I read just 7 books in February — but it is the shortest month of the year, after all. I read some great things though: a mix of diverse fiction, celebrity memoirs on audiobook, and Buddhist books, with a book on the tarot thrown in for good measure.
Books Read: 7
My fiction in February centered around non-American authors. I started with The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Algerian author Leïla Marouane. It sounded very promising: it was recommended by Ann Morgan in her TED talk on reading a book from every country in the world, and it’s a Europa Edition. But what started out as an intriguing story of a middle-aged Muslim living in France, escaping his mother’s house (and control) by renting a lavish apartment in a fashionable neighborhood in Paris turned into a sloppy narrative that kind of just petered out.
The other novel I read in February was Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was already a big fan of her work: Americanah was the best novel I read in 2015. And Half of a Yellow Sun did not disappoint. It’s a soaring novel about a family’s life and survival during the Biafra war in the 1960s. Like Americanah, it’s a novel I think everyone should read, and it cemented Adichie as a literary powerhouse in my book. I need to read her short story collections next.
If you read Yes Please by Amy Poehler, you may remember her gushing about the American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. The only book by Pema Chödrön that I had read was Fail Fail Again Fail Better: a small little book that includes a commencement speech on failure that she delivered, as well as a Q&A interview. I liked its tightly packed big message, but I felt my Buddhist literature reading efforts were lacking a full length book by Chödrön. So this month I read Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change. It’s stunning. She writes with so much heart and wisdom. My copy is covered in stars, underlining, and circles. Chödrön is now up there with Thích Nhất Hạnh as the Buddhist writers who I’ll return to again and again.
I also listened to the audiobook of Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now by Lama Surya Das. This one didn’t move me as much – I liked parts of it, but on the whole it fell a bit short for me. It’s not a book I’d recommend starting with for those new to reading about Buddhism.
My audiobooks in February centered around celebrity memoirs. Most of the time celebrity memoirs aren’t books that I’d normally pick up in print, but they usually make really good audiobooks. They can provide good balance when you’re reading heavier stuff in print. I listened to Rob Lowe’s second memoir (although I still need to read his first), Love Life. I’m a big Rob Lowe fan from his roles on The West Wing and Parks & Recreation, and his memoir is pretty great. He seems so down to earth, and deeply committed to his wife and kids. But he also recognizes that, as a celebrity, he gets to lead a pretty incredible life, and it’s fun to listen to some of his crazier stories. Love Life is a great mix of outlandish stories combined with reflections he shares with raw honesty: the loss he feels from his kids leaving home for college, and his path to sobriety.
The other memoir I listened to in February was Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler. I didn’t really know much about Chelsea Handler before watching and enjoying her Netflix Series, Chelsea Does. I decided to give one of her books a go, and while I didn’t like it as much as her documentaries, it still provided a lot of laughs, and I’ll likely pick up another book of hers soon.
Books Purchased: 5
I couldn’t resist picking up two new Harper Perennial Olive editions when I visited The Spotty Dog in Hudson this month: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I also bought Muriel Barbery’s new novel, The Life of Elves. Helen Macdonald’s By the Book feature in the NY Times Book Review made me decide I need to read Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. And, last but not least, I bought my own print copy of The Creative Tarot. After reading and loving it via a digital galley, I knew I needed my own copy for reference.