You can read about why I decided to start doing this here.
* denotes a book that I had already read at least once before
*The Virgin’s Lover (Philippa Gregory)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir (Elizabeth McCracken)
MaddAdam (Margaret Atwood)
The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)
*Over Sea, Under Stone (Susan Cooper)
*The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper)
*Greenwitch (Susan Cooper)
*The Grey King (Susan Cooper)
*Silver on the Tree (Susan Cooper)
Shadow Work (Craig Lambert)
Trust No One (Paul Cleave)
The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grounded Kids in an Over-Entitled World (Amy McCready)
The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed (Jessica Lahey)
The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
August looks like a particularly busy month, with fourteen books read, but five of those were Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, so the real total for the month is closer to nine. The series is one of my all-time childhood favourites. I first read them when I was exactly the same age as one of the central characters, and I imagined for MONTHS that I could be part of their quest (even though that would disrupt all of the prophecies and verses in the books). My love for them has never faded. I read them pretty much every year, and when I picked them up this time I sped through them in less than 24 hours. I’ve read them so often I don’t need to read carefully. They’re like a good cup of tea or a knitted blanket- they warm my soul.
I started by rereading yet another Philippa Gregory, but was then able to stop myself before I started taking the ones I don’t own out of the library to reread those. I had too many other holds coming in. I’ve stayed clear of her since, so I think I’m probably satisfied for the next year or so.
Then I had a run of library holds, beginning with Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir of her stillbirth while living in France. It was a powerful read. I find myself drawn to writers who write about their experiences of infertility and loss, as well as those who write about parenting, and those who write about deciding not to parent.
I then finished Margaret Atwood’s MaddAdam trilogy and immediately moved on to The Bone Clocks. I very almost didn’t read this book. My sister recommended it to me (in the same email where she recommended All the Light We Cannot See and Station Eleven– I read both in July and loved them). The sticking point for me is that The Bone Clocks is written by David Mitchell, who also wrote Cloud Atlas. I HATED Cloud Atlas. I tried four times to read it and could never get past page twenty or twenty-five. It is very rare for me to have such a visceral loathing for a book. I would have never read anything by him ever again, except that when I told my sister this, she insisted the The Bone Clocks was nothing like Cloud Atlas and that she thought I would like it. So, against my better judgment, I took it out. And I devoured it. It’s very hard to explain the plot, but I loved it. It was one of the highlights of my summer.
Pairing it with MaddAdam, however, proved to be just too much near-future dystopian fiction, so that’s when I went for my comfort reading of The Dark is Rising, which provided much needed relief, even if I still find the final ending impossibly unfair.
Shadow Work, by Craig Lambert, is meant to be an exploration of all the unseen, unpaid jobs we have taken on as individuals. Things like doing your own travel bookings, rather than going to a travel agent, or paying bills online. Lambert’s general premise is that this is not a change for the better, because it weakens the bonds of our society to have everyone doing everything individually instead of communicating with other people and forming relationships. I can see his point, but he put me off side with his argument that pregnancy tests fell into this category. Before, he suggests, the moment of discovery was shared between the woman and the health professional who called to give her the results of her blood or urine test. Now, a woman can find out on her own, in a bathroom. I think he means for this to be a somewhat pathetic, isolating image, but it just made my blood boil, because I cannot see, in any possible way, how the ability to choose both when to find out if you are pregnant and who to share that knowledge with, is anything but a positive for women. And since I LIKE booking my own travel and doing research online, and I LOVE that I can pay my bills online whenever it is convenient for me instead of having to work around the bank’s hours, and I am possibly the biggest introvert I know, I was never able to warm to his premise.
I read two thrillers this month, Trust No One, which is about a murder mystery writer who has Alzheimer’s and who can no longer tell the difference between truth and fiction, and The Girl on the Train, which has been wildly popular (which is why I read it) and is about a woman on a train who witnesses something (or thinks she does) and then falls deeper into a mystery. Both of them were disappointments (although Trust No One is much more interesting). I solved the mystery very early on with both books and then spent most of the rest of the time thinking, “Surely that’s not the answer, is it? But that’s too obvious. There must be another layer.” only to discover that there wasn’t another layer. I think I need to avoid reading thrillers. I just get too frustrated and there are too many other books I’d like to read. It was a reminder that I need to be careful where I get my book recommendations. From my sister, yes. From the subway advertising posters, probably not.
I finished the month with two books I was considering reviewing for the parenting website I occasionally write for. Ultimately neither of them struck enough of a chord with me to inspire me to write a review, but I liked aspects of both. The Gift of Failure was my favourite of the two, because E. is a perfectionist who is afraid to try anything if he thinks he will make a mistake, and I tend towards being an interfering, fussy parent (of the sort who struggles to bake with her kid because flour goes on the floor). So there was some much needed perspective for me, and some strategies to take forward to help E. become more willing to take the odd risk.