The LDR International Book Club

In Which Beth Keeps Her Books by David Malki!

“You do realize you have two copies of this book?” said the Barnes and Noble’s cashier. She held up the offending copies of  Jo Walton’s Farthing.

My boyfriend and I nodded, grinning. I had a feeling we’d be asked why.

“You can’t share?” she asked.

“We live a bit too far away for that,” I replied.

And it’s true. The Atlantic Ocean means that reading a book together simultaneously requires two copies. While we do have a fairly fluid library, we’re two bibliophiles. We enjoy reading books, we share favorites with each other. When I moved back to America, we wanted to come up with something we could do together apart from watching TV shows.

So we started simple. Both of us are fantasy/science fiction fans. We looked to an author who we both enjoy (and a book in his collection he hadn’t read yet): Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. We started slow, a chapter or two a week as he is finishing his PhD and I was interning/job hunting. Plus, we weren’t sure how well it would work.

Every couple of days we would read a chapter or three and then discuss what we liked/didn’t like about it, with the aim of finishing before his visit so we could watch the miniseries together during his first visit.

Mission accomplished!

We’re now in the middle of Farthing, an alternative-WWII murder mystery largely taking place at a wealthy home in the English countryside. It’s fun to read a book at the same time as a friend, to discuss what’s going on. “Can you believe what happened? What do you think will happen next? I really don’t like this part” are common phrases from us while we Skype.

Now, we think about which books to read well in advance. We’re thinking of reading Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker soon, and Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s fun to pick out a book and say, “we might both enjoy this, let’s read it together!”

Our international book group is a great way for us to talk about things we both love: books and reading. We still recommend each other books to read (from he, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, from me, Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother). But we have books that we read and discover together, even across the Atlantic Ocean.

Books that Matter: Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Guest Post by Haley Whitehall)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce the first ever guest post at She Thinks Too Much! Today’s post is written by Haley Whitehall. Haley writes a great blog about the writing process, creativity, historical fiction and language. You can read it here.

Without further adieu, here is Haley’s post!

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was the first book I’ve read by the riverboat pilot turned writer.  I remember reading this book for the first time in the 5th grade. I read it quickly because I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. My real love of the Civil War era began in the 5th grade. Many things (and books) contributed to this and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was one of them.

Twain’s classic tale, often referred to as the Great American Novel, captivated me. The story of Huck, a teenaged misfit, who floats on a raft down the Mississippi River with an escaping slave, Jim, supercharged my imagination. Twain’s colorful characters and regional expressions kept me thinking even past the last page. Made me think what I could write about the time period.

When I read it the version had the N-word. I am going to weigh in a little on the controversy over releasing a cleaned up version of the book that changes the N-word to slave. First of all, not all of these people were slaves. Second, Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884 when the term was widely accepted. It is a primary source and changing it diminishes the literary value of the novel.

The N-word served as a conversation starter about the racism that existed during that time period. I wanted to learn more. I lived at the library for the next three years devouring every Civil war and Antebellum book I could find. Now I am a historical fiction writer and I owe that in part to Mark Twain.

Most of all, I learned from his writing style. Huckleberry Finn not only inspired interest in the nineteenth century U.S, but it also inspired my writing voice. I learned to write slave dialect by reading Mark Twain’s books. I learned how to weave in historical detail and the mindset of the time into my characters and setting.

They say that in order to be a better writer you need to read, read, read. For me that started with Huckleberry Finn. Come to think of it, it is about time I reread it again!

Haley Whitehall

©2011

Books that Matter: Smiley’s People by John Le Carre

So, why not one of the other three Le Carre books that I’ve read?

Because this one…this one really got my gut. Le Carre’s books all manage to grab me, particularly because of how human his characters are. No one is entirely perfect, entirely good or entirely bad.

I really liked Smiley’s People because it was very much George Smiley alone. We really got to see how he operates and functions as an operative, and how he acts as part of his own mission, rather than one ordered by the Circus. Of course, characters like Toby Esterhase and Peter Guillam show up to help out in their own ways, but this book truly belongs to Smiley.

Another reason why I enjoyed this book so much is because of how we could see some of Karla’s motivation. He becomes more of a character in this book, rather than the threatening, murky photograph he is in the previous two books of the trilogy.

Moral conundrums and espionage, two of my favorite topics to read about. Le Carre is the man for that.