This month was much better, and it was nice to get the year off to a good start reading wise. Last year, my goal was 50 books, and I blew that out of the water. This year, I’m aiming for 60, so it’s nice to be a little ahead of the game already. I read several lovely books, and, as you’ll see, I’m pretty much in love with William Maxwell right now. Also, I’m currently reading two books (I’m a Stranger Here Myself and America America) which I am enraptured by. I am in a very good reading place right now. On to the log…
1. Straight Man by Richard Russo (4.5/5) – One of these days, Richard Russo is going to blow my mind. I can feel it coming, he just hasn’t done it quite yet. I’ve read two of his books now, and each time, I’ve found everything about them wonderful. Except… Well… There’s just something about the endings. They’re good, but they just don’t feel, exactly, perfectly right to me, which is pretty much the difference between a 5 and a 4.5. Anyway, this book was great, and had a lovely sense of humor.
2. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell (5/5) – If I had read this a few weeks earlier, it would have been one of my top five of last year. Totally amazing. How he manages to tell such a detailed story with so many full, living characters in 135 pages is beyond me. William Maxwell is most of what I try to be as a writer. I can’t believe it took me so long to start reading him.
3. The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin (3.5/5) – Good, but fractured. Is it a science book? Is it a travelogue? Is it an adventure book? It really doesn’t seem to know. It’s definitely entertaining except that, whenever Darwin gets bored, so do you. You know what Charles? If you’re tired of describing a desolate landscape you can, I don’t know, stop, instead of just telling us you’re tired of it. An interest book, anyway.
4. To Siberia by Per Petterson (5/5) – I’m going to have to read all of Petterson’s work now. This was sad and wonderful in many of the same ways as Out Stealing Horses, plus it was nice to see him really flesh out a female character. Petterson is fantastic at endings. You don’t know how he’s going to get there, and then he does and it knocks you over.
5. The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell (5/5) – This is the lengthiest Maxwell story I’ve read, and I really enjoyed watching him make use of the extra space. The characters in this book are perfect in their subtlety (rarely have teenagers been so well and uniquely done) and have wonderful, realistic, human flaws. Maxwell is officially one of my favorite writers now. I love him.
6. Great Plains by Ian Frazier (3.5/5) – Fractured in a different way than the Darwin, but fractured nonetheless. I never quite knew where he was going with it. I certainly enjoyed the ride and I learned an awful lot, but in the end, it just sort of seemed like he stopped without really reaching an ending.
Late Breaking News: I finished another book last night right before bed…
7. I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson (5/5) – Really, really funny book. Bryson at his best, as far as I can tell. I’ve read one other book of his and, while hilarious, it had some dull bits. Not so here. I enjoyed every moment of this.
Winter/Spring Book Queue Update:
America America by Ethan Canin
The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic
Rabbit, Redux by John Updike
Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku
Great Plains by Ian Frazier So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Dune by Frank Herbert
One of Ours by Willa Cather