Joey Chesnut Ain’t Got Nothing On Me!

This book blog topic makes me want to cry a little because, well, I rarely have the time to do it anymore. Yes, yes–adulthood can truly stink up the joint sometimes. The big blue meanies over at The Broke & The Bookish have asked us to share our list of “The Top Ten Books to Read in a Day.”

There is something wonderful about staying in your pajamas all day long, curled up under a cozy blanket (which is even better when the rain is pouring down outside), getting lost in the pages of a book with a mug of tea or hot cocoa steaming on the bedside table. Here are ten books that I remember completing in a day (or just a tad over), and you can see by reading over it that I’m not choosy when it comes to gorging myself on words like it’s some literary variation on the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins—I did read this one over the better part of an afternoon and evening. It’s quite simply the best book of the trilogy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that had they trimmed Mockingjay and tagged it onto the back of this one, the entire series would have been much better for it. Full of action, drama, and true surprises, this is one book I can’t wait to see make the transition to film!

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig—I am embarrassed to say I read this book. (In fact, I guiltily gobbled it and two or three other books in the series down like a binge eater, crying in shame and shoveling it down at the same time.) My only excuse was that I was going through a Scarlet Pimpernel kick at the time, and this book provided access to the world in an obtuse sort of way. I mean, Sir Percy was an ancillary character in the first book. Essentially, this is chick romance/action at it’s best and worst, and until an intervention took place, I was entrenched in it.

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket—I’m not ashamed to have read this book, or any of the twelve others in the series. If you’ve not read the Lemony Snicket books, you’re really missing out. Daniel Handler has a wicked sense of humor, and his knack for storytelling is off the charts. This was “kid” fiction written with adults in mind. The books were fun to collect, like little pocket-sized crime novels with uneven pages and old-school illustrations. Just fun, fun reads. My friends and I used to wait until the new ones came out and host parties where we’d take turns reading using Tim Curry’s voice from the audiobooks (which are FABULOUS if you’ve never heard them.)
 
Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz—The series took a weird turn or two that I wasn’t expecting, and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the ending. However, the first book in the Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz was fabulous! It totally changed up the monster narrative we all know and love. The “creature” renames himself Deucalion and devotes his long (if not eternal) life to destroying the master who built him and who is, several hundred years later, as power hungry and maniacal as ever. Set in New Orleans with two wise-cracking cops, this was a fun and wild read I tore through in one day on a particularly long car trip. 
 
Common Sense by Thomas Paine—I don’t know about you, but if I’d read this work sooner in my life, I might have been much better off. It is truly an amazing work, one that riled a sleeping collection of colonies and made them a national force. It’s an example of great writing as well as how words are indeed more powerful than the sword. Paine is really an uncredited founding father, and you’d do yourself a favor reading the work where amazing quotes like this reside:
 
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
 
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar—My graphic novel inclusion for this list is an alternate-universe three-issue series that explored a simple idea—what if Superman’s capsule had landed on a collective farm in Soviet Russia instead of the Heartland of America? What would have been different in the DC universe (and the world at large) if he fought not for “truth, justice, and the American way” but “as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.” A fascinating read with great art and a tight narrative.
 
Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice—I read this when I was living on my own in a crappy efficient apartment during my first semester in college. I curled up in my Murphy Bed and read until the sun came up. I was so fascinated with the concept of the Italian opera starts know as the castrati that I did hours of research (the old fashioned way—with books, a card catalog, stacks, and microfiche!! There were fewer academic wimps back in the day.) I wrote my ENG 1101 research paper on them and argued that they had played a larger role in the development of Italian opera than had previously been recognized. My professor said it was a welcome change from the papers on legalizing pot, gun control, and animal testing.
 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—I was hooked by this one and read it in just a shade over a day. There was something magical about it, something otherworldly that just sucked me in. I was like the circus devotees, and I wanted to spend my life finding it and spending time within it. Morgenstern may not be the best writer in the world, but she’s a darned good one who isn’t afraid to color outside the lines to create compelling characters and an engaging story that, despite being impossible, makes you wish it was altogether real.
 
Passing by Nella Larsen—I read this one in grad school and loved it. We were supposed to read it over a two week period, dividing it in half, but I couldn’t wait. This one tells the story of Clare and Irene, two African American girls who were friends but lost touch after Clare’s father died. She went on to live with her two white aunts who let her “pass” for while and marry a white man who also happens to be a raving racist. Irene lives in Harlem and is committed to fighting for the cause of equality. The books is wonderfully ambiguous and lets readers interpret the actions in whatever way they choose. I wouldn’t want to rob you of the joy of it by telling you what I thought. Go pick it up!
 
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss—I’m putting this here. It took me longer than a day because it comes in just a bit under 700 pages in length. I’m a very quick reader, but even I had to take a break and sleep a little rather than risk choking myself on this tome. If you enjoy fantasy novels, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I shot through it and book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, in under a week and regretted it terribly because I now have to wait until 2013 to see how the story ends. Rothfuss places readers in a world that is both recognizable and altogether foreign and crafts a tight plot free of holes. Kvothe for President in 2012. That’s all I have to say about that. 🙂
 
**For the record, I have no clue why the font on this post went “straight to plaid” as they said in Spaceballs—single spaced and italicized. What I do know is that I’m too lazy to do what it takes to fix it.** 
 
How about you all? What books did you indulge in for a full twenty-four hours? Is there a book you’ve been wanting to lock yourself in an attic with dripping candles and an apple to read?
 

