The unabridged list of books I read in November

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books I read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!

My long and, dare I say, fascinating list of books read in November includes an eclectic mix of novels and nonfiction, including lots of my own books too!I can hardly believe we’ve arrived at the last month of 2016. My quest to read my own books is almost over, and I feel like it just began. Also, my tally of books read from my existing library reflects that. Ha. I might need to keep it for 2017. It’s that or descend into chaos. Probably.

In the meantime, here is my “read” pile for November. I feel like I should call it “the long and exhaustive list of books I read in November.” Because it turns out I read quite a few books this month!

Books I read:

An asterisk (*) indicates a Read My Own Damn Books book. I’m happy to report there are many more asterisks this month as compared to last. Eight of the 13 books I read came from my pre-2016 library. Using my extremely advanced computing skills, I’ve deduced that’s more than 50 percent, which has been my most recent goal.

Everblaze, Lodestar, and Neverseen by Shannon Messenger (e-book)

These are books 3, 4, and 5 in Messenger’s Keeper of the Lost Cities fantasy series for middle grade readers. My friend Jessica turned me on to it. I’m heartily enjoying the adventures of Sophie Foster as she learns to navigate her magical abilities and battles the nefarious and mysterious Neverseen (geddit? ’cause they’re “never seen”?). The next book doesn’t come out until later in 2017. This is good. It means I have something to look forward to next fall. I mean, besides autumn, the most beautiful season of the year in New England.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (e-book) *

Reading this novel – which I picked up in an e-book sale … at some point I can no longer recall – fulfilled both my reading challenges this year: Read My Own Damn Books and When Are You Reading? (yay).

Set in Amsterdam in 1686-87, it tells the story of Nella, an 18-year-old girl who is married off to Johannes Brandt, a successful merchant 20 years her senior. Nella moves in with Johannes and his sister, Marin. Both harbor potentially fatal secrets that are gradually revealed with … consequences (spoilers). Their narratives alone make for compelling reading. Making it even more gripping is the story of the miniaturist, the shadowy figure who crafts a, yes, miniature of the Brandts’ house. As more objects – not commissioned by Brandt – arrive for the little house, it appears to be a prophetic instrument. I found his novel an unsettling, compelling read.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (e-book) *

Well’s protagonist, identified only as The Time Traveller, journeys into a dystopian future populated by hunter and hunted. In pursuit of ease and comfort, humanity has devolved, in the extreme. It’s a must-read for science fiction fans, given that it’s credited with inventing the genre. Now that I’ve written that, it occurs to me I’ve not reach much science fiction. Well, anyway, The Time Machine is worth reading for its sage insights on the human condition and acknowledgment of a paradoxical implication at the heart of it: What we want isn’t always good for us.  Continue reading “The unabridged list of books I read in November”

On Reading “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells

Well's haunting story about a man who travels to the future spawned the term "time machine" and time travel novels as a genre.

Well's haunting story about a man who travels to the future spawned the term "time machine" and time travel novels as a genre. Though time travel novels are a favorite of mine, I’d not, until last week, read the one that started them all: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. It’s one of the few time travel novels I can recall reading in which the main character travels to the future. Reading it made me realize how fixated I am on time travel to the past. I don’t seem to wonder as much about life in the future. I’m not sure what that says about me and whether I should like it, but there we are.

Wells’ classic, published in 1895, is credited with coining the term “time machine” and spawning the science fiction genre. It begins with a group of men discussing the nature of time and space. A scientist/inventor, known only as The Time Traveller, tells the group that time is a fourth dimension through which humans can move. He demonstrates with a tiny machine he holds in his hand. Before the men’s eyes, the machine vanishes. The Time Traveller claims to have sent it into the future.

At their next gathering, the men hear the story of The Time Traveller, who takes over as narrator. He describes his experiences traveling to the year 802,701, where he encounters two human-ish creatures – the Eloi and the Morlocks – in a desolate landscape of crumbling infrastructure and underground lairs. The Eloi, who live on the surface, are soft, helpless, and harmless. Meanwhile, the Morlocks live underground, ascending at night for sinister purposes.

