what i’ve been reading {winter 2015/16}

{Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon}

I read this book for two reasons: 1) I loved the Mitford books when I read them 10-15 years ago, and I hadn’t read any of the books Jan Karon had written since the official series ended.  2) I wanted to read something easy/comfortable during the Christmas season when we were so busy (and I didn’t want to read anything that would threaten the sense of joy and celebration).  That being said, I learned a couple of things.  1) I’ve definitely changed as a reader since the last time I’ve read a Mitford book.  2) Mitford books definitely lose some of their magic when they aren’t actually set in Mitford.  While the plot of this book was perfectly interesting, I wanted the comfort of the town of Mitford, and this book just didn’t have it.

{A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L’Engle}

I really can’t believe I had never read A Wrinkle in Time before.  It is a great story about faith and science that takes place when three mysterious women (witches might be the best way to describe them even though it isn’t accurate exactly) show up and say that they are going to help Meg and her brother find and rescue their father who has been on a secret mission involving space and tesseracts.  And while I thought it was great and I enjoyed it, I regret that I never read this as a child.  I remember reading in L’Engle’s Walking on Water that when she was selling A Wrinkle in Time adults didn’t tend to like it because they had lost their connection with the magic in it, but children immediately understood it.  And reading this book for the first as an adult, I completely understand that (and am a bit saddened that I do).

{The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown}

After years of having this book on my to-be-read list, I finally picked it up.  There is really a lot of helpful and useful information in here about accepting your imperfections and shame and anxieties and in turn becoming more authentic and content.  (The core of it all is about the journey to wholehearted living.)  The writing here fell a bit flat for me, but it was worth it for all the wisdom I circled and underlined.

{Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel}

This one blew me away.  It’s about a pandemic that sweeps through the world killing 99% of the population.  It’s about a band of actors and musicians who travel from town to town after the pandemic performing concerts and Shakespeare plays because they do not want art to die.  It is about an actor who dies of a heart attack the night the pandemic hits North America.  It is about art and creativity and the modern conveniences of the world around us and religious cults and comic books and love and death.  It is about so many things and is so complex that I’m just listing things here because I don’t know how else to describe it.
But I will end on this: it is one of the most beautifully written things I’ve read in a long time.

{Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling}

I really love Mindy Kaling, and reading her books makes me like her even more.  She is so down to earth and she tells the truth about a lot while managing to be hilarious.  She doesn’t shy away from talking about her weight or talking about the fact that she was kind of a geek and she is upfront about the fact that she works  A LOT.  She is humorous  and honest and when you read her writing you can hear her voice shine through.

{Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert}

I loved this book.  I loved this book so much.  I think every creative person (i.e. every person) should read this book.  Big Magic is a book about embracing creativity and finding joy in creativity not letting creativity rule over us.  It is a book about accepting the fears that come when we try to create something and about trusting the process of creativity.  It is, in a word, about magic, and it is the kind of book that makes you feel like you can tap into your creativity because Liz Gilbert so generously has invited you and encouraged you to do so.

{My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante}

I feel like I saw this book cover floating around the internet sometime last year, but to be honest I ignored it because I thought it wasn’t a great design decision (I know, I’m sorry).  But then when the last book in this series won one of the best 5 fiction books by the New York Times Book Review last year, I knew I needed to check it out.  The Neapolitan series are about two friends, Lila and Elena (Lenu), and the first book covers their childhood and adolescence.  They are written in Italian and translated into English, and the writing is beautiful.  Lila and Elena live in an impoverished and often violent neighborhood in Naples, Italy (as a result the book was darker than I expected, but no so much that I didn’t enjoy it), and the first book follows the development of their friendship, their attempts at education and schemes to make money and the boys the decide to love (or, often, not love).  Ferrante is one of those writers who writes about everyday life in a way that makes the most commonplace occurrences sizzle with life and meaning.
And one thing I appreciate about this book is that it’s a series, but there is not so much suspense that I have to pick the next one up immediately.  I’ll be reading The Story of a New Name, but I appreciate feeling like I can read a good handful of books between each of these.

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2 Responses

  1. Abby March 5, 2016 at 3:18 pm |

    You’ve inspired me to pick up both My Brilliant Friend and the (earlier) Mitford books, interestingly enough. My mom loved the early Mitford books, but I’ve never tried them. I’ve also heard great things about My Brilliant Friend and EVERYONE keeps telling me to read it…so you’ve convinced me!

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