Now adding selected reviews

After a bit of thinking and some useful input, I’ve made a couple of changes to the blog. First, I am now showing a list of all of the books I have read in the current year in the left column. Although it isn’t obvious, if you click on the title of the book you do get taken to my review of it. Second, I will begin to add selected reviews as blog posts. I’ll be selecting those reviews where I think I had something useful to say, good or bad, about the book. I have written reviews of every book I have read this year and will continue that habit. So there are lots to choose from.

My reviews are not the final word on a book, of course. Lots of people see different things in the same book. That can lead to markedly different opinions. So feel free to comment on a review, if you like.

Finally, just a brief note on the star system you can see in the LibraryThing widget on the left. Long ago, when I first started using LT, I established my own idiosyncratic evaluative system and blogged about it. For me, 4-stars is really positive. Almost no books receive 5-stars. At the other end of the scale, 1-star either means I absolutely hated the book, or it could mean that it is a book from a series which doesn’t rise above its formula (even if that is a formula I enjoy). So, is that clear? Good.

I’ll start posting reviews soon. I will add a “review” tag to each review so that it will be easy later to look at all of the reviews posted simply by clicking on that tag.

The old switcheroo

This past weekend the beating heart of Waterloo briefly stopped. I’m exaggerating, of course. Words Worth Books is only a bookstore. It may also organize numerous author events, host book clubs, and provide knowledgeable advice on books that will dazzle and delight. It may be packed with friendly staff. And, oh yeah, it is most certainly an independent local business. But maybe it’s just me that thinks of it like the beating heart of Waterloo. If you do think this way, then it’s a momentous event when the doors close for good.

Don’t panic! A new set of doors opened almost immediately just down the street. In less than two days Words Worth Books shifted all of its stock and displays to a new location only a couple of steps from the old one. How is that possible?

I don’t know the details. But there must have been some serious planning and preparation by the staff. Let’s just say a lot of things happened behind the scenes. And then, early Sunday morning, like the crocuses and tulips that are bursting out all over what with our early spring weather, people, by which I mean volunteers, started showing up at the ‘old’ store. In what seemed like no time at all books were boxed, shelves were dismantled, shelves were remantled (?) at the ‘new’ store, and books were unboxed. I’m compressing things a bit. I was only there for the first couple of hours. I departed once I was secure in the knowledge that the fiction books, at least, were safely in place in the new locale. It looked to me like an unbelievable amount of work remained. Reader, it got done!

I dropped by the all-new Words Worth Books today and it looks fabulous. Congratulations to all involved. Long may this beating heart keep on pounding.

The new location of Words Worth Books is 96 King Street South, Waterloo, Ontario.

A month of productive reading, running, and writing

This feels like it will be a good year. At least it has started well. Fed up with the icy conditions, I have taken to using the indoor track at the Waterloo Recreation Complex. I managed to get out three times per week and achieved a total (time) for the month almost 50% higher than my previous personal best for January. It helped that I received an iPod Shuffle for Christmas, which relieves the tedium of endlessly running in circles (or rather ovals). I’ve also lost five pounds in the process. Once the paths clear sufficiently for safe running out of doors, in a couple of months, I should be ready for some significant numbers (for me).

I’m even happier with my reading. I mentioned earlier that I joined the 75 Books in 2012 challenge on LibraryThing. It’s not a race, just a self-imposed challenge. In order to make it more enjoyable, I decided that I would write short reviews of each book I read. That turns out to be much more fun than I had anticipated. Crafting what I hope are fair reviews of between 200 to 500 words brings its own challenges. I like to reflect some aspect of the text in my reviews. And I’ve been gratified to receive a few positive comments on them from others in the group. If you are interested in my reviews, an RSS feed of them is available.

These days I tend to have four books on the go in my reading pile at any one time, cycling through them. I keep two novels in the mix and usually two non-fiction books as well. Of the fourteen books I’ve devoured in January, a couple have stood out. Sputnik Sweetheart is the first work by Haruki Murakami that I have tried. I’m looking forward to more. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín is remarkably deft and gentle writing. I could learn a thing or two from him.

Apart from writing brief reviews, I’m pleased to report that my writing group met again in January. It had been a few months since I had been at a meeting. The other members of the group always inspire me to work a bit harder at my writing. In the month ahead, I intend to turn my thoughts towards antagonists. Which, I suppose, is well in keeping with the theme of challenges met.

Running – a year in review, 2011

It looks like I did better with my reading than with my running this year. No personal best. Indeed, 2011 will slot in as only my 4th best year for running. On the positive side, I did manage to get out running every month. On the negative side, there were four months in a row where my totals were excessively modest.

