Thoughts on reading book 11 in 44 Scotland Street

On reading the 44 Scotland Street Series

Back in October, I was excited to learn that a book 11 in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street series existed. Finishing book 10 in September had left me feeling melancholy. I’d thought it was the last one. To find out just a few weeks later that an eleventh book existed felt a little like finding out a friend who moved away is coming back to town. Continue reading “Thoughts on reading book 11 in 44 Scotland Street”

The unabridged list of books I read in September

My September book tally isn't a long list. But the books I read were varied and highly satisfying, though in very different ways. And now, on to October!

img_3169Looking at my September book tally makes me realize just how quickly the month flew by and how busy I was. All this is to say: I didn’t find nearly as much time for reading as I would have preferred.

No matter, though. A successful reading month (or year) isn’t measured by how many books I read. It’s measured by the quality of my reading experiences. At least, that’s what I keep reminding myself! In that sense, September was an excellent month of reading.


(* asterisk indicates a Read My Own Damn Books title)

Once again, I came so very close to achieving my goal of having at least half the books I read each month come from my own shelves. This month, I was two for five.

The Nix by Nathan Hill (library e-book)

I devoured this sprawling, empathetic novel in one weekend and then spent a week thinking about and rereading parts of it. The story revolves around Samuel, a grudging college professor and struggling writer, and his mother, who walked out on Samuel and his father when he was a boy. It weaves in and out of the past and of various characters’ points of view. It embraces paradox and has a meta-narrative aspect. It’s trenchant social and political commentary. It’s funny and heartbreaking and deeply felt.

The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall Smith (e-book)

The 10th book in the 44 Scotland Street series finds Bertie in a very happy place. If you’ve read the series, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it for readers who enjoy gentle, philosophical novels about characters and the relationships among them. It’s not plot-driven but very much about community and place and reflection. I can’t wait for the next one, The Bertie Project!

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick (e-book) *

I love books about books. This one is a collection of essays about the YA books Skurnick and her contributors read as teens. Many of the titles were familiar to me, but I also discovered intriguing new books to add to my to-read list (as if it needs more titles!). The essays are fun, in part because the writers clearly enjoy writing them. The best part, though, is how respectfully these YA books are approached. They’re treated as worthy of consideration and discussion, which of course they are, especially to readers who grew up with them!

The Odyssey by Homer (e-book) *

Ah, reading an ancient epic can be so grounding. On his journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, Odysseus faces monsters and sirens, loss and despair. He is forced to make difficult choices. The home he remembers is not the place that he left. More trials await him upon returning. I loved being immersed in a world that felt so familiar and strange, at the same time. It’s a powerful read. I recommend reading it after The Iliad (Stephen Mitchell’s translation is wonderful!) since the two are so closely linked thematically.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (paperback)

Set in pre-colonial Nigeria, the story describes traditions and ways of life through the story of Okonkwo. Strong and prideful, he wants to achieve status and respect in his village in a way his own father did not. This leads both to successes and tragedies. His story is individual and collective, narrative and metaphoric. Reading the novel, I was struck by the beauty of the language, which felt so essential in crafting the sense of a lost, inaccessible world. It is poetic, highly descriptive, and often emotionally removed, which reminded me of other warrior epics I’ve read over the last year – Beowulf as translated by Seamus Heaney and The Iliad as translated by Stephen Mitchell. In Things Fall Apart, as in Beowulf and The Iliad, emotional intensity is heightened for being so rare. In all three, it felt like the characters were swept up in powerful currents they could not take a hand in shaping. Through it all, dignity remains, even after all else is lost. Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in September”

Wednesday Reading Roundup: September 14

Two weeks, two great novels: The Nix by Nathan Hill and The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

Two weeks, two great novels: The Nix by Nathan Hill and The Revolving Door of Life by Alexander McCall SmithWhen I last updated my reading activity, I was roaring through Nathan Hill’s The Nix. The image of Scotty comes to mind: “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” (Confession: I actually had to Google that Star Trek reference). I plowed through the novel and then regretted doing so because it ended too soon. And we’re talking about a 620 page book!

As always, thanks to Taking on a World of Words for the weekly inspiration of WWW Wednesday and to Coffee and Cats for introducing me to it!

What are you currently reading? Continue reading “Wednesday Reading Roundup: September 14”

Wednesday Reading Roundup: July 20

A funny reader moment happened to me last week when my cousin reminded me of how I used to devour books. Some things never change...A funny reader moment happened to me last week when I got together with one of my favorite cousins. “I remember how you used to devour books,” he said, as we reminisced about our childhood. “You’d carry around these big books. I’d ask you how far along you’d gotten, and you’d say, ‘I finished it.'”

I have no recollection of this happening, but it sounds legit. And a fitting memory to introduce this week’s reading roundup, yes? Now let’s get to the books!

As always, esteemed thanks to Taking on a World of Words for hosting WWW Wednesday and Coffee and Cats for introducing me to it!

What are you currently reading? Continue reading “Wednesday Reading Roundup: July 20”

Wednesday reading roundup: June 8

Reading time has been scarce this week, but I managed a bit of reading and listening. Now I just need to figure out what to read next...

Reading time has been scarce this week, but I managed a bit of reading and listening. Now I just need to figure out what to read next...This week has been a bear. And I don’t mean a cute, Winnie-the-Pooh-getting-stuck-in-a-doorjamb-because-he-ate-too-much-honey bear. It’s been a giant, hungry, roaring, why-did-you-wake-me-up-from-my-hibernation bear of a week.

All this is to say, reading time has been scarce. I’ve gotten some listening in while walking and driving, and I managed a few chapters before sleepy time most nights this week. Put all together, not many pages have been read.

Well anyway, here is the full, if slim, tally for WWW Wednesday, with thanks (as always!) to Taking on a World of Words and Coffee and Cats: Continue reading “Wednesday reading roundup: June 8”

5 New Books to Look for in February

New books for February 2016

New month, new books! In the interest of pursuing my 2016 reading challenge to read the books I own, I’m restricting new purchases. I’m only buying books I’ll read in the near future. Or (*clears throat*) trying to, anyway. (January results were slightly less than stellar.)

Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t keep a running list of books to read in the unspecified future. And if I share said list with you, maybe you’ll read one (or three or all – whatever works!)? And tell me which I should move up to the top of my list? Continue reading “5 New Books to Look for in February”

Bookish Literary Characters: A Baker’s Dozen

We have quite a snowstorm underway here in New England. Outside my window, it’s all blankets of white draped across the landscape, swirling winds and snow. It makes me think of gingerbread houses encased in a snow globe.

In other words, it’s the perfect day to curl up under a cozy blanket with a good book and a steaming mug of hot chocolate. And if that book were to feature a bookish literary character, the kind that feels like spending time with a like-minded friend, well, so much the better. Continue reading “Bookish Literary Characters: A Baker’s Dozen”

A Poem for New Year’s Eve: “Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns

This month, I read three thoroughly enjoyable novels set in Edinburgh, all by Alexander McCall Smith – Sunshine on Scotland Street, Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, and The Sunday Philosophy Club. One name repeatedly invoked by characters is Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet and the creative mind behind a refrain familiar to New Year’s eve revelers the world over: “for auld lang syne.”

In contemporary language, “auld lang syne” translates to “the good old days” or “back in the day,” and the poem indeed exudes warm nostalgia for the days we leave behind us. Instances of the song in popular culture abound. Continue reading “A Poem for New Year’s Eve: “Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns”