What I Read: January

My dad is never without a book. When we travel together, he inevitably finishes one book and reads most of another - over the course of a long weekend. A few years ago I urged him to keep a list of the books he reads, mainly because I was curious how many books he reads in a year, but also because I've witnessed him read a few chapters of a book and say, "I think I've read this one before." The first year he kept track, I believe he was just a few books shy of 100.

I read A LOT, and though I don't read anywhere close to 100 books a year, I am curious how many books I can read in one year, and while I rarely forget a book, I often forget what I've recently read. So this year I'm keeping track, and sharing my reading list here with a few brief notes.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green: I actually listened to the audiobook, but I bought a copy for my daughter and I might sit down and read it when she finishes it. I fell in love with the characters, and cried when . . . I won't tell you. You just have to read it and remember back to when you were a teenager in love and when nothing seemed to go your way and when all that mattered in life were your friends, and wish that you had been as witty and wise as Hazel Grace or had loved somebody as raw and romantic as Augustus Waters.

Why We Write edited by Meredith Mann: A collection of writing lessons from 20 writers across a wide spectrum of genres. Indispensable advice for wordsmiths. I especially appreciate Mary Karr's consolation: "For most writers there's a span of twenty years or so when you can't write because you're doing eighty seven other things." So that explains it! I'm in the midst of a twenty year drought.

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer: I really wanted to love this book, but alas, it fell short of my expectations. However, the following passage spoke to me: "Wasn't one of the goals of life to be comfortable in your own skin and in your own bed and on your own land? But as soon as you achieved it, you felt an immense sadness, and then you wanted to wreck everything around you, just because you could. Comfort was the best thing, and maybe the worst."

The Wife also by Meg Wolitzer: Just because I didn't love The Uncoupling didn't mean I was going to abandon Wolitzer, and fortunately so, for The Wife is MY MOST FAVORITE BOOK EVER! I have never, in all my years of reading, claimed to have a favorite book. If Philip Roth's The Human Stain and a few of Alice Munro's short stories had an orgy, The Wife would be their unexpected love child. Now I am not saying that The Wife is the best book ever written and that you should absolutely read it, but rather that this book got me in a way no other book has. If you want to know me, read this book; or at least read this excerpt:

"Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring brother, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what o say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else.

'Listen,' we say. 'Everything will be okay.'

And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is."

Meg, Meg, Meg. Yes, yes, yes.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: Eh. Not a favorite, but I will say that just because the plot centers around baseball doesn't mean the book is all about sports. And I should also say that I have a newfound interest in sports since becoming a coach and an athlete, so reading about a character's struggle with training, competing, winning and losing is of great interest to me. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the book within the book, a field guide for fielders by a Hall of Fame fielder, also called The Art of Fielding; particularly this quote:

"3. There are three stages: Thoughtless being. Thought. Return to thoughtless being.

33. Do not confuse the first and third stages. Thoughtless being is attained by everyone, the return to thoughtless being by a very few."

I caught my new goal in left field: thoughtless being. It fell from the sky, right into my open glove.

One month. Five books. Eleven months to go. A zillion books I'd like to read this year. Time to get to work.


6512 and growing said...

I didn't like The Uncoupling either. How did you make that nifty book collage?

Molly said...

google images + picmonkey = nifty book collage!

Michelle said...

Hi Molly,
So glad to find you have a new blog! It's funny, the quote you listed from Mary Karr actually reminded me of another of Meg Wolitzer's books, The Ten Year Nap. Ten years vs twenty, but the gist is there;-) Oh motherhood!!
Happy Reading,

Molly said...

Thank you, Michelle! I will add that book to my list.

Kim said...

Ooooh, I'm taking your recommendations to heart and adding to my very long "To Read" list.
The year I was pregnant with Violet I read 33 books, which is a record for me. Last year I read 20 and this year I'll be lucky to get into the double digits I think.
It's those darn other 87 things that keep getting in my way!