Books Read :: November & December

So, to round up 2013, I read some books. I've decided that for 2013, I am going to go back to making it my goal to read at least 52 books for the year. This is one book/week, and I made it happen in 2012 and believe I can do it again for 2014. So I'll be counting towards that goal again each month when I blog about what I read starting at the end of January. I also am going to do this "A Year in Reading Suggestions" that I found via twitter/tumblr. I've already picked my book for January! So here's to looking ahead.

And, here's to looking back at what I read these past two months...

The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein
I really liked this book. I read it quickly because I was interested in what was going to happen to the characters. I feel like I had a good idea where the story was going to wind up, but I wasn't 100% sure how we were going to get there. Forgiveness and questioning pre-conceived notions were important themes and

Figures for an Apocalypse by Edward Mullany
I reviewed this title for Philadelphia Review of Books. Not sure when it will be featured there, but I'll post a link!

Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I reread the first book to teach it this past fall and the second because the movie was coming out, and I wanted to remember the plot so that I could talk about it. I haven't seen the Catching Fire movie yet, though, and probably won't until it comes onto Netflix.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
This was my first purchase on my Kindle. I bought this last December, and had been reading it off and on for a long time. Finally, this winter, I finished it! I enjoyed it very much-- the stories are addictive and not all of them are as memorable as others, but the characters are definitely memorable. There have been a lot of modernized-TV versions of Holmes in current culture, so I am glad to have read it to see the connections they make to Doyle's stories in their episodes. Speaking of which, 2014 brings us a new season of Sherlock! I don't know when it will be on Netflix/available to stream online, but I'm pretty excited. The first one airs on Jan. 5. Maybe I can watch it on PBS? Hmm. I really love Benedict Cumberbatch. He's "my" Sherlock.

Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I decided that since I tend to do a summer classic, as soon as it made sense for me to start really reading after the semester died down (EXCEPT for all this grading I still have to do--) I would do a "winter classic" this year, and I don't mean that I would organize a hockey game to be played outside. I have been using the excuse that the Russians aren't best to read in the summer because their books are more of a winter literature for awhile now, so it only made sense to pick up Dostoyevsky from my shelf. The scene set in the very beginning of the novel is on a sweltering July day, but other than the disappointment in the setting's temperature at first, I was extremely glad I read this book. It really gets you inside the character's head, and the way that his brain works is more interesting than most things I read all of 2013. This is one of those classics I can't believe I didn't read until now, and I'm extremely glad I have read it. It makes me want to read more of Dostoyevsky.

The Isle of Youth by Laura VanDenBerg
There is no reason for this book not to be on the many lists it graced this year, celebrating it as one of the best books of 2013. It's awesome to see a book of short stories, particularly one by a talented woman writer, on these lists. When Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in lit this year, we knew that meant good things for the short story, and specifically, again, for a woman short story writer. I'm glad I read this book, with its compelling stories about women who are in some ways trapped and in other ways more free than many who choose to live within the grid.

Black Life by Dorothea Lasky
I have trouble thinking about poetry books as books in the same way I think of novels as books, if that makes any sense. Yes, they are connected and make a whole, of course, but especially with this book I feel like I connected with certain poems on a person to poem level more than I connected with the entire book on an entire book level. My favorite poems in here were "Some People Do it" p. 32, "Things" p. 34, "Tornado" p. 44, "Poets, You are Eager" p. 58, and "I Don't Remember the Talk of Men" p. 69.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
This was the book I read to close out the year. I bought it at Barnes & Noble with some credit I had there, and I took a long time to choose. I was in a bad mood, I now forget why, wandering around the chain bookstore, trying to find something that I wanted to read right away. I am a "buy and let sit" sort of book owner. I buy books with every intention of reading them, and then they sit on my shelves for years until I get around to it. Something I would like to do in 2014 is read more books that have been recently published. I want to get into some sort of unstructured routine where I read something new and then something from the past, back and forth. I would like to subscribe to a few small presses to accomplish this, but I am in a "frozen money" mode where I'm not 100% sure when my next paycheck is coming (#adjunctprobs), so I can't do so yet. But I digress-- this was the perfect book to end the year. I read it almost in one sitting, in one day. It's the perfect book for that sort of thing. I think Gaiman is a master storyteller, and this book helps illustrate that. The only trouble with a book like this is that it begs a sequel/reread-- you get caught up in its characters, in the world he weaves, and then when it's gone, the magic is static, it's inside those front and back covers. You don't want to close the book. You don't want to leave the magic. But, ah, it's 2014. I look forward to a new year of reading, filled with its own sort of magic...

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