Getting rid of books (gasp!)

It is inevitable that one of these days, I’m going to move, and so I’ve been looking at all my belongings and wondering what I can downsize. First, of course, went the old toys, then the old clothes, but recently I have turned my eye to the bookshelves.

To many people, just the act of considering getting rid of books is sacrilege, especially when your whole life is about books, like mine is. In fact, the times I’ve actually tried to parse down my collection have been downright painful, and I am not the type of person to get attached to belongings. But I have a lot of books (though really not many in the scheme of things), and the fact is that I’m either going to have to leave them behind at my parents’ house or make room for them in the starter apartment we all know is going to be minuscule.  Continue reading

The Princess Bride: Avoid Boredom

I’ve been watching The Princess Bride as a film since I was four or five years old, but I only just read the book. This is a wacky novel for several reasons. First, it’s by William Goldman, who is also a screenwriter of considerable fame, but he claims it is only his annotation of a book by S. Morgenstern of Florin (a fictional country somewhere near Scandinavia). Goldman’s introduction is full of personal anecdotes, such as how his father–a Florin immigrant–read this story aloud to him as a child, and peppered with truth, such as the fact that he wrote a thriller called Marathon Man and wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This very fine line between fact and fiction is super-interesting and something that is always mentioned when talking about this book, but it’s not what caught my attention the most. Continue reading

My complicated feelings about Nabokov

This past quarter, I took a literature class on Vladimir Nabokov, author of the ultra-famous Lolita. We read other of his novels as well, including The Eye, Despair, Laughter in the Dark, and Pale Fire. 

Nabokov is widely respected as a master of language, and there is really little to debate about that. His puns rival Shakespeare’s; his descriptions are both beautiful and intensely necessary to the plot. His use of first person is always practical in the traditional, don’t-use-first-person-unless-it’s-for-a-good-reason way. So yes, he’s a good writer. Continue reading

Best Books of 2012

This New Year, there are a lot of lists going around rating the books of 2012. Some, like the New Yorker’s two articles, are based on staff tastes, and these align closely with the award-winners of the year–Louise Erdrich, David Ferry, Junot Diaz–and eclectically with independently-bound novels by unknown artists. Others, like the Goodreads Choice Awards, are based on user votes. Either way, these rankings serve two main functions: to give you a shopping list for the bookstore and to spark heated debates between book lovers.

Perusing these lists, I was shocked at how few of these books I have read! My bookshelf this year was dominated by course books and manuscripts, but I still managed to read a few published novels. So in the spirit of the New Year, here are my best books of 2012 (not including the ones I’ve edited): Continue reading