Thursday, November 1, 2018

Books I Read in October

In case you don't follow my personal account on Instagram, here's the epic family-themed costume for this year. This costume was driven by my 6-year-old, who wanted to be BB8 so badly, and luckily the other two are still young enough to not have opinions. I'm hoping we can keep the family costume trend going, but Little Miss already has a BIG personality and STRONG opinions about things, so we'll see how that plays out in future.

Well, you may or may not have noticed I haven't posted anything since my reading round-up for September. We're just at that point in the semester where I'm not even keeping up with my school work, so pleasure writing is pretty much off the priority list. Except for these monthly check-ins. I always allow myself the luxury of at least this one post a month (you probably won't hear from me again until I do November's wrap up, but maybe December will bring some more personal time?...)

Anyway, despite the incredibly busy month of school work, I managed to read/listen to 13 books this month, which is perfectly fitting for a spooky October, but also kind of blows my mind because I think 13 books has to be a new PR. And I don't even know when or how? I really only listen to books on my commute and while cooking/cleaning (and heaven knows, I do precious little cleaning), so how did I manage 13 books this month? A few of them are shorter, it's true, and also, at one point in the month I realized I was having a hard time following how fast the narrator was speaking, and when I checked my app I discovered I'd been listening at 3X speed. I've no idea how long I'd been listening at that speed, possibly for several books in a row. I usually listen at 2X speed, and I guess my brain has gotten so good at listening at that speed that it took me a while to notice it was playing even faster than that, unintentionally. I'm back to 2X speed (which doesn't feel fast at all, anymore), so we'll see if my reading number drops in November.

Also just want to mention that I met and blew out of the water my reading goal for the year. My goal this year was to read 75 books, which I thought was going to be a stretch (my best year since I started recording was 63 books). But as of the end of October I've read 83 books. Eek! Honestly, I won't be surprised if I hit 100 this year, and if I do, I'm sure I'll write a post all about it.

We'll that's enough ado about nothing. Now let's jump into the books.

Perusasion by Jane Austen

Continued my re-read through Austen's oeuvre with my all-time favorite, Persuasion. I love Anne, I love Captain Wentworth, I love this story. Sweet and shorter, and just wonderful.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

And, I finished up my Austen binge with this one. It's not my favorite (it's no one's favorite), but if I ever write an academic article about Austen, it will be about this book. So many things fascinate me about this book. I chose to skip out on Northanger Abbey this year. That one's definitely not my favorite.

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Read this one for my virtual book club, and I don't think I would've read it otherwise, just because after reading Better Than Before, her blog, and listening to her podcast, I felt like I knew enough about the four tendencies. But of course, I learned even more by reading the book, and even had some interesting insights into my husband's personality and behavior that has been kind of useful to understand. All in all, I think the framework is brilliant and helpful for understanding/motivating people, but the book itself isn't all that great as far as writing goes.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I was hesitant to start this one, because I get so tired of WWII novels. But of course, WWII novels make the best novels, and this is no exception. This one is just absolutely perfect middle-grade fare. I loved almost every thing about it. Deserves all the praise and attention it's getting, and in my humble opinion, deserves to become a beloved classic.

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

This one is really different, but really fascinating. It was assigned as a textbook for one of my classes, but was written for a lay audience. Mendelsund is a cover artist, so he spends his career reading books and then thinking about how best to visually represent those books, so he spends a lot of time thinking about what he visualizes when he reads. This book outlines his meditations on that process, and I found it fascinating (of course, this is the sort of stuff I think about in my academic career). The other reason this book is so fascinating is because it's nonfiction, but it's a graphic novel (as in, it's not a novel, but it has graphics on almost every page, but also text, and I don't know any other term besides graphic novel). Anyway, if you're up for a little intellectual-but-still-lighter reading, this one is super interesting.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

This was the first in my intentional seasonal reading; nothing like a good murder mystery to set the tone for Halloween. And this one completely surprised me. I did not expect Penny to ever take these books in this direction. I like being surprised, so that was fun (which is a weird thing to hear myself say about a book about MURDER). I really like picking up one of these books every few months.

A Dark Night's Work by Elizabeth Gaskell

I read this for my local book club. It's a short novella (or maybe long short story?), and I won't say it was excellent and amazing (the writing was not Gaskell's best), but it made for a suitably macabre October discussion, and was pretty fun all around. And it reminded me that I really need to read more Gaskell, because I really do like her so much.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I read this book in 8th or 9th grade. I had a reading chart due on Monday where I needed to read so many books to meet my goal, and I'd procrastinated a bit, so I spent Sunday afternoon reading this whole book to finish up my reading chart. And it totally left me feeling dark and depressed and kind of messed up inside. And then I proceeded to have just a really terrible week, so I made up my mind that from then on, I would never read a secular novel, for pleasure or for homework, again on Sunday. And for the most part, I've stuck to that (which also means that yes, I've read 83 books this year without reading any of them on Sundays). Anyway, I decided this would be a good year to revisit this gothic novel just to see how I'd feel about it now. And what better month than October? Ugh. The writing is beautiful, and Bronte is incredible at what she does. But I stand by my original assessment. This book is dark and depressing and leaves me feeling a little bit messed up inside. I don't need to read it again.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Continuing on with my seasonal reading, I picked up this classic. And goodness, I really need to read some more Christie! She's a genius! I must admit that I saw the movie earlier this year, so the mystery was spoiled for me from the beginning, which was really too bad. But I did completely marvel at the craft of it all, how Christie was able to slowly unravel this mystery from Poirot's point of view, even though she knew the whole thing already. What a master!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Another re-read. This has been a month of re-reading. Why am I re-reading so many books? Thoughts for another post. Anyway, I loved this one the first time I read it (it was my second official review on this blog!), and thought it would be lovely to revisit as a Halloween read, and boy was I right! It was perfect seasonal reading. I may make this a tradition!

Foundation  by Isaac Asimov

After five straight books of October seasonal reading, I was ready to move on, even if I still had a week of October left. But apparently, I'm still in the mood for re-reading. I first read the Foundation series in middle school, and I remember devouring them and loving them and thinking they were brilliant. But I couldn't actually remember much of the plots, so I decided to revisit. Oh, boy! I wrote a long post over on my Goodreads review all about how these books reveal more about the era they were written in than they do about the future, but I don't feel much like retyping that here, so if you're interested, click on over to my Goodreads account. If you like science fiction, I definitely recommend this series as foundational for the genre (ha! pun!). If you don't really like the genre, stay far, far away. These books are probably not for you.

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

I think at this point, I'm interested enough to re-read as much as the series as I can. We'll see if that lasts. In middle school, I read them in chronological order, but I've decided to read them in publication order now (much like The Chronicles of Narnia, they were published out of chronological order). Liked this second one slightly better than the first. Asimov has a real flair for plot.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A very worthy follow-up to The War That Saved My Life. I don't feel like the plot had quite as neat an ending point, but it definitely made me tear up at points, and was excellent all around. I highly, highly recommend both these books. They are wonderful.

Whew! What a load of reading! Have you read any of these? I'd love to know you're thoughts on them! How did October reading go for you?