Okay, so I have set a (kind of) crazy goal for myself: reading a book each day in 2013. That is on top of working full time, trying to cook healthy meals regularly, stay in shape, maintaining a clean and organized household, keeping up with this blog, and still having a social life…like I said, crazy. I thought posting about it here would offer a little more accountability and it would provide a huge amount of information about books! Therefore, I am going to post a list of all the books I read in January with a brief review of each and a link to the book on Amazon in case you want to pick up a copy for yourself.
1/1: Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey (by GB Tran) This is not my typical speed when it comes to books, but as far as graphic novels go, it was great! The art was really expressive, the use of blank space thought-provoking and tasteful, and the storyline itself is informative. It explores diaspora and cultural identity within America, the reasons for relocation, and challenges the idealistic opinion of America as a “melting pot” or “salad bowl” of multiculturalism. In short, I think it’s a good read.
1/2: Bellwether (by Connie Willis) I love Connie Willis for her time-traveling historian novels, so it was with great confidence that I picked up this novel. I must say that it fell far short of the time-traveling historians, but I did not previously know about “bellweathers,” and it is truly an interesting and very real concept. Furthermore, she did offer a valuable social-critique that could be loosely (and as a pun) summarized in the term sheeple. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a simple but still interesting read.
1/3: White Dragon (by Anne McCaffrey) I don’t think there is much that hasn’t already been said about McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. I was raised on these novels, so I enjoy them as much for sentimentality as for the genre-shaping world and story arc. Please note, this is the third book in the original trilogy, but the whole series has great world building and easy-to-love characters.
1/4: The Jolly Postman (by Janet and Allen Ahlberg) This is, hands down, one of my favorite children’s books. I used this when working with Elementary school students to teach the format of letters as much as for reading. The incorporation of allusions to commonly-known fairy tale characters, actual page-envelopes with removable letters, and a rhyming frame story make this book is entertaining for all ages.
1/6: Joseph Anton: A Memoir (by Salman Rushdie) I must admit that memoirs are not my favored genre, and I won’t even get into the “should memoirs be classified as fiction or non-fiction” debate, but I really enjoyed this book…to a point. I have studied Rushdie’s novels in classes, and I have sought them out independently; it would be safe to say that I am a fan of his work. In that regard, it was really fascinating to read the opening chapters of this memoir and hear what he had to say about/in defense of his work, his identity, and the impact the fatwa had on his life and his writing. It was a chore to finish it though: his impatience with the British government and world at large came through in his writing towards the end which I don’t think is fair to fault him for, but at the same time, I didn’t really want to read the sustained frustration for hundreds of pages. Overall, it was a good and informative read. It made me laugh and it made me despair over the world’s politics and humanity in turns.
1/7: A New Turn in the South (by Hugh Acheson) This is a cookbook that I bought in hopeful preparation for moving north. Southern cuisine is still somewhat of an astonishing mystery to me since I do not particularly seek out fried food, sea food, or know much about their region-specific vegetables. Most okra I’ve had has been slimy, and being dairy-free, most homemade fried foods are off-limits to me. That aside, I’m hopeful that Acheson’s cookbook will help me explore this cuisine and learn to appreciate it more. If nothing else, it is very interesting and I look forward to trying the recipes (and maybe even going to one of his restaurants!) soon.
1/8: Lettered Bones (by Susan Finch Stevens) I am a big fan of poetry and book/literary festivals. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to hear Stevens do a reading at the South Carolina Book Festival and I enjoyed it so much that I picked up a copy of her chapbook, Lettered Bones. The poems are smart and delightful. I highly recommend picking up a copy and supporting the SC Poetry Initiative and a really talented poet.
1/11: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (by William Joyce) This book was the inspiration for this Youtube video version of the story. Both the book and the video are amazing! I really love the art and the concept of the story. I highly recommend this book (and the video) to anyone who loves books.
1/12: Earthling (by Steve Healey) This is a book of poems by an author who attended the Clemson Literary Festival in 2012. I enjoyed his reading, and skimmed the book of poems before purchasing it and expected to like it well enough, and to be fair, I did just that. You have to like poetry to enjoy this book though; I wouldn’t classify his work as leisure-reading poetry.
1/13: Under Wildwood (by Colin Meloy) The Wildwood Chronicles, which began with Wildwood, has continued with a strong second book. I really believe (and hope!) that these books will become the newest generation’s Narnia equivalent. They contain all the charm and morality of coming-of-age stories, with the magic of talking animals and the beautiful, optimistic outlook of children. I have been truly impressed by the skill of Meloy’s story crafting, and Carson Ellis’s illustrations are perfectly matched to the tone of the story. I highly recommend these for adults who loved the Narnia series, and allyoung-adult readers.
1/14: The End of the West (by Michael Dickman) Without wanting to diminish my appreciation and respect for Michael Dickman as a poet, I must say I picked up his book of poems because I was such a huge fan of his brother, Matthew Dickman. These are two seriously talented brothers. The End of the West is smart and emotive. I think a review in The Believer summed it up very well: “Elizabeth Bishop said that the three qualities she admired most in poetry were accuracy, spontaneity, and mystery. Michael Dickman’s first full-length collection of poems demonstrates each brilliantly.”
1/15: Glaciers (by Alexis M. Smith) This is a novel that I found utterly charming. The main character is so relatable, and the story offering such a brief window that it reads much like the vintage postcards she collects. A quote on the back of a postcard she finds read “You are all I see when I open or close a book” and has stuck in my mind. I think it is a beautiful idea that books could be so filled with a(n assumed) lover, and makes me wonder whether that is because of her picture being tucked inside and used as a bookmark, or perhaps it is something more abstract and related to the innumerable and unknown possibilities offered by a book and paralleled in their relationship. Regardless, I highly recommend the book and fully expect you to read it front to back in a single sitting! It is that good (and short).