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Below are the 19 most recent journal entries recorded in Fifty in '09!'s LiveJournal:

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Thursday, December 31st, 2009
11:57 am
Books 55-57, plus some analysis
Book #55 was "Paranoia" by Joseph Finder. I read this via Daily Lit and really enjoyed it. It's a thriller about industrial espionage among high tech firms. The narrator is kind of a smart alec, and that made it fun. The pacing of the book was excellent- there were several times I didn't want to stop with the daily portion emailed to me and so I requested more so I could find out what happened next. The "what happens next?!" reaction from a reader says loads about whether an author is doing a good job with tension and suspense, and I think Finder did an excellent job.

Book #56 was "Anatomy of a Murder" by Robert Traver. This classic legal thriller from the 1950s was written by a native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, set on the shores of Lake Superior and was later turned into a film starring Jimmy Stewart and shot partly in the U.P. And yet, somehow, I haven't gotten around to reading it until now. I really enjoyed Traver's descriptions of the U.P. and loved the narrator, lawyer Paul Biegler. In the story, Biegler must defend a soldier who has outright admitted to shooting a local bartender dead after the bartender allegedly raped the soldier's wife. The story seems simple at first but ends up with a few fun twists and turns.

Book #57 was *"Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. This took a long time to read- it's over 400 pages and it's chock full of information, so I had to digest it half a chapter at a time. Diamond opens with a question: Why have the fates of various peoples differed so much around the globe- why did some people conquer widely and go on to establish powerful mega-states while other peoples remained close to their primitive hunter-gatherer backgrounds? He posits several reasons, largely to do with the luck of the draw in terms of geography, botany and wildlife. It has great maps and charts to help distill the information into graphic representations as well. Highly recommended.

The other books I read this year:Collapse )

So, how'd I do on my goals? I had no big number goals for the total, just figured I'd read at least 50 if I followed the pattern of previous years. Possibly due to working from home, I've had more time to read and got to 57 this year. This is probably the most books I've read in one year since before I started college!

The goals I did set were: 1) To read some award-winning books (Pulitzer, Nebula, etc.) and 2) to up my percentage of non-fiction reads this year, between 35 and 40 percent non-fiction. Last year, my percentage was about 28 percent non-fiction, so anything above that, really, I'd be happy with.

1) I did read several award-winning books. All the ones above marked with an asterisk (*) have won a Pulitzer, Hugo, Nebula, New York Times Notable Book award, or something similar. Other authors on my list that don't have asterisks have won prizes for their entire career (like Nadine Gordimer) or have written other books that won prizes (i.e. the Rabbit books by John Updike). There may also be some books on the list that won major awards and I'm just not aware of it.

2) I fell down on this one! Only 17 of my 57 books were non-fiction, or about 29-30 percent. Slightly up from last year, but not by much. I'll be revisiting this goal for 2010.
Sunday, December 27th, 2009
10:30 pm
The books I read this year.
Here is a list of the books I read this year.

Behind the cut.Collapse )
10:16 pm
Last two books! Books 52 and 53: Sister Wife and Das Dschungelbuch
Book 52 was Sister Wife and Book 53 was Das Dschungelbuch, in German, the Disney version.

I've met my goals for the most part. I did read a few kids' books, which I'd tried not to do, but generally allow. I also read three German books, but they were kids' or comic books. Still, I did it. :)

I'm ready for next year!
Saturday, December 26th, 2009
1:12 pm
New community!
Once everyone finishes up here in 50_in_09, I encourage you to head over to 50_in_2010 where we can continue our book-tracking ways! I'll be posting my yearly round-up post at the end of next week and I'm really excited to see how everyone else has done this year!
Friday, December 25th, 2009
7:59 pm
Books 50 and 51: Ideal Husband and Urlaubstra:ume
Books 50 and 51 (Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and Urlaubstra:ume, a Far Side collection translated into German) are my 49th English and 2nd German book this year.

One more of each to go.
1:58 pm
Books 48 and 49
Books 48 and 49 were small holiday books that I read while killing time at church last night, on Christmas Eve. :)

Christmas Angels
Silent Night

My goals for 50 in 09 were to read 50 English books and 3 German books. The German books won't be "real" books, though next year they will be. This year they will all be mini-books or children's books, and I'm okay with that. :)

But I've read 49 books this year, only one of which was in German. That means I still have two books to read in English and two books to read in German. By next week. :)

Shouldn't be a problem.
Thursday, December 24th, 2009
11:49 am
Book 47: The Night the Angels Sang
Book 47 was The Night the Angels Sang.

