Tuesday, February 4, 2014

For the Record: January 2014

How is it that the first month of the year is over already?  Being that this is the year we finally finish our house renovation, I've got a gazillion things to decide.  But I'm starting to really look forward to unpacking all my books...I seriously daydream about how I'll organize them (sad but true).

After lowering my goal on GoodReads (for number of books to read in 2014) I'm less stressed, but I'm still struggling a bit to keep on track.  Ugh.  I wish I didn't care.  I'm trying to not care.  But still.

5 Books Read in January: (5 year-to-date)

2 Classics:
  - Free Air, Sinclair Lewis (4) Okay, so this Sinclair is delightful.  This was a wonderful look at a road trip in 1919.  Who knew Americans were all over the great road trip adventure way back in '19? I loved the social humor and the peek at so many different kinds of society at the time.  I've heard this is in no way his best—which is quite intriguing for this fan.  I bought this book because of the lovely cover in conjunction with the author's name.  See?  Judging a book by its cover paid off.
  - Oil!, Upton Sinclair (3) And THIS Sinclair was a bit of a drag.  Even though the title has an exclamation mark which should mean the book is exciting.  It isn't.  Well, more precisely, the first third is engaging, and then it devolves into a political rant about socialism being better than capitalism.  Even that is interesting, in light of current sentiments...and the fact that we have seen the socialist ideal fail in practice...but still a little so-so overall.  I haven't watched There Will Be Blood (which is supposedly based on the first third of the book) but I think I'll do it soon.

1 for Book Club:
  - Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler (3.5) I adored Tyler's new book, The Beginner's Goodbye, which I picked up on a whim at the airport a few months back, so I decided that her Pulitzer Prize winner would be a good choice for our next book club read.  There were many funny parts, and a lot of depth into what drives people, but it was sad too (in that life-doesn't-always-turn-out-how-you-expect sort of way).  One thing the two books did have in common was the extraordinary way she writes of ordinary people.  Her characters are so real.

2 Others:
  - The Lighthouse Road, Peter Geye (5) I loved this book.  Probably even more than I did his first book, Safe From the Sea.  There is something about the way he writes about land, family, and history that appeals to me so much.  If you are ever in the mood to read a little historical fiction—something that reads quickly but has depth and substance—pick this!
  - Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, William Kuhn (3.5) This lovely lighthearted book was an impulse buy at my local book shop.  Although it began with a cast of characters in disarray, it soon pulled together and tidied up.  Kuhn's portrait of the Queen was very kind and sweet, and the book ended up being a nice happy read.  Recommended if you're in the mood for something simple and happy.


4 Current Reads:
  - Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen.  I'm reading the annotated version for this re-read and it's wonderful so far!
  - Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides.  I'm joining Wallace at Unputdownables for a read-along of this.  I haven't begun yet (I need to start!) but it's not scheduled for completion until the end of March so I'm feeling like I've got all the time in the world.
  - The Best of McSweeney's.  Still reading this, story by story.  There's been so much to love that I'm not in a huge hurry for it to end.
  - The Dog Stars, Peter Heller.  My new audiobook.  So far the writing is spare, which matches the post-apocalyptic landscape.  Listening to it instead of reading it myself (which I tried a while back) is helping me to go at a slower pace and appreciate the syntax.


On My Nightstand:
I really don't have much in the queue right now, although I have a couple of vague goals.  First, to catch up on an Indiespensable book or two (I did a terrible job at keeping up with them last year) starting with the newest shipment: Orfeo by Richard Powers.  Second, to read my next Willa Cather book and/or knock back a couple of my classic novellas.  We'll see how it goes after I'm done with Sense and Sensibility.

  - The Big Burn, Timothy Egan.  One of my goals this year is to read more nonfiction, so I thought it might help to have it staring me in the face.  I really enjoyed Egan's The Worst Hard Time (about the Dust Bowl) and am looking forward to this one about Teddy Roosevelt and our National Parks and Forest Service.



  1. Those Goodread goals tend to stare you down. But, I was happy with my 3 books read in January because I read so many pages!

    I love the cover of Sense and Sensibility. I have Lighthouse Road on my TBR list, but not in house yet.

    1. This edition of Sense and Sensibility is really wonderful. It's gigantic in size, but the illustrations and notes are so much fun.

      Lighthouse Road is not the happiest of books, I should warn you, but it is deep and thought-provoking.

  2. I'm with Heidi, Goodreads goals are sort of arbitrary and sounds like you're working your way there. I set mine artificially low (50-60) when I know I almost always read 70-80 books. I don't really even use it as a goal, I read what and when I want :) Have a great February!

    1. I tend to finish books in spurts, so I need to keep that in mind. I like your method of setting it at a level that makes it a non-goal. It really is so much more satisfying to read without pressure!


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