#Books of #America

Today is the day we celebrate the United States of America’s independence from England. As we know, we signed the Declara…

Ok, enough with the history lesson. Most of you know the whole story anyway. This is a book blog. Not necessarily a blog for educating people. Though, I think I’ll do a little education today through the use of books. I went through about a third of my collection this morning and picked out a variety of American book. Most are pretty well-known, but a few might be knew to you.

Well, here it is: My attempt at being patriotic.

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We’re still a relatively young country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have enough history to have ghosts coast to coast.

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Here are some American authors who were very in touch with nature and liked writing about it.

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And it’s not just the men who enjoy writing about nature…

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Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James, did too. And according to the back of my copy of Rural Hours, she was the first American woman to publish nature writing.

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We’re also fond of short stories. Here’s a book (one of a few I own) devoted to American short stories.

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And here are some well-respected American short story writers.

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To quote a famous someone (who you’ll meet soon): “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” That’s right. Whether exaggerated a bit or not, books can make (and change, sadly) history.

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And if you want to know about the man who said those words, Carl Sandburg wrote just a little about him. The man was Abraham Lincoln. You know, the guy on the penny and five dollar bill.

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But famous poet Carl Sandburg may have forgotten some of Lincoln’s grand history. So Seth Grahame-Smith made sure we all knew about his Vampire Hunting days.

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While this is just a (very) small selection of black American authors, there is a vast amount out there to read. Here are some of the more influential titles in my collection. But I’ll admit, it needs to become a bigger part of my collection.

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America may seem to be at war with someone all the time, but not all of use enjoy it. Many books have been written about war throughout all of history. American authors aren’t immune to writing about it, either.

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There was also a time when we regularly sent people into space. Sadly, it didn’t always go that well.

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There are many writers who have take up entire shelves, or more, in the library. One of those authors is John Steinbeck. Here are just ten of the books I own. I have some more in hardcover that I didn’t dig out.

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Many things have gone wrong in this country over the years, just like in any other country. What I dug out for this picture is a few books in which things go very bad for us.

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And not all Americans are perfect (that’s putting it lightly).

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But an American childhood can be pretty good at times.

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Just ask Hemingway. Even though he spent a good amount of his life in other countries, Papa has a soft spot for America. Especially in his Nick Adams stories.

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Don’t forget about our poets. Here are just a few from various periods in American poetry.

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Whatever you read today, if you make it from America, you have so much to choose from. From the American literary cannon to some of the more non-required readings.

Half-Read Books: A Reading Confession

Today I’d like to show you a pile of books.

IMG_2716It’s a nice sized pile, isn’t it? Notice anything about it? Not the titles (some well-known ones in there, I know). Run your eye down the left-hand side. You might notice some paper, even a piece of string. What’s all that? Well, if you didn’t guess already, those are bookmarks.

This, my loyal readers, is my pile of half-read books. Aside from a few that I didn’t feel like stacking up on the pile and a few on my Kindle, this is my pile of books that I’ve started and haven’t (yet) finished. Some are from recent weeks. A few, like the Nick Hornby, were started two years ago. (In defense of the Hornby, its columns he wrote for a The Believer, and I don’t feel that they need to be read in a rush.)

It seems like I have a problem. I admit, it is somewhat of a problem that I’d like to fix. There are periods of time when it doesn’t occur, however, reading a portion of a book and putting it down only to have another catch my eye  and start reading that instead has shown me something about myself as a reader. And that is what I’d like to discuss today.

There are many things that plague my reading life. I get easily distracted. I find it hard to sit and read for long periods of time. Because of this, reading one novel could take a week (average, and I’d be pleased with that) or longer. Other readers will devour these same books in a day. Luckily, even with this big different in reading “speed” I think I still enjoy the story the same as devourerers (did I make up a word or just spell it wrong? Oh well.) More on that in a bit. It’s rare that I’ve read a book in one day, but it has happened. Reading one in 2-3 days is an accomplishment for me. Those are often the ones that BLOW ME AWAY, not just blow me away.

I’m not trying to get a pity party going. I know I’m not alone in some of these reading struggles. It’s how we’re built. I can’t, often, read a book straight through even when I love it. I said it. I’m proud. I’m a reader. That’s all that matters. What I would like to focus on is some of the interesting things I’ve noticed in the last few years.