Here are how the top 10 years now rank:

  1. 2010
  2. 2004
  3. 2006
  4. 2011
  5. 2003
  6. 2008
  7. 2009
  8. 2002
  9. 2005
  10. 2007

No significant injuries in 2011, so no real excuses either. I’ll do better in 2012.


Reading – a year in review, 2011

2011 was another good year for reading. I discovered new authors whose work I enjoyed: Selecky, Skibsrud, Lerner and Moore (Lisa). I continued to participate in a book club whose meetings were always vibrant and whose selections surprised me. I touched base with some old favourites. And I had my eyes opened by two great literary achievements, Sebald’s Austerlitz and Nabokov’s Pnin. As per usual, I have compiled a list of statistics for 2011. You can also, if you wish, look back at the comparable stats for 2010. And for 2009.

Stats from my 2011 reading list:

  • 33 were borrowed from our public library
  • 18 have Canadian authors
  • 5 were chosen due to personal recommendations from friends
  • 34 are by authors who appear more than once on the 2010 list
  • 9 were being reread
  • 1 was read aloud by my wife and me
  • 12 are non-fiction

Books read in 2011 (81):

  • Sebald, W.G. Austerlitz
  • Pym, Barbara. Crampton Hodnet
  • Holt, Hazel. A Lot to Ask: A life of Barbara Pym
  • Laferrière, Dany. I Am a Japanese Writer
  • Dickner, Nicolas. Nikolski
  • Huxley, Aldous. Crome Yellow
  • Selecky, Sarah. This Cake is for the Party
  • Pym, Barbara. No Fond Return of Love
  • Velleman, J. David. How We Get Along
  • Skibsrud, Johanna. The Sentimentalists
  • Roth, Philip. The Plot Against America: A Novel
  • Pamuk, Orhan. The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist
  • Pym, Barbara. An Academic Question
  • Smith, Zadie. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
  • Moore, Lisa. Alligator
  • Janzen, Rhoda. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
  • Metcalf, John (ed.). The Narrative Voice: Short Stories and Reflections by Canadian Authors
  • Pym, Barbara. Less Than Angels
  • Johannesen, S.K. The Yellow Room
  • Moore, Lisa. Degrees of Nakedness: Stories
  • Iyer, Lars. Spurious
  • Moore, Lisa. Open: Stories
  • Jacobson, Howard. The Finkler Question
  • Prose, Francine. Reading Like a Writer
  • Prose, Francine. Blue Angel
  • Shawn, Wallace. Essays
  • Doxiadis, Apostolos. Logicomix
  • Bow, Erin. Plain Kate
  • Richler, Mordecai. Barney’s Version
  • McEwan, Ian. Solar
  • Fforde, Jasper. One of our Thursdays is Missing
  • Horan, Nancy. Loving Frank
  • Sawyer, Robert J. Wonder
  • Toews, Miriam. Irma Voth
  • Fallis, Terry. The Best Laid Plans
  • Walter, Jess. The Financial Lives of the Poets
  • Ollestad, Norman. Crazy for the Storm
  • Yeffeth, Glenn (ed.) Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show
  • South, James B. (ed.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale
  • Kalman, Maira. The Principles of Uncertainty
  • Cleave, Chris. Little Bee
  • Vaughan, Brian K. The Escapists
  • Seth. George Sprott: 1894-1975
  • Pratchett, Terry. I Shall Wear Midnight
  • Pym, Barbara. Some Tame Gazelle
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Pym, Barbara. A Few Green Leaves
  • Kirn, Walter. Up in the Air
  • Pym, Barbara. A Glass of Blessings
  • Vaillant, John. The Tiger: A true story of vengeance and survival
  • Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Pnin
  • Hyland, M.J. How The Light Gets In
  • Lerner, Ben. Leaving the Atocha Station
  • Glouberman, Misha and Sheila Heti. The Chairs Are Where The People Go
  • Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a leadership fable
  • Larkin, Philip. A Girl in Winter
  • Cooley, Martha. The Archivist
  • Pratchett, Terry. Nation
  • MacLeod, Alexander. Light Lifting
  • Simmonds, Posy. Literary Life
  • Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer
  • Harbach, Chad. The Art of Fielding
  • de Waal, Edmund. The Hare With Amber Eyes
  • Walter, Jess. The Zero
  • Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story
  • Zusak, Markus. I Am The Messenger
  • Cooper, Susan. Over Sea, Under Stone
  • Cooper, Susan. The Dark is Rising
  • Cooper, Susan. Greenwitch
  • Cooper, Susan. The Grey King
  • Cooper, Susan. Silver on the Tree
  • Mazzucchelli, David. Asterios Polyp
  • Pratchett, Terry. Snuff