Friday, October 5, 2012

Third Grad School Reading List

This reading was very research focused. I wanted to look at books popular during the time period I'm writing about and books that write history in creative ways. I continue my journey in exploring poetry and novels in verse, and I collected a few odds and ends along the way. This eclectic list makes me wonder what books I'll discover in October.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel: The Disney version of Alice freaked me out as a kid, so I've never felt any desire to read the book. However, in recent years I've fallen in love with books like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, which made me want to give this one a try. While I wasn't a huge fan of Alice's Adventures, I was amazed by the nonsensical meaning in Looking Glass. It's the type of book that makes you look deeper and think more about the meaning of every detail. And Carroll seems to do it so effortlessly.

My Antonia by Willa Cather: I wanted to read a book that explores more about the immigrant experience, and I knew this one was set in Nebraska. While it it's earlier than my piece takes place and about a rural experience, it’s truly beautiful novel. I hope that I can portray the same kind of hope and sadness, fulfillment and disappointment in what I write about the turbulence of Eastern-European immigrants in America.

The Whispering Rabbit by Margaret Brown: I often think of Brown as an author of "quiet" books, so I almost laughed when I found this one. While this bed-time book probably wouldn’t get published in today’s market if this was a first-time author (it’s far too long, the plot is slow, the writing lacks rhythm), I can see how it would appeal to nostalgic Brown fans.

One of the Family by Peggie Archer: This book is a good example of the highlighting family dynamics. Though to story centers on a new baby just beginning to show her personality, you get to know her through the distinct personalities of her older brothers and sisters.

Thomas and Beulah: Poems by Rita Dove: I read this book in about two hours and immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again, slower this time, so I could savor the imagery and beauty in the simplistic details. This is the far superior precursor to the modern novel in verse. It is a story woven by poetry rather than a story forced into poetic form. No wonder it won the Pulitzer.

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot: I usually read Cabot's books for mindless fun, and I was surprised to find myself annoyed by the final installment of one of my favorite series. Cabot might be funny and romantic, but her writing lacks finesse. I found large chucks of the exposition repetitive, and her rambling stream-of-consciousness style is at times difficult to follow (i.e. I’d find myself forgetting what was happening in a scene because of so much random internal dialogue). But for what it is—fluffy, mainstream fiction—I still liked reading this book.

Who Was Louis Armstrong? by Yona McDonough, illustrated by John O'Brien: This was a good introductory biography to Louis Armstrong, and hopefully it will lead readers to more advanced biographies on the musician. When I read books like this, I can’t help but think, "I could totally do that." And with my love of history and research, it would be a lot of fun.

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Nobleman, illustrated by Ross MacDonald: One of my favorite parts about this nonfiction picture book is the use of real quotations to create dialogue within the story. It’s also a great subject matter that holds a cross-generational appeal.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell: There is a wonderful story somewhere within this mess of free-verse poetry. I’ve long been fascinated by Arthurian legend, and "The Lady of Shalott" is probably my favorite Tennyson poem—both of which Sandell uses well and honors with a unique perspective. However, the dialogue speaker-tags were difficult to follow in this structure, and there were so many words that it read more like prose with funny line brakes.

Polish Classic Recipes by Laura and Peter Zeranski: Some of my best childhood memories are of sitting in my ciotka’s kitchen while she made pierogi and kielasa z kapusta, but long ago I stopped caring about these traditional Polish foods. However, the same day I received this book in the mail, and I read it cover to cover, and the memories and smells and tastes flooded me all at once. I especially loved the authors’ stories about the history of each food and the family that helped them create each recipe.

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