A long time has passed since my last post about the books I’ve been reading. And I have been reading some really exceptional books, I have to say. Since I don’t have the time or the inclination to review everything that I’ve been reading for more than half a year, I am planning to just tell you about three books that have reminded me how much magic there is in letting myself be absorbed into a written world.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is the latest one I’ve read from this short list. Maybe it made the list because it’s the last book I read, but it did offer me one of those otherworldly reading experiences that I remember from childhood. Maybe because it’s a story that reminds of a lot of those early readings and because Jane Eyre is mentioned often in its pages. I can’t quite explain its magic, but maybe that’s why it works. It a very dark and intriguing story, maybe a little too depressing even. I found it mesmerizing and inspiring. It reminded me why I always wanted to be a writer and in a way it encouraged me to want to pick up my own writing again and keep at it.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern builds a universe that is completely mesmerizing. A very creative sort of book, unlike any other I’ve ever read. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough if you’re into magical realism (with a extra-large dose of magic).
Night Film by Marisha Pessl is my favorite of the three. I was filled with awe white reading it, exclaiming after every chapter that it’s the perfect book, that it’s amazing, everything I’ve ever wanted in a book. Maybe it didn’t live up to it until the end, but it got pretty close. It has everything: a very mysterious central character, supernatural happenings, a gothic mansion, a cultish following, everything. This is for sure my favorite book of the year.
I haven’t read a lot for pleasure these past two (and a half) months since my previous Books post. But there have been quite a few books in my life, mostly manuals for the courses I’m taking. I added two of those to this list because they are really great books.
The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud: I loved this book. It’s the kind of book from which I learn about writing, because the plot is not much to talk about, but the characters are so incredibly interesting and alive and truly unforgettable. And the way in which authors manage to capture your interest like that, from apparently nothing, is just fascinating. Otherwise, of course, it’s just a book about middle class problems, which might put some off, but I didn’t mind.
The Living Goddesses, by Marija Gimbutas: This is a very interesting study of Marija Gimbutas about ancient civilizations and their cultures that evolved around women figures. Marija Gimbutas was a very respected researcher until she came up with the theory that Old Europe civilizations were matriarchal, based on all the archaeological evidence and theorizing (which is how this is done by everybody). But her theories were never fully accepted by her peers. We don’t need to wonder why. Anyway, the book is such an interesting insight into the spiritual and daily life of ancient humans, that I recommended it highly.
Season of the Dragonflies, by Sarah Creech: This book seemed very promising, about magic and sisterhood. But it turned out to me more of a romance type of story, than anything else. I think it makes efforts to go further than that, but it doesn’t, really. Nonetheless, I did enjoy reading it. It’s a fun read. Just not what I was expecting, I guess. If you are into magic realism and stories about women, go ahead and try this book.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel: This is not my usual read, and I don’t even remember how this book came on my radar, but it did and I enjoyed reading it, although in retrospect I think my time could have been used better. It’s an interesting story (post-apocaliptic sort of thing where almost everyone is dead on Earth except for a few not-so-lucky survivors) and the writing is captivating too. But the premise is rather ridiculous: about two decades after the virus-caused apocalypse, survivors live a primitive life, with no electricity and no technology. They don’t try to rebuild anything and just fight amongst each other for the resources that are becoming scarcer. I don’t know if I can recommend this to anyone. Only if you want to get angry at how absurd everything seems, then go ahead.
The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams and The Practical Guide to Information Design, by Ronnie Lipton: If you are interested in learning design, these books are amazing. They teach you all the basics that you need to know. I am keeping these books for my reference library.
Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson: I wish the detective was a woman, but the case does involve many very interesting women characters who are victims, but also criminals and survivors, and generally have very memorable presences. I enjoyed the book and I’m going to pick up more of Kate Atkinson’s.
Nude, by Nuala Ni Chonchuir: My friend, writer and artist Rachel Fenton, gifted me this book. Her gifts are always the best. It’s a beautiful book, another lesson in how beautiful and unexpected writing can be in a masterful hand. I highly recommend it.
It’s so you, by Michelle Tea: Stories about women and the meaning of their clothes. What’s not to like?
February has been a slow month in books read. Maybe because of the interminable snow days, when I felt compelled to cook more, clean more (well, not really, that’s a lie), entertain the kids more, when I generally felt more stressed, so I couldn’t enjoy my reading. But January was better, so I’m going to put than in here too.
Asa Larsson, Until Thy Wrath Be Past: I am reading a lot of Scandinavian mysteries, and this one I enjoyed much more than others. It is a wonderful, very atmospheric book. It has elements of the supernatural (which I always like), but they don’t take a life of their own and only serve to create the surreal feel of the story.
Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, Women in Clothes: Amazing book about what clothes are to women. It’s like reading 40 fashion magazines, but only a selection those really good articles (each issue will have at most one or two, if at all).
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History: A lot to learn from this book about women’s history. Not particularly memorable, I thought (because I forgot almost everything about it, and it’s only been a month or so since I’ve read it), but a good read, nonetheless.
Lisa Unger,Beautiful Lies: This book was just all right. The writing seemed a bit self-indulgent to me and the storyline rather predictable. But I read it till the end, and I usually just give up on books that are terrible, because I value my time. So it’s not awful. The main character had a lot of potential, I thought. It could have been better. But I would give this author another chance, and read one more book, because this one did leave me hopeful.
Emily Spivack, Worn Stories: This is a small book and a little disappointing. It’s a collection of stories, each about one particular item of clothing that holds significance for the storyteller. The thing is that yes, I get that we seem more cool when our most precious piece of clothing is some rag from high school, but that’s really not interesting to anyone. There are one or two stories about actually beautiful pieces, but most of the book is about the pricelessness of some sort of ripped and stained t-shirt. A very American thing, I feel, although I might be wrong.
Karin Fossum,Don’t Look Back: I enjoyed reading this book, although it did feel like it had too many characters that didn’t achieve enough depth and the story was not paced properly, so the climax fell flat. But it was not a bad read. And isn’t that cover beautiful? My favorite out of this month’s bunch.
Susan M. Wyler, Solsbury Hill: I picked this book because, you know, I would read anything about the Brontes. It is a light read, and not at all bad. The house described in the book is pretty fantastic. And the main character is interesting: she’s a designer of wool clothing, who started by repurposing old sweaters from thrift shops. But it reads more like romance than anything else, and that is not my favorite genre in the world.
I think I have streamlined my reading list now so that I am never out of appealing titles, and I almost never have to give up on a book before the end. I’m using Goodreads more than ever and I like the functionality it offers: adding books to the To-Read pile and then taking them out into the Read pile. It’s simple but it works great, and I never saw it until this year, although I’ve been on Goodreads for a very long time. Never too late.
Copyright 2018 Lori Tiron-Pandit