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YEAR END TOTALS

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

My year in books ended last week.

In the past year, I read sixty-four books.

That’s 1.2 books a week or one about every five and a half days. I only read one book in October.

I read 24,830 pages for an average book length of 388 pages. I read 13 books between 250-299, 11 between 300-350, and 9 between 200-249. I also busted out seven books of more than five hundred pages.

About half the books I read were books I own, about half were from libraries. I didn’t read most of the books on my to-read list. I didn’t expect to, but I liked digital books, including audiobooks.

My books most often fell under gender and women’s studies, teaching or history. I fell in love with those cultural history of a [noun] books. I can really recommend eleven of the books I read.

I read fifty-four books by white authors and fourteen by authors of color.

Next year, I want to read more books by authors of color, include more of my own summaries of the books I’ve read, and include a few quotations from those books.

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64. “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food,” Jennifer 8 Lee

October 2, 2009 1 comment

I liked this book. Like most “a cultural history of [a noun]” books, it would have benefited from a good editor, but it’s no worse than most of these book, and much better than some.

I learned a number of things that it never occurred to me to wonder about. Among them:
-Those white cartons Chinese food comes in (in the US) are a purely American invention. They aren’t even in Canada. Some places import them in response to strong customer demand for those white things on “Seinfeld.”
-In the US, Chinese food restraunts out number McDonald’s 2:1
-In 2005, 110 people hit five out of six Powerball numbers one night– 104 of them played numbers from a fortune cookie.
-The PF of PF Chang’s is Paul Fleming, who also had a hand in creating Outback Steakhouse (18)
-In 1994, Philip Carlo served sixty days in Rikers for assaulting a Chinese food delivery man for leaving menus in Carlo’s building (33)
-“‘People consider it ethnic [food] when it’s new to them and they don’t understand’.” (19)
-Between 1850-1910 Taishan, China had 14 floods, 7 typhoons, 4 earthquakes, 2 droughts, 4 epidemics, 5 famines, and a 12-year ethnic war. Before the 1950s, 80% of all Chinese immigrants came from this region in the Guangdong province. (51)
-In a 1865 trial of a white race rioter, his white lawyer argued that Chinese people were inferior saying: “why, sir, these Chinamen live on rice, and, sir, and they eat it with sticks” (54)
-Chinese immigrants were referred to as “Celestials” by European-Americans who had never seen Asians before. (51)
-In the 1870s, (what is now) Idaho was one-third Chinese. (55)
-Fortune cookies are Japanese, but it was US Chinese restaurants that made them the cultural symbol they are
-The largest fortune cooking company in the US, and therefore the world, picks their lucky numbers by hand, out of a jar. When word leaked out that they were thinking about switching to computer-generated numbers, they received a number of letters including one about the small human connection that this offers that might have made me tear up a little on the train. (Judging by this blog, I spend a lot of time manfully blinking back tears on the train.)

Page count: 291
Page total: 24,830

63. “I Am America and So Can You,” Stephen Colbert

September 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Very much like the show. I like audiobooks that are read by the author and this one was particularly good because Stephen has a very strong voice. If you’re familiar with Colbert, you hear him when you read his stuff anyway.

Page count: 240
Page total: 24,539

63. “The Tales of Beedle the Bard,” JK Rowling

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Totally dispensable. I liked the Harry Potter books, this is just a few disjointed fairy tales with a couple quips from Dumbledore. At least it was a really quick read.

Page count: 111
Page total: 24,299

62. “The Cancer Journals,” Audre Lorde

September 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This was a really short book, but powerful and contains two of my favorite quotes of all time. I want them tattooed on my arm, my forehead, my chest:

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in th service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether or not I am unafraid.” (I often hear this as “whether or not I am afraid.”) page 13

“Your silence will not protect you.” page 20

What can you even say after that?

Page count: 79
Page total: 24,188

61. “The History of Sexuality: Volume One,” Michel Foucault

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

You know what? I am counting this one read even though, technically, I didn’t read all of it. You know why? Because fuck that, fuck Michel Foucault, and fuck you. One hundred and seventy-six pages of incredibly dense, oddly-punctuated, Frankfurt school1-informed shit and then you get to the end and Foucault doesn’t even give you this own theory of sexuality. He gives you an analytic. So that none of the criticism he levied against theory could be directed at him.

And the grand solution to the “imagined” problem of sexuality, the repressive hypothesis that he spends at least half the book documenting?

DON’T TALK ABOUT SEX, JUST HAVE GOOD SEX.

I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

I want to understand. Is “to the left” talking about sex? “Harder?” “I don’t want to dress up like a ballerina?” “Uh cuh stih tahk ahound iss ahll gahg”? Is “yes” talking about sex? “I’m not ready to get pregnant?” “I have a latex allergy?” I get the speaker’s benefit2 thing and I get that talking and theorizing are not doing but are you kidding me with this shit?

My professor seriously asked us if we thought that maybe this book was a joke, which is totally plausible. WHY ARE YOU WASTING MY EDUCATION ON A BOOK THAT MIGHT BE A JOKE? Why was this book so earth-shattering? Because of a version of history that Foucault admits could be termed “careless”? Because he manages to totally disregard intersecting identities? Because of the sort-of-interesting premise, if you are maybe a little high and interested in blowing your mind? Why would you make someone who wants to blow hir mind want to blow out hir brains? Is this real life?

If you will excuse me, I am going to click “publish,” then I am going to throw my computer out the window.

PS: I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, Googlers of “Michel Foucault” + “History of Sexuality” + summary. I don’t usually make ball gag jokes and yell at my readers here, but I want to die.

Page count: 176
Page total: 24,109
(I’m giving myself partial credit. Not even in my bone-crushing anger would I cheat these numbers.)

____
1. Do you know about this shit? Apparently some people were sort of just ripping off Marx, spouting his ideas as their own without really doing enough research and taking his hard-won, clearly-stated ideas as their own. Not after the Frankfurt School, which says that you should write things as obtusely as possible so that it is harder for people to 1) understand what you are saying, unless they are smart enough to really, really try and 2) lift your words out of context. Doesn’t Foucault make bucketloads more sense now?
2. The power people derive from talking about something “taboo,” which comes from the apparent breach of/disregard for society’s conventions

60. “World War Z,” Max Brooks

September 15, 2009 3 comments

This audiobook had a full cast reading it, which was really awesome for an oral history. It also had some creepy atmospheric music (like “The Haunting of Hill House,” which expired before I could finish it, so this may be its only mention). My favorite of the histories was the pilot whose plane crashed in the bayou. I usually listen to the book while I’m waiting to fall asleep (an endevour that often takes an hour or more), and this one was so vivid. I don’t typically get pictures in my head while reading, but I could see that one.

Brooks did a good job capturing the voices of people in many different cultures (though the voice actresses and actors may have helped, too).

I’d really recommend both the book and audiobook.

Page count: 352
Page total: 23,972