Classic Books · Reading Challenge 2016 · Reviews

The unabridged list of what I read in February

February delivered what feels suspiciously like a reading slump, but not exactly. I say “not exactly” because I’m still reading (what else is there to do? I have few other interests, really). But I’m distracted and a little bit restless.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks felt like my anchor and inspiration this month. When I struggled to focus on what the heck I wanted to be reading, I turned to the books that, at some point, felt like must-reads. That’s why they’re on my shelves, right? Some of them I read completely. Almost as many, I read only in parts.

February readsBooks I read this month (in reading order): Asterisk indicates a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title 🙂

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathan Philbrick (e-book)

This is Philbrick’s ode to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which I purchased in January. It’s a heartening combination of biography, insightful literary analysis, and fanboy love. And it worked: He actually makes me want to reread Moby-Dick … at some point in the unspecified future.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (paperback)*

When I think of Kate DiCamillo, I think of the happy face emoticon that has hearts instead of eyeballs. Her novels for children are so profoundly moving and humane. This one is about a little girl who saves a stray dog, which then saves her. So many hearts for this beautiful novel!

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (e-book)*

I downloaded this the day it came out (however long ago that was), but the e-book was wonky. It wouldn’t let me turn the page from the table of contents. So I just ignored it, figuring it would fix itself, magically, like e-books do. If you’re thinking, wait, that makes no sense – e-books don’t do that, joke’s on you because it worked! When I went to read it this month, boom – pages turn. It’s a spooky, extremely melancholy story about a boy who gets trapped in a library.

Death of a Hussy and Death of a Snob by M. C. Beaton (e-book)*

I have about eleven of Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries in my virtual library. (I stocked up during a sale.) These novels have a lovely sense of place, and I adore Hamish, a warm-hearted, not especially ambitious Police Constable in the Scottish Highlands. He’s the reason I harbor a fantasy of moving to Scotland.

Give Me Liberty by L. M. Elliott (e-book)*

You know about those emails full of e-book deals, right? That’s how I discovered this novel for middle grade readers. It occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel set during the American Revolution. This one is told through the eyes of a thirteen-year old indentured servant in Williamsburg and presents a nuanced portrait of the revolution.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (audiobook)*

As I’ve mentioned, listening to Stephen Fry read Harry Potter is what’s currently keeping my treadmill and me in a committed relationship. I finished it this month and have moved on to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay (e-book)

This children’s novel is super trippy. It starts off with a koala bear called Bunyip Bluegum leaving home because his uncle won’t shave his whiskers. Bunyip hooks up with Bill Barnacle (who is a cowboy, I think?) and Sam Sawnoff, a penguin. Sam and Bill have a pudding called Albert, who has arms and legs and a rather sour attitude. He also possesses the abilities to regenerate after being eaten and to change what kind of flavor he is. Sam and Bill aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, and a wombat and possum steal Albert from them. Clever Bunyip helps them steal the pudding back. They all break into poetry/song somewhat frequently, and there’s a run-in with the law. It was all very amusing and bizarre.

Books I read parts of this month: All have been on my bookshelves for a while (well done, me! Because reading parts of books I own is WAY BETTER than reading parts of books I bought but will never finish).

London: The Novel by Edward Rutherford (e-book)*

I read and loved the first chapter of this novel that tells the story of London, beginning in the first century B.C. I don’t feel quite ready to commit to a 1,000+ page read, but I’ll get back to it.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (e-book)*

I’m working my way through it slowly … really, really slowly.

The Genius of Dickens by Michael Slater (e-book)*

This is an interesting take on Dickens’s work for the lay reader. It’s yet another slow read for me, as it takes time to digest and think through what I’m reading

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (e-book)*

I spent part of this month planning a Harry Potter summer camp, which gave me an excuse to revisit my favorite parts of these two lovelies.

The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (paperback)*

The way Hornby writes about books inspires me. I revisited this favorite, a collection of his book columns in Believer magazine, for its awesome piece on Dickens’s David Copperfield.

