Sunday, 15 March 2015

QuickLit for March

Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping

This novel begins with a train wreck and continues with transience, decay, and death.
I cannot think of a better way to describe what Robinson does with language than this phrase from The New Yorker's review, as quoted on the book's flyleaf: "the tense precision of good poetry."

And yet I wonder - if I had read this novel before reading anything else by Marilynne Robinson, would its depressing themes have discouraged me from trying Gilead and the rest of her books, no matter how much I love what she does with language?

Louise Penny: Still Life

This is the first book in a mystery series set in Quebec and featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, a very sympathetic crime investigator, and lots of other vivid characters I'd like to get to know better. Too bad that one of the most interesting characters is the one whose death Gamache is investigating here, so I'm pretty sure she won't make an appearance in the later parts of the series.

On the whole, this is a pretty enjoyable traditional detective novel. Not exactly "a cosy mystery" despite the people and setting, but not too gory or gloomy either. If you are wondering whether this series might be your cup of tea, go to Louise Penny's author website and read the excerpt - it's a good sample.  

Micha Boyett: Found. A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer

A mother of a toddler feels she has lost the prayer life and the relationship with God she used to have. She looks for help and inspiration in the writings of St Benedict and the practices of Benedictine monks.

Reading this was a bit like going on a journey with Micha as she discovers grace, even and especially when she doesn't find simple clear-cut answers to her questions. I identify a lot with her tendency to try to earn the love and approval of God. And yet, that's not at all what life is about, and I think I'll go back to this book some day to remind myself of that.

Gary Wilkerson: David Wilkerson. The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed.

A son writes his famous father's biography, and does it well. The book gives a complex portrait of David Wilkerson: both the victories and the struggles, weaknesses and strengths. Family, friends, and coworkers give their views. And what a story it all makes. This is no hagiography, but it's a testimony of what God has done.

William Zinsser: On Writing Well. The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction (30th anniversary edition)

Apparently Zinsser knows what he is doing as a writer, because I really enjoy reading this writing guide. Essential reading for people who want to write nonfiction.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New on the Stack in February

Linking up with the Deliberate Reader for a look at our new additions.

So this is what happens when most of my library requests become available at the same time. I become so busy reading that I don't have time for blogging about books.
That pretty much sums up my February.

Temple, Rob: Very British Problems. Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time.

Why: Saw it on the list of new titles at the library and thought it sounded interesting. What I didn't realize was that this is practically a collection of tweets. Not bad, though. Good for those "I want something to read that I can put down quickly" moments.

Louise Penny: Still Life

Why: I've read good reviews of this detective series and thought I'd give it a try. The Quebec setting was an extra incentive, as I haven't read too many books set in Quebec. (Actually, can't think of any off the top of my head.)

Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird

Why: Many positive reviews from people who love to write.
(However, as I wrote in my challenge update post, I'm not raving about this, though it was good. It's just that I'm not an aspiring writer of fiction.)

Marilynne Robinson: Housekeeping

Why: After Gilead, Home and Lila, I wanted to read Robinson's first novel, too.
My thoughts at this point (40 pages in):
- I know Robinson didn't read Lamott's Bird by Bird before writing this, but somehow the characters seem to be written in the way Lamott suggests to write them.
- I can sort of understand why many people have loved this, but I'm not fully convinced yet.
- If this had been the first book by Marilynne Robinson I read, would I have given Gilead a chance?

Alexander McCall Smith: Emma

Why: Because I am a Jane Austen fan, I've enjoyed other books by Alexander McCall Smith, and this fit nicely with the HelMet reading challenge.
(But really, why do I read modernizations of Austen's works, when I love the originals so much that nothing will ever compare? :) )

Heilika Pikkov: Minu Jeruusalemm (My Jerusalem)

Why: I've liked many other titles in this Estonian series. They're all written by people who live or have lived as expats in the country/city they write about, and the point is to give a personal perspective - their own experiences, not a tourist guide.

This writer is a young woman who lived in a convent in East Jerusalem to make a documentary film about one of the nuns. Sounded interesting to me - Jerusalem is a fascinating place, and I don't mind getting a glimpse of how documentaries are made.
(I read Estonian fairly fluently, though I probably miss a lot of nuances. One reason for me to read this series is to keep up my Estonian.)

And my only Kindle purchase was:

Katherine Reay: Lizzy and Jane

Why: It was a special offer ($0,99) and commended on Modern Mrs Darcy, so I thought I'd snap it up. See McCall Smith's Emma for other reasons... I might save this one for the summer, though.