A round-up of literary impressions for January 2012

Don’t be too impressed with the number of books I read in January.  Basically I hibernate during that month. And since I live without cable television at home, I end up reading. Okay, maybe I did not read as much as I could. Actually, I guess I nap more than read. I nap a lot. So yes, no impressive feat here. 

As I venture on my quest to work my way through all the books I have sitting around my home, I would love to share my impressions of them with you. I figure this will make me accountable when it comes to actually working my way through all of them.   

 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, by Ernest J. Gaines. When I worked at B. Dalton after first moving to D.C., I decided “I would read my way through all the classics!” Yeah, naive of me. Turns out, there are a lot of them. Well, after working there for several years, I barely scratched the surface. There is so much good writing out there in the world and I nap a lot so, you know, I am kind of behind. After finally picking up a copy of this classic at the local Salvation Army last year and having it gather a sufficient amount of dust in my room, I read it. My impression? I studied history at college and love reading it. But, as is often the case, straight historical record can be pretty boring. Well, this novel and the genius of its author reminds me how a beautifully written work of fiction can capture the history of an era and a people like nothing else. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. At first I was worried since this book is written entirely as series of letters between several people. I am not sure why but I put off reading it because I thought the format would result in it feeling  scattered. As usual, I was wrong. It  was lovely and I found it a delight. I recommend it for your before bed reading. I mean, the longest chapter is the length of a letter. You can stay awake through a letter can’t you? 

 The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. This page turner has been in my stack for years. It is a book that is worthy of both reading and discussing. Really, the most important advice I can give you. And I can not stress this enough. Do not, under any circumstance, rent the movie. 

 Pierre and Jean, by Guy Maupassant. I purchased this one because one of, if not the, greatest writer in the history of the English language was really into the author. Guy Maupassant inspired W. Somerset Maugham.  And Maugham? Maugham is the freaking bomb. I have another of Maupassant’s books, Bel Ami, waiting on deck. As for the Pierre and Jean, the story is a wonderful revelation of how far we can take an assumption and a self-perceived wrong and how we obsess about them until we make ourselves miserable. Yeah, January was kind of downer, can you tell? 

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and the World of Literary Obsession, by Allison Hoover Bartlett The idea and subject of this book fascinated me. But I think it would have fascinated me more if it was a really long article instead.

The Bridges of Toko-Ri, by James A. Michener. I chose this classic in the stacks of a used bookstore thanks to three very important traits…..size, cost and page count. That would be easily fits in my purse, cheap and not very long. It lived up and exceeded all of my expectations. Besides, one should always have a book on hand when waiting in a long line or waiting for a friend at a bar. It looks okay to sit and be engrossed and captivated by a book. Being engrossed and captivated by a phone, not so much.  

The Grand Design, (audio) by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. If you ever wondered how stupid you could possibly feel, this is the audio book for you. It was only 4 1/2 hours long unabridged. Perfect for my drive from Blacksburg to Washington, D.C. And in that 4 1/2 hours, I can honestly say, with full humility, I understood not one sentence. Not a single one.

God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time,  by Desmond Tutu. Oh Bishop Tutu, I can not tell you how uplifting it was to see your smiling face on the cover of this book. I was feeling sorry for myself and yes, perhaps a wee bit bitter and vengeful, when I began your book. Perfect timing. The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu managed to school me and remind me of my insanely fortunate life in the sweetest way. His message is simple and I will attempt to sum it up in just a few short sentences …  God loves your enemies as much as he loves you. This does not excuse any real or perceived wrongs your enemies have done to you. But they are just as much God’s creation as you are.  And while it feels like God is absent in those moments of injustice he is not. God is always there because God created us in his image and created us as his instruments. His work comes through us. It is we who must answer hate and indignity with love and respect …  And I have one word for this book – impressive.

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