What’s on your summer reading list?

Best-selling author Jennifer Weiner’s recent Op-Ed piece What’s Your Favorite Book? in The New York Times questioned the validity of criticizing other people’s choices in reading material. In particular, she was disappointed that Stephen Colbert made fun of the so-called bodice-ripper books by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams written under the name Selena Montgomery. When asked what book U.S. presidential candidate Mark Buttigieg would take if stranded on a desert island he named James Joyce’s Ulysses. Whether he was sincere or just showing off is moot because according to Weiner whatever we read (and write) should be respected simply because we’re reading. And I couldn’t agree more.

Weiner’s comments got me thinking about what book I would take to a desert island. Would it be humour, historical fiction, biography or perhaps a fictional family saga? One thing I know for sure; it would be fat. I love books of more than a thousand pages that engross me for days or weeks at a time. It’s like savouring a great meal or life experience by making it last as long as possible. Any one of the Ken Follett  Century trilogy (Pillars of the Earth, Fall of Giants, Winter of the World) would be a strong possibility; historical fiction is my favourite genre. And (surprisingly) I also loved the Russian classics like Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Go figure.

To order These Foolish Things from Amazon, click here.

​Some books are just so good they warrant re-reading. I’ve read These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach at least three times. That was the book the movie The New Marigold Hotel was based on and much as I enjoyed the movie, the book was soooo much better. The characters were more eccentric and multi-dimensional. The book was also funnier than the movie. But then, movies never measure up to the joy of reading the original book. Our imaginations are so much better at painting scenes than any movie could ever convey in 90 minutes.

David Sedaris is another author I could and do read over and over. His humour, while not to everyone’s taste, is in my opinion brilliant. Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy (Too Close to The Falls, After the Falls and Coming Ashore) outlining her life story was delicious beyond words for baby boomer readers.

There are just too many books to narrow it down to just one I would take to a desert island. I think the only solution would be to negotiate taking my iPad Mini or Kindle loaded with all my favourites. I’d need a solar charger of course but we could talk about that too. The bottom line is I can’t imagine life without reading; it’s my absolute favourite activity in the world. Just like some people love golf, tennis, running, crafting, football or creating art, my deep love of reading is organic, part of my DNA.

I have a spreadsheet on my laptop summarizing all the books I’ve read and want to read. It’s pages long and organized in columns:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Brief Description
  • Name of person or source who recommended the book
  • Date Read
  • Rating 1-10

Most of them are rated at least 8 because I don’t waste time on something I don’t love. I’ll never get to them all before I die so I may have to take my iPad to the grave with me to catch up. I’m always on the waiting list for at least half a dozen books at the library and sometimes it takes up to six months before I get something I’ve requested. Then, two or three land at the same time and I’m panicked about how I’m going to get through them all in my three-week allotted time frame.

My circle of boomer gal pals generally shares my taste in reading and we trade books (and magazines) back and forth. Not only do we get to enjoy the books while we’re reading them but we get to relive the joy while rehashing the story over lunch. I’ve never had much luck with book clubs because I’m very particular about what I read and I don’t have time to read and discuss a book I’m only luke-warm about.

Fortunately curriculum and teaching styles have vastly improved since boomers fell asleep in English class during the early sixties.

English literature was boring and boringly taught back when boomers fell asleep in English class in the sixties. I must say I’m so glad I studied classics like Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities but I could have lived without Steinbeck’s The Pearl and Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native. Later generations enjoyed J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and other contemporary novels by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence. Boomers were doomed to read only the classics in school—which isn’t a bad thing—but some fun books in the mix would have been welcome to inspire and encourage our love of reading.

This summer I plan to reread P.J. O’Rourke’s The Baby Boom. It’s hysterically funny and a must-read for baby boomers—like a trip back in time. I would also like to reread Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineIt’s a perfect rendering of that understated British sense of dark humour that I enjoy so much. What’s on your summer reading list?

Disclosure: If you order from these links, you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thanks.


Continue Reading

Sharing the joy of reading

Not in my world.

I’m a voracious reader but not a fan of book clubs; I prefer to only read what I truly enjoy and not analyze the bejeezus out of it. Reminds me too much of all those painful high school English classes with Mr. Crowther asking “what did the author mean?”. Good grief! Who but the author really knows what he or she meant. I’m just in it for the fun of reading. I have an extensive spreadsheet summarizing books I want to read—recommendations picked up from friends, The New York Times or The Globe and Mail reviews, magazine reviews and other sources. My detailed ‘To read’ chart includes?

  1. the title of the recommended book
  2. author’s name
  3. a few words describing what the book is about
  4. who or where the recommendation came from
  5. the date when I actually read the book
  6. its rating on a scale of 1-10.

