Sunday Salon: Playing with Format
Since I skipped last week’s Sunday Salon, I have quite a few books to recap! This week sees me changing the format a bit: I’ve arranged my one-sentence thoughts into rough groups by how much I loved/didn’t love the book. You’ll notice that there are five groups, presented in descending order from most to least loved; remember that these represent a judgement of my reading experience, rather than the actual book (for a bit more detail, see my books read page). The first three are all categories I would definitely recommend, more or less enthusiastically; the final two, I’d still recommend but to those with different tastes than myself. I hope the new structure is helpful for anyone who wasn’t always sure how I felt about a title based on my one-sentence recommendation! :)
Before I let the books take over, I’ve also changed my sidebar a bit: I’ve added a ‘Currently Reading’ section that displays the covers of what I’m reading right now. I’ve also included a link to my LibraryThing ‘Currently Reading’ collection, in case you want to the details on any title. Because I have a free WordPress account, I can’t use the LibraryThing widget and instead have to manually change the photos every time I finish or start a book. Because of that, and my awareness that most people view my blog via feed reader and thus don’t see my layout, I’m not sure if I’ll keep the section. I do love seeing what other bloggers are reading, though, when I’m leaving comments on their blogs, and it is fun to have some pretty photos in my sidebar. So we’ll see how it goes! I’m mulling over a few more cosmetic changes…nothing drastic, since I still quite love my header, just some sidebar renovations and perhaps a new page or two (I just recently got around to creating a review policy page to replace the run-on paragraph I used to have stuck awkwardly at the top of my about page). If there’s anything you wish I had in my layout, or a change you made in your own blog that you really love, do share! Oh, and I did add a way to subscribe via e-mail to my sidebar a couple weeks ago, after a kind reader e-mailed me wondering how to do so: WP had taken away the option to subscribe to my blog at the end of posts, and I hadn’t noticed. Whoops!
Anyway, I’m the type that stays with the same look/design for ages…are you like me or do you enjoy tinkering more? Do you have a definite aesthetic for your blog? I want mine to look pretty and streamlined, as well as to be easy to use and read. In practice, this means I’m fond of images and bullet lists and white space whereever possible. I think that the same inspiration I’ve had to simplify and organise and beautify my physical space (why yes, I have redone my bookshelves, but that’s a topic for a different Sunday) is spilling over to my virtual one (let’s not talk about how long it took to declutter my inbox). ;) But enough bloggy talk: let’s get to the books!
Books I Loved and Found Every Page a Delight
Read Still Life by A.S. Byatt if….you love ridiculously long sentences with prose that curls around itself in order to become more and more precise or coming-of-age stories featuring bookish girls or want a peek into life in 1950s Britain.
Read Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous, trans. by Ann Goldstein if….you loved The Moonstone‘s structure and are curious to see how it translates to a setting of modern-day Rome, a significantly lower page count, and an interest in the experiences of immigrants.
Read A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich if….you love nonfiction that is both ‘narrative’ and impeccably researched or scholars who focus on forgotten aspects of history or are curious about life in eighteenth century rural New England or love women’s studies.
Read Wings of the Dove by Henry James if….you love James and are craving him (my reason) or if you enjoy novels focused on the elaborate inner lives of their characters or want to sink yourself into a juicy moral dilemma.
Books I Almost Loved, Except for One or Two Things, or Books Really Liked
Read Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote by Ahmadou Kourouma if….you love fiction that combines the mythic and political into epic storytelling (a la Rushdie or Garcia Marquez) and want to see that translated to a West African setting or you know quite a bit about post-independence Sub-Saharan African politics and want to play ‘spot the lightly fictionalised dictator’ or you’re just looking for a literary page-turner whose writer who can pull off the phrase ‘hyena’s anus’.
Read Hope, Human and Wild by Bill McKibben if….you’re sometimes exhausted by the depressing conclusions of most of the social justice/environmentalist books you read and want something more hopeful or you’re tired of always seeing developing nations depicted as something the West needs to fix and instead want an author who draws lessons for the West from developing nation success stories or you just enjoy it when nonfiction is well-written and has a compelling human interest.
Books I Definitely Liked, Although They Didn’t Blow Me Away or Books that had Great Points Counterbalanced by Not-Great Ones
Read Ambiguous Adventure by Cheikh Hamidou, trans. by Katherine Woods Kane if….you’re interested in novels that directly address postcolonial issues and don’t mind when realistic characters and dialogue are sacrificed to politics.
Read The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant if….you’ve read all of Anthony Trollope and need another author to fill the void, one who’s much more prone to sweeping Victorian generalisations about women.
Books I Didn’t Really Like but Could Still See Some Good Points
Read Graveminder by Melissa Marr if….you’re more interested in a compelling, quick-moving plot than convincing characters (as someone who loved Wicked Lovely, I confess to more than a bit of disappointment).
Books I Finished but Wish I’d Abandoned
Read Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh if….you’re curious about what might happen if the novels PG Wodehouse and Joseph Conrad made a baby and you’ve got a strong stomach for sardonic, misanthropic viewpoints (see: Candide).