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Reading Snapshot: October 16th

October 16, 2014

P1130285I’m still experimenting with sustainable blogging habits, but I love the idea of casually chatting about my reading when I’m not quite up to full-blown analytical posts.

I’ve been in a flare up for awhile, which brings with it a fussier mind. That means that nonfiction takes even longer than usual, and I seem to long for fiction instead. So I’ve been dipping into and out of the two nonfiction books I have going right now, instead of reading them systematically as I would if I felt better. Isn’t it interesting the way our brains work? Some nonfiction I read for comfort, primarily, for whatever reason, what I suppose one would call creative or personal nonfiction written by terribly clever and thoughtful middle-aged women (see: Barbara Brown Taylor, Kate Morton, et. al.), but most of the time I’m reading it because of curiousity. It’s more difficult to sustain that curiousity during a flare up: rather than wanting to explore the whole world I just want to curl up protectively around my vulnerable middle.

Which leads instead to a lot of comfort fiction reading. I’ve been spending much of the my time this week with frighteningly witty, fair haired aristocratic men whose emotional and personal lives are terribly complicated. To whit, Lord Peter Wimsy and Francis Lymond. I’ve known Peter for years, although I hadn’t read this particular novel (The Unpleasantness of the Bellona Club) before, being under the impression it was a short story collection that I’d already covered in the collected stories. It felt like such a gift to discover a new Wimsy novel! Of course, it didn’t have Harriet, who tore my heart out yet again when I treated myself to rereading their cycle earlier this year (Gaudy Night remains one of the best novels I’ve ever read and I’m saving the final one for holiday rereading), but it was still Peter, with the attendant cleverness and occasional moments of vulnerability that make your heart catch. I realised after reading this, a very early book in his career, that I thought of him completely as a real person: I wanted to reach into the book, to comfort him and whisper of the future. It’s interesting how some characters transcend their books; I think it happens most easily in a series, as we get to know the characters so extensively, but I’ve had it happen with standalone novels too. I think it’s one of the most powerful things about reading, to be honest.

Francis Lymond is similarly real to me, and I refuse to believe I wouldn’t encounter him if I time travelled back to sixteenth century Scotland. I only recently met him for the first time, but this year I’ve been rereading his six books, and thank goodness I’m now at the cream of the fifth (The Ringed Castle) and close to the sixth, which is my very favourite. Dorothy Dunnett is not kind to him, and at times I think she’s indeed willfully sadistic, but I can’t tear myself away from her writing. Even in a reread, during which I of course already know what’s going to happen, I find myself feverishly turning pages, crying at least once a book, and holding my breath the whole time in case it disturbs Lymond’s precious balance. It’s funny: this year I’ve been rereading a ton, the way I used to before blogging, and I truly love it. Luckily, I’m able to suspend my disbelief, and somehow doubt that the ending will be the same this time: if it’s a happy ending, I worry that it will somehow be thwarted. If it’s a sad one, I hope that this time things will go differently. This is irrational of course but leads to much more reading enjoyment.

In between consorting with these difficult men, I’ve given myself fantasy breaks: a fairy tale retelling in Thorn and a terribly contemporary urban fantasy in Tantalize. As you might imagine, Thorn had me on much firmer ground than Tantalize! Sadly, my hands are beginning to protest, so I shall save that for another time.

I can’t close this post without mentioning my audiobooks, though, as they’ve become constant flare up companions, getting me through walks and difficult hours when I can’t hold a book, whisking me away without protest. Even if I can’t take pretty photos of them, as they’re all e-audiobooks and hiding in virtual space! Just in the past week and a half, I’ve been to a planet emerging from feudal isolation (Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold), explored the unexpected way life unfolds for two women who come of age in 1930s China (Shanghai Girls by Lisa See), solved a mysterious murder in Buckinghamshire for the second time (Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie), gotten to know a black brother and sister living in the South before the Civil Rights era, whose close relationship to each other might or might not be enough to heal them (Home by Toni Morrison), and now I’m back in rural Virginia, exploring laylines and other dark supernatural happenings in The Dream Thieves, the sequel to The Raven Boys. Who knows what the next week will bring?


