Reading Better | September & October.

Bringing Lucy home three days early cut short a few of my plans for transitioning from September to October, including my regular monthly Reading Better and Looking Back reflections. Until this past Monday, I hadn’t opened my reading journal in five weeks. Having Lucy around has certainly affected my reading life in some big ways, but thankfully, I’m still reading!

… slightly more?! I added 20 books to my shelves in September and 21 in October (all my 2022 books are shelved here on Goodreads). There was a shift in content – from 25% non-fiction in September (5 books) to 10% in October (2 books) – and format – audio was slightly less than one-third in September (6 books) and nearly half (10 books) in October. and really, that was it. I’m already getting back to more non-fiction, and the format shift might stay for a while … listening to books has been a godsend for keeping me entertained while I exercise, wait for Lucy to do her thing outside, and lately, knit!

Thankfully, the quality really hasn’t changed at all. I added three 5-star books to my shelves both months and the split across my star ratings stayed about the same. whew! I shared short reviews of those six books on Instagram and I’ve included those reviews below. Here are a few other highlights:

♥ reading from my shelves! a whopping 19 of those 41 books were ones I owned when I started my Bookshelf60* project back in May.

♥ really enjoyed September’s James McBride and Angie Cruz pairings.

anyone thinking about getting a puppy should definitely read The Year of the Puppy.

♥ Elizabeth Strout and Louise Penny are getting better … and Ann Cleeves should maybe consider retiring Vera Stanhope while she’s still (barely, maybe just sentimentally?) 4-star material?!

♥ Classics! I finally read David Copperfield, Frankenstein, and Macbeth and enjoyed each. I picked up Copperfield and Frankenstein to understand the originals before the re-tellings (Demon Copperhead is now sitting on my shelf and Frankenstein in Baghdad was fantastic) and Macbeth because it was Novel Pairings’ bookclub selection for October. I enjoyed it so much I listened to Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth in early November; it was excellent!

♥ Elizabeth McCracken is next up on my deep dive list. I read her memoir back in August and loved it; and her latest The Hero of This Book is excellent (love how it explores fiction-as-memoir and also the mostly-London setting). Ann Patchett counts McCracken as a friend and favorite author and now I want to explore more.

♥ After re-reading – and loving – Less, I was excited for Less Is Lost. and was, sadly, disappointed. I loved getting to know Less and Freddy better (my favorite takeaways from the book were lines from Freddy about relationships), but the commentary about Less’s travels and the people he met were just cringey clichés. I gave it three stars for the Freddy bits.

Here are those six (!!) 5-star reviews:

First Paul … a deep dive into the life and letters of the apostle Paul. New Testament scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan present a convincing case that Paul’s genuine letters reveal a radical theology of love, equality, and service; and show how later letters, misattributed to him, were used to shape the imperialist, misogynistic, patriarchal christianity that sadly still survives. 

Do I Stay Christian? … I decided my answer to this question was “yes” a few years ago, so I didn’t think I needed to read this book. I’m glad I did. McLaren thoughtfully (with plenty of backup) lays out convincing cases for “no” and “yes” (that would be excellent reading for folks trying to understand christianity or christians), and then offers compelling and beautiful lessons in “how”. That last section was what made this a 5-star read for me. It was totally accidental that I ended up reading these two back to back and they make a perfect pairing!

Four Thousand Weeks … I’m about 3/4 through my 4,000 weeks and this book still offers paradigm shifting ways to think about – and practice – time management and life in general. added this one to my must-read shelf.

The Old Drift … a multi-generational family saga set in colonial/post-colonial Zambia – three generations of three families – full of secrets, mistakes, lies, love, and (of course) heart-break. Loved the narration by a chorus called “the swarm” (and learning exactly what that swarm is was a cool reveal), the past/current/near-future timelines, and learning about Zambia & the impact of the AIDS crisis. I started and finished on paper and picked up the audio in the middle. Highly recommend both formats, and glad I had the paper because Family Tree! BIG thank you to @a.reader.reflects for the recommendation!

