Like a lot of people I know, I keep track of the books I read each month. Mostly, I just update Goodreads (you can follow me on there). But I thought it’d be a fun feature to add to the blog.
Unlike the newsletter, where I recommend a killer series of books, this “Monthly Reads” series is going to focus on what I’ve actually read during the course of the previous month. You can check out last month’s list right here.
At the end, I’ll also include some great articles I’ve read this month about books.
Alright, so away we go.
MONTHLY READS: BOOKS
Whew, I STRUGGLED to finish books this month. Not actually pick something up and read it (or listen to it) but just following through. I’m not lying when I say I started a good 8 books this month, so it’s sort of a miracle I finished more than one. And, honestly, that’s only because I had to get my ass in gear in the last week.
As you might have read, I am working on a project where I have 2 genres of books that are my ‘must reads’ each month (in addition to whatever I read). One is a classic book (written before 1950) and the other is a book written by a non-American author about non-American places and life.
This has proved to be problematic for me. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but each of the last 2 months I’ve struggled reading. And I fear it’s because I’ve put these two mandatory books to read on my shelf each month. I’m starting to wonder if I have a mental block against telling myself what to read ahead of time.
Two months can be a coincidence, while three, well that might mean I have to change things up. So we’ll see what happens come the end of March.
Anyway, to the books!
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH
Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuściński
This book ticks the second monthly requirement on my list: a book written by a Non-American about non-American things. This book is about a war. It was called the Portuguese Colonial War or the Angolan War of Liberation, depending on your side, I suppose. Kapuściński is sent from Poland to cover it.
I’ll admit upfront, I’d never heard of Polish war correspondent Ryszard Kapuściński before, but wow, what a writer. As I wrote in my post last week, I do love reading books about war. I find war books written by reporters and correspondents who were on the ground do have another layer to them.
Like every war book, It’s a brutal account. Roads strewn with dead bodies, child soldiers manning checkpoints, 16 year old girls with rollers in their hair deemed to be the best soldiers to fight at the front because they can focus better than the boys.
After he died in 2007, it was rumored that Kapuściński made up some of his accounts and his work is more fiction than reporting. While it does dull what can be seen as fact in his account, it does not take away from his writing. For me, at least.
THE SUN ALSO RISES BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY
I haven’t dabbled in Hemingway in a very long time. The last book of his I read was A Farewell to Arms. It was one of the few books in English in an old used bookstore in Haarlem, The Netherlands. I grabbed it right before a trip and enjoyed the read. So I was happy to get back into Hemingway, and I’m glad I did.
This might be one of his most famous books. It tells the story of a group of friends in the so called ‘lost generation’ right after WW I. A mix of British and American ex-pats who live in Paris, and seem to have quite a few interconnected love affairs, and travel to Spain for two weeks.
I found it hard to read about Jake and company without taking what I know about Hemingway now into account. Hemingway has a fascination with bull fighting, fishing, and all things manly. I’m not sure if that colors my opinion. In this story, he tells quite a bit without saying much and at the end, it struck me how sad it really was.
What pulled me into the book at first was I read a fictional account of this time in The Paris Wife. In that book, Hadley (Hemingway’s first wife) discovers he’s in love with another woman. It’s discovered, incidentally, while she’s actually reading the draft to The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway dedicates it to her.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES R.B. BERNSTEIN EDITION
Even though The Sun Also rises counts for my classic book this month, I decided to go really old school and read The Constitution. The copy I had lying around from my school days also had the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and a quick history about the time in it. So, it made for a nice informative read.
I mean it’s hard to say the Constitution isn’t a good read. Just looking at it purely from a historical sense it’s a truly monumental document. Wherever the country may be right now, the fact that this group came up with it is still pretty amazing to me. Our experiment, the Republic, has still been going all these years later, though not without struggles.
My favorite part of the Constitution is that it can be amended. The Founding Fathers knew they wouldn’t get it right. They knew things would change over time. So they allowed for things to be fixed and terrible laws (like slavery and the 3/5ths Compromise) to be amended. I think that part of it often isn’t taken into account as much as it could be today.
THE PRINCESS DIARIST BY CARRIE FISHER
I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. It’s not that I’m against them, I just haven’t seen very many of the movies to form a real diehard opinion one way or another. But, I was saddened to hear about the untimely passing of Carrie Fischer because she always seemed like a truly entertaining character so I wanted to give this a try.
I listened via audio book and I’m glad I did since Fisher narrates it herself (along with her daughter, Billie Piper). It tells her account of her first real role, that of Princess Leah in Star Wars. Plus a lot of juicy stuff about Harrison Ford. Fisher as a narrator does not disappoint. She’s a fantastic storyteller, self-deprecating and honest. I laughed out loud in virtually every chapter.
I also enjoyed the back third, which was mostly narrated by Piper. In this section she actually goes back and reads straight from the diaries Fisher kept at the time. You can tell even then, at 19 she had a knack for the written word. Sure, they sometimes sound like school girl pining over the hot quarterback. But she also has poems and just a cadence to her way with words that I liked.
MONTHLY WEB READS
I figured I’d add in this little section about some of my favorite reads specifically about books.
- Download 9 of the 10 Screenplays Nominated for the 2017 Oscars Right Now – A bunch of these were based on books and short stories (plus you can get a lot of info from a screenplay).
- George Saunders on Making Lincoln in the Bardo, His New 166-Voice Audiobook – This was one of the books I started this month but didn’t finish (yet). It’s unlike anything I’ve ever ‘read.’
- 12 Great Books Where Women Save the Day – I always love reading stories where women kick ass and already have a few of these books on my to-read pile.
That’s all for this month. Feel free to share this post. And don’t forget to follow me all the places I talk about books: Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads. If you want more book stuff from me, be sure to sign up for the newsletter.