Engaging Books: A Book Club for the next 4 years

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Summer wildflowers by E.A. Schneider

Salutations, dear pond readers! Today, I am excited to launch a new project at Technicolorlilypond just in time for Summer. This project is a book club for the next four years that I’m calling “Engaging Books.” The election for the 45th president of the United States has made the world an extra tumultuous place and stirred up a lot of feelings in people. I think that if we could all be on the same page of the same book engaging in the imaginative exercise together, and then sharing thoughts on it in a polite way, that that would make the world a little bit better place right now with a little bit brighter future. What can I say? I’m the child of librarians; I can’t help but think that books are the best place to start when faced with crises.

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Ring-tailed Lemur hugging its tail by E.A. Schneider

Engaging Books is designed with three specific goals. Goal #1: pierce our self-made bubbles of knowledge and, by so doing, achieve Goal #2: foster consideration for each other as human beings whilst doing Goal #3: read some amazing books. In short, the ultimate goal is to become a more engaged, informed, and polite member of society. Our self-curated bubbles of information have highlighted our polarized political climate in the United States as well as contributed to a crumbling sense of community. There is data to support this belief and there is no shortage of evidence that we are more likely to believe that the “other” is a subhuman enemy when we don’t know anything about them personally. I’m hoping that reading these books and works will help us all see the world with more compassion.

Like a lot of others in the USA, I felt a little blindsided after the November elections and I want to read up on points of view that I’m now aware I knew nothing of as well as perspectives that I might have mistakenly taken for granted.  A lot of thought went into this list of books. The books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and every book is less than 600 pages long.

Because this is the Internet, everybody reads at different paces, and there’s this pesky thing called Real Life that rudely interrupts one’s ability to read, I have some guidelines for how this is going to work. Naturally, these are subject to revision as things develop. The books are listed below in the rough order I will aim to read them in. There are 60 books on the list which works out to 15 books a year for the next four years. As I read, I will post thoughts on the books here on my blog as well as on Goodreads in the Engaging Books Group. If you are reading along, please post your thoughts. If you’ve already read something on the list, feel free to post your thoughts on the work even if it’s way down on the list. However, all people posting will need to put SPOILER warnings on their comment where applicable and always be politely respectful in their remarks.

The books on this list are purposefully challenging. I fully expect many of them to contain content that is disturbing, offensive, graphic, and emotionally affecting. That is the point. Again, we all curate bubbles for ourselves regardless of facts to protect our identities. It is our nature. However, we can and should challenge that nature to stretch because that is how we learn and grow.

This isn’t a class. There are no grades and no credit beyond the personal. All I can offer is my own written commentary, some cute animal pictures, and the truth that when you read a book, you’re going to learn something you didn’t know before. Personally, I think that reading these books is a worthwhile endeavor and I hope you do too. On to the list!

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Relaxed Seal by E.A. Schneider  Seals are one of the cutest animals around!

 

Engaging Books: The List  

# / Title / Author / [page count]

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [311]
  2. Tracks by Louise Erdrich [226]
  3. News from Nowhere by William Morris [167]
  4. The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher [272]
  5. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed [274]
  6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance [272]
  7. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis [400]
  8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler [345]
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley [288]
  10. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglas [160]
  11. Bus Girl: Poems by Gretchen Josephson [107]
  12. The Irony of American History by Reinhold Neibuhr [174]
  13. We by Yevgeny Zamayatin [225]

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    Diving sea turtle by E.A. Schneider

  14. 1984 by George Orwell [322]
  15. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond [418]
  16. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [400]
  17. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank [200]
  18. Selected Poems by Langston Hughes [320]
  19. Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston [243]
  20. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hothschild [288]
  21. Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt [527]
  22. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach [181]
  23. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg [308]
  24. Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain [150]
  25. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine [160]
  26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot [370]
  27. Waist-high in the World: A life Among the Non-Disabled by N. Mairs [224]
  28. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai [352]
  29. Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver [436]
  30. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson [240]

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    Summer wildflowers at dusk by E.A. Schneider

  31. Prophesy Deliverance! by Cornel West [188]
  32. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks [243]
  33. The Dictator’s Handbook by Bueno de Mequita [352]
  34. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury [249]
  35. Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik [218]
  36. Coyote by Allen Steele [436]
  37. The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force by Eliot A. Cohen [304]
  38. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins [374]
  39. The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch [256]
  40. High-Rise by J. G. Ballard [204]
  41. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine [291]
  42. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd [296]
  43. Caesar’s Column by Ignatius Donnelly [278]
  44. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks [174]
  45. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer [240]
  46. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [349]
  47. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman [208]
  48. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (pseudonym of Stephen King) [384]
  49. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson [448]
  50. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt [528]
  51. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli [140]
  52. Animal Farm by George Orwell [112]
  53. The Wave by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser [143]
  54. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [120]

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    Coneflower by E.A. Schneider

  55. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson [433]
  56. Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 by Ida B. Wells-Barnett Jacqueline Jones Royster (Editor) [288]
  57. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels [48]
  58. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society by Herbert Marcuse [320]
  59. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama [585]
  60. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins [294]

Thank you for reading to the end! I am going to intersperse my reading of this list with other lighter works and hopefully I will blog about those, too. I’ve already read a couple of these and will be posting my reviews sometime soon. Hopefully, this will help you launch your Summer Reading with some fascinating books and dynamic thinking. Any thoughts? Concerns? What are you reading now? Please, share below, happy Summer reading, and thank you for stopping by the pond today, dear reader.

