On the blog:
- The usual Sunday links round-up post
- My #Mustreadin2016 book list
- My Top 10 Bookish Resolutions for 2016
Well. Now I know what happens when I start each day reading instead of checking email and social media and when I block Facebook for most of the week. Oh yeah, and when my son is back at school and I still have a week’s vacation. I read a ton. It was a wonderful start to my 2016 reading year.
My son and I read the latest (last??) Captain Underpants novel over breakfast this week. It’s exactly what you expect from a Captain Underpants novel–lots of silliness, lots of meta-moments, lots of sly eyebrow raises to the adult reader, lots of tongue-twisty names for made-up technological creations. I love that as a 7th-grader, he can still get excited about a new Captain Underpants novel! And I especially love Dav Pilkey for providing that little glimpse into the future where grown-up Harold has a husband. Such moments should be so natural, so much a part of the representation of the world in fiction, that we don’t need to celebrate when an author represents the world as it really is, but I don’t feel like that’s the world I find in fiction, and so I’m celebrating.
Moose is up to his usual antics in Kelly Bingham’s Circle Square Moose, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. This time, he’s managed to take over a book about shapes, and it’s up to Zebra to sort things out–with a little help with Cat. So delightful!
Sarah Weeks’s Glamourpuss is a cute story about an odd couple friendship between an extremely glamourous cat and an equally glamourless dog. Glamourpuss is jealous of the dog until she discovers that the dog doesn’t actually like being glamourous. Not, perhaps, the strongest moral lesson. David Small’s illustrations are well worth a look.
Gratitude collects four essays that Oliver Sacks wrote late in his life celebrating the experience of growing older and exploring life with a terminal illness. All of the pieces previously appeared in The New York Times, so if you’ve read them as originally published, you might find this volume just a bit too slight to be worth your attention. But if you haven’t read the pieces before, you will probably want to. Sacks’s writing is so clear and readable, and he takes such delight in the world, even when ill. His words are a good reminder about how to live our best possible lives.
I am still reeling from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, which is exquisitely written and passionately argued and so tough-minded and yet so generous. It’s a beautiful book and a hard book. Before I started reading, I knew the book was written as a letter to his son and I knew it focused on race and justice, but I didn’t really know the central thrust of the argument–the black body as it’s been used and abused to create America, the black body now as it carries the weight of that history and tries to negotiate dangerous public and private spaces. Between the World and Me is a short book, but it’s dense with argument and imagery. Definitely one I’ll be rereading later in the year.
I really enjoyed Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Public Shamed. It’s all over the place, and it’s inconclusive, but those qualities don’t bother me in a book. If anything, I think they make a certain kind of book better, and Ronson’s is that kind of book. The topic here is crowdsourced shaming via the Internet. Ronson focuses on what is mostly the victimless crime of the inappropriate comment or offensive joke that’s meant for a small audience, goes viral, creates a maelstrom of public shaming, and may lead to very serious personal consequences for the person getting shamed in the form of getting fired from your job, losing friends and family, and fearing for your life when you leave the house because you’ve received so many death threats. I found the book incredibly engaging and thought-provoking, full of information and ideas that I wanted to share and talk about with others.
I already know that Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty is going to make it only my annual “best of” reading list at the end of the year. It’s precisely, exactly my kind of book. It’s also very difficult to describe. Kalman chronicles a year in her life through paintings, images, a few photographs, lots of objects, weird little moments, reflections on what makes her happy and what doesn’t. There is travel, work, family, fine baked goods. There is serendipity and so much wonder at in the world. Kalman’s philosophy is my own: how can we be unhappy when there is so very much that is odd and unique and strange to marvel at? A man wearing a pair of white wrings in the park. A flowered sofa abandoned on the curb. A seven-layer chocolate cake with a cherry on top. Not for everyone, but if this book is for you, it’s going to be for you in a big way.
Mary Oliver’s new collection, Felicity, is half nature poems, half love poems, though really the nature poems are love poems too. There is something so calming and transcendent about Oliver’s work. I read a few of her poems and feel renewed. A wonderful volume to start my year of reading more poetry!