Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The curious reason why Rebel reads on her walk to work

Although I haven't updated my reading list in a while, I've actually finished a number of books recently.*


Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss

Plot: Basically the author goes on a tirade against modern usage & misuse of grammar and punctuation. She also educates the reader about the history & correct usage of the most commonly used forms of punctuation.
Motto: Sticklers Unite!

Opinion: While this book is educational and funny in parts, I think the author takes herself entirely too seriously. Or maybe I'm taking her entirely too seriously. Unfortunately, this book preaches to the choir and probably won't do much to stop the erosion of punctuation from the English Language.

The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson

Plot: The author traces the vocabulary, pronunciation & usage of the English language from it's roots in a Germanic tribal language through influence by Norman French, distribution to America & Australia, and finally as a global language. The book claims to answer the questions of why we pronounce the same letter combination (e.g. 'ough') in several different ways, why we spell words with the same root differently (e.g. four / forty) and how English developed arguable the largest vocabulary of any language.

Motto: Why? No one really knows.

Opinion: I enjoyed this book much more than Eats Shoots & Leaves. There was a big difference in the attitudes of the authors; they take opposite sides of an age old argument about the language. While Truss wages war against misuse and calls for a return to higher standards, Bryson merely illustrates the changes that have already occurred in the language. He values, for example, the differences between British English and the North American & Australian dialects.

The history lessons are interesting and easy to understand. Bryson is genuinely funny, and I found myself laughing in several places. My only frustration with the book was that after being promised the explanation for why English is the way it is, some of the questions were answered with "No one really knows." which is probably true, but still... don't promise what you can't deliver Bill!


The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
Backstory: When I was little I remember this miniseries airing, and both my sister & mom loving it. They both read the book, and I often heard the phrase "The Thorn Birds" uttered rapturously. I was much too young to understand the appeal, but remembered that this was their favorite book. I visited my sister in July and I guess I was finally 'old enough' because she foisted the book upon me to read when I got home.

Plot: The youngest daughter of a sheep ranching dynasty in Australia falls in love with Father-hottie-pants. Multi-generational drama ensues.

Motto: Bless me Father for I have sinned.

Opinion: I loved it! Perfect vacation read. There's romance, action, betrayal, redemption, everything you want in a romance novel. My one complaint is how the author suggests that 3 pages worth of complex emotion can be communicated from one character to another by a significant glance. But for the genre, that's to be expected.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Plot: A murder mystery / detective story told from the perspective of a 15 year old boy with Aspergers Syndrome.
Motto: 1 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 ...

Opinion: I so identified with the main character that I began to think I might have Aspergers Syndrome myself... except for the math stuff... and the fact that the inability to identify with other people is one of the characteristics of Aspergers. This was a short book, very quick and easy to read, but not at all simplistic. Haddon does a remarkable job of giving the main character a unique voice, and allowing the reader to see the world through his eyes. I'm impressed with how well the secondary characters are developed given this unique perspective. I enjoyed this book very much, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in Aspergers or psychology in general, or math, or mysteries, or train travel in England, or dogs or yellow cars...

Currently reading:
Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivner
This is my bedtime reading because it's too big of a book to carry to & from work in my purse. So far it's been interesting. For all my years in school, there is so much I don't know about learning, I never realized all the thought and preparation that could go into planning a lesson.

The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
I've just started reading this one, and it's definitely thought provoking. The author's tone is rather harsh, but it sounds like she has just cause to criticize Muslims, Islamic Countries and the West.

Both of these books are nonfiction so I've been rereading bits and pieces of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows to amuse myself. I would love some recommendations for good fiction books to read.

What about you, dear reader? Have you read or thought about reading or refuse to read any of the above books? I'd love to hear your opinions.

*As for the title of this post: I usually read as I walk to and from work, and while it only takes about 7 minutes each way, I get a fair amount of reading done since I also walk home & back for lunch. I didn't used to read while I walked to work. I used to just walk, observe the pretty trees & mountains, and say "Hi" to my neighbors as they walked past. It just so happened that one of these neighbors appeared more regularly than any of the others. As I was walking home for lunch, he'd be walking down the hill. And when I walked back to work, he'd be walking up the hill with his daughter. So I'd see him and smile & say hi, and we'd both go on our merry way. This went on every day for a couple of weeks and I just began feeling more and more pressed to come up with something witty to say to this person, which is just not my strong suit. Never mind the fact that although his family lives in my apartment complex, I've never officially been introduced (or for that matter introduced myself), so I don't know his name. After a few months, I just felt so painfully awkward about running into my friendly neighbor/complete stranger, I started bringing a book with me so I could studiously ignore him as we passed each other. I'm horrible. I know.... totally anti-social... see above where I think I have Aspergers.


uberstrickenfrau said...

