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Friday, December 26, 2008

LibraryThing Early Review

Garner on Writing and Language
by Bryan A Garner

What a fabulous book!

I love and collect books about English usage and history, but this one is unique. I was surprised to receive the envelope from the American Bar Association, as I had not picked it up as being targeted at legal writing. However as Bryan Garner says somewhere, law is traditionally considered an educated profession, and thus I conclude that the book is suitable for any person wishing to write in an educated manner. And yet, having challenged my expectations for a book on language by being about legal writing, it then challenged my expectations for a book on legal writing by being fun and funny. Just check out "octopus, octopi, octopodes" in the index, to see what I mean. There are extensive and useful lists of references and suggestions, and it is fun to think that I might have to write Mr Garner a note suggesting a couple of books he should look at, if not include in future editions.

It is also worth saying that I was strongly and delightfully reminded of the tone of Strunk and White in "The Elements of Style": both practical and American in character.

This book will be a pleasure to keep by the desk as a reference, and to rummage around in during a spare moment, for fun. And I will be suggesting it to the school library where I volunteer as a reference work to acquire.

More about opera manga (Yeah, more!)

P Craig Russell has beautifully captured The Magic Flute in his graphic version. The work exceeded my expectations, doing such things as giving a sense of the overture in graphic format and remaining true to the traditional costuming ideas associated with the characters. I am now lending it around to my opera-buff friends, but I look forward to getting it back to rummage around in again. Naturally my kids were curious and have peeked in and around it, too, but it is a bit long and forbidding to sit down and read, even for me, I must admit.

In contrast, the manga version of La Bohéme was short and simple. Better as a synopsis perhaps, than a traditional synopsis, but not without fault. I was sorry to see my favourite part of the story overlooked in this version - when the friends sell the last of their meagre possessions to try and buy medicine for Mimi when it is already too late - and there was a grammatical error, but the drawings were sweet and the text rang true to the words of the opera. Bravo Vancouver Opera! It is the way forward, for sure.

The Nervous Marigold's Best Reads of 2008

So...I read almost 75 books this year, although a lot of them were in the Young Reader or Young Adult categories, meaning I could read more in less time. I am just partway through The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and loving it so much that I felt I had to create a Top Ten list for the year in order to show how good it is. Then, I went to my LibraryThing tag "2008" to choose the rest of the list. Magically, it came out to exactly ten books - no padding, nothing left out. Without further ado, here they are, divided into fiction and non-fiction, in alphabetical order by author:

Best Fiction read in 2008: (None of which were published in 2008!)

Andrea Camilleri
Il colore del sole: romanzo (2007)
I loved this for the fun of the idea and the language, and because I love art and I love Caravaggio, and I love Camilleri's other books.

Michael Chabon
The Yiddish Policeman's Union: a novel (2007)
I loved this because it was so funny that I laughed out loud, and I love the ideas of alternate reality and five minutes in the future, and I love a smart-ass, which would be not only most of the characters, but Chabon himself.

Kate DiCamillo
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2003)
This book I loved because the language was beautiful, and that is rare enough in books intended for grown-ups, let alone those intended for children. I cried with my child's teacher over some turns the story takes.

Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel (1998)
I am really late coming to the Kingsolver party, but this is an absolutely exquisite book that deserves its reputation.

Markus Zusak
The Book Thief (2005)
This is the book that I loved so much it inspired me to rank the best reads of the year. A well-documented subject covered in an odd and moving way. Funnily, not really a book about books.

Best Non-fiction read in 2008

Pierre Bayard
How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read (2007)
Awesome! Knowing what the book means in our culture is more than half of knowing the book. Nobody reads it all. How freeing. How fun!

Daoud Hari
The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur (2008)
So sad and so simply written, the author's voice is that of a child unable to dissemble. An incredible one-two punch to read in the same year as Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007)
Such an interesting analysis of marketing, which is a front-of-mind topic with me, always. Lots of cool ideas.

Daniel Pink
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (2006)
I am glad I read this before the shifting in the world economy turned into a scary roller-coaster. The changes are fundamental, and still evolving. This book gives a kind of paradigm through which to understand how it will be going.