Only 9 books for January! Usually I romp and stomp this month, all fueled with time off and minty-fresh new resolutions, but this year not so much. I laid on the excuses with a trowel in my last post.
I'll tell you who kicked down the door of 2013 and really tore up the pea patch: my friend Teri, who did the SO LOL Seollal Readathon with me during Lunar New Year in 2012. She read 48 books in January! Kindle books and audiobooks, and probably she was hooked up to a book I.V. as well. Checking her progress on Goodreads is like visiting an amusement park; I get dizzy watching her numbers go up so fast. If only I could read like that. If only.
Here's what I did read:
1. Speaking Activities That Don't Suck - English Teacher X. The anonymous author directs his mock-solicitous advice to young, inexperienced and hungover English as a Foreign Language teachers who, more often than not, stumbled into their professions because they simply wanted to travel and party. English Teacher X's posture is scathing, his language bad and his jokes lame, but there's gold in them thar pages. ETX stayed awake during his CELTA course, and he imparts some sound teaching practices. Heartily recommended for both newbies and seasoned EFL teachers on the verge of burnout.
2. The Snowman - Milo Manara. Metch Kangmi. Yeti. The Abominable Snowman. He has been known by many names. Kenneth Tobey, a brash young London reporter, sets out on a Himalayan adventure in 1922, and gets a lot more than he bargained for. A short graphic novel, originally published in Italian.
3. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. I've decided that this is my desert island book.
4. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch - Alison Arngrim. If it hadn't been for Nellie Oleson and her family, I wouldn't have been such a big fan of Little House on the Prairie. It was not the tearful Ingalls family that brought me back week after week. I always cast a cold eye at all that bawling. In the books, Ma and Pa and Laura exhorted each other and themselves to brace up. Yeah, it's the episodes with Nellie that I remember most fondly. Not only is Alison Arngrim a great actress, she's a brilliant writer. I'll buy any other books she might write and I'd love to see her stand-up act.
5. Wild: From Lost to Found on The Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed. At 26, Cheryl Strayed was an emotional train wreck, but somewhere inside her, there was a cooler, more lucid Cheryl who hit on precisely the right kind of therapy for herself: A three-months long hike over the Pacific Crest Trail which totaled more than 1,100 miles. Although the walk took place during the mid-1990s, I was struck by what a different time it was: no social media, no email, no cellphones. Strayed always had a book on the go during her hike, so I was amused and intrigued by her reading choices and what she did to lighten the load in her already ridiculously over-sized backpack.
6. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel. The Henry VIII years from the viewpoint of Thomas Cromwell, who was the son of a blacksmith who rose to prominence under Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, then captured the king's attention when Wolsey fell out of favor at court. Cromwell loved Wolsey, but how can one say no when being asked to advise His Majesty and fix his women problems? Cromwell is usually presented in books and film as a bad guy. Here, he's merely capable and cool-headed with a sardonic eye that seems startlingly but refreshingly modern. I enjoyed this book immensely and couldn't wait to get to the sequel.
7. Parnassus On Wheels - Christopher Morley. A quirky, fun novella about a New England spinster named Helen McGill, who is keeping house for her brother, a Thoreau-like author in the first years of the 20th century. She longs for something more than baking bread and looking after their farm. One day, adventure and literature arrive in the form of a mobile bookshop called Parnassus and its owner, Roger "Professor" Mifflin, and Helen sets out abruptly to discover the world beyond the farm, herself, and eventually...While I'm sure this book, first published in 1917 is a riot to read, the audiobook version with Bernadette Dunn narrating is the way to go.
8. Bring Up The Bodies - Hilary Mantel. The sequel to Wolf Hall picks up almost where the first book left off. The king still perceives himself as having women trouble. Cromwell knows it's his job to make Henry happy, but he also sees a way to settle an old score. Much darker and grittier than Wolf Hall. I'm eagerly (because I enjoy Hilary Mantel's writing) and anxiously (I Wikipedia-ed Thomas Cromwell) waiting for the last book in what will be a trilogy. I'm sure this question has already been asked: Can Mantel do a hat trick with the Booker?
9. How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran. I read this book because Fizzy recommended it. I also wish I had a physical copy so I could underline passages in ink. She's smart, she's hilarious, her bullshit detector works great. I think she'd like me because all the things she says that women are nuts to worry about -- it never occurred to me to worry about those things. Except the hair color thing, as in covering up my gray. Caitlin says: "Lines and grayness are nature's way of telling you not to fuck with someone -- the equivalent of the yellow-and-black banding on a wasp, or the markings on the back of a black widow spider. Lines are your weapons against idiots." So thank you, Caitlin. You've freed me from worry and made me feel cool, powerful and slightly dangerous. I'm not even going to stress about moving any more. From now on it's like: "Hey, Busan! Better get cleaned up and put on a fresh t-shirt because Bybee is coming to town next week! Questions?" Caitlin Moran: You're like the cool little sister that my parents somehow forgot to give me.