Ok! So my last book report was March 10th, people. Whoa! That’s three months ago. That’s a long time! It’s been a busy three months. But here I am, at the other side of it, and ready to read, and chat, books again!
(My first three book reports are here, here and here, if you want to catch up.)
So for the first book we’ll go wayyy back to around that time, and I tried to read American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante. Bless him, my Dad thought I would love it when he gave this to me for Christmas. And on the surface it seemed like the kind of book I would love: a biography of a famous early feminist in the American colonies. But I got about three chapters in before admitting that (to me) it was super dry and not captivating at all. In book report 3 I talked about how I don’t finish a book if I’m not loving it, so I said “goodbye” to Anne Hutchison and the early American colonies, and moved on.
The Limits of Enchantment by Graham Joyce was one that I picked while browsing in the local library branch. I do that sometimes, just wander through and read jackets until I find one that looks interesting. This one did look interesting, it was about a midwife in England in the 1960s. And this one held me about two thirds of the way through, before I realized I wasn’t rushing to pick it up when I ate breakfast or lunch. That’s my test of a good book, hah. Am I excited to read it while I’m eating, using the bathroom, or sitting on the couch in the evening? If so, then great! If not, then I move on.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple was one that met those criteria! I read this book in all those places. Bathroom included.
I did not want this book to end. It’s one of the few books where I’d devour a sequel just as fast. I loved Bee, loved her mom Bernadette. Loved their sauciness, their spice, their fallibility too. Bernadette’s art, her architecture, her devotion to a project, the way it made her ache when the house was torn down: this pricked a part of me that is always like, “Yes, YES” when it hears about strong women doing what they love. Following their own passion, their own calling, and damn the consequences. “You must create, or else you’ll become a menace to society,” says one character to Bernadette. Creation is hard work, but it is the only work, when it is in your blood.
And it’s a funny book. (The author was previously a writer on Mad About You, Ellen and Arrested Development, so, that’s not a surprise.) It’s warm, though, too. And loving.
And of course I must talk about the cover! Simple, made up of a few shapes, with a rad block sans serif font and a sweet little serif playing the supporting role. Here is a post on the blog “talking covers” (a great find while Googling around for this post!) about it, with thoughts by the author of the book, and by the designer too.
It reminded me of Smilla’s Sense of Snow — not sure why, but apparently I love a story about a strong woman going on a mystery/adventure in a frozen, watery place. The intrepid-ness? Intrepitude? Not a word.
AND the author’s website is really fun! Check it out.
Anyway. Yes. Loved it.
How to be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is one that I had read before, years ago, and loved. I bought it for myself at the time but then never read it again. I picked it up when my life was really busy, thinking it would be good to remind myself why it’s good to slow down, but then I turned out to prefer actually being idle to reading about it. So I didn’t finish it. True story.
Anyway, it’s a great read by the editor of the magazine The Idler about how damned fast and ridiculous our culture has gotten about work and the use of our time. This book argues in support of the nap, the stroll, the lie-in, the skive.
Then I must have been stressed out — was it the end of term? — because it appears I turned to my “total escape from the world” standard read, Maeve Binchy, not once but twice! Everyone’s got an author like that, who for them creates a place where they can escape from whatever they’ve got going on in the real world. Some folks prefer outer space and totally made-up worlds for that. Some, like me, prefer places that are more like real life, but with a rosy tinge, a happy ending after some trials and tribulations.
This time around I went with Evening Class and Quentins by Ms. Binchy. If you’re just starting out reading Maeve Binchy, I’d recommend The Glass Lake or Circle of Friends.
Then I went a while without reading a book or posting one to my Instagram, likely just because there was too much else going on.
Then one day I was in the Sydney Mines branch of the library, before a doctor’s appointment with some time to spend. I browsed their stacks and saw this slim volume and took it out. The Power of Nice by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval (who run the ad agency Publicis Kaplan Thaler)is a quick and easy read, but it’s one that I paused from time to time because I wanted to let the bits of wisdom sink in. This book really spoke to me, and reminded me of the validity of simply being nice to others as a smart business and life strategy. I find I can feel anxious about competition and worried that others are getting “ahead” of me, so this book was a good reminder that there is enough to go around, and we actually help ourselves, when we help others.
And this line from the book has really stuck with me: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” It struck me that when I check Facebook or email so often in a day, I’m in a way worrying about if I get the credit for my work, if people like me, if they comment. If I just do the work and move on to something else, I get more done.
Then there was Flavia. Oh, Flavia! My friend Kate Oland, a librarian and writer, recommended The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, to me. She said it was a mystery but told with an 11-year-old spunky, chemistry-obsessed girl as the protagonist, set in a crumbling English mansion, and just saturated with delicious prose. And she was right!
I found myself not reading ahead on the page (as I often do with mysteries, because I’m impatient and just want to know who did it!) because the sentences were so well-constructed and delightful to read. It was fun to read, yet a mental stretch. A bit like a vigorous walk in a stunning landscape. I’m so glad there is a whole series!
Last in this book report is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Elise Blaha Cripe wrote about this book in her most recent book report and I was intrigued. I placed a hold at the library on it and when it came in, I gobbled it up in a weekend. So, so good! It’s about a woman in her fifties with early-onset dementia. That’s not a synopsis that would normally get me to pick a book up — I tend to avoid sad, dark and depressing books — but because Elise loved it, and I tend to like a lot of the stuff Elise recommends, I tried it. And, yeah. Spell-binding. Lisa Genova did such a good job of putting the reader in the mind of Alice, the woman who is slowly losing her memory, and going through the transition from powerful academic to powerless invalid. What remains is love.
Whew! That was a lot of books. I’ll try not to make it so long in between book reports next time!
Any recommendations or books you’ve loved lately?
And, for those of you who’ve recommended I use the service GoodReads, or are thinking of suggesting it, thank you, but I did give it a try and found it wasn’t for me. I think it’s because I spend so much time online or on a computer anyway, with my work, my blog and communication online, that another online service and interface just isn’t attractive to me. I’m not really interested in tracking what I’ve read, either, beyond Instagram and the hashtag #leahreads2014, and this blog. And, I find that I find a good assortment of books just by going to the library or chatting with friends in real life about books, or getting recommendations from blog readers. So that’s why I’m not going to use GoodReads, but it looks like it would have lots of great features for those who would want to use it!