I finished 7 books in January: 2 non-fiction, and 5 fiction. They were:
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is a children’s book, part of a series that I’m really enjoying. DC Public Library has the first two, but somehow hasn’t managed to get this latest one yet, so I bought this with a Christmas gift card. I rarely buy books, but it is so much fun to do so – so hooray for gift cards. This was a good addition to the series – not quite matching my love for the first book (The Mysterious Benedict Society), but better in my opinion than Book 2. Honestly, they are all worth a read though if you like smart, fun children’s books.
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
Jami and I started this as a book on tape on the drive back from Virginia Beach after Christmas, and then both finished it up in paper form. Erdrich is one of those writers that I discovered in college (Thanks, Dr. Bell) and that I have enjoyed reading in the years since. This book is set in New Hampshire of all places (not a typical locale for a book by Erdrich – usually her books are set in the Dakotas), which seemed like a good hook to introduce Jami to this author that I liked. I think I am even more pleased that she liked that book than I am glad that I liked (which I definitely did). Jeanette Winterson (see below) wrote a piece for the London Times once about how intimate and meaningful it is to share a book that you love with someone. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend the column: The books we choose to keep.
The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson
I cannot even explain how or why I love Jeanette Winterson’s writing so much. Every book she writes feels like a present to me. I first read her in college (not for any class, just because I wanted to) – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for which she won the Whitbread Award for First Novel – and I hated it. Then a few years later, grown up somewhat and living in DC, I read Gut Symmetries, mainly because the book was on mega-sale and I liked the cover. And it was amazing. I couldn’t believe the difference in my reactions. I loved Gut Symmetries, it’s still my favorite of Winterson’s work and I have enjoyed everything else that I have read by her (and I’ve read almost everything she’s written). I haven’t ever tried Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit again – part of me really wants to. I feel like I would probably like it now – but the rest of me is scared to. What if I still hate it? It’s definitely going to have to happen though. I have no excuse – there is a copy on our shelves downstairs.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
This book is about Paul Farmer, a doctor who co-founded Partners in Health, a non-profit that provides medical care in poor communities around the world. The organization first started in Haiti, and Partners in Health is where I donated my meager post-earthquake funds. The book is inspiring and made me feel like my money was well spent. Definitely worth a read.
The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah
From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell
I ended the month with mysteries – this one the first in a new-to-me series (Inspector Wexford). My neighbor loaned me the book and it was a quick and entertaining read – and I’m excited to have discovered a “new” mystery series (written starting in the 1960s so I’m a little late to the party. I can’t believe I had never read (or even heard of) Rendell before, seeing as she is one of the preeminent mystery writers of the last century. Better late than never, I suppose.