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Onward by E.A. Schneider

 

 

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Epic reading: my 2015-2016 Reading List

Hello, dear pond readers, thanks for joining me here today. This is an exciting day because I am going to reveal my ambitious epic reading list for 2015-2016. Is it long? Yes. Is it highly improbable I will actually read everything? Hellz yes. Is it going to be a fabulous adventure of the mind going to all these fantastic places? Absolutely.

Amazingly enough, as a side-benefit to terrific illness this winter, I am actually farther ahead on this reading list than I expected to be. Yay! Without further ado, here is my list in no particular order:

  1. Ubik by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

    Shells by E.A. Schneider

  2. A Knot in the Grain by Robin McKinley<–Done! 🙂
  3. Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut<–Done! 🙂
  5. The Dispossesed by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂
  6. Codex Born by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  7. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines<–Done! 🙂
  8. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  9. Almanac for the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
  10. Landfill Meditations by Gerald Vizenor
  11. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  12. Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
  13. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  14. Kwaidon translated by Lafcaido Hearn
  15. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

    Trillium by E.A. Schneider

  16. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  17. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  18. Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
  19. King Lear by William Shakespeare
  20. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  21. A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  23. Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher
  24. These High Green Hills by Jan Karon
  25. The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  26. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick<–Done! 🙂
  27. Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  28. Bluebeard edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  29. Cinderella edited by Heidi Anne Heiner
  30. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  31. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  32. Moon Over the Back Fence by Esther Carlson<–Done! 🙂
  33. 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
  34. Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould
  35. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  36. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  37. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  38. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  39. Once On A Time by A.A. Milne
  40. Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin

    Field of lace by E.A. Schneider

    Field of autumn lace by E.A. Schneider

  41. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin
  42. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  43. Bonk by Mary Roach
  44. Gulp by Mary Roach
  45. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  46. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  47. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
  48. The Story of the Treasure Seekers by Edith Nesbit<–Done! 🙂
  49. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  50. Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney
  51. Nova by Samuel R. Delaney<–Done! 🙂
  52. A Time for Trolls by Joan Roll-Hansen
  53. Female American by Unca Eliza Winkfield, edited by Michelle Burnham
  54. Frankenstien by Mary Shelley
  55. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach
  56. Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz<–Done! 🙂
  57. Star Trek Vanguard by David Mack<–Done! 🙂
  58. Around the World in 72 days and other writings by Nellie Bly<–Done! 🙂
  59. Thirteen at Dinner by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  60. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie<–Done! 🙂
  61. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline<–Done! 🙂
  62. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson<–Done! 🙂
  63. Virtual Light by William Gibson

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

    Toad by E.A. Schneider

  64. Idoru by William Gibson
  65. Otherland by Tad Williams
  66. Pleasing the Dark by Richard Powers
  67. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman<–Done! 🙂
  68. Lockin by John Scalzi
  69. The Continent of Lies by James Marrow
  70. Fatal Enquiry by Will Thomas<–Done! 🙂
  71. Suspicion at Sanditon by Carrie Bebris
  72. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde<–Done! 🙂
  73. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlof
  74. Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah<–Done! 🙂
  75. American Born Chinese by Gene Luch Yang
  76. Prairie Evers by Ellen Airgood
  77. Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard
  78. The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
  79. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers<–Done! 🙂
  80. The Smartest Kids in the world and how they got that way by Amanda Ripley

As you can see, I have included a lot of titles from my 2014-2015 reading list but I did leave off several this year. Unlike in previous years, this reading list doesn’t include too many books that are longer than 600 pages. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to read most of this list over the course of the next two years but I also know that I’m sure to add titles to the list as new books come across my path. Hopefully, I will post some capsule reviews of the books I’ve read so far in 2015 soon. What about you, dear readers? Are you reading anything particularly interesting so far in 2015? Any big reading plans? Feel free to comment below and thanks again for joining me here at the pond.

Still water by E.A. Schneider

Still water by E.A. Schneider

A Sand County Spring, A Whale of a Summer, a Utopian Autumn, and an enchanting winter: my 2014 seasons of books

A Sand County Spring, A Whale of a Summer, a Utopian Autumn, and an enchanting winter: my 2014 seasons of books

It is time, dear readers, for a wrap-up on my reading list progress from 2014. I did pretty well in 2014, reading 33 books is no joke, but, I wish I could’ve read more, as usual. As I’ve discussed in previous posts about books, I feel that there are seasons of reading and that when I think of a year I usually think of one or two particular books first. For me, 2014 was definitely the year of Moby Dick, Aldo Leopold, and Herland. Because I didn’t manage to blog as I read, I don’t have previous posts with reviews to link to, I just have the original list I made. Instead, I will endeavor to do some super-duper short capsule reviews for each book below with an extra sentence or two for the books I feel really stuck with me.

