Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm about halfway through my winter break, and I'm really enjoy the unadulterated sloth in which I currently exist. I wake up when I hear Evan yelling that he needs to use the bathroom, I play tons of games throughout the day, I cook and clean as needed, and I read. I've gotten some serious reading done these past few weeks, and it's made me a bit contemplative. So, here is a review of some of my 2009 reading accomplishments:
  • I've read several dry tomes related to my dissertations--titles like Mixing Race, Mixing Culture: Inter-American Literary Dialogues. And I suppose "read" is a bit inaccurate and should be replaced by "skimmed as quickly as possible while taking notes and eating Doritos."
  • I'm reading Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, a Christmas gift from Summer, who, realizing how excited I get about what I'm reading, hopes this will convince me to go to England. This comes on the heels of reading A Walk in the Woods, in which Bryson recounts his summer along the Appalachian Trail (I spent several days picturing myself strolling along some lonely trail). I also read The Mother Tongue and In a Sunburned Country by Bryson. I've decided that I like this man for several reasons: he's wry and witty, he writes in an erudite style that is nonetheless accessible and self-deprecating, he travels widely and thoughtfully (both in space and in themes), and, as I just learned in chapter 2 of Small Island, he's left-handed, all of which is meant to say that he's me.
  • Late last winter I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I discussed here. It was inspiring, but it didn't make me much of a gardener. Maybe I'll read it again soon. I'd also like to dive into some Michael Pollan this year (Summer's reading In Defense of Food right now).
  • I also read Jack Turner's Travels in the Greater Yellowstone last winter, an experience I reviewed here. He's also got a book on the history of spices, which I somehow haven't gotten to yet.
  • Toward spring I read The Hobbit again, followed by working through The Lord of the Rings over my May break. For what it's worth, I also watched the movies a few times. (I had vowed to wait until finishing my dissertation to read the latter, but I decided that if I put off living for my PhD I might be pretty miserable.)
  • In early March I finally tackled In the Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. I've read several collections of Eco's essays, so this was fun, even if the unraveling of the plot was a bit clumsy. I also got to lend this to Dad, which is always nice.
  • Over the first few months of the year I read a few pieces of non-fiction: Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippett, a volume each of The Best American Travel Writing and The Best American Non-Required Reading (I thoroughly enjoy the Best American series). These are good volumes that I can readily pick up again at a moment's notice.
  • This fall-winter, I read The New Kings of Non-Fiction, edited by Ira Glass, and two Malcolm Gladwell titles: Blink and The Tipping Point. I also read Freakonomics. The last three were interesting--thought-provoking and well-written, but after each one I couldn't quite decide what the point was. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I couldn't help shaking the notion that these were more style than substance.
I'm sure there's more, but this is enough to make me feel good about myself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to get to...