Reading Roundup: January

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

This book shows how something potentially boring--a massive class-action lawsuit that takes years to get through the court system--can be quite interesting if written about well. I have little interest in law or the court system and yet this book managed to keep me awake and reading. I also learned a lot about why lawyers don't always make a lot of money and why big lawsuits don't do much for social change.

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

I'm grateful to whoever made the recommendation that I read these books together. They are both beautiful books and their story is heartbreaking. I found Lucy's memoir especially compelling; her writing turns it into something that's not just about surviving cancer. The book seemed to be about so much more, and Ann's story of their friendship filled in the missing pieces and complemented the other story so well.

Longitude by Dava Sobel

This was a quick little read, but still interesting and I felt like I learned a lot from it. The thing I liked best was the author's ability to convey the spirit and attitudes of the time. For nearly a century "longitude" was the big cultural referent in plays and poems and such. It's funny to consider what people looking back on our society will find interesting and amusing like that.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I first read this book back in high school and I hated it. I didn't like Jane, I thought it was boring, and Mr. Rochester seemed creepy. After spending two weeks watching an excellent adaptation on Masterpiece Theater, I decided to give it another try. I liked Jane a lot more this time around and I generally enjoyed the book. However, I still think Mr. Rochester is weird and creepy. Now I really want to give reading The Madwoman in the Attic another try because I feel like a feminist reading of this book is problematic. On the one hand, Jane is a positive, strong female character. On the other hand, she ends up in a relationship with a man who acts like an overbearing father more than a husband.

Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky

This is not the sort of book I usually read, but somewhere I heard a summary of the plot and it intrigued me. Basically, an upper-class New England white couple has a black baby. Turns out that somewhere back in the family there was an affair that no one talked about. The book was actually better than I expected, though things were fairly melodramatic in many parts and I didn't like either one of the main characters very much.

Poster Child by Emily Rapp

Another fabulous memoir; although it is ostensibly about her life with disability, I was most moved by her lifelong struggle with the self-imposed pressure to be "perfect in every way". There were a few minor editing problems, which I thought was kind of unusual, but other than that I loved this book.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This was a quick read and I have to say that I felt a wee bit let-down. I've never read the book before but I have heard plenty about the story. I wanted to read it before watching the movie (see below) and I'm glad that I did, but I don't think I expected Lewis' style to be so understated. I haven't read much by him. Perhaps all his books are the same way. After I got into the book I appreciated the simple prose, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

A beautiful book with well-drawn characters and not much plot. I enjoyed reading this and I am still thinking about the charcters and their stories. Not much surprising in it, but the writing is fabulous and it's a great read.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Although I had heard good things about this book, I resisted reading it because the plot just didn't sound interesting to me. Now I repent of this completely--this is a fabulous book. It is hard to describe the plot without it sounding boring, but the characters and the writing are phenomenal.


This Film is Not Yet Rated

An interesting documentary about the ratings board and the ways in which the ratings system is deeply flawed. I was fairly grossed out because, as an unrated film, it contains all kinds of stuff that has been cut from other films. So, consider yourself warned.

In America

The plot in this movie is fairly standard, but the acting is phenomenal. I especially liked the fact that the director used actors who are mostly unknown so that the characters seem more real. There are also a lot of fascinating things going off with the camera and especially the use of a camcorder. I really like films that try and capture a child's view of things and felt that this one really succeeds in doing that.

Family Law

This was a fun little film from Argentina. The acting is great and the plot is interesting. The tone of the movie and the family experiences are generally very light and we had a great time watching it.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit, perhaps even more than the book (don't worry, I'll read the books to my kids while they are young and can appreciate them). I found the beginning disconcerting, and while I understand the reasons for adding it I certainly could have done without it.

Ed Wood

This movie was a bit slow. Also, the black-and-white photography and general campy style make it a little hard to immerse yourself in. I still really liked it. The story was warm, humorous and upbeat. Johnny Depp was awesome and reminded me why I spent most of my teenage years in love with him (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Benny and Joon, and Edward Scissorhands are so much better than Pirates in my book). I would recommend this movie to anyone; it's rated R for a few swears, but other than that it's fairly clean.


Weed said…
I had a similar first-reaction to The Lion, the Witch... (which I also just recently read)especially since a lot of his other prose is actually pretty involved. But, a little ways in I realized that he probably truly is writing it as a book intended for very young children. And then, it felt better to me, and the fact that he repeated "and remember, no sensible person would ever shut the door behind him when entering an old wardrobe" about 1,000 times made more sense.
Mama said…
I love that you do these reports for us! I'm going 2 of the books - I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the recommendations.
Mama said…
dang - can't write this evening. I'm going to READ 2 of the books. I didn't want you thinking I'd be eating them or anything since I'd left you verb-less.
Anonymous said…
On the Jane Eyre theme, have you read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys? It's a Caribbean prequel to Jane Eyre, and although it's not my favorite, it's interesting.
Th. said…

In terms of true stories that take place in courts, I really liked Deliberate Intent by Rod Smolla. But then, I'm a First Amendment junkie....

I saw the movie version of A Civil Action when it came out in theaters. I don't remember if it was good or not, but I still think about certain aspects of it to this day. Some of which I might be confusing with Erin Brokovich.


I'm glad you liked Jane more this time. I'll be interested in what you think of Madwoman--if you get through it. I picked it up once and just about died when I saw how small the print was. And that was that.


I was a big Narnia fan as a kid, but far and away my favorites were the stories disconnected to the main arc---A Horse and His Boy and The Silver Chair. I also read The Magician's Nephew a lot, but that was mostly just because we owned it.

I read, um, Prelandria recently? Is that the first one in that series? I've already forgotten it almost entirely, but I did want to read the other two volumes after finishing it.


I want to watch This Film Is Not Yet Rated, but haven't for the precise reasons you state. I need a transcript maybe....


I HATED the Narnia movie. Although by HATED I don't mean anything quite that strong. But I didn't care for it much.


And I really like Ed Wood, although I'm quick to grant all your complaints. For awhile (two years), I was all for making it our Halloween tradition, but it didn't stick.

The last two Halloweens we've watched Carnival of Souls which is great. And, not intentionally, now as much a tradition as Ed Wood ever was.

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