Am I really already talking about the books I read in April? Yes, the same incredulity that possessed me at the beginning of last month. This year is flying by at the speed of sound (or is it light?).
This month saw my highest “read” tally all year, thanks in large part to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. My titles included the usual mix of middle-grade and adult fiction and memoir. I also read a classic I’ve been meaning to read for a few months (or years…whatever) and finished a book that has been languishing on my “currently reading” list for a few weeks.
Books I read:
Reading Challenge-wise, I’m not doing too badly: 60 percent of the books I read this month were books I already owned. Although … When I look at it that way, I’m barely passing. I will have to keep working on this!
* Indicates a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title
I finished this treasure at the beginning of the month. Bud Caldwell, a 10-year-old orphan living in Depression-era Michigan, narrates his story of running away to find the man he believes to be his father. Bud’s endearing optimism breathes hope into his achingly sad story and kept me turning the pages right to the end. This would be an excellent read aloud with middle-grade readers.
I acquired this because a) I enjoyed the humor and voice of Moriarty’s two most recent novels, Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret, and b) because it was $1.99. (Oh. That again.) Though not as intricately plotted as her later novels, it’s a pleasure to read owing to her lively and engaging prose and winsome characters. Even the annoying ones made me chuckle. The story: Sophie Honeywell stumbles into high drama and family secrets when she moves to Scribbly Gum, a fictional Australian island. The tourist trap’s claim to fame is a decades-old mystery of a couple who apparently vanished during the Depression, leaving behind their newborn daughter.
Here’s another read aloud to enjoy with 8 – 12 year olds. The hilarity, wisdom, and whimsy of Wood’s series about a young nanny taking care of three children who were raised by wolves charmed me from the first book. If my memory isn’t mistaken, I pre-ordered this one when it came out in 2015. Each book has ended on such a cliffhanger that I put off reading this latest for fear I’d be gnawing my fingernails waiting for the next one. Well, it has happened anyway. The publication date for Book 6 hasn’t been announced yet. I’m waiting with bated breath.
I read this memoir in books around the time it first came out in 2003. Nafisi writes about her experiences teaching literature (American, British, and Persian) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, both at universities and at her home to a hand-selected group of students. I love the way she writes about literature, with an illuminating blend of a scholar’s insights and a lay reader’s passion for stories and ideas. Those of us who love books have, at some point, felt the power of literature to confer meaning to our experiences, to shape how we read the world. That power becomes acute against the backdrop of the literal and ideological assaults she and her students survive. I don’t know what possessed me to get the digital copy when I already owned the paper one, but I’m glad I did. It gave me an opportunity to reread this thought provoking memoir.
The paradoxical pairing of beauty and vulgarity sums up Bukowski’s writing for me. Each is heightened through their co-existence. In this collection of his pieces about cats, we see it not only in individual pieces but also in their arrangement. A long, meandering piece meditates profoundly on the dignity of these majestic creatures. This is immediately followed by a short, blunt poem about how his cat pooped in a box of his poems bound for a university’s archives. It’s brilliant. And I don’t usually enjoy vulgarity. I find it wearying, depleting. In this collection, though, vulgarity provides meaningful counterpoint, a reminder of our limitations as humans and our poignant efforts to transcend them. If I were to compare the narrator of these pieces to a fictional character, I would say the narrator is Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities.
My friend Jessica recommended this graphic memoir for middle grade readers (and lent me her copy!). El Deafo is the superhero alter ego Bell crafts to cope with the challenges being hearing impaired and being in elementary school – navigating friendships, managing the Phonic Ear she relies on in school, her first crush. This was my debut experience with a graphic novel, and Bell’s witty, affecting, relatable writing and illustrations thoroughly charmed and engaged me.
I finally finished this during the first hour of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. It’s a witty pep talk about how to create the life you want and not feel badly about it. Sincero shares funny anecdotes from her own life and experiences coaching others as well as tips, suggestions, and exercises.
Here’s another book I bought when it first came out. True story: I meant to download a sample but accidentally hit “purchase” instead. Ha. That is so me. I wanted to polish it off before the movie comes out, and Readathon gave me the perfect opportunity. The eponymous “girl” is an alcoholic who suffers from blackouts and is obsessed with her ex-husband, his new wife, and their baby. The tension of the story hinges on her unreliable narration. What did she do during her blackout, and will she (and readers) ever get the true story? The book kept me guessing until the very end.
Beaton has written 31 Hamish Macbeth mysteries as well two shorter stories. My Nook holds the first seven and another four or five (or six – I may have lost count) from later in the series. These books are the best: beautiful descriptions of Scotland, charming and hilarious characters, a wry, observant narrator, and plot excitement. Since my goal is to read them in order, I’ll be saving up to buy the next few.
I stocked this one for the Gilmore Girls reading challenge and have been meaning to get to it for a while. The narrative hovers around the edges of the precise relationship between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, whose truth is revealed in the final chapter. It’s a chilling exploration of the duality of human nature, what we are capable of and what we cannot escape about ourselves.
Books I read parts of:
Just when I got into a groove with audiobooks and walking, my treadmill broke! Doesn’t it just figure? When it’s not raining, and I’m not pressed for time, I walk to the beach. But it’s been raining a lot, and I’ve been very pressed for time. So I’m not getting in as many miles (or chapters) as I’d like. I’m only about halfway through this. Still enjoying it, though!
We watched the movie recently, which tends to make me want to reread the parts left out of the film. I’ve been revisiting my favorite chapters between books.
I took a walk recently when the buds were still new on the trees, and Frost’s beautiful poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” strolled through my brain. It’s the only poem I know by heart. When I got home from my walk, I revisited a few of my favorites from this collection.
A writer is torn between his wife and his muse, who is annoyed with him for killing off his female characters. The two begin writing stories together, and … well, I’m not sure what’s going on, to be honest. I’ve only one chapter to go, so I’ll be interested to see how this comes together.
Books I bought:
I’m holding steady here, having bought only three books (yay!), all of the “e” variety. Each was $1.99 and discovered through e-book specials.
On Cats by Charles Bukowski (e-book sale)
I love cats. They’re hilarious. I haven’t read much Bukowski, but the little I’ve been exposed to has struck me as heartbreakingly poignant. You’ll notice I’ve already polished this one off, so that’s a win!
This book has been on my radar since it came out, and I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the reduced price. World War II novels are one of my genre soft spots.
Because WWII. Again. Also Alan Furst. I adored his novel Mission to Paris. Finishing it left me feeling so sad to be parted from the world he created. I don’t have a definite plan for when I’ll read this one, but I’m happy knowing it’s waiting for me when the time is right.
How did your April reading go? Anything you recommend for to-be-read-at-some-point-in-my-life list?