This will be my first time to participate in the Friday Finds meme, but since I have spent many hours this week surfing other blogs and following several "book" bunny trails, I have several "finds" that are at least new to me. I will apologize in advance, however, if I found the recommendation at your website but do not give you adequate credit. I am learning that I need to keep a journal by my computer so that I can keep accurate notes in case I want to return to the website again. That will be another blog resolution for the new year.
The first find is not a book, but rather a website that is devoted to anything and everything that has to do with books: The Book Trib. Kristen at Book Club Classics recommended this site and I am ever so glad that she did (or perhaps I'm not quite so glad as I have spent numerous hours checking out the various links on its home page). The site contains links to the New York Times, Washington Post and New Yorker book reviews; many, many, many different book blog links, and various other book related information. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, it is well worth the click.
The second "find" that I discovered was the author Nick Hornby and in particular his essays on his book purchases and book reads arranged in a month-by-month format. Stefanie at So Many Books gave a review of his 2nd collection, Housekeeping vs Dirt (now who can't resist skimming the contents of a book by that title!) and I was intrigued. Being the rather anal-compulsive person that I am, I wanted to read his first book, The Polysyllabic Spree, which fortunately my library had sitting on the shelf. I can't really say that I read the book, as Hornby's taste in literature is far different from my own, but I did thoroughly skim the book New Year's Eve. I enjoyed his casual writing style, but what I really gleaned from the book is a way to keep track of my reading for 2009 (a New Year's Resolution anyway). I created an Excel spreadsheet of books read that includes title, author, date read and my rating, BUT...I will now also include the list of books purchased which tracks the title, author, date and place of purchase. I found it fascinating to see his buying patterns (some months several more titles were purchased than read, other months it was the opposite) AND the fact that he infrequently read the books in the same month that they were purchased. This made me wonder what my own reading/buying habits might be and I think it will be a fun and educational exercise.
I have also been inspired by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews to keep track of the first sentence of each of the novels that I read this year. Becky compiled a "best of the best" first lines and wrote a blog entry entitled "You-Had-Me-at-Hello Awards". I found this entry fascinating -- and added many more books to my TBR pile as a result. The entry caused me to really stop and consider the power of the first sentence: the blood, sweat, tears and effort authors must endure to develop the first words to entice their audience to want to read more. I am anxious to keep track of these first lines as well. I think it will be a great way to review what I have read at the end of the year - and also to provide some valuable lessons for my writing classes.
The last "find" that I wish to report is probably not new to many of you, but it is to me: the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I had never heard of this series until this past summer when fellow Bread Loaf students were talking of the "fun" literature they read after an intense summer schedule of 17th century British literature. Several mentioned this series, but to be honest, it just didn't float my boat, so to speak. I have never been interested in historical fiction before, although I am learning to appreciate that genre more and more; I am NOT a romantic (just ask my husband), so the romance aspect of the storyline was not a draw for me; and I am too much of a realist to enjoy science fiction/paranormal literature (so the time travel aspect just did not compute in my little black and white brain). However, in surfing the web this week I came across the Outlander Challenge 2009 and I checked it out. Much to my surprise there is almost a cult-like following for this series of books, and since the 7th book in the series is scheduled to be released in September, the challenge is to read all 6 novels prior to that release date. Now, I am not spontaneous enough to sign up for this intimidating challenge (each book is well over 600 pages x 6 books = over 4,000 pages before September!!), but I have challenged myself to read the first book in the series. As luck would have it, Outlander was available at Half Price Bookstore this weekend - and I was able to purchase it for half price + an additional 20% off; it was obviously meant to be.
I am about a fourth of the way through the book (page 147 out of 617) and while I am not yet prepared to say this is the best book I have ever read --- I can honestly say that I am enjoying it. I really like her writing style (and I am absolutely fascinated how a woman with a zoology / marine biology / ecology background can write thousands of pages of fictional literature! I spent quite a bit of time on her website reading her background information). While she writes in great descriptive detail (sometimes too much detail when it comes to the violence of 18th century Scotland, in my squeamish opinion), she also adds enough humor to keep it entertaining. AND...she has somehow managed to make the sci-fi aspect (time travel through stones to the 18th Century) believable enough for my brain to accept -- that is no small feat for any author. The romantic interludes have not been too frequent nor too explicit for my taste, which is another major accomplishment. All in all, I am looking forward to finishing the novel (hopefully before school is back in full-swing next Wednesday) and perhaps.....read another in the series as well.