Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge Completed

I finished the BookAwardsChallenge.
I had 17 books on my original list. But somehow I had different books on my handwritten list. I picked up my original list for this post but on my sidebar I have a list of 20 books. I'll have to do better when I join BookAwards II.

1.) The Remains of the Day---Kazuo Ishiguro---1989

National Bood Award
2.) Cold Mountain---Charles Frazier---1997

Newbery Medal
3.) Up a Road Slowly---Irene Hunt---1967
4.) From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler---E L Konisburg---1968

Nobel Author W/ Pulitzer
5.) Sinclair Lewis 1930---Arrowsmith 1926
6.) Pearl S Buck 1938---The Good Earth 1932
7.) John Steinbeck 1962---The Grapes of Wrath 1940
8.) Saul Bellow 1976---Humbolt's Gift 1976
9.) Toni Morrison 1993---Beloved 1988

10.) The Executioner's Song---Norman Mailer---1980
11.) Lonesome Dove---Larry McMurty---1986
12.) The Road---Cormac McCarthy---2007
13.) To Kill a Mockingbird---Harper Lee---1961
14.) Gone With the Wind---Margaret Mitchell---1937
15.) The Known World---Edward P Jones---2004
16.) Gilead---Marilynne Robinson---2005
17.) Middlesex---Jeffrey Eugenides---2003

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

1937 Pulitzer Prize

Gone With the Wind is a story of the Civil War and it's effect on Southern culture through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara. Scarlett is a spoiled, self-centered, shameless 16 year old when the war begins. She's in love with Ashley Wilkes who plans to marry his cousin Melanie. So Scarlett marries Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, to make Ashley jealous. But the war begins and Charles is soon killed. She has a son now that she doesn't want. And she has to be "in mourning" in proper Southern society. Used to being the belle of the ball, she finds this very difficult.

The war hits Georgia hard. The book details the hardships of an army who has no government footing the bills for arms or provisions. They have to take what they need from the communities they pass through, leaving the citizens with nothing. The rich are reduced to paupers.

I've never paid alot of attention to Gone With the Wind. I want to read all the books my book club read before I joined. So when I joined the BookAwardsChallenge I found out this one won a Pulitzer. I have to admit I dreaded it. But I was surprised at how much I liked it. It is an amazing book. Everyone should read it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Up a Road Slowly

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

1967 Newberry Medal Winner

Up a Road Slowly
follows Julie Trelling from the ages of 7 to 17. The book opens immediately after her mother's death. During a hysterical outburst Julie is sedated and wakes up to find herself moved into her spinster aunt's home where she spends the next ten years. The book has no major plot, just a simple story of a girl growing up. It follows her through childhood pettiness, adolescent jealousies and burgeoning adulthood.

This was another of my favorites when I was a child.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

1968 Newbery Medal

Claudia is a 12 year old girl who decides to run away from home. Being the careful planner she is, she decides to invite her 9 year old brother Jamie along. Jamie is a miser. So Claudia knows he can bring some much needed funds along. And Jamie agrees because he feels a sense of pride on being the one Claudia invites.

So the two head to New York. Claudia's plan is to live a t the Metropolitan Museum of Art until her parents learn to appreciate her. The two sneak around and hide for a few days and then Claudia sees the statue. She calls it her angel and begins a quest to prove it was sculpted by Michelangelo. Along the way she decides to visit the old woman who donated it to the museum, Mrs. Frankweiler.

Claudia is on a quest to feel special. Such a secret will do this for her.

I read this book when I was a child. It was one of my favorites growing up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

1930 Nobel Prize for Literature
1926 Pulitzer (declined)

Martin Arrowsmith is an aspiring biologist. He's very serious about his work but he can't seem to get to it. First he marries and has to practice medicine so he can afford a wife. When that doesn't work out he moves to a larger town to become a public health officer. After that he gets on at a top-notch reasearch facility. But Arrowsmith's problem is that he doesn't know how to play the game. Everything from small town gossip to big town politics to big city jealousies get in his way.

This was an enjoyable book. It had no big ideas. Just a small one--sometimes there's no particular cause for failure.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Piscine Molitor Patel decides his name will be Pi once his classmates begin to pronounce his name as pissing. He is not quiet so decisive when it comes to choosing a religion. He is a practicing Hindu, Christian and Muslim by the age of 16. He's a very likable boy.

His father owns a zoo. But politics cause him to uproot his family to take them to America. On the way the ship sinks. Pi had gone investigating in the middle of the night and wound up in a lifeboat by himself for a while. But it's not long before he is joined by a few fleeing animals. But very shortly the tiger has made meals out of the others. Now Pi must fight for survival not only against the ocean, but also against the tiger.

