We’ve been doing a bit of reading on these snowy days. Here’s what I read (or am still pecking at) in January.
The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer – This was a great little book, total impulse buy for me. Turns out it is based on this fifteen minute TED talk, which I didn’t know about before buying the book. The essence of this very short book is the importance of taking time to be still and pay attention, and that what you really need (to understand, write, feel, etc.) is right there if you do just that. I underlined many passages (he quotes Emily Dickinson a few times in the book, which made me happy), and will return to the book again when feeling overwhelmed or distracted in this age of connectedness and technology. Here is but one of my favorite passages, directed toward writers:
Writers, of course, are obliged by our professions to spend much of our time going nowhere. Our creations come not when we’re out in the world, gathering impressions, but when we’re sitting still, turning these impressions into sentences. Our job, you could say, is to turn, through stillness, a life of movement into art. Sitting still is our workplace, sometimes our battlefield.
100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater, Sarah Ruhl – I dogeared about 20 essays in this book as my favorites to return to. It’s a lovely little book. Ruhl writes keenly on a variety of topics, often with a good dose of dry wit. She aptly describes the feelings or profound observations I often also have during seemingly mundane moments, particularly through a mother’s lens. But I’ll be honest: I skimmed some essays pretty quickly, particularly those that were very focused on the theater world/plays/playwrights (Ruhl is a playwright, after all) and that was due to my own ignorance and lack of interest in that world more than anything else.
Monday or Tuesday: Eight Stories, Virginia Woolf – The eight stories in this thin book offer a short burst of the kind of prose Woolf is known for. I was meh about half of the stories. My favorite was “A Society” which was a lovely feminist rant about the male intellect, written almost 100 years ago. I was surprised to see how much the modern era feminist sounds so familiar today.
Garden Voices: Stories of Women and Their Gardens, Carolyn Freas Rapp – If you are a woman who gardens, or know one, I cannot recommend this book enough. It was given to me by my mother for my birthday. I read it in one sitting. There really are a million reasons why any one of us who gardens decides to dedicate a portion of our life to growing something. I was truly moved by the varied stories written by the different women in this book. Before each gardener’s essay, Rapp offers a brief snapshot of how she came to know that gardener in her personal life or some insight about their personality. At the end of the book there are also a few pages where each gardener offers their best advice for gardening and/or life. Highly recommend.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel – Everyone is raving about this book. You can add me to the list. Great story and great storytelling. She weaves beauty and hope throughout a storyline (post-apocalpytic world) that could otherwise seem bleak. I think what also kept my attention was how the story was not told in a linear fashion. I like books that tie back to points in the past, and the way she does it here gives the book the feel of a mystery novel because, at least for me, I was constantly wondering how all of the characters and plot points would be tied together at the end. I will be thinking about this one for a while.
I am usually a multi-tasker when it comes to books. Here are the others that I am actively pecking at or poking through in bursts right now (reviews to come once I’m finished)
Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio (I must give a brief review even though I’m only half done: the writing is stellar)
Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol (it’s been a while since I’ve read a biography and since I’m seeing him in concert this weekend, it felt right to pick it up; apparently it’s not ghostwritten and so has the kind of badass, tell all writing I expected, and am enjoying, from Idol)
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson (1960)
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World, Jon Young (I had a false start with this book last year and wanted to pick it up anew because I REALLY miss spring right now)
Vanessa and Her Sister, Priya Parmar (I’m listening to this as an audiobook—my first ever—and I’m enjoying it so far, but it took me a while to get used to paying attention)
What are you reading this weekend?
Copyright (c) 2015 Kristen M. Ploetz