The story is mesmerizing and haunting and, I’ve read, meant to comment on the Victorian era. I perceive that in the narrative’s skepticism towards the notion of progress, the idea that we move – or can move – steadily forward, gradually perfecting ourselves. As I’ve written before, I’m more inclined to believe cyclically rather than linearly about human progress. Steady forward progress would be ideal, obviously. But I don’t see as much evidence to support the notion historically. The desire for it, though, and the fear that we’re not actuating it persist, which may explain, at least in part, why The Time Machine continues to be read today. I don’t suppose it’s for the Victorian critique, in particular or isolation.

The Time Traveller is repeatedly struck by the Eloi’s incapacities. They’re kindly but hapless. He observes, “It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. […] There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.”

If we actually achieved the ideals we seek (in the context of the narrative, comfort and ease), the story seems to say, they would destroy us. This reminded me of what Azar Nafisi cautions in Reading Lolita in Tehran: “Be careful with your dreams. One day they may just come true.” 

Later, a character remarks of The Time Traveller, “He, I know – for the question had been discussed among us long before the Time Machine was made – thought but cheerlessly of the Advancement of Mankind, and saw in the growing pile of civilization only a foolish heaping that must inevitably fall back upon and destroy its makers in the end. If that is so, it remains for us to live as though it were not so.”

It’s may not be the most cheering thought. But if hope is to be found, perhaps it’s in committing continually to strive, never to rest in the surety of our ideals, to recognize that even those ideals themselves may only ever be as imperfect as we are.

15 (more) short books for #TBYSReadathon

For other readers who enjoy short books, whatever the reason(s), a (second) list of 15 excellent short books good for reading straight through.

For other readers who enjoy short books, whatever the reason(s), a (second) list of 15 excellent short books good for reading straight through.I love reading excellent short books. I love reading big books too. But when it comes to Readathons, excellent short books take the win. As a slow reader, I can read them straight through and still read them well. Plus, I love that feeling of reading a whole book in a single day. Putting it down and getting off the sofa feels like getting off a long plane journey. I’m blinking and disoriented, and the world looks different, new.

#TBYSReadathon - short books
My #TBYSReadathon pile

This weekend (May 28 – 30) I’m participating in the Take Back Your Shelves Readathon, hosted by Jenna from JMill Wanders. It’s a reader’s choice affair, so I’m taking the opportunity to finish May’s “Smash Your Stack” challenge strong. At the head of my list this weekend is a fun short book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the second in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series). I began it last night and am keeping my options open for what I’ll read next. My one caveat is that it’ll be a book I already own (because #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks).

#TBYSReadathon - short booksFor other readers who enjoy short books, whatever the reason(s), here is a (second) list of 15 short books I’ve enjoyed or am looking forward to reading (maybe even this weekend!). Continue reading “15 (more) short books for #TBYSReadathon”

Wednesday reading roundup: May 18

A Wednesday reading roundup of what I've read, am reading, and planning to read.

A Wednesday reading roundup of what I've read, am reading, and planning to read.I had so much fun providing a Wednesday reading roundup last week that I’ve decided to make it a regular thing. Thank you, once again, to Taking on a World of Words and Coffee and Cats for the idea!

Since I’m doing the May Smash Your Stack challenge, as part of the Read My Own Damn Books challenge, all but one of this month’s reads so far come from my collection.

Wednesday reading roundupSomething else I noticed this week: 2016 has found me rereading more often than at any time since childhood. Back then, I’d read the same books on a seemingly endless loop. As an adult, I’ve tended to resist rereading because I feel like I *should be* reading new books. As to why I’m drawn to rereading all of a sudden, maybe it’s something to do with growing older and feeling nostalgic. (This I will want to explore further in a future post!)

Now on to the questions: Continue reading “Wednesday reading roundup: May 18”