It’s that time again. Once a month I link up with my favorite book whisperer Modern Mrs. Darcy and share the best of what I read the previous month. Let me tell you, February was a doozy! Typically I only share thoughts on the very best two or three books that I’ve read, but this month I could probably write individual posts on each of the seven books I read! Some of this strayed from my normal reading habits and much of it provided some of the most thought provoking material I’ve had in a long time. I’m still thinking about much of what I read last month. I’ll try to keep everything brief. Here’s what I read in February.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
Another favorite book guru, Laura Tremaine, raved about this book, calling it the best thing she’d read in 2016. While it likely won’t top my best of the year book, it certainly captivated me and gave me a lot to think about. Ruth Wariner is the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Born into a polygamous Mormon sect in rural Mexico, Wariner’s memoir sits firmly in this context without being about a polygamous Mormon sect. It’s a story about poverty and family, religious convictions and the bravery to go against them. I was so struck by Wariner’s mother and the way she could love her children so fiercely and also be so desperate for love herself; at times these two truths felt at odds with each other. I was unprepared for the ending of this book and it took me a bit to recover. All in all, I highly recommend this one.
The Course of Love by Alain DeBotton
I’ve raved about this book on Instagram, recommended it to everyone I saw while I was reading it and gave it as a birthday gift last month. I made the mistake of checking this out from the library, which was a tragedy because if I’d owned a copy I’d have underlined probably two-thirds of it (something I rarely do with a novel). As it stands I have a dozen or so pictures on my phone of lines that stopped me in my tracks with their truth and beauty. The novel tells the story of a couple as they fall in love, get married, have kids, fall away from each other and come back together again. It is average and mundane in its details. This is the secret genius; you can’t help but see yourself in the characters and their inner dialogue. Interspersed throughout this story is a third voice, I came to think of it as the professor teaching a Course of Love, using the man and woman in the story to teach deeper truths about love and relationships and humanity. That is where the best of the book shines. Some of the lines took my breath away and I had to put the book down and just ponder it all. I’m not doing this book adequate justice. It’s a piece of art and it made me want to be a better partner to Tommy.
Upstream by Mary Oliver
I’ve long loved Mary Oliver and God has met me more than once in the lines of her poetry. When I heard she had a book of essays out and my local bookstore was doing a book discussion on it, I couldn’t buy it fast enough. To be perfectly honest, this wasn’t what I expected. There were some real gems in it and the book discussion I went to actually made me appreciate it more than I think I would have had I just read it on my own, but in all I think I’d hoped to walk away from these essays knowing and loving Mary Oliver the person more. I don’t know if it was fair to expect that from a book, but regardless that’s not what happened. I’d still recommend it to those who love Oliver, and it was worth it for the handful of essays that really moved me.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
This was our book club pick this month and I’m really glad because I may not have picked it up otherwise. I feel like this is a common theme in our society right now, how to say no, how to do less, how to pare back to only what is essential. McKeown offers some solid wisdom and it came at a time when I’m really trying to discern what is essential and what I have to offer. I put into place a few ideas from this book and I’ll probably return to it again next year. It was a good “beginning of a new year” kind of read.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery
I grew up on the PBS movie version of Anne Shirley, but somehow I don’t know that I’ve ever read the whole book. It’s been on my list for a while, but when I saw that Audible had a version narrated by Rachel McAdams, and it was on sale I couldn’t press buy fast enough. The story was delightful, as I knew it would be, but it was enhanced so much by McAdams voice. Anne Shirley has become one of my new favorite literary heroines and as the mother of two little red headed girls, I can’t wait to introduce them to her someday. I’v got Anne of Avonlea on my shelf to read next.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I’ve avoided most of the “Girl” books that have popped up in the last few years. I needed to read a book with an unreliable narrator for a book challenge I’m doing and I also was interested in watching the movie (because Emily Blunt is one of my favorites) so I figured I’d pick it up as a quick, palette cleansing read. It was WAY better than I expected. It’s a page-turner with characters that had more depth than I expected. I highly enjoyed it and would absolutely recommend it, even if, like me, you try to stay away from any books with “the girl” in the title.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This came recommended as “a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able” for that same reading challenge. I was headed out of town for a few days and like to have those kinds of books to entertain me on flights so I picked it up a few days before I left on my trip. True to its description, I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it before I even left on my trip! This is a novel about the two different life paths that could stem from one decision. The premise sounded kind of stupid to be honest, but I found that Reid did a phenomenal job of adding nuance and thought to what could have just been a “Sliding Doors” novel. It's an easy read (and not necessarily the highest of quality writing) but a solid story. And I was not expecting the ending to be so surprising and strangely satisfying.
So those are A LOT of words about seven really great books! I don’t think I’ll be able to read quite that much in March, but I’m in the middle of a few really great books and my hold on a highly anticipated memoir just came up at the library so hopefully I’ll have something to report next month. How about you? What are you reading?