Books Read :: January 2014

Opening Remarks
I'm participating in two different self-inflicted reading challenges this year. The first is a number goal, based on Goodreads. I didn't meet the goal I set for myself last year, so I set the bar the same as I did in 2012 for this year-- 52 books. That's at least, when rounded out, one book per week, which I know I can handle, and I know I'll meet. I think it's a good LIFE goal for reading. At least one book every week, forever. Perhaps 52 will always be my goal, knowing most times I will meet and surpass it. Anyway, Goodreads doesn't always have the books I'm reading in its database, so the counting system there has slightly less books than my counting here. As usual, rereads don't count. Also, I ran into some "year round up counts" on book blogs, & I'd like to do one next year for this blog.

The second challenge is one I found on tumblr, this, which is recommended-based for each month. The challenge in January was to pick a book published in the year of your birth and read it. Below are my stats thus far for the first challenge, and below that are notes on each book I've read this year so far.

Books Read

Notes on Books Read

The Inside of an Apple by Joshua Beckman
I read a different Beckman title last year, Take It, that I loved beyond measure. I was not as in love with this one-- a lot of it was very reflective on nature-- not a bad thing, just not my cup of tea. Because I had been expecting the poems to be more in the line of the book I read last year, I don't think I enjoyed this as much as I would've had I not had the earlier book I read to hold it up against.

Lake of Earth by William VanDenBerg
This Caketrain title was sent as a gift to me from the author, as we published one of its stories in Gigantic Sequins-- I absolutely loved this book. The longest and title story in it is like a dream-- as in, reading it didn't feel like a dream, but the sequencing within the story almost felt like one of those dreams that you want to fall back into and win. Also, my reading of it has stuck with me like a dream-- I carry the ideas of it with me, around me.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
This was a book I read for the 2014 Suggestion Challenge-- a book written in the year of your birth. I went through Goodreads and found a number of books published in 1984, browsing friends' ratings & reviews as well as reading the brief descriptions of each before, finally, choosing this book. I chose it above others because it's one of the first novels written by a Native American woman in the late twentieth century to get serious critical attention. I felt like I should have read it, should have read Erdrich in general, and was almost mad about not having done so before now. While I was reading it, at first I was afraid it would go on and on-- it's written in series of linked stories that tell a larger story, and sometimes I have trouble getting "into" books that are written that way. However, as the storylines progressed and overlapped and interweaved, AND after I found a nice family tree of the characters online for my reference whenever a name came up that I couldn't place on first glance, I particularly enjoyed reading it and instead of being wary that it wouldn't end, was sad when it did.

The Surprise in the Egg by Elisa Biagini
This is a Belladonna chapbook I bought awhile ago and began reading a few times but never fully committed myself to until recently. I began reading it in a bath I took-- I lit candles and put nice smelling things into a lovely bath for myself, a luxury I felt I needed at the time. Then, I reread much of it because I really enjoyed it and wanted to read it cover to cover-- it's a chapbook so it's short. Many chapbooks that I love almost always beg a reread and this one did. It made me more interested in Belladonna in general. Not that I wasn't originally interested in what they do, but reading such a great little book of theirs made me want to get more into their cause/works. This chapbook was translated from Italian, and I want to read more by the poet when I can get my hand on works of hers translated into English.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This book kicked my ass in the best way. It broke my heart and kicked my ass and made me reflect on my life and made me think of the good reasons I like Mad Men and made me think of how different and how similar today is to the mid-twentieth century and then kicked my ass all over again. I didn't think, from the first ten-fifteen pages or so, that this book would have the effect on me that it did, but it really stayed with me afterwards, and I think will remain with me for awhile. I bought this book from Brickbat Books in Philly because I've always wanted to read something by Yates, and there it was. I bought it in December, and I read it in January. That's pretty good for me.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
I have had this since last Christmas. Of course, you're attracted to a title by Rowling because of the Harry Potter hype, but at the same time, I wanted to distance myself from the negativity surrounding the book initially-- maybe that negativity is something I made up, but I feel as though I heard a lot of not positive things about this title the first few months after its release. Of COURSE my fellow humans, it just can't BE Harry Potter. Nothing can "be" Harry Potter. We shouldn't even have to SAY that. Harry Potter is one of those more-than-a-book sort of things that happened. Anyway, before I go on a rant about the righteousness of the Potter books, I want to switch gears back to the focus at hand, which is this lovely novel by Rowling, which read almost like a debut novel about class conflict in small town England from a promising fiction writer. My one complaint was that there were too many characters-- and no chart I could find like for Love Medicine. It took awhile for me to remember whose side who was on and whose parents were whose. By the second half of the book, when its plot really picked up, I had everything straight and enjoyed reading it. I read it pretty quickly, which is always, with me, most likely a sign I'm enjoying something.

Small Porcelain Head by Allison Benis White
This was the book I received in the mail for the Birds of Lace book exchange. I read it pretty quickly, right after I read the Rowling novel. I feel like what I said on my Goodreads 4-star review about it sums up my feelings on it pretty well!

The Formal Field of Kissing by Bernadette Mayer
Though I am not as acquainted with the Greek/Latin originals as the Monk Books edition of this book's prologue writer, Dorothea Lasky, is, I still managed to enjoy these poems-- and knowing that something lurked beneath the depth of them that  was larger than my own enjoyment of them made them, somehow, even bigger, even better.

We Lack in Equipment and Control by Jennifer Fortin
At the same time that so many of these poems spoke to me, I felt like I was kind of missing something about them when I was finished with this book-- and I wanted to go back and find what it was that I was missing, but at the same time was vaguely exhausted by the prospect. I really liked this H_NGM_N Books title, but it's something I will need to return to in the future to really have anything real to say about it. I dog-eared a bunch of pages. There were repeated symbols and notions. The language was clinical and beautiful simultaneously at times. I would (and most likely will) read more work from her.


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