26 November 2010 @ 10:21 pm
Book challenge  
I did not write entries for the books I read this year, so this'll have to be from memory and it'll be very incomplete.

Privilege - A Reader, edited by Michael Kimmel
I can barely remember this one, but I think it is a decent introduction to the concept.
Zero, by Brian McCabe
Poetry meets mathematics in this gem of a poetry collection. I don't usually like contemporary poetry, but this is an exception.
How to train your dragon, by Cressida Cowell.
I fell in love with this series as soon as I had seen the trailer. After reading the books, this remained the same.
How to Be a Pirate, by Cressida Cowell.
How to Speak Dragonese, by Cressida Cowell.
How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse, by Cressida Cowell.
How to Twist a Dragon's Tale, by Cressida Cowell.
Die männliche Herrschaft, by Pierre Bourdieu.
Wie ein Vogel im Käfig, by Heike Brandt.
Where to start..! In short: this book is terrible. Give it to your enemies, keep it far away from impressionable teenagers.
It's aim is to address gender, domestic violence, incestual rape, prejudice, nationalism and xenophobia in a way accessible to teenagers. It creates a shallow mess full of stereotypes inistead. While reading I didn't know what made me facepalm more, the prejudices towards Turkish youngsters or the terrible gender stereotypes. The way the main story is resolved is as shallow as the rest of the book. I wanted to shoot the German teacher who thought it was a bright idea to read this with her teenaged half-German, half-Turkish students.
Racing the Dark, by Alaya Dawn Johnson.
I loved that book, especially the way there is barely any sexual violence, the way the characters always remain their dignity and are so delightfully competent.

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin.
In 1959, Griffin dyes his skin black through chemicals and lives as a black person in the racially segregated South and writes about his experiences, and because accounts of racism need a White Guy stamp of approval even today this book is the set text for those students who take English as an advanced course in their Abitur.

Introducing Romanticism, by Duncan Heath and Judy Boreham.
Funny and instructive overview which I suppose will be very usable to visually summarise key elements for students later at some point. 

Introducing Feminism, by Cathia Jenainati.
Same series, same strong points, I'd use it for simialr purposes.

Der Totentanz der Marienkirche in Lübeck und der Nikolaikirche in Reval (Tallinn), by Hartmut Freytag.
Yes, I also needed this for my German oral, but I would have wanted to buy it regardless. It's a beautiful volume and a very neat summary of several courses I've taken on the Totentanz taught by the author. I keep thinking of trying to get his autograph, too.

Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre.
Goldacre debunks popular sciency sounding healthcare myths. Bad science annoys me, and this was a very relaxing read.
Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex, by Eoin Colfer.
Crocky and I started reading this excitedly and somehow never made it past the first couple of chapters. It's still on our "to read"-pile in Hannover, but it's telling that we never made it.

Wie man mit Fundamentalisten diskutiert, ohne den Verstand zu verlieren by Hubert Schleichert.
"How to discuss with fundamentalists without losing your mind", and also a neat short introduction into argumentation theory.

Ein Volksfeind, by Henrik Ibsen. (An Enemy of the People)
When Dr. Stockmann finds that the waters of his town's prestigious new bath are polluted and will seriously harm the health of its guests he alone stands up to those who want to open the bath, which would be of considerable economic advantage for his town.

A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines.
As the only educated black man and teacher in his community, Grant is pressured by his aunt and her friends to teach Jefferson, sentenced to death, waiting for his execution, what it means to be human, and a man.
Brutal, but worthwhile.
Killer in the Dark, by Colin Foreman.
I stumbled upon this series while on my tour through the Highlands with Crocky back in '06. Feeling supportive of the charity the profit of the sale of these books is donated to I purchased a copy of the first volume. I read it on the bus while surrounded by the glorious landscape of the Scottish Highlands in summer, Crocky at my side. This must have had a LOT to do with the fond memories I had for the first book of the series, though even then I thought it was not very good and rather brutal. Well, reading the second volume in cold, wet, every-day Germany it turns out the series really sucks.

Kissing the Witch, by Emma Donoghue.
I loved these retellings of popular fairy tales and had to read it in one go. Especially the way the stories are all interlinked - though not always convincing - make this especially charming.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlintz.
A play consisting of a round of monologues written for the children at the school at which the author is a librarian.
These monologues are great. When I first picked up the book I was very worried that she'd cater to stereotypical expectations of a Romantic view of medieval Europe, but this is luckily not really the case. The characters she creates are three-dimensional, I believe there's an equal amount of male and female characters, too.

Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine.
Makes some really good points about the seductiveness of neuroscience when it comes to gender and bad science, although it's painfully cissexist. We still found ourselves nodding quite a lot while reading her debunking of quite a number of gender essentialist nonsense supported by bad neuroscience. I'd buy this again. 

Praktische Anleitung zur Abfassung Deutscher Aufsätze, by Karl Leo Cholevius.
A German manual on how to write an essay from the nineteenth century which includes a surprising amount of things that are still as valid today, like the fact that tutoring doesn't fix everything, especially not last minute, and that students need to practice to improve.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga.
This is easily the worst book I've read this year, and given the fact that this year also includes Wie ein Vogel im Käfig this is saying something. This is a book from the POV of a juvenal Nice Guy in training trying to get laid, to get to meet his favourite comic writer, and to get his stepfather to ... I don't really know. Divorce his mother? He whines and gripes about not being treated with respect while blatantly staring down the blouses of every girl he meets, the slimy little jerk. I often found myself cheering for his bullies and I'm kinda praying that this is self-aware or Nice Guy satire or something, but I sincerely doubt it.

I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett.
Oh, P'Terry, why? Rape, miscarriage, domestic violence, all unexplained, unresolved, and all that neatly rolled into the last volume of a coming-of-age series aimed primarily at young women? When you've never used those in any of your books before? For me, the Discworld novels used to be a place to escape to because they were balm for my philanthropic soul, but apparently, growing girls don't deserve that kind of refuge and must be confronted with the fact that the world has got it in for them and all they can do is be ~understanding~ or treat it as though it was a supernatural force rather than old-fashioned human cruelty at all times. Granny Weatherwax would be disappointed.
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen.
Having recently finished my book I was standing in the railway station before a two-hour commute home to Hannover and was looking for a book about a female character. This is the only one that I found. Of Austen's heroines I think Fanny is my favourite so far, with the possible exception of my first and only love, Lizzy Bennet. I also really enjoyed reading Mary Crawford, and the scenes with both women made my mind wander in quite improper directions.

Wolfsbane Winter, by Jane Fletcher.
Does have its problems, but the heroines are believable, realistic, behave realistically even after falling in love and there is a surprising lack of clichés as far as I'm aware and I all in all really enjoyed this book.

Fire, by Kristin Cashore.
This deserves a longer review because I love Cashore so much. Still. I knew that I would not like fire as much as I liked Graceling because there are few books that made me fall in love with characters this deeply. While other reviewers seem either fond of the amount of romance (which I hated) or put off by the sex (which didn't bother me), this book didn't manage to convince me most likely because I found the amount of descriptions of her superhuman beauty tedious and off-putting, her and the other character's development rather underwhelming and the amount of gratuitous rape and harmful romances annoying (wtf, Archer?). Ultimately, I liked the attempts at showing the character use her own strengths for her aims rather than allowing herself be used by others, but it didn't account for a large enough part of the book to make me like it.
Also I'd like to point out that us queer women do other things besides braiding our hair, JFC.
Die Verwandlung, by Franz Kafka.
I wish I had looked into Kafka's works more intensively at university. The surprising physicality and subtle, desperate humour really make me want to take a closer look.

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen.
I should have read this while studying for my Gothic Novel exam. I can't help but marvel at the heroine's taste in books. The Mysteries of Udolpho? Really?!

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss.
I usually hold Fantasy novels without female characters in contempt, and thought this was not going to be an exception. Well, it is. It's really well-written, funny, the characters are interesting, I love the Edema Ruh and the fact that the main character is a musician. I hate the way there are barely any female characters in this novel (well, none until half the book is over - all in all, there are seven: two of whom get killed, two of whom gets rescued, and two of whom get lusted after) and those which are there have to be rescued by the main character or pined after by the main character, and the fact that the author "acts as advisor to the College Feminists" according to his page consequently really pissed me off. 
I suppose you're supposed to close your eyes and pretend that women themselves are weird and elusive Fantasy creatures that need to be rescued a lot. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and this is a good book in spite of everything.

Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
Clay receives a mysterious parcel full of cassette tapes and it turns out that they were recorded by his dead (girl-)friend Hannah Baker who committed suicide a few days before. Hannah narrates the events that lead up to her decision and Clay is forced to listen to her story, finding out that he is part of the reason, a piece in a story involving mobbing and rape. I listened to this as an Audio book because I thought this would do the story more justice, and I think I was right. The result is brutal, but brilliant.