Books to Read and Places to Digest Them

Ah, the book club….such a complicated social organism. It should be clique of folks like you who just love to read and discuss books. However, more often than not, it becomes an exercise in frustration as books no one likes are selected, venues don’t satisfy, and personality clashes make true lexicographical bliss impossible. I’m not saying that a perfect book club is impossible—only improbable. After all, reading is a fairly solitary exercise, one that doesn’t require a +1 to be enjoyable.

However, the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish want us to pick our top ten book club reads for this week’s meme. Therefore, if I was the benevolent dictator of a book club and decided everything from the monthly selection to the location and the food/beverages consumed, I would select the following pairings of book and meeting locale…

1. The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover—I would suggest meeting up in deli for this one, as the protagonist spends a lot of time in one when he isn’t gaming the night away. It might also be fun to meet in a place where people are playing tabletop games involving dice to experience the sounds of triumph and tragedy that come with any game of chance.

2. Scimitar Moon by Chris A. Jackson—I know I recommended this one as a bonus pick last week because of the hunky leading man, but it bears mentioning just how good this book is again. It is a fun read that people can really dig into. I’d think this one might pair nicely with a pub that serves fish and chips and good, dark draft beer. Yeah, that would be a boffo meeting space…as would a coffee house (as “blackbrew” is consumed in mass quantities in this novel). Also, there is a ton of nautical knowledge that gets dropped on you when you read this book, so anywhere near the sea or near sailing ships would make for a perfect backdrop.

3. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh—I saw this one recently on Bookmovement.com and liked the look of it. I was fascinated by the idea of coded messages in flowers, which was commonly done during the Victorian Era. You couldn’t simply explain your emotions in a letter or even in person when everything from the words you wrote to your body language could damage your social standing. This would be a lovely book to discuss over tea at a public park or garden!

4. Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in WWII by Louis Zamperini—I believe In Touch Ministries did a feature on this gentleman late last year, and I was intrigued by his story. An Olympic athlete turned bombardier, he was brought down over the Pacific, floated in a life raft for 37 days, and was eventually captured by the Japanese and made a prisoner of war for over two years. Years afterwards, he experienced salvation and the grace of Jesus Christ. He, in turn, returned to Japan, forgave his tormentors, and began preaching the gospel there. Pretty amazing stuff. Some place serving authentic Filipino or Chinese food would be perfect.

5. The Amazing Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart—I have yet to read this one, but it was recommended for folks who enjoyed The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It also seems to have garnered good reviews for delving into more serious issues such as abandonment, family, loyalty, and facing one’s fears. I don’t know what kind of venue would be fun for this one. However, I do know that I wouldn’t tell anyone where it was. I would give them a series of clues and let them solve the puzzle in order to find the feast! 🙂

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss—This is another one I haven’t read, a fact for which many of my wordy nerdy friends have severely chastened me. It’s next on my reading this. Listen to the book’s synopsis: “This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.” How can that NOT be a fantastic read, especially for fantasy-minded folk? Definitely an pub of sorts for this one because that’s where Kvothe lives–preferably one with low lighting and tankards of ale.

7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer—I’ve seen ads for this one all over GoodReads and various Internet booksellers, and I’m just interested enough in to give it a shot. Think fairy tale princess meets the Terminator for this one. In this sci-fi re-imagining of Cinderella, the protagonist is a cyborg and a gifted mechanic who can help rescue Earth from an evil queen of sorts. It’s just bizarre enough to temp me. I’m thinking a restaurant with a really gritty urban motif would be perfect. Either that or a place near a shoe store…

8. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard—I’m a casual history buff. I like certain areas better than others and sort of graze my way through the decades and centuries with a lacadazical approach that likely makes real historians cringe. One area I’ve never been overly zealous about is the Civil War. However, this book might make me change my tune. Apparently, James A. Garfield was a pretty boss president, one I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know much about. His assassination was one of the unrecognized tragedies of American history, and I think it would be fun to read and re-think what we know about our country with this book as the primary text. According to this website, which lists the favorite foods of American Presidents (I’m not lying. Click the link!), Garfield was fond of squirrel soup, extra fluffy mashed potatoes, and breads. I think a bread and cheese meal would be divine, Mr. President. You can have all the soup. *Ick*

9. Night of the Avenging Blowfish: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat by John Welter—I read this one in college and was once kicked out of the library because it had me laughing so loudly I was disturbing other people. It’s a bizarre little book involving unrequited love, politics, secret baseball games, and processed meats like Spam. Guess what the menu should include anything of “low culinary esteem.” I’m thinking some recipes from the Spam Jam would be worth trying!

10. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan—Yet another book I haven’t read, but this one has as many glowing reviews as I do useless bits of knowledge. It’s drenched in music references and rich characterization. I’d like to discuss this one in a corner bar/cafe like Eddie’s Attic where live music fills the room as fully as the smells coming from the kitchen. It’s a risky read for me as I don’t like to dwell on the overly maudlin much, but this one looks intriguing enough to put up with the extra weight.