A Promising Start to 2013

new globeThree days into the new year, and I am two books into my reading agenda for the year. I loved them both and am enjoying book three, which is one I avoided because it intimidated me last year.

First I’ll start my little score sheet for the year:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions)
Caribbean/Central America/North America:
South America:

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR):

1001 Books (goal 52):

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order 26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!):

My first two books are both on the 1001 lists, and I am counting them in my Around the World tour and Around the US, as well. One will also give me my A author.

My first audiobook of the year was a discovery due to the new British edition of the 1001 list. Here is my Goodreads review of There but for the:

There but for theThere but for the by Ali Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


was once a man who, one night between the main course and the sweet at a dinner party, went upstairs and locked himself in one of the bedrooms of the house of the people who were giving the dinner party.

There was once a woman who had met this man thirty years before, had known him slightly for roughly two weeks, in the middle of a summer when they were both seventeen, and hadn’t seen him since, though they’d occasionally, for a few years after, exchanged Christmas cards, that kind of thing.

Right now the woman, whose name was Anna, was standing outside the locked bedroom door behind which the man, whose name was Miles, theoretically was. She had her arm raised and her hand ready to–to what? Tap? Knock discretely? This beautiful, perfectly done-out, perfectly dulled house would not stand for noise; every creak was an affront to it, and the woman who owned it, emanating disapproval, was just two feet behind her. But it was her fist she was standing there holding up, like a 1980s cliche of a revolutionary, ready to, well, nothing quiet. Batter. Beat. Pound. Rain blows.

So begins a truly delightful book. The premise is a little zany, with a guest locking himself in a spare room during a party, and the plot unfolding in response. Smith takes this far-fetched premise and weaves a delightful story of the connections between people, tangential as they may be, and the differences they can make in people’s lives. In the process, the reader also gets social commentary, history, a little information about science and the arts, quick, intelligent dialogue, and one of the most enjoyable child characters I’ve read in awhile. This was the one addition to the 1001 List in this edition that I had never heard a thing about, and while I probably would have found it because I would have discovered the author on my various lists of award winners and short-listers, I am delighted to have read it sooner because of the inclusion in the 1001 List. I will be reading more of Ali Smith’s work soon!

And my first physical book for the year was Invisible by Paul Auster, another 1001 book and my NY for 2013 (I could have used it for France, but there is an N author I will use for that):

InvisibleInvisible by Paul Auster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I shook his hand for the first time in the spring of 1967. I was a second-year student at Columbia then, a know-nothing boy with an appetite for books and a belief (or delusion) that one day I would become good enough to call myself a poet, and because I read poetry, I had already met his namesake in Dante’s hell, a dead man shuffling through the final verses of the twenty-eighth canto of the Inferno. Bertan de Born, the 12th-century Provençal poet, carrying his severed head by the hair as it sways back and forth like a lantern – surely one of the most grotesque images in that book-length catalog of hallucinations and torments. Dante was a staunch defender of the de Born’s writing, but he condemned him to eternal damnation for having counseled Prince Henry to rebel against his father, King Henry II, because de Born cause division between father and son and turned them into enemies, Dante’s ingenious punishment was to divide de Born from himself. Hence, the decapitated body wailing in the underworld, asking the Florentine traveler if any pain could be more terrible than his.

This is how Paul Auster introduces us to the protagonist and his nemesis in the novel, Invisible. This novel takes one year in the life of a bright, attractive, troubled college student, scarred by a family tragedy, and examines it in retrospect in the unfinished manuscript written by his adult self, dying of leukemia. This manuscript is entrusted to a college classmate, now a famous author, to whom he has recently reached out in order to gain something, though what is not clear, through the sharing of the manuscript. The author struggles to discover what, if anything, in the shocking manuscript is actually true. It is a fascinating and unsettling tale that takes the reader from New York to Paris and to an invented Caribbean island.

This is not my favorite of Auster’s novels, but it was a quick and engrossing, if somewhat disturbing, tale.

So the scorecard now reads:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 2
Europe: 1 (England)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 1 (US)
South America:

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 1 (NY)

1001 Books (goal 52): 2

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order 26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!):
Names: Auster,

Next up The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck on audio, 2666 by Roberto Bollano in (very heavy) physical book form. These will be my first S. America (Chile) and Asia (China) books, and whichever I finish first will be my B entry in what I am calling the “Alphabonkers” challenge. Bollano’s book is huge and somewhat dense, but I’m also already hooked (I’m on page 51 of a mere 898). The Good Earth is cued up and ready to go on my phone, but I haven’t pressed play yet. I’ve been doing a lot of audiobooks lately, but I’m feeling a little behind on my NPR listening as a result. I expect we’ll fall off the fiscal cliff or not, whether or not I’m glued to NPR. Still, I’m feeling a little out of the loop and may need to return to the real world of my car radio for a little while soon.

About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
This entry was posted in 1001 Books, Around the US 2013, Around the World 2013, Books and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Promising Start to 2013

  1. vanbraman says:

    I am off to a good start on ‘The Good Earth’. A couple years ago I listened to it and still hear the readers voice in my head every once in a while.

  2. biblioglobal says:

    The plot for “There but for the” reminds me of “The Pets”, the book I read for Iceland, in which the main character spends most of the book hiding underneath his bed while various friends and acquaintances come and go from his apartment.

  3. I was wondering which Auster is your favorite? I’ve had a few false starts.

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