Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Winter 2018

This year is off to a great start reading-wise. Mostly because it is all I feel like doing. The cold weather and the post-holiday exhaustion means that I come home from work, claim the couch (we are currently a one-couch family) and read. And what great books I have been reading since the new year. I am trying to list them in order of awesomeness. The top four books I have listed are really excellent reads, the kind of book you finish and you can’t imagine finding anything as good to read. But luckily, I did.

One my big goals for 2018 is to read books I already own. The cabinet above belonged to my grandparents. It is filled with my father’s scholarly work, books I have read, loved and kept (I have moved several times in the last 20 years so I have given many away) and books I have yet to read. I would say that the yet-to-read exceeds the already-read and this year I hope to change that. I really enjoyed this week’s What Should I Read Next podcast episode because the focus was backlist titles and while it is hard to not always seek out the shiny new releases, I know that there are so many good books that I already own. This year I plan to read them! Here is what I have been reading lately.

I had never read anything by Ali Smith but I went to the library and Winter was there by the checkout line. It was fantastic. I loved the writing. I will be buying this and reading it again once it is in paperback. I will actually be reading everything she ever wrote. Her writing reminds me a bit of Kate Atkinson’s. Hard to describe but really fantastic. Just read it.I finally read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close after owning it for 13+ years. I bought it in the summer of 2005 which turned out to be a turning point for me and my family. Life got crazy and I never read it. It moved with me twice (many books were lost along the way as I donated them to the library book drive, despairing that I would ever have time to read again) and I am so glad I kept this and picked it up over the Christmas holiday and read it. So so good. The writing, the writing, the writing and the main character. If you haven’t read it, do. That is all I am going to say. Another amazing book is Salvage the Bones. I am waiting for Jesmyn Ward’s new book (in line at the library). Such powerful writing. I loved the main character and the last several chapters with the description of the storm were stunning. I was late to the party on this memoir but am so glad I finally read it. I also loved this collection of stories which I read last year. I highly recommend both. Really terrific. A friend recommended Norwegian by Night to me. It reads a bit like a mystery but so well written with interesting characters and setting that it really transcends the genre. I highly recommend it. I picked up Swimming with Bridgeport Girls at my local library. The author grew up in my town and it was fun to read as the story took place largely in places that I know well. This is the story of a guy who gets in his own way. It was well written and entertaining. Not my typical read but definitely enjoyable but maybe more so for me because I live in Connecticut. I read We Were the Lucky Ones on the recommendation of multiple podcasters, bookstore owners and fellow readers. I have read so many WWII novels in the past several years but what makes this one stand apart is that it is the real story of a real family told by a daughter who researched her family history. So compelling. I was moved to tears. A wonderful read.The Last Days at Cafe Leila was recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust. I loved reading about life in Iran and the story and characters drew me in. And the food! A good read.Love and Trouble was initially challenging for me. The content is racy and in the first part of the memoir, it was hard for me to get past. But I persevered as it had been a recommendation from my book whisperer,  Catherine who never disappoints. I am glad I read it and I would say that I thought it was a brave book. The writing is spot on and the story, while hard to read at times, rang true. The writer seemed to really be grappling with her past in a very authentic and vulnerable way so I was ultimately glad that I read it. Another book with sex and infidelity as a main themes, Fire Sermon, was my January Shelf Subscription book. This book was beautifully written. The author explored these subjects through the lens of faith and Christianity. It was interesting to read these two books back to back. Definitely check out the From the Front Porch podcast episode where this book is the Love it or Loathe it topic. Really terrific. You can link directly to that episode here.I finished a number of books that were half-read in the first few weeks of the new year. It was a great feeling to have a clean slate so to speak. I was inspired to read Moby Dick because one of our children was reading it for school and I am so glad I did! I think that I may have read it in middle school during a semester when we intensively studied whaling (and quite a lot of the book dwelt on the history of whaling) but the parts of the book that were dramatic were really dramatic and worth all the rest. If you haven’t read it, winter is the perfect season. It helped that I had this nice edition that I bought years ago. One of my reading resolutions for 2018 was to read a collection of short stories each month. I was inspired by this podcast episode. In January I read George Saunders’ first published collection of short stories. They are satirical and sometimes disturbing and often funny. They sadly rang a little too true in our current political and social environment. I also really loved the author’s note where he talks about how and when he wrote them and what his life was like then. It was worth the whole book to read about how he came to write.This month I am reading a short story collection by B.J. Novak which is very entertaining so far. I don’t watch TV, like ever, so I have never seen the Office and had no idea who he was but I am really enjoying the stories. I chose my 12 short story collections (one for each month) based on recommendations from the Bookshelf staff. I love that there is such a wide range of authors and writing styles. To see the whole stack, check out this post.This was a book I started in 2017 and finished in 2018. I started this story collection in 2017 because our book group read it. I hadn’t finished so tried to plow through in the first week after New Years Day. I almost made it but some of the later stories were really hard for me to read. Some very tough going on topics such as drug running, addiction etc. So I probably read all but the last two stories. I just couldn’t keep going. The writing is really terrific but the themes are a bit tough.

I really enjoyed Glitter and Glue and look forward to reading Kelly Corrigan’s latest book which I am waiting for at the library. I loved her honesty. It was a quick read. I think I read it over a weekend.I have just started this book which was on the NY Times notable books of the year list. I loved the Little House books as a child but I do have to say that some of the descriptions of Native Americans gave me pause as I read them aloud to my children. I am really interested in the back story. Stay tuned.I have a big stack of books lined up for the next month which I am looking forward to tackling including a beautiful hardcover edition of The Essex Serpent which was a birthday gift from my mother. I am really looking forward to reading it. I have heard such good things about it. and just today, I received my February Shelf Subscription in the mail. So fun! What are you reading and loving this winter? I am linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly quick lit post today. Link here to read her new book recommendations!

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