Coneflowers by E.A. Schneider

Coneflowers by E.A. Schneider

  1. A Sand County Almanac  by Aldo Leopold
    This book was profoundly special for me. Leopold’s vision, wisdom, and accessible prose were a delight. This should be required reading for every conservation class. There were so many quotable passages that I have pages copied out in my reader’s journal. I hope to put these quotable quotes up on my blog later this year. Even though I haven’t been much of a gardener, his essays in here really felt like a call to spades and have inspired me to try to turn our own little plot of land into more of an oasis of native plants, even if it will be a tiny one.
  2. Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss
    Witty, charming, and educational this book is a must-read for everyone who loves language and clear communication.
  3. Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
    Another enchanting entry in their canon of fairy tale anthologies, I love this collection of gas lamp fantasy.
  4. Orison by Daniel Swenson
    The adventure of a young thief named Story who is trying to survive in the city of Calushain after her brother gets them in a bind, while simultaneously avoiding the notice of the Dragon gods, is a page-turning piece of sharply crafted narrative that left me wanting more. The pacing is perfect, the characters feel real, and the world clearly has deep roots that you can feel supporting every page. I can hardly wait for the sequel.

    Trees over the Centaur shoulder by E.A. Schneider

    Trees over the Centaur shoulder by E.A. Schneider

  5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    This was the longest book I read in 2014, the densest, and it took me the longest to read, From the beginning of May to the end of August Moby Dick consumed most of my reading energy, a whale of a summer indeed. Moby Dick was very rewarding to read. Melville’s prose is beautiful, his attention to detail is acute, most of the book does not involve whale hunting per se, but rather talks about every detail surrounding the work of whale hunting including the whales themselves.  I was as engrossed as Ishmael by the enormity and wonder of the sperm whale by the end. Also, considering the incredibly long climb of rising action, the final crisis and conclusion of the novel seems so abrupt, so quick, with such closely paced final chapters, that I found my heart quickened during the chase, visualizing every moment. I finally found myself blinking in confusion and thinking “It’s already over?” at the end, so long had I been reading the book. I was also surprised at how many passages were laugh-out-loud funny on purpose, even after 100+ years. If that isn’t good writing, I don’t know what is. I understand why this is an essential American novel now and I will re-read it someday to better discuss it with my kids.
  6. Deerskin by Robin McKinley
    I tried reading this book once before years ago, before I knew about the Perrault story, Donkeyskin, and I was just getting really into McKinley as a writer. When I reached the crisis point of the first section of the novel I was horrified and put the book down like a hot rock. Sexual violence is a tough thing for me to face in a book or movie, especially when I am not expecting anything of the kind. But this book haunted me. I learned more about the Donkeyskin story type and read more McKinley novels. I felt like a wuss for putting this book aside and I am not a wuss. In 2014 I picked it up again and I am so glad I did. Yes, the material is challenging but it is supposed to be. The point is that with love and friendship, in this case between a girl and a dog, any wound, any trauma, can be overcome and life can continue. It is a beautiful story that is so much more than a romance or a fairy tale and I am really glad that I finished reading it.
  7. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
    The end of the Space Trilogy, this book makes sense and Lewis makes some compelling arguments about the nature of evil, he always does, and while I still find his Victorian sexual/gender politics wearying, the ending at least makes sense for the characters.
  8. Aristopia by Costello Holford
    An interesting vision of an alternate history/utopia, I found this to be a great thought experiment to ponder even though the protagonist is an annoying twerp and it is a sausage-fest of racists.
  9. Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    This is splendid, page-turning, bibliophile fun. I am so excited to read the rest of the series, particularly because I loved how Hines chose to end this book for the characters because it was unconventional, brave, and true to the characters he developed.
  10. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
    This is a charming romance that actually made me laugh aloud, highly recommend it for some quality fun reading.
  11. Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
    Splendid read that makes me want to grab a pen and get busy writing something Datlow and Windling would want to publish someday.

    Shy Green Frog by E.A. Schneider

    Shy Green Frog by E.A. Schneider

  12. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
    I was disappointed in this book. It was uneven, Carter couldn’t decide if she wanted her tale to be gritty & realistic or magical & enchanting so she succeeded at neither. I thought it wound up being an odd combination of the ugly and the lyrical with singularly unappealing characters.
  13. The Iron Heel by Jack London
    At first, I did not particularly like this book. It is singularly depressing as one might expect from a dystopian novel but the unremitting grim atmosphere was wearing. But, the transformation of the narrator Avis Everhard from mild-mannered housewife into international woman of intrigue is absolutely fascinating. Spoiler alert though: the ending is abrupt, almost Python-esq, and it left me laughing for reasons that I’m pretty sure weren’t intended.
  14. Beastly by Alex Finn
    This was better than I thought it would be and left me pondering the entire Beauty and the Beast fairy tale type. I hope to write a more extensive post on this train of thought sometime this year.
  15. Beauty by Robin McKinley
    I have long loved this novel but re-reading it in light of having read Beastly, and having re-evaluated my thoughts on the fairy tale as a whole, left me with mixed emotions. I hope to write more later this year on this topic.
  16. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
    It is entertaining to read Verne’s picture of Americans and our priorities with his dry humor while poignant to read the results of the voyage the protagonists take.

