Crathes Castle Gardens (Aberdeenshire, Scotland) on a rainy June morning. Beautiful and whimsical and just a little melancholy. Perfect…
In the summer, I shared that I was participating in Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge. I’m making good progress; I’ve checked 38 items off the list and have 14 more books to read before the end of the year. With about eleven weeks left in 2015, I should be able to finish the challenge without too much angst.
My fall reading has been eclectic, to say the least. I started September with a semi-autobiographical graphic novel for kids and ended with a hefty unconventional literary work. As much as I am enjoying the challenge and appreciate the way it is broadening my reading horizons, I’ll be ready for some serious comfort books (i.e. Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton and Jane Austen, etc.) as a reward when this is all over.
El Deafo by CeCe Bell. I thought this graphic novel was charming. CeCe Bell uses her own experiences to create a story about the tribulations and triumphs a deaf girl growing up in a hearing world. It’s funny and authentic to elementary/middle school life. El Deafo is the type of book my children would have loved when they were younger. (Fulfills the graphic novel requirement.)
All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr. This is, by far, the best book I have read in 2015. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are fascinating, and the story is engrossing. My mom called it “luminous” and I agree. The storyline moves between past and present to eventually bring the main characters, a blind Parisian girl and an orphaned German boy, together in the city of Saint-Malo during a WWII Allied attack. I cannot possibly do the story justice by trying to briefly describe it. Just believe me when I say it is a beautiful, beautiful book. (Fulfills the Pulitzer Prize-winning book requirement.)
The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank. I doubt that Anne Frank needs much introduction or explanation. Her diary is a candid glimpse of life for Jews in hiding during the Nazi occupation in Belgium. It was unsettling to witness her intellectual and emotional growth as a young woman juxtaposed with the atrocious living conditions she endured for two years before she, her family and housemates were discovered and eventually executed. Her account has validity as a historical document and as a witness to the perseverance of the human spirit under extreme duress. (Fulfills the book originally written in a different language requirement.)
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. The plot of this book based on a curse involving generations of “mermaids” who can hold their breath underwater for very long periods of time. All the women of the family drown on the same day of the year at about the same age. The story alternates between a brother and sister who are the last survivors of the family and the history of the creation of the curse. Frankly, I feel luke-warm about this book. It was well-written, but I wasn’t particularly attached to the characters or impressed with the development of the story. When I finished reading, I felt dissatisfied even though I am still unable to articulately explain why. (Fulfills the book published this year requirement.)
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth tells the story of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer who overcomes many adversities to become a wealthy land owner in pre-Revolutionary China. I liked the book, especially the simple but eloquent writing style which complements the story. I also enjoyed the peek into a small part of historical Chinese culture. (Fulfilled the requirement of a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t.)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag is a firefighter living in a dystopian future whose job requires burning books. After he meets an interesting young woman who seems to reject the current culture, he begins to have doubts about his job and his life. I expected the main focus of this book to be about the evil of burning books. Instead, it is a much larger commentary on the shallowness of modern culture which seeks happiness and pleasure without consequences above all else. The end result of this pursuit will result in lives without meaning, feeling or beauty – life without life. This is a thought-provoking read which seems more relevant now then when it was first written. (Fulfills the banned book requirement.)
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the most unusual book I’ve read this year. The novel is set in Victorian England with a simple love triangle as it’s main plot. There are several things that make this book unusual. The author interjects himself into the story on several occasions to provide a behind the scenes look at the development of the characters and storyline. He also goes off on tangents about Victorian culture and mores (which I particularly enjoyed). To make sure he fairly addressed each of the main characters’ desires, he provides three separate endings to the story. The abundant humor also caught me off guard. I enjoyed this book even though it became intellectually heavy at times. The quality of the writing alone entices me to consider some of his other books. (Fulfills a book that came out the year you were born requirement.)
I am also linking this post to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit. Take a peek to see what other bookworms are reading.
A little while ago, WordPress highlighted a niche blog called Things We Like. The author, Jessica Gross, writes lists of things she likes to help her feel better when she’s “in a funk”. She also encourages others to submit their lists for publication on her blog. What a great idea! I’m adopting the concept as inspiration for a semi-regular post here because lists like this encourage me to practice thankfulness.
Thankfulness is good.
It settles me squarely in a place of worship. It enables me to be mindful of the small moments that make up the substance of my life. And, it softens my attitude when living feels like too much work. Now is as good a time as any to start, don’t you think?
Things I Like
What is bringing you joy at the moment?
The first few weeks of September are an in-between time around here. The days are still all summer hotness (it was 90°F yesterday) but the sunlight has mellowed, the shadows are lengthening and darkness arrives earlier each night. School has resumed, much to everyone’s disappointment, but we haven’t yet settled into The Schedule. There is still time to make a batch of peach jam or to enjoy a late night glass of sangria on the front porch but I’ve also been indulging in fallish activities like baking and attending high school football games. I’m enjoying this in-between time. It’s a lovely place to be.
The link love I’m sharing reflects this in-between-ness with a bit of summer, a bit of fall and a bit of other stuff thrown in. Enjoy!
Even though I was up to my eyeballs in graduate work at the beginning of 2015, my daughter challenged me to work through Popsugar’s Reading Challenge with her this year. I accepted the challenge because: 1) the categories were interesting and reasonable, 2) the list gave me a reason to chip away at my cumbersome to-be-read pile and 3) 52 books does equate to a challenge (hence the name), something I can’t seem to turn down. Considering the state of my life during the first half of the year, I made commendable progress, finishing 14 books by the second week of May when I finally completed my degree. (Hallelujah Chorus commences.)
Since finishing graduate school, I have been reading with abandon. It’s been delightful to lose myself in a story without experiencing the “I should be doing something more productive” guilt I’ve felt for the last two years any time I tried to do anything that wasn’t school or work related. Several of the books I’ve read in the last two months have been the best of the year. I now find myself at the end of July with 23 books under my belt and 29 to go to complete the Challenge.
Books for Popsugar’s Reading Challenge 2015 (with date completed and my rating out of 5 stars):
Note: At this point, I’m hesitating to assign books to the Challenge categories. I’m finding my reading choices often fit into several categories OR after reading a book, I realize it doesn’t fit into the category I thought it would. For instance, Dr. Sleep wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and Me Before You didn’t turn me into the blubbering mess I expected. We’ll just have to wait until the end of the year to see how things match up. In a few days, I’ll be settling in at the beach for a glorious week of sunshine, saltwater, family shenanigans and reading. Lots and Lots of reading. When my husband saw my pile of books for the beach, he asked me (with considerable snark) if I planned on doing anything like eating, sleeping or engaging with other humans during our vacation. I did the mandatory eye roll thing and then explained my need for a selection of books so I can choose what to read based on my mood. The truth is, with sharks behaving badly in the Outer Banks this summer, I’ll probably be spending less time in the water and even more time than usual reading under an umbrella. Considering the circumstances, a small suitcase full of books seems quite reasonable. This is what I’ll be packing:
I’ve heard great things about these books so I’m excited to get started. It’s going to be a fantastic week at the beach! Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any other book suggestions you have.