Friday, October 28, 2016

What I've Been Reading

The out-of-hand TBR shelf

Let’s talk books, shall we? It’s been months since I’ve written about what I’ve been reading. And you know I’ve been reading…though not quite at the pace of some previous years. I took several books with me on my recent trip, but only finished one of them, my time being taken up with more important things such as beating my mom, aunt, and cousin at Chicken Foot (dominoes) and visiting with the horses next door. A girl must have priorities. 

I’ve been fighting a losing battle with the TBR shelf (see photo above)—this year I’ve bought a ridiculous number of books, and even though I’m mostly reading from my own shelves, I’ve fallen behind again. And while I haven’t been reading as many books, I’ve read some excellent ones. So without further ado, here are some highlights of my recent reading in no particular order:

I started reading H Is for Hawk on the airplane to California. This beautifully written memoir by Helen Macdonald took the book lists by storm in 2015, appearing on 25 Best Books of the Year lists, including that of The New York Times Book Review. Devastated by grief following the death of her father, Macdonald (an experienced falconer) adopted and trained a goshawk and the experience helped her heal. I’ve never thought about what it would take to fly a hawk free, but Macdonald’s description of invisible lines between her and her hawk reminded me of what it takes to work a horse at liberty: trust, respect, and being a safe place for the animal.

Bluebird, or the Invention of Happiness, by Sheila Kohler, is a historical novel based on the real life of Lucy Dillon, an 18th century French aristocrat. Using flashbacks, it follows Lucy from her unhappy childhood, to becoming a French Court favorite, fleeing to America with her husband and small children to escape the guillotine, and eventually returning to France once the danger of execution was past.

My mom, also a great reader, handed me The Christie Caper when I was visiting. I started reading it on the plane home. It’s part of a series featuring Annie Darling, owner of mystery bookshop Death on Demand. Annie’s cosponsoring a conference celebrating Agatha Christie, and unbeknownst to her, murder is on the agenda. I love Dame Agatha so I enjoyed the Christie life and book references throughout this book. I’m down to the last 40 or so pages, and I think I know whodunit. We’ll see.

I adored Voracious: A Hungry Ready Cooks Her Way Through Great Books, by Cara Nicoletti. This is a book I wish I’d written. Nicoletti is a butcher, cook, and writer, and Voracious combines stories about books with recipes inspired by them. Great fun.

The Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell. I have a fascination with reading about the experiences of people living in countries other than the U.S. I’ve traveled some, but the closest I’ve come to living in another country was the couple of months I spent in Israel while working on an archaeological dig as a college student. I’m interested in daily life, systems, and cultures that are not my own. In Year, Russell, a Brit, moved with her husband to Denmark so he could work for Lego (he’s identified throughout the book as “Lego Man”). Using her journalist skills, she interviews everyone from her neighbors and her garbage man, to directors of Danish social agencies to discover why the Danes are consistently some of the happiest people in the world.

So what’s up next?

I’ve read a lot of mysteries this year, making progress on the several series I follow, but now I’m also in the mood for something more substantial, something in which to immerse myself. Perhaps a classic? I have a Wilkie Collins novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son at the ready. Or perhaps just a novel that doesn’t involve finding a dead body?

Choosing the next book to read—one of my favorite simple pleasures!

Have you read anything exceptional lately?

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7 comments:

Cheryl Gebhart said...

I just recently finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is set in France during WWII. Not a happy story, by any means, but I couldn't put it down, and it's been a long time since I've read a book that compelling. Before that I read The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease. It is very good as well, although not quite as good as The Nightingale. It is set in England during the reign of Henry VIII.

Deborah Nolan said...

Dear Kathy love seeing what you have been reading. I always love a good mystery. Karen White has become one of my favorite fiction writers. Have enjoyed everything I have read by her. Glad for your review. With the days getting shorter may tackle my own stack of TBR! :)!

Deborah Nolan said...

Dear Kathy love seeing what you have been reading. I always love a good mystery. Karen White has become one of my favorite fiction writers. Have enjoyed everything I have read by her. Glad for your review. With the days getting shorter may tackle my own stack of TBR! :)!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Cheryl--I've heard of The Nightingale, but not The Heretic's Wife. Will have to look them up. I love books that I can hardly put down, that call to me when I'm not reading them. H Is for Hawk was that way a bit for me.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Debbie--I love sharing my reading with others, so I'm glad you enjoy hearing about it. I will have to look up Karen White as I'm not familiar with her. Not that I need anymore to read, as evidenced by that shelf... Hope you have time to curl up and read this fall/winter!

Leanne Sowul said...

I would so love to rifle through that shelf in your picture! Spying on people's to-read piles is one of my favorite things. Unfortunately, I keep most of my own to-read list on Goodreads or saved in my library cache, so there's no rifling through it.

I highly recommend The Count of Monte Cristo. It's a very very long read, but worth it. Reading this post made me want to re-read it, and watch the movie too.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Leanne--I love a good snoop through other people's bookshelves myself :). Your way is much neater and takes up less room, however! Another blog friend of mine loves The Count of Monte Cristo, too, so that may have to be the next big book I tackle. Hope you're able to enjoy a little reading time while you're home with the new baby...though I know that's probably a vain hope.