    Hand in bronze by E.A. Schneider

    Hand in bronze by E.A. Schneider

  17. Round the Moon by Jules Verne
    Ditto above, really it is hard to think of the books as separate works.
  18. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
    I really like this book. It is a great entry in the Dresden series that continues Harry’s adventure as the Winter Knight in a logical way that still had me gripping my nook with white knuckles, reading as fast as I possibly could. I look forward to the sequel.
  19. Od Magic by Patricia McKillip
    Fantastic book, this one meant a lot to me because I felt that it not only had a lot of craft but that it also had something real to say about power and intellectual freedom. It feels like one I will definitely re-read.
  20. The Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
    I liked this sequel. I like the world Card creates with “the Piggies,” and the colonists as well as the portrait of the adult Ender. The ending is beautiful.
  21. Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
    This book is beautiful in many ways with a lot of creative ideas, particularly the concept of “philotes,” but I feel like Card was trying to do too much at once and dropped a lot of narrative balls in the process as a result. I found the story of the “god-spoken” and their world more compelling than the primary plot line in the end, I think because it was more focused. I will read the sequels eventually but this book did sap some of my momentum to do so.

    Jaguars by E.A. Schneider

    Jaguars by E.A. Schneider

  22. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  23. Catching Fire  by Suzanne Collins
  24. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    Let me just condense my thoughts on the Hunger Games trilogy as a whole. It was splendid. I loved the character Katniss. I liked that Collins wasn’t afraid to engage tough issues of political authority, freedom, surveillance, public performance, allocation of resources, and ultimately the consequences of the environmental and political choices made by the people. Collins covers all of these issues with approachable characters that feel real and I applaud that. I also applaud that she wasn’t afraid to let characters die or afraid to have a bittersweet ending that I thought made sense in the context of the world.
  25. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    This book is still very relevant today even though in many ways our society has integrated genders and reached more equality than Gilman could probably have ever expected. It is well-writen too with some quotable and many thought provoking passages. The eugenics in the story with its emphasis on quality Aryan characteristics left me cold, even though I know that was the progressive/intellectual attitude of the day. I’m glad the eugenics left me cold, there are some things in stories that ought to make you feel uncomfortable or you need to seriously re-think your values. Of all the Utopian novels I read in autumn 2014, this was my favorite and it is the one I am most likely to read again someday.

    Willow in the sun by E.A. Schneider

    Willow in the sun by E.A. Schneider

  26. The Big Four by Agatha Christie
    Jolly good fun with a delicious over-the-top, un-ironic conspiracy of n’er do wells that Poirot handily defeats. I love it.
  27. Elephants Can Remember  by Agatha Christie
    I love stories where Poirot actually does nothing but talk to people and think but the addition of Ariadne Oliver makes this book extra fabulous.
  28. Black Coffee by Agatha Christie
    An old favorite, I had fun re-reading this Poirot adventure adapted from a play.
  29. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    Another old favorite that I have not indulged in re-reading for years, this read was beautiful. I appreciate the way this book extorts benevolence and charity without demanding a dimming of delight while also not losing sight of the Christian nature of the Christmas holiday.
  30. The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris
    This book was a disappointment. The plotting was all over the place, like a mad-libs game for fairy tales. Morris uses female archetypes rather than characters and the journey of the protagonist from no-nothing to wise king makes zero sense. Also, a lot of threads were left dangling. Considering how much I adored The Well at the World’s End with its complex characters (yay! Ursula!) and tightly plotted story, this book was a deep disappointment.
  31. Furry Fantastic edited by Jean Rabe
    This was a delightful read with some very entertaining stories I will probably re-read when I need a palette cleanser.
  32. Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James
    The language James uses is superb for capturing the time period with such a wonderful vocabulary, I was beside myself with word nerd joy. The story is told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view and followed Lizzie very little with hardly any conversation between the Darcys and no witty repartee to speak of, that was the only disappointment for me. The mystery was fine but there was no suspense to speak of either, it was all very restrained and mannered as one might perhaps expect. Mostly I enjoyed the way P.D. James imagined a post Pride and Prejudice life unfolding and I appreciated the way James seems to delight in picking at the uncomfortable realities of Regency England societal ethics when it comes to paying off blackguards.
  33. Neuromancer by William Gibson 
    This was a fun book with which to end 2014. The world is very film noir with that great grittiness only a future written during the ’80s has. So many terms we take for granted now appear in the book like “matrix” and “cyberspace.” I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more Gibson.

While I did not put these capsules into any particular order, I realized as I went through my reader’s journals for 2014 that there were certain patterns. As the title implies, I spent the spring inspired by Aldo Leopold, then the summer was consumed with reading Moby Dick, then the autumn reading a lot of Utopian fiction, and the winter reading more fantasy stories and anthologies before ending the year in a cyberpunk adventure. It was a great year of books. I hope this year to read 40 books and I am planning to post my revised reading list soon. What about you, dear readers, did you read anything special in 2014 that has stuck with you? Are you reading anything splendid in 2015? Please, comment below and thanks again for joining me here at the pond.

