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Friday, February 19, 2010

Look What's Around the Corner!

OK shouting out reminders.

Monday - we're opening book....

book 24!!!!!! Whoa. Yeah. The last book in the first set. Know what that means?

I'll tell you.

It means you should be watching your mailboxes those of you who've been here for the long haul with me.

It means we're about to start a whole new set. And this next set? Oh think you guys are gonna like some of them. Hopefully all of them. We'll see. (Frankly I hope I like all of them, but books are books just like people.)

It means, pop that champagne guys, you've done an awesome job and I couldn't have made it without you!

Next reminder:

We will be doing the discussion of What Happened a week from today on the 26th. Get your ideas in hand and we'll get down and dirty with politics.

See you on the flip side!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The World Without Us Discussion

The World Without Us

by Alan Weisman

genre: factual fiction?

Mr. Weisman takes a grain of wonder and using fact and knowledge of experts in so many fields, he spreads that grain into an entire world. Our world. The grain: what if we weren't here anymore? What if we suddenly disappeared? What would happen to earth? Amazingly detailed information takes us into a possible future where we witness nature reclaiming her own. It gives the reader a great deal to think about our impact on earth. From the buildings we live and work in, the cars we drive to the food we eat and the clothes we wear, not to mention all our fun gadgets. Are these things bad? Not wholly. But we've changed this landscape far beyond its early state and truth be known, there may be no going back. But perhaps that is the nature of things after all.

When I put this book on the list, I had thought it was a sort of fictional story based on fact. What I hadn't realized is that this book a)has no real story, it's more of a written documentary and b) it is full of information about not just a possible future, but the state of our world now and the history of it and us in it. This part fascinated me as much as the peering into the future. I did not know that ages ago, there were giant animals that have gone extinct like camels and sloths. I of course knew about mammoths and saber tooth tigers - I suppose these are the iconic cliches of those now extinct herds of animals.

I didn't enjoy this book the same as others. Other books have that 'can't put it down quality'. This book beckoned me like a playground. Every time I took it up I had so much fun learning. I was constantly surprised by the things I learned and my level of enjoyment. It was like being a kid again, discovering some subject that draws you into obsessive knowledge seeking, minus the petty teasing and rivalry of school. This one gets a high high recommendation from me. So worth the time to read and though it's not a traditional novel, I can see myself reading this book more than once. I think it will be like those movies that you watch and find that you see something new each time. I look forward to that.

Your turn: how did the book affect you? Did you enjoy it or was the style of it not your thing? What parts of the book did you love or hate? Go.

By the way, I feel like such a bad mother, I missed my first deadline this year. I have a good excuse though. My SIL had to go to the hospital last night, so we hosted her children for dinner and worried about her which made me completely forget my pet project here. I am sorry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Writer Writes

On Writing

by Stephen King

genre: instructional/memoir

Many authors put out books about writing. Most of them fall into two categories: 1) the book about getting started or getting out of writer's block and 2) the book with exercises in every chapter to teach you writing skills. This book falls into neither category. Half memoir, half writing instruction, Stephen King's voice comes growling through with nuggets of wisdom and almost grumpy admonitions. And every word rings true.

I have only read Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King before picking up this book. I now plan to read at least four of his books. He impressed me quite a bit with his no nonsense style and forthright language. He's funny, sarcastic and a little wacky too. But most of all, he's successful and there's a reason for it. I think you'll find a lot of that reason laced throughout these pages. He's got gumption and talent. Those two things are necessary in a writing world from what I've been told. A lot of great writer's never get their names known because despite their talent, they're afraid of rejection. Without facing that fear, no writer will ever get published, let alone have the discipline to sit down and write every day. Beyond those two qualifications, he digs deeper into elements of writing and the importance of understanding the mechanics of language. He highlights proper presentation when selling yourself or your work to publishers, magazines and ultimately agents. He gives practical advice from the experiences he's lived. And nothing could be more valuable than that, given the source.

Some quotes I loved:

"You must not come lightly to the blank's writing damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business."

"The adverb is not your friend...I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops."

Lastly he tells the account of being hit by a van while out on one of his daily walks and how that affected him as a person and a writer. It moved me considerably. Not having known much more than the titles published by Mr. King, I found this book a fun discovery of a writer I now admire.