Holes, by Louis Sacher.
I remain baffled at the fact that people compare Sacher to JKR, when it seems that this book is aimed at a completely different audience entirely. I think it's ok, made me slightly uneasy at some points about the way race was portrayed, but I don't understand the wild accolades it seems to inspire in some of the reviews I've read.

Geek Chic: Smart Women in Popular Culture, edited by Sherry Inness.
Some very interesting essays which matched my resurging love for the Gilmore Girls, which is sadly also about the whitest show on television I have ever seen. It also kinda makes me want to rewatch Angel and finish this time to have a look at the development of Fred.


Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby.
"It tells the story of Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of obsessed music fan Duncan, and the object of his obsession, fictional reclusive singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe. The plot revolves around the release of Juliet, Naked, the first new Tucker Crowe release in over two decades. " (Thanks, Wiki).
Re-reading, and this kind of fanboy I can live with.

A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby.
The four main characters of this book have one thing in common: they want to kill themselves, they picked New Year's Eve as their last day, and they all picked Topper's house, where they meet.
I re-read this book or listen to the audio book whenever I feel bad.


I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee.
I am still a bit unclear as to why I picked this up, but it is as expected - it both pissed me off no ends and made me laugh.


The Year of Living Biblically,
by A. J. Jacobs.
One more for the "Crappy books of '10"-pile. Yes, I know, I should have known better. I thought the premise was funny, but the book was always going to be a one-trick pony because it sticks to its single joke with very little variation. It does have it's funny moments, but all in all it's rather shallow.

Johnny and the Dead, by Terry Pratchett.
Johnny Maxwell is aware of things that other people his age are not - like the dead people living on the local cemetery. When a building project threatens the cemetery, he and his friend have to get their entire neighbourhood involved and find that cemeteries are places for the living to remember their past rather than for the dead.
Another one I seem to re-read every year.
Lustrum, by Robert Harris.
I loved Imperium, so I was looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately I had to put it down for over a month due to exam-related reasons and never got back into it. This is also my main problem with the book - while I enjoy political intrigue this book comes with amounts which made it hard for me to read and to get into, which is a shame, because I really enjoyed Imperium.
The Owl Killers, by Karen Maitland.
I prefer The Company of Liars, but that doesn't mean that this book isn't awesome. As always, Karen Maitland manages to compellingly evoke the atmosphere of medieval Europe, this time of a fourteenth-century beguinage and like in Company, it's very bleak and claustrophobic at times. Her characters are fleshed-out, flawed and three-dimensional as ever.

The Company of Liars, by Karen Maitland.
A group of travellers is thrown together by fate in pest-ridden medieval Britain. All eager to keep their dark secrets from one another they have to stick together to stay alive, but one in their midst wants the others to die.
I read this together with Crocky, which was great fun. I had been badgering her to read this book for ages, and seeing her like it as much as I did was great.

Millionärvon Tommy Jaud.
Jobless, single Simon Peters is living off welfare support and sustains himself mostly through food sent to him as results of the letters of complaints he writes daily to companies across Europe. When an annoying, rich woman moves into the flat above he's determined to buy the house he lives in and pursues his goal to become a millionaire, date the lovely girl he met on the complaint hotline and get his life back on track.
Slightly dodgy when it comes to gender, but who'd have expected anything else, since the author is male. It's still very funny and Crocky and I had a great time reading it together.
A Star Called Henry, by Roddy Doyle.
I read this back in January, I think. We covered The Troubles and the events that led up to it as well as its aftermath in my Abi year and I've still not fully recovered from the resulting overload.


Die Vermessung der Welt, by Daniel Kehlmann.
von Humboldt goes to explore the world, Gauß explores it, too, though through math, and while an account of this does not sound hilarious, this book is. Written entirely in indirect speech it captures the eccentric personalities of both men very entertainingly.
Another one I had been badgering Crocky to read, so we read it together and had a great time.

The Nixie's Song by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
I was rather disappointed with this sequel to the Spiderwick chronicles, but the books are still so charmingly made that I don't mind having wasted the money.