As a kid I devoured some books. When the Animorphs series came out, I read almost the entire series. Many were read almost as they were released. Then I stopped reading, unless it was assigned to me. It was in high school that I discovered books again, but it was also when I realized I don’t read fast. It took me months to read Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (one of the first books I bought when I discovered the local used bookstore). While I read that, I also started and finished A Farewell to Arms and many of his short stories. I didn’t think much of this until recently.

Once I started blogging, my reading frequency picked up. I also didn’t have as big of a pile of half-read books until the last year(ish). I got busy. My mind started wandering. It happens. A great thing about blogging, and more importantly reviewing, my memory for books seems to have gotten much better. Or, I never gave my memory as much credit as it deserved. This is one of the key factors to not being (t00) ashamed of my half-read pile.

Most of the books you see pictured above, I can jump right back into and feel like I never put it down. It might take a page or two to recall what I need to keep going, but that’s all. I never would have thought I’d be able to finish some books without restarting them, but I feel that I’ve grown as a reader to the point that these things stick in my head for a long time. Well, once I finish a book, I tend to start forgetting things. But that’s what my reviews are for, and one of the main reasons I started reviewing. They help jump-start my memory after I’m done.

*To interrupt your regularly scheduled reading of this post, I’d like to point out that this is the point of the post where real life started calling. I had to stop writing it, and didn’t get back to finishing the post until more than 24 hours later. Ironic isn’t it? Half-written post on half-read books. I now your regularly scheduled reading, already in progress*

An example of this, World After by Susan Ee. This book was released in November of 2013. I got the book around that time and even started it then. It’s admittedly a fast, very engaging read. But I put it down at some point. Read a chapter or two in 2014…and now I picked it back up the night I started this post. this time, I plan on going to the end. I have less than 100 pages to read now and I’m loving the book. Funny thing is that the same thing happened when I read the first book in the series, Angelfall. It went a little more than half-read until close to release day for book 2. The third book, End of Days is coming out in May and it seems that history has repeated itself. Though, when I get my hands on that book, I’ll have to remind myself there’s no fourth book to wait for and that I should read it in one sitting. The series deserves that after what I’ve put it through.

One of the downfalls of this half-reading habit is that I often tell people “yea, that book is on my TBR” or “It’s next on my list. Can’t wait to read it.” Seems innocent enough. Turns out that I say this much too often, and even if I did start the book soon after saying that, I come to realize I have a long line of books on my Kindle that I said I was going to read months ago. This happened in the last few months of 2014. I met many new authors, got myself some great looking books (and also had some gifted to me), had the intention to plow through the pile. I think, as of today, I’ve read two from the pile. That’s almost nothing. I don’t feel too guilty about this. We have our reading speeds. We have lives. No one expects things. I just don’t like feeling left out of things, especially when I interact with most of these authors daily.

So, to all authors out there: You may remember (or not) whether or not I have your book on my pile(s). You may remember that I said I’d be getting to it soon. I doubt that soon came soon enough. Luckily, I don’t forget most of what I own, and I have every intention of reading it in the next ten years. (Eh, figured I’d close this out in a light note.)

As always, comment with your thoughts. Do you half-read? I’m sure many of you can’t fathom it. Totally understand that too. I know some of you probably start from the beginning, as well. For me, that’d get into rereading territory, and that’s a topic for a totally different post.

Speaking of topics for posts, I’m running on empty here. Tell me what you’d like to read. Tell me if you’d like to write up your own guest post. I’m open to almost anything. Just shoot me a message though the contact form with topic ideas or guest post inquiries. I’d love to hear from you all about anything (almost anything. I have my limits…maybe.)

Now, to read more of this weekend’s book…WORLD AFTER

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A Storied Week – Week Seven

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I finally did it! I fulfilled my weekly story quota again. February hasn’t been the best of reading months for me, so I’m happy to have at least this one week where I read the “required” five stories.

If you look at the authors I read, there’s a strange variety. A Twain, Poe, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and (unknown to me, until now, modern author) Holzer. These range from a ghost story, a semi-fable, war/love story, and a mixed tape. But each in it’s own way is a great work of fiction (let’s not count the Vonnegut too highly, I’m still not sure about that one).