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley (e-book)

As with London, I read and loved the first chapter of this novel about a little girl from London who is sent, with her brother and sister, to the countryside. Apparently, she’ll be traveling back to the Mary Queen of Scots era. The writing is beyond gorgeous – deeply sensory and transporting. This might be the book I return to first.

Books I bought this month: I’m trying very hard to break my bad habit of buying books only to have them disappear into my bookshelves for half a decade. I figure having to ‘fess up to the books I buy may help rein me in. So here are my February purchases:

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin (paperback)

I’ve had a sample of this in my e-collection for ages, so it almost-sort-of doesn’t count, exactly. Well anyway, I’m working on something with Dickens (projects!) and wanted the paper version for easy reference.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (paperback)

I already had the e-book but wanted the paperback for the same reasons as above.

Things were looking good that I’d get through this month buying only the two above for totally legitimate reasons. Then on Sunday, my finger slipped, and I ended up buying three e-books by accident. I blame Facebook and The Guardian. The Facebook memories thingie brought up an article I shared last year, this Guardian piece by SF Said that asks, Why don’t children’s books get nominated for the big awards? Why indeed! Also, I had a Nook gift card.**

The Magic Pudding by Lindsay Norman (e-book)

It was 99 cents! And I read it the day I bought it!

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (e-book)

It was 99 cents! And I’ve never read any Nesbit before!

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley (e-book)

Time travel novels are my genre kryptonite. That’s all I have to say for myself.

Jasper Fforde quote
Or should I say, “buys” a lot of books … ?

My tally of new book purchases is no better than last month, but it’s no worse either. So there’s that.

So that’s my February. How about you? Read any good books this month (that I will absolutely not buy but might borrow from my library or add to my wish list)?

** Full disclosure: I bought the gift card for myself (tee hee). Seriously, though: I disconnected my credit card from my Nook account and am using gift cards instead. Pretty crafty way to keep my book buying in check, eh?!

4 thoughts on “The unabridged list of what I read in February

  1. When I was little, I had several of Alison Uttley’s picture books, a series starring Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel and Hare. One of my favorite (because I was given it so it actually belonged to ME and not my sisters) was Hare and the Easter Egg. SO glad you reminded me of those books. 🙂

    1. Thank you for sharing this memory, Gabi! I’m so glad to have called that up. I’m reading A Traveller in Time now, and the mood and writing are just so beautiful.

  2. Soo many things to say here – but especially EDWARD RUTHERFURD! I LOVED “Sarum”, which is about English history based around Salisbury Plain. I think he does an amazing job of creating compelling portraits of eras and characters.

    “London” was a bit harder for me to get into, too but I ultimately enjoyed it. I LOVED “New York” (despite some inexplicable British-isms in the mouths of its NY characters), but that’s probably also because the history of New York has always intrigued me; unlike cities like London and Paris (more on that in a sec), it’s so much harder to find traces of, even when it comes to fairly recent history.

    And then, just after I’d given birth to my son and was recovering from a botched episiotomy (perhaps TMI), I happened to hear that he’d published a book about Paris’s history. Suddenly, time stopped, pain stopped. I got online, ordered the book without a second thought. A few days later, I opened it, too excited to say anything. But I found that he’d abandoned his chronological way of following families and rivals throughout the centuries, instead darting back and forth between eras. And there was something else about it that didn’t sit well with me. I haven’t been able to finish it.

    Whoa, sorry, that was a MAJOR digression. But all that to say, if you can’t get into “London”, you may want to give “Sarum” or “New York” a try.

    Then again, you obviously have quite a lot of other things to read, so I can understand not immediately taking up another brick of an Edward Rutherfurd novel.

    1. Yay! More book suggestions! I’ve seen his series at the bookstore and wondered about the Paris and New York books but somehow hadn’t thought of including Sarum on my to-read. Thank you! There’s something incredibly poignant about the London novel, though I still haven’t gotten past the first chapter. I look forward to exchanging experiences once I’ve gotten through more of it! 🙂

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