The Wyrm King, by Toni DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

Boy2Girl, by Terence Blacker.
Well, I hated it. Cross-dressing books which cater to the "wearing a dress while having a penis is a wacky comedy but fun so long as everybody goes back to good and proper normal at some point" crowd, give everybody a voice but the person cross-dressing and ends the story right after the Big Reveal really don't need to be recommended in German textbooks, either, so a big thank you, Cornelsen.
Ich hätte nein sagen können, by Annika Thor.
Nora seems to be losing her best friend since kindergarten since Sabina has joined a clique. The only way to get in seems to be doing Sabina's new best friend Fanny's bidding, which mean playing a prank on shy Karin, even though she genuinely seems to care for Nora.
Since the plot is clear after looking at the cover and it becomes clear that there are going to be parties and bottle-spinning all that's left to do is watching the train wreck.

Notes On A Scandal, by Zoe Heller.
I loved this book. The ending was much more satisfying than the movie ending, too. I loved the characters, especially Barbara, of course, and the voice Heller gives her.


Ambereye,  by Gill McNight.
Hope Glassy, PA,  falls for her snappy, stand-offish boss. Who is a werwolf. Oh dear. Unbeknownst to her, her boss also falls for her. They get closer while working on a project which leads them to the bosses home.
Not great so far. While I'm a fan of werewolves as well as lesbians, the writing and the prose pains me greatly.
Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum oder: Wie Gewalt entstehen und wohin sie führen kann (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Or: how violence develops and where it can lead), by Heinrich Böll.
Independent divorcée Katharina Blum meets a bankrobber, falls in love, has an affair in the Germany of the seventies. The most influential tabloid react with a very intrusive smear campaign claiming that she's knowingly harboured a criminal and slept around a lot which destroys her reputation, causes several threatening and molesting phone calls and eventually leads to her shooting the journalist heading the campaign when he molests her.
I like Heinrich Böll, I liked this book. What disconcerted me in the lessons I've visited that were about this book is how much they tend to downplay the sexual violence, which was frustrating to watch.
Die Feuerzangenbowle, by Heinrich Spoerl.
Distinguished writer Dr. Hans Pfeiffer attends a party at which a lot of the title drink is consumed and his equally distinguished friends reminisce and share nostalgic stories about their school days and the tricks they played on their teachers. This causes him to lament the fact that he has never attended a school and a drunk plan is hatched for him to attend school. He does and gets to experience this indispensible chapter in life, play tricks on teachers, and otherwise experience school life first-hand.
Though it does have some serious issues I love both this book (the inscription! "Dieser Roman ist ein Loblied auf die Schule, aber es ist möglich, dass die Schule es nicht merkt" - roughly, "This novel is an encomium on school education, but it is possible that school educators will not notice this") and also the 1944 movie, in spite even of the Nazi overtones and the chilling circumstances of the production. I consider both book and movie essential for an understanding of contemporary German culture because of all the issues this touches, which is why I find it odd that it hasn't been translated.


The Princess Bride - S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure; The "Good Parts" Version, by William Goldman.
I watched the adaptation of this novel when I was six and then spent twelve years looking for the movie I remembered. I couldn't remember the title, but I did remember the most awesome swordsman I had ever seen and a princess called "Buttercup". I think all men I fell in love with in my life were to be modeled on Wesley (and they kinda were). Then [livejournal.com profile] bronnyelsp , I think it was, mentioned it somewhere, I looked it up, and nearly fell off my chair when I realised that this was the story I had been looking for for so long. Still drunk on my discovery I showed Crocky the movie, and her decidedly underwhelmed reaction sobered me somewhat. Still. It's one of my favourite movies to date.

Föhn mich nicht zu, by Stephan Serin.
Another novel on the pains of being a trainee teacher in Germany. Some anecdotes are funny, at times the humour is extremely forced, and where it is forced, it's completely out of line and very crude, but the parts which aren't forced really are funny. There were several situations which I sadly immediately recognised and it makes sense that most of the trainees in my year purchased and read this book. Still, it has serious issues, like the fact that I think we're meawnt to sympathise with the narrator, but I am not about to sympathise with a trainee intent on rating the breasts of his students or telling them to work as a sex worker if they get their answers wrong.
Lehrerzimmer, by Marcus Orths.
Grotesque German satire on schools after PISA, though it's closer to reality than one might assume, sadly. Trainee teacher Kranich arrives at his new school in Baden-Württemberg where the headmaster's draconic regime has caused the teachers to form a secret resistance. This very short novel is sadly too absurd to entertain on one end and too realistic to be funny on the other. The plot, much-lauded as Kafkaesque and Orwellian, is more of a collection of bizarre anecdotes loosely connected by a very short plot. I was disappointed.

