Loot from my local library included the following:
- Belfast Diary – John Conroy (NF about 1980s Northern Ireland during the Troubles).
- Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn (F). One of former Pres. Obama’s favorite books of 2020, apparently. If it’s good enough for him… 😉
- A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie (F/murder mystery). Love me some Christie.
- The Secret River – Kate Grenville (F/Australian). I’ve heard good things…
- Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King (F). I would like to read more King so a seeing if I can his less-scary titles first.
- Emma – Jane Austen (F). In the mood for a good classic.
- The Water Museum – Luis Alberta Urrea (F/short stories). I don’t always get on that well with short stories but I’ll give them a go with Urrea’s work since he’s really good.)
The reads for March 2021 included:
- India Calling – Anand Giridharadas (NF)
- The Sytteford Mystery – Agatha Christie (F)
- The Commitments – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- The Snapper – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- The Van – Roddy Doyle (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- Germinal – Emile Zola (F)
- Heroes and Monsters of Greek Myths – Evslin, Evslin and Hoopes (F)
- Queenie – Candace Carty-Williams (F)
- The Feast of Lupercal – Brian Moore (F) – Reading Ireland Month
- Mythology DK Eyewitness book – Neil Philip (F)
- The Long March – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (NF)
- The War Bride’s Scrapbook – Carolyn Preston (F)
- The Time Machine – H.G. Wells (F)
- Londoners – Craig Taylor (NF)
- The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (play)
- Humans – Brandon Stanton (NF/photo/soc sci)
So to the (rather obsessive!) numbers:
- Total number of books read in February 2021: 16.
- Total number of pages read: 3,266 pages (av. 266).
- Fiction/Non-Fiction: 10 fiction / 5 non-fiction. 1 play.
- Diversity: 3 BIPOC. 5 books by women.
- Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 8 library books, 7 owned books (whee!) and 2 e-books.
So I had a productive reading month which was really fun. Plus, I also pulled out some cross-stitch and finally finished up a project that I’ve working on for quite a while. Just need to get it framed and then it’s done. 🙂
I’ve been reading quite a lot lately. It’s so interesting to see that I have a tendency to fluctuate in my reading levels. Looking back at trends over the past several years, I see that my reading levels falter in January and February and then pick up the pace once it gets into the Spring months. Is it to do with the amount of sun? Is it something to do with the moon? 😉
I’m not sure but I’m glad I’m back into one of my most important hobbies. So – what have I actually been reading? Let me do a quick round-up for you.
Londoners – Craig Taylor (2011). A nonfiction collection of conversations, really, that Taylor has gathered from a wide range of people who live in, love, hate, or perhaps left London. This was one of those perfect reads at the perfect time for me and I loved it. It was fit in with my temporary Monkey Mind and I could really hear what his interviewees said. This was such a fascinating read and I highly recommend it if you’re searching for a good read to pick up and put down. Loved it.
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (1895). The play itself. I have been wanting to go to a live play or other cultural event, but the pandemic has put the kibosh on that option right now so I picked up this Wilde read. I haven’t seen or read this one and it was full of Wilde’s sly witticisms and sense of humor. Good.
Then, still with a bit of a Monkey Mind (and thus lower levels of concentration), I was at the library (shocker!) and saw the most recent edition of the photo collection by Brandon Stanton called Humans. (He did the photo books called “Humans of New York” and has a really good blog, which I reviewed here and this was just as stellar). Stanton takes extremely good photos and allows his interviewees to really talk. Just fascinating if you like that kind of thing. (This is one of the projects that I wish I had done.)
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson (2014). Looking for a solid good read and wanting to pull a title from my homegrown TBR (as opposed to the library), this was quite a chunky read (and yet I wasn’t scared off by it) – 536 pages. (Normally, I would run screaming from such a high page count but it was ok.) This was such a good read but it definitely plays with time and structure so you need to concentrate. The protagonist, Ursula, reincarnates over and over throughout this story but what is truth? Anyway, a very clever novel and easy to read at the same time. I’m definitely going to pick up more Atkinson at some point.
So that’s me all caught up re: recent reads. Tell me about yours.
Oh, and I bought a new rug for my office at home. It make me very happy! 🙂
After reading The Invisible Man (1897), I was curious about other H.G. Wells’ work so picked up this title up. This was his debut novel and was shortish and fairly famous and is early sci-fi – all good things in my book. I enjoyed it more than The Invisible Man, mainly because the protagonist was much more likable. (I know that I don’t have to like the protag to enjoy a story, but it doesn’t hurt if you do like him or her.)
So this novella features the lead character called only The Time Traveller. (He’s given other names in later adaptations but in the original version, he is just called this.) He’s is an inventor and scientist of a type, and is describing his adventures at a small dinner party with a handful of friends. It’s an effective framing device for the story and allows Wells to show how the other guests react to what The Time Traveller describes in his adventures.
