Who knew November could be a blockbuster month for reading? I can’t go so far as to say the books were blockbusters, but I read a lot of them. The best part? I redeemed myself during Nonfiction November 2017 by reading 5 nonfiction books! That’s more than I’ve read in the last two years combined. Granted most of them were under 300 pages, but maybe that’s the secret to nonfiction? Works for me.
In addition to nonfiction, November was huge month for library books, thanks to two wonderful programs at Seattle Public Library. One, they have a section on their site for e-books available now, which is like online browsing the library stacks—super fun. Then they introduced the Peak Picks program which is a goldmine for those of us who love print and love going to the library. It’s a display with a limited number of brand new releases that are first-come first-serve. No waiting for bestsellers, but you can only keep it for two weeks with no renewals. LOVE this.
Regardless of how it happened, I read far and wide in November—covering the good, the bad, and the ugly. And honestly, I had a better success ratio using friends’ recommendations and blind library picks then I had with new releases the rest of the year. If I were statistically inclined, I’d try and figure this out, but, enough chatter, here’s my reading:
The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch
Published by Little Brown and Company
Publication date: November 7th 2017
If you’re in the mood for an exhaustively detailed novel about one young woman’s journey from privileged elite to Communist then this is the novel for you. Fitch writes well, but I’m not in a place to stay interested in the difference between Bolshevik, Menshevik, and Soviet. The novel is over 800 pages and I could only make it to 380 before feeling like I was reading War and Peace again, at which point I bailed.
The Passion of Cleopatra (Ramses the Damned #2) by Anne Rice, Christopher Rice
Published by Anchor
Publication date: November 21st 2017
STOP laughing! I fell prey to nostalgia and saw this new book from Anne Rice and thought, because I loved the Lestat books (yes I did!), maybe her take on ancient Egypt would be equally interesting. Now, instead of vampires conferring immortality, there is Bektaten, a queen from an African civilization that predates any known. She found a plant based elixir that makes her immortal and well, you can imagine the trouble that follows. Maybe if I were still in my early twenties, I would find Rice’s writing hypnotic, but now it’s just overwrought.
The Underground Railroad: Review to Follow
The Heart’s Invisible Furies: My reviewBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published by Berkley
Publication date: July 29th 2014
After reading The Underground Railroad I need something light and fast. I saw the HBO series of this and loved it so decided to give the book a try. Reading a book after seeing the movie can be fun because you can see the action in your mind with the characters visually filled in. This one works well—it was exactly what I needed it to be.
The Walworth Beauty by Michèle Roberts
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication date: November 14th 2017
Madeleine and Joseph are both moving around the same London neighborhood, but she lives in 2011 and he lives in 1851. Apparently, Madeleine’s apartment was once possibly a brothel. I say ‘possibly’ because I could not get far enough in this novel to determine what exactly the plot was. This vagueness at page 138, combined with no use of quotation marks for dialogue and prose that whipsawed between one word sentences and fulsome descriptions meant I gave up.
The Beautiful Mystery (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #8) by Louise Penny
Published by Minotaur Books
Publication date: August 28th 2012
I read my first Inspector Gamache mystery, Glass Houses, last month for a television book club I belong to and fell in love with Louise Penny’s writing. Now, I am happily making my way through the previous twelve books in the series. Unfortunately, not in order, because she is so popular there are hold lists for almost every one of her books.
A monk has been found dead at an abbey in an isolated part of Quebec. It is an order that takes a vow of silence, except for their otherworldly chants. A recording of these was taken and went viral. It ended up being produced and sold, bringing them much needed money for their abbey, but also much unwelcome attention. Gamache and Bouvoir move into the abbey and the lives of the brothers until the case is solved. Despite being set in such a restricted space with a small cast, Penny keeps a slow burn of tension throughout.
Non-fictionOption B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam M. Grant
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: April 24th 2017
I was curious about this book because, for a long time, I’d believed that strong and resilient were almost the same thing. Or, at least, that strong people were always resilient. It’s only recently that I’ve come to see that this is not always the case. I’m strong, but as the years and experiences have accrued I know I’ve lost a great deal of resilience. I hoped that Sandberg would provide insight into how to increase (or recapture resilience), but aside from interesting definitions and information in the beginning of the book such as this:
Recognizing that negative events aren’t personal, pervasive, or permanent makes people less likely to get depressed and better able to cope.
“Joy is very important to me. And I can’t count on joy to come from anyone else. It has to come from me.”
Sandberg deals almost solely from the position of grief, which is understandable as it is her experience. It just meant that I found very little I could use in Option B.
When Breath Becomes Air: Review to follow
The RBG Workout: A Supremely Good Exercise Program by Bryant Johnson, Patrick Welsh
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: October 3rd 2017
Yes, this is a real book from Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s trainer. And, by God, if an 84-year-old woman can kick ass in the gym AND in the Supreme Court the way she does, then I need to try her workout. This is a compact, charmingly drawn full workout that Ginsberg does with Johnson. It has lots of options for making exercises easier or harder and how to adjust them to do at home. No excuses! The only shortcoming I found was that several of the exercises would benefit from a brief description of what muscle group is being worked.
How was your November? Any time for reading?