Oh, I almost forgot! I shall be read-a-thon-ing on Saturday, in a very relaxed way (aka with sleep), with Debi. Let’s face it: spending most of the day submerged in books is not exactly rare for me, but it will be fun to do it again as a community. I’ve been too exhausted to put together a special reading list, so it’s a good thing I have so many excellent books out from the library at the moment! ;)

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2014 3:37 pm

    Aha, I see that you have read The Raven Boys! Well, goody! I am glad you are into The Dream Thieves now! Then you can finish it up right in time to also read Blue Lily Lily Blue and then we can talk about it on twitter maybe, like only if you want to, no big deal. :p

  2. Karenne permalink
    October 16, 2014 3:40 pm

    Have you read “Summer Bounty”? I see it in your stack of books. I have four books written by Bernd Heinrich: “A Year in the Maine Woods”, “Winter World: the Ingenuity of Animal Survival”, “The Trees in my Forest” and “Bumblebee Economics”. I enjoy his style of nature writing. Since you will be spending the winter in the Northeast, you might enjoy reading “Winter World”. I am originally from New England and I would love to read his books according to the seasons, since they mirror what I would see out my window or on my nature walks.

  3. Karenne permalink
    October 16, 2014 3:41 pm

    Typo: I meant to write “Summer World: a season of bounty”…

  4. October 16, 2014 7:26 pm

    Is that a Bernd Heinrich book I see in your stack? He’s one of my favorite nature writers. I keep meaning to read more of him. I’ve read his Winter World and am eager to someday read the summer counterpart.

  5. October 16, 2014 7:48 pm

    Eva, your less than full-blown posts are still impressive! I have yet to learn the knack of letting go when I don’t feel like writing extensively about a book and a lot of my reads go unblogged You’ve got me thinking back about some of the characters that have come to life for me, thanks.

  6. chowmeyow permalink
    October 16, 2014 9:18 pm

    I love the idea of a Reading Snapshot – great way to talk about what you’re reading in a casual but interesting way – great post! I’ll also be readathon-ing on Saturday – Cheers!

  7. October 17, 2014 5:48 am

    I love Lymond so I can understand the compulsion to keep reading and re-reading those books! There’s so much you can miss on a first read and even on a second. The House of Niccolo series is great too, though I didn’t find the main character as compelling as Lymond.

  8. October 17, 2014 11:27 am

    Wow–I think I may have loved this post even more than I love your reviews. Yeah, that’s saying something! I love that I could just hear your voice chatting as I read your words. :) And yes, yes, yes, what you said about how some characters transcend their books. There are certain characters that I have to continually remind myself that they aren’t real people. Because in my heart, they most certainly are.
    Cannot wait for tomorrow! Lots of wonderful books, loads of yummy snacks, a fire in the fireplace, and the company of some of my very favorite people in the world! :D

  9. October 17, 2014 10:11 pm

    SO glad you’re readathoning :D :D :D That makes me incredibly happy!!! Can’t wait to check in with you tomorrow!! I’ve been wanting to read Thorn ever since Memory fell in love with it. And the Lord Peter Wimsy books…really need to get back to those. Loved them!

  10. October 17, 2014 11:45 pm

    I find the Game of Thrones series to be great comfort reading material. I think because I’m familiar with the tone and characters already, so I can just step straight into the world of the novel without any mental effort. Isn’t if funny how we have those different reading needs depending on mood?

  11. October 19, 2014 3:35 pm

    It’s lovely to have a broad overview of what you’re reading. I tend to reach for fiction, too, when I want a comforting read. Though some nonfiction can be almost as good. I will be looking up the names you mention, and can warmly recommend My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, which slid easily into my top ten books of the year – a huge pleasure to read.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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