So it’s now officially more than halfway through the first month of 2015 and I still have a backlog of reviews from the old year. This is just a short post of the last seven books of the year I read and some very quick thoughts on them. This lot was a bit of a mixed bag, some great and some not-so-great. Here, have some pictures of the book covers:
Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson: I read this book all the way back towards to end of November and I loved it! Johnson travels to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and within the US, and attends archaeological conventions as she seeks to understand just what it is about archaeology that so fascinates us. Johnson is enthusiastic, a great writer, and just so interested in everything! She threw herself into it all; whether she’s on a college campus discussing prehistoric archaeology, volunteering on an archaeological dig, or in cold, upstate New York walking over what was once a Revolutionary War supply depot, Johnson was curious about everything and everything. Her enthusiasm for the subject, and the way she wrote about the archaeologists themselves and the current state of field, were what really impressed me in this book. This book has been pretty popular with a lot of bloggers since it was published last year and I can see why. It really is that good!
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: I read this book, along with Lives in Ruins, way back for Nonfiction November. Going into the month I had mentioned how in the last few years I had read very few books that were nonfiction essays, this book was suggested to me by someone and I had seen a couple of very positive reviews so I got it and gave it a go. For me, Bad Feminist ended up being just ok. Some of the essays were wonderful, and some of them not so much. In terms of quality, I felt that it was fairly easy to spot which ones had been previously published in other places and which ones were written solely for inclusion in this book. I think Gay is a very strong and inspiring woman, but not all of collections in this piece worked for me.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: I started this one in the fall and read it somewhat leisurely; I finished it in December. I really liked this one! Reading it, I was consistently reminded of Dickens’ Bleak House, which is a good thing as Bleak House is one of my favorite books, but it’s also not such a good thing for The Woman in White because when you compare the two it comes off the lesser. This book was fun and very suspenseful; some of the cliff hangers made me so angry! And I really enjoyed the change of POV’s as well, although of course I liked some better than others. I will say that I did think what was eventually found out about the Count was a bit out of the blue and random, but otherwise this was a really really good book, probably one of the best I read all year, which I’m especially happy with as I don’t really read suspenseful-like novels. Also, this is one of the books on my Classics Club list so yay! In conclusions: a very very good book that I will reread sometime in the future, although not as good as Bleak House.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Euxpery: This is another title on my Classics Club list that I recently finished. I know a ton of people who really love this little book and, while it was enjoyable enough, I don’t think it quite ‘got it.’ The story was cute and the drawings a delight but other than that I wasn’t much moved by it. Maybe this is one of those books that you have to read first as a child to really appreciate? I don’t know, but this one was a nice enough but otherwise unremarkable read for me.
The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson: After loving Lives in Ruins, I tracked down the first of Johnson’s books to read. The Dead Beat is a unique little book about obituaries and the people who write them. She tells us the history of obituaries and about the revival of them in the 80’s and the differences of the form in England and in America. She also talks to several prominent obituary writers and obituarists of small, local papers. I liked this book and found a lot of what she told us fascinating, but it didn’t hold the same charm for me that Lives in Ruins did.
A Christmas Carol and Other Writings by Charles Dickens: I finally got around to reading A Christmas Carol this past year as part of Brona’s Books read-along. Although I knew the story, had seen it as a movie and even as a play, I still loved it! It was very charming and feel-good and just what one would want around Christmastime. I also enjoyed most of the other writings included in the collection, although I didn’t much care for The Haunted Man, which is a shame as it was actually the longest piece of them all. I did however very much enjoy “The Story of a Goblin who Stole a Sexton” and “A Christmas Tree.” I read the collection over a week and it really put me in the Christmas spirit. I might even read it again this Christmas, maybe this time without The Haunted Man.
Le Morte d’Arthur: King Arthur and the Legneds of the Round Table by Sir Thomas Malory: I read, or at least tried to read, this one as part of Howling Frog’s read-along, but it took me to literally the last day of the year to finish it. I’ve had a copy of this on my shelves for years, but it wasn’t until I opened it and began that I realized that the version I actually own is not how Malory wrote it; it was rendered into more modern-like speech by Keith Baines in the late 50’s. There was no Middle English in my edition and the spellings were standardized. While I’m sure this helped with my reading of the text, I think it is likely to say that something was lost; in the introduction Baines says that he intends for the book to be used as a supplement to the original, which I don’t have. The original work was meant to be read-aloud, not quite a poem, not quite an epic; the version I read more resembled short, loosely connected short stories. To be frank, having read this rendition, I’m not sure if I will ever go back and reread it Malory’s own words. There was so much jousting and fighting and mistaken identity which became very tedious after a while. Some of it I did find funny in an odd way; characters challenging and fighting each other for the pettiest reason or for no reason at all. Some of it seemed kind of ridiculous, how one knight would be in a forest in a random part of the kingdom and yet somehow meet knight after knight of the Round Table in the woods to joust with. At parts this was really a slog I’m afraid, and I finished way past the end of the read-along. But I finished it, so there’s another one to cross off the list, I guess.
Whew! That’s it, I’m now caught up with what I read last year! Finally.
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