1.30.2015

2015 READING CHALLENGE | ANNE OF GREEN GABLES READALONG


I was perusing Lindsey Reeder's blog, Reeder Reads the other week, and I came across this post on her reading goals for 2015. In among her personal goals and reading challenges, she announced her intention to read the entire Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. Being Canadian, this series formed a large part of my childhood, but it's been years since I've so much as thought about dear Anne Shirley.

So I decided to join in. I'm a bit behind, but I'm sure I can catch up in no time. Here's the reading schedule:

    January 2015Anne of Green Gables - COMPLETED
    February 2015Anne of Avonlea - COMPLETED
    March 2015Anne of the Island - COMPLETED
    April 2015Anne of Windy Poplars - COMPLETED
    May 2015 —  Anne’s House of Dreams - CURRENTLY READING
    June 2015Anne of Ingleside
    July 2015Rainbow Valley
    August 2015Rilla of Ingleside

If you'd like to spend some time getting to know (or reacquainting yourself with) Anne of Green Gables, head on over to Reeder Reads' post and join in!

1.29.2015

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | ON LITERARY TRAVELS


The world of books is never boring. Every week (well, most weeks) I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

***

One of the most wonderful things about reading is how it transports you to another time or another place. I'm a particular fan of the kind that take you somewhere you've never been, but make you feel like you can smell the air, feel the sun on your skin or the sand beneath your feet. I love imagining a place so different from those I'm familiar with and yet feeling like I have a sense for what it's like.

Of course, this is even better when I eventually get to visit a place I've only read about and imagined visiting so that I might compare my imaginary version with reality. Like my most recent experience of reading Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City before visiting San Francisco.

And then there are the many places I've already visited and love reading new books set in the familiar locales (London is always a favourite of mine) and the many places I read about but have yet to visit. Literary tourism is some of the best reading out there, in my opinion.

I've been thinking about this lately because, as you know, I'm currently in New Orleans for the first time! I'm writing this before leaving, so I can't tell you (yet) if my expectations match up with reality. But I have traveled to places I've read about in the past, and while they're rarely exactly as I imagined, knowing something about the lives of people who live there, the culture, and the history has always made my visit a more rich one.

In anticipation of my visit I've not only been reading books about or set in Louisiana, but watching TV shows (most recently NCIS New Orleans and the New Orleans episode of the Foo Fighters' show Sonic Highways) that happen to be set in or near the city. I still have no idea if the New Orleans of my imagination will match up with reality, but it has certainly heightened my excitement for my trip!

However, despite my own enjoyment of reading about places I plan to visit, I know there's debate on this point. For some, reading about a place before visiting ruins it in some way, creating expectations that may ruin the experience of going there. Depending on the mental image, the actual place might either be a let down, or just be so different as to feel disconnected.

So I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Do you like reading about a place before you visit it? Or do you prefer to discover it with fresh eyes? Are there any trips that stand out in your memory as juxtapositions (favourable or otherwise) with your reading?

1.27.2015

I'M ON VACATION!

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I've got some exciting news! I'm off on a little adventure to a part of the world I've never been before. I'm heading down to New Orleans, Louisiana to check out the birthplace of jazz and see the Mississippi for the very first time. I've actually never been to the southern United States before, so I'm really excited!

Don't worry, I'm not disappearing entirely - I've got some posts scheduled to keep you guys entertained - but just bear with me if it takes me a little longer to publish and reply to comments than it already does! And there might be a few less posts than usual for a couple of weeks (since I'm pre-scheduling them, I won't be posting any WWW Wednesday or Stacking the Shelves posts - because I don't know what I'll be reading or if I'll find any new books!).

Wish me "bon voyage" and I'll be back with (hopefully) some great photos of my trip! If you've got any recommendations (bookish or otherwise) of things to do and see while I'm down there, I'd love to hear them!

