Category Archives: Reading

The portrait of a family falling apart

Among the Ten Thousand Things “Among the Ten Thousand Things” is the story of a family falling apart. Julia Pierpont shows the reader in exquisite and funereal detail all the ways in which the Shanley family — Jack the philandering artist, Deb the former dancer, teenage Simon and pre-teen Kay — is uniquely unhappy.

It’s a well-written, sometimes lyrical book, but it isn’t a particularly enjoyable one. I slogged through it, but I didn’t like any of the characters and every chapter left me feeling melancholy. Which I guess is the purpose of the Unhappy Family genre.

Hey Nichole, what’ve you been reading?

Well, friends, I still haven’t finished “John Quincy Adams: An American Visionary,” and Goodreads tells me I’m 8 books behind on my 2017 Reading Challenge. But I have been reading, albeit more slowly and sporadically than usual.

For some reason that I’m certain was just a coincidence and not at all related to politics, I started the year with some bleak stuff. In January and February I read Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” and Annie Proulx’s “Barkskins,” and they were both brutal. So much so that I didn’t read anything else for a month, at which time I read Ron Rash’s “The Risen.” It was neither as harsh nor as good as some of his previous work.

And then I skipped yet another full month of reading. That’s very strange for me, and I’m not sure what happened. I think I may have been in a fugue state. Maybe Baron von Strucker has turned me into a Winter Soldier. Who could know?

Anyway, I’ve been back on the reading rainbow since last month. I’ve recently read:

  • Tom Perotta’s “The Leftovers.” It was OK.
  • Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies.” Also OK.
  • Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Wise Man’s Fear.” It’s the second book in a fantasy trilogy, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one. Hopefully the last one will be better — and less focused on our hero’s burgeoning love life.
  • Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime.” This is the best book I’ve read this year. It’s an interesting and surprisingly moving biography.
  • Rebecca Dinerstein’s “The Sunlit Night.” It wasn’t bad, but I had to force myself to finish it. I didn’t connect with any of the characters.

    I have a couple more books waiting on my Kindle, and I just checked out Eowyn Ivey’s new book. June and July are usually heavy reading months for me; maybe I’ll get caught up on my reading challenge before August.

    What’ve you been reading?

  • What I read in 2016

    Today I am grateful that Goodreads is out there on the internet compiling images of and info about all of the books I read in 2016 so I don’t have to do it myself. My goal last year was to read 40 books, and I surpassed that. These graphics say I finished with 41 books, but I’d forgotten to add “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” so it was actually 42.

    John Ehle’s “The Land Breakers” was published in 1964, but I’d never heard of it until this year when a local columnist wrote about it. I’ve often thought about what it must’ve been like to live in the Appalachian Mountains in the 17- and 1800s, and this fictionalized account of one settlement paints what I’m guessing is a pretty accurate portrait. I didn’t want to stop reading when I reached the end of the book, so I checked out the sequel. I didn’t love “The Journey of August King” as much, but I’d definitely recommend “The Land Breakers.”

    I read a lot more nonfiction in 2016 than I normally do, and several of those titles ended up being in my list of favorites. Helen MacDonald’s grief-laced “H is for Hawk” isn’t a warm and cozy read, but it’s ultimately very moving. “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson is also a tough one to read, but it’s very tense and well written.

    I put Beryl Markham’s memoir, “West with the Night,” on my hold list at the library as soon as I finished reading Paula McLain’s fictionalized story about her. I enjoyed McLain’s “Circling the Sun,” but “West with the Night” was my favorite book of 2016. Markham was the first woman to fly non-stop from England to North America, and that isn’t even the most interesting story in the book. She’s a fascinating person and a great writer to boot.

    My favorite fiction book of 2016 was Kristin Hannah’s “The Nightingale.” It’s about two sisters living in German-occupied France during World War II, which I guess is further proof that I was very into harrowing stories last year.

    I’m aiming to read 45 books in 2017, and I’m hoping one of those will be the John Quincy Adams biography that I’ve been struggling to finish. I’d also like to read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” and Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “The Romanovs.”

    Are we friends on Goodreads? Hop on over there and friend me if we aren’t! I’d love to know what you’re reading these days.