Books Read: October 2020

Another month, more books. I didn’t feel like I read very much and then I opened up this post in progress and realized I’d read more than I thought. I’m deep into reading Lilith’s Brood right now, and I’ll have much to say on the second time through—so much in there that I didn’t see the first time through. That’s likely to be a theme for me in the coming months, reading books again, especially onces that keep coming up in my thoughts and conversations with friends.

In This Grave Hour

Yup, another Maisie Dobbs mystery, but they’ve turned a corner again. The story once again had a good balance between the mystery and Maisie’s life. And I have to say it’s amazing how it’s now set in the very beginnings of World War II, but still weaving in the reverbations of World War I. The mystery here was a good one and the bits about Maisie’s life were also interesting. I think I have two more of these and then I’ve read all of them.

A Book of Common Prayer

I’ve only read one Joan Didion book, a memoir of her family in California, so this was the first fiction of hers I’ve read. It’s a short novel set in a fake Central or South American country where a woman who married into the ruling family meets and I guess I’d say befriends a woman who travels there. They’re both American, but that’s where the similarities end. Grace understands the country, the family she’s part of, and how things work. Charlotte is getting over a series of traumatic events in her life and doesn’t quite see the reality of what’s going on. It’s not a bad book, but I’m still puzzling over some of it.

Essays of E.B. White

These essays were written between the late 1930s and the 1970s on all variety of topics, many of them appeared in The New Yorker and they’re delightful and thought provoking and amazingly relevant for now. White’s grouped them by rough categories and the section on his farm is really shines, you can see exactly how he got the ideas and wrote this most famous children’s book. Other sections cover New York and writing and vacations and diversions, but a theme throughout them all is a search for quiet, good writing and reading, and keen observations of the world.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

I’ve known about this book for quite some time and finally looked for it at the library, it was checked out, but they had a free copy to give me! I love libraries so much. The stark black and white drawings in this novel bring home the stark realities of the changing Iran the author is experiencing in her childhood. It’s well written and lovely even as the story gets more and more difficult. I can’t wait to read the second volume.

Vesper Flights

More essays, this time centered around nature and how we can learn from the creatures living in the world around us. Helen MacDonald’s writing is beautiful, the title essay is amazing, but honestly all of them are good. She writes about community, weather, animals, and with deep observations and interesting juxtapositions, making me wish I could write and observe nearly half as well.

No weather so perfectly conjures a sense of foreboding, of anticipation and waiting, as the eerie stillness that often occurs before the first fat drops of rain, when storm light makes luminous all roofs and fields and strands black silhouettes of trees on the horizon. This is the storm as expectation. As solution about to be offered. Or all hell about to break loose. And as the weeks of this summer draw on, I can’t help but think that this is the weather we are all now made of. All of us waiting. Waiting for news. Waiting for Brexit to hit us. Waiting for the next revelation about the Trump administration. Waiting for hope, stranded in that strange light that stills our hearts before the storm of history. (loc 2306)

When I was a child I’d assumed animals were just like me. Later I thought I could escape myself by pretending I was an animal. Both were founded on the same mistake. For the deepest lesson animals have taught me is how easily and unconsciously we see other lives as mirrors of our own. (loc 3445)

…[T]he more I’ve learned about animals the more I’ve come to think there might not be only one right way to express care, to feel allegiance, a love for place, a way of moving through the world. (loc 3478)

To Die But Once

Another Maisie Dobbs and we’re getting deeper into World War II, with war declared and people joining up. As usual the case still has a connection to World War I, but the connection is much less the focus on the mystery. The balance in this book between what’s going on with Maisie’s family and friends and the mystery was well done. Another good TV book, as I call these, and it took my mind off of the horribleness of the world.

You may have noticed that I've switched from Powells links to Bookshop links. I'm torn on this, I don't do affiliate links, so I'm not making any money of off these, but I thought I'd spread the love around. I'll probably rotate between the two from now on.