All posts by Laurie C

I’m a public librarian in Massachusetts who loves to give reading suggestions, whether asked-for or not, a specialty known in library jargon as “reader’s advisory”. I read a lot — mostly literary, genre, and young adult fiction, but also short stories and memoirs — and listen to a lot of audiobooks. Newer favorites include Patry Francis, Donna Tartt, Meg Wolitzer, Lev Grossman, Jennifer Egan, Laurie R. King, Lionel Shriver, Carolyn Parkhurst, Penny Vincenzi, Michael Connelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Rothfuss, Martha Southgate, Jennifer Haigh, Zadie Smith, and Louise Penny. Some older favorites are Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Susan Howatch, and Connie Willis.

The Power of Habit Group Read Part 1

Image of Book CoverI’m reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg with librarian-blogger Joy Weese Moll and others at Joy’s Book Blog. It’s a great choice for January – the month of resolutions and of trying to substitute good habits for bad.

Part One of The Power of Habit is the shortest section, and deals with the habits of individuals. (Parts Two and Three go on to cover the habits of successful organizations and then societies.) Several case studies and simplified explanations (including cute graphics) of the neuroscience behind people’s habits intrigue the reader and make the concepts easy to grasp.

The case studies in the book are written up in story-style and the story of Eugene Pauly and his wife Beverly is the most heartbreaking. Eugene Pauly (known in medical literature as “E.P.”) had one of the most-studied brains of all time after viral encephalitis spread to his brain and did irreparable damage to a portion of it, causing him to lose his short-term memory. But he amazed doctors and nurses by how he was able to have seemingly normal conversations and perform normal daily actions like walking and eating. The author explains how figuring out how Eugene Pauly was able to still do these things with such severe loss of memory taught neuroscientists a lot about the role of habit in daily life.

I was hoping for an Oliver Sacks-type of entertainingly academic book, but the case studies in The Power of Habit aren’t way-out, unbelievable, or unsolvable; they’re actually the basis for what neuroscientists believe we know about habit, so while interesting, they seem more usual than unusual. So far, I think The Power of Habit will appeal more to readers who prefer Malcolm Gladwell’s popular science books; quirky business books like Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time; or popular neuroscience books like Where Did I Leave My Glasses?: The What, When, and Why of Normal Memory Loss.

 Visit Joy’s Book Blog to join the group read or find more discussion of The Power of Habit.

a

2012 TBR Pile Challenge Fail

2012 Challenge BadgeI failed miserably in my first attempt at Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge this year. To meet the challenge, I had to read and review twelve books that had been on my “To Be Read” list for over a year. Two alternates are allowed in case you really hate a couple of the books.

As you can see, I failed the challenge, only reading two of the twelve older books that I’ve been meaning to read but that kept getting nudged aside by newer titles.

My 2012 TBR Pile Challenge List

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz
Codex by Lev Grossman
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Two Alternates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Family Album by Penelope Lively

Since this challenge was supposed to help me with an unofficial goal for 2012 – to read more of the Massachusetts Book Award winners and Honor books from recent years – I’m going to try again in 2013! For my new list, I’ve swapped out the first two books on the original list with two at the end that I bought to read and actually have sitting on a shelf. I have a new strategy, too – to work harder on the list at the beginning of the year because from September on, life gets too busy.

My 2013 TBR Pile Challenge List

The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley
An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
The Whole World Over by Julia Glass
Map of Ireland by Stephanie Grant
The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
All Is Vanity by Christina Schwarz
Codex by Lev Grossman
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan
Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

Two Alternates
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Family Album by Penelope Lively

The two books I read and reviewed from my 2012 list – Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Snow by Orhan Pamuk – were both very good, but they didn’t make my list of favorite reads from 2012.

a

My Favorite Reads of 2012

cover imageInspired by reading year-end lists on other blogs, I’m posting my own. These are my favorite books that I read in 2012, but some were published earlier. I’m not including any books that aren’t published yet, like The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore (Knopf, 2013.)

A favorites list isn’t the same as a Best Books list, but these are still all excellent books. My 2012 favorites all have that something extra – resonance for me personally, an amazing audiobook narrator, extraordinarily powerful language, the reappearance of favorite characters, or something else – that makes me want to urge these books on other readers to enjoy.

Please chime in in the comments to tell me what your favorites of 2012 were!

Favorite Reads

Accelerated by Bronwen Hruska
Pegasus, 2012
New York City father takes on his child’s pressure-cooker private school.

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel (Read my review)
Doubleday, 2012
Touching comedy of manners and thoughtful exploration of grief.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Knopf, 2011
Harshly beautiful love story with a magical circus and dueling magicians.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper
Dutton, 2012
A slacker dad/ex-husband tries to make peace with family and loser-ish friends.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
Knopf, 2012
For summer reading with Maine, That Old Cape Magic, and Sag Harbor.

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont (Read my review)
St. Martin’s, 2012
A Separate Peace for a whole new generation.

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
DAW, 2011
Second in a huge epic fantasy trilogy for readers who think they don’t like epic fantasy.

 

Favorite Listens

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, narrated by Ralph Cosham (Read my review)
Macmillan Audio, 2012
8th in wonderful series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, narrated by the author (Read my review)
Scholastic Audio, 2011
Wildly funny story of teen beauty pageant contestants stranded on a jungle island.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, narrated by Ralph Cosham (Read my review)
Blackstone Audio, 2012
Like listening to a great story while sitting by a roaring English fire.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, narrated by David Pittu
Macmillan Audio 2011
Captures the intellectual and moral confusion of coming of age in the early 80s.

The Night Swimmer by Matt Bondurant, narrated by Hillary Huber (Read my review)
AudioGO, 2012
A perfectly rendered audio edition of an atmospheric, contemporary gothic story.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, narrated by Wil Wheaton
Random House Audio, 2011
Awesome virtual-reality story with tech-nerd heroes and corporate-drone enemies.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison, narrated by Jeff Woodman (Read my review)
Highbridge Audio, 2012
Award-worthy narration of the voice of Ben Benjamin, a man adrift with grief.

State of Wonder by Anne Patchett, narrated by Hope Davis (Read my review)
Harper Audio, 2011
Marina Singh makes a Heart of Darkness-style journey from Minnesota to the Amazon.