Books Read :: November-December 2015

I actually read a lot in these two months, despite it being the end of of my first semester as a PhD student and then the holidays, and I'm glad I did so. Here's what I read to finish out 2015:

A True History of the Captivation, Transport to Strange Lands, & Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag by Josh Russell
This was a text we read for one of my classes since it's "about" a grad student. It was good; it had its flaws, some of which we discussed in class. I liked the characters I was supposed to like; I didn't like the characters I wasn't supposed to like. I was surprised where I was supposed to be surprised. I definitely enjoyed reading it, but I can't help but read "like an editor" at times, and there were things, had I been on the other side of this book, that I would have liked to ask the writer to reconsider. Sometimes I wonder if the things I dislike are things an editor had a hand in moving in the direction that they wound up in--like if an editor was like, let's put a neat bow right here, and the writer was like, I really don't think we need-- and the editor was like, bow, here. Hmm.

Works of Anne Bradstreet by Anne Bradstreet
Okay so, I read all but the monarchies section in the middle because, wow, that was super boring and also not her best work, but I am still going to consider this collection read because I'm not sure I'll ever go back and dig into that monarchies stuff? And I for sure read everything else, some of it multiple times as one is wont to do with poetry.

They Say, I Say edited by Gerard Graff
I definitely read all of the textbook content in this, though perhaps not all of the example texts in the back. I'm using the "with readings" version of this book to teach the same class this upcoming semester as I taught last semester wherein I used this book, and I'm happy to be using it again. It's sort of basic, but I'm teaching a basic writing class, so, voila.

The Birth-Mark by Susan Howe
Maybe my favorite book that I read, school-related-wise as all of these have been so far, last semester? I don't know. I read so many interesting things--but yeah, this was probably the most engaging, and it led me to seek more of her work.

The Holder of the World by Bahrati Mukherjee
This was the last text we read in one of my courses, and it was a bit of a whirlwind. I'm glad we had to read it so quickly because it really got me into the book, but at the same time, I would have liked to spend a bit more time with certain parts of it. I felt at times like I wanted to researcher who is looking in to the history of the Salem Bibi to get to the point more quickly, but then in the chapters where she did more quickly narrate action as opposed to layers of research, I wanted to slow down--but couldn't! I had a deadline. It was an excellent novel from start to finish, an interesting layering of texts and timelines and "history", and I would recommend it.

The Silent Woman by Janet Malcolm
This was an excellent study in the difficulties of biography using Sylvia Plath as the case study to discuss the subject, one that informed but didn't make it into the paper I wrote about Anne Bradstreet and John Berryman. I couldn't put this down, and this surprised me a little, considering it's a lit crit book, but at the same time, considering where I am and what I'm doing, it made perfect sense. The book is definitely about Plath, but it's also really about the myth of her and how it came to be and how readers might never "know" the real Plath--I have been reading Plath's unabridged diaries for a long time now, so this was of particular interest. I am also taking a class where we're reading her verse and novel, so it was a greatly informative book that should help me to be able to participate in that course fully and with investment.

Flood by J. Bruce Fuller
J. Bruce read from this at a reading I went to earlier in the semester--I think I saw him read twice this semester--and I was happy to be able to get a copy of this slim-yet-perfect-bound chapbook and read it through. It tells the story of two Louisiana floods, and Fuller's voice feels both fresh and classic somehow at the same time--maybe the subject matter itself helps emphasize that?

Sheer Indefinite by Skip Fox
As this was a "selected" collection of poetry, I took my time with this and have been reading it one and off for months, finally finishing it at the beginning of December.

Fat Daisies by Carrie Murphy
I read this as the semester was ending, and it was refreshing to read something modern and fresh as opposed to all of the more classic poetry I'd been reading all semester. It felt like Carrie was confessing to me somehow, telling me things that she normally wouldn't tell people--yet there they all were, in lines of verse, in this book, not being whispered in my ear but there for anyone who wanted to read them. It was a weird feeling to feel that way while reading this book, knowing it wasn't a secret, but at the same time the poetry's intimacy lent it a certain validity.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
Following the completion of my own work and turning in final grades for the classes I was teaching, I took a trip to the local library here--I love my local library. I am so excited to live so close to it. As a kid, we had a GREAT library, and as far as I remember, we went there often. It was truly an amazing book heaven, and to me, it was what a library should be. Having lived so many different places now, I realize I was spoiled, but that being said, I think that for a small town like Breaux Bridge, the library is fantastic. Anyway, at this library, I rewarded myself with a YA book, and this was it--the last in a series of three from which I had already read the first two. I wish I'd read all three back to back; though they each do have their own plots, and I do see why they were split into three, because YA is such candy to me, I'd have rather read them all consecutively than taken a break between them. This is why... I don't choose to read series books until they're all out. I read the initial one for a book club I was in way back when...

Waiting for the Past by Les Murray
This is an FSG poetry book I got in advance that wasn't my favorite, but that's because Murray isn't really my cup of tea when it comes to poetry. I'm sure it's a fine book of poetry, but it wasn't for me.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
This was my "winter classic"--I started reading it before the semester had ended thinking that it might take me some time to finish. I took it out from the university library. I have always wanted to read it, but since it's such a classic, I avoided it as I did many other classics. What struck me at first about it was how insanely readable it was, and how GOOD it was. I had trouble saying much more than that when people asked about it, "it's GOOD!" I would say and they would nod or be like, yeah I know right OR be like I had to read that book in xth grade and I didn't like it because of course English class ruins all good things for everyone... I hate to think anyone wound up disliking this book because it says so much in such a readable way and at the same time is beautifully written.

Dead Horse by Niina Pollari
Finally got my hands on a copy of this Birds LLC title! I saw Niina read in Philly and maybe also at last year's AWP in Minneapolis, and I've been wanting to read this book of poetry ever since. It was worth the wait. I love Niina's bluntness and the way she makes you think and makes you think you get her and then turns you on your head. I also liked that I could "hear" her reading these as I read them since I've seen her read before. So, go see her read--and then read this book!

The Swimmer by John Koethe
I read this quickly, mostly on trains in NYC. I liked how the poems were accessible but not simple and easy to read but not easy to understand. I felt like he was being honest with me, and that I wanted to keep reading, so I kept reading. I felt like I read the book too fast and maybe need to go back to it to dig a little deeper.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I closed out the year with this one, which I read on trains but also before I went to bed at nights because it was YA and easy to read--but it also kept me up at night and made me cry and specifically made me cry while I was laughing at the same time--a weird emotion I haven't encountered often. The characters were extremely realistic and so well done that they felt real but at the same time felt like characters that should be in a YA novel. I'd like to read more by this author.


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