“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”
Reading in 2020.
That quote holds so much truth! In a year when travel has been nearly nonexistent, I have traveled around the world, backward and forward through time, visited places conceived only in the realms of deep imagination, and have immersed myself deeply into new cultures.
That is the power of stories.
If you are new here, my goal for 2020 (pre-pandemic) was to read 100 books. I set off on target, got slightly derailed when quarantine fatigue set in, and then once again embraced the escape and newfound friends in the stories I read.
Since this is a running list for the year, each month will start with the number that follows where the prior month ended.
If you missed any of the past “What I’ve Been Reading” posts, you can find the Jan/Feb reads in this post. When we became housebound, I changed the original format of bimonthly sharing to monthly sharing. You can find the March reads in this post, the April reads in this one, and the May reads in this post. Looking for more? Here are the June reads. Next up, July reads are found here, and then the August reads in this post. As mentioned in August, I returned to the bimonthly format for the Sep/Oct reads. However, given its length, I decided to finish out the year in the monthly format.
And that’s why I assume you are here! So let’s get to November’s list!!
86. Under the Jaguar Sun – Italo Calvino
“Into the great lake of silence where you are floating, rivers of air empty, stirred by intermittent vibrations.”
If you read last month’s reading post, then you already know that I was playing “catch up” because I really wanted to achieve the goal of 100 books this year. And that to do so, I was choosing shorter novels. This book turned out to be three short stories. Each delves into one of the five senses. Calvino passed away before completing stories for the other two senses. He is considered one of the most important modern Italian writers. I’m sure I missed something, but I did not enjoy these. I read another of his books that you’ll see farther along in the list.
87. So Long, See You Tomorrow – William Maxwell
“What we, or at any rate what I, refer to confidently as memory – meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fictive and thereby rescued from oblivion – is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with telling.”
This book is set in the 1920s and tells the tale of a murder and of friendships. It is a look into the past. I don’t want to give away any more of the story especially since it is a compact novella at 135 pages. It was published in 1979 and won the American Book Award.
88. McGlue – Ottesa Moshfegh
“It’s good to feel tired and just lie and look around.”
This was a debut novel and is about a drunken sailor and murder. I found it hard to connect with the main character and was confused in the end. This is a book that I seriously debated putting down and if I hadn’t been trying to reach a goal, I would have. However, keep in mind that just because it wasn’t my cup of tea doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be yours.
89. Slowness – Milan Kundera
“There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.”
This was the author’s first fictional work to be written in French. However, I don’t read (or speak or write) French and read it in English. It weaves together two stories of seduction. In some parts, it read like a piece of non-fiction. It’s considered one of his lighter works but tends toward the philosophical.
90. Desperate Characters – Paula Fox
“There was something funny about people’s private little preferences and indulgences, something secretive and childlike and silly.”
The story follows a couple and the changes in their marriage and society in postwar America in the 1960s. This is one of those books that I later discovered also has a movie that was made from it. The movie came out in 1971 and starred Shirley MacLaine. I’ve not seen it. Have you?
91. The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
“It’s hard to remember that this day will never come again. That the time is now and the place is here and that there are no second chances at a single moment.”
This story is set during the Napoleonic Wars and weaves together the stories of two lives. The storyline held an interesting mix of reality and fantasy that blended together to create an interesting tale.
92. Margaret The First – Danielle Dutton
“Indeed, it was then that I first formed the opinion – if childishly, idly – that a person should trust to her own good sense and nature’s impenetrable wisdom.”
This book is a work of fiction that dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the eccentric 17th-century Duchess. She was a philosopher, poet, playwright and science fiction author who published works under her own name during a time when most women used male pseudonyms. And while this was a work of fiction, I found myself wanting to know more about “Mad Marge” as well as intrigued by the storyline.
93. The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa
“It seemed as though the secret of the universe had miraculously appeared right here at our feet, as though God’s notebook had opened under our bench.”
This story was translated from Japanese. It tells the story of a math professor who, after a traumatic brain injury, only has 80 minutes of short-term memory and his housekeeper and her son. It reminded me of what it means to live in the present and about relationship. I really liked this book.
94. Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear.”
Now we come to my second Italo Calvino. This story is a conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. Marco Polo is describing different cities that in actuality hold a common thread.
95. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman
“I loved the sound of words, even if I was not entirely sure what all of them meant.”
This story follows a flashback of memory triggered when the narrator returns to his childhood hometown. Fantasy and childhood and what we leave behind. That’s all I feel like I can say. While I have heard of Neil Gaiman, I had never read any of his books. I have watched Coraline though and when my children were younger and we were house hunting, they’d always point out what we refer to as “Coraline” doors. Have you ever seen those? Random little doors…under a stairwell…in a closet… I will definitely be seeking out more tales by him.
96. Dept. of Speculation – Jenny Offill
“The streets smelled like lavender and for a long time neither of us noticed that there weren’t any cars.”
This story is a portrait on marriage. It is described as a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. That should give you a clue about where it’s going.
97. What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You – Kerri L Richardson
“Clutter is the temper tantrum of the soul, and it’s time to listen closely to what it’s saying.”
I’ve read mostly works of fiction on my way to read 100 books for the year. However, I stumbled upon this book and knew that I wanted to see what it had to say. As I move toward the end of the year, I like to reevaluate what is “cluttering” up my life so that I can enter into the new year without excess baggage. We also had my in-laws’ belongings to go through over the past few months and so I was beginning to feel the overwhelm of “stuff”. I didn’t find anything groundbreaking but it was a good reminder of how to get back on track.
I do want to point out that I don’t like to give away too much about a novel. If you’re looking for more information about the storyline, Goodreads is a great place to find that out and also to see what rating others have given the book.
Now Over to You.
Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them?
Have you read anything else that was interesting?
I’ve been perusing back through my agenda (calendar) and stumbling across book lists, quotes, strange dreams, synchronicities, and goals. It’s like finding little treasures that you’d forgotten about. Sweet surprises. Have you had any sweet surprises lately?
Let’s chat below!
And be sure to check back to see if I make it to my goal for 2020 to read 100 books. “May the odds be ever in my favor.” (Bonus bragging rights if you know where I’ve twisted that quote from).
Stay safe and healthy out there! Sending you all love and light!! xx
Let your light shine!