1.26.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS I'D LOVE TO READ IF I HAD A BOOK CLUB


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books I'd Love To Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club. The latter in my case, as I have yet to find bookish folks whose geographic location and schedules permit regular book meetings! I'm selecting some I've already read and really wished I could have discussed with others as I read, and some that, based on the little I've read or what I've hear, seem like they'd lend themselves well to discussion!

Books I've already read:


Not That Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham


Newjack - Ted Conover
The Martian - Andy Weir


Books I haven't read yet:


All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven 
The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
If I Fall, If I Die - Michael Christie


The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez
Redeployment - Phil Klay

Have you read any of these with a book club? How did you find it? Share in the comments!

1.25.2015

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | THE CUCKOO'S CALLING - ROBERT GALBRAITH


A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. 

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.
- Goodreads


------

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've heard all about this book. Originally published under a pseudonym, it was later revealed to be the work of the infamous J.K. Rowling. In some ways I wish I'd found and read it without knowing this because it would have been interesting to know what my opinions of it were without that context. However, it was this revelation that led me to the book, and I'm glad it did!

The Cuckoo's Calling is Rowling's first foray into a new genre - the hard-boiled detective thriller. It's the story of a gruff and rough-around-the-edges private detective, Cormoran Strike. He's an ex-soldier (with the war wounds to prove it), ex-fiance, and the very definition of down on his luck. When we first meet him, he's dodging creditors, sleeping on a camp bed in his office, and struggling to pay his temporary secretary.

But his luck changes when a young model swan-dives to her death from her penthouse balcony, and her brother hires Strike, who was a childhood friend of the family, to investigate. The story unfolds through painstaking, step-by-step investigation, slowly revealing the victim's life and the lives of those around her in the process.

It took me two attempts to make it through this book. Not because it isn't good, but because it's an undertaking. One of Rowling's strengths, which was honed and showcased in her creation of the magical world of Harry Potter, is her ability to set a scene with flawless detail. She methodically creates her fictional world, and each of the characters who inhabit it. For a magical story, this is invaluable, since the world she conceived functions with different rules than ours.

She applies the same rigorous detail to her first foray into a new genre. Once I'd finished the book, looking back, the detail all fell into place. But while reading there were times it dragged a little bit. We're given the same information with slight tweaks or additions over and over again - the brother goes over witness testimony when he hires Strike. The police reports echo this information. Then Strike interviews each of the witnesses on his own, verifying their stories and eliciting tidbits that weren't in the files - but including everything that was, too. So you can't skip over it for fear of missing a new piece of information, but man, there's a lot of it.

In the end it's worth sticking with - the story has numerous twists and turns, compelling characters and is beautifully set. I loved the gritty vibe undercutting the story, and the juxtaposition of the gruff detective with his bright, efficient secretary. Is it perfect? No, not exactly. But is it really, really good? Hell yeah. I'll be reading the rest of this series (and everything else Rowling tries her hand at)!

-----

Book Title: The Cuckoo's Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling)
Series: Cormoran Strike #1
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Sphere
Released: April 18, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Pages: 449
Date Read: December 15-27, 2014
Rating: 8/10

1.24.2015

STACKING THE SHELVES | #57


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks I don't buy any books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some I haven't shared in an StS post yet!


Golden Son - Pierce Brown
Don't Point That Thing At Me - Kyril Bonfiglioli


Anne of Green Gables Box Set - L.M. Montgomery

I'm super excited because my Anne of Green Gables box set arrived! I'm participating (thought a bit behind) in an Anne readalong this year (more on that shortly) so I'm dying to get started. Plus this set has just the most gorgeous covers, and I'm a sucker for good jacket art!

What about you guys? Did you add any great books to your collection this week? Share in the comments!

1.21.2015

WWW WEDNESDAY | #48


It's time for this week's WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading blog (head over and check them out!).

This link up asks three questions
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you'll be reading next? 
Here are my WWW answers!

What did I recently finish reading?



