December Reads and Listens

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a busy time of year. I was busy with the usual shopping without catching Covid, aka online shopping and venturing down to the Newfound Country Store which for me is a one stop shopping mecca for all things local. Candles, soaps, wooden spoodles and sand tongs; you name it, Holly has it there. I love the Newfound Country Store – a true gem of a store.We are so lucky to live so close.

This left me with time to listen to a number of books this month and somehow I have even found time to read or finish reading a few books too! I am actually really surprised how much I did this month and once again, my Literati Book Club struck gold for me all month long. I started the month having already started this selection by Susan Orlean, On Animals. It was another one of my Literati Book Club selections.

On Animals by Susan Orlean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book. I love animals and anyone who enjoys animals will find this to be such an interesting read. On Animals is compilation of a number of essays by Susan Orleans and her experiences with various animals she’s encountered. I can relate to her lifestyle as it is very similar to my own and now my previous desires on one day having ducks and goats with our chickens has been solidified. Add a pair of mules to the list too and perhaps some turkeys.
The writing is humorous and even if your more inclined to live in the concrete jungle- reading this book is a fun, lighthearted experience which may give you the desire to perhaps adopt a pet from a shelter.
Well done. 5 stars.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an incredible book, but not for everyone. I only say that since the no-traditional format and the layout of the book can be difficult for some people to get through.
I read this book as part of my Literati Book Club. I’m currently in the Austin Kleon Read Like An Artist club and this was the December Pick and I am so happy it was. At first when it arrived in the mail before opening the box, I knew something was different about the book. The size of the package was bigger than usual and when I opened it I was hit with a chaotic cover with the words WHAT IT IS on the top. What? As I turned the pages to take a look, I was hit with a myriad of the images. Collages mixed with words. I closed it and decided I needed to be able to focus on that and while opening the mail wasn’t the right time.
Later as I started the book, I immediately was hit with the impression that I was slipping down a rabbit hole where the pages reminded me of devouring books from Richard Scarry and later on I SPY – except this book is like those book on acid and with a purpose of helping to unlock your creativity whether it me visual or the written words or both.
I felt at times as if I had opened someone’s scrapbook journal and what I was reading was very private. Lynda Barry tells stories throughout which many people and it’s no matter if you are an artist or a writer. There are stories about being in school, teachers that made a huge impression on her, all of which are very relatable. Hand drawings, photographic images from magazines and newspapers and handwritten notes adorn the pages.
Surprisingly, I discovered it’s also a good resource for creative writing exercises which I plan on carrying one further and adapt to a visual medium as well. I highly recommend this book and it’s a book that I will keep on my shelf and revisit from time to time.
*But again – I will note that there were a couple of people who couldn’t finish the book in the book club, claiming it was too chaotic in presentation. It’s definitely a non-traditional format

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am so glad that I discovered this book. Another book that I discovered thanks to my Literati Book Club – I had been perusing through what the other “clubs” were reading this month and saw this book which immediately perked my interest. I decided to listen to the Audible version which I am glad I did. I liked the narration of the book very much, narrator Rebecca Lee does an excellent job.
I found that there were a number of things that I was able to relate to and have experienced for myself in regards to wintering. I was intrigued by some of the traditions by northern living cultures and the various ways they have learned to cope.
Written mostly as a memoir, the book contains some wonderful tidbits about a variety of topics, winter related, like ‘being in sauna” (something I now aspire to do) to facts about trees. I highly recommend this book – beautifully written and so interesting.

