The return of Darwin’s immediate book meme!

Remember back in the old days, when bloggers used to help each other out? Mrs. Darwin Catholic is still pulling her weight. Check out her immediate book meme, which, rather than getting you to cast your mind back over influential books in your past, asks questions about “the books you’re actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read.” Excellent idea! Here’s mine:

1. What book are you reading now?

This is going to be the biggest category. I’m currently insulating the space between my bed and wall with countless books I’m in the middle of. Here are a few:

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann.


This is a pure comfort read, because I’ve read this book probably a dozen times. Completely fascinating account of a fictional bourgeois family as it slowly declines over the courts of four generations, published in Germany in 1901. The characters are so real, but the times are so different. Here is Tony, who has arrived in hysterics at her parents’ house, after fleeing from her second husband, Herr Permaneder:

She sprang up. She made two steps backward and feverishly dried her eyes. “A moment, Mamma!” He forgot what he owed to me and to our name? He never knew it, from the very beginning! A man that quietly sit down with his wife’s dowry–a man without ambition or energy or will-power! A man that was some kind of thick soup made out of hops in his veins instead of blood–I verily believe he has! And to let himself down to such common doing as this with Babette–and when I reproached him with his good-for-nothingness, to answer with a word that–a-word–”
And, arrived once more at the word, the word she would not repeat, quite suddenly she took a step forward and said, in a completely altered, a quieter, milder, interested tone:  “How perfectly sweet! Where did you get that, Mamma?” She mentioned with her chin toward a little receptacle, an charming basket-work stand woven out of reeds and decorated with ribbon bow, in which the Frau Consul kept her fancy-work.
“I bought it, some time ago,” answered the old lady. “I needed it.”
“Very smart, “Tony said, looking at it with her head on one side.

Harry Potter and the blah blah blah


I picked this up because it was a book, and my lord, it is dull. I read it through several years ago to make sure there was nothing dangerous for the kids, as reported. There wasn’t but my land, such tedious writing, and the inconsistencies in how magic works is just maddening. I wish I hadn’t let my kids read these books, because they are dumb. A dumb book is fine, but they read these books over and over and over again. I hate that this level of writing is sinking into their brains.

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck.


Somehow I’ve never read much Steinbeck. The writing is just. . . crystalline. I’ve only just started it, and the little boy has only just gotten the pony. I FEEL LIKE SOMETHING BAD IS COMING AND IT’S PREEMPTIVELY BREAKING MY HEART. Don’t tell me!

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope.


It’s a chatty and gargantuan Victorian novel of courtship, corruption, dissolution, greed, lovers, and sissy boys. I was enjoying the book for its own sake; but about halfway through, I realized that Augustus Melmotte sounded awfully familiar. He’s a blustering financial giant with glitzy, vulgar tastes and a murky past, who bulldozes his way to the top of society because he acts so rich that everyone assumes he really is rich—and so they’re willing to lend him even more money. Eventually, his wealth becomes so impressive that he decides to run for public office. ALL THE SIGHS. There are also love triangles and pleasantly despicable side characters, dissolute rats ripe for comeuppance, and almost-heroes you want to shake and make them get their act together. I have a few hundred pages to go, and I honestly have no idea what is going to happen.

Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken.


This is the third book in the series that begins with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, but you can enjoy the books independently. I love Joan Aiken with all my heart. If all children’s and YA authors took such pains with dialogue and had such respect for the reader, we wouldn’t be in such a pickle today. Dido Twite is one of the most appealing characters I’ve ever met in a book.

2. What book did you just finish?

Nothing. I finish nothing. I stink.

3. What do you plan to read next?


Ahem, I am super about to start Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski, which is, look, just pick it up yourself. Okay, fine, it’s about “The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.” Everybody has a hobby, and mine just happens to be . . . surprising new science. A bunch of my friends read this book and said it was great. I’m just looking for an opportunity to whip it out in a manner designed to maximize humiliation for my children. What I’m trying to say is, people need to stop complaining about the cover of my book.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver.


I haven’t read a ton of marriage books, but this one is pretty good and reasonable and practical. There is a bit too much bragging about how much research he’s done and how effective his advice is, but you can skim.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Introduction to the Devout Life by Francis de Sales.

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I’ve been recommending this book forever, but I don’t think I’ve ever come right out and claimed to have read it. I did buy a copy, so there’s that.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves.


