Because I am a voracious reader, and because I like to remember what I read, I am going to attempt to post monthly this year on what I’ve been reading, and give short reviews. Of course, I missed January despite my good intentions, so, dear readers, you get a two-for-one deal – February’s books with January’s thrown in. (Bonus!)
Begun in ’08/Finished in ’09
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, Anne Fadiman
I loved this. A hilarious, quirky collection of essays on reading and the peculiar habits of dedicated readers. Since I’m newly married, “Marrying Libraries,” about merging two disparate collections of books, was a particular favourite. If you are at all a reader, you’ll love this.
Looking for Anne of Green Gables, Irene Gamme
This was totally fascinating – as an Anne Shirley fan since childhood, I was intrigued to learn more about where she came from and the life of her creator. Gammel shows how Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from various magazines and artpieces of the times; also from stories she heard of orphan girls, which eventually merged and metamorphosed to form the story of Anne. The author dwelt a bit much on Montgomery’s struggles with depression and made rather too much of her close female friendships, in my view, but I truly enjoyed this. Very informative and entertaining.
Knitting Rules!, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
This book by the self-styled Yarn Harlot had me laughing out loud – she squeezes every last bit of humour out of the wonderful craft of knitting, and gives lots of helpful tips along the way. (Her blog is providing me with continued enjoyment, and I’m looking forward to reading her other books.)
Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke
A complex, tense and ultimately satisfying ending to the trilogy which also includes Inkheart and Inkspell. I love Funke’s main characters, Meggie and Mo Folchart, and her gift for detail and dramatic tension is considerable. She also begins every chapter with epigraphs drawn from various sources – an extra gift to the reader. Highly recommended – but read the other two first! (The film version of the first book, recently released, is also excellent.)
The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961-1963, Gail Godwin
I posted about how difficult this was to finish – but I truly enjoyed it in the end. Godwin gives an honest account of being a young American writer in Europe. Depressing at times, but ultimately rewarding.
My One Hundred Adventures, Polly Horvath
This is a poignant story of a mother and four children who live at the beach all winter when everyone else goes home. Jane, the eldest, is the protagonist, and I liked her, but wanted to shake her at times – she was a bit clueless. A quick read, and I liked the mood and description.
Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose
I thoroughly enjoyed this step-by-step manual on close reading – Prose starts with words, the very basic unit of writing, and works her way up to sentences, paragraphs and chapters. It’s chock full of quotes from her favorite books, and in the back is a LONG list of “Books to be Read Immediately.” A good one for writers to have on the shelf – not to mention I love the cover design, with a stack of luscious book covers on it.
An Acceptable Time, Madeleine L’Engle
I hadn’t read this last installment in the Time Quintet, so picked it up when I ordered some other stuff from Amazon. I liked it, but found it slightly less believable than A Wrinkle in Time and the others. Polly, the protagonist, is so nice that she’s not quite as much fun as Meg (Wrinkle‘s protagonist), who is stubborn, quirky and generally endearing. But I was glad to find out what finally happened to the Murry-O’Keefe family.
I Heart Bloomberg, Melody Carlson
This is trashy chick-lit for Christians – predictable and not very well-written, though the characters are endearing. Sort of like a giant helping of whipped cream in book form – sweet but slightly sickening.
Trail of Crumbs, Kim Sunee
This is a lovely, heartbreaking travel memoir about a Korean-American woman who falls in love with a Frenchman and tries to fit into his world. I ached for her and am so glad she found a happy ending. The descriptions of food, family and her struggles with depression resonate deeply – and she has some pitch-perfect sentences.
What the Living Do: Poems, Marie Howe
I read the title poem in this collection a couple of years ago (and shared it with my students on 9/11 last fall) and was hungry for more. None of the other poems in the book were as hopeful, though. Howe is honest about her tough childhood and history of abuse, and her poems about her brother’s death (from AIDS) are moving – but I expected to feel more hopeful after finishing. Still beautiful writing, though.
Are Women Human?, Dorothy Sayers
I read this because it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for several years, and because I love Dorothy Sayers – her Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries are fantastic. These “astute and witty essays on the role of women in society” (says the subtitle) were just that. (See excerpt I posted recently.) Definitely the quality I’ve come to expect from Sayers.
Currently working on: The Count of Monte Cristo, Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, and eying a stack of others I’ve piled on the coffee table. Look for another book-post at the end of the month.