Books make me happy in a way that may confuse many people. It’s a kind of obsessive, craving love that would be unhealthy if it were directed at a human. The way I feel about books is the way many people feel about their phones. To be without one, makes me feel naked. I carry one either in my purse or, yes, on my phone at all times, at the ready for when I have a moment to spare.
I want to read books and write books all the time. Unlike the phone, spending that much time reading or writing books, for me, isn’t realistic.
In many of the blogs I follow, bloggers write wonderful monthly summaries of all the books they’ve read and when I read these I admittedly feel jealous. I dream of the amazing lives they must have. In my head, they frolic through giant libraries and homes filled with cozy reading nooks. They lounge in front of roaring fires with a book in each hand, reading poetic lines out loud while significant others pour them glasses of wine and listen with rapt attention, a snuggly pet at their feet. (Yes, I realize this is completely ridiculous. Blame the overblown imagination of the writer in me.)
Because I feel so inferior with my reading accomplishments, which are, at best, 4 books a month, I’ve never written a summary of all the books I read in a month. However, this January, by some magical turn of events, I read more books in 4 weeks than I can ever remember reading before. (Except maybe in college, but that doesn’t count because that’s often forced reading.)
I know there are readers out there with their giant libraries and roaring fires who will look at my January list and think to themselves they read way more in a month. (Which is wonderful, but please remember reading isn’t a contest. It’s supposed to be fun and enlightening, not stressful. I think maybe I need to take my own advice.)
That said, I’m just thrilled I was able to spend so much time with books in one month! At some point, I will take a look back at this month and try to determine why and how I accomplished this and whether or not I can continue this pace.
So what was the pace? In January I read a total of 17 books. That is a book about every two days. The books were of all different lengths and types, some graphic novels, some books of poetry and an extremely long fantasy series (that, frankly, wasn’t long enough!)
Here is all my bookish reading for January complete with (usually) brief reviews! (I may have gone on a bit too long in my gushing love of Amy Poehler. For this I apologize in advance.)
Book 1: The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
Brief Review: A book of poetry about how life (and people) can knock you down and treat you terribly, but there is still poetry in the world. This is a great book for any woman who doesn’t need a man to save her.
Books 2-7: The Mortal Instruments Series (6 book series)
Brief Review: This series is addictively delicious. I can’t get enough. To get more, I’ve even scoured Cassandra Clare’s “extras” (she has ‘deleted’ and ‘director cut’ scenes) and checked out some fan fiction. I also plan to read the other series in this Shadowhunter world. However, given my obsession, I think I need to pace myself. Maybe that will be starting in February.
8. A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
Brief Review: A beautiful book of poetry about nature and how it reflects humanity. If the poems could take physical form, it would be like sitting outside on a beach in the fall, while the wind rakes through your hair and the birds flap overhead.
Book 9: I’m Thinking of Ending Things Ian Reid
Brief Review: This book is odd and mysterious and I like both of those things. But the ending was a predictable let down that unfortunately ruined the book for me. That said, I have two superpowers (both are pretty lame). I can type really, really fast and I can predict plot twists and endings to any book, TV show or movie with uncanny accuracy. I’m not bragging. Trust me I wish I couldn’t. It ruins books like this. If you don’t have this superpower, you might like this book!
Book 10: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Brief Review: I get it now. I’d always thought of John Green as the Nicolas Sparks of YA. (No offense to people who like Sparks. But he tends to be a bit sappy and melodramatic.) Boy, was I wrong about Green though. This book was a smart, witty look at a difficult subject (cancer in kids) that doesn’t try to make you feel better about the world or what happens to these kids but rather shows you that they are human beings full of not just suffering, but life and love and humanity. Balled my eyes out, knew how it would end from page one (yes I saw this ‘twist’ coming too), and still loved it. That’s how I know it’s a good book.
Book 11: Kindred (the Graphic Novel) by
Brief Review: I read the novel, Kindred, and loved it so much that when I learned there was a graphic novel I had to have it! Sometimes I don’t like to watch TV shows of books I’ve read because they bleed into what I had imagined. A graphic novel based on a book has a similar problem. But this one didn’t bother me. The drawings had a way of melding with my own images of the characters and the settings and seemed to augment my imagination rather than muddle it. My only issue with the graphic novel is that it is a word-for-word adaptation. I think it might have been better if it used the imagery and cut down on the wordiness. It felt more like a book with pictures than a graphic novel.
