23 books finished in 2015: Agnes Grey

23 books finished in 2015

You guys, I am really enjoying this spring/summer of Brontë! To recap, I re-read Jane Eyre, then tackled The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and The Professor, and now this! There is only one book remaining on this list for me to read, and then I can make a ranking of my own. (Though, to be fair, I should probably re-read Wuthering Heights to see if I hate it any less – I generally can’t handle the incessant meanness of all of the characters, and spend most of the book pleading with them to just be reasonable and forgive each other and move on with their lives!)

It’s good to think of this in relation to the other Brontë books, because it’s very familiar. I’m sure someone has charted how many characters in these books are governesses or start their own schools or marry pastors. Agnes totally did it all, with the added bonus of a mother who is cut of from family wealth for the sin of marrying beneath her and building a supportive, emotionally healthy home.

Now that I’m listing these things, I understand why these authors and their books are so wonderful – they show the often-unnoticed strength of women. Their character, tenacity, courage, forgiveness, support, and love is on display in these books, often in contexts that are entirely unexciting. These books are mostly (when they’re not about, like, ghosts and impossible loves) about living a good, small life. Though they’re not about settling in any way – every character that I can think of is hard-working and persistently seeking to better themselves and their situations. Oh man, this makes me want to read some biographies of the authors, so I can understand how radical this work was at the time!

No haiku this time. I’ll wait until I re-read this book. (Though I could probably come up with something about a small dog being an integral/adorable plot point, but we’ll save that for another day.)

21 books finished in 2015: The War of the Worlds

21 books finished in 2015

This is one of many books read exclusively in airports earlier this month – I had a planned long layover on the way out (and one of those VIP lounge passes to boot), then multiple weather delays on the return.

It was both more mundane and more interesting than I expected it to be. I remembered hearing about the Orson Welles radio show based on this book that caused mass panic, and expected it to be more frightening based on that. I thought I’d seen the 2005 movie version of this, but nothing in the plot was familiar – perhaps I had wanted to wait until I read the book.

The terror of the book was in the isolation, both of individual characters trying to travel from one town to another to check on loved ones, but also of an entire city being attacked/occupied and not knowing whether the same is happening anywhere else in the world. The looming question about whether you could escape, and whether it would be any better if you did, added a lot of weight to the drama. And it was interesting to imagine, in this hyper-connected world, what that isolation would feel like.

in this day and age
sharks attack the internet*
aliens seem worse

*I just couldn’t resist – that’s probably my favorite modern day concern. And once I started thinking about connectivity and isolation…it was an easy jump.

20 books finished in 2015: Shop Class as Soulcraft

20 books finished in 2015

This is a dangerous book to read when one is already contemplating leaving their boring desk job to do something more active/creative/tactile. Talk about cultivating discontent! (Also, I realize that my desire to do this puts me yet again in a trendy-weird named cultural demographic – YUCCIES!) In the end, I am staying put, but now have the ability to reference deeper philosophical reasons for my desire to change careers.

The book was great, but I wasn’t necessarily the audience. I did find myself wanting to ride/repair motorcycles (ahhhhhhh empathy) and I also had a desire to write a version of this book that talks about the value of textile craft (I’ll probably not do that). At one point, Crawford started poking fun at corporate management/teamwork theories, and since I find those both intriguing and useful, I felt like his criticisms weren’t based on much more than “these people look silly doing this in a business suit.” So, again, maybe I just wasn’t the right audience.

working with your hands

touch, building, moving pieces
nobility here

19 books finished in 2015: The Professor

19 books finished in 2015

Oh man. I can’t think of a hiaku for this book. It was really delightful. Charlotte Brontë writes so well about these seemingly mundane people. I mean, this was literally a book about a man who became a professor. There were a few odd/interesting people in his life, that showed up in the story, but mostly it was him and his totally reasonable life choices, and then his eventual courtship of an equally mundane person. IT WAS THE BEST. Who says books have to be written about extraordinary events or quirky/unique individuals to be interesting? Here’s to well-written books about utterly normal people!

unexciting man
living a fully, happy life.
let’s just be normal