2015 in Books, February

I’ve been asked if I actually enjoy reading or if I just consume books. Frankly, I love everything about reading–the initial promise of the cover, the feeling of being wrapped in another person’s philosophy and emotions, the satisfaction of learning where these characters are going, and closing the book with the knowledge that it’s there if I ever want it again. I also go through phases with my reading. Sometimes I intersperse nonfiction and novels, other times I lean heavily to one side and abandon the other. On occasion, I will read one book at a time, but I usually have more than one going. Often I have a research  book underway at work, a novel that I left in the nursery, another book that I started so that I could have something to read and not wake up the toddler, and then one that I just got off of the library’s wait list on my Kindle. I also read very, very fast. Usually, I don’t skim or speed read, but I left graduate school with an incredibly fast reading pace. I had to unlearn how to “gut” books (read for the thesis and major supporting arguments and skim the examples), but I was ultimately left with the ability to read faster and deeper. Valuable skills, I can assure you.

I got poison ivy on my face this month, so I had a few days of binge reading while I tried desperately not to scratch my face. The steroid fueled read-a-thon also coincided with bad weather, which created a perfect storm of word absorbing.

    • Yes Please by Amy Poehler
      • Frankly, not as good as Bossypants by Tina Fey, but it was still a fun read. Poehler’s all over the place, but there are some great quotes that I had to highlight, among them, “I love my boys so much I fear my heart will explode. I wonder if this love will crack open my chest and split me in half. It is scary, this love.” Also, “A story carves deep grooves into our brains each time we tell it. But we aren’t one story. We can change our stories. We can write our own.” I can empathize.
    • Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng
      • I really enjoyed this novel set between the 1927 Mississippi River flood and the early 1940s. Cheng’s sentences are beautiful, and his story invokes a world that is at once distant and yet relatable through characters’ emotions. He also handles ingrained racism deftly. I will definitely pick up Cheng’s next novel, which I hope is not too long in coming.
    • Fever Season by Jeanette Keith
      • Sometimes I take forever to read a book. I’m pretty sure I started this one at least eight months ago as my eating-lunch-alone-at-work book. Thankfully, I don’t have to do that very often. Keith wrote about the 1878 yellow fever epidemic, and (like the best historians can do) she turned the historical actors into multidimensional people who helped or fled the city for a variety of internal and external reasons. She also does not shy away from gender or racial analysis. This book is a great compliment to Mary Caldwell Crosby’s American Plague about the larger scope of yellow fever epidemics. Speaking of Crosby…
    • The Great Pearl Heist by Mary Caldwell Crosby
      • What I like best about Crosby’s writing is the way she is able to make well researched facts read like the twists of a detective novel. She gives a glimpse of what 1913 London was like on the eve of World War I and tells a good story at the same time. Little Free Library win!
    • We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
      • My LibraryThing secret santa sent me this novel in December. Since I had been hoping to read it ever since my coworkers gave it glowing reviews, I was pleasantly surprised to be gifted it. I loved it. Read it. You’ll be happy.
    • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
      • I once again struck gold in the Pink Palace’s Little Free Library. This one was armchair travel at its finest; Bill Bryson combines tourist traps, history, trivia and endless amounts of driving into something more than I thought possible. There’s a reason people pay him money to go far away and write about it.
    • Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett
      • Meh.
    • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
      • This book takes on North Korea as a setting with complicated results. Sad, but with staying power.
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