Valor's Choice, by Tanya Huff.
Follows an infantry division's unusual diplomatic mission to a strange planet officials want to join the Confederacy of planets which turns out not to be as peaceful as it looked, through the eyes of their staff sergeant.
In spite of the fact that there is no full-on love plot, the fact that main character and staff sergeant Torin Kerr and her Lt. hook up in the first chapter in a scene reminiscent of Grey's Anatomy's pilot episode this disqualifies it from beating the challenge. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi or military Sci-Fi reader, so I was never likely to be too fond of this, and many of the things that bother me in other military Sci-Fis are true for this one, too. It's a bit too simple and convenient when it comes to alien enemies (the enemy is ugly, the enemy is barbaric, the enemy looks like a lizard, the enemy's culture is barbaric and inferior to our own, etc.), and even considering my past as a Star Trek fan I'm not impressed with what passes for universal traits which even transcends species in this series - which probably won't even transcend cultures on this one planet.


Deadline for Murder, by Val McDermid.
Recently returned from her exile, Lindsay Gordon finds that an old friend is dead, another friend is in jail for her murder, and her lover has left her for the murderer's lover, who hires her to clear her exes name.
Dear Lord, the moral framework of this novel. Oh, so you prefer young,  underage prostitutes? Yeah, that's fine, they're also drug addicts. e're not going to comment on that, move right along. You're seventeen, a drug addict and a prostitute  and so used to being exploited you've come to expect it? Good, we'll do some more of that, then.
Oh, so you murdered a friend, implicated another friend and put her behind bars and stolen someone'a South African's script and published it as your own? Whatever, I say, I've still got feelings for you, why don't I help you escape.
While I like heroes that don't have clear cut morals (Snape fan here!), I don't like it if I get the feeling that we're supposed to agree with this.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan
Mary lives in a village ruled by the Sisterhood and the attacks of the Unconsecrated. When she joins the Sisterhood and sees a stranger coming from the outside, she wants to find out for herself if there are others left behind the protective fences, behind the forest of hands and teeth.
And she does cross it, and of course nothing puts romance on your mind like the zombie apocalypse. What annoyed me was mostly the varying competency levels of the heroine - she switches a little too seamlessly between being a veritable fighter and stumbling all over the place for my taste. Also,  small children do not talk like that. It was an entertaining version of the zombie apocalypse, though, though I would have liked more background to their sitaution being revealed here already.

It's become pretty obvious that I don't have as many long train rides anymore as I used to.

Next on the reading list: 

- Boy2Girl  by Terence Blacker- a story of a boy who cross-dresses as a prank. Sounds horrid and is on the reading list for our 6th graders.
- Ich hätte Nein sagen können by Annika Thor - a book about mobbing, also on the reading list for our 6th graders.
- Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller,
- Ambereye, by Gill McNight. Here's hoping my fears about the quality lesbian werewolf fiction are unfounded.
- Wit'ch Star by James Clemens. Found this at a sale at the local library. Not sure about this because it's the sixths part of a six-part-series and I only have this one, but might be worth dipping into.
- Die vollkommene Ehe - Eine Studie über ihre Physiologie und Technik by Hendrik van de Velde. Surprisingly open German sex ed from the 1920ies.
- The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer if I ever have the patience.
- Middlemarch, by George Eliot. This'll be the third time I start that novel.
Current Mood: calm
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[identity profile] therealsnape.livejournal.com on November 27th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Quite a few interesting suggestions; thanks!
And put Notes on a Scandal a bit higher on the list. I didn't like the movie (which I thought only really worthwile because it had Judi Dench in it, and her performance is brilliant), but I was pleasantly surprised by the book.

In the movie, basically, the idea is that a female teacher has sex with the first underage student who smiles at her, and that's OK. What's terrible is the older woman who tries to seduce the poor, impressionable, 41-year-old female teacher. And it's not the first time (nor the last) that the older woman is after a consenting adult, either. Such goings-on, my dear! And quite a respectable lady, from the look of her. You'd never think that ... you know ...

The book has much more nuances, brilliant one-liners, and the POV is that of the older woman. I thought it excellent, and hearing Judi Dench's voice in the background was rather nice, too.
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Mothwing: Granny[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com on November 27th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
I actually really liked the movie, mostly because of Barbara, so much I wanted to read the book for a more detailed, in-depth story of the two characters. I liked it even though it made me cry buckets for poor Barbara and made me want to reach through the screen and give her hugs and even though I hated the agist double-standards, too and the way we're apparently supposed to think it's creepy that respectable women of her age have feelings and desires! Shockingly!11
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