The Marriage Portrait … I’ve been waiting months for this and pre-ordered a gorgeous paper copy from Blackwells … but puppy! and I ended up listening. The audio is excellent and I look forward to revisiting words on the page at some point. The writing is gorgeous, lush with images of art, nature, and life in 14th century Italy (what a setting!) but this one gets 5 stars for the story of Lucrezia. What a heroine! I’m in awe of O’Farrell’s ability to imagine and then put us inside the head of such a woman.

The Round House … a re-read as I journey through Erdrich’s backlist. I’m now fairly well-versed in the Love Medicine family tree and loved reading stories from Nanapush, relayed through second favorite elder Mooshum, and seeing mentions of Margaret, The Bingo Palace, and Lulu! But the 5 stars are for how the story centers indigenous justice issues within a coming of age narrative. An older Joe Coutts narrates the events of his 13-year-old summer, when his mother is brutally raped. “Justice” is hard to even define within the maze of laws and court cases that address crimes on indigenous land.

And finally – the state of the TBR. There’s a thing going around my little corner of bookish Instagram to identify #TenBeforeTheEnd – ten books to prioritize before the end of 2022 (now less than eight weeks away!) I thought for days and tried my best. and couldn’t do it. Instead, I compiled one big TBR for November and December.

Top row already read (November is 1/3 over already), second row currently reading, third row bookclub selections (always must read for me), fourth row long-awaited library reads, at the bottom (in no priority order) 12 books from my shelves I’ve wanted to read for months … and then (off to the side) three books I’ll be reading along with others (all three are re-reads for me).

What book(s?) are you prioritizing Before The End?

Whew! it feels good to be caught up here with the reading. See you tomorrow for TGIF. Happy Thursday!

*My Bookshelf60 project is to read sixty books I already own (or had pre-ordered as of May 16) in these last six months before my birthday. The total sits at 49.

9 thoughts on “Reading Better | September & October.

  1. I have been thinking a lot about how I will wrap up my 2022 reading and directions for 2023. Did you listen to The Reading List? I love the idea of this story. I am currently re-reading Behold the Dreamers for the lit review committee at the high school and it is so interesting how four years has changed how I am receiving this story.

  2. I *just* finished The Marriage Portrait yesterday — oh my! So wonderful! The writing is exquisite, and I really love how she ended it (especially as I was bracing myself for the exact opposite). I haven’t thought too hard about books I want to read before the end of the year, but I have several piled up and quite a lot of Kindle books that I’ve acquired in the past few weeks, so I certainly won’t be at a loss for choice. I’ve got three books on hold at the library with long waits, so I think I’ll focus on what I have while I wait for them.

  3. I’m glad you’re still able to read with Lucy around! I don’t know that I’m prioritizing any specific reading before the end of the year, just good books that I happen to find at the library and waiting for some holds. I’m anxious to read Michelle Obama’s new book and only have to wait four more days!

  4. I’m always amazed at how much you read each month, even with your new puppy! I don’t have any reading plans for the rest of the year other than to read books that I enjoy and right now I’m enjoying The Night Singer!

  5. You are reading a lot! Lucy doesn’t seem to stop you, lol. Well maybe. My reading has lulled but I will defend the lull with my excuse of holiday knitting and trying to get it all done.

  6. You read more (twice as must as I) than anyone I know and your love of reading comes through in your words. I enjoy hearing your thoughts and seeing your ratings (and why). Thank you for sharing your joy of reading!

  7. I feel like I could comment on almost every entry here! I love this gathering of books you’ve shared! But I’ll keep it to this: Marriage Portrait. That ending! Yes! Yes! Yes! Can’t wait for the discussion.
    Oh–I’m reading Erdrich’s Shadow Tag right now (a super fast read–I’m actually listening AND reading with my eyes, depending on where I left off. Never done that before.) Anyway, it’s completely different than all the other Erdrich I’ve read. Are you familiar with it?

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