Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fancies, The Pre-Holiday Edition

Have you heard about The Happy Reader, a new book-centric magazine partially backed by Penguin Classics? I ordered the inaugural issue and have found it to be a really enjoyable read so far. The issue is divided into two halves: the first half makes the deliberate choice to showcase an avid reader rather than a writer and features an extended interview with a well-known book lover (in this case, Dan Stevens); the second half delves into a classic book from a variety of different angles. In this issue, the book in question is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and eight different essays that relate aspects of the novel to history, fashion, and food, among other things.  Peppered throughout  are funny little asides and marginal notes that make for a lighthearted--dare I say happy?--read.

I also recently got wind (via a post over on My Porch) of another magazine for readers, Bookmarks Magazine. I'd never heard of this before, but the cover illustrations alone look pretty fantastic.

I'm still firmly tied to print for my personal reading, but for those who have embraced digital, the Oyster digital subscription library looks like it's one of the more elegant options out there.

This is the best thing I've seen online this Christmas.

And finally, this roundup of various writers favorite reading experiences of 2014. Not only is there something for every taste on this list, but I love the fact that it focuses on favorite reading experiences, rather than the typical "best book" designation. This is something I'm going to keep in mind as find my footing again with this blog in 2015. Rather than feeling tied to posting reviews of every book I read, I'm instead going to try to focus on highlighting books that I find particularly enjoyable or memorable, or that resonate with me in some special way.

With that, I'll say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I'll meet you back here in 2015!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reading Lately

I've been on a hot reading streak for the past few months, finding book after book that I've loved. Here's an overview of some of my favorites, starting with some current fiction.

I’m nearly halfway through The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and so far it’s living up to its hype as a completely engrossing, modern-Dickensian coming of age saga. I’m amazed at how such a minutely detailed world—both in terms of exterior setting and the interior world of main character Theo—can spring from the mind of one author. Another book that inspired the same amazement was The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Although the last two chapters of the novel pale in comparison to the whole, and I didn't find the novel as a whole to be as successfully conceived as Cloud Atlas, I still found it to be a very worthy read.

A novel garnering much praise lately is Ali Smith’s How to Be Both. The novel is divided into two halves, one which follows George, a modern-day teenage girl who has recently lost her mother and one that follows the rise of Francesco del Cossa, a fifteenth-century Italian painter who isn’t exactly as he seems. Though the two halves of the story are linked by the painter and his frescoes, they are not fully dependent upon one another. In fact, half of the books printed start with George's half of the story while the other half start with Francesco's, emphasizing the point that they work together no matter which order they're read in. Despite all of the attention that the post-modern (or maybe post-post-modern? I feel like I should go back to college to debate this) structure is getting, the individual stories are very readable and beautifully written, particularly in the sections that explore memories. How to Be Both is probably the most interesting novel I’ve read in a while. It would be a perfect book club book, especially if the members were divided into two groups that read the stories in different orders, then compared their impressions.

Last but not least, I also caught myself up on one of the more buzzed about books from a year or two ago, George Saunders's Tenth of December. I've wanted to read this ever since it came out, but only just got around to it. I was very impressed by how his stories were simultaneously quirky and moving. I really enjoyed the majority of this collection and plan to seek out more of Saunders's work in the future.

Of course, my literary diet isn’t complete without copius helpings of 20th century British female writers and two of my favorites of late are Margaret Kennedy and Angela Thirkell. I discovered the former a few months back when I read The Ladies of Lyndon a few months back during Margaret Kennedy Reading week. That single novel was good enough to elevate Kennedy to favorite author status. I’m looking forward to reading Together and Apart next. And then there’s Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire series, which I’ve been reading as a sort of palate cleanser in between denser books. Most recently I finished Pomfret Towers, which may be my favorite of hers so far. In it, Thirkell hits on the perfect combination of witty writing, a glamorous setting, romantic entanglements with happy endings, and a collection of characters who are imperfect and irritating at times, but who manage to highlight some very relatable human emotions.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Holiday Mood

I got a small record player for my birthday last month and, with the holiday season in mind, one of the first records I bought was the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, which just happens to be made out of a festive green vinyl.

There is something so cozy and festive about lighting the Christmas decorations, burning a candle, and having this slightly jazzy music quietly playing in the background. It's fast becoming my nightly routine.

Hope to be back around these parts at least a few more times before the end of the year. In the meantime, tell me what holiday routines you're enjoying lately.


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