It’s a few days before the end of January and I am posting December’s Reads & Listens as a way of trying to move closer to a routine. December was a difficult month with my father being in the hospital for many weeks. The family on edge, not sure which way things would turn out. My father died on January 2, 2023. So has January been a struggle.
In December I was looking for books to read that would distract me. That plan didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The book of poetry was a year long project book for me. I was determined to introduce more poetry into my life and when I first saw the book, A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year , I thought that was a dose of poetry I could probably stand. Most of the time I didn’t read one a day – it was more like five or six poems at a time –poems for a week seemed to be more my speed.
I started the month with a great read – so good I devoured it over a weekend. I love when I fall into books like that since I consider myself a slow reader still.
I read Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus because it had been nominated in two categories for the 2022 Goodreads Awards for debut novel and historical fiction. I’ve been led down false paths before based on similar criteria, but upon finishing Lessons In Chemistry, I voted for it in both categories. I devoured this easy-to-read, entertaining story about a single woman, Elizabeth Zott, trying to make a living in a man’s world during the late 1950s and early ’60s. The more things change, the more they stay the same, which is why this book may resonate with many. Despite the intense themes that are integral to the storyline, Garmus balances this with wit and humor; particularly, her descriptions of life with a newborn are hysterical and spot on! I was captivated by this story and was sad at the end because I really enjoyed my time with Elizabeth, Mad, Harriet, and the rest of their “family,” and now it is over. 4.5 Stars
Small Things Like These takes place in 1985 in Ireland, where the Magdalene laundries are still operating. The Magdalene Laundries, aka the asylums, are a dark stain on the Roman Catholic Church in Irish history; they ran from the 18th century to the late 20th century to help “fallen” girls and women. It’s a potentially powerful short story about a man who finds himself having to make a choice about whether to do something to help a young girl or look the other way as so many others had done before. Unfortunately, the story fell short for me. For a story that is less than two hours long, it took me a week to finish it. I wasn’t grabbed by what potentially is a very interesting story. But I was not captivated like so many others who have reviewed it. I don’t blame the narration; I felt Aidan Kelly did a superb job bringing to life these sad characters. So it had to be something else. In the end, I was even more disappointed as the ending left me wondering too many things.
Is there a part of your life you’d like to go back to relive? Go back in time to do or say something different than the first time. Emma Straus’s novel, This Time Tomorrow, explores this idea. It’s a touching portrait of a father-daughter bond and what lengths people will go – even travel back in time – to set things “right.” This was my first time reading one of Emma Straus’s novels, so I had no expectations of what to expect.
For some, the theme of time travel may not be to their liking, but that is not the case with me, so that’s not where this story was weak for me. I had to go back to the text to look up the main character, Alice’s name – she wasn’t a very memorable character to me. I didn’t like her very much. Whereas her best friend Sam, her father Leonard, and a few others were powerful supporting characters, I found them more interesting and the entire reason I could finish the book.
I love the Selected Series – I find I learn about authors that I have never heard of before and end up enjoying.
3.5 – “The Lie” by TC Boyle read by Stephen Colbert 4.5 – “The Swim Team” by Miranda July and read by Parker Posey 4.0 – “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” by Saki, was read by Marian Seldes 3..0 -“Country Cooking from Central France: Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)” by Harry Matthews and read by Isaiah Sheffer 4.5 – “YMA Dream” by Thomas Mathews and read by Christine Baranski (who does an incredible job with this story) 4.0 -“Covered” by Julia Slavin and read by Alec Baldwin 4.0 -“The Conversation of Jews” by Philip Roth read by Jerry Zachs
I was never a fan of poetry growing up, so when I discovered this book of poetry presenting a nature poem for every night, I thought that this would be a good way to introduce a little poetry into my life. I am very glad I did too. I enjoyed reading this book, as it was not intimidating to me. It introduced me to many poets and poems of various styles – some of which I enjoyed more than others. 3.5 stars
p.s. I think that I will reread this book again next year –– maybe.
Overall I finished my year by surpassing my goal of 57 books, by finishing 75 books! I will write a separate year in review, which I will post soon.
