30 books finished in 2015: Rules of Civility

30 books finished in 2015

This book was a bridesmaid gift from Barrie, who told me it was about a badass woman living in the big city. And that was enough to put it next in my queue.

Truth in advertising. And it was entertaining, too! I’d say this is a solid vacation read if anyone is looking for one.

best category:
“books about badass women”
this one fits the bill

29 books finished in 2015: Shirley

29 books finished in 2015

You guys. I’ve done it. I’ve read every book on this list and can now have long discussions (with myself) about the differences among Bronte novels!

But first I’ll talk about Shirley, because I just finished it and need to beg everyone to read it so that a) they can be delighted like I was and b) we can talk about it.

Observations: Shirley is the most playful of any Bronte novel.* Honestly, it might have broken the very definition of a Bronte novel! (I’ve said Bronte too many times now. I’ll try to stop.)

The titular character, Shirley, is a wealthy land-owner who refers to herself as “the gentleman of the house” and pointedly jokes about all the things that men (or wealthy, land-owning women) can do that women can’t. It’s amazing. It’s hilarious. I loved it. (Amazing thing I just discovered – until this novel, Shirley was a distinctly male name.)

How can I help you?
I am the man of the house.
I am Miss Shirley.

I should be a little honest and admit that the first section is incredibly boring. There is an attempt to describe all of the characters in this community, but it’s not done well. (Or, it’s not done as well as George Eliot, who now holds a place in my heart for describing entire communities so fully that when action happens, you are delighted to discover how it impacts every single soul.) Even though the book opens on a set of curates, and wraps up by telling us what happens to them, they still felt like wallpaper.

Also, this is a book that I sort of wished hadn’t ended with as many marriages. I was fairly hopeful that Shirley would continue to be strong and masculine and an overall badass to the end, but instead we were introduced to her long-lost love, who avoids my ire by seeming to have an appropriately high view of her, moods and all.

The thing that I loved about this book, second to Shirley, was how lovingly it described the single woman in those times. There is one section, when our protagonist (who, amazingly, isn’t Shirley) is wallowing in despair (Bronte bingo) about love lost, and she chooses to focus her recovery time by learning from the wise, respected, awesome old maids in the community. The way these women – their lives and their influence – was described brought me to tears. Again, I wouldn’t have been sad if this woman’s story had ended in respectable singleness. (But this is also pushing against my own story, so I might be more fully invested in the declarations of love the next time I read this novel.)

*I came to this conclusion during a segment told from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy who is scheming to help two estranged lovers see each other. He develops a crush on the woman, and his obsessive teenage thoughts are so excruciatingly honest.

28 books finished in 2015: The Grapes of Wrath

28 books finished in 2015

Two words: beach read.

That’s right. THIS is what I was reading when I wasn’t walking along the beach, floating in the (pitiful) waves, or building sandcastles with my nephew.

I loved this book. I loved the rhythm of the chapters. I loved that the introduction pointed this out to me, though I probably would have pieced it together without that guidance, and the lengthy introduction was probably the most boring part of this book. (I could have skipped it, I know, but once I start something, I see it through to the end.)

The themes of this book seemed very applicable to the modern reader, though the contexts of oppression look different. I particularly love the way Steinbeck can narrate our motivations for atrocious behavior – he spoke baldly of the selfishness of man, of our desire to define strangers as “other” so we can quickly redefine them as “wrong.”

human dignity
so fragile, so essential
look me in the eye

27 books finished in 2015: Modern Romance

27 books finished in 2015

funny and useful
time to up my texting game!
(winking emoji)

Audiobooks! How did it take me so long to discover your worth?

Aziz kept me company as I drove to the beach this year. He told me hilariously awful stories, and helped put the difficulties of modern dating in perspective. It was a nice mix – sometimes he pointed out why things are more difficult now, sometimes he pointed out how we’re a bit crazier now, and sometimes he offered legitimately useful tips for navigating things. (My best takeaway: referring to “online dating” as an “online introduction service.”)

26 books finished in 2015: My Antonia

26 books finished in 2015

strong and beautiful
woman & sister & friend &
my Antonia

This book is beautiful and visceral and made me want to be a homesteader.

Sadly, I failed to send myself an email with more thoughts, and it’s fallen victim to a Books Finished backlog, but I remember walking around in a daze after finishing it, just wishing I could live in the book forever. It wasn’t always soft – life was hard and sometimes people were harsh – but it was loving and familiar and I will definitely have to read this book again and attempt to capture more.