Reading Snapshot: February 19th
It 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