For such a short month, I packed in quite a few reads and listens. I started the month finally finishing the January Literati Club selection, We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. There are a scattering of his signature cartoons throughout the book which is a collection of essays.
I struggled reading this book at first, perhaps it was just the first couple of stories that I didn’t find interesting or relatable or just juvenile in a way. However, as I kept on read, that changed when I read the line,”What dooms our best efforts to cultivate empathy and compassion is always, of course, other people.” Okay, maybe I can relate to Tim Kreider more than I thought. Then I read “you’d think that given our shared loathing for the Wall/K Street oligarchy that’s running this country like a Ponzi scheme we’d be able to put aside our brand loyalties…” I saw someone put into words so spot on describing how our government runs our country.
I enjoyed reading this book , overall, some essays more than others but it’s a good read which is sad, honest, sometimes brutally so, but truly funny. 228 pages.
I stated the month off with a selection from my historical fiction section f my TBR List and dove into What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon.
I think fans of historical fiction with a time travel twist will enjoy this as much as I did. It’s a skilled author who can write a tale that transports not only the main character but the reader into believing they have been transported back in time and Amy Harmon does just that.
I was fascinated by the Irish history which I admit to knowing little about the country’s struggle for independence, but knew of some of the names. I found myself looking up some of the Easter Rising and some of the key players mentioned in between listening to the book and can see reading more. Although I was never one for poetry the way that W.B. Yeats’ poetry is woven into the text lowered the bar in my understanding his words which set alone, I would be more effective translating a language I have never seen before. But it adds and was so fitting to include.
This is a romantic novel and I am not one to be drawn to romance, but this book is neither too saturated in sex, although there is some, nor is it to sappy in it’s love story but just the right balance to make you see the love. I also found many times to be laughing or smiling to myself in listening to the story, particularly in the parts where Anne compares our modern day luxuries that she no longer has in 1916.
The narrators Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron do a fantastic job. All is in all, I highly recommend this book and now I want to read more of Amy Harmon’s books. The Audible Audiobook is 12 hours, 24 minutes long.
Having been intrigued by the mythology within What They Wind Knows I decided to check out Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology next.
I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I am an a mythology enthusiasts, so I really enjoyed listening to Norse Mythology. Gaiman’s writing is so clever and humorous and he is such a great storyteller infusing new life into these old myths. The only thing that makes this better is that Neil Gaiman is the narrator which makes the illusion of him telling you a story all the more real! The Audible Audiobook is 6 hours, 29 minutes.
With everything going on in the world today and the younger generation having no attention span whatsoever. I decided that this month I was ready to tackle the Ready Player One Series. I had a bedroom to paint and wanted something that would keep me focused while I painted. I had seen the movie Ready Player One a long time ago but since the second book came out in 2021, I decided I wanted to read the first book and then read the new book.
I loved this book! But I grew up in the 80s, so listening to this book was like reminiscing about my teen years. Ernest Cline creates a fantastic world of the future 2044 and reality is a nasty place to live so many escape to the Oasis, a virtual reality world where you can be any avatar you choose and experience things in augmented reality.
I decided to listen to this book, originally published in 2011 since Cline just came out with the sequel in 2021 so I wanted to listen to the two books back to back. I enjoyed the movie a long time ago produced by Spielberg so I wanted to check out the book.
I’m not a gamer, nor am I a programmer but thought that Cline captured the essence of someone who can become so absorbed in the gaming and computer programming world. It’s a dystopian view of the future having seen what social networking has done to some people coupled with recent announcements about the Metaverse being developed by tech giants Facebook, excuse me, META, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others, Cline’s OASIS doesn’t seem so far off from reality these days.
The protagonist is an atheist and that may bother some people, however, it did not bother me. I read some reviews where people were really put off by this. I also read so reviews that some people purchased this book for their children to listen to, probably because they simply were naive enough to think its a book about a bunch of nerds and gamers. This is not a book for 9 year olds but it is a great book for high school aged kids and above.
Ultimately I believe this book is about the importance of human interaction – face to face interaction and how important that is to have in our world. I liked Will Wheaton as the narrator, he seemed a perfect choice to me. I give this book a 4.5 rating. The Audible Audiobook is 15 hours, 40 minutes.
My next selection was based off of a recommendation by my sister, Daphne. She raved about The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. She said it had helped her “have the power to change [her] program (how [she] think[s]) from negative/ catastrophizing to positivity and productivity. So I had to check it out for myself. I actually listened to this book at the same time – not actually at the same time but during the same time period that I was listening to Ready Player Two.
This is a must listen to for everyone! Shad Helmstetter breaks down some pretty scientific stuff in an easy and understandable way – uncomplicating the complex. He gives the listener/reader the keys which they always held to unlock the endless possibilities to change their lives.
Helmstetter reinforces the evidence that how and what we think and tell ourselves matters greatly. I highly recommend to those who feel like they are stuck in a rut or have no ability to change their daily lives for the better. The Audible audiobook is 6 hours and 18 minutes long and narrated by Douglas Martin
I was disappointed in this book overall. I was a huge fan of Ready Player One but all the originality that was in that book – was missing from this book. There are some themes in the book which are worthy of exploring like man’s obsession with immortality and man playing God but they seemed to get lost. I was also particularly disappointed to see that much of the story had been ripped from a popular Japanese novel series called Sword Art Online. So much so that the author admits to this within the novel. I also found there is a lot of virtue signaling in this book.
Fans of Prince may have fun going down that rabbit hole. I have to wonder whether Prince’s Estate has already authorized usage of his music and likeness since it would be impossible to make the movie version of this book without it. Although I am a fan of Tolkien – I haven’t read The Silmarillion and thought a lot of the references so obscure they were difficult to follow.
Wil Wheaton was the narrator and I didn’t really feel like he added much to the performance, he’s a a little monotone but I since the main character Wade is the narrator of the story, I imagine Wade to be a little monotone too. The Audible Audiobook is 13 hours, 46 minutes.
Once I I had emerged from the cyberspace rabbit hole of the OASIS and the world Ernest Cline foresees, I did an about face. I wanted something short and I also wanted to continue to work on my ever growing TBR list. I started this book actually initially in 2016 on my Kindle.
I found this book to be interesting more as a writer who would potentially be writing stories which strong female characters, but many women look it as a helpful guide in their own personal lives. Perhaps I am one of the wild woman since a lot of what I thought she said was simple common sense.
I found listening to most of this reminiscent of listening to a professor lecture in college – just going on and on because they like the sound of their own voice. The only part I really enjoyed was listening to the old fairy tales and myths – then it was a treat to listen to the soothing and skilled story-telling voice of author, Clarissa Estés.
I was surprised by all the very high ratings and reviews for this book. I think it really depend on the type of person you are which will dictate how much you like the book or consider it ground-breaking and life changing. I found it to be neither. The Audible Audiobook is 2 hours, 18 minutes.
After listening to that lecture-like book, I wanted something that I could depend on. My last couple of books were rather disappointing. I always find that turning to the short story collections can be a good way to turn things around and once again I was not disappointed.
This is a fantastic collection of short stories by some of America’s greatest writers. The Audible Audiobook is 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game”, performed by Freda Foh Shen. 4.5 stars – I loved this story about a young Chinese girl who becomes a chess prodigy. The relationship which Amy Tan depicts between the strict mother and her young daughter is priceless!
Donald Barthelme’s “Game”, performed by David Strathairn. 4.5 – Wow! A humorous look at what would happen when two people are left in the nuclear bunker for too long.
Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”, performed by Stockard Channing. 4 – Funny story about family and getting away from them
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” performed by René Auberjonois. 4.5 – Classic Poe masterpiece.
Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” performed by Christine Baranski. 4 -Creepy and disturbing – really well written – 4.5
John Sayles’ “At the Anarchists’ Convention”, performed by Jerry Stiller. – Humorous 4
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, performed by Carmen de Lavallade. 4 -A glimpse of how siblings look at family treasures differently
John Cheever’s “Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor”, performed by Malachy McCourt. 4 -Funny story about the kindness people have towards each other at Christmas.