I’ve actually read this before, maybe twenty years ago, but I got bogged down trying to keep track of all the characters and insane plot details. This time, I’m not going to sweat it, and I’ll just enjoy what I can manage.

6. What is your current reading trend?

Headlines on Facebook. If I were a real adult, I’d cut down now, but I’m waiting for Lent. I guess I’m reading fiction, as usual, and have a yen for uncluttered forms of expression.

And I’ll add a seventh question of my own:

7. What are you reading out loud?

The Dragons of Blueland by Ruth Stiles Gannett.


I’m reading this to the five-year-old, and oh, she loves it. We made our way through the first two books (My Father’s Dragon and  Elmer and the Dragon) pretty quick, and this is the last one (we have a volume with all three books in it, including the original illustrations, which are indispensable). The first is by far the best, but the other two are also very charming. It’s just enough action and danger to keep the little ones wide-eyed, but everything turns out exceedingly well for everyone. The chapters are very short, so you can read two chapters a night in less than ten minutes. An excellent first chapter book.

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon by Gideon Defoe.


Bought over Christmas vacation in hopes of easing the older kids back into the habit of being read to. It is so dang stupid. I enjoyed the part where the immensely virile and impressive Pirate King “paused for a moment to pull a great white shark from behind his throne and punch it in half with a fist.” I do have to skim ahead a bit and occasionally skip over a naughty line or two. Silly stuff, just for fun.

Wow, I guess that’s about it. I need to shape up.

Here’s a list without my answers, if you want to cut and paste and answer on your own blog or FB or whatever. Always interested in hearing what you’re reading, especially if you give us some hints about what it’s about and why you like it or don’t!

1. What book are you reading now?

2. What book did you just finish?

3. What do you plan to read next?

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

6. What is your current reading trend?

[and my own question:] 7. What are you reading out loud? 

While we’re at it, here’s a reminder that I am an Amazon Affiliate, which means that any time you get to Amazon through one of my links (above), I’ll make a little money any time you go on to buy something. Here is my general Amazon Link. If you shop at Amazon, please consider bookmarking my link and using it any time you buy something! This makes up a significant part of my family’s income, and I appreciate it very much! Thanks.




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8 thoughts on “The return of Darwin’s immediate book meme!”

  1. Reading now:
    – Jerktastic Park by Darby Conley. A treasury of one of my favorite comic strips, Get Fuzzy, starring Bucky, the cranky, scheming cat, Satchel, the sweet, simple dog, and Rob, the straight man owner.
    – God in the Dock by C.S. Lewis. One chapter a week for my devotional time. Top-notch, as Lewis always is.
    Just finished:
    – The Secret Life of the American Musical by Jack Viertel. I loved it. At first I thought the title referred to behind-the-scenes drama between writers and producers and such, and that factors in, but the book is organized around the structure of musicals themselves and is more about how their type of storytelling works. Every chapter focuses on a different type of song/scene – the opening number, the villain song, the Act 1 closer – and shows how it supports the show as a whole, giving good/bad examples to illustrate. And it was just published last year, so it includes more recent shows alongside the time-tested classics.
    – The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book (Revised and Updated Edition) by Vince Waldron. We’re all fans of the show at my house and rewatch the DVDs regularly.
    Mean to finish
    – War and Peace. I started it on a trip and made fairly good progress over the course of a few months. Maybe I’ll pick it back up after the Dick Van Dyke Show book.
    Mean to start
    – In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. We are also big A Christmas Story fans at my house. Maybe this December.
    – I guess books about the entertainment industry. Besides my “Just finished” and “Next” picks, I’d also recommend Filmish by Edward Ross (a nonfiction graphic novel about the history and language of film), Changed for Good by Stacy Wolf (a feminist analysis of Broadway musicals), and America Toons In by David Perlmutter (a history of television animation in America). All fascinating, though I don’t agree with all the authors’ points. I also have my eye on Showstoppers! by Gerald Nachman.
    I don’t have anyone to read aloud to : /
    As for Harry Potter, I read them as they were coming out, but stopped halfway through the fourth one. Since then, I’ve gotten the rest of the story through the movies and the Internet and haven’t felt the need to try them again.

  2. It’s true that Rowling’s prose is rather clunky, and a couple of the books in the series needed much more ruthless editing, but she is linguistically inventive, and the story arc as a whole is very satisfying.

