Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reading Recap: September Edition

September was hard.  I feel like every month I say that, but this month: Wow.  Back to school, new routines, travel, going to my Grandmother's memorial, and off the charts humidity and rain.  I am ready for October. 

I had hoped to get more reading done, but the four books I finished were important ones.  They helped me relax, taught me something, and took me out of my little world for a while. 

Here are my October books:

"Nothing's worse than saying goodbye.  It's a little like dying."

I decided to start the month with a graphic novel and this graphic memoir has been sitting on my bookshelf for years.  I heard it discussed on a podcast and decided it was time.

It didn't knock my socks off.  The art was striking but I've read better.  I learned a bit about Iran from someone who lived through much of the revolution but I think I would have liked a longer forward or afterward to add more perspective.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
“People don’t like these facts, but I can’t help that. If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
My book club read this for September and the conclusion we reached is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is completely fine.

The story was a good one.  Things were revealed slowly, building a sense of mystery and making those pages turn.  But, I didn't find it "hilarious" as it's been lauded.  There were some parts that made me chuckle thanks to misunderstandings and crossed wires.  But I certainly wasn't rolling on the floor laughing or anything. 

Maybe the reviews were too buzz-y...if I had been expecting a story that centered on the psychological development of a character who had been through hell and was trying to live a "normal" life, I think I would have loved it much more.

I would file this novel alongside the likes of The Rosie Project and Ginny Moon and maybe Turtles All the Way Down (all of which I liked slightly better).  Eleanor deals with big themes like death and trauma in accessible and non-threatening ways.  I never felt super depressed, but when I would put the book down I'd realize my shoulders were clenched by my ears.

It is almost a meditation on empathy and how we can connect, and it's crucial that we connect, in a world that seems bent on isolation.  Loneliness is likened to cancer and the reader sees, up close, just how damaging it can be.  For these reasons, I'm glad to have read it, but I wish I hadn't been set up to think this was a funny little rom-com of a book. 

Nobody's Fool
“Throughout his life a case study underachiever, Sully—people still remarked—was nobody’s fool, a phrase that Sully no doubt appreciated without ever sensing its literal application—that at sixty, he was divorced from his own wife, carrying on halfheartedly with another man’s, estranged from his son, devoid of self-knowledge, badly crippled and virtually unemployable—all of which he stubbornly confused with independence.” 

My husband and I like to recommend books for each other and he recently encouraged me to pick up Nobody's Fool.  Richard Russo is one of his favorite authors and I hadn't read any Russo.  It was time.

we are a little gentler when recommending a book but the idea is the same

Nobody's Fool is over 500 pages and that made me annoyed.  (#notpettyoranything) My Goodreads reading goal is slipping out of reach and I wanted to read shorter books to make a dent in it.  I forgot how much I love a well-told story.  This book reminded me.  

Sully is a tough case.  He doesn't make good decisions and he's on a "stupid streak" for most of the book.  Ms. Beryl is Sully's landlady who is coming to terms with giving her son control of her house and money as she fears she's becoming slightly senile.  I don't think I can properly communicate how much I love these two.  

This a book of flawed characters who are mostly down on their luck.  It's gritty and painful, but Russo's story has a thin thread of grace running throughout the pages.  I was sad to be done with the book, and yet, it felt right.  

Worth every page.

I'd Rather Be Reading
"We are readers.  Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts.  Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers.  They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives."

I've been describing this delightful little book to everyone I see as a massage for my brain.  It was relaxing and soothing and I know those aren't typical descriptors for books and I don't care.  I can definitely see myself returning to this book the way I do to certain movies or TV shows when life (or the books I'm reading) are stressful and dark.  It was the literary version of a cup of tea and a warm blanket. 

Anne Bogel is the host of my all time favorite podcast and when I heard she had a new book coming out I quickly preordered a couple of copies.  It is a compilation of essays on reading.  Not preachy or braggy, she just tells the truth about what it means to love reading, to be a reader. 

Each chapter sparked a discussion I had with my friends and family or in my own head.  I will share some of these on another day, in a longer post. 

If you love to read: which, you probably do because you're reading this nerdy blog, you might want to pick this up.  You will feel seen. 


October is here and I am doing a buddy read with my 9-year-old and working through a book club pick that I'm not too sure about yet...What did you read in September?  Any big reading plans for October?  

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