December 2005 Books

I read one hundred and eleven books this year, according to my very sophisticated calculations, which don’t include magazines (although I wanted to count the \\New Yorker’s\\ fiction issue for this month, I didn’t, because a magazine is not a book and I think I should try to uphold some sort of standards) or guidebooks to New Zealand or even books I started but never finished, like today when I read about a fifth of \\Cloud Atlas\\ over breakfast and lunch. It was interesting to keep track in 2005; I sometimes got a little worried when I wasn’t reading as much or as often as I’d like, but a somewhat active social life, a gym membership, and broadband internet access at home seem to have conspired against the dizzying heights (seventeen!) I reached back in January. That’s okay though. I am pretty happy with most of what I read this past year; I discovered some new favorites and loved some old favorites some more. I think I did less re-reading in 2005 than any year I can remember although really, how could I know since this is the first year I’ve kept track? I do know I only read \\Pride and Prejudice\\ of the Austen books this year, which is very sad and I will have to get right back on that, especially since I received a very nice copy of \\Emma\\ for Christmas to replace the old beat up one from the early eighties. Anyway, thanks to everyone who gave reading suggestions and lent me books and didn’t mind that I posted half-coherent book reviews at the end of the month. May 2006 involve even more bookwormishness for us all.

**December 10, 2005**
\\Sexual State Of The Union\\ by Susie Bright

Dang, it’s the tenth already and this the first book I’ve finished this month. I guess I’ve been reading a lot of travel guides to New Zealand. Anyway, the beautiful Tracy recommended this to me when she was here six or so weeks ago and it finally came up on my hold list. Bright has an engaging and fierce voice and I just burned right through this at the dining room table. I especially appreciated her assertion that we often express non-sexual fantasies…like driving a stake through the heart of the luscious yet condescending Apple store employee who, when you go in and brave the mall on a busy Saturday morning in December, treats you as though you are not, in fact, merely \\in possession\\ of yet \\another\\ faulty iPod but as though you have purposefully both dropped your faulty iPod into a cauldron of boiling oil \\and\\ then run it over with a large tractor, to use a completely fabricated example…without anyone really \\believing\\ that you would got through the trouble of locating and procuring and sharpening a stake, let alone braving traffic and finding parking in order to actually \\murder\\ him. Um, that sentence got too long, but the point is that we often express non-serious non-sexual fantasies without anyone getting upset (“Dude, I hate that guy \\too\\ even though he is hot like the sun and has an intriguingly placed haz-mat tattoo”), but if you admit a similarly frivolous \\sexual\\ fantasy then people automatically assume that you are indeed dressing up in a bunny suit on a regular basis, to use another completely fabricated example.

**December 14, 2005**
\\The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004\\ edited by Steven Pinker.

No, it was most certainly \\not\\ the best of \\anything\\, American or otherwise. I picked this up on the bargain book table last week because there was an essay about octopuses but I was annoyed almost the whole time I was reading the rest of the essays. An article about how TV documentaries about, like, Atlantis, are not, in fact, archaeology, but \\pseudoarchaelogy\\, and how we should all change the channels right this second, preferably to a \\real\\ archaeology documentary written by the author. A unfunny and uninformative birders’ advice column, in which we learn that the agony aunt’s favorite bird is the chickadee. An essay about Sex Week At Yale, at which the author learns that college students have a lot of sex but don’t like to go to class. An essay about how introverts are ultimately superior to extroverts because introverts are, like, deep and stuff, and extroverts just \\talk all the time\\. I mean, really. The best science and nature writing \\in the nation\\. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? Save me. It came out two years ago and was only five bucks so I know I should chill, but I think next time I’ll just get \\Octopus Fanciers’ Weekly\\ and leave it at that.

**December 21, 2005**
\\The F Word Feminism In Jeopardy: Women, Politics, and the Future\\ by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

This took me an inordinately long time to read and again, I can only imagine it’s because I’ve been going out and doing holiday things and not reading very much. Disclaimers aside, this makes the very good point that women 18-35 are a big huge section of the population, and more to the point, a big huge section of the population that \\doesn’t vote\\. Of course this was written in early 2004 so the most recent federal election stats were from 2000, so who knows how really relevant it is…but it’s certainly true that issues important to women are very often legislated and that when women don’t vote, those legislated decisions are made by people who might not necessarily care what a non-voting portion of the populace thinks or cares about. She mentions that a lot of third-wave feminism has concentrated on personal choice and pop culture and deconstruction of gender roles and things like that, which, all to the good, but that we aren’t \\really\\ in a post-feminist era and therefore do still need to engage more in the political world, which is, in my opinion, also the personal world. The last chapter is a good overview of how individuals effect elected officials and also has a good resource list for women who want to run for office. Slightly dry, this book, and it definitely took me back to womens’ studies classes in college, but that’s sometimes a good thing, so I’m glad I read it. I am going to look into some more advocacy work in Seattle when I get back from vacation…most of my volunteer work in the past year has been more on the micro level, like soup kitchen stuff, and I’m starting to think it’s important to be working on the macro level. I’m also starting to think I should be reading some fiction one of these days but I have all these travel accounts about New Zealand to read and thank goodness I’m going to be pretty much alone in Florida for a week with not much to do, right?

**December 24, 2005**
\\Kiwi Tracks\\ by Andrew Stevenson

I got this at the library because it was one of like, two books about New Zealand I could find. It’s about this sort of emo guy who visits New Zealand in the late nineties and hikes (or, you know, “tramps”) around a bunch of the famous tracks and thinks about his ex whom he left in Norway because he couldn’t stand the winters and also ruminates on how gosh-darn friendly the Kiwis are. I often find that people who write about hiking get religious when it comes to the landscape and being alone in nature and living off the land and all that, and this guy is no exception. He does a decent job of it though, writing-wise, and he’s not too insufferable with his tourist-disdain. I was mostly proud of myself for recognizing a bunch of place names from my assiduous New Zealand research.

**December 29, 2005**
\\Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim,\\ by David Sedaris

This was a bit of a disappointment for me…I love \\Naked\\ and \\Me Talk Pretty One Day\\ and I was sort of surprised not to love this. Sedaris is hardly a sunshine-and-puppies kind of writer, I think, but these vignettes are way darker and a little less put together than I was expecting. Also, seriously, if I hadn’t read the other books eighteen times each I would have been very confused, because I feel like you have to know what he’s already written about his family to be able to follow any one of the pieces. I mean, unless you already know about Greek camp and his dad’s Great Dane and The Rooster and moving to Paris, you will be rather adrift. So I guess this is a good addendum to his longer essays…sort of. I didn’t feel it the way I wanted to. I always feel bad saying that about someone’s, you know, \\life\\.

**December 30, 2005**
\\The Sex Lives Of Cannibals\\ by J. Maarten Troost

I read this on the plane back to Seattle this morning. It’s sort of snarky and very self-conscious, but it’s a fun quick read and does make some interesting observations about the ramifications of foreign aid and the realities of subsistence living in the early 21st century. I have to mention, though, that for those of you hoping for a how-to manual, there is neither as much sex nor cannibalism as the title might lead you to expect. Shame, that.

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