I have to keep track because as soon as I finish a book and move on to the next one, I’m challenged to remember what I just read (which explains why when I was in high school in the olden days, memorizing reams of material for exams was not my forté). Does this level of tracking sound a bit excessive? There are so many books I have to cover in the short time I have left on this earth and I’m not about to waste time on something that doesn’t totally engage me and lift me up.

And she lived happily ever after.

Reading is a cheap and effective way to vicariously travel to foreign countries, experience other cultures, eavesdrop on conversations between fascinating people, engage in a plot for the downfall of a corrupt individual or organization, fall in and out of love, learn about strange events or just simply learn something new, all in the comfort of my LaZgirl. As I said in an earlier blog, the best investment I never made was my library card. What a deal.

Like most bibliophiles, I love the feel, texture and even the smell of a lovely hard-copy old-fashioned linen-covered book, but I’m also a huge fan of e-reading. I’ve gone through many iterations of e-readers and settled on the iPad mini as being my favourite digital reading device. While I’m sitting in Five Guys scarfing down forbidden french fries and Diet Coke, I can hide my face in whatever book I’m currently engrossed in. And nothing beats several books downloaded onto an e-reader for convenience when traveling.

What I like and don’t like

Historical fiction is my favourite genre but I also like:

  • autobiographies and biographies
  • books by and about strong women
  • humour (who doesn’t love David Sedaris?)
  • classical Russian literature including Tolstoy, Chekov and Dostoyevsky (go figure??)
  • some of the current best-sellers.
  • I’m a big fan of Canadian and British female writers.

With all those options, I don’t have time for what I don’t absolutely love. If I start a book and don’t love it within the first couple of chapters, then it gets tossed. This means that many books that were commercially popular or acclaimed by the literary big-wigs did not pass muster. So, when I publish a book review on BOOMERBROADcast, you can be sure it’s a book I enjoyed. There are many books I’ve attempted (sometimes multiple times) to read without success and had to abandon for various reasons:

  • Anything by Ayn Rand. Really?
  • Alice Munro is a Canadian literary goddess. But I find her books boring and tedious. Sorry. Guess I’m just not smart enough.
  • Rachel Cusk also leaves me cold. I’ve tried her Transit Trilogy books three times now, without success.
  • I’m ambivalent about Margaret Atwood. I enjoyed her early writing and Alias Grace, but couldn’t get into her dystopian trips. Although I didn’t enjoy The Handmaid’s Tale when I first read it thirty years ago, I love the television series.
  • The Fifty Shades of Gray series did not make the cut. After the first few pages, I found the writing almost laughable. For those who did enjoy them, more power to you—you’re reading and enjoying yourself which is always a good thing.
  • Surrealism and sci-fi aren’t my thing so I couldn’t get past the first few pages of Harry Potter, anything by Tolkien, or the Twilight series. I’m obviously in the minority about Harry Potter but I did try and as soon as we landed on Track 13½, that was it for me. Moved on.
  • I’ve tried reading Zadie Smith without luck. After about fifty pages of NW I gave up but I may give her another try.
  • I’m very circumspect about anything recommended by Oprah as most of the books she recommends are just plain depressing. When she made a big fuss several years ago about The Secret by Rhonda Byrne I thought I’d give it a whirl because it was about positive thinking. Who couldn’t benefit from a bit of that? Most of the material was copped from other writers and mentors and I felt ripped off. Waste of time. Hated it.

Reading and writing are my two favourite activities, or more accurately, lack of activity. I’ll pick up greasy magazines in the waiting room while I’m getting my oil changed; I’m a magazine junkie. When I enter a bookstore or library I can feel my heartbeat accelerate as I’m confronted with all the marvels on those beautiful shelves. Cereal boxes, picture books, airline safety brochures—put it in front of me and I’ll give it a go. There’s nothing I enjoy more than being engrossed in a good book for hours at a stretch—one of the benefits of being retired.

My personal taste in reading is purely subjective, whittled down after years of trial and error. My friend Alice loves mysteries and fortunately the public library seems to have an endless supply so she’s all set for years to come. Valerie can’t resist a good self-help book and my father, at the age of 92 has just discovered Danielle Steele on his retirement home bookshelves and is enjoying her books. Most of my girlfriends enjoy the same kind of books I do so we trade books and titles constantly. Everyone has their own individual preference in reading material and if you enjoy the same kind of books I do, you probably enjoy my regular reviews. At least I hope you do. I’d love to hear suggestions from readers of BOOMERBROADcast in the “Comments” about books you’ve enjoyed. We’re probably on the same page so let’s share the wealth.

Continue Reading
Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: