Saturday, March 30, 2019

Fourteen So Far In Nineteen

What did you read in January, Bybee?

1. Elevation (novel) - Stephen King. Uncle Stevie was phoning it in with this short novel, but I appreciate him always.

2. Nomadland (nonfiction) - Jessica Bruder. Journalist Bruder, in sympathy and solidarity, follows a group of people, mostly senior citizens who have taken to the road to avoid homelessness. Depending on where you are in life, you will either read this book as horrifying, heartbreaking, or hopeful. I found it hopeful.

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (novel) - Gail Honeyman. This one was a surprise. I thought it was going to be chick-lit, but it was so much more.

4. The Nightingale (novel) Kristin Hannah. Two sisters work for the Resistance during World War II in Nazi-occupied France. Quelle cinematic! I couldn't put it down. Kristin Hannah is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.

5. If Beale Street Could Talk (novel) - James Baldwin. Gritty, sad, and wise. James Baldwin's 1974 novel about Tish and Fonny, in love and in jail (Fonny) and expecting a baby, has been made into a movie, and I can't wait to see it. The trailers look like both cast and crew internalized the book and captured the very soul of it on film. I read it back when I was a teenager, but of course it was infinitely more beautiful and devastating this time around.

6. My Life in Middlemarch (nonfiction) - Rebecca Mead. The author has been reading and rereading Middlemarch since she was in high school. I admire her triangulation in this work: She examines George Eliot's life, especially the writing Middlemarch part.  She breaks down the book into its various sections and looks at the characters. She also compares her life to the characters' and Eliot's. It's so rich and satisfying, and put me in the mood for my every-ten-years reread of Middlemarch.

And February???

7. Clock Dance (novel) - Anne Tyler. In the midst of bad news, it was comforting to sit down with a new Anne Tyler novel. I can't explain it, but it's like being home sick from school with all the creature comforts such as Lipton chicken noodle soup, the living room couch and a soft old afghan. Clock Dance feels like vintage Tyler. She makes it look so easy, but there's some careful, masterful writing going on here.

8. Becoming (nonfiction) - Michelle Obama. I audiobooked this one, and so glad I did! Becoming is great, but even more so with Michelle Obama's voice in my ears. I love and respect her even more than I did before, which was considerable.

9. Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters (nonfiction) - Anne Boyd Rioux. A scholarly and ardent fangirl examination of Louisa May Alcott's enduring classic. Rioux looks at the novel (is it really one, or two?) and the movie and TV versions. She also examines how and where the book is still being read and the history of its readership. Surprise! Males as well as females read and enjoyed the novel in its earlier days of publication. There's something for everyone in Little Women, as well as this enjoyable tribute.

10. The Library Book (nonfiction) -Susan Orlean. In 1986, the downtown Los Angeles Public Library caught fire. Susan Orlean follows the search for a possible arsonist, and also goes back more than one hundred years to its roots and some of the more colorful characters who influenced its growth, then flashes-forward to what it's like to work within such a large system. She also muses on the future of libraries and their place in communities. I am eager for my son, who works for a large library system, to read this one so we can discuss it.

11. The Dwelling Place (novel) - Catherine Cookson. I don't think I'm going to read any more Catherine Cookson. I hate that she writes with great depth and knowledge about a particular time and station in England and creates complex, compelling characters, then seemingly tosses it all away and throws characters under the bus (or carriage wheels, in this case) because she must have her creaky, cringe-y, old romance novel plot. Boo.

What about March? In like a lion...???

12. An American Marriage (novel) - Tayari Jones. I couldn't help comparing this novel to If Beale Street Could Talk, and I mean that as highest praise. Both books feature men of color mistakenly and unfairly for the same crime. Both have the same level of searing honesty. Both broke my heart. I hope An American Marriage wins the Pulitzer for fiction this year.

13. Dopesick (nonfiction) - Beth Macy. An examination of how the opioid epidemic began in Appalachia and spread throughout the country. It's sickening to read about the greed of the pharma reps and salespeople, the mostly-guileless medical professionals, the cluelessness of the government concerning recovery, and the overwhelming hardship of addicts and their families left to pick up the pieces after the disaster perpetrated by these insidious drugs.

14. Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend (nonfiction) - Susan Orlean. I was always a little afraid of German Shepherds, so as a child, I was more of a Lassie person than a Rin Tin Tin one. I really enjoyed this look at the canine legend who was born on a French battlefield near the end of World War I, and his rise to Hollywood stardom, then his resurgence as a television icon. Orlean also surveys the humans devoted to Rin Tin Tin in all his incarnations who never doubted that they were part of an everlasting mystique.

What are you working on now?

Unsheltered (novel) - Barbara Kingsolver.   Two lives, one house, 130 years apart. I love the storylines and the structure. It may because I'm reading Middlemarch right now, but I'm getting enjoyable whiffs of the novel in the 19th century sections.

Middlemarch (novel) - George Eliot. I've been working on the book since early February, but in this reread, it's slow going. I still love it, but I'm not as engaged as I was the previous two times. Hoping this will change. I'm only 20% in, so there's time.

The Story of a Marriage (novel) - Andrew Sean Greer. This short novel is surprising, with all its layers. Greer won the Pulitzer for Less, which felt very slight to me. The Story of a Marriage is dreamlike, ruminative and complex.

1 comment:

Unruly Reader said...

So grateful you mentioned At Home in Middlemarch by Mead -- I'm listening to it and liking it so much. And feeling very genteel.