I read less total books this month than last month, but the books I read this month were longer, so it probably balances out. I did end up finishing Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley on the last day of January. It was as excellent as I had expected, and it has a doozy of a cliffhanger at the end that reminded me of why I generally don’t read series that aren’t complete. (See more on that at the end of this post. )
Amazon had a Kindle deal for a bunch of the “Best American …. ” books, and I picked up (sent to my magic Kindle, rather) about 5 of them. I started with The Best American Travel Writing 2012 . I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got- not that I’m complaining. There were essays about crossing Norway via skis in a snow storm, a whole subculture of garbage collectors in Egypt, an account of hiking along the American/Mexico border fence- really interesting things I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to read otherwise.
I bought The Map of Time: A Novel by Felix J. Palma based purely on the prettiness of it’s cover and the blurb on the back. Based on the blurb, I was expecting crazy time travel, book thievery, possibly dirigibles (I will admit, that was my own projection). What I got was … kiiiiiiinda that? I told B halfway through the book that I had never read a book where the back was so disconnected from the actual text, but by the time I finished I could see how it did actually connect. But ANYWAY. It’s about people trying to travel in time to change the past or the future with varying degrees of success. H.G. Wells is in it, and Jack the Ripper, and over all it’s pretty good. Just don’t go in expecting dirigibles or wacky adventures.
The Best American Essays 2012 was full of excellent essays about topics ranging from the problematic nature of using of chemicals to treat mental illness to how doctors choose their end of life care (that one was SO thought provoking!) to feminism. Most of the essays were excellent, there were a few that weren’t as good, and one that I just ended up skipping.
I loved Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe (see my review here ), so I snapped up her new book, Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting even though (or because?) it’s the distilled version of the first. (Basically, this is the parenting part of the book, without the “my life in France” part.) I don’t buy parenting books for other people, but this one has a lot of common sense ideas that would be great for an expecting parent. This is one I’ll go back to.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is so good. So very good. It was given to me as a gift, and while I’d heard great things about it I was a bit cautious as it’s set during WW2 and books about the Holocaust can be incredibly emotionally draining. It was not at all what I expected (this seems to be a theme, yes?) and so moving and ultimately as devastating as I thought- perhaps more so because it lulled me into a false sense of security. But even that was fitting. I could seriously talk about this book all day long, but I will just say that it is Death narrating the story of a girl who steals books and her Atticus Finch- like foster father who are hiding a Jew in their basement in the middle of Nazi Germany. I cannot recommend it highly enough, it is SO good.
The Best American Short Stories 2012 has a wide spread of stories, some I really enjoyed and others I didn’t get into as much. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander was extremely thought provoking (especially after reading The Book Thief), as two Jewish couples, one very strictly Orthodox, the other secular discuss who they would trust to hide their families if there were another Holocaust. The end is stunning. I also really liked Miracle Polish by Steven Millhauser, it was very Twilight Zone in the very best way.
Right now I’m reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger which is absolutely delightful and wonderful. It’s set in the same world as her Parasol Protectorate series (which I ADORE) – so an alternate Victorian England where werewolves and vampires are an accepted part of society. The 14 year old main character, Sophronia, has just been sent away to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, where her mother thinks she will become a lady, but where she will really become an assassin. (She’s going to learn how to “finish” things- get it?) Could you ask for anything more? How about that the school floats and is held up by dirigibles? Be still my heart. I can’t wait to finish it, although I don’t want to, because it’s the first in a series which means that the rest aren’t out yet, and I HATE WAITING. The next one isn’t out until November. Kill me now.
Anyway, that’s 6 books this month, which puts my total so far at 19.
What are you reading right now?