Catch up, and Books I read in June

Hi there.
We’re moving in 2 weeks. Isn’t that insane? It’s insane. Things are coming together well, and everything should go smoothly, but it’s still insane. Movers are coming next Monday and Tuesday to pack up and ship out our things, including this computer (though I will have a laptop, but still), so I thought I’d post my books for this month a little early.

A Life in Stitches by Rachael Herron: This was an entertaining read, though not a lot of it stuck with me. Maybe you shouldn’t read so many books  so quickly, you say.  Maybe you’d remember more if you took more time. I say, shush you!

Ahem.

Herron is a knitter, and this is a memoir of different times in her life and how knitting played a part in them. Skimming over the Amazon page for the book, a lot is coming back now, and I’m remembering that there were some very poignant, genuine moments, especially those having to do with her experiences as a 911 dispatcher. I do recommend this book, the not remembering is far more me than the book. Favorite quote:

And I was reminded again that our craft, with its particular alchemy, changes time and effort into something beautiful and useful

Doctor Who: Summer Falls by Amelia Williams: This is a Doctor Who tie-in novel, the novel that actually appeared in one of the episodes this season. It’s an entertaining little story, it would have made a good episode.

Better Than Fiction: True travel tales from great fiction writers (Lonely Planet Travel Literature): This is a collection of fiction authors writing about real experiences they have had while traveling. So fiction writers writing travel non-fiction. Overall the result is good, but I think perhaps they were hoping for more “literary” writing or maybe just more storytelling?, when that’s not necessarily the best fit for travel writing. (So, not necessarily what happened. It’s good travel writing for the most part.)  But there were some really strong pieces, including a couple about traveling while under the mental incapacitation that malaria medication can cause, and a few about visiting jails, which were very powerful.

Favorite quote:

though I see now that learning is just a gradual revelation of how deep our ignorance really is. To give up to not knowing, to be uncertain of the name of things; that space is the place where possibility lives and in my mind it shimmers bright as a blue summer sky.

The Thief byFuminori Nakamura: This is a short book, but every word serves a purpose. It’s translated from Japanese, and is set in Tokyo, which is always fun. The main character is a pickpocket who has become so proficient yet distracted that he finds himself with wallets he doesn’t remember stealing. He also finds himself pulled into a noir world of criminal activity that he doesn’t want to be involved in, but can’t get out of. It was quite good.

I, Iago by Nicole Galland: This was SO good. Similar  to Fool by Christopher Moore, it’s the story of Othello from the perspective of Iago (with FAR less swearing than Fool). It goes into Iago’s past (before the events of the play) and gives a historical and social context for the story of the play. Every element and motivation is so thoroughly thought through, and it is exceptionally well written. It’s so well written that even though I’ve read Othello a number of times and have seen it multiple times, I was still surprised by the ending. (Not the Othello/Desdemona ending, the ending ending.) I highly, highly recommend it. (And until the end of June it’s only $2.99 on Kindle, so go get it now!) Favorite quote:

It is easy to call someone a villain; the title allows dismissal and more important, distance: as long as you know somebody else is a villain, then you are not one, and you may rest snugly in your own nest of good intentions, no need for vigilance or self-reflection. You mean well, and even when you act in anger, your actions are justified- somehow, surely, they are justified, they must be, and you have done nothing wrong, because you are not evil.

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline and The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye by Nancy Springer: These are the last two books (I assume) in the Enola Holmes series. Like those that preceded them, they are highly enjoyable, and if in fact this is the end, the series ended on just the right note.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer: When I read this synopsis on Amazon, I was instantly in. “Imprisoned for life aboard a zeppelin that floats high above a fantastic metropolis, the greeting-card writer Harold Winslow pens his memoirs. His only companions are the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent, the only woman he has ever loved, and the cryogenically frozen body of her father Prospero, the genius and industrial magnate who drove her insane.”