I am not as close as I usually am to meeting my goal. :P

My goal was to read 50 books in English, and 3 "real" books in German. There is no way I'll meet that second part, but I will read 3 German books -- they'll just be children's books or mini-books, which is fine with me. :)

Currently reading (and this list hasn't changed in a while, it seems. Haven't had as much time to read as I usually do, though I'm off work until Jan. 4!):

The Onassis Women
The Ideal Husband
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (German)
Johannes (German)
Das Dschungelbuch (The Junglebook) (German)
(for the first time I don't have an English book that I'm reading regularly, meaning it's on my nightstand to be read every night. It's Johannes instead and I don't always have the brainpower at the end of the day to tackle any of it)
(nothing in the car lately -- I'll remedy that for 2010)
Saturday, December 19th, 2009
10:27 am
Books 53 & 54
This is the most books I've read in a year since I started posting to the 50_in_xx communities, and I think I'll finish at least two more before the month is out.

Book #53 was "Every Which Way but Dead" by Kim Harrison. It's the third in her "Hollows" series. They're brain candy, but as books on CD are great for long road trips. The author has some phrases she repeats WAY too often, and it's a little distracting, but overall, these are fun.

Book #54 was "Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass." These are short novellas, so I'm combining them into one item. It's funny how you may THINK you know the Alice books from movie adaptations, but there's a lot in the original novellas- especially "Looking Glass" that almost never make it into adaptations. I'd read both of these as a preteen, but it was fun to listen to them (as books on CD) again as an adult. These did, however, show up the pros and cons of getting free books on CD from librivox.org. The reader who did almost all of "Wonderland" was terrific- a British guy named Peter Yearsley who has a melodious voice and even sings the songs in the book. "Looking Glass" had a different reader for every chapter, and some were much better than others. Thick accents are tough to get past for books on CD, and some people read in a monotone that about puts you to sleep. Still, overall, I had fun with these. The other books I've read this year:Collapse )
Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
4:11 pm
Book 46: Manger in the Mountains
Book 46 is Manger in the Mountains, a small Christmas book.

I'm still in the middle of several books, and haven't had time to finish them. I'm reading them in tiny little bites.

The Ideal Husband
The Five People You Meet in Heaven (German)
Nachtschicht (just started this one)
Harry Potter (first book; German)
A book about the Onassis family, the exact title of which escapes me
Johannes (German)

I'm so tired by the time I hit the bed that I grab something I've read before and just skim to entertain my mind. :P And I currently have nothing in the car on audio. I should go to the library. :P
Monday, December 7th, 2009
10:52 pm
Book 45: Tis Christmas Once Again
Book 45 was a small holiday book called Tis Christmas Once Again.

I found another small holiday book with my Christmas stuff, as well -- it's one that connects everyone who was at the manger to people in our modern everyday lives. I'm hoping that one will sort of put me in the Christmas mood, because I'm not there yet.
Friday, December 4th, 2009
8:38 pm
Books 43 and 44: A Streetcar Named Desire and Hippies
Book 43 was the play A Streetcar Named Desire, which is my favorite play, and which I read last year as well. Oh well! I'm going to read it in German next year, if I can find it easily enough.

Book 44 was Hippie, by Barry Miles.
Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
10:42 am
Books 51 & 52
Book #51 was "A Stabbing For Sadie" by Wednesday Lee Friday (also known as wednes on LJ). For her first novel, I'm pretty impressed. It was published by a small press and had a few minor flaws that could have been improved with some assertive copy editing-- for instance, the name of one character changes spelling from "Tilly" to "Tillie" within the space of a chapter-- but overall, I thought the plot and characterization were quite good. As a reader, I have to have *some* kind of plot, but characters matter far more. I liked the smart-alecky tone of the narrator in this book, and that kept me reading.

Book #52 was "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Adichie. It's a fictional book set during the 60s that chronicles the conditions in Nigeria that led to part of the country breaking away and becoming the independent nation of Biafra in the late 60s. It follows three characters: an uneducated houseboy originally from the Bush, a wealthy, educated Nigerian woman who is married to a revolutionary, and a white British man living in Nigeria who falls in love with a Nigerian woman. I loved the writing and characterization in this book, and I always appreciate being taught about history through fiction. In the beginning, the story kind of meanders and isn't heavy on plot, but as times get harder and more dangerous for the main characters, you can't help but keep reading to find out what happens to them.
Read more...Collapse )
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
1:30 pm
Book 42: The Last Lecture
Book 42 was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, which of course made me cry. :)
Friday, October 30th, 2009
8:59 am
Books 49 & 50
Having finished 50 books by the end of October actually feels kind of liberating- like I'm done with an "assignment" and the rest is gravy. Maybe I'll just read complete brain candy for the rest of 2009! Probably not, though...

Book #49 was "Dry," a memoir of recovering from alcoholism by Augusten Burroughs. He's most famous for "Running With Scissors" which I have not read. I have read his "Unexpected Side Effects" which I liked a lot, and I knew I'd like "Dry." It only took me two days to finish. It reads much more like a novel (and a disclaimer at the beginning says that people and events are combined and that some scenes are imaginative recreations), and a very satisfying one. He's very funny but the book also made me cry.

