Is there anything better than the stretch of holidays, from Christmas to New Years, for maximizing the opportunity for laziness, for sweatpants, for long, luxurious bouts of reading? I don’t think so. December was a great push towards the end of the year, and I read some surprising books – surprising for reasons I’ll explain – two of which are coming out in 2015 and that I highly recommend keeping a lookout for.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting My Reading Year, linking up to my complete reading list for 2014 as well as some stats about my reading life, my goals, my thoughts as I choose books and maneuver my reading life. But I didn’t want to skip the opportunity to tell you abut December’s books in a bit more detail. So here goes:
Reading at Time of Publication
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
My Reading Month: December 2014
– The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: I finished this book on December 1, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It appealed to my sense of trying to maximize efficiency and order, trying to bring discipline and ease to my life. Though I know Rubin’s situation is different from mine – aren’t all our situations different? – it gave me good stuff to think on as far as resolutions go, the things I want to achieve or at least hold in my head as I go through the world.
– Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: You guys. Read this book. Please. It won the National Book Award for Children’s Literature, but I wouldn’t call it a children’s book. This is Woodson’s memoir in verse, a lyrical look at her childhood growing up in rural North Carolina and then New York. It may be written in verse, but it reads as a straightforward, though vividly imagistic and lovingly remembered, narrative. There’s no difficulty to this poetry, so people who are new to (or even intimidated by) poetry will find this approachable. And it’s clear the level of care and love that Woodson put into it. I read it, smiled, laughed, and cried. I heartily recommend it.
– The Writer’s Notebook by various authors: I began this book back in July after I went away to writer camp at the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop. A collection of essays/lectures on writing from some of their faculty writers, this is a great collection of craft essays.
– Spinster: A Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick: I worried that this book would amount to “marriage=bad/single=good” but I have to say, Bolick rid me of those fears quite quickly in this book, which was part memoir-part literary criticism. By looking at the history of some of her most influential female authors, and coupling that history with her own memoir, Bolick creates an in-depth, well-researched memoir that investigates spinsterhood, independence, and freedom, and in the end, finds a way to create a universal battle cry for women writers: find the space of your own, create your work, no matter your relationship status. This book releases on April 21, 2015, and I highly recommend checking it out.
– The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore: So, the story behind the creation of the comic book heroine, Wonder Woman, is totally nuts. I thought I was settling in for a heavy dose of (somewhat dry) history, but I was wrong. It got sensational, and scandalous, pretty quickly. Jill Lepore has put together a fantastic, in-depth body of research in her history of Wonder Woman and her creator, who was, among other things, a psychologist, a scholar, and one of the early developers of the heart rate lie detector test – not to mention a suffragist and a man who enjoyed the company of several women. I don’t want to give away details, but this book is worth a read, especially for fans of Wonder Woman and/or comics in general.
– 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye: My friend Tara recommended I try reading Nye, and I’m so glad I did. I kept swooning over her poems, the sadness and the beauty and the hope of poems written after and in response to 9/11.
– How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis: I want this book to have lunch with Spinster and I want to be there to buy the first round of drinks. Samantha Ellis grew up in an Iraqi-Jewish family; both of her parents, and much of her family, had fled Baghdad for London, where Ellis grew up and was expected to marry a nice Iraqi-Jewish boy and settle down. But Samantha Ellis heard the siren call of the writing life, and she heard it primarily through the literary heroines of her youth. Heavy on the memoir, Ellis goes on a literary journey through her childhood heroines, asking whether we need our heroines, what help (or harm) they do, and how to be the heroine of our own lives. This book comes out (in the States) on February 3, 2015. Again, I recommend checking it out.