It's been quite the reading week so far! I finished and reviewed both of these books, which were both released yesterday. I enjoyed Leaving Before the Rains Come, but If I Fall, If I Die was absolutely wonderful. I wouldn't be surprised if I got to the end of 2015 and this was my favourite book of the year. 

What am I currently reading?


I've reached a bit of a standstill with Goon Squad. I'm just past halfway, and I want to finish it because I don't like abandoning books this far in... but I'm not really enjoying the section I'm reading at the moment. Every chapter is a different person's perspective from a different point in their life, and while their lives are connected, they're only loosely so. It's a bit confusing trying to figure out not only who each character is, but WHEN each character is. On top of that, most of the stories are a bit (or a lot) depressing. So even though it's well written, I'm having a hard time finishing it. All the Bright Places, on the other hand, while also dealing with some difficult topics, is fun to read. I really like Finch's character and his sense of humour (though I'm on the fence about Violet so far). Can't wait to really sink my teeth into this one!

What do I think I'll be reading next?


I'm participating in the #GreenGablesReadathon (more on that coming up next week), so I'm looking forward to revisiting this childhood favourite! I've also heard nothing but good things about All the Light We Cannot See, and I feel like it needs to be read. I think it might be a good one to keep me occupied on my trip!

What about you guys? Any great books come your way this week? And as some of you know I'm heading off on vacation next week for 10 days, so if you've got any suggestions for great books to read while on vacation, share in the comments!

1.20.2015

RELEASE DAY REVIEW | IF I FALL, IF I DIE - MICHAEL CHRISTIE


A heartfelt and wondrous debut, by a supremely gifted and exciting new voice in fiction.

Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will's art projects. Soon the confines of his world close in on Will. Despite his mother's protestations, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces Will to skateboarding. Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape, and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
If I Fall, if I Die is a remarkable debut full of dazzling prose, unforgettable characters, and a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age.  - Goodreads
------

If I Fall, If I Die is the story of Will Cardiel. When we first encounter Will, he has been inside his house without leaving it for as long as he can remember. Born in Toronto, Will's life was fairly normal for a few years, until one day a near-accident on a subway platform sends his mother into a years-long and ever-worsening tailspin. She begins experiencing panic attacks whenever she's in a situation she perceives to be dangerous - and she starts seeing danger everywhere. 

First she moves herself and Will out of the city, retreating to her childhood home of Thunder Bay. Thinking this will be enough to quell her attacks, she sets to work settling into a new routine in the smaller town. But it isn't long before she starts experiencing symptoms in new situations - driving on the highway, driving at night, turning across traffic, leaving her house, going down to the basement, answering the door, using the stove, changing a light-bulb. 

By the time we meet Diane Cardiel, she is no longer of the world; she's done her best to insulate herself and her son from it. They exist in self-imposed prison. A comfortable prison with deliveries of food, necessities and library books, but a prison nonetheless. Until one day Will is drawn outside by a loud noise emanating from his bushes. The next thing he knows, he's made a "friend" and started down a path that will not only take him further and further from home, but from the mother who is doing all she can to disappear into herself. 

Despite his upbringing, Will is a courageous boy. Though he has learned to take care of his mother, to serve as her nurse-maid and only human contact, he is built for adventure. It's amazing to read of his entrance into the world, while trying to imagine what it would have been like to grow up in an environment so full of fear that showers are outlawed along with any solid food that could constitute a choking hazard. As anyone who has had to battle the conditioning of their childhood to seek the life they yearn for knows, escaping our upbringings is no easy feat. 

This is a book full of heart. Its characters are complex, riddled with demons and yet beautiful in their vulnerability. I felt acutely connected to the characters in this book. I empathized with both Diane's doomed struggle against the uncontrollable waves of anxiety that stole her freedom, and with Will's need to both protect and escape her. 

His forays into the world, and the respite he finds in his friendships are fraught with longing, discovery and the pain of potential loss. There's Angela, a young girl who has already accepted her untimely demise from cystic fibrosis by grabbing every opportunity to live, and Jonah, whose talents range from beautiful drawings to effortlessly graceful skateboarding to a keen mind worthy of his dream to become a doctor. Both are limited by the circumstances of their birth, as Will is by his own, and both will teach him that the world is not as dangerous a place as he was raised to believe, but also that the inevitability of death is not worth giving up life to escape. 

This book is one of the most beautiful and emotionally evocative books I've read. I was deeply moved by Christie's ability to find the perfect words to express feelings I didn't even realize I had. Underpinning a deeply personal story is a larger view of a community's social construct, which comprises complex issues of poverty, race, disenfranchisement, abuse and disability that serve to constrict the lives of each character in turn.

There are layers upon layers in this book - and it is written with generous measures of both insight and beauty. Whatever it is you look for in a book, you will find it here. This is a book whose characters will accompany you as you go about your day-to-day life for quite some time after you read the final paragraph (which was so beautiful I read it three times and then sat there, just wallowing in it). If I Fall, If I Die is most definitely top of the 2015 must-read list.

-----
**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Title: If I Fall, If I Die
Author: Michael Christie
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: McClelland & Stewart
Released: January 20, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Canadian, Character-Driven
Pages: 326
Date Read: January 17-20, 2015
Rating: 10/10

1.19.2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY | BOOKS THAT WEREN'T WHAT I EXPECTED


This week's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books That Weren't What I Expected. This week was a freebie - meaning I can choose any topic I want. And because I've read a few books in the past year that really surprised me, I thought this would be a good chance to look back over some of them.

For the Better: 


Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
The Martian - Andy Weir
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn


The Girl On the Train - Paula Hawkins
Reality Boy - A.S. King

These books weren't what I expected for a few different reasons. Either the story went in an entirely different direction than I anticipated (Gone Girl), they were much more amusing (The Martian), the writing was more beautiful than the genre usually delivers (Station Eleven and The Girl On the Train) or the story just wasn't what the jacket blurb led me to expect (Reality Boy). But these all have one thing in common: in spite of (or because of) these surprising turns, they were all excellent.

For the Worse:

 
Roomies - Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Going Bovine - Libba Bray


Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
The Vacationers - Emma Straub

Now for the books that underwhelmed me. These ones were seriously over-hyped (These Broken Stars), had good concepts or settings with poor execution (Going Bovine and The Vacationers), had plots that didn't impress me, or characters whose personalities or behaviour turned me off (Anna and the French Kiss and Roomies). Again, there's one common thread: These all had so much potential. In all of them there was a great idea, a truly fantastic character or a whimsical setting I wanted to lose myself in. Which, I think, contributed to them standing out as being disappointing - books that universally suck I quickly forget about!

What about you guys? Do any books stand out to you as having completely turned your expectations upside down? Did you experience any of my surprise while reading these books? Share in the comments!

1.18.2015

THE SUNDAY REVIEW | LEAVING BEFORE THE RAINS COME - ALEXANDRA FULLER


Looking to rebuild after a painful divorce, Alexandra Fuller turns to her African past for clues to living a life fully and without fear.
 
     A child of the Rhodesian wars and daughter of 2 deeply complicated parents, Alexandra Fuller is no stranger to pain. But the disintegration of Fuller's own marriage leaves her shattered. Looking to pick up the pieces of her life, she confronts the tough questions about her past, about the American man she married, and the family she left behind in Africa. A breathtaking achievement,
Leaving Before the Rains Come is a memoir of such grace and intelligence, filled with such wit and courage, that it could only have been written by Alexandra Fuller.


   
  Leaving Before the Rains Come begins with the dreadful first years of the American financial crisis when Fuller's delicate balance--between American pragmatism and African fatalism, the linchpin of her unorthodox marriage--irrevocably fails. Recalling her unusual courtship in Zambia--elephant attacks on the first date, sick with malaria on the wedding day--Fuller struggles to understand her younger self as she overcomes her current misfortunes.


