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
I got hooked on the ancient Greeks and Romans this month! Upon finishing my first read, I realized I had little more than a cursory knowledge of these topics, so I wanted more. While I don’t think I’ll go almost exclusively Greek and Roman in August, don’t be surprised to see some of these topics sprinkled throughout my reads for the rest of the year.
Sometimes I get hooked on a topic and have to go where it takes me.
Overall, this was a great month of reading because I enjoyed every single book immensely.
Anyway, to the books!
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE MONTH
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Sometimes you can truly find gems through the Kindle Daily Deals section of Amazon. I often pop in there on a weekly basis to browse. I have a hard time resisting any book that sounds remotely interesting for $2-3.
This month, I saw The Song of Achilles and decided to pick it up. When I say I devoured the book, I did, reading it in about 2 days. I stayed up on Saturday night until about 3am to finish it.
The story is fiction though is based off Homer’s Illiad and some other contemporary writings as well as research of the time.
It’s a retelling of the famous kidnapping (allegedly) of Helen of Sparta and the battle of the Trojan War.
I knew the basis of the mythology, Achilles was half god, a famous warrior and was born to fight in this battle. What really touched me when reading the book was the secondary story, the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. In fact, the book is told from Patroclus’ point of view, we see Achilles through his eyes.
Miller sets it as an epic and ultimately tragic love story between them. Both men were each other’s salvation and destruction all at the same time. Originally, I picked up the book because I was interested in the battles and the mythology, but I’m a sucker for a sad love story so it was the human element that kept me emotionally invested.
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
It was this book that got me kicked off on my adventures with the ancients this month. I’ve been seeing more and more mentions of ‘The Stoics’ from people online like Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday so I wanted to learn more. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into reading one of the Stoics without first having a bit of a primer.
That’s where this book came in and I think it was exactly what I needed. Irvine gives you the basics of Stoic philosophy plus a short history of where it came from and the major players. What I also really liked about this book is he kept things modern. He illustrated how the major tenants of this philosophy can be applied today practically and even exercises on how to incorporate more of it into your life.
Beyond enjoying the book I really found myself being drawn to what I read of the Stoics. Do I plan on donning a toga tomorrow? No, but there were a lot of takeaways for me to chew over in my own philosophy of life.
Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm
When you start reading about anything Stoic philosophy the name Seneca (the younger) pops up again and again. One thing I learned from Irvine’s book was that Seneca was the tutor to one of Rome’s most notorious Emperors, Nero.
That piqued my curiosity for sure. How was someone so revered in many circles as Seneca tutor a guy who is best known for fiddling while Rome burned (turns out, that’s technically not true)? The book presents an interesting meld of not only the two men but the two sides of Seneca.
It seemed to me that Seneca spent much of his time with Nero torn, but not doing much about it. I don’t necessary begrudge him, I think a lot of people look at an unstable leader and think that they are doing their duty in staying and trying (usually in vain) to not let them go completely off the rails. The problem is, in doing so, they become accomplices (intended or not) to actions and even crimes they would never normally abide.
It’s a philosophical debate for the ages, I guess!
Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman and I was hooked. I’ve been looking for another book like it since. I was happy to hear when I was researching more about the book that a few years ago, the BCC had done a full audio adaptation of the Neverwhere. Sign me up!
There are a couple of things great about this. First, and most obvious, was I got to experience Neverwhere again. Second, the dramatization stayed really true to the book. I didn’t feel like I missed a thing. Finally, and probably most importantly, the cast was incredible. James McAvoy as Richard, Natalie Dormer (Margary from Game of Thrones) as Door, Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel of Islington and so on.
The entire recording is split into six episodes, each about an hour long. I listened to the whole thing over two nights, once I started, I didn’t want to stop.
MONTHLY WEB READS
I figured I’d add in this little section about some of my favorite reads specifically about books.
- Colin Firth’s Shirt: Jane Austen and the Rise of the Female Gaze – This month, many were commemorating the 200 year anniversary of Austen’s death, this article explores how she’s still relevant today.
- 40 Must Read Books from the Shelves of Papa Hemingway – Ignore the sales stuff (if you want) and focus instead of the cool graphic at the top that highlights a list of all the books Hemingway mentioned.
- Horse Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobiles – Leave it to the wonderful librarians of the world to find a way to get books to the people who most need them.
That’s all for this month. Feel free to share this post.
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