Reading List

I’m about to enter a spell where my main reading will be student research papers–the end of term marking often leaves me with little energy for fun reading. But I squeezed in another book first, so I thought I’d squeeze in another blog post.

My favorite book podcasts are those where a couple of people chat about what they just read/are reading/may read next (current favorites: The Readers, Book Cougars, and Reading Envy). I don’t even care if I get ideas for books to try–I’m just nosy about what books people choose and why and how they feel about them. So that inspired today’s post. Continue reading

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Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend

enchanted islandsI think I learned about Allison Amend’s Enchanted Islands from the Tournament of Books longlist. The cover images of exotic flora and fauna caught my eye, and when I saw it was about a couple who go to the Galápagos as spies just before the outbreak of WWII, I was sold. A spy story–and a marriage of convenience, because their marriage is cover–in an exotic locale seemed like just the book for a hard winter. By the time my library copy arrived, it was spring, and the novel isn’t exactly what I expected either, but it was good. Continue reading

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Two Recent Reading Hits

Another three months between posts, huh? I won’t bore you with my recent reading slump. I know I’m not the only one struggling to find attention for books these days. My reading, such as it is, mostly alternates between “Homework for These Times” books and “Forget Reality!” books. I keep checking out general/literary fiction from the library and returning it not just unread but unopened. I’ve had the most luck with mystery (the plot keeps me going), non-fiction (I think I crave understanding more than escape), and short books (not enough pages for inertia to set in)–from A Sensible Wife by Jessica Hart, a favorite Harlequin author, to Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn to Sara Barmak’s quirky Closeron the science and culture of female orgasm.

Here are two recent, unrelated reads I especially enjoyed:

Continue reading

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Year in Reading: Annus Not-So Horribilus

Someone tweeted that the problem with year-in-review posts is that you have to look back on 2016. Yeah. This was a hard year for me personally, and a hard and scary one in the world generally–which is usually true, of course, but closer to home now. It felt like a bad year for my reading, too, but when I looked back I was surprised by both how much I read, and how good it was. Sure, there were months where my listening time was all politics podcasts (how I wish I could get that time back), and months where I was too down to focus on a book, but bursts of reading and listening in other parts of the year made up for that. In the end, according to my rather sloppy records, I read 67 books and listened to 52.

For the first part of the year, I did well on my goal of reading diversely, but that fell apart in the last quarter, in part because my comfort reading tends to be white and British.

Here are the highlights, and some thoughts about 2017 goals: Continue reading

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Reading List: Everything Since I Last Posted

Except for the DNFs, of which there were many, because I couldn’t concentrate and/or didn’t know what mood I was in from one minute to the next.

With minimal commentary. But you have to start somewhere when you’re trying to get back into blogging!


  • Graeme Macrae Burnet, His Bloody Project. (Man Booker shortlist–turns out the one book on the longlist I had already read,Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, was the winner. I still plan to get to a couple more off this list). The portrait of the way a bully terrorizes a small Scottish village was hard to read.
  • Elaine Showalter, The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe. This biography focuses on the way marriage and motherhood constrained Howe’s ambitions.
  • Patricia Wentworth, Miss Silver Comes to Stay. Classic mysteries have been this year’s comfort reading.
  • Nina Stibbe, Paradise Lodge. A follow-up to Man at the Helm, a coming-of-age story set in a nursing home. Rather dark humor but also sweet, with interesting relationships between the teenage protagonists and the elderly residents.
  • Patricia Wentworth, The Catherine-Wheel. More Miss Silver. Has a young lady who thinks this about her suitor: “Jeremy had all the makings of a trampling bully, and she had no intention of being his door-mat.” (Things work out fine).
  • Ruth Scurr, John Aubrey: My Own Life. DNF only because I ran out of time; eventually I’ll check it out again and finish it. A biography of a 17th century antiquarian and naturalist woven together from lightly-edited fragments of his own writings, so we learn about him in large part by seeing what interested him. He could seem like a failure: born into the landed gentry, he went bankrupt and in old age survived on the kindness and patronage of friends. But he won many friends, and was interested in many things. Made me think about what “success” really means. A strange and engaging book.
  • Agatha Christie, Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories (audio)

Continue reading

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