7 short reads

In the Presence of Fear by Wendell Berry
Three short essays, written after 9/11, about our outlook as a country, our economic system, our values, how political/social movements work (or don’t). You can read the title essay for free right here. It was good, and we agree on a lot of things, but it wasn’t really paradigm-changing for me. But it is a thoughtful book.


Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, and John Jennings

I love Kindred (reviewed here), and I love Octavia Butler. So when I saw this at my local library, I was like, sounds good, I will give this a shot. It’s a decent version of the story but I have to say nothing really compares to the original. Some of the art is quite effective and affecting, but I missed the real immersion that comes in a story when it takes long to read and the author can fill you in on their own details.

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
I bought this when I was in high school after hearing good things about it, but it had been like…15 years…? And I hadn’t read it yet. So I was going to give it to a thrift store, but then I started the first couple of pages and realized how quickly it would go. Although it is a play, and I don’t really like reading plays, it worked well as poetry (which is I guess what it started as).


Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Beautiful writing, beautiful book. It’s about growing up female (like childhood to adolescence) in Brooklyn, and how hard that can be, and the things friendship can and can’t do. This is probably my favorite book on this list. It’s a very quick read–I think I may have even read it in one sitting, but in any case I definitely read it in one evening. It’s a book that deserves a reread.

 

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by some randos
Can we…actually just forget I ever read this? Great, let’s.

 

 

 

 

The Nonviolence Handbook by Michael Nagler
A friend gave me this book. It’s pretty short, and I guess it has some good insights, but it’s not really my thing. It’s a lot of focus on Gandhi and didn’t really move me toward action in any way. It’s called a “handbook” for “practical action” but…failed to deliver on that (for me). I’ve been exposed to a lot of similar things, and this one was just really low impact to me, probably because he’s not exactly saying anything new or interesting.

 

Candy Corn Crime by Grace Lemon
I picked this up as Halloween reading. It was a really short cozy mystery. The title and cover led me to believe that this may have been one of the mysteries that have recipes in them. Alas, it was not, but I googled recipes for candy corn fudge and ended up making this one anyway. The fudge was good, the book was…okay.

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

Title: The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Author: John Fowles
Genre: Fiction / historical fiction

Rating: 5 / 5

Goodreads

Why I picked it up: I was doing the dishes of an evening and out of nowhere, the though “I should read The French Lieutenant’s Woman” came to me. I don’t know why; it wasn’t as if I’d been hearing about it or anything reminded me of it lately. It came to me unbidden. And so I got a copy and picked it up and was soon vindicated–intuitions about books like this are exactly why I made it my goal to read only what I’m drawn to!

What it’s about: Um…gosh. Like, life?? and Victorians too. Basically I guess…there’s this guy, Charles Smithson, and he has a fiancee and he visits her in Lyme Regis (it blows the other book I read set in Lyme Regis out of the water) and does his fossil hunting gentlemanly things. But he has the occasion to begin to question his life course and assumptions. But he is also very proper, yes, quite. I don’t know how to describe it! It’s good!!

What I liked: EVERYTHING. I’ve been putting off writing this review for months because I can never do justice to the books I love the most. This book is probably my favorite of the year. I liked the writing, the accuracy of the historical details and the narrator’s asides about Victorians. I liked how he interwove writing from the time as an epigraph for each chapter. I liked the story and the dilemma and how it kept me guessing until the end(s). I liked how he portrayed class consciousness. The characters were great. The whole thing was great! It was what I hope for every time I open a book. Mostly I am disappointed. This time I was not. It was interesting and enlightening and I loved it!

What I didn’t like: It took me like a chapter or two to get into it. It didn’t grab me immediately, but the chapters are short so it didn’t take all that long either. That’s really the only criticism I can think of.

Overall / recommended: Yes. I had a library copy and now I own a copy. I’ve bought like two books in the last two years, so…yeah, I loved it.

The Nice and the Good by Irish Murdoch

Title: The Nice & the Good
Author: Iris Murdoch
Genre: Fiction 

Rating: 2 / 5

Goodreads

Why I picked it up: Been hearing about Iris Murdoch forever & my university library had this one.

What it’s about: It’s like one of those books where everyone is sleeping with everyone but it’s still boring.

What I liked about it: Um…let me think… having a hard time coming up with something. :\ There was this part that took place in this underground room thing and it was effectively creepy.

What I didn’t like about it: I just don’t think it’s my thing. Based on the synopsis people provide when writing about it, it sounds like something I’d like. This leads me to think maybe it’s something in Murdoch’s writing style? It jumped around and didn’t have much focus. No one was developed, and the ones who were I found to be annoying, or maybe even just written in an annoying way. I didn’t hate it enough to swear off Murdoch forever, I’ll give her one more try, but I found this book to be a slog despite some parts that should honestly have made it at least kind of exciting.

Overall/recommended: Mehhhhhhhh. Meh meh meh.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Title: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Author: Kathleen Rooney
Genre: Fiction / historical fiction

Rating: 4 / 5

Goodreads

Why I picked it up: Basically the cover. Love the art on it.

What it’s about: An elderly woman (like in her 80s I think?) does her New Year’s Eve routine…and then decides to keep going, walking around Manhattan and reflecting on her life.

What I liked: I thought this was a compelling and understated story. It was interesting and fun to read. I thought it was an effective way to explore a life.

What I didn’t like: It’s been several weeks since I finished it, and there may have been a few things I wasn’t so keen on, but I actually don’t remember any of them.

Overall / recommended: Yes, recommended. I know this is kind of a bare bones review of the book, but it was an engaging and satisfying read and I can see myself rereading it in the future. It might be good for fall or winter reading since it’s kind of moody and ruminative.