Adventures in Reading

WordPress search engine terms

It’s time for another round of WordPress search engine terms. For those of you unacquainted with WordPress, our Dashboard (and more specifically stats’ page) maintains a list of search terms that led innocent reader to our blogs. Said terms are frequently amusing, intruiging, and unrelated.

Anisha Lakhani: The delightful author of the novelSchooled, I was the first (says the author) blogger to comment on her novel. It was a novel I started with doubts but concluded as I hurriedly turned the pages to find out what would happen to the protagonist Anna whom begins the novel as a morally centered teacher but quickly falls prey to the enticements of wealth and materialism. Well-written and entertaining, it’s a light read that manages to escape the many pitfalls of the genre. Though I have not followed it too closely, Lakhani has been accused (at least online) that the book was very much about her and that she still tutors; however, I don’t wish to spread hearsay and would like to emphasize that Lakhani says she does “not tutor anymore.”

Norwegian Wood Quotes: Whether in reference to Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood or to the Beatle’s song “Norwegian Wood,” I don’t know but both are favorites of mine. Last March I linked to two (out of the plethora) quotes I liked from the novel and one being:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that” (31).

Walter Moers: I have a stab of excitement followed by a pang of regret every time a browser finds my blog for Walter Moers. A brilliant German author whose fantasy/fiction series unfolds on the world of Zamonia, in the two novels I have read (The City of Dreaming Books and The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear) Moers uses whimsical protagonists that adventure through his fantastic world. Accompanying the story are Moers’ own illustrations. So why the pang of regret? There is not nearly enough information of Moers available for my liking (and much less available in English).


Half Way There!

It being July 1st, it is roughly half way through the year and I decided to spend some time looking back at my reading progress so far for 2008 and commenting on some of the more notable books I had adventures with.

I read Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad back in January and I loved it. It kicked off my experience with the Canongate Myth series, which I have been increasingly fond of with the more I read. Since reading it though, I have stumbled across a fair amount of less enthusiastic and more critical reviews. While I still find the book charming and is one of my preferred Atwood books, I do feel I must add the disclaimer that I read The Penelopiad shortly after I finished a course on “great literature” with a rather narrow-minded if not misogynistic professor.

In February I was completely enchanted and enthralled with Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners. It was a book I picked up on a whim and ordered through Amazon before I had even finished it. This collection of short stories was located in fantasy and science fiction, but I suppose a more descriptive (and somewhat imaginary) genre would be something like contemporary surrealism. Whatever it is though, Link’s book is good and I see many a Christmas stocking in my future I will be filling with it. And, her latest collection available for free here.

In March I read some really terrific books ranging from Haruki Murakami to Terry Pratchett. But I don’t even have to twist my arm to settle on my favorite and most influential book being Words in Context (previously known as Japanese for Japanese) by Takao Suzuki. Reading the book was enjoyable though there were certainly some more grueling moments digging through this commentary on linguistics and language. However, during the past six months this has to be one of the books I refer to the most. Additionally, it gave me an entirely new and more inspiring way to look at learning languages.

I expanded my J.D. Salinger experience in April with reading his short story “A Perfect Day For Bananafish” from his Nine Stories collection. Until 2008, my experience with Salinger was limited to Catcher in the Rye, but I finally got around to reading Franny and Zooey and dug into Nine Stories for my personal short story reading challenge. It’s a brilliant short story that is… it’s just so perfect. And I got some terrific comments on other people’s experience with the story as well.

Perhaps a bit of a surprise as I read some really great books in May, but I have to say one of the best was Anisha Lakhani’s Schooled, which if not available yet will be out for public consumption over the next few weeks. I typically have a ridiculously horrible time when it comes to popular literature and picked up an ARC of Schooled at work to ease my brain. Though I had to twist my own arm into just enjoying a book for enjoyment sake, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself eagerly turning the page and getting pretty involved with the main character. It’s still the middle of summer and Schooled is an excellent book to spend some time with on a lovely day.

First Step in the New World by David Lida is a brilliant book that I read last month. An eclectic collection of essays exploring some of the many nuances of Mexico City, Lida has provided much more than a piece of travel writing with book. Lida spends time looking at the politics, socio-cultural, food, entertainment, gender studies – the book has just about anything. Whether you’re interested specifically in Mexico City, in modern architecture, or are just looking to expand your horizons Lida’s book is terrific. Perhaps my favorite part of the text is Lida’s actual voice, which makes Mexico City sound so tantalizing I want to hop on the next flight and buy Lida a beer.

Fiction: Schooled by Anisha Lakhani, 2008
June 2, 2008, 10:08 am
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , ,

Despite my recent and ridiculous failure with James Patterson’s Sundays at Tiffany’s, I still could not resist the temptation of an easy pleasure read in the world of popular literature. I found an advanced reading copy of Anisha Lakhani’s Schooled and decided why not? Schooled is the story of Anna Taggert a recent Columbia graduate who opts for a fulfilling career as a middle school teacher rather than pursue a less satisfying mega-money job. She lands a job at a prestigious and private school in Manhattan but quickly finds disappointment resulting from obsolete pay and pushy mothers. Soon after she begins teaching Anna finds herself invited into a world of “tutoring” where Ivy educated graduates do children’s homework and projects for some hefty financial rewards.

I admit that up through the first quarter of Schooled I found it somewhat nauseating and superfluous. The story began to read like an adult landing in the middle of the world of the Gossip Girls. I found Anna Taggert to be oblivious and shallow when it came to her surroundings and above all actually being a teacher. The book is littered with errant remarks from her paranoid, conservative and Republican parents as they criticize Anna for her decision. It is all meant to be humorous and poking fun but I had to roll my eyes.

And then the part of me that loves caramel lattes even though I know coffee isn’t really good for me and the price certainly isn’t and the part of me that drove me to watching a 48-hour marathon of The Real Housewives of the O.C. said: Get off of your high horse. And then I quickly found myself really starting to enjoy this book.

No, Lakhani is not attempting a great capital “L” Literary piece with Schooled, but she has created a charming and entertaining book about Anna Taggert’s reality shock when it comes to life after college, teaching and herself. Not that the book is all fluff, Lakhani teases about “irresistible” reasoning persuading people to act against their beliefs and how difficult it can be to instruct students in an age of increasingly hyped up technology. Much of the cushioning of Schooled is provided through Taggert’s growing attraction to fashion and what becomes a year of shopping sprees thanks to her tutoring money.

Schooled is well-written and I had fun reading it. I’m even looking forward to hearing about Lakhani’s future works.

And another review from Jenn’s Bookshelf, S. Krishna’s Books, Presenting Lenore, Book Zombie.