Life of Pi is a delightful book. Pi uses his fathers teaching along with his religious views to make sense of his situation. He sees God in everything and it helps keep his spirit up while he waits for rescue.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

2008 Pulitzer Prize

Oscar is a nerd. He's fat. He lives in the typical teen-age boy's genre of sci fi, fantasy and comics. And his biggest goal in life is to loose his virginity.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is the story of a Dominican family who are living in the US. Oscar's mother was the daughter of a rich man who fell afoul of the dictator Trujillo. The family fortunes were lost and a safer home was sought in the US.

The book skips around in time telling the story of Beli's life in the DR and her children's, Oscar and Lola in New Jersey. It's language is flowing with alot of Spanglish scattered in. Even the footnotes are interesting and sometimes funny.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Humboldt's Gift

Humboldt's Gift
Saul Bellow 1976 Nobel Laureate

1976 Pulitzer Prize

Charles Citrine is a young man who loves literature. He sets off to New York City and meets the great poet Von Humboldt Fleisher. But in the early 20th century the fate of poetry is bleak. Humboldt's gifts are no longer being appreciated. But Charlie has success writing for the stage and the cinema. Humboldt thinks he has sold out his art.

After Humboldt's death, Charlie learns Humboldt has left him something in his will. The book is set in a four month time frame, but while Charlie tries to retrieve his legacy he reminisces about the past and the paths he and Humboldt took.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

"Fahrenheit 451" is the story of the awakening of Guy Montag. He's a fireman in a society where a fireman's job is to burn houses and the books in them. Slowly Montag becomes curious about why people would defy the law to keep the forbidden items. People are expected to spend their time in front of the television walls.

Montag accidentally reads a line in a book during a burning. Soon he has several books hidden in his house. And he meets an old man and a young girl who gives him the courage to think...something that is frowned upon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

1940 Pulitzer Prize

The Great Plains were hit with major dust storms during the early 1930's. The Dust Bowl was caused by drought and farm mismanagement. Combined with the beginning of the Great Depression, farming families were unable to hold onto their land. Around 500,000 people were forced to leave their homes and go in search of work. The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family as they try to find a new place for themselves.

As the book opens, Tom Joad has just been released from prison for killing a man in a bar fight. He returns to his family's farm to find everyone gone. A passing neighbor tells him the family is at Uncle John's but will soon be leaving. Handbills advertising for pickers for California fruit have been distributed and people are heading west.

So after selling what they can't talk with them, the Joad family goes west. Thirteen people, 1 dog and everything they have left on one truck. But once on the road they find people from everywhere are doing the same. And some are returning because there are too many people and not enough jobs. Giant farm conglomerates are paying slave wages. They've built company stores with exorbitant prices. They have the police arresting anyone who even whispers "union". And if a profit can't be made, crops are destroyed rather than giving them to the starving migrants.

Steibeck tells the story of one family trying to survive. But he also writes sections about the era in general. These help explain how conditions got so bad and what should have been dome to ease the hardships the migrants faced.

I loved this book. It was incredible. Of Mice and Men is my favorite book. Looks like I'm destined to be a Steinbeck fan.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Trends

Booking Through Thursday

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

My tastes have definitely changed. During my teenage years I read romance. When I got tired of those I switched to nonfiction. Now I'm on a classic kick. But I'm building a TBR pile of modern novels I plan to attack once I finish the challenges I've joined. I guess these days anything goes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Madame Bovary

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is a bored housewife. A farmers daughter educated in a convent, Emma married the first man she met whim she returned home. Charles Bovary is an uninspiring, unambitious health official for the village/

After Charles assists the Marquis d'Andervilliers, the Bovary's are invited to a ball. Emma thinks they've "arrived". But there is no invitation the next year and Emma becomes depressed. Charles moves her to another town thinking she needs a change of scenery. She meets a law student, Léon Dupris, and the two are attracted but nothing happens. So Léon leaves to continue his studies.

Rich landowner Rodolphe Boulanger meets Emma and decides to seduce her. They carry on an affair for several years, but slowly Emma decides this is not enough.She and Rodolphe decide to run away together. But Rodolphe sends her a Dear John at the last minute. Depression and illness hit Emma again.

After her recovery, she meets Léon again. They begin the affair they missed the first time they met. But, as usual with Emma, this is eventually not enough.

First published in 1857, Madame Bovary caused quite a stir. Considered obscene, it was put on trial the following year. With all the publicity, the book went on to be a bestseller.

There are few likable characters in the book but it's still a great read.