In February, I read some books and learned some things. Four of my seven reads came from my existing library. Not quite the gaudy 100 percent of January, but still above the 50 percent mark for #readmyowndamnbooks. As long as I maintain that, I will be satisfied, if not exactly pleased.
Some things I learned about myself as a reader this month:
- I’m in a phase of wanting to read literature from and about antiquity. I’m especially interested in intersections from ancient to modern—how we draw on, build, and reimagine/reinterpret the same characters and their stories. I’m also interested in thinking about what these ancient conceptions of the world tell us about ourselves.
- Reading about antiquity can be heavy and slow since I tend to reread sections, take copious notes, and stare into space thinking about what I’ve just read.
- Reading about antiquity isn’t exactly what I’d call pleasure reading. I enjoy it. I value it. I want to do it. But it’s reading I can’t, or don’t want to, speed through. So I have to figure out how to balance the deep, intense reading I want to do with my need to read for pleasure and relaxation. Which is to say: to disappear into fictional worlds, let their words wash over me, and find rest there.
I discovered the existence of this ancient Greek prose pastoral romance on YouTube via Jean at Bookish Thoughts. It dates to around the second or third century A.D. and tells the story of two foundlings, a goatherd and a shepherdess, who fall in love and don’t know what to do about it. Literally. Think: I’m filled with such longing! However can I satisfy this strange longing sensation? It’s hilarious. It’s also a fascinating look into the role of stories in our lives and pastoral life on a Greek island during the Roman era. Which is to say, It’s a short novel that packs a lot of action and meaning into a small space.
It’s said to be one of the most influential works of literature. It has inspired works of literature, visual art, dance, theater, and music. Seriously: Do an online search of “Daphnis and Chloe” and just see what pops up.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
At some indeterminate point in the past, Fitzgerald’s novels were on sale through Nook e-books. As a result, I have a few of them in my e-library. You can probably guess why I picked up The Bookshop: It’s about a woman who opens a, yes, bookshop in an English village. What I didn’t know until I read it is how drainingly sad the story is. I felt a cloud of impending doom hanging over the main character from the beginning and felt a bit crushed at the end. On the positive side, it’s witty (when it’s wasn’t making me want to cry) and insightful about human nature. And the writing is lovely.
The Bertie Project (44 Scotland Street #11) by Alexander McCall Smith (new book)
When I talk about books I read because they make me feel warm and connected and relaxed, I’m talking about books like this one. I don’t want to talk about the plot for anyone who hasn’t gotten this far in the series but plans to. I’ll just say this: I love this series. I love these characters. There’s something magical about following them across 11 books and still wanting to hear more about them. Sitting down with a new 44 Scotland Street book is like having a cozy catch-up with a wise, kind-hearted friend who you just don’t get to see often enough.
This novel holds a place of reverence on my bookshelf. I first read and fell in love with it years ago in a Japanese literature in translation class. What I didn’t know then: The story was apparently inspired by Mishima’s trip to Greece and the aforementioned Daphnis and Chloe. After reading the latter, I wanted to re-experience The Sound of Waves. At the center of the story is a budding romance challenged by obstacles. It takes place on an island and describes the culture and way of life of an island community. It was fascinating seeing how plot points, characters, and themes intersect with Longus’ ancient story. But even if you’ve never read Daphnis and Chloe, The Sound of Waves is a beautiful story to be read and treasured.
The Keeper’s Vow by Francina Simone (new book)
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how important it feels to support the work of artists and thinkers I admire. I respect how Francina talks about books and ideas on her book tube channel. So I put my money where my heart is: When I discovered she’d written a novel, I bought it. My reward was a fun, engaging, though-provoking reading experience. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually read YA paranormal/fantasy. Katie is a high school junior content to do the minimum required of her. Until Tristan shows up in her life exposing secrets about her parentage, bringing dangerous adventures, and forcing Katie to make difficult decisions.
FYI: The second book in the series is available for pre-order here.
I loved reading all the books in the Harold series with my son when he was very small. I recently saw the book referenced on Gilmore Girls and reread it for the reading challenge we’re doing on Books, Ink. It’s a whimsical story about creative reinvention. Like the best children’s book, the story feels allegorical. Which is to say: It’s a heartening read for any age.
A Hat Full of Sky (Tiffany Aching #2) by Terry Pratchett
Book two begins about a year and a half after The Wee Free Men ends. Tiffany is 11 years old and ready to apprentice with a witch. She’s sent to live with Miss Level, who has a surprising … condition. The Wee Free Men have a new kelda who might be a bit jealous of Tiffany. A hiver is drawn to Tiffany’s power. That’s your basic set up. If you like books that are funny, inventive, heartening, and make you think about responsibility and beyond simplistic labels and categories, go read these books immediately.
Books I started/am reading:
An Introduction to Greek Philosophy by John Luce
This is a very thorough and concise introduction to the major players in Greek Philosophy. I’m finding it fascinating to read these chapters in conjunction with the following:
Hall identified 10 characteristics unique to the ancient Greeks and covers them systematically and accessibly. It’s a dense but interesting read for anyone interested in the ancient Greek world.
The Aetheopica, also known as Theagenes and Chariclea by Heliodorus of Emesa
This is an ancient Greek romance novel from sometime between the 2nd and 4th century A.D. It’s said to have inspired Miguel de Cervantes, among others. I’m reading it on my tablet because it’s not compatible with my e-reader. Since I don’t love reading on my tablet, it’s taking longer than I thought it would. This is not a reflection on the story, which I’m finding structurally fascinating.
The story follows the relationship between Chariclea, an Ethiopian princess, and Theagenes, a Thessalian prince. It starts with the aftermath of a battle and slowly reveals the relationship between the characters and the obstacles they face.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (audiobook borrowed from library)
I added this novel to my TBR last year when I heard the words “time travel.” This week, I was looking for an audiobook to listen to during treadmill time. My library had it! I’ve only listened to about three hours (of ten). But so far, I’m heartily enjoying this as an audiobook.
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
I love reading to gain inspiration for living. From a quick flip through, it seems like each chapter is a personal reflection/meditation on a the significance of a particular book. This seems like a book I’ll enjoy dipping into rather than reading straight through.
Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This novel has been on my radar since it came out. And then it was offered in an e-book sale, etc. etc.
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Similarly, Eva Luna is on my Gilmore Girls reading challenge “want to read” list.
The Keeper’s Vow by Francina Simone
What books did you read in February? What’s on your reading list for March?