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Reading Snapshot: February 19th

February 19, 2015

P1150683It turned out last week’s enthusiasm about ending my reading slump was premature. Instead I shifted from the bad kind of slump to the good kind, in which I neglected books in favour of my other hobbies! But that shifted on Monday night, which saw me read Kaoru Maori’s The Bride’s Story vol. 1 before bedtime (it’s a manga, so it only takes as much time as I spent staring at all of the little detailed drawings) On Tuesday, I spent the afternoon reading The Innocents by Margery Sharp in one sitting. Yesterday afternoon I repeated that experience with Keep Still (an Eleanor Taylor Bland mystery), before feeling a craving for nonfiction that saw me (finally) finished The Morville Hours before a blessedly early bedtime (I’ve been having sleeping problems).

All of which meant that this morning, I had no problem cracking my books open as soon as my first pot of tea was brewed. First I read some of Atul Gawande’s latest book, Being Mortal. I adore his two collections of medical essays (Better and Complications), but this one has taken me aback a bit. I actually started it last week, and the first sixty pages were so upsetting that I’ve decided to ban it from nighttime reading. I assumed from the title that was going to be a philosophical exploration of death, from both a doctor’s and human’s perspective. Instead, it’s about the aging process, specifically about all of the ways our bodies will break down as we get older, and how the current nursing home system in the US dehumanises the frail and elderly while the medical establishment also fails to provide help for the chronic (vs urgent) health issues that come with aging. I’m about 120 pages in now and it’s terribly depressing. I keep expecting Gawande to bring in more positive aging stories, but so far it’s been pretty unrelentingly focused on how the older you get, the smaller your life becomes, and that nursing homes take away so much autonomy you’ll end up depressed even if your physical needs are met. I’ve really enjoyed getting older, and am looking forward to my 30th birthday (it arrives next year), but this book is almost singlehandedly changing that. Gawande is a wonderful writer, and I live in hope that he’ll eventually get to the good aspects of aging, so I’m sticking with it for now, but it’s a very different book from his previous essay collections. An important book, one that’s clearly aimed at changing policies and achieving more social justice for the elderly, but just be prepared.

My other read, Bosnia and Hercegovina: a Tradition Betrayed by Robert Donia & John Fine, is a scholarly summary of Bosnia’s history, written in 1992/3, that sets out to debunk the media stereotypes about Balkan ethnic violence. I like this perspective, and that it’s providing a big picture overview of a region with such a detailed, complicated history, but the writing style is not particularly engaging. If you already have an interest in the area, you’ll be good, but if you’re looking for a ‘popular history’ approach, you’ll probably be bored. I’m quite happy to be reading it myself, and I’m planning to put together a reading list for my upcoming trip very soon!

I don’t actually have an audiobook going at the moment (other than my bedtime one of The Warden); I finished The Voyage of the Narwhal (and must talk about it; so much goodness to deconstruct!) and podcasts have taken over my listening time. But I do plan to get one started in the next couple of days. I’d like to begin a nonfiction one, but the last two that I tried (A History of the World in 6 Glasses and The Divide) had both annoyed me enough to abandon within the first hour, so I’m a bit gunshy. For now, I’m thinking of giving another Nancy Goldstone book a go, since I really enjoyed Four Queens, or I have Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood out on CD from the library. I’m just not sure I’m up for two depressing, potentially nightmare inducing nonfiction books at once! Any nonfiction audiobook suggestions would thus be well appreciated. :D

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2015 4:10 pm

    It looks like some great (if tough) reading! I started the year with a bang in January, but February is much slower. I feel a bit overwhelmed by choices. We’ll see how it shakes out!

  2. February 19, 2015 7:44 pm

    Yay, reading! February is turning into one of my best reading months in a very long time. It is mostly comics and manga, but I don’t care!! It’s been fun!

  3. February 19, 2015 11:18 pm

    The first part of Being Mortal really depressed me too. It does take a much more positive turn after that though. It’s still about aging and dying of course, but it starts focusing much more on the things that can be done to improve that process.

    • February 27, 2015 10:07 am

      I’ve now finished it, and yep, the positive turn began with the very next chapter. Luckily!

  4. February 20, 2015 11:12 am

    Sorry you are in reading slump, but we both know that they happen.

    I did not find Karen Armstrong’s book on violence and religion as depressing subject might suggest. She doesn’t play on readers’ emotions, but provides details and connection that provide distance and yet are fascinating. I just wish she look more closely at gender issues.

    • February 27, 2015 10:08 am

      That’s really good to know Marilyn! I do plan on reading it, as I’m a big Armstrong fan.

  5. February 22, 2015 7:17 pm

    Two very interesting titles as usual. The thing I love about your blog cuts both ways, all those interesting titles and I’m in the middle of the TBR Double Dog Dare. Once it ends, I intend to do a serious culling of my TBR stack and then dive into a bunch of new titles. My local library book sale will be very happy with my donation.

    • February 27, 2015 10:08 am

      You made me laugh! Your post-challenge plan sounds good though. I illogically hoard my owned TBR books, just in case I suddenly don’t have a library one day.

  6. February 25, 2015 10:43 am

    You’ve made me want to reread Andrea Barrett’s book, as I remember being impressed and liking it but not loving it!

    I’m right with you on the monitoring-heavy-non-fiction-quotient matter too. It’s hard to find a balance between reading enough to keep motivated to read more, versus reading too much and becoming paralyzed by the overwhelmedness. Ironically, often the mark of a GOOD book! I’m working up to reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything and a re-read of Thomas King’s An Inconvenient Indian.

    Glad to hear you’ve broken through the slump! :)

    • February 27, 2015 10:09 am

      That’s a great way to phrase the nonfiction balance (and oh I love Thomas King!). I find it’s true for some fiction too, particularly a lot of POC authors. But I have enough to say on that to warrant its own post, if I can ever get back into the regular blogging habit! Sigh.

  7. February 28, 2015 10:59 am

    Being Mortal does sound like one of those books that is depressing but completely necessary reading. I’ve been meaning to read it since I heard of it because I loved Complications, and working around the medical profession has given me a profound interest in these sorts of issues. I hope it got a bit more positive, though, because, frankly, aging scares me a bit, especially since my body seems to be falling apart already!

    • March 3, 2015 8:30 pm

      Oh you should read his other essay collection, Better! It’s just as good (resisting the urge to make a pun). Being Mortal definitely got more positive. :)

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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