Book Shelf: March 2017

A different kind of beach reading, and one I do more often.

A different kind of beach reading, and one I do more often.

March has been an excellent month for reading.  Each book I've read has been enjoyable, several have been engrossing, and I only put one down (Lincoln in the Bardo - but this may be in large part due to trying to read it on the Kindle).  

Commonwealth - I can't remember the last time I read a book with writing so evocative that I felt like I was present in various scenes.  For example, this book opens with a christening party that will change the lives of many and it's so well-depicted that I could feel the heat in the air, sense the subtle shift of energy in the party once the adults started drinking screwdrivers in the middle of the afternoon, and smell the ripe oranges in the backyard.  Even weeks later, I vividly recall certain scenes from this book.  I didn't want to put this down.

The Hopefuls - Insert every cliche you hear about Washington, D.C. into one novel and you will have The Hopefuls!  This is the story of a young couple who lives in D.C. and the husband has political aspirations.  He seems to have the pedigree and connections but lacks charisma and is envious of his friend who perhaps lacks the dedication and drive but oozes charisma.  It's a depressing portrayal of the couple's relationship and the one they have with their friends.  Overall, a quick read but not sure I'd recommend it.

The Little Book of Hygge - A solid primer on the Danish term "hygge" that is to 2017 what "mindfulness" was to 2016.   It's a stretch to have an entire book devoted to this subject, but an easy read and made me think about all the ways in which I could make our home more hygge when we return (even if I still can't pronounce the word).  Hopefully I can learn more about this firsthand when we are in Scandinavia this summer.

A Man Called Ove - You'll root for Ove, a true curmudgeon, to find a reason to want to live, yet understand why he might not want to.  This book made me laugh and cry and I highly recommend it.

Eleanor and Hick - Biographies are not a genre I seek out, but Eleanor and Hick was recommended to me and I'm glad I read it.  The biography traces the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, an A.P. journalist with whom Eleanor shared an intense and possibly intimate relationship.  What made an impression on me was the tremendous life of activism and that Eleanor Roosevelt led.  I've taken innumerable history classes, but I don't recall any of them mentioning the influence and impact Eleanor had both during and after FDR's presidency.  Learning more about her life was inspirational.

The Custom of the Country - I adore Edith Wharton's writing and each time I read one of her novels, I wonder why I don't just binge read all of them (as I'm known to do when I find a new author I love)?  When I learned (thanks, J!) that the author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand cites this book as an influential work, I snagged it from the library and couldn't put it down.  Edith Wharton writes about wealth, privilege, society, and the subtle rules that govern like no other author I've read.  Side note - the main character in this novel has the oddest first name: Undine.  Her nickname is Undie.  Apparently the name is derived from the Latin "unda" meaning "wave" and the word undine was created by the medieval author Paracelsus, who used it for female water spirits.  I can't say she is wave-like, but she is manipulative and calculating. 

We head to Japan this month, so I'm planning to read Memoirs of a Geisha, A Tale for the Time Being, and one of the Murakami novels I have yet to read (I'm leaning toward Kafka on the Shore).  Today I started Between the World and Me.  

Reading on our deck overlooking the Golden Bay in New Zealand.  Not a bad view...

Reading on our deck overlooking the Golden Bay in New Zealand.  Not a bad view...