April ended up being a pretty great reading month, both in quality and quantity. Quantity was mostly thanks to the Readathon. I didn’t read a lot during the last two weeks in South America, and when we got back to Brooklyn in the middle of the month I’d only finished 2 books, and one of them was the shortest book of the month!
I’m very excited for the books I have queued up for May, and we will be in Michigan for about two and a half weeks, a place where I usually do get a lot of reading time in. (The hammock in my parent’s backyard is calling my name. Loudly.)
Books Read: 12
- 13 Ways of Looking at the Death Penalty by Mario Marazziti
- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
- You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
Shaina wrote a great post explaining why The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a great book to read while traveling. I found this out myself in South America – towards the end of the trip I was getting a bit overwhelmed by all the non-fiction I was reading, I needed a fun, page-turner of a novel to read. This fit the bill perfectly, and I was a complete sucker for its chapter structure: each chapter is named for a short story selected by the main character, A. J. Fikry, to create a sort of curation for his life story. It’s a quick, entertaining story, and in addition to making a good travel read it would also be a good selection to snap out of a reading slump.
Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery is listed as the 7th book in the Anne of Green Gables series, but really the books start focusing less and less on Anne herself as the series goes on, and by the time you get to Rainbow Valley she’s hardly mentioned. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a delightful book, her children are kindred spirits as well. The storylines in Rainbow Valley focus on the children of Glen St. Mary’s new minister, as well as Anne & Gilbert’s children. I was a bit wary about reading the books that centered less on Anne and more on her children, but they are still full of L. M. Montgomery’s poetic writing and irresistible characters, so they are still a treat.
I fell in love with Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. It’s a short work of children’s lit that won the Newbery, it’s full of quirky characters you want to be friends with, it uses magical realism, and there’s a Squirrel in it. What more could you want?
I read a lot of graphic novels, but not many comics. In fact I don’t think I’ve read any comics since I was younger and would devour Archie comics at all opportunities. I heard interesting and good things about Sex Criminals Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsk, and was intrigued by it being dubbed by Time Magazine the #1 comic series/graphic novel of 2013. I read it during the readathon, and while it was interesting, I was a bit indifferent about it. I’m not sure if I’ll read the second volume or not. I’m not sure yet if it’s the comic book medium, or this particular one – I suppose I’ll need to try more comics. Anyone have any suggestions on where to start?
For any city dwellers that have the urge to pack up and move to the woods, or for anyone who sometimes has the urge to run away, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George should be read immediately. It’s the story of a young boy who retreats into the mountains to live and, unlike most runaways, stays there. It’s written so well – simply and beautifully, and achingly honest about both the joys of solitude and the sorrow of loneliness.
I debated whether or not to include We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as a book read, because it’s so short! It’s basically an essay. But it’s sold as a single book, and it logs in GoodReads as a book read, so I just went with it. In any event, it’s fantastic. The debate in the last few years over whether or not women and men do or should identify as feminists has gotten a bit exhausting. Exhausting because it feels so obvious – so clear. Yes, of course we should all be feminists. Conversation is good, but when the media is constantly asking women (and many men) this question at all opportunities it gets a little bit inane. It seems to be taking the conversation away from the subject of how we can help make women and men more equal and putting the focus on something else, something that’s vaguely insulting. (Not insulting to be called a feminist, but insulting to be asked the question all the time.)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast has received a lot of acclaim since it was published last year, and was on many “best of 2014” lists. It’s a great graphic novel, and I think it is a wonderful contribution the continued growth of the graphic novel genre. It honestly and tenderly shows you Roz Chast’s experience caring for her aging parents. Her experience is an example of the difficult reality so many people face when caring for parents or relatives. End of life care can be difficult, frustrating, exhausting, expensive, and devastating. I imagine many people go into this stage of their lives blind to the realities of how to care for their loved ones. I think Roz Chast did. Her book will likely help a lot of people. That’s one of the great benefits of literature – we read about lives and experiences nothing like our own and it broadens our worldview and helps us understand things we haven’t experienced.
I wanted to read at least one collection of poetry during National Poetry Month, if I hadn’t been traveling I would have attempted to read more. Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets, and since she’s so prolific there are still several of her collections I haven’t read yet. The Truro Bear and Other Adventures, like her other collections, is wonderful. The poems at the end about her dog Percy were my favorite.
I’m trying to buy fewer books and work on reading my own piles of unread books (and also to use the public library), but I couldn’t resist these six books in April. I’ve already read two of them (H is for Hawk and My Side of the Mountain), and am in the middle of two more (Looking at Mindfulness and The Thing With Feathers). I bought The Goshawk by T. H. White because its prominent role in H is for Hawk left me with the desire to read the book for myself. I don’t have an excuse for buying The Folded Clock – it just came home with me from Terrace Books while on the way back from a delightful stroll in Greenwood Cemetery. I blame the cover, it’s beautiful and looks like it should be read in spring.