I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
When snow and chilly temperatures descend on us, pleasures such as books and colorful art can keep our spirits warm and cozy. I’m overdue for another “mind cleanup” post on what I’ve been reading and writing lately anyway, and now that the holiday rush is over I finally have some free moments for it. Plus, now that I’m in my third trimester, I’m trying to slow down and cease with the get-stuff-done bustle, and there’s not much like talking of good books to both calm me down and brighten my spirits. So, time to indulge!
Books I’ve Read Lately (since my last mind cleanup post):
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
I loved this novel and, as long as it was, didn’t want it to end. (At about the halfway point I posted some comments and quotes from it here.) Delightful characters, suspenseful plot, witty eloquence, and historical setting with social satire–a mystery, romance, and coming-of-age tale all in one–and to top it all off, it’s Dickens, one of the great literary masters in whose hands a story becomes a feast for the mind. Ahh.
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I listened to this recent bestseller by the author of Olive Kitteridge as an audiobook. I definitely enjoyed it, but only at a mild, “that was a nice story” level. It’s hard for me to understand all the hype about books like this when I compare them to great stories like Bleak House. Is it just a matter of preference? I want a book to consume me, thrill me, delight me, change me, or in some other way just knock my socks off. (For the record, I felt that Olive Kitteridge met that standard for me–I found it deeply moving.) This one didn’t. But it was still a lovely read.
Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
Because of this book, which I recently listened to, I am currently living in that delicious, first-love-like glow of having discovered a whole new-to-me series of books that I really enjoy. I’m now on book two in the series and am more enchanted than ever by Agatha’s relatable human foibles and personal growth in the midst of her country-village amateur detective endeavors.
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
After watching the show with my husband and enjoying it, I decided to try reading the books. The first one was so in sync with the show (well, vice versa, I suppose) that reading it didn’t do much for me, although where it differed from the show, I liked the book’s version of events better (for example, some moments in Daenerys’s storyline…and also just getting to be inside her head more than the show allows for). I’m on the second book now but may give up on these books after that, because they’re just so dense and slow, and they don’t completely engage my attention/imagination.
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
A friend recommended the Lord Peter Wimsy series as an alternative to the Agatha Christie mysteries I love so much. But this book was only so-so for me. Maybe at some point I’ll try the next one in the series and see if it grows on me.
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie
Loved, of course.
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
I read this as a child and loved it, so I picked it up again this fall. (I just love doing that–re-reading books I liked as a kid. It’s always amazing to me how much of them I don’t remember!) And once again I enjoyed it very much. It’s a sweet and unique story that definitely earns its place as a classic work of children’s literature.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I keep meaning to explore more science fiction, so reading this was a step toward that goal. But this might not have been the best Isaac Asimov book to start with, I think. I found the particular structure he chose for telling this story confusing, and the main characters of each section all seemed to have the exact same personality. But I suppose the appeal (as, perhaps, with other science fiction stories) is in the idea of the story (the world/premise). And it is a cool idea, offering much food for thought. I just think it would have been more powerful with, erm, better writing.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
I read this famous memoir partly as research for the academic paper I was working on and partly because it was interesting. The book has a different feel from the movie–more contemplative and intellectual, even poetic. I liked it a lot.
Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod
I listened to this light memoir as an audiobook and enjoyed it as a cute, fun read that satisfied my Francophile side. It scratches the self-help memoir itch, too. In hindsight, I sort of wish I’d read it as a print book instead in order to see more of her paintings that go with the story.
What to Do When You’re Having Two by Natalie Diaz
I’ve been plodding through all my local library’s books about twins (I’m seven months pregnant with twin girls), and this was by far the best one, in my opinion. I ordered my own copy and have continued referring back to it.
Books read but not mentioned: There are some books I am pretty much continuously re-reading, namely the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Jane Austen’s novels, and two nonfiction books: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman and Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore.
Actively reading now (for the first time):
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – I find it dark but intriguing, with much food for thought.
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (as mentioned above)
Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton (as mentioned above)
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – I am slowly savoring this lovely classic (in the literal sense of ancient Greek & Roman classics!), usually taking a bite-sized morsel with my breakfast. Already there have been several passages that deeply resonated with me.
Because of that huge paper I was working on this fall for an academic course, I unfortunately got away from my personal writing projects, even from personal/creative writing at all. That isn’t good for me emotionally, because writing feeds my soul. So I’m trying to get back on track with it now, and I’m also planning some strategies for getting my writing fix in short bursts when I can after the babies come. For me, writing is an important form of self-care!
Projects I’m currently hovering over include:
1) finishing my “Self-care School” blog post series and the other posts I have drafted or started
2) working on the memoir (a long-term project of mine)
3) working on my most recent novel-in-progress (maybe someday I’ll actually finish it, or any novel I begin writing…)
So that’s where I am. Thanks for listening to me clean out my mind! 🙂