December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

What an eventful year for me, 2010, as I completed half of my graduate degree and took a trip to Ireland for, well, the entire summer. This distinctly colored my reading habits as I looked to read both nonfiction books in preparation and native literature of all kinds once I arrived. I was able to get my hands on the last book in the Millennium trilogy before it came out in the States, but I didn't read it until I was back on the shores of Lake Michigan (literally; I read some of it on the beach). Another prominent influence on my reading habits this year was my continued involvement in a science fiction and fantasy reading group, for which I am continually grateful as the selections take me in unanticipated directions and always toward something interesting, for better or worse. I also finished watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, therefore, there are a few selections from related books, as well as a couple of books obviously prompted by the World Cup. I didn't manage as many books from the 1,001 list as I would have liked, but I did knock off a few and, having read 59 books despite a December no-show, have kept apace with my book-a-week goal.

Next year, I want to knock out more 1,001 books and, hopefully, I'll be in a solid, full-time job with a healthy public library nearby to continue my voracious habits. This year, much of my reading took place in the summer when I hadn't much else to do and was limited by a lack of income. The experience was well worth it, and my knowledge and love of libraries continued to grow, especially as these same limited funds effectively prevented me from acquiring many new books (to say nothing of increasingly sparse shelf space). Some of my favorite books of the year were The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, which well-deserved its Pulitzer; Alone in Berlin, a Dublin book club selection from Hans Fallada; The Ball Is Round, a superb history of soccer; and The City & The City, a book made far richer with invigorating discussion. There were some misses along the way, though I didn't read anything truly dreadful, and I believe I kept a good mix of genres, branching into mystery with Agatha Christie's classic And Then There Were None, which I was pleased to find as superlatively good as its reputation indicates. My main goal for the upcoming year is to focus more on reading roughly a book per week rather than reaching the proper number; December 2010 was an epic fail for my reading habits, and I look to do better starting, well, tomorrow.

December 2, 2010

Book 59: Talk to the Hand

Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door
Lynne Truss

Readers coming to this book from Truss's previous bestseller Eats, Shoots & Leaves will be at once delighted with and, perhaps, slightly disappointed in this follow-up. Truss brings her trademark uncompromising crankiness to problems with rudeness and public interactions in modern society, with mixed results. Truss is occasionally at her hilarious, cynical best in this book, but there is an overwhelming feeling of desperation throughout the book, as if she is trying so hard to be crotchety that she forgets what she is saying and relies instead on the crankiest possible wording and reaction, to the point where she repeatedly undermines her own arguments. One moment she is celebrating an action and the next deriding it; should we be mindful of people's privacy or indignant that they don't want to interact with us? Truss doesn't come down on one side or the other, and in such an opinionated work as this the waffling quickly becomes annoying. This, coupled with the over-the-top tone and prose, often means the book feels like a gimmick, which is unfortunate because Truss is occasionally very funny. Her continuously offended tone works with the subject matter, but is stretched to the point of breaking the flow and effectiveness of what she is saying; the book becomes at some point a caricature of itself. Talk to the Hand is an occasionally witty look at some societal patterns of rudeness in the modern age, but ultimately the book is too self-conscious to be much more pleasant than grating.

Grade: C