I feel as if I read a lot in January but it’s not apparent in the number of books read. If you counted numbers of pages it would be slightly more impressive.
The only book I actually completed in January was Louise Penny’s new Armand Gamache mystery The Beautiful Mystery. I really enjoy this series although so much of it is a mystery cliche. The literary detective. The small town where elaborate murders occur at the drop of a hat. But Penny is an excellent writer and does the cliche well. This new installment strayed a bit from the formula with Gamache investigating a murder at a remote Quebec monastery. Like many mystery series these are best read in order as the enjoyment is as much in the character development and related sub-plots as in the particular mystery being solved.
I also listened to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I think it would be virtually impossible to sum up this novel. I will say it was like no other book I’v read before and that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. The audiobook was made all the more enjoyable by being read by the incomparable Jim Dale.
In the almost or nearly finished category there are several:
First up, In Shadow and Sunlight by Mark Helprin, read for a new book club. I didn’t finish it in time for the book club because I didn’t realize it was something like 700+ pages long. (I don’t know exactly because I’m reading it on my Kindle.) I would have felt really bad about not finishing (what’s worse than a book club discussion where people don’t read the book?) except that no one else had finished either. I’m still working on this one, at about 90% on the Kindle. It’s the story of the love affair between Harry, a soldier, and Catherine, an actress and heiress in 1940’s New York City immediately after WWII. It’s very beautifully written. Almost too beautifully written. The language is so lyrical and poetic that I’m finding it hard to see the characters as real. I would like to finish though and I’m reserving final judgment until I do.
The book that is keeping me from finishing In Sunlight and Shadow is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, another book club selection. I have mixed feelings about this one so far (at about the halfway point). It’s a good read but there are some troubling thing in it, including a very inappropriate sexual relationship. I don’t know where the author is going so I’m also reserving judgment. It may be that some of the things troubling me are dealt with differently by the end.
For non-fiction, I’m reading and enjoying Double Cross: The Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre. I’ve always had a total fascination for spies and spy stories and this true life account of the plot that misled the Germans about the location of the D-Day landing is absorbing and a great read.
I’m also almost finished with my current audiobook, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. This story of the lifelong intimate friendship between two women in 19th century in China is notable for both the compelling story and the fascinating historical and cultural details. Some parts are really difficult to hear (the details about footbinding) but See does an excellent job of making a remote time and place come alive.
The book that was the main cause of me only finishing one book this month is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I read about half of this 1000 page monster before giving up. I should have given up long before but it’s really rare that I stop reading a book. I’d heard really good things about this part mystery, part dystopian fantasy, part romance but ultimately it just ended up being too weird. I also found it boring which was even worse than weird.
Finally, I’m reading about one essay a day from God in the Dock by C. S. Lewis. John and I are individually doing a read the Bible in a year plan and I usually add an essay by Lewis into my own devotions time.
With the kids:
Ruth and I are reading Charlotte’s Web as her first “special book”. She is enjoying the time although most of the book is beyond her. David and I read Swordquest. We read the first in this series (Swordbird) by young author Nancy Li Fan (she was 11 when she began the first book and 20 when the third was published) last fall. I liked it ok but probably wouldn’t have gotten the second one. David saw it on the shelf at the library and literally jumped and down in excitement. We read it and just started the third book, Sword Mountain. I enjoyed the second book much more than the first, Fan has definitely matured as a writer. John and I are still working our way through Middle Earth; we’re about to catch up to Frodo and Sam in The Two Towers. And finally at lunchtime we are all reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
I have no idea what’s next. There are many books on my nightstand, which is really a bookshelf and many of those that I really want to read next. I hope to finish up all the ones I’m working on this weekend and move on to something new.