February 2013 Reads

I read a lot – I think not as much as I used to, though I still find the time to read books that interest me and for pleasure. A lot, if not most, of the books I read I borrow from the library. I love going to the library. I even have fun finding a book using the Dewey decimal system. That wasn’t always the case, though: I remember how it used to boggle my mind when my Dad tried explaining it to me, even showing me, and I’d pretend I’d understand. Mostly by nodding and peering at the code on the end of the book spines, when really I was just scanning the titles and hoping I’d find the particular book, with my mind drawing a blank the entire time. I probably wasn’t fooling anyone, but my seven-year-old (or thereabouts) self thought so. Maybe this is why I take delight – to the point of geeking out; I even researched how the Dewey decimal system is organized – in finding a book using it and because I actually do understand it now and know how to navigate a shelf. The worst thing that could happen now is when a book is misplaced, and even then that’s not so bad.

Joan of Arc or Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by The Sieur Louis de Conte (Her Page and Secretary) by Mark Twain: First – I started reading this book in January, but finished it this month. I was unaware Mark Twain had written a book about Joan of Arc, and it was with an intrigued mind that I checked it out of my library after I saw it on the shelf. Intrigued, mainly, by seeing the names Joan of Arc and Mark Twain together and further cemented by the quote on the front cover by the author himself: “I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best…” He spent twelve years researching his subject and many months in France doing archival work, learning about both sides of the story from the French and the English. Once I started reading it, I instantly found it engaging. It’s also interesting, for me, to read it now, since watching a BBC production of Henry V last year (as part of the cultural Olympiad to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics), as I’m learning more now about the French side of the story compared to the English side and the long-term aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt, including Henry V’s claim (and his son’s, Henry VI) to the throne of France.

Bossypants by Tina Fey: I’ve mostly watched clips of 30 Rock (mostly Liz Lemon ones and, my favourite, “Superman does good, you’re doing well.”) and yet it is easy to be won over by Tina Fey in her memoir Bossypants. I had read an excerpt from it a couple years ago, and got it for my birthday this year. (I absolutely loved her and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes.) Written in a humorous tone and style, she also speaks truths about the industry she works in (how older women are called “crazy” and are dismissed, for example, compared to older men).

Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell: Okay, this isn’t a book – it’s a web comic, but I utterly must include it! I found out about it by chance and it is one of the most wonderful, most imaginative, and unique stories I have ever read. It isn’t even done yet! (Installments are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.) It’s the story of a girl called Antimony Carver and is set in a school called Gunnerkrigg Court, though as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that it’s more than a school as Antimony becomes more involved and caught between the intrigues of the school and Gillitie Wood, the forest outside the school and that’s forbidden to students. Magic (called etheric sciences) and science are synergized. There are robots. There is mythology. It is honestly one of the most profound pieces of science fiction or fantasy fiction (comic or otherwise, online or traditional publishing) that I have read in a long time. Just thinking about it, it makes me ecstatic. Click here to read it (linked to the first chapter).

Notable mention

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Though it was my first book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and for the first time that I’d read it, I have familiarized myself with his writing for some time now through his letters (via Letters of Note and Brain Pickings) and, gradually, as a writer, he’s grown on me. I downloaded The Great Gatsby on iBooks for only 99 cents. I was hooked immediately by this quote and I even highlighted it:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

(For those who are Fitzgerald enthusiasts or anyone who likes inside looks into the creative process, the early and complete edition of The Great Gatsby, Trimalchio (Google Books), might be of some interest. It is available online, although I would recommend the edition as found in the Google Books link, which includes a chronology of the composition and publication of The Great Gatsby and its history as well as comparison between the early and revised texts. I borrowed it from the library.)

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