Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Books I Read in October

Guys, it makes zero sense to me. I don't know how I'm doing it. Honestly. Somehow, despite the fact that October was chock full of mad studying for exams, grading stress, the nastiest cold that knocked all of us out for two weeks, and all the Halloween shenanigans... I still managed to have a record breaking reading month.

18 books. And one of those books was the longest book I've read this year. I passed the hundred mark for the year this month. !!!!!!!

Like I said, I don't even know how I'm doing it (I mean, audio books at double speed on my commute is mostly how I'm doing it, but still...). Anyway, it's a ton of books to get through and I don't have a lot of time (I should be studying for those exams right now, not writing this post) so let's get going.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

I spent the first part of the month finishing off my re-read of all my Austen favorites (my annual fall tradition). Guys, if you haven't read this short little epistolary novel by Austen, you are missing out! It has the most deliciously wicked title character, and is just a pure gossipy treat! Plus it's a super quick read. And they also managed to make a pretty good movie adaptation of it called Love and Friendship, which now that I'm thinking about it, I really need to see again.

Emma by Jane Austen

While this book is not my favorite Austen (Emma tends to drive me nuts a bit, and I struggle with the age difference of this romance, the line about him falling in love with her when she was thirteen always tends to make me gag), I'm struck by the brilliance of her narrative structure every time. I mean, the way she conceals major plot points but drops hints of them throughout it just the most sheer genius. Austen is beyond amazing.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I'm late to the bandwagon on this one. It was entertaining enough, the plot was very clever and structured in a very creative and interesting way, so that mystery element of it was quite good. But I never quite fell in love with it (the dad bothered me so much, I never liked him in the end). I can see why other people love it though. It was just a little too soap-opera-y at points for me to really enjoy.

The Enchanted Hour by Meghan Cox Gurdon

You may be thinking, do I really need to read another book about reading aloud to my children when I'm already reading aloud to my children? And I don't know about you, but apparently the answer for me is yes. Always yes. I just can't get enough of the topic. The Read Aloud Family was amazing in its own way, and this one is amazing in an entirely different way, and I emphatically recommend both books, even if you already read to your children every day. This one is so, so good.

Tales of Alvin Maker Books 1-6 by Orson Scott Card

(I'm reviewing all six books at once, no need for individual reviews of this series.) So I read the first two books in this series circa middle school, but my dad wouldn't let me read the third one. I saw something about this series recently, remembered how much I liked it initially, and figured I was probably old enough now to handle whatever my dad was trying to shield me from (turns out it was white master sexual abuse of his slaves, totally get why my dad censored that). This series is a fascinating, magical rewriting of the Joseph Smith story and American history. I think it is super creative and a very thought-provoking interpretation of both Smith and the American story. If you enjoy historical fantasy mythology, this is a total recommend. The first two books are the best, it tends to get long-winded after that. And the series isn't finished yet (there's supposed to be seven books, but it's been well over a decade now and we're all losing hope it's ever going to happen).

Enchantee by Gita Trelease

I have a thing for magical historical fiction, which is why I thought this book would be right up my alley (French revolution with magic? Yes please!). Except it was entirely forgettable. Nothing special here.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

I loved Peace Like a River so much, so I've been looking forward to this long anticipated next book by Enger, and well, it's not quite the same level as Peace. That being said, the writing is still amazing and beautiful and I loved every second of this book, just floating along with the beautiful language and the lovely characters, and I just wanted this book to go on and on and on. The plot was strange, I'm not sure if I understand the point, but I don't really care. I was just there for the lovely writing. Recommend.

 Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

This book was a lovely (and strange, and disgusting) mix of memoir and philosophical reflection on death. Doughty has always been a little obsessed with death, so fresh out of college she gets a job at a crematory. And boy, does she have some stories! Her writing is funny and entertaining (and only a few of her stories are gross), and she is on a mission to change death culture in America. If you've read Being Mortal, they basically have the same message, that one is just from the medical side of things, and Doughty is coming at this from the funeral industry side of things. I learned a ton, and have basically decided I'm all in for a natural decomposition burial (no embalming, please!). The subject is maybe a little dark (thus the October read), but it's an important topic that we don't talk about or think about enough as a culture. I definitely recommend.

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

I gave this three stars on Goodreads, but it really might be a four star for me, I just wish it had more accessible writing. Wolf is an educational psychologist who studies exactly what goes on in the brain when a person is reading. It was fascinating to me on so many levels (she studies from a scientific point of view what I think about from a literary point of view). She offers a history of reading, a look inside what's going on in the brain, and especially a fascinating dive into dyslexia. The only problem is, while she claims this is for a general audience, her tone and style are still pretty heavily academic, which makes this a less entertaining read than I wanted it to be. Others might find it difficult to slog through, but I think it's well worth it (especially if you have a kid with dyslexia). Fascinating stuff.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Guys, this was a strange, quirky little story, with elements that I can only describe as fantastical (maybe magical realism? Not quite, but borderline). I'm not quite sure I loved it, but I definitely enjoyed it, especially all the descriptions of food (I just love good food writing). Also, there were some pretty interesting insights into the whole San Francisco tech company scene (they talk about a food replacement called Slurry I think, and I just found out yesterday that this is a real thing! Only it's called Soylent! Gross! Why would they call it that?!?!?). Anyway, this is a fun one.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

My sister recommended this one to us when we visited her this summer, and my husband actually listened to it first, and then told me I should read it, so I did. I think if I'd read this a decade or so ago (before Hunger Games), I would've really loved it. It tries really hard to do some creative things with the YA dystopian genre (which is what sucked me in at first), but ends up falling into pretty much most of the cliches. It's rather dark and violent, but if you really like YA dystopia, then I definitely recommend this. The mash-up description I'd use is Hunger Games meets Roman mythology meets sci-fi terraforming Mars. It is something.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Okay, let's talk about seasonal reading. I love doing seasonally appropriate reads in October, so at the beginning of the month I put a few old favorites on hold (Dracula, Rebecca) but apparently everyone else around here had the same idea, because I'm still waiting for them. So I needed something to fill my time with, and I've been meaning to re-read this classic for a while now (I read it back in high school I think), and decided now was as good a time as any. And guess what? Revenge, murder, drug trips, poison, carnival, executions, prisons, pirates... this is a totally appropriate October read! I finished it on Halloween, and boy, I have more thoughts than can fit here in this little mini-review, so I'll just save that for another day. But basically, it is long (longest book I've read this year), but totally worth your time.

Okay, and that's it for a pretty fantastic reading month. I've actually slowed things down here in November (which I'll maybe talk about another time), but I'm still pretty impressed with my reading rate here. Anyway, have you read any of these? What are your thoughts?