Autumn oak leaves in the sun by E.A. Schneider

Autumn oak leaves in the sun by E.A. Schneider

The Pond-dweller Returns

The Pond-dweller Returns

Hello, dear readers, it’s been awhile. Life once again interfered with my goal of posting here regularly for the last four months. Spring here in the upper midwest has been busy and now we seem to be settling into summer. I hope to do some posts sharing my reading, photography, and crafting adventures from these past months over the next few weeks.

Vernal pond at sunset by E.A. Schneider

Vernal pond at sunset by E.A. Schneider

Today we begin with the books and some of my most recent photos. If you’ve been checking back here in hopes of a new post or referring back to my reading list you might have noticed that the one thing I’ve managed to do here at the pond is update my 2013/2014 reading list here. As mentioned in past posts I believe that my superpower in life is the ability to keep reading books regardless of how hectic my life becomes. Hopefully I don’t encounter a kryptonite, at least any time soon.

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
    A mediocre book. I disliked the pacing, finding it to be tedious. It didn’t help that I found the main characters to be insufferable prats but I think I would have overcome that feeling if the story didn’t move at the pace of a geriatric slug. I’ve liked short stories I’ve read by Pamela Dean and I have enjoyed other books in this fairy tale series, especially Briar Rose by Jane Yolen but this book and I just didn’t click.

    A king in the snow by E.A. Schneider

    A king in the snow by E.A. Schneider

  • Bleak Houseby Charles Dickens
    An incredible piece of literature, this book did not feel long to me at all. Dickens’ dexterous command of multiple plot threads to weave together a complete narrative is inspiring. If I ever get the opportunity to teach writing to anyone I will direct them to this book as a grade A example of quality atmospheric composition. You can feel the grit in the road of London, see the soot on the windows, smell the filth in the gutter, and hear the rattle of carriage wheels over cobblestones when you read Bleak House. Victorian era London may not have been a pleasant place to live but his description is so real, so minute, you feel as if you are there while you read his tale of Chancery woe. I will have to read this book several more times to completely get the whole of it, as it is I think much has been lost to history since I would have been completely lost without an annotated edition, but I admired his characters and their story. It is the kind of novel that makes me want to write simply because it is so beautifully crafted.

    Vanishing footprint by E.A. Schneider

    Vanishing footprint by E.A. Schneider

  • The Language of the Night  by Ursula K. LeGuin
    LeGuin’s career as a writer, most notably as a science fiction and fantasy writer, is an inspiration to me. I found her growth through this collection of essays, speeches, and interviews incredibly interesting to follow.
  • Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. LeGuin
    A beautiful book, LeGuin is an amazing poet. I didn’t even know she wrote poetry until I heard Garrison Keillor read two of her poems from this book on his program “The Writer’s Almanac.” It was such a wonderful surprise to learn that an author I esteem so highly had yet more artistry for me to enjoy so I bought her collection. Although I find some of the poems to be forgettable most are just incredibly beautiful. My “bookmarked” poems were numerous, 49 in total out of a 200-page collection, the kind of poems one can re-read and live with and learn from.

    Peacocks all in a row by E.A. Schneider

    Peacocks all in a row by E.A. Schneider

  • The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip
    A mediocre book but I found the prose and pacing much more fascinating than Tam Lin. I can’t help comparing the two since I read them at the same time. I am glad I didn’t put this book down even though I very nearly did. Maybe Cygnet benefited from low expectations but I  found it a gratifying read in the end if for no other reason than the imagination of her world. I nearly put it down because for the first few chapters McKillip didn’t use “an,” “the,” or “a,” and it was driving me crazy to read that stitlted unflowing prose. But she gradually put those precious words back into the protagonist’s sentences and I was able to immerse myself in her beautifully imagined world.

    Paws by E.A. Schneider

    Paws by E.A. Schneider

  • The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. DuBois
    This book impresses me. DuBois writes beautiful prose that is oftentimes poetic in its effect. So many references to the Classics, the Bible, and western literature were used so well I felt humbled by my ignorance of many of the particulars of these works. I am surprised this book is not in the curriculum of history and literature classes. I think students could learn so much about the complexity of our U.S. history from DuBois and it has the benefit of being both concise and easy to read. What was not easy to read is the fact that for as much as our country has changed for the better since DuBois’ time we still have so far to go when it comes to education, tolerance, justice and liberty. It breaks my heart to think about that but it would be worse if people stopped reading, remembering, and thinking about these challenges.

