December was a great month for reading. I also finally discovered the absolute joy of audio books. I've always been curious about them because I like listening to podcasts while I paint. Even better would be if I could 'read' while I'm busy mess-making in my studio. Instead of splashing out the almost $20 for a single audio book, I found out my library has them! I have this app called Overdrive that allows me to checkout and download the audio book straight to my phone without even having to go to the library! I'm pretty sure it works in 50 different countries, you just need to have a library card. The first audio book I listened to was The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1) written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, narrated by Kristen Bell. Now I'm a huge fan of the Veronica Mars tv show as well as the movie, so this is completely biased. I absolutely loved Kristen Bell's narration. It was so much fun to experience all the characters again and just continue the story. If you're interested, make sure that you watch the movie first because the book takes place a couple of weeks after that ends. It's definitely worth listening to because I have a feeling if I had read the book it wouldn't have been nearly as fun as hearing "Veronica" herself tell it to me.
The second book I listened to this month was Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, narrated by Ari Fliakos. While the narrator did a fine job with the voices and pacing, I just didn't get into as much as I thought I would. It's about a guy named Clay, who is an out-of-work computer programmer that lives in San Francisco. He needs a job so he ends up working at an unusual bookstore. I love books and bookstores, I lived in San Francisco, and I know a lot about computers and tech stuff. On paper it sounds like it would be right up my street but it just didn't click with me. Clay remained cynical and unbelieving about the strangeness of the story line for too long. It kept pushing me out of the mystical story.
From the library I got the Kindle version of The Dinner by Herman Koch. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book takes place during one dinner, with flashbacks to help round out the plot. There is the slightest hint of Sci-fi, by way of medical advancements. The writing was interesting and page-turny and while I really liked this book, I didn't like a single one of the characters... It's a dark book and at times made me a bit queazy. There is just something about how the plot is sequenced and how it's from one POV, there are times when you don't know if you can trust him... I love that.
I also read the Kindle version of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This book was originally published in 1895 and it's about a man who travels to the very distant future. I tried to love it. I really did. Time travel is one of my favorite topics to read about but I'm beginning to realize I don't like how Wells writes. Just like The Invisible Man, the story is told by one character after the fact; page after page of him relaying what happened. It lacks an inner monologue. It's just "this happened, then this happened..." etc. -- On another note, I find that when something is the original it gets copied and improved upon for many years, so when you finally experience it, it feels like a parody of itself. Does that make sense?
Next I read Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. It's actually two short stories about the Glass family, but when paired they make a sequential narrative. When I was in college I read The Catcher and the Rye (also by Salinger). I loved Holden's misery and cynicism. I had been meaning to read more of Salinger's work and well... This book was a bit tedious for me to get through. It's barely over 200 pages and left me feeling like "Well okay. That's over." I had no feelings about it at all. I guess I'm glad I read it and now I know I won't rush out to try more of Salinger's work. Though I do think I'll end up reading all of it eventually. i,Robot by Isaac Asimov is nothing like the movie. It's nine short stories with a thread running through them. Similarly to The Time Machine I had a hard time getting into the predictions of what our world would be like in the 1990's. Asimov dreamed a bit big. I do love that Dr. Susan Calvin the "Robopsychologist" is a super smart woman and "the thread" that I spoke of. I honestly was pretty peeved, but not surprised, that the book ended with Susan stating that she saw it coming. Susan, a woman... See that cover quote over there-> "One man saw it coming." Are you freaking kidding me?! But that's Hollywood and not Isaac's fault. I digress. If you are going to read it, just know that it's the beginning of robot scifi so it will feel a bit silly at times.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a reread for me. I read it in high school but didn't get it. This is one of Angelou's memoirs about her young life. It's intense and heart-wrenching and deeply moving. It took me awhile to read it because I had to keep putting it down and regrouping. Her writing is so amazing, I wanted to quote everything. *Trigger warning to sexual assault*
The last book is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. How do I describe this? It's about the Lisbon sisters and their dysfunctional family. The POV is the curious neighborhood boys looking back on the year. The story is more about the writing and the perverse fascination with unknown. How our imaginations distort things and/or idolize the mundane. Eugenides is a master of the wandering tale. If you need a plot driven story that is fast paced stay away from this one. It's a weirdly self-indulgent look at the privileged lives of the suburbs. I enjoyed it in a voyeuristic-can't-look-away sort of way.
In 2014 my grand total was 48 books read! I'm really happy with that and this year I'm going to read 50!
Happy reading! xx
If you have any recommendations please let me know in the comments!