Even if you're not interested in being a writer, this book is an enjoyable read. At least the first half, the memoir part, I believe appeals to anyone. The sections on writing might not be your cup of tea, and yet, his style and humor creeping out on every page make it more than just instructions on writing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Twenty-Three Opening

She Waxes Patriotic

The Partly Cloudy Patriot

by Sarah Vowell

genre: collection of essays

Sarah Vowell, sporting a voice like no other, has a passion for history and civic life to rival the greatest sports fan. In this collection of essays she takes us through a wide range of clever thoughts on patriotism, history and individual involvement in the political atmosphere. She takes time to delve deep into subjects such as what it means to be patriotic even when you extremely dislike (to put it lightly) the President (George W Bush at the time of writing) or musing on her almost macabre delight in vacationing at historical sites of mass death or political assassinations.

I am no history buff. Sarah Vowell's utter love of the subject draws me in and makes me start making lists of places to see or books to read. This of course I may not ever accomplish, and yet to even get me excited enough to believe I will takes a great amount of conviction. And she's got it. I love reading her because she uses dry wit and clever thought process while making parallels with pop culture icons like Revenge of the Nerds or Buffy the Vampire Slayer so that even the layest of lay people can get where she's coming from. No dry history or sociopolitical text book is this.

Pick it up for a delightful, if short, read. Or better yet, get it on audio and enjoy the unique quality of her only slightly grating voice. The cool thing about her audio versions is that she employs people like Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, They Might Be Giants, Michael Chabon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It Came It Came It Came!

You cannot believe how utterly difficult it is for me not to open this.


We are now reading The World Without Us.

We will be having a book opening video up on Monday for book 23.

Plan on having your thoughts ready to share next Friday the 12th for the discussion of The World Without Us.

See you then!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My heart is aflutter. I have just been notified that my shipment of books are on their way! That would be the next set of Brown Books. Woot!

This time, I'm giving myself an added handicap. I know the list of books, but I will not be looking at them before they are wrapped. My husband has agreed to be the wrapper for this round. That way, I won't even know the size and shape of the books and therefore, I will get an added element of surprise.

I'm just so excited.

Can you tell?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Wish for Beyond the Grave

The Lovely Bones

by Alice Sebold

genre: Literary Fiction

You live in a small town. Most people know most other people and you feel secure in your close knit community. The unthinkable happens. A girl goes missing. You later hear through gossip chains and the news, she was murdered. Your small town world becomes a place less safe, you feel shattered. You attend the funeral. You know the family a little. You try in some way to give condolences but you know that nothing you say or do could penetrate that kind of sorrow. What you don't know you learn in this book. What happens to a family that loses a daughter and sister this way? How do they hold it together? Or do they at all? What does loss like that mean? And you learn that there are never pat answers or perfect endings.

Told from the point of view of the murder victim, this story imagines a life after death for the dead and the living. It is eerie and sickening as we are navigated through the rape and murder of this character. But then we are taken on an unexpected journey as flies on a wall peering into the private horror of a family that must go on. Each reacting in their own separate ways, it is a train wreck of emotions.

I think this book is one of those books that evoke the love it hate it phenomenon. People will likely either be enthralled with it or they will be repulsed by it. It is not a book for young or squeamish people, though I would point out that the scenes about rape and murder are actually fairly tame. I was surprised to find that I only cried once, though I felt myself on the verge many times. In any event, I myself fit in the love it category. I listened to this one on audio and there were moments when I became the character. An author that kidnaps me that way counts as successful to me. It is the ultimate goal of storytelling, to take people into the story and make them forget where they are. I spent several days afterward thinking about this book, the characters and my own questioning nature on the subject of death and afterlife. If there were a heaven, even though it was not perfect, I would want it to be as described in this book. I found myself wishing it were true.

I don't think you'll truly know if you are a lover or hater of this book unless you pick it up and give it a try. I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What's Coming Up

As you may have noticed, we are now starting book 22. That means including The World Without Us we have three books till we're done with the first set!

In light of that, I spent a lot of time thinking over how to proceed with the next round. Since you guys all expressed an appreciation for the surprise effect of not knowing a single book I picked, I went ahead and made the new list and ordered the next set of books. This time however, I only ordered 10. It seems like a much more logical number. Think of it as the Brown Book Club converting from Imperial to Metric. So, by the time we finish the first set, we're going to be ready to start the next. In between there we'll have a celebratory post in which I will virtually shower you all with golden statue awards and giant bags of swag and giant checks signed by the ghost of Ed McMahon. Or we'll just post in and get emotional. Or not.