    Take a breath by E.A. Schneider

    Breather by E.A. Schneider

  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher
    This book was my Memorial Day vacation. Arrayed in my pajamas and equipped with a pot of tea in my English bone china tea pot and my English bone china tea cup I spent the day in the most decadent expression of freedom: reading this book. It was pure luxury. This book is so much fun. I have tremendous respect for Jim Butcher as a craftsman & storyteller. The research he must do on world folklore & mythology is incredible. His plotting consistently amazes me with the way he follows a familiar rhythm but I never can predict what exactly is going to happen next. I love that! It also impresses me that he can consistently take the events of a 12-48 hour period of time and turn it into a gripping 400-500 page novel that goes by so fast but contains so much detail; a real achievement of craft & organization. I am looking forward to the next Dresden adventure.

    Water dragon by E.A. Schneider

    Water dragon by E.A. Schneider

  • Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
    This book is good fun. I like McKinley’s style and imagination. It was the kind of world, the kind of sci-fi, that I found myself believing enough that I wanted to google the Makepeace Dragon Institute and plan my visit. It is also worth noting that I really liked this book a lot even though I thought the first-person narrator was an ass who was annoying as all heck at times. So often the degree to which I personally like a character biases me for or against a book. To be able to say I like a book so much even with its protagonist drawn as such an ass I think is a testament to McKinley’s skill as a storyteller & world-builder. I can hardly wait to read her next book.

    Camel Family Portrait by E.A. Schneider

    Camel Family Portrait by E.A. Schneider

  • Snow Country by Y. Kawabata
    A book of incredible imagery and beautiful language. I found the characters to be obnoxious and shallow but poignant in their humanity. I hate the sinking helpless feeling of knowing something is over my head that was a constant in my reading of Snow Country. If I were more familiar with Japanese culture or read it at least twice more I think I might start to have a real chance of truly comprehending this book. It did help that I’ve read The Tale of Genji; it’s hard to describe but I can sense the literary legacy of Genji while reading the experience of Shimamura and his association with the geishas Komako and Yoko. To see the struggles of human connection, communication, and spiritual questions of ephemeral beauty acted out in the everyday moments of a mountain hot spring made the gap of time between Haien era Japan and postwar Japan seem poignantly short. I look forward to re-reading Snow Country in the years to come.

    Spring trillium in old woods by E.A. Schneider

    Spring trillium in old woods by E.A. Schneider

  • Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner
    This is a fascinating collection. I never realized the diversity of Rapunzel/Maiden-in-the-Tower tales there are in the world. The women are ususally jailed for their protection or as punishment or as collateral damage in a political/magical conflict/spell/prophecy. Sometimes the heroine was a shallow, idiotic, helpless creature that we would easily recognize from Western fairytales in general. Happily though there were a surprising lot of enterprising heroines who orchestrated their own escape or at least actively participated in their own liberation. The heroes also surprised me with their diversity and individuality; one prince even cross-dressed for more than two years to infiltrate a maiden-tower & gain the princess’ hand in marriage. I would pay to see Disney adapt that version of Rapunzel. Heiner also included stories done by more modern authors that were in the tradition of these maiden-in-the-tower tales. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Gilmann would never have occurred to me to include but having re-read it as part of this whole collection it makes perfect sense, indeed it added a new dimension to an already fascinating short story. My mind is still re-assembling itself and I find myself wanting to make my own contribution to the tapestry of maiden-in-the-tower tales. I’ve since begun Heiner’s collection of Cinderella stories and continue to be impressed by her scholarship.

    Canopy by E.A. Schneider

    Canopy by E.A. Schneider

  • Burn by Daniel Swensen
    A blogger I respect wrote this. If you ever need a good kick in the pants as a writer or just some sound advice mixed with entertaining language you owe it to yourself to check out his blog Surly Muse. Being a fan I was excited to read his story, Burn. I have one big complaint. At 20 pages the story is just not long enough. Swensen’s writing is so good, he creates such a believable atmosphere and a compelling protagonist in Alexa Bernell that I felt like I was reading the origin story for a new comic book star. Bernell faces extraordinarily difficult circumstances with her ability and Swensen paces the story with great deftness. It is a compliment to his skill that it left me wanting more, thinking so when’s the next issue coming? It felt like the start of a good graphic novel.  Perhaps if enough of us read Burn and are left craving more we can persuade the good Mr. Swensen to deliver a continuation of Alexa Bernell’s story. Burn is available for purchase at Amazon  or if you’re a Nook user you can get it from Smashwords.

    Shadows and Stone by E.A. Schneider

    Shadows and Stone by E.A. Schneider

  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    I tumbled to the existence of Lord Dunsany by reading The Language of the Night and learning that  the young Ursula K. LeGuin was very inspired by his work. Having read this book I can see why. Dunsany’s language is beautiful. I almost want to use the term Rococo in style except he has such economy in his pacing & word count. For such a short book it contained an incredible story. Without going into spoilers I like the fact that the story didn’t end where I thought it would but rather Dunsany showed the reader the consequences of choices made by characters. I like it when stories do that, show the moment beyond the big fireworks in a narrative, and Dunsany does it with style. I will definitely be looking up more of his titles. Also, I have a newfound appreciation for my shadow that I don’t think I will shake any time soon.