Book 12: Yes, Please! By Amy Poehler
Brief Review: Leslie Knope, I mean Amy Poehler, is the best! I actually listened to this as an audiobook, something I don’t do very often. Given it’s a memoir and Poehler is a seasoned actress and comedian, I think listening made the experience better. (To be fair, I don’t have a scientific way to prove this, I just know.) It was like being in a room with her while she told stories about her life, a life that is shockingly relatable even though she’s super famous. There were so many times, especially when she talked about her childhood, I said to myself, “wow she’s so much like me.” (See! Stars, they are just like us!) Here’s the thing about this book, Amy Poehler is a funny, incredible woman. If you have a young daughter, like me, and that daughter looks up to any celebrity, it should be Poehler. She’s witty and honest and humble and sensitive and fierce. I could go on and on. Basically, if she is actually like she writes and sounds, she has to be one of the best people on the planet. Her book made me actually laugh out loud and also spill tears down my face. (Sometimes at the same time! That’s not easy.) It’s one of my favorite books I read not just in January, but maybe ever.
Book 13: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Brief Review: If you thought the Brothers’ tales were grim, Emily Carroll’s twisted stories of ghosts and ghouls will have you shaking. While traditional fairy tales were cautionary in nature, attempting to teach lessons to keep kids in-line, Carroll’s stories pick at the fabric of our psyche, exposing our deepest fears and insecurities. It’s a scary story told over a campfire, the Telltale Heart meets the Brother’s Grimm in graphic novel form. The sharp shapes and shadows serve up an even more terrifying element to the stories. Carroll can make you shiver with just a few lines. Twisted fairy tales filled with twisted people and twisted monsters. Not even the brave make it out unscathed. This graphic novel is full of scary fun.
Book 14: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Brief Review: This is an old book with convoluted language and dialogue. It can be difficult to discern motivations and even relate to some of these characters. This may be because of the language or it might be intention ambiguity. It’s a bit difficult to determine at times. That said, the book resurrected my childhood fears of a boogeyman in the closet. When I put the book down and turned off the light, I had to remind myself I was a rational adult who did not believe in evil spirits or ghost. It also might be one of the earliest examples of a now extremely popular writing approach: the unreliable narrator. All and all, if you don’t mind old-fashioned language and are keen on scary stories, it’s a good one. It’s Stephen King meets Jane Austen.
Book 15: A Wrinkle in Time
Brief Review: The last time I read this book I was in elementary school. However, given it is about to be a major motion picture featuring Oprah (love her so much!), it was time for re-read, especially since I remember loving it and not much else.
So how was the book as an adult reader? It’s held up, in ways I can’t even express. This book is so much more than an adventure story. It’s 1984 for kids. No, that’s not right. It’s 1984 for fantasy lovers. The metaphors of succumbing to the darkest parts of society, giving up your free will, allowing others to think for you, even written so long ago are still so salient. Like The Giver and many other wonderful books meant to open the eyes of children, it can still open the eyes of adults too. Incredible.
Book 16. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Brief Review: Blade Runner is a fantastic movie. The sequel Blade Runner: 2049, also fantastic. But the book…It’s always better. That said, the three stand on their own as incredible pieces of storytelling. Although based on the over-arching premise of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the movie, Blade Runner, shares mostly only thematic elements and the main character, Deckard, who “retires” androids. If you’ve only ever watched the movie, don’t expect to read the book picking through the differences between it and its cinematic counterpart. The book is a completely engrossing unique entity that makes you ponder the hierarchy and relationships between humans and other species, humans and technology, and the definition of life, along with realism, morality and intrinsic truth. Yes, Philip K. Dick doesn’t mess around, he messes with your head in the best possible way. If you enjoy sci-fi and like to think and be entertained, this is the book for you.
Book 17: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Brief Review: A Booker Man Prize Award Winner has never let me down and this book is no exception. I didn’t exactly know what to expect from this book. It’s certainly one of the more unique books I’ve read in a long time. It’s described as Kafka-esque and, having recently started to read Metamorphosis, I can understand why. The book is terrifying and repulsive, while also a compelling look at the human psyche and how the projection our own selfish needs and desires on others can lead to harm and destruction. It is not a book for the faint of heart.