December reads? December rereads, more like. Six of the 10 books I read were books I’ve read before … in some cases multiple times. The holiday season is a time for nostalgia, apparently.
This completed my 2017 rereading of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I’d forgotten how cleverly done the last book was. The first four draw on Greek mythology in fun and silly ways. The last book uses character development and plot to engage with ideas and questions ancient Greek mythology wrestled with and explored. My favorites: Your fatal flaw can also be your greatest strength. And: Is it possible for heroes to survive their own hubris?
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This is the sequel to the marvelous The War That Saved My Life, which I read in October. As with the first one, I did not want this book to end. As with the first one, it’s cry-ugly, don’t-read-in-public material, but so incredibly cathartic.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
I read this for a book club, and it was definitely discussion-worthy … if irksome. In the vein of a noisy horsefly that won’t settle down in one spot so you can smash it with a massive IKEA catalogue. Twitter-worthy plot summary: Wisely cynical British dude must deal with naively dangerous American. British dude feels bad, kind of, but maybe not really. Because he knows what’s what. Probably. … Am I out of characters yet?
I honestly did not realize I had read all three of these until I sat down to write this. I believe it was reading a piece ranking Harry Potter books that set me off. The author picked book three as her favorite. My favorite is book three too. But I had to reread it to be sure. Which meant I had to reread the other ones for comparison. And now I’m rereading book six.
The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause by L. Frank Baum
I’m pleased with myself for reading this charming story about just what the title says. It has been in my Nook library since the Great Christmas Book Binge of 2014. So even though I’ve abandoned all hope of ever reading all the books on my Nook…
The Golden Ass by Apuleius
This was my one ancient read of December … and it’s Roman, rather than Greek. However! It’s an ancient retelling of an ancient Greek story that did not survive. Back in September, I read Lucian’s retelling of the same story. It’s fascinating to see what carries over and what absolutely does not. I will have a longer piece on this book coming soon.
For now: I highly recommend this. It’s funny, weird, and structurally fascinating. If you read it, the introduction in the Penguin Classics edition is a great read.
“Very rightly did the divine originator of ancient Greek poetry, when he wished to define a consummately wise man, sing of one who attained supreme virtue by visiting many cities and acquainting himself with many people.”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I have now read this at least 15 times. How is it that I keep finding something new and inspiring with every reread? I had long wondered about this passage:
“Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow, as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar.”
Apparently, rotten lobsters glow. I read it on the interwebs.
This story is weird and whimsical, with a touch of gore and a sprinkle of sinister allusion. I can definitely see the influence on Balanchine’s Nutcracker ballet. As you can see, my edition includes a version by Alexander Dumas. This year, I want to read that one for comparative purposes. It will be fascinating to see how the story filters through different cultural lenses.
Books in progress
The Penguin Book of Classical Myths by Jenny March
I should be the publicist for this book. It compactly reviews major ancient Greek myths by family in a lively and engaging voice. But there’s more! March also ties the myths back to their extant sources, right down to line number. One of the reasons it’s taking me so long to read is I’m dipping into the ancient sources for many of the myths. Look, I want to read Pausanias in its entirety. But it will take me a long while, given that I have a job and a family and friends and whatnot. (Unless someone wants to sponsor me to read ancient Greek literature morning to night. I assure you, I’d be most willing.) I love that March guides me to specific passages as they relate. Ugh, I adore this book.
Books I bought
I bought lots of books in December but not for myself. Christmas presents definitely do not count. So yeah, zero books bought for myself this month.
Happy 2018, friends! What were your December reads? What are you looking forward to in 2018?