     Fuller soon realizes that what is missing from her life is something that was always there: the brash and uncompromising ways of her father, the man who warned his daughter that "the problem with most people is that they want to be alive for as long as possible without having any idea whatsoever how to live." Fuller's father--"Tim Fuller of No Fixed Abode" as he first introduced himself to his future wife--was a man who regretted nothing and wanted less, even after fighting harder and losing more than most men could bear. 


     Leaving Before the Rains Come showcases Fuller at the peak of her abilities, threading panoramic vistas with her deepest revelations as a fully grown woman and mother. Fuller reveals how--after spending a lifetime fearfully waiting for someone to show up and save her--she discovered that, in the end, we all simply have to save ourselves.


     An unforgettable book,
Leaving Before the Rains Come is a story of sorrow grounded in the tragic grandeur and rueful joy only to be found in Fuller's Africa. - Goodreads


------ 

This book is about many things. It's about the end of a marriage, the continuation of love, finding the self you somehow misplaced, leaving your home continent, and finding a new one. It's about courage, strength and a little bit of crazy. But mostly it's about the ways in which we change, yet always stay the same.

Alexandra Fuller writes much the same way as she lives - in many directions all at once. She grew up in three southern African countries, though this book mainly contains her memories of Zambia and her later experiences of re-locating to Wyoming to create a new life with her American husband and their three children.

This is Fuller's most recent book in a series of memoirs chronicling her life - none of which I've read. So I went into this without any context or idea what to expect (either in terms of content or writing style). Perhaps because of this, there were points where I felt a bit confused because she talked about people in her life and certain events of the past without much in the way of introduction or explanation. I slowly figured out who everyone was, and I think I got most of what was happening, but I found myself wishing I'd read her other books first.

That said, even with the odd bit of confusion, I enjoyed this book. It's different from the other memoirs I've read recently, with their strict chronology or careful topical divisions. This one - well, it went everywhere all at once. But as I read about the chaotic upbringing Fuller had, I wouldn't have had it any other way.

She was the daughter of ex-pats who had abandoned the British Isles in favour of Africa, with all its dangers and difficulties. Fuller grew up in a home that had no shortage of love, adventure and excitement, but lacked any sense of lasting security. Three of her four siblings died (from what I gather at a young age, though only one death is described, the others are mentioned only in passing), and her parents constantly had to move either because of political unrest or financial necessity. She talks about how, looking back, she sees how financially strapped her parents often were, though she didn't always know it as a child. She also talks a lot about the many dangers inherent in her childhood homes - charging elephants, snakes, crocodiles, malaria, drunken soldiers, injuries... there was no shortage of risk.

Her parents quickly became my favourite characters. Yes, they're a bit crazy (certifiably in her mother's case), but they also live life in a way I've never been able to, a way I admire. They chose a life on the edge of danger because it was real, no-holds-barred living. They accepted the sacrifices it came with and, most of all, they kept their ability to be ridiculous right into middle age. They sound like the type of people you want around for a party or a crisis. Though this may make for a difficult environment to grow up in, from the outside looking in, it also seems admirably courageous. Here's a demonstrative excerpt:
[...] I think my parents made major decisions drunk to avoid the possibility of ever doing anything either frugal or boring, which, of all the possible sins, are the only two the consider truly deadly. "Boring is number one," Dad says. "Absolutely the worst possible sin." All other offenses my parents excuse as merely venial. "Well, he who is without sin is likely to be a bit bloody boring, so there is that hitch," Dad argues. - p. 26
And who, may I asks, really enjoys being bloody boring?

Growing up this way, in combination with a genetic predisposition to craziness and over-indulgence in alcohol (she writes of her mother's mental absences and how she has, here and there, "lost her mind"), had dual effects on Fuller. On the one hand it made her adventurous and bold, able to function in extreme circumstances. But on the other hand it left her ill-equipped for the day-to-day challenges of both marriage and adulthood, though she craved both financial and emotional stability and was determined to provide them for her children.

