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.
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan
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? Continue reading “Reading Wrap-Up: December Reads”
Well, here we are again: on the cusp of a new month and a new year. As it’s my last roundup of 2016, it’s the right time to reflect on my attempt to read my own books this year. It has been the most meaningful reading effort I’ve participated in and one that I’m looking forward to continuing in 2017.
Overall, I would have liked to have done better. Of the 110 titles I read this year, 54 were my own. While that’s close to the 50 percent mark I’d been shooting for, I would prefer to have exceeded, rather than fallen short, of it. More than anything, though, I’m treasuring what I’ve learned through the journey. I covered that here, but a quick recap of the most significant point:
A big part of what appeals to me about stockpiling books is the idea of the books, of what unread books signify: possibilities. In aspiring to do better at reading my own books, I’m aspiring to find possibilities, hidden potential, in the existing rather than in the imaginary. I want to be more mindful and less impulsive, in all areas of my life. Here’s to working on that in 2017!
And now, for the books:
Books I read:
Asterisk (*) signifies a #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks title.
Christmas Carol Murder by Leslie Meier (e-book)
A Lucy Stone cozy murder mystery to kick off the holiday season with a bang … literally: A reclusive, Scrooge-like mortgage company co-owner is blown up with a mail bomb. Naturally, Pennysaver reporter Lucy Stone is on the case. Not officially, seeing as she’s a reporter not a detective. She just can’t stop herself from nosing around.
These fun cozies are set in Maine and depict small-town New England life in all its charming quirkiness.
The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching Series #1) by Terry Pratchett (e-book)
I picked this book up after Andi at Estella’s Revenge posted a beautiful quote from the series on social media. Plus, it seemed wrong that I’d never read any of Pratchett’s books. The Wee Free Men is about a girl called Tiffany who discovers she’s a witch. A magnificent, sassy, level-headed hag, as the eponymous Wee Free Men call her. The latter are six-inch high Scottish warrior types who watch out for Tiffany. I loved how funny and poignant the fierceness of these tiny men is. The key lies in the juxtaposition: As full-sized men, their fighting, drinking ways wouldn’t be quite so delightful. I appreciate juxtapositions. They keep me mindful of the contradictions and paradoxes within us all.
I adored this beautiful story about finding the power inside of us. It made me think about the importance of taking care of each other in ways that aren’t condescending of others and that recognize and honor the power within them.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (e-book) *
I don’t remember having had a particular affinity to this novel when I first read it back in graduate school. This was my first time rereading it since then and … well, I can see why it’s not achieved the mythic-ness of a Pride and Prejudice. The story has tremendous feeling, but the men are horrible (more on this here, if you’re interested). I also found the moral overtones a bit stark and unforgiving, especially with how events play out at the end.
What most impressed me was how skillful the novel is in eliciting a particular response, especially through character development. Bronte is masterful in using description and telling details to evoke in the reader (well, me, anyway) the feelings Jane experienced. I love when a novel can make me feel, viscerally, what a character feels. My heart races, constricts, or hurts parallel with the character’s. How Bronte achieves this is definitely something I want to think more about.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (e-book)
I’ve not read much Dylan Thomas. This book, which I discovered through Words of a Reader, made me want to. It’s a short, lovely story of a young boy’s Christmas memories in Wales (obvi). The language is luxurious and startling in its freshness, like a new coat of snow. I downloaded it for bedtime reading, and it was perfection. Though I’d recommend acquiring the paper version: The edition I read had original woodcuts by Ellen Raskin. The e-book can hardly do them justice.
Back in January, I wrote about my pilgrimage to The Morgan Library in Manhattan to see Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The book I’ve reread more than any other. The book I’ll be rereading again in approximately two weeks. The book that’s my favorite holiday reading tradition because it moves and inspires me each time as if I were reading it for the first time.
Meantime, I’m rereading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for the first time since graduate school. Translation: I’m reading it for myself, for my own benefit and enjoyment. No essays, tests, or anxiety required.
You know what isn’t surprising at all? It’s rather more fun this way. More relaxing. I can let myself be carried about by the soothing rhythms of her language. I can delight in the portraits and set pieces. I can marvel at and be inspired by the novel’s fierce, intelligent heroine. And that’s just my experience of the first 200 pages.
Between you and me, I don’t remember loving Charlotte Bronte’s writing as I do at this moment. This is a topic I plan to revisit. For now, I want to tell you: I wouldn’t have thought to reread Jane Eyre were it not for the Charlotte Bronte exhibit currently on display at The Morgan Library. My parents, who live in Manhattan, invited my sister and me to view it with them back in September. I love exhibits of this kind as I love experiencing the homes and towns of authors and literary characters who have moved me. Artifacts can connect us across time. Besides the thrill of imagining an author writing that letter or sitting at that desk, artifacts tap into our common needs and discrete ways of solving them. They reveal how we negotiate challenges and restrictions with our human spirit and imagination. Continue reading “Literary Places: Charlotte Bronte Exhibit at The Morgan Library”
My mom, who lives in Manhattan, has the best life. She’s out and about five nights out of seven (conservative estimate), partaking of all the city has to offer. Lucky for me, she’s generous with her time and recommendations. She’ll phone me up and say, “There’s a fascinating [insert event] about [insert (obscure) topic] at [insert institution]. Would you like to join me?”
This familiar scenario took a turn for the thrilling on Sunday, when she phoned me up to say, “Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is on display at The Morgan Library. Would you like to go see it with me?” After I spluttered unintelligibly from sheer euphoria and confusion (how did I not know this?!), we made our plans. And yes, as a matter of fact, she will use this event to remind me that I should always, always listen to my mother. She’s not wrong.
Last year, I began devouring Christmas reads in November – November 16, to be exact. I know this because I’m diligent about keeping reading records. For this reason, I also know that I read twelve holiday-themed books between November 2014 and January 2015. That’s a lot of holiday books!
Apparently, I was on some sort of mission. I blame Starbucks. They released their gingerbread latte (my favorite!) so early that my internal clock became confused, and I thought it was time for Christmas. Continue reading “Reading Winter Holidays”
By the time I moved to Connecticut, I had already made a habit of reading Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” at Christmas time. I had made it habit but not yet a tradition.
The decision to commit to rereading it every year began the snowy winter we lived in a one-story cottage dating to the mid-18th century. It had a huge picture window overlooking the backyard, which had a creek running through it and, on the opposite bank, a nature preserve. In the living room, a gigantic stone fireplace (about the size of the studio apartment I had once lived in) dominated one wall and featured a cooking arm dating to the colonial period. Continue reading “Rereading “A Christmas Carol” at Christmas Time”