Thursday, October 27, 2005

Time Publishes Its First-ever
All-Time 100 Novels

Time magazine's list of All-Time 100 Movies was so well received, they decided to do a similar list for books: All-Time 100 Novels. Time describes the list in this way: "Time critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present." [italics mine]

Among my personal favorites that made the list:

Most of the titles on the list I haven't read. My tastes in reading turn to the eclectic, and I often read more than one book at a time, depending on my interest at the moment. Sometimes I don't return for long periods to a particular book that I have been reading, when I am not in the mood to read it. Because I don't always have a lot of time to read (although I enjoy it immensely) I prefer books with short but more-frequent chapters or chapters that are broken down into segments that I can read in short bursts and easily assimilate what I've just read and then be able to pick it up again at my next willing opportunity.

I hate to admit it, but I wasn't an early reader. I was a child of the television era, so most of the stories I enjoyed were on television. My first professional job was even at a television station. Thus it was that I didn't finish a book from cover to cover for the first time until I was in my junior year at high school. It was The Bedford Incident by Mark Rascovich, a thrilling read for me at the time and a story that I had seen first in film.

My interest in reading blosssomed during my junior year in college, when I discovered science fiction. In particular, I was fond of Larry Niven's tales (e.g., Ringworld, Protector, The Mote in God's Eye, and Lucifer's Hammer). And it was then that I became mesmerized by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was also then that I came upon Arthur C. Clarke's visionary tales (e.g., 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, and Rendezvous with Rama).

Soon after I got my first job, I became fascinated with Sherlock Holmes and a take-off private consulting detective by a reader disgusted with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's retreat from his own famous detective: Solar Pons.

Today, I enjoy well written novels like The Secret Life of Bees and Life of Pi (this month's book club selection), humor pieces such as those by Christopher Moore (e.g., Lamb), thrillers like those by Dan Brown (e.g., The Da Vinci Code, Deception Point, Angels & Demons, and Digital Fortress), and various books on cosmology and politics (feel free to e-mail me if you'd like suggestions).

I would never have dreamed when I finished reading The Bedford Incident that one day I would work for a bookstore or start my own online bookstore. I've come a long way since then.

Our family now enjoys Friday nights at the bookstore, in which we each browse the shelves of our favorite local bookstore (Schuler Books on Alpine and Schuler Books on 28th Street, both in Grand Rapids, Michigan) for a good read.

Which brings me back to my original point of this article: Time magazine provides an invaluable service by giving us a list of books we might otherwise never have known and which is worthy of our individual study. We can never read all the books there are, and we can never accidentally discover all the books that are worthy of our discovery. But Time provides us with a list of fine choices we should all at least consider in our valuable time left on this fabulous world called Earth.

Note: Although I offer the title links on this page to help you learn about the books I cite, they do lead to through my online bookstore, BizBooksPlus. If you take these links to their respective pages and order the books, my online store will receive a commission in the form of a small percentage of the sale.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Q & A: How to get a borrowed book back

Q: When you lend out books, how do you make sure they come back?
A: People who borrow books and don’t return them should be shot. But shy of that drastic tactic, there are some more productive things you can try:

  • When you lend a book, set a return date. You can do this very assertively, without sounding worrisome or being a pest. Say something like, “I think you’ll really like this book. It took me about a week to read – do you think you can finish it by, say, next Friday?” (Base the time on your own experiences. Of course, it could take them longer so you should be ready to negotiate a date.)
  • Let them know if someone else wants to borrow it and when they expect to get it. “George wants to read this, too. I said I was letting you borrow it first, but I think he will be ready to read it in two weeks. Do you think I could have it back by (the date)?”
  • Keep a paper inside on which you write the date you expect your book back. Be sure to discuss the date with the other person first. The paper could be a bookplate or inexpensive bookmark (which may also encourage the borrow to not fold down page corners to keep his or her place).
  • As you get close to the return date, check back and see how the borrower is enjoying the book. Ask if he or she is making progress and if the date of return you set will work out. If not, consider extending the date if someone else isn’t waiting for it.
  • Mention another book the borrower might like to read. Ask how he or she is doing with the current borrowed book and say you’d be glad to let him or her borrow the next one after he or she finishes the current one.
  • If the other person is through with the book but hasn’t brought it back to you, take the initiative and drop by to pick it up. Sure, they should take the initiative but if they aren’t getting the book to you, go get it.

These are just a few proactive ways to keep a book coming home. If you have ideas to share, use the “Comments” link below. I’d love to hear them.

Book Club Reading Selection:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (see October 7 entry)

Friday, October 07, 2005

"Life of Pi" Book Club Discussion

Life of Pi by Yann MartelI really enjoyed Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a remarkable work of fiction. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man who is forced to share a lifeboat at sea with a full-grown tiger. You’ll learn about animals in the zoo and what happens when they're forced back into the wild, and the courage it takes to face them down when it's just you and them at sea with little food or water. Great adventure storytelling, too. A terrific read while on vacation poolside or at the beach.

Editorial Reviews from and Publisher’s Weekly
(scroll down below fold)

Other books by Yann Martel
Yann Martel interview on Books & Co. on KAET-TV (manuscript)
● The Bookclub-in-a-box
Discussion Guide to Life of Pi

Discussion Starters (click on "Comments" below):
● Did you enjoy this read? Why or why not?
● What was the most compelling part of the story for you and why?
● Was the story believable? Explain.
● Did the story end the way you thought it would?
● What lessons did you learn from the story?
● Would you read another story by Yann Martel? Why or why not?

A Beginning...

Among the goals of this weblog is establishing a book club for discussions. A place where people who love to read can go to mull over works of fiction, non-fiction, genre fiction like mysteries and science fiction, and so on.

I'll start the ball rolling here with a brief review of one of my favorite works, Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. Read on, then use the "Comments" link to start a discussion or join one already in progress. (If you don't have the book yet, you should be able to borrow a copy from your local library or buy one at your favorite bookstore under "Fiction". I also run an online bookstore where you can purchase a copy, which will be mailed to you.)

If you would like to recommend a book for club discussion, send me an e-mail with the following information:
  • Title
  • author
  • ISBN number*

Thank you for visiting Booksville,
Alan (bookguy)
Club Curator

*Find the ISBN with the publishing information inside the book or sometimes on the back cover with the price.