This is a weird book, but weird in the very best ways. It’s hard to precisely describe what the book is and what it’s trying to do/what it does- I could write a college paper on the themes and symbols Palmer plays with. If you remember back a couple months ago to two books that I complained didn’t match my expectations from the synopsis- or that didn’t follow through with promised elements- this was completely the opposite. It had lots of interesting, strange ideas and components (and dirigibles!!) and didn’t skirt away from weirdness. I realize that I’m not giving a lot of details, but you really don’t want very many. I spent the whole book trying to figure out precisely what it was I was dealing with, which is the position the narrator is in, and I think that works out just fine.

Favorite quote:

This is the time of night just before sunrise, the time that no one owns, and if you have found yourself awake and alone during this time, out in the city, outside the safety of the walls you call your own, then you know me, and you have felt what I have felt. This is the hour of the night it’s best to sleep through, for if it catches you wake then it will force you to face what is true.

The Best of Vanity Fair ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Eight Remarkable Stories About Hollywood’s Most Beautiful, Most Controversial Star: This is a collection of Vanity Fair articles about Elizabeth Taylor. I got it to read on the airplane back from Tokyo, and then I didn’t read it then. But it was a fascinating read, enough to finally get me to buy Furious Love (a biography of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s relationship… can a relationship have a biography?) which I’ve been meaning to buy for at least a year now. I will most likely read THAT on the plane back to Tokyo.

Third Girl by Agatha Christie: I’m always happy when I find an Agatha Christie novel I haven’t read. A quick look at a list of her novels leads me to believe I’ve read at least 40 of her 66 novels (I’m not certain about some of them; I’d know if I looked at a synopsis, but I’m not going to go to the trouble right now). This one was written in 1966, and LSD and other drugs play a part in it all, which was a bit odd, I will admit. It was written beautifully, and it wasn’t an awkward element, it just jarred me because in my head all Agatha Christie novels take place in the 20s and 30s. But that’s just me.

Anyway, this is a seriously solid mystery. I thought I had it sorted out a couple of times and was so mind boggling wrong, and I LOVE it when that happens, at least when it happens properly- when there were enough clues there and I just didn’t grab them.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler: I’m not going to say very much about this book, because there are things you shouldn’t know going in that most other reviews I’ve seen have laid out at the get-go. All I will say is that this is a book about what happens when a family loses a family member, and the long lasting ramifications in every aspect of the family. Really, I highly recommend this book, and I highly recommend that you know as little as possible going into it. I really wish I hadn’t known what I knew. Seriously, if you click on that Amazon link, DO NOT read the book description. Just hit buy. It is poignant and fascinating and thought provoking. I will share this quote, which won’t spoil anything:

I imagined her at her closet, deciding what you’d wear to go learn something about your child that might break your heart.

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh: This is a short book, but I read it slowly- over a couple of weeks. It lays out different meditations that have to do with love and compassion. Favorite quote:

For me the Kingdom of God is where mindfulness exists, and it is a kingdom where there is compassion. The Kingdom of God, the Pure Land, is not a place where there is no suffering. Many people aspire to go to a place where pain and suffering do not exist, a place where there is only happiness. This is a rather dangerous idea, for compassion is not possible without pain and suffering. It is only when we enter into contact with suffering that understanding can be born. Without suffering, we do not have the opportunity to cultivate compassion and understanding; and without understanding, there can be no true love. So we should not imagine a place where there is no suffering, where there is only happiness. That would be a very naive idea.

There’s so much in that, I could write for days. But I won’t. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll talk to you about it. Or post later. 🙂

Right now I’m reading The Secret Life of Pronouns:What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker, which is a fascinating look at social linguistics. He and his team(s) have analyzed countless conversations, interviews, blog posts, essays, etc., looking at how people use “stealth words”- prepositions, pronouns, articles etc. They’ve found that usage of those kinds of words is extremely telling about personality and other aspects of an individual (gender, class, social position, age). There are parts where I wish there were more examples, but on the whole it’s a fascinating book. The sections on how suicidal poets use language differently than non-suicidal poets is already proving to be extraordinarily helpful in the novel I’m working on (there’s a possibly suicidal poet in it). Anyway, it’s very interesting, and I recommend it.

That’s 12 books (not counting the last that I’m not finished with yet) this month, and 63 so far this year.

What are you reading?

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