Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reading Habits

Kite Runner - 2005, US 1912 reviews, 4 1/2 stars; UK 236 reviews, 4 1/2 stars
Swallows of Kabul 2005, US 42 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 3 reviews 5 stars
Memory Keeper's Daughter 2006, US 588 reviews 3 1/2 stars; UK 36 reviews 3 1/2 stars
Glass Castle 2006, US 707 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 3 reviews 5 stars
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan 2006, US 339 customer reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 20 reviews 5 stars
Suite Française 2006, US 203 reviews 4 1/2 stars; UK 21 reviews, 5 stars
Half of Man is Woman 1991, US 1 review 5 stars; UK no reviews
My Name is Red 2002, US 105 reviews 4 1/2 stars, UK 24 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
The Girls 2007 US 72 reviews 4 1/2 stars, UK 42 reviews 3 1/2 stars
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, 2002, US, 208 reviews, 4 stars; UK 13 reviews, 4 stars
Snow 2005, US 106 reviews, 3 1/2 stars; UK 22 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
Reading Lolita in Tehran 2003, US 317 reviews, 3 1/2 stars; UK 18 reviews , 4 1/2 stars
The Places in Between 2006, US 115 reviews, 4 stars; UK 17 reviews, 4 1/2 stars
Bookseller of Kabul 2004, US 113 reviews, 4 stars; UK 39 reviews, 3 1/2 stars
War Trash 2006, US no reviews; UK 2 reviews, 4 1/2 stars

I have decided to analyse my reading habits. First, novels represent about half of my reading time. I like it that way and I really don't know what to say to people who claim they have eliminated novels from their reading schedule. Some of these same people haven't eliminated watching sports on TV, of course. Oh well. Each to their own.

My favourite books are in this order, My Name is Red, a little long and difficult but if you love books and the history of books, it is wonderful. Next, War Trash, Balzac, Snow Flower, Half of Man is Woman, Swallows of Kabul, Places in Between. And so on.

I found Kite Runner just plain irritating with its formula plot and predictable ending, and the Glass Castle was very enjoyable but surely overrated. There are many books which I am extemely happy to read, and discuss but wouldn't rate as top literature. Memory Keeper's Daughter and The Girls, for example. I wouldn't miss them for anything but they probably will not be enduring tales. I would still recommend all of these books as a good read.

So how did I choose these books? The best books I have read recently, Swallows of Kabul and Snow Flower, were selling for a few bucks in a bin at Safeway. I hadn't heard of them but just from reading the back cover I was able to decide that these were books for me and I wasn't disappointed. Three cheers for Safeway. My Name is Red and War Trash were from the library. The Glass Castle and The Girls were recommended by a sister. I like the variety these books represent. I don't feel that I wasted any time on poorly written books.

So far this seems to me to be an appropriate way to chose books. Notice how poorly Snow, the Nobel prizewinner, fared in the Amazon reviews. I am reading it right now and won't comment yet.

Update: Here are some sites with book reviews.

Booklist online - features a book by Ha Jin
New York Times - Shadow of the Silk Road

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