Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Salon: On Quantity and Quality

Recently, it occurred to me that the number of books I've abandoned has significantly diminished.  At the same time, it seems as if I'm on track to read as many books as I did last year (56) or perhaps even exceed that amount, which would be nice. 

Curious to see if my sense of the books abandoned was real or a figment of my imagination, I read through some previous blog posts. Sure enough, in 2010 I've only abandoned four books (The House on Tradd Street, The Anthologist, This One is Mine, and It's Beginning to Hurt.)

I think the combination of fewer books abandoned and loving more books that I've read says something. What exactly, I'm not sure. Perhaps it is a combination of being more cognizant of reading stuff of substance or finding (thanks to book blogs!) more quality writing than I would have otherwise.  Regardless of the reason or reasons, I like it - and I like the fact that my "favorite books of 2010" list is going to include many of the 40 books I've read thus far. (Yes, even though it is technically still summer, I'm already thinking ahead to such things.) It's been a very good year.

Likewise, it's been a very good reading week.  I started and finished Harriet Reisen's fascinating biography, Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women.  This is a true gem of a book.  It reads like a novel and kept my interest throughout every one of its 362 pages. Reisen includes so many quotes and passages from Louisa's journals and writings that it almost reads like memoir.

I'm now craving more Alcott, and have read the first short story ("The Rival Painters: A Tale of Rome") in The Early Stories of Louisa May Alcott: 1852-1860, which was part of my huge piles of Library Loot this week.

I also finished Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, a collection of personal essays and poems by 33 contributors, several of whom I am proud to call friends.  You can find my review of Gravity Pulls You In here.

Finally, I am absolutely in love with my current read, The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin.  This book had me from the very first sentence (not to mention all the great reviews of this one from other book bloggers).

"I need you to understand how ordinary it all was."

In my view, those ten words comprise one of the best-written opening lines for a novel EVER.  It tells the reader so very much, doesn't it? It's going to be difficult to highlight a few passages from this one in my review because the writing is just so exquisite and breathtaking.  The Queen of Palmyra has been compared to the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, and even though I am only 65 pages into this one, so far the comparison is accurate and incredibly well-deserved. 

At first I nearly dismissed it, but then I realized it is a Harper Perennial book. Given the quality of the Harper Perennial books I've read and heard about (thanks to Beth Fish Reads featuring this imprint on her blog), I immediately grabbed it when I saw it on the New Books shelf at the library. The Queen of Palmyra is an extraordinary novel, make no mistake about it, and Minrose Gwin a brilliant writer.   

Today's a gray Sunday full of rain here, which I'm kind of grateful for (all the better to curl up with a compelling book like this one). Alas, into my Sunday must fall some much-needed decluttering of several areas of the house (I can hear my mother applauding - and possibly laughing - from a state away), baking muffins and cookies (because I am on a mission for us to eat less processed food and reduce our grocery bill as much as I can), and sorting through outgrown kids' clothes in preparation for the upcoming months.

What book are you hoping to spend some time with during this Sunday?

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Trisha said...

I rarely abandon books. But I think this is in large part because I don't generally pick up books that are questionable for me. With more and more ARCs coming in to my home though, I see this changing a bit.

JoAnn said...

It's pouring here, too! My reading has been so much more enjoyable since I began blogging. Reading other blogs has helped me make better choices in selecting my own books.... very few DNF's so far this year.

Wendy said...

I love Harper Perennial...and I'm rarely disappointed with their books. I need to reconsider reading The Queen of Palmyra because I had sort of dismissed that one a while back. Today I'm reading City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris...very good mystery!

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

I need to finish Gravity Pulls You In and post a review. A have a friend who is a contributor. She's also out RDI consultant. I also have my eye on that biography of Louisa May Alcott!

nomadreader said...

I wish I would have abandoned This One Is Mine. I'm on pace to read fewer books this year than last, but I'm enjoying my reading so much more because I'm reading better books. I plan to finish reading both the Booker Prize and Orange Prize longlists this year, and it's so much more satisfying to read quality. I've read a few fantastic Harper Perennial books this year too, and If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous was my favorite.

K A B L O O E Y said...

Hey, that is a great first line. The "I need you to understand" is compelling to me. I do let books drift away from me when I don't find them compelling or my mood shifts. Eventually I find them in the house and finish 'em up, for the most part. Sadly, sometimes they just vanish after I've started them. Anyone know what I did with Lowbow, for instance? Because I want to take it with me on vacation. (Just shopped for some vacation books and will post them soon. fun!)

Florinda said...

I seldom outright abandon books, but there are a few that have sat unfinished for quite some time, bookmark still tucked in's like I won't own up to the fact I don't really want to read them any more. But having NOT abandoned This One is Mine, I can definitely understand why someone would!

The Alcott bio needs to come out in paperback soon. I've been waiting to read it for months!