Where's the book?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Too busy to write, but not to read

Birthdays, Thanksgiving, celebrations…all of it getting in the way of reading, not to say writing about reading. It’s going to be a real nail-biter to see if I can fulfill my vow of reading a book a week for 2014. Remind me not to do this again. It’s made me look at books completely differently. I weigh them first. Check out the font size. Look at the number of pages. Can I spare the time for a Trollope? Shouldn’t I do another Liane Moriarty? For the most part I’ve read what I wanted to read without regard for length and girth. But I have avoided a biography of Caravaggio that I picked up a while back because it’s 600 densely written pages. Same for another Dickens I’ve had sitting on the bedside table. Next year: War and Peace. And Dickens. And Trollope. Always more Trollope.

So, in the interest of squeezing more reading into the little time I have left, here are my two-sentence reviews of the last six books to date:

#42 The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. Yes, another Liane Moriarty. Fun read, not as compelling as the others. She hadn’t quite gotten her groove on with this one.

#43 Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. Excellent read, similar to Life After Life in its playing with time, but more complex, many more characters, and therefore not as absorbing as her later book, and occasionally even confusing. She may just have bitten off a bit more than she could chew.

#44 We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. A really old-fashioned, wonderful first novel. The story of one woman’s life, nothing remarkable or exceptional other than the amazing eye for detail and humanity. And many scenes in New York City and Bronxville, right next door to where I grew up made it fun. 

#45 Two novellas by Anton Chekhov: The Steppe and The Duel. Loved The Duel, particularly the debate between natural selection (promoted by the Germanic Von Koren) and the futility of life (embodied by Laevsky, a lazy, self-indulgent government employee). Didn’t much like The Steppe, a picaresque tale of a young boy traveling across, you guessed it, the Russian steppe.

#46 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Wow! A literary post-apocalyptic novel, about what happens after a virus kills 99% of the world’s population, which I was reading the week Ebola came to New York City in the person of Dr. Craig Spencer. Talk about timely. And what an excellent read, a real look at how people survive, how the world goes on, and what it means to be human. I hope someone is making this into a movie.

#47 Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction by J.D. Salinger. Two more stories in the Glass family saga. Carpenters is Buddy writing about Seymour’s wedding, and it’s wonderful, like so many of his stories are wonderful. I want to say I loved Seymour just as much, because it’s a much more “difficult” story (and in fact, really isn’t a “story” at all) but I found it rough going.