After falling off the pace a bit in February, I managed a very solid month of reading in March. Additionally, I submitted the novel to several places, sent out some short stories, and wrote a 17 page story. This is pretty much how I want every month to go.
1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (3.5/5) – With all the genuflecting done at Franzen, I though I’d tackle his most recent work. I was disappointed. Oh, it’s fine. I wouldn’t call this a bad book by any stretch, but there was a lot I just didn’t buy. Like, for instance, the way characters who aren’t really good people miraculously transform into decent human beings for the sake of a tidy ending. And don’t even get me started on the treatment of women. I don’t understand how someone who is often called the Best Living American Writer can have that title when he does such a poor job representing half the population. Give me Chang-Rae Lee, Michael Chabon, Toni Morrison, or Ann Patchett any day.
2. The Thinking Life by P.M. Forni (3.5/5) – This book had tons of potential. It started as a very nice little philosophical text about the importance of thinking and finding time in your life for contemplation. Both solid topics. However, it ended up feeling like a book that should have been an essay. He pads it out with too many lists and overly-specific examples.
3. Finnish Lessons by Pasi Sahlberg (5/5) – Boy, this just depressed the hell out of me. I read it because I was curious about what, exactly, the Fins do differently than the US in their schools. The answer, apparently, is everything. I might have suspected that, but it’s amazing to see that what many teachers would tell you is the right way to do things works beautifully in Finland and produces great results. This is definitely going to re-frame how I tackle my job next year.
4. Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt (5/5) – I love A.S. Byatt. This book is a collection of five, very adult, fairy tales. Nothing to read to your kids, but really good, compelling stories that are sometimes gruesome and sometimes sad but always wonderful. I found the story of a woman turning to stone especially moving. I’ve read three of her books now, and loved each one. Time to start reading everything else she’s written, I guess.
5. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (4/5) – A book from Cate’s list for me. McCourt’s writing is very much in the Irish tradition and I found is prose quite lovely. However, I had the same problem with this book that I have with many memoirs. So much of this book is woe-is-me and McCourt doesn’t really become a character until the last quarter (maybe not even that) of the book. So yes, there is a lot to like about this book, but it didn’t resonate with me as I wanted it to.
Winter/Spring Book Queue Update:
This Side of Brightness by Colum McCann*
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee*
Run by Ann Patchett*
The Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt*
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood*
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace
After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen