january and february reading, 2010

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc — LeBlanc spent a decade hanging out with two young women in the Bronx and the many people who came in and out of their lives — boyfriends, husbands, children, friends, and other family. It’s a long book, and one that took a long time to write, and one that took me a long time to read, but I am still stunned at how she managed to make me go from a sort of revulsion to a real love of these people in the course of a few hundred pages.

The History of Love by Nicole Kraus — January’s book discussion book. Meh. Not a bad book in any way, just not one I got very excited about.

[listen] That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo — While I love all of Russo’s books (and I’ve read most of them), I kind of keep hoping that someday he will write Straight Man again. That Old Cape Magic comes closest, as it also deals largely with academics. It’s not as funny (but few things could be), but it’s quite good, and the narrator did a decent, if not inspired, job.

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinskey — Delinskey’s novel about high school girls who form a pregnancy pact and its effects on them and their mothers (who are all best friends, too!) is just as melodramatic and terrible as you might suspect. Melodrama is my favorite indulgence, though, so it worked for me.

[reread] A House Like a Lotus by Madeleine L’Engle — I had forgotten, or perhaps I never knew, how very preachy L’Engle can sound at times. I was rereading bits of A Wrinkle in Time because I was thinking about using it for a set of booktalks, and I was thinking about how I always think of that book as a sort of touchstone for smart kids who grow up feeling isolated and as though no one understands them. All of her books have a bit of that, and not surprisingly, as a kid and a teenager I gobbled them up and starred pages and copied out passages and generally regarded them as being up there with JD Salinger’s Glass family stories. I feel more comfortable in the world now, which is good, but it oddly makes me feel ever so slightly less at home in some of these books, which is. . . interesting.

Reconsidering Happiness by Sherrie Flick — Just the sort of writerly novel about people figuring out their lives and their relationships that I love.

[listen] Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by Frank Bruni — I’ve written about this over on my other blog, where I’m doing a little month-long five days a week blogging project, so if you are interested in things I write about other than libraries, please check it out.

I also reread, in part, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, which was February’s book discussion book. It was my favorite book in all the world when I was fourteen, and I read it many times in high school, but in the same way that I can’t quite bear to look at pictures from that time, I also could not quite bear rereading this, because it made me remember not just how I loved the book but also how very unhappy I was, and how the book was a part of my own loneliness, because I loved it so much and I so desperately wished I had someone to talk to about it, and I did not.

3 thoughts on “january and february reading, 2010”

  1. Rereading can be somewhat dangerous. You find yourself at different times in your life. On my last rereading Walden, which I always claimed was one of my favorite books, I discovered an irritating arrogance in Thoreau that I had somehow just accepted before. I still agreed with many of his points, but I did not like his assumption that anyone who disagreed was ignorant, evil, or both. I wondered what I was like when I first read Thoreau.

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  2. I really loved Random Family, too, and was surprised by how much.

    I am mostly safe when rereading L’Engle because I perform some sort of mental timeslip where I mostly read them the *same way* I read them over and over again as a child… the only thing that brings me out of such books is the “oh THAT’S where I got that idea” flash.

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