Currently I am about halfway through reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, about a third of the way through Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, and a couple chapters into Dreams of the Raven by Carmen Carter just for some solid Star Trek fun. Additionally I have begun reading the collection Cinderella Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner in preparation for my novella based upon my flash fiction. All of these books are fantastic; hopefully I can post more about them soon. What about you, dear readers? Are you reading anything good this summer? Just leave a comment to let me know and thanks for stopping by the pond.

Pond Dweller by E.A. Schneider

Pond Dweller by E.A. Schneider

2013 Reading Adventures

I’ve got big plans for reading in 2013. My plans are so big that realistically they will probably spill over into 2014. At a minimum I hope to read at least 35 books this year. Last year I participated in the reading challenge on Goodreads and I wound up finishing 31 books out of my desired 50. I’m hoping that my more realistic ambition of 35 books will also prove to be more achievable. We’ll see. For years my husband has been my reading buddy, we choose books to read together and discuss. Previously I broke up my reading list between a short group list of our picks and a longer personal list. This year I’m not doing that. Instead I drafted my list after discussing it with my favorite reading buddy so my list is a mash-up of both our interests and it is long enough to last me at least two years. It will be fun to see how far I can get.

Koi together by E.A. Schneider

Koi together by E.A. Schneider

Without further ado, here is the new reading list in no particular order:

  • Tam Lin by Pamela Dean<–Done! 🙂
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens<–Done! 🙂
  • The Language of the Night  by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂
  • The Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂

    Japanese maple and stone lantern by Ellen Schneider

    Japanese maple and stone lantern by Ellen Schneider

  • Finding My Elegy by Ursula K. LeGuin<–Done! 🙂
  • The Dispossessed: an Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  • King Lear by Shakespeare
  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip<–Done! 🙂
  • The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip<–Done! 🙂
  • Od Magic by Patricia McKillip

    Japanese Maple Leaves in Autumn by E. A. Schneider

    Japanese Maple Leaves in Autumn by E. A. Schneider

  • Ringworld by Terry Pratchett
  • The Black Arrow  by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • These High, Green Hills  by Jan Karon
  • The Awakening  by Kate Chopin
  • Burn by Daniel Swenson<–Done! 🙂
  • The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
  • Once On A Time  by A. A. Milne
  • A Farewell to Arms  by Hemingway
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God  by Zora Neale Hurston
  • White Noise by Don DeLilo
  • The Prelude by Wordsworth
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs<–Done! 🙂
  • The Wasteland and Other Poems  by T.S. Elliot
  • Manifesto for All  by Tracy McClusker<–Done! 🙂
  • Letters From Nowhere by Tracy McClusker<–Done! 🙂
  • The Stars My Destination  by Alfred Bester
  • The Devil Wives of Li Fong by E.H. Price
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
  • Bully for Brontosaurus by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin

    Tree in Black and White by Ellen Schneider

    Tree in Black and White by Ellen Schneider

  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • Phantastes by George MacDonald
  • A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
  • The Book of Heroes by Miyuki Miyabe<–Done! 🙂
  • Ico: Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe<–Done! 🙂
  • The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. DuBois<–Done! 🙂
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
  • The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick
  • A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
  • The Well At the World’s End  by William Morris<–Done! 🙂
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Vonnegut
  • Cold Days by Jim Butcher<–Done! 🙂
  • The Codex Alera  by Jim Butcher
  • Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley<–Done! 🙂
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

    Lantern in Autumn by Ellen Schneider

    Lantern in Autumn by Ellen Schneider

  • The Troll Garden and Selected Stories by Willa Cather
  • Kwaidan: stories and studies of strange things by Lafcadio Hearn
  • 100 selected poems by e.e. cummings
  • Snow Country by Y. Kawabata<–Done! 🙂
  • Flatland: a romance of many dimensions  by Edwin Abbott Abbott<–Done! 🙂
  • The Phoenix and the Carpet by Edith Nesbit
  • Arabian Nights
  • Book 1 of the Journey to the West
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster
  • The House on Mango Street by Cisneros
  • The Silmarillion  by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz  by Miller
  • Dune  by Frank Herbert
  • Moon Over the Back Fence  by Esther Carlson
  • The Dreaming Place by Charles DeLint
  • Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears by Datlow and Windling
  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Dunsany<–Done! 🙂
  • Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales from Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Bluebeard Tales from Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Twelve Dancing Princesses Tales From Around the World by Heidi Anne Heiner
  • Rapunzel and Other Maiden in the Tower Tales From Around the World  by Heidi Anne Heiner <–Done! 🙂
  • Cinderella Tales From Around the World by Marian Rolfe Cox and Heidi Anne Heiner

Yes, there are 76 works on that list with some works comprising multiple volumes. Granted the above list is supposed to last me through 2013 and 2014 but like the dates of a calendar I have every confidence that these coming months will come and go faster than a chamealon’s tongue. With Providence I hope to make a mighty fine dent in that list and be the better for the effort by this time in 2015. As I go I will blog about my progress and my pondering regarding each title I read. I owe you all a wrap up on my 2012 reading and if you stay tuned I will be delivering that soon. In the meantime, do you have any reading ambitions for the coming months, dear reader? What books and why? Thanks for stopping by here at the pond and may your appetite for good books be voracious and your reading be plentiful.