February Wrap Up
Besides these eight books which I seemed to have plowed through this month. I also listened to the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu – A New English Version read by its translator Stephen Mitchell. I have been meditating every day now for almost a year. In that time, I have also been listening to different lectures and talks about Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity. I have been listening to The Bible in A Year podcast since I never read the Bible fully and thought it would be interesting to do. I started on that journey in 2021 actually, so for me it will most likely be The Bible in Two Years, possibly Three. Listening to the Tao Te Ching for me was simply an exercise in learning the teachings of Lao Tzu. At the time I was listening I was also drawing zentangle patterns. In short, drawing zentangles a form of artistic meditation so it was the perfect companion to listen to as I drew. I purposely chose not to rate or review the Tao Te Ching, nor the Taming The Tiger Within by Thich Nhat Hanh which I also listened to shortly learning of his death. Except that I will say that it was enough to spark a curiosity to further read more of his writing in the future.
February may have been the shortest month of the year but I managed to make it a productive one bringing my total books read this year so far up to 19. My ultimate goal on Goodreads is 58, so I am 33% of the way to my ultimate goal. I am backlogged with actual physical hard copies of my Literati book club books right now. Currently still reading Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl and then there is the next book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. That one could come in handy as far as being able to make time for actual reading.
The problem is I get tired at night when I usually read which makes finishing impossible. I have been writing, actually editing the book I have been working on writing and hoping to get it to the stage of actually submitting to a publisher. I also was painting my bedroom last month which is why I was able to go down the rabbit hole of the Ready Player One Series (One and Two) and stay down there while I painted away the old paint which was on the walls since before I moved here 6 years ago! Yes, I have been living in the previous owners paint and carpets until last month. I always had plans to change things but other things were more important and it wasn’t that horrible until after the last two years which everyone – my kids, that is – back in my house for more months than we have lived together in 8 years. I needed a clean slate. It took 6 months from the time I ordered them – not a special order or anything – to the time they were installed. Currently I am painting another room in the house which had terra cotta colored walls. I put the first coat of primer down yesterday while listening to my current audiobook, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’m only a few hours into this epic 21 hour and 43 minute book, so perhaps I’ll be able to complete the room and the book around the same time.
At the start the year, I pledged on my Goodreads Reading Challenge 58 books, one more than last year and I am turning 58 later this year. I have to admit, I hated seeing the 0 books Read This Year on the first day of January. Then just few days in to the new year, the Goodreads site not only said I had read 0 books for the year so far but I was behind! WTF?! I was no even a full week into 2022 and I am behind already?! Ugh, well after quickly doing the math in my head 52 weeks in a year and here I shot away the first week and I hadn’t finished a book yet.
The first book that I started 2022 was based off a recommendation by my other half, Mark. He knows that I love books about dogs, fantasy and mystery – so he recommended Devoted by Dean Koontz. I knew of Koontz, seen his name many times and he was one of the author’s recommended in one of my Masterclass’s on writing – although I don’t recall which class specifically. If I had to guess it was the writing class with Robert Patterson, but it could have been Atwood’s or Gaiman’s class too or also.
So this was the first Dean Koontz book I have ever read or listened to. That said I am a big fan of books that incorporate dogs and are about dogs, as I am a big fan of dogs and have had and have many dogs in my life.
This book felt a little too cookie cutter for me. The characters all seemed a little too cliche in many ways and weren’t as well developed – with the exception of Kip, the dog. There are a supernatural aspect to the story with the dogs and the “wire” which I found to be more believable than some of the other things in the book, which I won’t mention since I don’t want to give anything away.
It’s a light sort of book, so if you are interested in something like that it’s entertaining enough, particularly if you are a fan of dogs; but not necessarily Dean Koontz’s other books, as I have seen from other reviews, his fans were disappointed in this book.
After being a bit disappointed with my start to the new year and already being a bit behind but not as much, I decided to listen to a quickie. A quickie being a book or story that is under 2 hours long. I went with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk.
