Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Books I Read in November

Well, I hope you all had as lovely a Thanksgiving as I did. It was a bit low-key. For the first time in my married life we didn't travel and we didn't host guests. This meant that for the first time in my life I was solely responsible for the outcome of the turkey, and that was a little intimidating, but all turned out well in the end. We teamed up with our good friends that live in the same apartment complex as us (kind of dreamy, living practically next door to such good friends), and between the two of us we cooked up a storm, enjoyed a fantastic feast, and played games late into the night while eating seconds (and thirds?) of pie. It was pretty perfect.

Thanksgiving Table

Also, we had leftovers for days, which is just the way I like it. I finished off the last of the turkey for lunch today, and I'm already scratching my head about what we're going to eat for dinner tonight. I've nearly forgotten what a dinner looks like that doesn't involve turkey leftovers.

In other news, despite being thoroughly consumed by those pesky term papers I'm still in the middle of, I managed to read some books in November. Also most of them were excellent reads. Yay!


North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - I got on a classics kick last month, and picked this one up in continuation of that mood. The BBC adaptation of this book is pretty nearly my favorite movie/mini-series of all time. I almost didn't want to read the book because I wasn't sure I could love it more than the movie, but then my friend told me she loved the book more than the movie, and so I had to give it a try. It's been a while since I've gotten so wrapped up in a book that I've ignored my children and other responsibilities to read/listen, but despite already knowing who was going to die, and how each complication was going to be resolved, and that they were actually going to get together in the end, I was so hooked on this book I could not stop. While the movie is really beautifully faithful to the story, I loved getting Mr. Thornton's internal thoughts on Margaret, and I was just even more impressed with Gaskell's nuanced understanding of all the sides in the various social and political issues brought up. For those of you unfamiliar with this title, I would describe this as a darker, more political Pride and Prejudice, set about forty years later during England's industrial revolution. Both the book and the BBC mini-series are well worth your time.

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami - Oh dear, I was hoping to like this so much more than I did. I can see what a brilliant writer Murakami is, and I might be willing to give a different book of his a try, but I hated the main character in this book so much. It didn't help that this book focused on two things I really hate reading about (sex obsessed teenage boys, and horrible marital affairs, yuck to both). So I do not recommend this one. Thankfully it was the only dud I read this month.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - I read somewhere that this was a good November read, so I was surprised to find it actually takes place over the course of a summer. But I was also surprised to find that, despite the summer setting, I agree that this is a cozy, blanket and fire kind of read, and I'm not entirely sure why. Something about the writing is just warm and contemplative. This was a beautiful book. I would describe it as a cross between Wallace Stegner and Peace Like a River, which is another way of saying this book may well be among my all-time favorites (only time will tell). I loved the reflections on faith and doubt and forgiveness, I loved the empathy with which complex lives and relationships were explored. This was just beautiful writing, and this is a book I wouldn't mind owning and revisiting some day.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth - I've watched and enjoyed several seasons of BBC's Call the Midwife, so I suspected I would enjoy the book it was based on. And yes, the book is fascinating, depressing, and delightful all at the same time. I'm a sucker for good birth stories in general, and I'm especially fascinated by historical birth practices. Throw in a little memoir drama, and this book was pretty perfect for me. I will say that the BBC mini-series does an incredible job staying faithful to the feel and facts of the book, and it's almost a toss-up which one is better, but you do get more detail in the book, so there is that. Either way, I love what this book/t.v. show taught me about midwifery and the evolution of birth as a medical practice. I highly recommend.

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