January Book Log

February 3, 2016

The first month of the year is in the books and my reading is off to a completely acceptable start. Nothing this month that I didn’t enjoy in some capacity. Also, I’m making good on my goal to read 60% women this year. Four of the five single-author books I read this month were by women.

  1. The Deleted World by Tomas Tranströmer (4/5) – This was a very slim volume of poetry, but I’ll read any Tranströmer I can get my hands on. The translations are a little uneven here, especially in the poem that deal with more complex topics and structures. But overall, still a nice read.
  2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (4/5) – This was our welcome back form break book in AP literature. Awfully grim, of course, but I had a god time teaching it to this set of kids who seemed to quite like it.
  3. Emma and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (5/5) – This was a really, really great book. Probably an early contender for the end-of-year list. It is sort of a fairy tale and sort of a love story and sort of a WWII story. See, that’s that thing about really good books, it can be hard to explain what exactly they’re about. Anyway, the characters are fantastically three-dimensional – even the ones who aren’t human, and Hooper’s prose is as graceful as it gets.
  4. Shirt in Heaven by Jean Valentine (5/5) – And this is the first really great book of poetry I read for the year. The images here are perfectly chosen. Valentine gets at the heart of longing and desire.
  5. National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (5/5) – I wrote a review of this on Goodreads, which I’m just going to quote here:
    This is, possibly, the best poetry book for children I have ever encountered. It does an wonderful job of presenting poems that are accessible to children without talking down to them. In fact, it contains numerous poems that you’ll find in AP literature textbooks (I know, I’m an AP lit teacher) and a number of surprising and delightful selections that can be understood on multiple levels. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  6. Glimmer Train #95 (3.5/5) – After wanting a subscription to this journal for ages, I finally have one. There were some great stories in this issue, but also a few of the 23-year-old MFA student variety where everyone is clever and well-read. Still, worth it for the great ones (and some of them really were excellent).
  7. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (4/5) – One of the few Atwood novels I hadn’t read. I place this one comfortably in her second-tier. Which is to say very, very good, but not transcendent. I think she was going for a level of depth that I didn’t quite pull out of the story. It may also be that this book reminded me a lot of Blazing World, which was an absolute masterpiece. If I’d gotten to this book first, I might have had a different impression of it. Anyway, Margaret Atwood Forever and all that.