One of my favorite things to do on a weekend is get out of my jammies, bike to the bookstore, and return home to my jammies and a day of reading new books. (I’m a wild woman, I know.) The ride to my favorite bookstore is about 3.5 miles roundtrip – the perfect distance for an easy ride that nevertheless allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished enough physical activity for the day.
As much as I love this bookstore, I would shop there less often if I could not ride my bicycle, because 3.5 miles is a bit much to walk in the cold and the store is not along my public transit route. Even if I had a car, parking is nearly impossible to find in that neighborhood. Lucky for both me and the store, I have my bicycle. :)
Last Saturday I went a little crazy in the sale section, but they had so many excellent books for under $5. By looking at my haul, you can get a big hint about where I’m going for my next trip. (Mr. Dottie and I leave in one week!!)
Of course, I did not carry my books directly on my rack like this, but a canvas bag smushed down by bungie straps is not so photogenic.
Is there anywhere you enjoy going, but would rarely frequent if you could not bike there? I think businesses in the city are well-served by a growing bicycling population.
Continuing with our “Favorite of 2011″ series (read about our favorite albums here), I present our lists of favorite books of 2011. We are both voracious readers and enjoyed our fair share of new books in 2011, especially Trisha, who is a book reviewer—as in reading and reviewing books is part of her full time job—so we put a lot of thought into our picks. :)
Trisha’s Top 10
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie This Burns My Heart by Samuel Park The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Bossypants by Tina Fey To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild 11/22/63 by Stephen King Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet
Honorable mentions:Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest; Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry; The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht; Boomerang by Michael Lewis; The Adults by Alison Espach; Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson; Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.
2011 books still on my TBR: Swamplandia!; Zone One; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; The Astral by Kate Christensen; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt; Blue Nights by Joan Didion.
Most overrated book of 2011: I think Dottie and I concur on this one: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Dottie’s Top 10
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht Zone One by Colson Whitehead Irma Voth by Miriam Toews State of Wonder by Ann Patchett Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson A Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate Gypies by Koudelka/Aperture (photo book) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (audio book)
Honorable mentions: Most of the best books that I read in 2011 were actually written in 2010 or before and therefore were not eligible for this list. Otherwise, they would have knocked off all but the top 3 (2010 was an amazing year for novels!). They are: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Known World by Edward P. Jones, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Great House by Nicole Krauss, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Jump at the Sun by Kim McLarin, So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
2011 books still on my TBR: Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, and Dreams of Joy by Lisa See.
We’d love to hear – what were your favorite books of 2011?
Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled during their three-week stay in Nashville. These two have a gift for getting to the heart of what makes a city tick—especially when it comes to bike-related matters—and seeing Nashville through their eyes was a real treat. (Especially since they turned out to be big fans of my adopted hometown!)
Anyone thinking of setting out on a bicycle tour can benefit from the experience of these two pros, who are currently in the home stretch of their cross-country tour. After the jump, read the intro (click on the image to make it larger).
Unless I’m riding my bike or spending time with friends, you can bet that I’d rather be reading a novel. Especially Russian novels, which I studied in college to earn a degree in Russian literature.
Reading in the Park
My attachment to Russian literature began as quickly and simply as my attachment to bicycling. During my junior year of high school, I randomly grabbed a book off the library shelf – The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy. This Tolstoy guy was like nothing I’d read before. His direct approach to life’s most important questions through perfectly executed plot and vivid characters swept me away. This Tolstoy guy wasn’t fucking around.
The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories
My first semester of college, I enrolled in a Russian language course and almost immediately decided to major in Russian literature, instead of my vague plan for American literature.
Now I’m a lawyer, but I fill my free time as much as possible with reading novels. That is, when I’m not riding my bike, taking pictures or blogging. Sometimes, like today, I combine all four activities.
Bike, book, camera
Recently I finished reading War and Peace for the first time.
Voina i Mir- Po Russki
No, not in Russian! In English.
War and Peace: Epilogue, Part II
There is a reason War and Peace is called the greatest novel ever written: it is the greatest novel ever written.
War and Peace: Best. Novel. Ever.
Now I am reading – for the fourth time – Anna Karenina. I decided to leave behind my much-marked-up copy from college (how I marked my books up! instead of relaxing and letting the words flow over me) for the new translation by husband-wife duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Anna Karenina – New Translation
My Old Marked Copy: Anna's Decision
Pevear and Volokhonsky are the masters of Russian translation (I’ve also read their versions of W&P and Dostoevsky’s Demons and The Adolescent). Take this pivotal passage from Anna Karenina.
The Norton Critical Edition translation by Gibian:
That for which nearly a year had been Vronsky’s sole and exclusive desire, supplanting all his former desires: that which for Anna had been an impossible, dreadful, but all the more bewitching dream of happiness, had come to pass. Pale with trembling lower jaw, he stood over her, entreating her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.
The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation:
That which for almost a year had constituted the one exclusive desire of Vronsky’s life, replacing all former desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, horrible, but all the more enchanting dream of happiness – this desire had been satisfied. Pale, his lower jaw trembling, he stood over her and pleaded with her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.
A Perfect Afternoon
So what are you waiting for? Get your paws on some Tolstoy!
Chicago’s temperature climbed to a high of 83 degrees today! While cycling the Lakefront Trail for my morning commute, I was compelled to pull over, awestruck by the gentle sunrise. Work could wait ten minutes.
I spent my lunch hour on a park bench reading War and Peace and eating the most fabulous cupcake. (Now that I’ve discovered the cupcake boutiqueMore not far from my office, my addiction can only get worse.)
All of this beauty really warms my heart. What a wonderful place this world can be.
Though we’ve already penned our odes to fall and tights, and recapped our fun-filled summer, I left work this afternoon to find an overcast morning had brought forth one last glimpse of summer sun. So of course, Le Peug and I headed off to enjoy it. Our destination: Sevier Park, starting point for the LGRAB Garden Party Ride, home of Sunnyside Manor and less than a mile from my house.
The sun was blazing today with temperatures near 90 degrees. Although I grew up in North Carolina and should be used to it, I absolutely hate extremely hot weather. I’d much rather cycle in the snowy sun. Despite the heat, I couldn’t sit around all day, so I put on my breeziest summer dress and set out on Oma. This picture captures how hot the sun was, apparently burning through my clothes.
Another beautiful spring day on bicycles. We enjoyed a few hours in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, visiting the bookstore, music store, Italian restaurant, coffee shop, and running store. Cycling there makes the whole day 100 times more fun, since it’s so much faster than driving or the el train, plus it’s impossible to find a car parking spot and the el is always sorta depressing. On bikes, the journey becomes part of the day, instead of a hassle to get through.
In Lincoln Square
This morning I put the front rack and basket on my bike (it’s been off for a while to help combat the headwinds). The basket was stuffed full and the Oma handled like a charm. Thank goodness for those rear rack straps, which can hold pretty much anything, including my new yoga mat. The front rack is rated to carry 50 lbs and the rear rack 75 lbs, so I still have a long way to go before I run into cargo problems.
I recently received a copy of Richard Hurst‘s The Cyclist’s Manifesto, and since anecdotal evidence has proven that many bike commuters are also readers, I thought I’d let you all know it’s coming to a store near you in May.
Hurst jokes(?) on his blog that “[m]uch of it consists of unstable rantings,” but he promises a lot of information on bicycle history as well as conjecture about its future, and I’m looking forward to getting deeper into the book (so far, I’ve only read the first few pages, which are setting the stage by explaining our current problems with oil, etc.). I haven’t read his first book, The Art of Cycling, which seems to be a touchstone for many cyclists—any Hurst fans out there who can tell me what to expect? Judging from what I’ve read of the book and on his site, he’s got plenty of opinions and isn’t afraid to express them. Wish he’d prevailed with the publishers on this issue:
I think the publishers (Falcon) like the title ‘The Cyclist’s Manifesto,’ but I am hoping for something that better reflects my preference for the machine over its often insufferable jockies: ‘The Bicycle Manifesto.’
Will try to come back in a few days with a complete review.
The sping-like weather and vibrant blue bike inspired me to dig out my peep-toe blue suede shoes for a ride to brunch. My first real ride with Smurfette (Trisha’s brilliant name suggestion!) was very satisfying. She’s quick and light with a ride almost as smooth as my Oma, if you can believe it. Twice during the short ride, drivers who came to four-way stop signs first waved me on, perhaps catching some of my happy vibes.
Blue Suede Shoes
Good thing, too, because the brakes were not in tip-top shape and the rain that started as soon as I set off was not helping. Mr. Dottie aka Greg fixed the howling sound, but the stopping power was still suspect. After brunch I stopped by Roscoe Village Bikes for a little help and they roughed up my brake pads and rim to help with friction. Unfortunately, poor stopping power in the rain is simply a side effect of steel rims, but improved after that.