Wednesday, April 06, 2016
March Reads in Review, 2016
March was a better month than the rest of the year. While not on par with my usual reading, it was definitely an improvement. This has been the slumpiest year I recall in ages.
17. In This Proud Land by Roy Emerson Stryker and Nancy Wood - Subtitled America 1935-1943 As Seen in the FSA Photographs, I expected a book full of FSA (Farm Security Administration) photos with little description. But, there was a substantial introduction that was much more interesting than I expected. Roy Stryker was the man who headed the FSA Photography project, which was tasked with showing how the federal funds to combat rural poverty were put into use during the Depression years. He was a Midwesterner who knew farm life; and, rather than sticking to the guidelines he was given, he came up with his own. He talked about what he instructed the photographers to show, the individual photographers' styles, and why he selected favorite photos. He particularly admired the dignity of the impoverished. A book I purchased used, In This Proud Land was much more meaningful than expected.
18. Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote - Andi wrote a little about her 2014 reading of Capote's first published novel in her monthly recap and I agree with everything she said but, surprisingly, I still managed to fall in love with the book in spite of the way it veered into the bizarre toward the end. Maybe it was because of #Weirdathon? I can't say for sure, but I was so impressed by Capote's writing that I didn't mind when he threw us into bizarre, dream-like sequences. Other Voices, Other Rooms was my March classic and I hope to read more Capote before the year ends.
19. Iris Grace by Arabella Carter-Johnson - One of my favorites of the month, the story of young Iris and how her mother has dealt with the challenge of her severe autism, with focus on teaching at home, Iris's paintings, and her amazing cat. Iris Grace is one of the most beautiful books I think I've ever seen, with photos of Iris, her cat Thula, and her paintings, along with charming illustrations in the endpapers and at the beginning of each chapter.
20. The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Sam Taylor - A stand-out for its gorgeous writing, The Heart is a translation but you'd never know, if not for the fact that it takes place in France, thanks to the quality of the translation. The story of an organ donation from the time a young man goes to the beach to surf with his friends to the first beats of his heart in another body, I was stunned at how gripping this story was and loved the fact that it ended on a high note. As you'd expect, it's a very emotional read.
21. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel - Probably the craziest love story I've ever read, the mix of cooking, magic, and romance is a total hoot. Loved it!
22. Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum and Keika Yamaguchi - A children's book about a little pink toad who must save the day after her mother is plunked into a bucket by a human hand and her burly toad brothers end up in the bucket with her after several thwarted attempts at rescue. Really enjoy the fact that the way the brothers treat their little sis is accurate to the way males dismiss the suggestions of females or pass them on as their own.
23. Pines by Blake Crouch - My first inter-library loan and I'm happy to say it was worth requesting. Loved the fact that the answer to what's happening in Wayward Pines isn't revealed until late in the book and it's so unpredictable that the pages flew.
24. Close Encounters of the Furred Kind by Tom Cox - You never know what you're going to get when you open a book about cats. Some are funny, some will make your blood boil if you're a true cat lover (not everyone who writes a cat-centered memoir really understands and loves felines). Tom Cox writes about his cats with a huge amount of affection and admirable attention to his four cats' individual personalities, as well as humor.
25. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson - I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought an electronic copy of Nimona; I just knew a couple friends really enjoyed it and was in the mood for something different. It was different, all right, in a weird way but good weird. I liked the strange mix of medieval (castles, knights) and modern (computers, communication screens, fancy laboratory), and adventure. Loads of fun.
26. Lumberjanes #1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen - My second electronic graphic novel, downloaded because I enjoyed Nimona so much, was a tremendous disappointment. Like Nimona, it has a paranormal aspect. But, the price was deceptive. I thought it was a bargain at $1.99 (currently $1.20 for Kindle) but I didn't notice the page count. At 25 pages, Lumberjanes #1 amounts to a chapter, not a complete graphic novel, and as such it ends abruptly before much of anything has happened. I also found one characters repeated exclamation, "What the junk?" so irritating that I would only have read on if #2 happened to be free. I side with the Goodreads reviewer who called it "hipster nonsense".
27. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - One of the biggest surprises of the month. I have soured on the concept of self-help/inspirational books, in recent years, because I've found that they're either not all that useful or the effect doesn't stick for long. But, Big Magic stunned me. It's one of the most inspiring books about creativity (with focus on writing, but easily applied to other creative pursuits) that I think I've ever read.
Not added to reads because I didn't read it from front to back: Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka, a library book that I've already had to return. I just discovered my new library has a fabulous selection of cookbooks, so I'm planning to start regularly sampling cookbooks. We only got around to trying a single recipe from Plant Based Cookbook, the muffuletta (with portobella mushrooms as a replacement for the usual meat ingredient) but it was so fabulous we've made it 5 times. This week, I checked out The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. We'll try at least one recipe from it, this weekend.
In general, this month was excellent because I was pretty brutal about giving up on anything that didn't immediately grab me, with only one exception -- and that exception, Lumberjanes #1, really only occurred because it was so short. I don't know if I would have made it through 200 pages, anyway. But, it certainly felt like a rip-off. I know a lot of people who enjoyed Lumberjanes, so if you do read it, just be cognizant of the page count.
When it comes to the challenge of reading my own books, this month was not bad unless you consider the fact that most of the books that came from my own shelves were recent additions. Like Water for Chocolate is the only book that's been on my shelves for any great length of time. Only one book, Teeny Tiny Toady, was sent to me by a publisher. Two were library books: Pines and Big Magic. The rest were purchased, with the exception of The Heart, an ARC that I happened across when I dropped by my old library, where they occasionally give away ARCs. Since I loved almost everything I read and my book count went up, this month, I consider March a success.
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