Not only am I glad I was able to read at least five stories, and got a variety, I also think it’s great that I was able to revisit some of my top short stories authors. As mentioned below, back in high school, I carried around either a Hemingway or Poe complete story collection regularly. I’ll be reading more from these authors this year so I can encourage more people to check them out. And I think that Twain will get some of the spotlight as well. I’ve been meaning to see what his story work’s like, having only read the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn books so far.

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Where I Live, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I wasn’t really keen on this story. It starts out as a story about an encyclopedia salesman trying to sell a library a new set of books. But soon it turns into a portrait of a small town, and Cape Cod as a whole…trying to be disguised as his search for the libraries trustees.

If the salesman wasn’t a character and this was just presented as “this is the history and layout of a Cape Cod community” then I might have liked the story a little more. I just didn’t see, overall, the enjoyment of the history lesson.

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The Five Boons of Life, by Mark Twain

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This story is fairly short. It deals with a fairy offering a man Love, Pleasure, Fame, Wealth, or Death. He chooses one after another, after finding out the downfall of each. It’s a story with a moral lesson behind it. It’s humorous, yet quite dark in its humour. Not much else can be said without just rewriting the story myself.

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The Oval Portrait, by Edgar Allan Poe

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Back in high school, I carried around my heavy copy of Poe’s complete work almost every day, for quite a while. (It was either this or my complete stories of Hemingway.) For some strange reason, I never read this story from the book and it happens to be a fairly short one to have skipped over.

This story reminded me a little bit of Dorian Gray with the use of a painting, painter, and an exceptionally beautiful subject for the painting. I won’t tell more of the similarity, but it’s almost as if Wilde was strongly influenced by this story and in turn used it for his novel. I’ve yet to look up whether or not my assumption is correct, but I have a feeling there’s some relation between the two.

I’m hoping that in revisiting more Poe this year, that I’ll find some more forgotten gems.

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Love and Other Catastrophes: A Mixed Tape, by Amanda Holzer

Stories like this are always hard to really “not like.” This story is written entirely with song titles (accompanied by the artists’ names, that I disregarded when reading), unaltered and written as one large paragraph of a story.

I first encountered stories like this in my fiction workshop in college. It was one of the many unique ways to write a “found poem” type of story that we were taught, back then. Even though I’d written a poem through a similar “found” way years before (see “Game of Love” from From Where I Stand for another, more recent poem), for a story this always fascinates me more.

At first it’s always strange to “get” what the song titles are saying, but once it all clicks, it’s brilliant, in my opinion. It’s great to see what might look like a random “mix tape” of songs turn into a meaningful, yet simplified, story.

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A Very Short Story, by Ernest Hemingway

As the title suggests, this is a very short story. But like most of Hemingway’s work, I enjoyed it. It’s my second time reading it, as I’ve read all of his stories…years ago. The first time was in the complete collection I have. And since it was a shorter story, I don’t think it really stuck with me as much. This time, I read it from my “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” collection, and having picked it almost at random, I think I was able to treat it like an “equal” to the rest of this work, compared to the last reading where it got drown out by the other stories.

The story is another taking place in Italy during WWI, like much of Hemingway’s work. It’s not a very happy story, even though it seems positive most of the way through. Things take a turn for the worse eventually. I feel that it’s a more realistic ending to the story’s love affair.

I’m definitely happy to have opened Hemingway up once again. I’ve missed that guy.

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Have you read any short stories this week? Do you know of any short stories to suggest to me or my readers? Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments on this post or more privately through the contact page, if you want you’d like to type something longer up.

Guest Post on Cinta’s Corner!

Cinta Garcia over at Cinta’s Corner has been a guest on my blog a few times now, and you’ll be seeing her more over time. She’s always welcome here on A Life Among The Pages. What I have for you today is a little treat. Instead of having her on my blog, I was asked to be on her blog to do a guest post on her new series Books I Don’t Mind Reading A Million Times. The series is similar to my Authors We Love series and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as you’ve enjoyed AWL.

Guest post on A Moveable Feast