May Reading

Here’s the books, short stories and poetry I read in May:

Ongoing projects:

  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
    138 pages, my quota for May — still liking it.
  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
    Almost total fail again. It’s not really an issue, as it is an optional goal, so I don’t really care about not getting ahead. I read a few pages, but not many.

Poetry:

Helen Gardner (ed.) The New Oxford Book of English Verse
I’m up to poem number 583 in this anthology. I’m still enjoying it very much and I’m still doing my reading each morning in bed, when my partner is blocking the bathroom. A nice way to start the day. I mark the poems I especially like with a sticky note, so that I can later revisit them and maybe search out some more of that poet’s work.

Here’s a very short poem by William Blake (1757 – 1827), number 460 in the anthology:

The Sick Rose
O rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Short stories:

  • Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories and The First Person and Other Stories
    I’ve now read all the short story collections by Ali Smith and absolutely loved them.
  • Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories
    I’ve started this short story collection in May and will finish in June. I’m finding them very odd. I’m not sure what to think about them. They seem to be only about the dark side of humanity with not much hope for any betterment. The characters in the stories are all pretty horrible.

Non-Fiction:

Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason.
Very good and eye-opening book about parenting which should also be useful for teachers and everyone who deals with children. Wow, I sure did some things wrong in my relationship with my god-child and her sister. I very highly recommend it.

Graphic novel:

Thi Bui: The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
This graphic novel is about the Bui family and their flight from Vietnam as boat people and how they fared in America. It also tells the life stories of the parents. The art is beautiful and the story is very interesting. I recommend it.

Novels:

  • Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
    Quite a weird novel. I didn’t like it very much but will write a longer review about it.
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
    A great novel. I will also write a longer review, but don’t wait for it, read it.
  • Samantha Shannon, The Priory of the Orange Tree.
    A fantasy novel with interesting world building. It’s about the usual thing, defeating evil and saving the world, but it is refreshing in that it has a diverse cast, interesting different societies and lots of strong women characters. Also, it’s done in one novel, when so many fantasy stories number at least three books. Recommended for fantasy readers or readers who want to try a fantasy that doesn’t require one to read lots of installments.
  • Martha Wells
    • Network Effect (Murderbot Diaries 5)
      A scifi series that I love a lot. This latest installment is even greater than the first four novellas, because it is a full length novel. The series is about a construct, a kind of android who also has human body parts and human emotions. They are treated like slaves or things, but the protagonist has a broken control unit and is therefore free. The amazing thing about this series is the internal voice of the construct and the way it struggles with its humanity and feelings (it has no sex or gender, therefore “it”). But the stories are also full of suspense. I highly recommend all of them.
    • All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries 1)
      I reread the first part of the series because I love it so much. Here we get some of the backstory and the first adventure of the construct.

So, I managed to reach my goal in May and even read some extra books. Had a good reading month and can recommend most of the books I read.

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April Reading

As I was a bit miffed about my failure to meet my goals in March, I made up for them in April.

Ongoing projects:

  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
    276 pages, my quota for March and April. I had a total fail on this goal in March but got all caught up again in April.
  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
    Total fail again. It’s not really an issue, as it is an optional goal, so I don’t really care about not getting ahead with this book this months. Maybe I’ll manage to read some of it in May.

Poetry:

Helen Gardner (ed.) The New Oxford Book of English Verse
I’m up to poem number 364 in this anthology, up to John Dryden (1631 – 1700). At one poem per day, I’ve almost fulfilled my year’s goal. However, the goal is about creating a habit of poetry reading, so I will keep it up. I’m enjoying it very much and I do my reading each morning in bed, when my partner is blocking the bathroom. So, I have about 20 minutes at the beginning of each day for reading poems. A nice way to start the day. I mark the poems I especially like with a sticky note, so that I can later revisit them and maybe search out some more of that poet’s work.
Here’s a very short poem by one Francis Quarles (1592 – 1644), number 264 in the anthology:

Epigram
My soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot has many changes; every day
Speaks a new scene; the last act crowns the play.

Short stories:

  • Ali Smith, Public Library and Other Stories, Free Love and Other Stories, Other Stories and Other Stories.
    I’m reading my way through all the short story collections by Ali Smith and am enjoying them a lot. I read two short stories each day in April to make up for not reading any in March. All caught up.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, One World: A Global Anthology of Short Stories
    This collection of short stories by authors from around the globe was of mixed quality. Some of them I liked better than others. Some were brilliant. A lot were hard to take due to the harsh reality depicted in them – necessary though. Thing won’t get better if they are not spoken or written about. I’d like to try and find more stories from around the world. Glimpses into other cultures interest me.

Non-Fiction:

Michael Palin, Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time.
I was given this book for my birthday and took a while to read it, as I was busy with other books. It’s a great history of the voyages of exploration done by the ship Erebus in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans. The first was a voyage to find the South Pole (which you can’t reach by sea but which wasn’t known at the time). The second was to find a north-west passage to the Pacific. The famous Franklin Expedition that was lost with all hands in the 19th Century. A very well written and readable book. For someone who likes books about exploration or novels about adventures on sailing ships, I recommend it. As I’m also a fan of the novels of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian, I enjoyed it a lot.

Graphic novels:

Bechdel, Alison: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama
These two graphic novels tell the stories of Bechdel’s parents. The first one is about her father. The second is about her mother. Both are at least as much about the author (Bechdel) as about her parents. The first one is more accessible than the second, as the second one contains a lot of information about psychoanalysis, which may not appeal to every reader. Although I don’t know much about psychoanalysis, I found it fascinating. These graphic novels are very dense, and I’m sure I didn’t get all the nuances in my first reading. I think I’ll be returning to them in future (although that holds true for all books that I enjoy. I like rereading).

Novels:

  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
    A very good read, highly recommended. This novel has moved into first place on my list of favourite novels written by Dickens. My review is here.
  • Toni Morrison, Tar Baby
    Somewhat puzzling in parts, but also a very good read. Find my review here.
  • Mal Peet, Mr Godley’s Phantom
    A short murder mystery/ghost story with a twist. Very entertaining and clever. Made me want to look up other books by the author.

To help me keep track of my monthly reading goals, I created a score card to fill in daily. That way I avoided getting muddled about the number of short stories read or whether I was on track with the novels. Quite useful. It was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to make up for the missed goals in March and am now up-to-date and going strong. It helped that the long Easter Weekend was in April. It’s a nice success and I hope I manage to stay on top of the goals in May.

Keep safe, world.

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