It has been an absurdly long time since I devoted any blog real estate to the subject of books, so without further delay, here are my current and recent reads:
“A Betsy-Tacy Treasury,” Maude Hart Lovelace
This adorable collection of the first three Besty, Tacy and Tib books has my heart. I received it as a gift from Brother-In-Law for Christmas and it was so charming, wholesome and heartwarming that I finished it just after New Year’s Day. The day-to-day adventures of three little girls growing up at the turn of the 20th century in small-town Minnesota are decidedly set before my Grandma’s time—she wasn’t born until 1922. However, there was something so familiar and wholesome about the vignettes of the little girls playing in front of their houses, or going up big nearby hills, and thinking up funny little games that it reminded me strikingly of the reminiscences Grandma shared with me about being a little girl herself. This book was a comfort, and allowed me to feel a connection to a simpler, more wholesome time and place. I’ve thought about it often in the last few weeks, and will probably read it again.
“Mansfield Park,” Jane Austen
I just finished this Austen the day before yesterday, and shockingly, I couldn’t stand it. For the record, I am a big Austen fan! I adored Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and really liked the satire of Northanger Abbey. Mansfield Park, however, was plodding, slow, and boring. The protagonist does almost nothing. Every event of consequence in this story happens around her, rather than to or with her. It took her forty-eight chapters to arrive at the only conceivable ending, expected from around chapter two. I honestly can’t recommend this seemingly beloved classic. As Wuthering Heights won my most disliked classic of 2017, so far Mansfield Park seems the front-runner for 2018. It is only January, though. Maybe I’ll find something I like less.
“The Age of Innocence,” Edith Wharton
Published in 1920, this novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1921 and is set in upper-class New York society during the gilded 1870s. I’m listening to it as an audiobook during the in-between moments of my day—on my commute, on walks home from the train station, etc. I’m about ten chapters in and I am struck by how similar it feels to Anna Karenina—a leading lady with a reputation that precedes her, her seemingly guileless flirtation with a married man, and many more details besides. In some ways it reads like a more relaxed Austen, as though an Austen novel and a W. Somerset Maugham novel had a baby this was the result. I think it might be because while the language is less formal than Austen, the high-society gossip is reminiscent of a much earlier era of storytelling. So far, I’m enjoying it. If you follow me on GoodReads, you can see what I think of it when I’m done!
“Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World,” Rabbi Susan Silverman
This book was given to me for Christmas by dear friend H! Rabbi Susan Silverman is the sister of comedienne Sarah Silverman, and this book is a memoir, of sorts, of her life and the creation of her family through both birth and adoption. I’m just beginning this book, but it’s up my alley in so many ways, and I’m so grateful that H chose it for me!
“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” J.K. Rowling
For the majority of the last decade, I kept the Harry Potter audiobooks read by Jim Dale on a constant, unceasing repeat at all hours of the day and night. It was the background to car rides, commutes, quiet times while falling asleep, my companion in laundry folding, exercising, or dish washing. I know the books so well through Jim Dale’s voice that I can recite many long passages with his precise inflection and intonation…they were the soundtrack to my waking hours for years. A few years ago, I stopped listening to Harry Potter. I stopped reading it entirely in any form, actually. Part of this was due to a deep, abiding disenchantment with what I call the “post-Potter” world, which has given us such deplorables as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the wholly unnecessary “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, and the unfortunate author’s frequent tone-deaf tweets that leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. I could write my own book on the arc of Harry Potter fan culture (I actually studied it formally my last semester of college), but suffice it to say as much as I adore Harry Potter, I put the books on the shelf for a years-long break, and can’t say I’ve missed them too much (the movies have sustained me). HOWEVER…I recently found myself in need of a delightful story to animate a car ride and found myself turning to Jim Dale’s many-times-over Emmy-winning voice. Book Four is one of my least-read in the series, and it was really nice to revisit. I’ve begun Book Five now that I’ve finished Four, and have to say it’s like having a beloved grandpa read a dog-eared fairytale. Turns out, I needed more Harry in my life.
“Turtles all the Way Down,” John Green
I’m reaching back into December for this one, as I finished it before New Year’s Day, but I have to include it. “Turtles” is the most recent novel from my beloved author, podcaster, YouTuber, and AFC Wimbledon fan John Green, half of the Green Brothers’ YouTube empire whose creations include Crash Course, SciShow, The Brain Scoop, How to Adult and many others, and founder of many wonderful charitable organizations and drives like the annual Project for Awesome. But aside from all that, he’s the author of “Looking for Alaska,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and several other novels. I really love him as a person. He’s insightful, interesting, positive, encouraging and empathetic. His novels are generally well written, simple but moving. Prior to “Turtles,” my favorite of his was “Paper Towns,” because it contains a bit of a mystery, though “The Fault in Our Stars” was inarguably a beautiful masterpiece. I think my new favorite is “Turtles,” though. It contains a similar mystery to “Paper Towns,” and while being very engrossing for its intrigue, also deftly addresses mental illness in a heart-wrenching and realistic way. Indeed, he has stated that this book is deeply personal because he suffers from the mental illnesses he addresses throughout this novel. I loved this book, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy but very moving read.
“Trixie Belen, Mysteries 1, 2, 3, and 5,” Julie Campbell Tatham
My mother loved these girl detective stories when she was growing up. She told me about how she’d get allowance money and then walk to the five and dime alone to pick up the newest one as often as they came out. For fans of Nancy Drew mysteries, Trixie Belden stories are a treat—they are far more realistic in terms of character development and much more fun and engaging. When I was growing up, I read Mom’s first editions over and over again. Unfortunately, they went out of print…and then, happily, were reissued in 2015 with new cover art, the same beloved stories sandwiched between shiny new hardcovers. I received four of the stories as a fun, thrifted Christmas present—Mom just happened to find them secondhand and I was so happy to have them in my possession again! I’m not including them in my GoodReads list because they’re children’s chapter books that I can read in two or three evenings, but if you know me, you know how much I love children’s books! Again, if you’re a fan of Nancy Drew and can find copies of these, give them a try! They do go somewhat in order, so start with the earliest ones if you can’t read them exactly in order.
So, those are what I’ve been enjoying! Here are a few I have on my “To Read,” shelf:
“The Enchanted Castle,” E. Nesbit
“The Time Machine,” H. G. Wells
“A Dog’s Tale,” Mark Twain
Interested in connecting over great books? Follow me on GoodReads by searching my name, Vanessa Jade, or email, email@example.com. What books are you currently enjoying?