Reading is probably my longest-standing hobby. Other interests tend to come and go, but there has never been a time in my life (that I can remember) that I haven’t loved to curl up with a book. And I don’t think there will ever be a time when I don’t read. I have read steadily throughout my entire life, through good times and bad, as an escape and as a way to connect with others. My relationship with words, books, and reading is a relationship that I’ve cherished almost as long as I’ve been alive, and one that I will never abandon. As part of the book chatter around here, I’m planning to post monthly “Reading Roundups” where I share what I’ve read for the past month. So, here’s July!
All The King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren – It took me awhile to get into this book, but once I did I was astonished by the beautiful language and the marvelous characterization. Characters are the single most important element of a book for me (even more than plot) and this book was rich in wonderful characters.
Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature’s 50 Greatest Hits, by Jack Murnighan – This was a great synopsis of some of the greatest books in the history of literature, why you should read them, and what parts you can skip when you do. (Although I’ll admit that, the first time I read a book, I’m a read-every-word person and I don’t think this book will change that.) I got some great suggestions for books to read, was inspired to go back and re-read some old favorites, and as a result my to-be-read list is now even more obscenely long than it was. I was disappointed in the conspicuous lack of some of my all-time favorites though – To Kill a Mockingbird was missing, as was The Grapes of Wrath. I didn’t think every book that made the list of 50 necessarily belonged there, and the absence of those two was shocking to me.
The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham – I loved this story of a young English doctor’s wife who is forced to accompany her husband into a cholera epidemic when he discovers her infidelity. The language was simply beautiful and the story was completely absorbing. It’s a testament to the author that I cried at the end, even when the protagonist was possibly the single most unsympathetic protagonist I’ve ever read.
I, Claudius, by Robert Graves – I really enjoyed this dry, witty fictionalized autobiography of Roman Emperor Tiberius Claudius’s rise to Imperial power. “Poor Uncle Claudius” was such a well-drawn character that he seemed almost alive and I loved reading about his deliciously vile, manipulative family (and you thought yours was bad!). Highly recommended.
The School of Night, by Louis Bayard – I didn’t care for this “intellectual thriller” much at all. From the beginning it felt contrived, the characters were dull (and all had ridiculous names – I mean, Alonzo Wax? Amory Swale? Halldor?) It felt as though it was written with the bestseller list in mind, and there was a plot twist every other page. I like a good mind-bender as much as the next girl, but things just got ridiculous. That said, if you’re looking for a “beach read” that won’t tax you intellectually AT ALL, this could be the 2011 book of the summer for you.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins – WOW. Wow wow wow wow wow. I’m not into YA fiction and I usually don’t care for dystopia (I’m more of a Jane Austen, comedy of manners kind of girl), but I just could not put this book down. I simply had to know what was going to happen to Katniss and Peeta. I can’t wait until my name comes up on the library waiting list for the sequel!
The Uncoupling, by Meg Wolitzer – This was a fast, fun read about a group of women who fall under a spell when the new high school drama teacher starts rehearsing a production of Lysistrata, a Greek comedy about a group of women who go on a sex strike to end a war. The women find that they suddenly, and inexplicably, lose interest in their husbands and boyfriends. The Uncoupling touched on a number of topics relevant to 2011 – like the war in Afghanistan and the way teenagers communicate through texts and online worlds – and timeless topics as well, like the changing nature of desire in marriage. It was a quick read, but very thoughtful.
July was a great month! I had a couple of deliciously long train and car rides that I was able to devote to reading and I enjoyed almost all of the books I read this month. To see my whole book list and full-length reviews, follow me on Goodreads. Happy reading, friends!