Sunday, February 04, 2018

Reading Update

Book #8 of the year was The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny.  This is the eighth in the Inspector Gamache series, and my favorite so far. 

Book #9 was the bizarre but brilliant Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.  The Bardo is a Tibetan concept, the idea that souls linger between life and death and that there's some kind of choice involved in whether to move on or not (I actually could not articulate the choice more than that, because I'm a little unclear about it).  Willie Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln, is the latest famous guest in the Bardo, having died of typhoid, but there are many other colorful souls to be met there as well.  It's difficult to summarize exactly what goes on in the book, but I can promise you that you've never read anything quite like it.  The best parts are beautiful and life-affirming.  Here's a sample:

"The way a moistness in the eye will blur a field of stars; the sore place on the shoulder a resting toboggan makes; writing one's beloved's name upon a frosted window with a gloved finger.

Tying a shoe; tying a knot on a package; a mouth on yours; a hand on yours; the ending of the day; the beginning of the day; the feeling that there will always be a day ahead.

Goodbye, I must now say goodbye to all of it."

Book #10 was Intérieurs d'Haïti, by Roberto Stephenson and Marie-Louise Fouchard.  I mentioned in an earlier Reading Update post this year that I wanted to read through some of the art and photography books on my shelves, since doing that makes me happy.  This one has an essay by Frankétienne, a revered Haitian poet, in English and French.  This is followed by a hundred panoramic photographs of the inside of Haitian homes, from the most humble to the most ornate.  The only copies available on Amazon are extremely expensive; I'd be happy to loan you my copy if you come over to my house.

Book #11 was Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, by Brené Brown.  Apparently I'm not the only person who struggles with the issues in this book.  Good to know.  As usual, Brené Brown has written a wonderful book.

Book #12 was Emily P. Freeman's Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.  I have been listening to Freeman's new podcast, and so I could hear her voice as I read the book.  This was a good introduction to my OLW for 2018: ENOUGH.

"The job of the branch is not to make life happen, but to remain in the vine.  To remain in Christ is to stay where you already are.  No need to get up and try to find that which you already have.  Stay.  Abide.  Remain.  Believe."

Book #13 was an old classic, Nevil Shute's On the Beach.  The book opens in 1961, but it's a post-apocalyptic 1961.  We are in Australia, one of the few places left on earth where people are alive.  Soon, the entire planet will be overtaken by radiation and everyone will die.  Sounds uplifting, doesn't it?  Oddly, it is.  I first read this book many years ago, before I moved to Haiti in 1993.  At that time, Haiti was under an international fuel embargo, and I thought many times of this book as I watched people rationing fuel, since that's one of the first problems the characters face.  Later, as the embargo strengthened, and no commercial airlines were allowed to fly to Haiti, I thought more about the book because of the sense of being cut off from the outside world (in those pre-internet days).  But another aspect of Haitian life back then that reminded me of the book was the way people lived every moment, enjoying the pleasures they had available.  As I read this time, I kept thinking that this is really the human condition: unlike the people in the book, we don't know exactly when we're going to die, but we know we will, and it's up to us to decide what to do with the days we have.  I smiled as one character said to another towards the end of the book: "Don't try and analyse it....Just take it, and be thankful."  That's a bit difficult for me, since analyzing (or analysing, as the Australians in the book would spell it) is my second nature, but I'm trying to do more of just taking my life, and being thankful. 

This post is linked to the February Quick Lit roundup at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

1 comment:

author amok said...

I've been tracking my reading in a different way this year, Ruth. I like these windows into the books you've read. In March, I'm going to the AWP conference. I'm looking forward to George Saunders' keynote speech.