For a few months now, Mark, my other half, the funnier half who cooks better. He has been recommending to me the next book I listened to this month and it was an awesome recommendation!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are very few authors who are good at throwing you straight into chaotic action and not have the reader completely lost or frustrated. Andy Weir seems to clip a tether onto you and take you for the ride of your life!
I love this book. I loved the action, I loved the characters – but most of all I loved Rocky. What a fabulous character. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and believable which considering the cast of characters is crucial. Grace is the protagonist of the story and he’s someone we all can identify and sympathize with.
There’s a lot of technical stuff in the book but Weir presents it in a way that you aren’t confused or bored with it and if it were excluded wouldn’t be right since it is so much a part of who Grace is as a person. The book also includes a lot of humor. I found myself chuckling or cracking a smile several times throughout.
The narrator, Ray Porter, is excellent! The perfect choice as he handled the tricky narration of the different characters masterfully. There isa quality to his voice which reminded me of Tom Hanks.
I’m a big fan now of Andy Weir’s. I haven’t read or listened to any of his other books yet but I certainly plan to. I have seen the movie The Martian which of course is another of his popular books. Project Hail Mary was a brilliant work – fun to be aboard the Hail Mary and certainly recommend this book to fans of science fiction and anyone else who is interested in reading a book with great characters what stay with you well past when you finished the book and likes action and adventure.

So having finished Project Hail Mary, I was interested in what other things Andy Weir had written and discovered in my Audible library was a collection of his short stories.

The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Egg and Other Stories is a great collection of short stories by Andy Weir demonstrating what a brilliant writer he is. Each story a bit out there and leave you thinking about them well after reading them. Those who have heavily influenced him fully reveal themselves in a few of the stories and brought a smile to my face – I don’t want to give anything away – sorry if I’m sounding cryptic.
Fans of Weir will really enjoy these and readers not as familiar with his work will certainly enjoy nd probably want to read more.

Selected Shorts: Timeless Classics by James Thurber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a terrific selection of short stories by some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
James Thurber’s “The Night the Ghost Got In” read by Isiah Sheffer
Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” read by Maria Tucci
Jack London’s “Make Westing” read by Steven Gilborn
D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-horse Winner” read by John Shea
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” read by Marian Seldes
Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” read by Charles Keating
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” read by James Naughton

All of them offering such interesting perspectives! This is the perfect listen to jump in and out of story by story. Loved.

Seeing how it’s the end of the year and it can be so difficult coming off of a great book with really good characters that you get attached to. In this case I am referring to Project Hail Mary and the two main characters Grace and Rocky. So since I have been enjoying the short stories and getting exposed to some writers that I was previously unfamiliar with or just had herd of , I decided to stick with the short story collection as I end 2021.

Selected Shorts: Readers & Writers by Evelyn Waugh and others

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed listening to these short stories by some amazing writers. The theme of course of this collection is writers and readers and it’s a wonderful collection which introduced to me some authors I was unfamiliar with, i.e.. Molly Giles, Audrey Niffenegger and Adam Haslett.

One criticism I have though is for the publishers who do not include a list of the the authors and their short stories when you are listening to the the Audible version. Since there are only 7 chapters this doesn’t seem too difficult for Symphony Space to have done this for listeners. It’s annoying to go to the “Chapters” tab and simply see listed Chapters 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

Ch. 1 Ed Has His Mind Improved by Walter R. Brooks
Ch. 2 The Adventure of a Reader by Italo Calvino
Ch.3 Notes to my Biographer by Adam Haslett
Ch. 4 The Man Who Liked Dickens by Evelyn Waugh
Ch. 5 The Writer’s Model by Molly Giles
Ch. 6 Exchange by Ray Bradbury
Ch. 7 The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The collection, I found to be quite enjoyable and like most good short stories stick with you longer than it took to read or listen to the story. There are some wonderful narrators too – Tony Roberts, Leonard Nemoy, Christina Pickles, Blair Brown, John Shea and Isaiah Sheffer. I highly recommend to fans of this genre.

As I stated earlier, I am continuing to listen to more collections of short stories and currently am listening to Selected Shorts: Let Us Tell You A Story – Behaving Badly. I’ll start a new book in the new year but first I need to take a look back at 2021 and the 70+ books I read this year. Take a look at 2021 Year In Review.

View all my Goodreads reviews