    1. I agree! She’s no prose stylist, and there are some definite missteps, but I think she told a great story. Snape is one of my all-time favorite characters.

    2. Re-reading, I found Harry’s angstier years more irritating than I had initially. So I could see if one has teens in that same stage at home, perhaps one would get fed up with the dialogue much faster. I like the series overall, though, and don’t know why anyone gets uptight about the magic. The real trouble is with euthanasia and doing evil to accomplish good. Poor Snape; what about his soul, indeed. That part always gets me, way more than Sirius.

  3. No blog, no social media, so I’ll just be lame and use your comment thread. Also, I’ll be lame and admit I liked Rowling. Not great literature category, but fun fluff. And way better writing than American Girl books, which my 10 y-o is so into and I just hate it, but I don’t want to forbid her to read what all her friends are reading just because I’m being a good-writing snob. Besides, I read the Babysitter’s Club at her age and for the same reasons, so I haven’t a leg to stand on.
    *”Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoyevsky. Unless this goes in the “meaning to finish” category. I was afraid to start it for forever since I didn’t want to read a bad translation and ruin it. So my sister gave me a copy, but I had to wait to start until I finished a bunch of other reading for her (her Institute was weeding out their library and I’m a fast reader, so they gave me a big stack). So now I’m a good chunk of the way through, but afraid to finish because I think most good people die… and I don’t want Alexey trapped in a crummy marriage and what if he is??
    * “Church of Spies” Good so far, though author clearly doesn’t get Catholicism much. You can see him being scrupulously fair, though. It’s about Pius XII and the various attempts to get rid of Hitler by Catholics. Good reading, though difficult because every name he introduces (Bonhoeffer, Delp, etc.) you know is going to be martyred and so it’s just such a sense of impending doom. I didn’t realize Hitler had such a resemblance to Rasputin.
    *”Auntie Mame” by Patrick Dennis. Kind of the polar opposite to the previous book. Outrageous and funny, on the order of Confederacy of Dunces.
    * “What is the Name of this Book?” by Raymond Smullyan. Logic puzzles.
    *”What If?” by Randall Munroe.
    Just finished:
    Um, well there was that stack for my sister. “Celibate Love” turned out to be excellent though it was such a 70’s cover that I almost didn’t bother since I was sure it was going to be terrible. So good on male/female friendship, and lots about various saint pairs (e.g. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal). “Border of Life, Valley of Death” (or maybe the title was the other way around) was good too; primarily meant for people doing pastoral ministry to a Hispanic population, but of general interest for those who want a very in-depth explanation of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the indigenous culture to whom she spoke.
    *”Thing Explainer” by Randall Munroe.
    I also finally finished (it only took five years) “The Betrothed.” Like an Italian “Les Mis.” I think the reason it took me so long was the terrible layout.
    Given the size of my “Current” stack, I’ve got no plans for “Next”, though if they all take long enough they’ll move into “Meaning to Finish.” Oh, wait, I want to read Benedict XVI’s “Testament.”
    Meaning to Start: “Advent of the Heart” by Alfred Delp.
    Trend: Books I’ve been given, I guess, as all my current reading (except Brothers K) was given without a specific request on my part.
    Reading aloud: “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Burgess’s “Buster Bear.” Barbro Lindgren’s “Sam” books to the twins; such mixed Amazon reviews that I knew they’d be good and they are. Eriksson’s illustrations add most of the fun to these. Going to give Astrid Lindren’s “Emil and the Soup Tureen” to the turning-5-y-o for his birthday and looking forward to reading that to everyone.

  4. Both my adult daughter and I have tried on several occasions to read Harry Potter, but we both gave up, thinking it utterly charmless and a pale imitation of Eager’s Half-Magic books. I am delighted to find you of the same mind, as we were beginning to think we were the only souls not under Rowling’s “spell”.

  5. Ha! As it happens, I’m reading Buddenbrooks myself right now, though in my case it’s for the first time. I’m enjoying it a lot, though I find myself rooting hard for Tom to manage to somehow maintain the family’s fortunes and respectability, and I’m not sure yet if that’s where Mann wants me to be.

    I suppose I should go fill out the meme myself, since my own MrsD put it up, but seeing Buddenbrooks as the number one item I thought I’d be an even more old-fashioned blogger and actually leave a comment right on the blog, not of Facebook or anything.


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