Joanna here, on this day after Thanksgiving, thinking about what I'm grateful for.
Good books come near the top on the list.
"I cannot live without books." Thomas Jefferson
"When I have a little money, I buy books. If I have any left over, I buy food and clothing." Erasmus,
"Good books. Nom nom nom." Me
So here's what the Wenches are reading in November. Today . . . Susan, Cara, and Nicola. Tomorrow we'll hear from Anne and Mary Jo.
What Susan Is Reading:
Reading time has been hard to find this month, but I'm currently working my way through some very interesting books as quiet opportunity rises. First up is a book I was reading earlier and was determined to pick up again, and I'm so glad I did. Bill Bryson's At Home
is his very thorough, very entertaining exploration of the history of his own home, a former rectory in Norfolk, England. Going room by room, space by space through the old house and property, Bryson delves deeply and with fascinating detail into every aspect of the history of the house and the region–and life, too. He expands well beyond the garden or the scullery or the parlor to bring in the long tail of accumulated history, social, cultural, medical, scientific, that supported the evolution of some part of the house. He comments on gardening, cleaning, servants, house parties, medicine and illness, even the physics of climbing stairs; his remarks about the Victorians, the Georgians and whatever and whoever crosses his meandering path are insightful, erudite and often amusing.
I've read a good bit of his work – A Walk in the Woods
is one of my favorite nonfiction books – and At Home
is pure Bryson – clever, witty, funny and fascinating. "Nothing–really nothing–says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener," he writes in examining Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace, which touches tangentially on some aspect of his English
I've also started Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things.
Her Eat, Pray, Love
is another of my favorite books (I've read it twice), and I was very keen on reading more of her stuff. Historical fiction is a new direction for Gilbert, and she brings her own distinctive, soft and honest voice to the story of Alma Whittaker, an amateur botanist in early 19th century America, a book based on an actual family of remarkable botanists. Written with exquisite detail–I'm learning so much about plants and early botanical discovery–and with great character depth, so far it's a very interesting read. I'm not deep into the book as yet, but the characters and story and historical revelations are bringing me along. I always find Gilbert's style refreshing, frank and full of unexpected and enjoyable insights into every aspect of life, and she brings that to this hefty novel as well.
Between madly working on promo material for my upcoming January/February/March releases, as well as polishing up a new proposal, I’ve been a bit of a slacker in reading this month. However, have been having great fun catching up on Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. I loved his first Percy Jackson series, and this continuation of the teenage demigods is equally fabulous. I’ve just finished Book Three, “The Mark of Athena” and can’t wait to move on to the next one.
Basing his story concepts on a hip modern-day interpretation of the classic Greek myths, Riordan crafts a wonderfully imaginative world of monsters, high tech gizmos, cranky and quarrelsome Gods who need their half-human kids to step in and help save the day. I find his characters are beautifully draw, with each teen cleverly reflecting the attributes of his/her Olympian parent. There’s rollicking humor and action. But what I think gives the books great appeal to readers of all ages is how well he captures the very human emotions of self-doubt, inner fears, friendships and how we make moral choices.
I will just mention that the Wenches have been backchannel chatting about Riordan. Those of us not recommending him are planning to read him.
Last month I gave my husband a copy of An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris as a birthday present. That meant I had to wait my turn to read it but fortunately he enjoyed it so much he finished it in record time. I love Robert Harris's books and find them compulsive page-turners. I am swept away by his versatility in writing a varie ty of historical periods from the Roman era to the Second World War. An Officer and a Spy is a fictionalised account of the Dreyfus Affair of 1894 when a French army officer was convicted of treason for giving military secrets to Germany. The case became one of the most famous examples of a miscarriage of justice and Robert Harris writes it as a thriller that totally drew me in. Brilliant characterisation and a story that kept me turning the pages when I should have been writing!
My other fabulous read this month is Sleighbells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. I't's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Sarah's books and I snapped this up the moment it was available. I have a confession to make here – I don't usually read Christmas stories but this one totally got me in the mood for fairy lights and family celebrations. It's funny, poignant and very romantic with a wonderful cast of characters and a gorgeous snowy setting in Vermont.
So … What book did you read this Thanksgiving … Or what book fills you with gladness because someone wrote it?