Hello- just found your blog by way of mags ham bun. I've read a few of the books you listed, eats and shoots, thorn in the side, and dead dogs, I loved how you summed them up! I just finished The Last Town on Earth, if you like the flu, a must read. Anyway, I like your blog, I'll be back to vist!

Rebel said...

Thanks! Thorn in the side would be a good alternate title. =P

Sue, aka seiding said...

Loved The Dog in the Night Time. Read Eats, Shoots, and Leave, and found it relatively amusing but nothing I didn't know. Pretty sure I've read the Bill Bryson, because I think I've read all of his books, and love them. My favorite was A Walk in the Woods, about the Appalachian Trail and close second was In A Sunburned Country about Australia.

Have you read any of the books by Jasper Fforde? They are awesome, period. He has two series, Tuesday Next, about a fiction cop, and Nursery Crimes. They are both hilarious.

Oh, and PS: guess who just queued Dr. Who Season Three on Netflix?

Rebel said...

Thats right!!! It was to be released Nov. 6th! It's already in my queue, I just need to bump it up. =)

Rebel said...

Availability: "Very Long Wait" =(

Magatha said...

I read The Mother Tongue, years ago. It's a great book. It shows how the language is a living changing tool that all cultures that were colonized by English speaking people have altered the language and made it their own. Eats Shoot Leaves's author, should get a clue from that book. None of us speak Shakespearian English anymore either. Things are changing.

Aspergers? I doubt it. Maybe shy. Spielberg has Aspergers.

Magatha said...

OK, I think I'm getting The Mother Tongue confused with The Story of English. Anyway, I read both about 17 years ago. Same outlook, language lives, you cannot nail it down.

Bezzie said...

I read Mother Tongue too------by Demetria Martinez. Fictionalized history of El Salvadorian refugees fleeing from El's civil war to the U.S.

I heard the author of Eats Shoots and Leaves (I think it was her) on a NYC NPR show. Yeah, she does take herself that seriously.

IrishgirlieKnits said...

Loved this post..some of these books are on my must list.

And, since I work with children with autism and Asperger's, I loved your last line about the neighbor/stranger..why I read my book on my walk story. Classic :)

marissa said...

i just have to say, rebel, that you are a really good writer--and getting even better the more you blog. the thing i love about j's blog is that it makes me feel like i'm experiencing her telling me the story, not that i'm reading it. same thing i've been liking with your blog; the information just seems to make its way into my brain naturally, as if i'm absorbing it by osmosis or something, as opposed to some things i read (and probably write) where the words are chosen and placed together in a way that makes me awkwardly aware of the process of reading. anyway, i have just been noticing that and when i notice someone's strengths i like to tell them.

Rebel said...

Thank you! I've been told by various teachers that I have a very 'chatty' style. Which I don't think was a compliment when I was supposed to be writing essays. But it works well for blogging. =)

Eryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eryn said...

I love "The Curious Incident of the Dog..." It's on my read and re-read list. Lately I've been going through all my Discworld books (again!). I've probably read each of them a dozen times.

I was just thinking I need to purge my books for a used bookstore swap. If I actually do it, I'll praise you for the inspiration.

If I don't do it, I'll just blame my normal laziness :)

*edited because I cannot spell to save my life.

Michael5000 said...

Agree with Marissa that this blog keeps getting better.

Agree with you that "the Mother Tongue" is good. I read it, eek, like 15 years ago, but I remember it being screamingly funny. (Did you notice that I stole long quotes from it for the tutor handbook?)

LOVED "Curious Incident."

And that's all I have to say about that.

Rebel said...

eryn - what are the Discworld books about?

M5K - I did not notice that! But I went back and flipped through... you didn't 'steal' anything, it's sproperly cited. But I have to tell you whenever I read something, particularly instruction manuals or forms, I never think about the fact that a real actual person sat down and wrote it. You're blowing my mind a little here ;)

Batty said...

I love reading people's opinions of books. Thanks for sharing yours! Be careful, though... you wouldn't want to get hit by a car as you walk home! I tried reading while walking, and the results were never good (twisted ankle, ripped pants, got honked at by car...).