Reading Roundup 4/10/20

Hey friends. How’s it going? This week has been the one so far where I’ve questioned what day is it the most often. What are days? 😉 I hope you’re safe and staying well. I make a daily To Do list which helps me feel sort of productive, because I can’t seem to let go of the notion that I need to be productive to feel good. My standards of productivity are a little different from normal, though: yoga, meditation, laundry, calling my parents, supervising my son’s optional academic work, little cleaning projects – those are my To Dos.

This week I was able to do some actual work for the library, which felt really good. I submitted two videos for our Facebook page, specifically for children. One was with my son, where he helped me do two fingerplays, and the other was me reading Mo Willems’s The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. I don’t know if they’ll use them but it felt good to use my brain in an official capacity. I miss my job. I miss my library patrons. I don’t know when we’ll get back to work at the library. So many “I don’t knows.”

Oh well. We keep going, don’t we? There are books to be read, after all! Thank God for those. This week I finished two great books, began two more, and acquired one from my local independent bookstore through the mail. I’m going to buy one book from them a month while we are all social distancing. I hope all the indie bookstores make it!

RECENTLY FINISHED:

Persuasion by Jane Austen (owned paperback)

I figured out, using Goodreads and my old book journal, that this was my FOURTH time reading Persuasion. I had no idea! I would have bet money it was three. My book journal says I read it in 2008 and that it was a reread, so I must have read it sometime before I began the book journal, which was 2001. I guess I read it in high school or college then. It’s funny that I can’t remember. A voracious reader’s lot in life, I guess. Anyway, what a perfect choice for this unsettling time. I was struck this time by his funny it was, how ridiculously vain and superficial Anne’s father and sister’s were. How awfully they treat Anne! And still, she is so gracious and patient. A thoroughly entertaining, comforting, romantic read.

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (library hardback)

This was lovely. A short, lyrical memoir about growing up in West Baltimore in the 1980’s and 1990’s (he was born in 1975) and also about his father, a force of nature, an ex-Black Panther, a learned man who, while sometimes domineering, was desperately trying to shepherd his children successfully through the perils of racism, gangs, and the crack cocaine era to successful adulthood.

All our friends were fatherless, and Dad was some sort of blessing, but he made it hard to feel that way. He was a practicing fascist, mandating books and banning religion. Once he caught Big Bill praying at the kitchen table and ordered him to stop—

“You want to pray, pray to me. I put food on this table.”

Ta-Nehisi was a dreamy child, a pacifist, a fan of fantasy and science fiction, and it sounded like he might have experienced attention deficit disorder from the way he described how he acted in a classroom setting. But everyone knew he was smart, and the expectation of reaching his potential was ever present. He also had to learn how to be tough and fight other kids when necessary, lessons he learned from his revered older brother Big Bill. I really enjoyed reading about the rap music of the 1980s and how it became an avenue of self expression for Coates, his brother, and friends, and I loved reading about how Coates’s dad ran a printing press in his house, finding and reprinting forgotten texts by and about Africans and African American writers. His children may have tried to resist the Consciousness his father was trying to impart but they ultimately absorbed the Knowledge anyway, something many of us can relate to in our own childhoods. This was a very good memoir. I recommend it.

CURRENTLY READING:

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (my April Classics Club pick – owned paperback)

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (memoir/feminism/self-help – library hardback)

RECENTLY ACQUIRED:

img_5571How to Be An Antiracist by Ibrahim X. Kendi (National Book Award-Winning author of Stamped From the Beginning, which I haven’t yet read, but want to.)

What have y’all been reading lately? Have you purchased anything recently? Or do you have a good television show to recommend instead? I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve been doing or reading this week. And Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate.

Let’s Talk Classics: A Round-up

I’ve made progress the past few months on my Classics Club list and thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process. I have not been timely about posting on these novels, however, so it’s time to clear the decks with some (very) mini-reviews. Let’s start with the one I read first, way back in March!

Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon by Jane Austen ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

First of all, kudos to me for finally reading the longest sitting book on my Goodreads TBR list. It had been there since 2008! I would recommend this only if you’re an Austen super fan. If you’re not, then DO read the wickedly funny Lady Susan, but you can feel free to skip the other two, which are unfinished novel fragments. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much about them! They were fine, they just didn’t sing like her novels do. I think the seeds of great books were there but maybe just didn’t have time to blossom into being. Lady Susan is worth the read because it’s really sharp and feels more daring than Austen’s later works. It’s about a 40-something widow and mother who is just awful (in a fun way,) constantly scheming to get her daughter married off and to get herself invited to people’s houses for extended periods, all the while making eyes (and worse) with other people’s husbands. The movie adaptation that came out a couple of years ago is pretty good too and faithful to the novella.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Yes, I did finish this one back in April but it felt and still feels nearly impossible to write about it. It was worth all the time I spent reading it. It really is a marvelous adventure, filled with unlikely but very entertaining twists, dastardly characters, and a very long game of revenge. It’s a commitment but I am so glad I read it and do recommend it.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Classics Club Spin Book)

Initially I loved this 1944 novel because it was filled with beautiful, rich, early 20th-century English people saying witty things to one another (one of my favorite genres of entertainment.) The prose sparkled with Sebastian as one of the main characters, but when he dropped out of the story line, my attention wasn’t held as strongly. I don’t think Charles is a very lively character.  He’s kind of a jerk, especially later in the book when he’s married. The scenes on the cruise ship were my favorite parts, though. This was good; uneven, but interesting. I’d like to watch the Jeremy Irons adaptation sometime.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Yes, I said that I might like this one more than Rebecca! I can’t decide – it’s at least as good, okay? The atmosphere du Maurier creates is just as tense and suspenseful (not as Gothic, though.) Young Philip is determined to hate his Italian “cousin” (by marriage) Rachel, but when she arrives at the estate unexpectedly after her husband’s death, she confounds Philip’s preconceptions. She is a fascinating character – one minute I was intensely sympathizing with her and the next I was convinced she was shady as hell! And my feelings about Philip changed over the course of the novel too. Initially I was firmly in his camp and little by little I saw all of his flaws and stubborn blind spots. The writing is incredible and the story is perfection. Now I’m pretty sure I need to read everything else du Maurier wrote.

I’ve read 14/51 classics from my list, and I’ve got about 3.5 years to finish  I guess I need to pick up my pace a little bit and be more intentional about mixing in classics with my contemporary novels. It’s good to take stock of where I am.

What classic works have you picked up lately?

 

In Progress, and Jane Austen Bingo

I hope the weekend is treating you well and you’re finding time to read!  Lately I feel like I just can’t make much progress, but the tide may be turning, since last night I knocked out a big chunk of my current read, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.

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Now I know I just wrote a post about not being able to choose a book on a whim.  But that’s pretty much how I chose this particular book!  I love the Goodreads List 2016: What Women Born in the 1970s Have Read So Far This Year.  This is the fifth year that the list has existed.  I am kind of obsessive about putting down what I read on that list and seeing where it falls, how many other people are reading it, etc.  I don’t know.  It’s just my jam.  So far this year the top two spots have alternated between The Nightingale and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

I read Girl on the Train, and it was just… okay.  I know so many people loved it, but I really feel like there are so many better written thrillers out there that didn’t get the attention they deserved in the shadow of GOTT.  So basically I decided to read The Nightingale because “everyone” else is reading it and I want it to beat GOTT for the number one slot on the Goodreads list!  Am I insane?  Quite possibly.22557272

I have never read Kristin Hannah before, but I am told that this historical novel is a departure for her, because she usually writes contemporary women’s fiction.  (Whatever THAT means.  That seems like such a bogus, made-up genre to me, but what do I know?)  It’s set in France in World War II, and the main characters are sisters – an older one who is married, a mother, and more reserved, and an impetuous, brash younger sister.  I will say that the plot of The Nightingale has me turning pages super-fast.  But as I get over the half-way mark, the SAD STUFF starts really piling up.  And I find myself having to skim over certain sections, especially about mothers and children.  The writing is okay.  It’s not bad.  But it’s not really the quality of writing that rings my bookish bell.   However, the story is indeed compelling enough.  So I predict that by the end of the weekend I will be done with The Nightingale.  Next on deck after that:  Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.   Talk about bookish whiplash!

51gc1HCCV8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_On a totally unrelated note, I feel compelled to share something that one of my book group members put on Facebook the other day.  It’s a Jane Austen Bingo Card!  I think it’s been around a while, but you may have seen it floating around lately.  I absolutely cackled when I read it.  Click the link and be prepared to laugh.  You don’t have to be an ardent Austenite to appreciate it.

What are you reading right now?  Have you read The Nightingale, Girl on the Train, or The Sellout?  Tell me in the comments.