone, there is Hunger Games, Divergent, Mortal Instruments, Books of Bayern, Austenland, Gallagher Girls, Wings of Fire, Vampire Diaries, Percy Jackson, and Land of Stories. I think I'll try and steer away from this a little to try and get more variety in my reading.

-For some reason, it seems I've been obsessed with Jane Austen: I've reread two of Austen's novels (Sense and Sensibility and Emma) and read a few Austen-inspired books, Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom and Prejudice and Shannon Hale's Austenland books.

-Yep. Vampire books. Mindless fun that's a remnant of my Twilight phase. But seriously, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is actually pretty good. However, if you're thinking of checking out The Vampire Diaries, I'd stick with the TV show.

-I think I should read more nonfiction. I've enjoyed all the nonfiction in this list (e.g., Still Me, Priceless, River of Doubt, The Great Fire, The Last Lecture, Walt Disney), and yet I never seem to read as much nonfiction versus fiction.

Funny the things you notice about yourself from just a list of titles. Like I said before, it's nothing much. Just a list. But it's still cool to think that I've now read 100 books.

Keep reading,
Shannon Jones

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thankful

This is just to say that I'm thankful for books. But you already knew that. Nevertheless, since we've now entered November, the month of Thanksgiving, what better time to express my gratitude? However, instead of stating the obvious reasons why I'm grateful for books: story, humanity, poetry, imagination, education, blah, blah, blah, I thought I'd spend some time pointing out the small, yet significant, things that foster my love for reading.

I'm grateful for words. I'm not referring to an author's eloquent turn of phrase or the beauty of a metaphor or someone's enviable grasp of vocabulary, although these are all great things. I'm talking about WORDS—simple, ordinary, everyday words. Does it ever occur to you what a miracle it is that words even exist, much less the ability to string them together into coherent sentences?

I'm grateful that I still have my eyesight. Sometimes it occurs to me that this may not always be the case, either because of accident, injury, time, or age, and you know, it's kinda scary. Eyesight is really rather fragile, if you think about it. It could be gone in an instant. If you've ever seen the Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough At Last," you pretty much know my feelings on the subject.

I'm grateful that my To Read pile is always growing and always longer than I can possibly keep up with. My never-ending reading list is evidence of two important things: 1.) Books worth reading are still being written; and 2.) I still love reading. Wouldn't it be sad if you literally ran out of books to read? Yeah. But it would be even sadder if I simply stopped reading, and consequently, stopped adding to my To Read list, when there are so many books out there. As bummed and overwhelmed as I am to think that I'll probably never catch up, it's probably a good thing that I won't.

But most of all, I'm grateful for the ability to read. It may seem like a mundane, ordinary, utilitarian task at times, but not everybody can do it, you know. Reading is a talent. Did you ever think of that? I mean, did you ever consider all the things reading enables you to do? It's practically a superpower! Go ahead. Feel special. But reading is also a gift. It's a good thing you can read that stop sign or that instruction manual, that text or that e-mail. But don't waste that gift. Read a book. And be thankful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Friend

I just finished reading Christopher Reeve's autobiography, Still Me, as well as Reeve's other book, Nothing Is Impossible (a shorter book, which to me reads like a supplement to Still Me).

I'm usually skeptical about biographies because I'm never sure how "true" they are even if the writer is the person himself. Because a person can have a completely different idea of himself than the people around him. And other people tend to judge a person based on appearance, background, beliefs, personality, etc., but do they really understand who that person is?

The thing that convinced me to read Still Me was finding a Superman IV video interview of Christopher Reeve from 1987. (See here.) As I was watching, I realized something: This was the first time I'd seen Reeve just talking, just being himself, at a time when he was still healthy and whole. For the longest time, all I pictured of Reeve was either him as Superman or him in a wheelchair. Either way, it's especially hard to see the real person underneath. Though I liked and admired him for his achievements as a superhero both on- and offscreen, I always wondered if my perception of him was true.

it wasn't until I saw Christopher Reeve for myself, beyond his reputation or his image, that I felt like I could trust his autobiography-because I felt like I could trust him. The interview was brief, but it nevertheless gave me a glimpse of Christopher Reeve the person. I found this particular interview to be honest, straightforward, and interesting, which is also the impression I got from his book.

Trust is key. If you want me to read a biography, I better be able to trust the author, whether he's talking about himself or someone else.

For me, biographies differ from history novels because history seems more open to interpretation. This is what happened. This is what we learned. And yes, we could get into the whole debate about how history is biased, skewed, and distorted depending on who's writing the history books, but let's not, OK? All I'm saying is, history is meant to be analyzed, studied, examined and re-examined. Otherwise, how would we learn from it? So, of course, there's going to be many points of view, and each perspective is going to contribute something different. The same may be true of biographies to a certain extent, but still, learning about events is different from getting to know a person.

There's a line from Superman: The Movie that perhaps best illustrates my point. After Superman (i.e., the man himself, Christopher Reeve) rescues Lois when she falls from the helicopter, Lois asks, "Who are you?" His answer? "A friend." I believe that reading a good biography is (or should be) like making a friend. Like saying hello. Like sitting down and having an in-depth conversation. Human beings aren't events to be analyzed. They are defined by relationships. And even if you're reading about someone who's dead and gone, there is still the possibility of human connection.

The funny thing about biographies, to me, is that they often reveal more about the biographers than they do about their subjects. I believe that oftentimes how a person is perceived says more about the observer than the person being judged. But this makes autobiographies like Still Me doubly interesting. I think I learned more about Christopher Reeve by "reading between the lines" of his story and how he wrote about events than by what had happened in his life.

And what a reader takes away from a biography says a lot about the reader too, depending on what you learn from it and how you feel about it. When we pick up a biography, we're basically asking the same question Lois Lane did: Who are you? The book is the answer. This is why I'm so picky about biographies. I'm not so concerned about THE truth as I am that every relationship I establish with another human being, even if just through a book, be as true as possible. I want an honest answer to that essential question. Because the friends I make are my choice, and I don't choose them lightly. Perhaps all this hair-splitting about history vs biography was just to say: Choose your friends wisely.



Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Couple of Photos

This is a photo of my "To Read" list, taken in January 2013. I've since finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.



Books included in this photo:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Pegasus by Robin McKinley
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

This is My Ideal Bookshelf. (Maybe you've heard of it? Check it out here. I love what these people have done with the concept.) If I had to narrow down my book collection to my essentials, I guess this would be it. These are novels I could live on for a lifetime.



Books in this photo:

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Keep reading,
Shannon