I am left feeling that this book will take some time for me to digest and settle into a lasting impression of. I'm considering reading some of her previous memoirs to provide me with more context and information than this one did. There were points where it reminded me (for both good and not-so-good) of Eat, Pray, Love - this is also a story of self-discovery and how geography can thoroughly change and shake up aspects of our inner selves. There were also, like in EPL, parts where I sympathized with the author and parts where I wanted to smack her upside the head. Much the same way I feel about everyone in my life at times - including (or especially) myself.

The story isn't either happy or sad. Like life, it contains generous measures of both. It's messy, at times confusing and yet, hilarious.
-----
**Thanks to Random House Canada for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Title: Leaving Before the Rains Come
Author: Alexandra Fuller
Series: No
Edition: Hardback
Published By: Random House Canada
Released: January 20, 2015
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Self-Discovery, Family
Pages: 258
Date Read: January 8-16, 2015
Rating: 6/10

1.17.2015

STACKING THE SHELVES | #56


Time to look at the books I added to my shelves this week with Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews! Not necessarily books I bought - also includes books I borrowed, was given or otherwise ended up with. Weeks I don't buy any books I'll scramble around my shelves and find some I haven't shared in an StS post yet!


The Deep - Nick Cutter
My New Orleans, Gone Away - Peter M. Wolf
Now I See You - Nicole C. Kear

I have to admit that covers certainly played a part in this week's books! Particularly The Deep, which I suspect will be entirely too scary for me. But honestly. Just look at it! What did you guys pick up or dig out of your shelves this week? Let me know in the comments!

1.15.2015

BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | WHEN ARE YOU "WELL READ"?


The world of books is never boring. Every week (well, most weeks) I'll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what's going on in the online book community (or something I've seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me! 

***
I've never felt particularly well-read. I read a fair amount, but I had only a brief foray into the classics, didn't read the majority of foundational books in high school (possibly in part due to bouncing between schools) and I didn't take more than the minimum amount of English Lit during my post-secondary eduction. Because of this, while I read on average a book a week and have read more than 600 books (that I can remember), I often feel put on the spot when I haven't read a well-known work.

This happens more often than you might think. I'll be chatting in the lunch room, at a dinner or other casual conversation, and someone will ask me, "have you read [insert name of popular, newly-released or classic book here]?" They'll await my response with an eager look on their face, assuming that, since I "read a lot" I've read... well, pretty much everything. Or that because this book bears a similarity to another book we were talking about, I must have read it too.

When I have to admit that no, in fact, I haven't read that book (and sometimes that I haven't even heard of it), the reaction is either surprise (sometimes tinged with judgement) or, at the very least, disappointment because my failure to have read the book short-circuits the conversation. Every time this happens I feel suddenly nervous and anxious, like I've been caught in a lie or done something for which I should feel ashamed.

I know logically that this is completely ridiculous. After all, there are thousands upon thousands of books out there. It's just not possible for someone, particularly someone who isn't a speed-reader, to have read every book someone might randomly pick to ask about. I still think I really should have read more of the classics, but since I just don't enjoy most of them that much... well, really, why?

In considering this lately, I got to thinking. What makes someone "well read"? Is there a certain number or list of books (specifically classics) one must read to earn the label? Is it applied only to those who read "serious" literature? Is it a measure of how diversely a person reads, assuming at least a basic familiarity with the major works of any literary discipline? Or is it a term that can be used more liberally for anyone who shares a love of reading, who is always reading something - anything, really? Do you consider yourself to be well read?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this issue, because it's one I keep on returning to without really feeling as if I ever reach any conclusions.While I've more or less become comfortable with my decision to read books I genuinely want to read (though with some effort to challenge my assumptions, read diversely, and read books that intimidate me some of the time), I still feel awkward admitting to books I haven't read if they're ones I have on my TBR list or that I feel I "should" have read. Am I right in suspecting I'm not the only one who feels this way?

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