Book #50 was "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole. This book was utterly ridiculous, but I loved it. I listened to it as a book on CD, and the reader did a phenomenal job. I thought it was an interesting coincidence that I was listening to this at the same time I was reading "Dry" and Burroughs references the main character from "Dunces" briefly in his book. The main character, Ignatius Riley, is an over-educated under-motivated bumbler who lives off his mother most of the time and goes from job to job at other times, wreaking havoc everywhere he goes. Meanwhile, he tries on a few different political causes, trying to impress his friend from college, a radical "minx" named Myrna. It's sad that the author killed himself thinking he was a failure, since the book went on to be published and awarded a Pulitzer posthumously.

The other books I've read this year:Collapse )
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
5:41 pm
Book 41: Between Two Fires
Book 41 is Between Two Fires, a collection of essays and speeches by Laura Esquivel.
Monday, October 26th, 2009
9:17 am
Books #47 and 48
Book #47 was "The Other" by Thomas Tryon. The plot is a kind of a twist on the "evil twin" theme. I didn't find this book super-suspenseful- I figured out the "big reveal" way before it was revealed. But the writing was really good, especially the descriptions of nature. I also loved the bits of Russian culture Tryon put in the book, because the character of the grandmother is from Russia. Also, reading the book got me curious about reading up on Tryon, who was pretty interesting- an actor who gave up acting to write fairly well-received and respected supernatural thrillers.

Book #48 was "Towelhead" by Alicia Erian. I got so engrossed in the book that I finished it in one day. It's about a 13-year-old girl whose mother is Irish-American and father is Lebanese. She experiences anti-Arab sentiment during the first Persian Gulf War and a flirtation with the married, racist and much older Army reservist who lives next door. There are a bunch of adults who don't do right by her, but I wanted to really wanted to pound the crap out of both of her parents. This may end up being one of my favorite books of the year.

The other books I've read this year:Collapse )
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
8:43 am
Books 39 and 40: Die Scho:ne und Das Biest and The Opposite of Fate
Made it to 40! Only ten books left before I meet my goal. Wait, plus the 3 German books. :P

Book 39 was Die Scho:ne und Das Biest, the Disney version, maybe 1500 words, I'm guessing? So a kids' book, but not a one-line-per-page book, either. And in German (Beauty and the Beast), so I'm pleased. That's my first German book finished this year. :P

Book 40 was The Opposite of Fate, Amy Tan's memoir. Lovely, especially if you are a fan of her first two books.
8:38 am
What I'm reading: an update
Die fünf Menschen, die dir im Himmel begegnen (purse), Mitch Albom
(Still reading a little at a time)

Die Schöne und das Biest (computer desk), Disney
(finished, will replace with the above until finished)

An Ideal Husband (email), Oscar Wilde (still reading)

The Last Lecture (purse), Randy Pausch (still reading; almost done)

Whitethorn Woods (audio), Maeve Binchy (Ugh. One of the CDs is messed up so I returned it to the library with a note. I replaced it with Tess of the D'Urbervilles which I decided I didn't like well enough to continue. Need to get to the library for another audiobook)

The Sun Also Rises (taking on cruise), Ernest Hemingway (this one ended up with my brother on the cruise so I never even started it :P)

The Opposite of Fate (taking on cruise), Amy Tan (finished. Not sure what I'm replacing this with yet. Maybe The Last Lecture but then I'll need another soon. I have a ton of stuff to choose from, though.)

Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen (nightstand), J.K. Rowling (haven't touched this in a while. It's overwhelming, though it shouldn't be. The more I read in German, the easier it will get, but it still takes a lot of energy, and I often read before bed when I'm tired.)
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
6:20 pm
Books 45 & 46
Book #45 was "The Gate to Women's Country" by Sheri Tepper. I'm a Tepper fan and have read probably 8-10 of her books, but hadn't read this one, which was one of her earliest novels and one that got her noticed. I see why after reading it- it pulled me in and I found it very compelling. I can forgive any flaws in a novel if the characters are well-rounded and interesting, and they definitely were in this novel. It's set in a post-apocalyptic world where women and men live in separate areas of the same cities, with women running day-to-day affairs in Women's Country and men living in the Warrior's barracks. The women raise their boy children to age 5 and then give them over to the warriors. The boys can decide at age 15 if they want to stay with the warriors or come back through the gate to women's country to live peacefully with the women.

Book #46 was "The Good, The Bad, and the Undead" by Kim Harrison. Her supernatural adventure/mystery novels are pretty fluffy but fun. This was entertaining during a long car trip, though some parts of her writing, both in this book and the first in the series, irritate me. For instsance, she often clobbers you over the head with foreshadowing. On the other hand, this book had more twists and surprises than the first in the series, and I liked that. It's pretty much brain candy.
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