January: A Month in Books

It was a good month for books. I read several absolutely wonderful books and only one or two truly mediocre novels. As I’ve mentioned in my post about my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, I’m attempting to read one “classic” a month and 100 total books in a year. A classic is extremely loosely defined here. To me, it is a book that there are a fair number of individuals who believe it is vital to one’s personal growth as an individual or a reader. This month’s classic was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which I hope to review soon. The other books I read are as follows (in order read):

  1. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins (BR)
  2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Classic)
  3. The Translator by Daoud Hari
  4. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
  5. PokΓ©mon X and Y Game Guide (please don’t laugh at me!)
  6. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  8. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  9. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
  10. The War Works Hard by Dunya Mikhail

The collection of short stories, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins, was a particular favorite this month. I read the entire collection in a single day (it’s less than 200 pages) and closed the book feeling breathless. Those are the best kinds of books. You can read my review here.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel were the other two high points of the month in terms of reading. Jeannette Walls’ memoir is as striking as it is harrowing and as brutal as it is tender. The most incredible part of the entire book is how her perspective clearly progresses as she ages. Quite often with memoirs, the story of one’s life is told from an adult perspective throughout, since that is where the author is writing from. The Glass Castle, however, begins with the innocent and baffled perspective of a three year old, hospitalized with severe burns following a kitchen accident. Then we watch as the narrator and the child she was grow simultaneously. It is a rare treat.

Station Eleven is another rare bird. It’s a dystopian novel that doesn’t get hung up on the how, when, and where. Mandel’s book doesn’t focus overmuch on the flu pandemic that wiped out 99.9% of the world’s population in a matter of months, working out the nitty-gritty details of how such a catastrophe could happen and how everything would change or collapse. Instead, Mandel gives us small glimpses: the shoes made from tires, the useless credit card now displayed in the “Museum of Civilization,” a laptop frozen and black-screened, the lack of oranges. We are not bludgeoned with the harrowing details. In fact, our protagonist cannot remember much of her trauma and loss. Instead, the novel is one of hope and asks the difficult question of what we hold most dear in the world. For fans of dystopian fiction, it is a must, but the novel has a far broader reach and is worth exploring for anyone who loves to read.

The Translator and The War Works Hard are the two other books I would highly recommend from this month. Both are books that are ten years or older but still resonate, especially in light of our current administration. Both are written by people from countries currently “banned” from America. A review of Dunya Mikhail’s book is forthcoming.

I’ll be posting my February “to read” list in a few days! Stay tuned. As always, please leave your comments. I love discussing books with others.

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