I’ve been getting into to story stories and novellas more recently – finding they balance some of the longer books out nicely. I took Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass a few years ago and I enjoy his books and stories very much. I find he is a great storyteller, which is quite a skill. I didn’t write a review on Goodreads when I finished it – not sure why, but I quickly gave it 3 stars out of 5 – the Goodreads rating for I liked it.
I next decided to dive into a novel which has been sitting on my TBR list for a number of years. One of the suggestions in the PopSugar 2022 Challenge and many other reading challenges is to read a book that has been sitting on your list for a long time. In my case, the book was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – it had been on my list since 2016.
I have tears in my eyes as I have just finished listening to this incredibly beautiful book. Names are powerful – and The Namesake captures the power that comes with your name. What a terrific story – so many depths to this story, and very well executed. Lahiri’s touching writing evoked genuine emotions, and there were moments when I found myself shedding tears. I will miss spending time with the Ganguli family. Jhumpa Lahrai skillfully tells the story of Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, telling their story as much as the story of Gogol their son. From Calcutta, India, to Cambridge, MA, the reader is transported on an emotional and geographical odyssey. Lahiri’s vivid descriptions of the Ganguli family’s life painted such a vibrant picture that I felt like I was one of their guests, engulfed in the aroma of Ashima’s cooking. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a literary gem that left an indelible mark on my heart. This poignant tale delves into the intricate tapestry of identity, cultural heritage, and the enduring power of names. I enjoyed experiencing this remarkable journey through the audiobook version, narrated by Sarita Choudhury, which elevated the storytelling to new heights. Lahiri’s prose is exquisite, weaving a narrative that effortlessly spans continents, cultures, and generations. The audiobook narration breathed life into the characters, immersing me in their joys, sorrows, and profound moments of self-discovery. Sarita Choudhury’s voice is mesmerizing, capturing the nuances of each character’s emotions and bringing them to life in a way that words on a page could not achieve alone. Choudhury has a beautiful voice – I would listen to her read a grocery list, and it would be soothing! Her impeccable narration enhanced the overall experience, adding depth and authenticity to the characters. I absolutely loved this book, and the sadness that it is over lingers within me. This book is a masterpiece that captivates from beginning to end. Lahiri’s exquisite storytelling, combined with the exceptional audiobook narration, makes for an unforgettable experience. It is a tale that tugs at the heartstrings, evoking many emotions and leaving a lasting impression. I wholeheartedly recommend The Namesake if you’re seeking a profound and thought-provoking exploration of identity and the power of names. Whether you immerse yourself in the beautifully written pages or opt for the audiobook version, prepare to be transported, moved, and enriched by Jhumpa Lahiri’s literary prowess.
I always find it so hard to follow up a book that I loved and enjoyed so much. It can be a tough act to follow, so I decided to go back to short stories and started Selected Shorts; New American Stories, mainly picking this particular collection since I saw that Jhumpa Lahiri had a story in the collection.
I decided to tackle this collection after having read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which I loved, I wanted to hear a little more from her and was thrilled that she had a story within this collection. This is a terrific collection of short stories by four amazing writers of today. Each with their own perspective of life in America. All the stories were so interesting – humorous mixed with some heavy topics as well – finely balanced making the stories stage out all the more.I am looking forward to reading more from all of these authors.
I love finding out about authors that I was previously unaware of through these collections of short stories – I highly recommend this to anyone who interested in a quick listen to solid collection of stories.
Chap 1. Good Living by Aleksandar Hemon Chap 2. Hell Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri Chap 3. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoni Adiche Chap 4.Breaking & Entering by Sherman Alexie
Three weeks into the new year and I had already listened to a some wonderful and not so wonderful books and stories. I decided to go back to novels that had been on my TBR list a long time and settled on one by Sue Monk Kidd.
This isn’t the first book of Sue Monk Kidd’s that I have read and it won’t be my last. She is so thorough in her research of a subject that she is able to capture its essence and deliver it on the paper in the form of well crafted characters and plots.
