Friday, February 3, 2023

January Book Report

January 2023
I finished 11 books last month.

A quote from this month's reading:

"I've begun to suspect that fidelity is less a problem you solve than a chronic condition you manage with willpower and strategy--a decision to skip drinks, to tell the body no, or not again, or definitely only twice more." --Ada Calhoun, Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give 

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

 Here are the books I finished in January 2023: 
  1. The Man that Got Away by Lynne Truss (4-stars)
  2. Nolo's Quick LLC by Anthony Mancuso (4-stars)
  3. Spiderweb by Penelope Lively (3-stars)
  4. Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (3-stars)
  5. The Virginian by Owen Wister (4-stars)
  6. White Colander Crime by Victoria Hamilton (4-stars)
  7. The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (4-stars)
  8. Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (audiobook, 4-stars)
  9. Driving Force by Dick Francis (4-stars)
  10. How to Read a Novel by John Sutherland (3-stars)
  11. The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (3-stars)
The UnReadShelf blog has a theme challenge of sorts this year. The theme for January was "comfort" which none of my completed books really matched. I thought the Penelope Lively would but it didn't. February's theme is "courage." 

Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Story of Philosophy

The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest PhilosophersThe Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers 
by Will Durant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was written in the 1920s which wasn't an issue until I got to the "contemporary" philosophers and then it was a bit weird. Western philosophy is discussed one thinker at a time, with reference back to earlier philosophers who were influences or whom the subject is refuting. Durant uses a lot of quotes from the individual philosophers, but offers a lot of guidance and context so his reader doesn't get lost. I don't feel like I understand all the arguments I read here, but I definitely have a better understanding of who's who in the tradition of Western philosophy.
This book is on my Classics Club list and on my 2023 TBR pile challenge list

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Mr. Dickens and His Carol

Mr. Dickens and His CarolMr. Dickens and His Carol 
by Samantha Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“We are all lost, all broken. Trying desperately to be whole again.”
I listened to this on audio, read by Euan Morton. 
This is the story of Charles Dickens just after the publication (and flop) of Martin Chuzzlewit. He is being forced by his publishers to write a Christmas book and he is definitely not feeling any Christmas spirit nor any inclination to write. Of course we know he will write A Chrismas Carol, but the path to the famous story's completion is beautifully told in this book. There are a lot of details of life in London in 1843 which was interesting. I am a fan of Dickens' work and I was impressed by how well Silva captured the feel of his writing in her own. There were colorful characters a plenty and the tone was just right--some funny, some sad, some exciting--to feel like Dickens.

This book counts toward the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Virginian

The VirginianThe Virginian 
by Owen Wister
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published in 1902 this story is set in Wyoming between1874 and 1890. It was the novel that inspired the westerns of Zane Grey and of Hollywood. It is told in both the first and the third person (so skillfully that you don't even notice the switches as you read) largely by a narrator who is never named. It is a romance, it is a character study, it is a social commentary, it is an adventure, and a bit of a mystery story all rolled into one.
“Has any botanist set down what the seed of love is? Has it anywhere been set down in how many ways this seed may be sown? In what various vessels of gossamer it can float across wide spaces? Or upon what different soils it can fall, and live unknown, and bide its time for blooming?”
This book counts toward the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, the TBR pile challenge, and it fills in a hole in my Century of Books project.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation

The #6degrees meme is hosted at Books are my Favourite and Best

This month the chain begins with Beach Read by Emily Henry which I listened to on audio and quite enjoyed in February 2021 (when there was nothing beachy about the weather in NH). 

I'm going to begin my chain with another book set in a beach house. Poet Cynthia Huntington's memoir (1) The Salt House is about a long summer stay on Cape Code. It is beautifully written and thoughtful and celebrates both the landscape and the feeling of the place. 

Continuing with the theme of retreating to a beach house to figure stuff out my next book is (2) A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson. This book is about a year when Anderson retreated to a beach-side cottage to sort things out and is a quiet meditation on how Anderson sees herself fitting into the world and whether it is working for her. Another title I enjoyed which addressed those same themes is (3) Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison. 

Retreating from the world to figure out where you go next is also the subject of Ruth Reichl's beautiful book (4) My Kitchen Year: 365 Recipes that Saved My Life. The idea that you can cook your way to clarity about your world is also a large part of what makes  (5) Midnight Chicken and Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger  a wonderful book. 

All of these books (including Beach Read) focus on women who have retreated from the world to some degree in order to reassess the direction of their lives. I am going to complete my chain with a novel that seems to me to be the quintessential work on this theme: (6) The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. 

Friday, January 6, 2023


Spiderweb: A NovelSpiderweb: A Novel 
by Penelope Lively
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reminded me a bit of Barbara Pym's work; both in tone and in content. There were a lot of documents (letters, newspaper clips, etc.) mixed into the narrative which worked well with this story. There was a second thread of the novel about a neighboring family which turned the book in a darker direction than I had expected.  I didn't feel like the ending worked which diminished my rating. If you are a person who can't read about bad things happening to animals this is not a book for you.

This was a book from my owned-but-not-read shelf and I chose it for the January Unread Shelf theme of "comfort." I didn't find it particularly comforting but it is a good novel. I have read 2 other books by Penelope Lively (How it All Began, and Life in the Garden) both of which I liked but didn't love. Not sure if she is a writer for me to keep reading or not. Any suggestions of standout Lively novels I should consider?

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Favorite Books of 2022

he Top Ten Tuesday topic this week is "Favorite Books of 2022." These are the books I read in 2022 that I most enjoyed.  

  1. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
  2. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
  3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  4. Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  5. Matrix by Lauren Groff
  6. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
  7. The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
  8. The Bear by Andrew Krivak
  9. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (the audiobook was amazing)
  10. Buttered Side Down: Stories by Edna Ferber

Monday, January 2, 2023

December Book Report

December 2022
I finished 9 books last month.

A quote from this month's reading:

“It is much more sensible to be an optimist instead of a pessimist, for if one is doomed to disappointment, why experience it in advance?” --Elizabeth Peters, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog

Here is my progress toward various goals and challenges:

 Here are the books I finished in December 2022: (link title to post if is one)
  1. The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars (audiobook, 4-stars)
  2. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (4-stars)
  3. Python Programming by Cal Baron (3-stars)
  4. The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters (4-stars)
  5. Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M. C. Beaton (3-stars)
  6. The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams (audiobook, 3-stars)
  7. Read and Gone by Allison Brook (3-stars)
  8. The Real Story: A Guide to Nonfiction Reading Interests by Sarah Statz Cords (4-stars)
  9. No Mallets Intended by Victoria Hamilton (4-stars) 
I didn't get as many books finished this month as usual, but I have several in progress so January may have a more typical number. I mostly completed all my 2022 challenges except the goal of reading 4 books of poetry (I read 1). 

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2023 Reading Plans

I have some big non-reading projects in the works for 2023 so I am scaling back my reading plans a bit for the coming year. Here is what I hope to accomplish:

  • Finish my Classics Club list -- need to read 8 books before October 1, 2023 to complete 50 books in 5 years. Seven of the books in my TBR pile list will count toward this goal.

  • Read at least 5 books from my Readers' Advisory Reading List. There is a lot of historical fiction on this list so that may be an opportunity to double up on challenges.

  • Make progress on the various mystery series I have started reading.

  • Read a total of 100 books (my usual GoodReads goal). 
If each book that I read only counts toward a single challenge I will need to read 43 books to complete these challenges. I anticipate a lot of overlap however, so this should be do-able.
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