Thursday, January 21, 2016

January books

On the eve of our holiday book club dinner, I offer the Books I Read This Month. For me, reading is like taking a vacation on your couch. I can't go to sleep without reading first, and rather than turn on the TV, I'll pick up a book first. I do have a Kindle, but recently, I've been going to the library quite often. There's something about a real book in your hands that the electronic readers can't evoke.

So, here are a few of the books I read in January, and a few thoughts on each:

Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling: This has been on my list for ages. I feel like when it came out there was kind of a backlash against her for writing an adult novel? Perhaps I'm imagining this? In any case, it's extremely well done. Rowling took what is essentially a boring topic - municipal change in government - and made it super interesting. All the character description that you loved in the Harry Potter books is there, in addition to the more mature details, and the character development is detailed, but not overly so.

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin: Can't remember why I picked it up, but essentially it is about the Irish and the opportunities that attracted many to the U.S. after the war. You spend much of the book wondering what the main character, Eilis, is going to do with the various situations presented to her, and it's not always predictable. The depth of emotion of Eilis is not vast, but I think that is sometimes typical in descriptions of post-war characters - as if they didn't feel with the emotion we display today, which can hardly be the truth. Display, perhaps no, but feel, yes. Also an interesting commentary on the opportunities afforded to women at the time, which were both groundbreaking then, and yet, stifling. Bonus: I hear this is being made/has been made into a movie - must see!

Witches of America by Alex Mar: Of all the books I picked up, this was probably the most intense book. The author takes the reader on a tour of various magical religions and goes in deep to discover her own proclivities to each. Not for the faint of heart, this explores the people behind the beliefs as well as the elements of ritual and history behind each. Definitely not the usual Salem trials deal, for sure!

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffeneger: I really loved The Time Traveler's Wife, so I decided to read this one by Niffeneger as well. This book touches on a lot of themes, and one thing I was glad of, is that I didn't have to turn back and remember what the heck happened, which was a major deal in Time Traveler's Wife. This book tends to flow better, and the characters are both interesting, complex and inappropriate, which offers more thought-provoking conversations. I will say, I both saw and did not see the end coming.

Oracle, by Darla Antoine: I know I mentioned this in my first blog post of the year, but reading is far different than editing. Have been taking copious notes since I began reading it, and will probably continue to do so. Certainly, this is both a reference guide and narrative, depending on the section, but the information is extensive and just fun to contemplate and use. Really enjoyable read!

Whisk(e)y Distilled, by Heather Greene: It's not often I pick up a reference book, but I'm a whiskey fan, so I thought I'd give it a go. The recommendation from Anthony Bourdain may or may not have been a factor. This is an excellent primer - easy to read, interesting facts, and a great tone to the whole thing, as if Greene is sitting at the bar with you having a conversation, rather than proffering massive notes on the history of distillation. Included are thoughts from distillers around the globe, which give some insight to the amount of research Greene did. Insets with notes offer additional detail, and there is even a recommended tasting list. Winner, winner.

Happy reading! :)

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