As Sue Monk Kidd explains in her author’s note that it was her desire to write a story revolving around two sisters and the universe lead her to learn about Sarah Grimke and her younger sister, Angelina and what a story she wrote! The first of the two narrators, Sarah Grimke, is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and judge. Sarah is not fictional and was one of the early abolitionists and women’s right activists.
The stories of Charlotte and Handful are a gut-wrenching reminder of a very ugly part of our history and are told by Handful, a young slave girl given to Sarah as a birthday gift on her 11th birthday. The story spans 35 years of their lives from childhood well into their adulthood. Kidd includes the good, the bad and the ugly, other its in the situation or in her characters – making the reader care deeply for them. I highly recommend 4.5
As I said earlier, it is so hard to follow a fantastic story – so I pivoted in my listening pleasures and listening to another quickie.
Although I find the subject very interesting – I found this book – although it’s really an essay to be dry. Sam Harris didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but much of what he says in the book is common sense. Unfortunately society has gotten to a point where there are so many lies that it’s hard to figure out the truth. I wish the book could have been more in depth in some ways. A super quick read or listen on an interesting subject.
I was worried to go into another novel since I had been so fortunate to have already listened to two awesome books this month with The Namesake and The Invention of Wings. Now what? So I looked to my gallery of musician’s memoirs and decided to listen to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller.
I enjoyed listening to Dave Grohl talk about how he got to where he is. Dave is a natural storyteller and he tells the stories behind how he found himself in bands such as Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters as if he were sitting in your living room smoking a joint, tossing back a few drinks and reminiscing. You could tell he would love to have included the music as well, when he discussed certain things – but due to the expense they would have to pay for the licensing, so that didn’t happen. It’s something that would add so much to the musicians’ memoirs, so I found myself pausing and going over to Apple Music or YouTube to listen to the song or video Dave was referring. I have always been a fan of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters and so when I saw this book, I was curious enough to listen and I am glad I did. I love learning more about the stories behind the musicians who I love to listen to. Learning about who influenced them directly from them. If you enjoy the music, you will enjoy listening to The Storyteller.
And since I started this next book in January and just finished it earlier today – I’ll include it in the January Reads & Listens. Again, in my attempts to chip away at my TBR list and I opted to pick one of the newer names on the list – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.
I had no idea what this book was about when I started and I am glad that I went in so blind, I may not have read it otherwise. Laurie Frankel tells a story about a family who is faced with navigating the deep and dangerous waters of having a son who struggles with gender-identity. A difficult and complex issue for any family to deal with and something any family could find themselves faced with, is something that I thing Frankel conveys in her portrait of the Rosie and Penn’s family.
What I didn’t find myself buying was the fairytale aspect of the story which somewhat mimics the fairytale that Penn tells his children . The story wrapped up a little too neatly and fairy tale-like, which seems contrary to the way I imagine the real story for families that are struggling with this issue.
What I feel Frankel does well is show you how a family holding one family members secret affects the entire family’s lives, siblings, parents and of course the individual whose secret the family is protecting.
In reviewing the month’s selection of books I am struck by a few themes that came up in a good many of the selections: The importance of a name and what comes along with a name. I saw this obviously in The Namesake, but also in Dave Grohl’s The Story Teller, and Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is. It’s even seen in The Invention of Wings. Storytelling seems to also be a common theme – Dave Grohl’s book of course, but the stories that are told and passed down with the quilts in The Invention of Wings and the fairy tale within This is How It Always Is. And of course, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is a story being told by the narrator to his children. Lastly, there is the common thread of stories about family which most, including some of the short stories.
For my January Literati Club book, I am reading We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. I am currently on page 131. I also read – sort of – Zentangle PRIMER Vol. 1 by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I plan to write a review but will do so in a separate post.
As the new month begins, I am 9 books into the new year and 4 ahead of schedule. I like being ahead of schedule and considering I am over 60% in to Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing, I’m feeling really good about where I am in my reading goals. Now just to figure out what to read next.
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.
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.
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
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!
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 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.
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.
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.