One of my personal goals this year is to spend less time in the evenings on my phone or watching TV so I can read more. I set the somewhat arbitrary goal of reading 60 books this year, or an average of 5 a month.
Well, I’m ahead of schedule this month 😀
Here are the 8 books I read in January:
Three Sisters, Three Queens
This historical fiction novel by Philippa Gregory follows Margaret Tudor as she navigates being the sister of Henry VIII, sister to the queen of France, and sister-in-law to Katherine of Aragon. Initially a vain woman occupied with one-upping her sisters, Margaret grows as she faces the harsh realities of royal politics in Tudor England. Recommended for lovers of British or royal history.
Wow. This is my favorite book I’ve read in quite a while. It is beautifully written, and a compelling look into the experience of a first generation American, with a little bit of mystery mixed in. James bought it several years ago for a class in college he ended up dropping and it’s been sitting on our bookshelf ever since. I picked it up the weekend of the ice storm when we were stuck up on the mountain and I couldn’t get to the library to swap out my books from the previous week. So glad I did!
Recommended for everyone, but especially those who are interested in reading about the perspective of first generation Americans.
Written by the former New York Times war correspondent Sebastian Junger, this relatively short book explores the ways cultures throughout history have relied on tribalism and close-knit communities to survive and thrive, and how America’s individualist culture may be contributing to our soaring depression rates. It was certainly interesting, but it strayed a little bit far for me. Yes, people are less depressed when they are going through some trauma together, but that doesn’t mean it is inherently better for that trauma to happen.
Recommended for people interested in the effects of trauma on communities.
The Girl from Venice
I picked this one off the popular rack at my local library and I’m glad I did! Written by bestseller Martin Cruz Smith, The Girl from Venice is a WWII love and adventure story told from a perspective we don’t often see. Set in the waning days of WWII in fascist Italy, a fisherman near Venice inadvertently becomes the rescuer of a young Jewish girl running from her Nazi persecutors. Most of the WWII novels out there are set in Germany, England, or the Pacific and feature tales of Allied heroism. We don’t hear the stories of heroism in places like Italy, where most of the people oppressed by the Axis governments were doing every little thing they could to subvert the evil regime.
Recommended for lovers of WWII historical fiction looking for a different perspective.
The Keeper of Lost Causes
I listened to the first book of the Department Q Series on an audiobook downloaded through my library’s digital loan program. Recommended to me by some fellow bibliophile friends when I told them I love murder mysteries, this series is one I’m going to enjoy over the next several months. While I did figure out “who dunnit” (occupational hazard of reading lots of mysteries and watching lots of Bones on TV) it was a really well written and creepy book in the nordic mystery genre (see also, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Recommended for lovers of mystery novels and brooding detectives.
The Gift of Fear
Recommended by Ramit Sethi on the Tim Ferriss Show (one of my favorite podcasts) The Gift of Fear is all about harnessing your intuition and paying attention to your surroundings so you can learn when your fears are unfounded and when they aren’t. Written by Gavin de Becker, a security consultant of sorts, it certainly helped me feel more justified in listening to my intuition when it’s roaring at me, and learning what to look for when it may be a false alarm.
Recommended for all women.
Think Like a Freak
From the authors of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, Think Like a Freak teaches the tools to approach problems from unexpected angles. I loved all their other books, and I’ve listened to every single episode of the Freakonomics Podcast, so there wasn’t a whole lot of new material in this book (which I listened to through my library’s digital loan program) but I still enjoyed it. Stephen Dubner’s enthusiasm always gets me!
Recommended for people who like to tackle the world’s problems with innovative ideas.
The Taming of the Queen
The second Philippa Gregory book I read last month, and the third I’ve read so far, The Taming of the Queen followed Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s only queen to survive a marriage with him. All of Gregory’s books are so well researched, but I particularly loved this one because Katherine Parr was a writer herself, albeit one who had to keep her work secret while she navigated the perilous court of Henry VIII’s ever-changing mind. She was faithful the the mad king, and took extreme measures to be the only queen to outlive him, even groveling at one point to literally save her own neck.
Recommended for lovers of British or royal history.