As with The Invisible Man, there is quite a bit of solid science talk here to explain how time travel could theoretically work, and in the early stages of testing, The Time Traveller only travels a few hours of time. As he gets braver, he continues to travel forward hundreds of years where he meets two new species of beings, the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi are small surface-dwelling vegetarian peoples who are peaceful but not very active and have little initiative. (Was Wells criticizing the veggie diet here? Was he a big meat-eater in his real life?)
On the other hand, the Morlocks are larger warrior-type people who live entirely underground their whole lives, and it’s clear to the reader who Wells admires more. This is also a pretty political novel, just as The Invisible Man was in some ways, since it’s very referential to the social-class-based system: the weakened posh Eloi up above in the sunlight living a charmed life whilst the Morlocks are stuck working in mines under the surface of the earth, producing all the power for the Eloi. It’s not subtle at all, but that’s not to say that it’s not a powerful set-up at the same time.
The narrative continues with The Time Traveller moving even further forward in time, over centuries, to see how the Earth continues to develop and as the years drop off, he sees Earth collapse under the fading sun as society and its peoples fade away as the temperatures drop and freeze. Like I mentioned, it’s not subtle or hopeful, but if you read it in the political subtext, then it’s pretty interesting.
Wells himself was a futurist with a progressive view and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times. He was trained in biology at the Royal College of Science (you can see his science training in the writing), and he was an outspoken Socialist (also obvious in his writing that I’ve read). He married but messed around, including having a three-year affair with Elizabeth von Arnim and one with author Rebecca West.
I’m enjoying these reading adventures with Wells and he was pretty prolific so there is more from which to choose. Which one is next?…
The library books:
- Evil Under the Sun – Agatha Christie (F/mystery)
- The Great Gatsby: A Reader’s Companion to the Novel – Richard Lehan (NF/lit crit)
- A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles (F)
- Seeking Pleasure in the Old West – David Dary (NF/history)
- Before You Put That On – Lloyd Boston (NF/style)
The thrift books:
- Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker (F)
- Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (F/sci fi)
- Us Against You – Fredrik Backman (F)
- Living History – Hilary Rodham Clinton (NF/auto)
So, lots from which to choose here. I’m a happy camper.
A good read chosen specifically for Cathy’s Reading Ireland 2021 (or the Begorrathon as its nickname!), Brian Moore seems to be one of the more well-known Irish-Canadian authors with a large backlist. I’ve only read two of his books (The Lonely Passion of Miss Judith Hearnes and this one) but they seem to overlap in terms of how Moore focuses on two rather outside characters, desperately lonely but unable to change their situations in some ways. (I wonder if his other books feature similar characters?)
The Feast of Lupercal* focuses on middle-aged Catholic male teacher Diarmuid Devine (or Dev) who is lonely, single and panics when he overhears a colleague refer to him as “that old woman”. Dev believes that his life is slipping away which makes him chase after a young Protestant girl who is 17 years than he is and who is on the rebound from a relationship with a married man.
Dev is socially and sexually inexperienced and these traits, combined with the overarching and controlling impact of his strong Catholic faith, mean that this relationship is bound with guilt and numerous other issues, none of which make life easy for Dev or for his girlfriend (if that is what she is in the end).
It’s rather a bitter look at how religion can be a negative for someone who has bought into it looking for answers. There is no indication that Dev will stop following these religious guidelines (despite the problems that arise from them) and it’s clear that Moore believes that individual freedom is more important.
It’s a well-written book, very gritty and a domestic drama. Just know that it’s not a particularly happy book and you’ll be fine.
- The Feast of Lupercal was, according to Wiki, a pastoral festival of Ancient Rome observed each year on Feb. 15 to purify the city and promote health and fertility. It was also known as Februa (which gives rise to the name of the month of February). It also has a link with wolves as the actual statue of Lupercal was said to be in the same cave that Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf. (Romulus was thought to have founded Rome.) Well I never.
I was perusing another book blog (sorry – not sure how whose it was but it was good), and was greatly impressed with this person’s familiarity and knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology. At the very same time, I’d also been thinking about reading (and reminding) myself about these very same myths that I’d read way back in junior high (or even earlier).
And then – serendipity: I found a Scholastic book of myths in the thrift shop the other day so I snapped that sucker up.
This was very fun to dip my toes into the ancient world of gods and goddesses and their overlap with the messy and imperfect lives of the humans, and I thoroughly enjoyed this reminder of old gods such as Perseus and Theseus and new ones (to me) such as Atalanta. Can’t forget old Midas and Pygmalion as well…
This very quick read was followed up with a supplemental read of the fabulous DK Eyewitness book about mythology, but this volume encompasses much more than just the Greek and Roman world as it also includes myths and cultural beliefs from across millennia and across the world.
I had been rather hoping for a more focused look at the Greek and Roman myths, but sometimes you don’t know what you need and the Book Gods fill in the gaps for you, and that is what this DK Eyewitness read was for me. This was like a visit to a really well-curated museum exhibit on the subject.
Thoroughly enjoyed this and now I’m on the lookout for more myths. I’ve missed my myths. Ha.