How many books do you read a month?
When the year started, I set myself the ridiculously high goal of reading 200 books.
Yes, I do know that the number should not be a goal in itself; however, I do feel the need to push myself.
So far, I lag behind. I have not reached a satisfying number. That is, I only finished reading 7 books this month.
These are the things I do in order to read more:
- I read every day, no matter how little.
- I read more than one book at a time, that way I can switch between authors and novels.
- When I can't push through with a book, I search its audio version. It helps hearing it in another's interpretation.
This is my January wrap-up.
I.S. Turgenev - Home of the Gentry
The classics I'm picking up these days are Russians.
The most "serious" book I have read this month is Turgenev's Home of the Gentry. This transports the reader to 1859's Russia.
The book is not an intimidating classic. It is a love story framed by a character and a society analysis. However, the framing overpowers the core story.
The main character analysis is one of a superfluous man. Why and how he becomes that and how he is doomed to live an incomplete life.
It is a realistic and authentic story. Yet, I did not completely appreciate it.
My contemporary knowledge of mindsets and willpower, as well as the fact that I could not help but compare it with some of his contemporaries' works like Goncharov's or Tolstoy's, were the reasons behind my estimation.
Ilf and Petrov
The other Russian book I finished is a collection of short stories by Ilf and Petrov. I don't have the exact publishing date, but the stories must have been written in the late 1920s and in 1930s. That made the authors citizens of Soviet Russia. Not an enviable status.
I did not find an English translated equivalent, the best choice would be Ilf and Petrov's American Road Trip and their consecrated books The Twelve Chairs and The Golden Calf.
Their short stories are realistic, humorous, but really dry. To my mind, they evoked a combination of Chekhov and Gogol. They are a bit repetitive and bleak, but they did live in a bleak world.
The book begins with a confession from Petrov regarding their writing method and it was amazing to find out that they really did write everything together at the same time. I don't know of other authors who wrote that way.
My next choices were 2 teen books.
The classics from L.M. Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea that transport the reader to 1908's Canada. I count them as one book because I read them in a one book format.
I could not completely articulate why I find reading children and teen books valuable for an adult until I came across this idea:
"In children's books (just like in science fiction or fantasy) the author invents their own rules for their made-up world. As the reader, you must suspend your disbelief and go along for the ride. (...) What if you could suspend disbelief in your life just long enough to imagine a very different future (...) That will definitely spark your creativity!"
That's it. They are very close to imagination and play.
I wrote about Anne and how I loved the way she filled the world.
I also wrote about The Flour Babies, the other teen book I read. This one is set in 90s Great Britain and is a playful analysis of the child-parent relationship.
The next pair of books is centered on faith. It is a subject I constantly educate myself in. My point of view is that The Bible is a writing unlike any other.
For this month I chose The Divine Secret by Joe Kovacs (2012). The author is an American with a background in journalism and his general quest is to read and present The Bible as actual fact, not allegory. The title is definitely written for the internet generation and he cracks up jokes all over the place, so that makes the book, also, fun.
For someone not familiarized with The Bible, this might be a strange read. I recommend his other book Shocked by The Bible as a starting point.
The other Christian book I chose is Getting Past Guilt (2003) by Joe Beam. Joe Beam is an American pastor. The book's first part deals with the fact that the author lost balance in his life so badly as to come close to death. Thereafter, he shares how he got out of that bad place and what he learned about guilt.
Getting Past Guilt, also, sends to The Bible and uses extensive quotes. The boiled down message is that you can not be redeemed only by your works, but putting your trust in Jesus is the way. After all, that is why he sacrificed himself.
This is a beautiful and insightful book.
Article presentation video
A Pulp Book
To put the cherry on top of my eclectic mix, my 7th book is "Up in Honey's Room" by Elmore Leonard.
I have a soft spot for detective stories and mysteries, Sherlock Holmes was one of my earliest childhood discoveries. I also appreciate the noir movie genre. That is why I chose to read this book.
I was somewhat wrong. Elmore Leonard was a successful writer and screenwriter, and after reading the book, I can tell why. His writing is simple yet intriguing and it has that quality of making you curious about what comes next.
However in "Up in Honey's Room" nothing comes next. It is not really a detective story, it holds little mysteries, and is heavily pulp. It actually delights in how pulp it is. And pulp, I found out, is not a genre that stimulates me.
Therefore, the gain was that I can now understand why people like his writing and I can cross off my reading list the pulp genre.