Friday, April 1, 2016

Books I Read in March

You guys, March was a comedy of errors when it came to my reading life. It was just one of those things where a bunch of audio book holds became available all at once, and I (naturally) decided to listen to the longest one first, but it was a too long for me to finish in the check-out time (I listen on double speed, but 25 hours is still a hunk of time to devote to any one book), so then I didn't get it finished before it was returned, and I lost all the other books that became available at the same time. Then when I tried to recheck everything out, I was bumped to the bottom of the waiting lists again. Argh!

There were other issues too: forgetting to charge my phone and missing out on an entire commute's worth of reading (well, listening), Spring Break and family in town disrupting my normal schedule, struggling to find back-up audio books that were available for immediate download and hating one enough (Astonish Me) that I just couldn't finish it. Excuses and problems aside, I did manage to finish three books this month, and the ones I finished were all generally very good (and mostly short, which helped).

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This one had a rough start for me. A few chapters in I thought I had this book's shtick figured out, and I thought it was going to be overly sentimental and saccharine. Then, things shifted, new characters came in and changed the tone (lots of swearing from one of them), things got more complicated, and it wasn't necessarily the journey I was expecting. This book is slow, meandering, at points boring, but in the end it was quite sweet, full of emotional healing and hope. I might have a thing for books with geriatric protagonists. I really do recommend this one (even if this review doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement).

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This was the one time I actually did luck out with my holds list this month (a bunch of people must have dropped, because last time I checked, I was #587, or something ridiculous like that). Have you heard of this one? It just came out earlier this year, and it's being hugely hyped right now. I've got to say, all the hype is spot on. My only complaint is that this book is far too short, but it's length is part of the powerful story behind it's existence. At age 36 and his final year of neurosurgery residence, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He spent the rest of his far-too-short life writing this beautiful, poetic reflection on life, death, literature, medicine, the body, the mind, the meaning of life, his marriage and decision to have a baby (after he was diagnosed), and facing death with some measure of grace and dignity. I only cried at the very end, during his wife's epilogue when she wrote about his final descent and death, and charge to make sure this book was published even though he probably wouldn't have considered it finished. Paul Kalanthi was a brilliant, talented, and most importantly, deeply good man, and I'm grateful for the chance I had to come to know him through his words. While this book was tragic and heart-breaking, it was also beautiful and inspiring, and I fully recommend it.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Another short but powerful one. So I was vaguely aware that Thornton Wilder was one of those classic American authors I should've read in college at some point, but I didn't know anything else about this book when I picked it out of the "available for immediate download" offerings. Imagine my surprise when I realized it takes place in Peru! (When's the last time you read a novel set in South America? I know...). This is a fascinating, if brief, exploration of five lives, all of which were lost one day in 1715 with the bridge of San Luis Rey snapped and sent them falling to their deaths. The beautiful thread connecting all of their lives is the love and loss they had all experienced, their human connections, which led them to be on the bridge that day. This book may not be interesting for everyone, but I definitely want to revisit it someday (with a highlighter, I think, and taking notes in the margins). Plus, it's short, so there's that. It's a beautiful little piece.

Have you read any of these? I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions!


  1. All three of these are on my TBR list! Thanks for your reviews of them. We'd love for you to link up this post with the Literacy Musing Mondays Link-up if you're interested! You can find it at http://pagesandmargins.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/literacy-musing-mondays-until-my-son-learns-how-to-read/. Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much for the invite! I hope I can participate sometime.

  2. I haven't read any of these! I really want to read "When Breath Becomes Air", though. I'm on the waiting list for it (speaking of waiting lists...)

    1. Good luck with the wait list, but when you get it WBBA is soooo good