My Bookish Lent

The (mostly) book-related things I’m doing for Lent aren’t “religious” things, exactly, so this post won’t be preachy, I hope. It would be pretty rich if it were, since I’m a . . . well, not even half . . . maybe a quarter-assed Christian. I sometimes describe church-going as a habit I’ve failed to break. At this point in my life I’ve stopped worrying about believing. I don’t know what I believe and I don’t think it matters much. Because I find some meaning and purpose in the community, the language, and the rituals of Christianity, I keep at it, in my quarter-assed kind of way. Maybe only an eighth of an ass. Here’s how I see what I’m doing fitting into the Lenten disciplines of self-examination, fasting and prayer.

Video Series on Time + Morning Pages [Self-Examination]

As I did last year, I have subscribed to the Lenten video series from the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist (actually, I didn’t have to resubscribe; those monks are crafty. I’ve been getting a daily short meditation by email all year). This year’s theme is time. Here’s a bit from the introductory video, which points out that the first thing God calls holy in the Bible is time, the seventh day of creation:

For many of us, time is experienced no longer as a precious gift, but almost like an enemy. We haven’t got enough time. “I can never get everything done that I want to do. Oh, if only I could have more time.” Or on the other hand we waste time and we fritter it away and kill time. All of these things I think – which bear witness to a sense of disorderedness, a disordered relationship with this precious gift.

I’ve been doing some secular things in the past year or so to try to bring order to my relationship with time, and I’m looking forward to some more spiritual consideration of this as well.  Continue reading

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TBR Challenge: Breaking the Kearsley Barrier

This month’s theme for the TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy was Recommended Reads. And so I finally, finally, read a book that has been recommended, both in general and to me personally, by almost everyone I know in Romanceland: Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea.

So many people know this book that I’m not bothering with a proper review. If you chance to be someone who didn’t recommend this book to me and haven’t read it, here’s Sunita’s review. And here are my scattered thoughts:

I think I’ve learned how the TBR Challenge will work for me: not cleaning out the dregs, but getting to those books I really want to read but have somehow been hesitating to start. I think I hesitated with this one because “everyone” loves it so. What if I didn’t? I was afraid to tell anyone what book I’d chosen. I liked it a lot; I can imagine reading it again; I look forward to reading more from Kearsley. But it’s not my new favorite book ever. Continue reading

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Reading Break: In My Earbuds

Since I find it hard to write about audiobooks in detail, I’m reverting to round-up format to report on my recent listening.

Jayne Ann Krentz Fest

I’ve talked before about how Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle is an audio auto-buy for me, even though I don’t think her books are that great(I have some of her older Amanda Quick historicals, too, but I don’t like the narrator for the new ones). Something about her polished voice, light/cozy mystery plots, and goofy paranormal and futuristic worlds works as undemanding comfort reading, even though (or because) every book is a jigsaw of familiar pieces from previous work assembled in a slightly new way.

Recently I used a couple of Audible credits to pick up her latest contemporary romantic suspense, Trust No One, and a classic I’d read and enjoyed before, Trust Me (hang on, Jayne, you seem to be contradicting yourself). And though the new book is a stand-alone, I also re-listened to her previous contemporary release, River Road. They were all exactly what I expected, which was just what I wanted from them. I think her new books are something of a return to form–the contemporaries have more energy than her most recent Arcane (psychic-paranormal) or Harmony (futuristic) books, which have gotten tired (and super-complicated with trilogies crossing her three pen-names and time periods).
Continue reading

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Reading Break: Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill

Jenny Offill’s slim novel, Dept. of Speculation, is composed of short fragments, sort of like a collage. I’m going to do my review the same way. Because I’m lazy, not because I’m literary.

Offill’s fragmentary paragraphs create a kind of elliptical portrait of the unraveling (and maybe repairing) of a marriage–representing how the narrator, identified only as The Wife, might think about it rather than providing a straightforward narrative. This isn’t as difficult to read as it sounds; I got the hang of it a couple of short chapters in and didn’t find the plot hard to figure out. I’m sure some readers would find the narrative style annoying, though.

Every year I try to read a few things from Best Books lists that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about or picked up. Dept. of Speculation caught my eye because the subject matter is the stuff of women’s fiction, and I’m always interested in more “literary” takes on commercial women’s genres. What difference does the way it’s told make? Continue reading

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Reading Break: My Salinger Year, by Joanna Rakoff

Next week is Reading Break at my college. For once, things worked out so that I have no grading. I have meetings and projects to work on, but I should actually have time during my Reading Break to read. For fun! And to blog. My plan is that instead of one round-up post on what I’ve been reading lately, I’ll do a series of Reading Break posts over the next week, every other day or so.

Cover of Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year. A view of brick apartment buildings, with a young woman visible in a lighted window.I read Joanna Rakoff’s memoir of her mid-90s stint as an assistant at a New York literary agency, My Salinger Year, partly because I liked the cover and partly because, like so many bookish English majors, I once indulged the fantasy of working in publishing.

The book reminded me a bit of Whit Stillman’s Last Days of Discothough Rakoff’s post-disco social and romantic life is less glamorous–and not that interesting. Still, I think Stillman fans might enjoy this nostalgic portrait of young cultural strivers in New York. Continue reading

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