Riffle in the Stream by Ellen Schneider

Riffle in the Stream by Ellen Schneider

So long, Summer & goodbye, October, it’s been fun

One serving of autumn by E.A. Schneider

It’s almost Halloween, the culturally accepted end of summer here in the states was Labor Day and we’ve all been enjoying pumpkin flavored everything for two months. Trees have long since turned to colors other than green as the chlorophyll retreated revealing the spectrum of substances that have been there all along. As is my custom I am sitting here reflecting upon my reading over the past several months, what it has meant to me, and what I will be reading in  winter over the long months before we see the chlorophyll in the trees again here in cheese-land. The summer was marked by some vexation in my literary ambitions. Frankly I was bested by a rather poorly written book. My momentum of reading energy was checked when confronted with the morass of imaginative potential and lack of skill that is Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay. Prior to attempting Lindsay’s book I had been booming along on my reading list. Since I made the decision to officially set aside the book for the foreseeable future I have made more progress. Just to remind you what I originally set out to do I have copied my reading lists below from an earlier post.

The Group List of Summer 2012

  1. Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon  <–I’m reading this in lieu of Gravity’s Rainbow since I failed to read it (hanging head in shame). <–Done 🙂
  2. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  3. King Lear  by William Shakespeare
  4. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  5. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels<–Done 🙂
  6. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne <–Done 🙂

Ellen’s Summer 2012 Reading List!

  1. Ringworld by Terry Pratchett
  2. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit<–Done 🙂
  3. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
  4. Changes by Jim Butcher<–Done 🙂
  5. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher<–Done 🙂
  6. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett<–Done 🙂
  8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf<–Done 🙂
  9. These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
  10. Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip
  11. Voyage to Arcturus by D. Lindsay
  12. The Borrowers  by Mary Norton<–Done 🙂
  13. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
  14. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery<–Done 🙂
  15. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
  16. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  17. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  18. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle<–Done 🙂
  19. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  20. Parker Pyne Investigates   by Agatha Christie
  21. Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko <–Done 🙂
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

In addition to the above I also wound up re-reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien and most of Emma by Jane Austen when I found myself unable to face another page of Voyage to Arcturus. Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin has become my lunchbox book, so far so good, it is an enjoyable read. Currently I am formulating my 2013 reading list. It will be an overly ambitious combination of books from the above list which I didn’t get to and books that I hope to read with my better half. Over the next couple weeks as I finish this list I plan to post capsule reviews of my thoughts regarding what I read over spring, summer, and early fall as well as some lovely photos of mine. Happy reading and happy October, dear readers, thanks for joining me here at the pond.

Japanese Maple in Autumn by Ellen Schneider

Summer 2012 Reading List

Maple Leaves in Spring by E.A. Schneider

It’s that time of year again: summer! The time for reading, for diving into imaginary lands and being transformed by the experience. Last year was the summer of Genji for me, a summer spent in Heian era Japan admiring the pomp and poetry of The Shining One and his court even as I laughed at their foibles. What summer will this turn out to be? The summer of King Lear? The summer of Ringworld? Wordsworth or Robert Louis Stevenson or Marx or Woolf?  Maybe it will be a combination, a beautiful spectrum of literature upon which I can reflect in years to come; only time will tell and I can hardly wait to find out.

Being the nerd that I am I have been carefully crafting the following reading list during April. I’ve weighed the pros and cons of the different books, my enthusiasm for reading them vs. the probability of my finishing them anytime soon, and discussed the list with my other wonderful half. Once again, my husband and I are making a book group of two to read books together and discuss them. Yes, I am ridiculously spoiled.

The Group List of Summer 2012

  1. Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon  <–I’m reading this in lieu of Gravity’s Rainbow since I failed to read it (hanging head in shame). <–Done 🙂
  2. The Prelude by William Wordsworth
  3. King Lear  by William Shakespeare
  4. Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
  5. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels
  6. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne <–Done 🙂

First fiddleheads of spring by E.A. Schneider

 Ellen’s Summer 2012 Reading List!  

  1. Ringworld by Terry Pratchett
  2. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit<–Done 🙂
  3. Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
  4. Changes by Jim Butcher
  5. Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
  6. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. The Master of Heathcrest Hall by Galen Beckett<–Done 🙂
  8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  9. These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon
  10. Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip
  11. Voyage to Arcturus by D. Lindsay
  12. The Borrowers  by Mary Norton
  13. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
  14. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery<–Done 🙂
  15. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
  16. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
  17. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  18. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  20. Parker Pyne Investigates   by Agatha Christie
  21. Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

There you have it, dear readers, my reading lists for this summer. As you can see, I have made it less ambitious than my previous two lists in terms of numbers. Between employment and volunteering I figure I will have less time. I’m also focusing on more fantasy and science fiction with a smattering of some classics. I’m excited about my reading for the next several months, I hope these lists will inspire you to seek out some strange new literary worlds for yourselves. Is there a particular book you’re looking forward to this summer? It would be fun to get some discussion going in the comments. Happy reading and thanks for stopping by the pond!

Blossom by E.A. Schneider