Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January, 2023 Reading

 Nine books this month, which is a really good number for me. I can't take total credit; some of them were books that followed me into the new year.

Before I discuss those nine, here's what I'm in the middle of reading now:

Spare - Prince Harry. Memoir.  On audiobook. Of course.

Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography - Gail Levin. Aren't all biographies intimate to some degree?

Poison - Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Novel. It's a roman a clef with a weird Virginia Woolf vibe.

Here's what I want to read:

Ducks - Kate Beaton. Graphic Novel. It just arrived today via ILL. Squeeeee! I know it's going to zoom to the top of my reading pile, but when? Tomorrow? Tonight? As soon as I get off this computer?

Here are the nine for January:

1. Sons - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The second in a trilogy following The Good Earth. Wang Lung's three sons are an interesting bunch, especially the youngest, Wang the Tiger, a soldier turned warlord. I'm eager to finish the trilogy.

2. The Man Who Invented Christmas - Les Standiford. Nonfiction. An examination of Charles Dickens and his most popular work, A Christmas Carol. I liked it, but it felt padded, as if it were really meant to be New Yorker article-sized rather than book-length.

3. Who Was Michelangelo? - Kirsten Anderson. Nonfiction.

4. Moloka'i - Alan Brennert. Novel. For several decades, Hawaiians exhibiting symptoms of leprosy were ordered by law to leave their families and go into an undetermined quarantine on the island of Moloka'i. This story follows the life of Rachel who is five years old when her symptoms first appear. I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked all the history of Hawaii, but felt the crashing weight of information dumps throughout. Brennert writes beautiful descriptions of the islands. The reader can really see their rugged beauty. The characters are mostly sympathetic and their rituals are presented respectfully and often movingly. My interest in learning more about Moloka'i was piqued. On the other hand, the prose style is a little clunky. The dialogue often seemed anachronistic and POV was all over the place, sometimes all at once. I wish that Brennert had just committed to doing this as straight nonfiction; I think the result would have been more satisfying.

5. Joan is Okay - Weike Wang. Novel. Joan is an attending physician who works in an ICU unit in New York City right about the time that COVID-19 is starting to make its frightening presence known. At times, the novel and the title character have a sort of flat affect, but then there's a good deal of sharp commentary. This is one of those novels I'm going to have to read again to fully absorb.

6. Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book - Keila V. Dawson (author) and Alleanna Harris (illustrator) Nonfiction.

7. Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver. Novel. Basically, David Copperfield set in Appalachia during the opioid crisis. I never realized that Kingsolver and Dickens had so much in common. You don't have to have read David Copperfield to "get" Demon Copperhead, but it enhanced the experience for me. I suggest pairing those two books, or pairing Demon Copperhead with the nonfiction book Dopesick by Beth Macy.

8. Who Was Shaquille O'Neal? - Ellen Labreque. Nonfiction.

9. Starring Steven Spielberg: The Making of a Young Filmmaker - Gene Barretta (author) and Craig Orback (illustrator). Nonfiction.


A House Divided - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The third book in the House of Wang trilogy. I got a quarter of the way in and had an audiobook malfunction. I'm hoping to get back to it after I finish listening to Spare.


I've been in my book group for a year now, and we just don't seem to meld, or click, or whatever you call it. Our group dynamic is chilly. We engage with the leader (who is the Outreach librarian) but there's no rapport among ourselves. It's painful and I'm frustrated.

I need to feel some sort of connection. As a last-ditch effort, I'm going to try the library's other book group, which meets a little earlier in the day. The leader said that this other group is 'harder to please' and 'complains a lot more', so I'm interpreting that to mean that they are lively and interesting, and that maybe discussions are a little more organic. Wish me luck???


Jeane said...

Several years ago I finally read the Good Earth, after a few aborted attempts earlier in my life. I've got Sons on my shelf but haven't quite felt like reading that one yet, though I am curious what happened to the continued fortunes of the Wangs. Moloka'i sounds interesting though I'll keep in mind not to expect a lot of pretty prose! I just finished Demon Copperhead in Jan- it was great, though didn't have the same 'feel' to my mind as all the other Kingsolvers I've read. I liked it, but I don't think it will be a favorite. Now I need to go and read David Copperfield I think.

Hope things go better in your new book club!

Bybee said...

I think you'll enjoy David Copperfield after reading Demon Copperhead.
The House of Wang trilogy is one that I've been listening to on audiobook, and I'm mesmerized by the rhythms of her prose spoken aloud.

Jeane said...

I hope so! I just kind of wished I'd read them in the opposite order, now.

james b chester said...

Good luck with your book group. I'm trying one of the local library's books groups on Thursday this week for the first time. We'll see how it goes.