“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”
-Joyce Carol Oates
Reading in 2020.
I’ve had quite a few distractions that have taken me away from reading. Haven’t we all?! But I do like to accomplish a goal once it’s been set. I mentioned last month that I had sought out short classics as a way to make it through more books. After I made it through quite a few of those, I decided to seek out any type of short novel since it will be likely that I will have less time for reading the closer we get to the holidays. I found an article at Literary Hub: 50 best contemporary novels under 200 pages that set me on my way. I also looked for other short books by the authors mentioned.
Since this is a running list for the year, each month will start with the number that follows where the prior month ended.
Also, given that many of the books in this post were chosen based on length, I will be including the number of pages. I did not write them down as I went, so it’s possible that they are slightly shorter if the book had “extras”.
If you missed my first “What I’ve Been Reading” post, 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 March reads in this post and you can find April reads in this post. You can find May reads in this post and June reads in this post. And finally, you can find the July reads in this post and the August reads here. As mentioned in August, I have returned to the bimonthly format. However, given the length of this post, I will be writing November and December as separate posts.
And while I mentioned it in the past, I thought I’d reiterate the fact that I don’t choose my quotes based on anything telling about the story. I pick them because they have something about them I like, whether it’s a commentary on life or society or just that the words flow in a nice way.
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way…on with the list!!
60. Rabbit, Run – John Updike (264 pages)
“Everybody who tell you how to act has whisky on their breath.”
This book follows three months in the life of a former high school basketball player, Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life
Some synchronicity went into the choosing of this book. I am familiar with the name John Updike because he is a distant relative of my husband (their names both appear in an Op Dyck genealogy book we own). A line from Rabbit, Run was mentioned during one of my weeks of The Artist’s Way so it was on my radar screen. Then Miss Sunshine was singing “Run, Rabbit, Run” which is an old song but is in the movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and my husband brought up the book. I took it as a sign to go ahead and add this title to my TBR pile. .
61. The Awakening – Kate Chopin (116 pages)
“The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.”
This book is about a married woman seeking greater personal freedom and fulfillment. It was highly controversial when it was published and was considered scandalous. It’s now considered a classic and early feminist work. I was not familiar with the story and will never again read a forward in a book. It gave away the entire storyline and I was highly disappointed in that fact.
62. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (159 pages)
“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
“Those who don’t build must burn. It’s as old as history and juvenile delinquents.”
A future where books are outlawed! Eek! This was one of those books that I somehow missed in high school. I do enjoy dystopian novels and one involving books adds to the intrigue.
63. Long Day’s Journey Into Night – Eugene O’Neill (176 pages)
“None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.”
This one was a play. Its title is based on the fact that it takes place over the course of one day. It’s semi-autobiographical in its depiction of the Tyron family.
64. The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Thornton Wilder (138 pages)
“But soon a belief in the Great Perhaps would surge up from the depths of her nature…”
This story won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1927. It weaves together the interrelated tales of five lives.
65. We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson (214 pages)
“I lay there laughing, feeling the almost imaginary brush of the mist across my eyes, and looking up into the trees.”
This is a mystery of two adult sisters and Jackson’s final work. I don’t read many horror/thriller novels. In my old age, I don’t like the nightmares. I knew that the author of The Lottery would create an unsettling story. And she did. This one left me with unanswered questions/theories as well.
66. the War of Art – Steven Pressfield (165 pages)
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
This was a good quick read. For me, it tackled many of the same topics in The Artist’s Way. It addresses breaking through your blocks to win your inner creative battles.
67. The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron (201 pages to be read over 12 weeks)
“Creativity is play, but for shadow artists, learning to allow themselves to play is hard work.”
I made it through the entire 12 weeks!! I recommend this for anyone who is struggling to reignite their creative spark.
68. Sula – Toni Morrison (174 pages)
“But she had gone on a real trip, and now she was different.”
I had not read any works by Toni Morrison prior to this but had her on my radar of authors to read. This story for the friendship of two Black girls from childhood to womanhood and the ups and downs that it may entail, just to touch on one of the topics.
69. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James (146 pages)
“I recall both a general conviction that is was horribly late and a particular objection to looking at my watch.”
Here’s another classic. This one a ghost story. The Haunting of Bly Manor is a series based on this tale. I haven’t watched this one. Have you?
70. A Room with a View – E.M. Forster (212 pages)
“I connect you with a view – a certain type of view. Why shouldn’t you connect me with a room?”
This story is about Lucy Honeychurch’s struggles as she emerges as a woman in a repressing society. I seem to be stumbling upon classics that explore the desire to move away from the expectations of society, which I always thoroughly enjoy.
71. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson (246 pages)
“There was nothing in her mind beyond an overwhelming wild happiness.”
Another Shirley Jackson! And I read this one on a little solo getaway. Eek! I saw that there is a Netflix series. I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to watch. Have you seen it?
72. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet Jacobs (242 pages)
“Lives that flash in sunshine, And lives that are born in tears, receive their hue from circumstances. None of us know what a year may bring forth.”
This story is the autobiography of Harriet Jacobs. She was born into slavery in 1813. This book was published in 1861. Jacobs used the pseudonym of Linda Brent. It was an eye-opening read on what it was like to be a female slave.
73. Train Dreams – Denis Johnson (116 pages)
“He liked the grand size of things in the woods, the feeling of being lost and far away, and the sense that with so many trees as wardens, no danger could find him.”
This book was shortlisted as a Best Book of 2011. This little work of fiction takes place in the American West at the start of the twentieth century.
74. The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald (123 pages)
“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”
Owning a bookstore was always a dream of mine. When I read that this story was about a woman who wanted to open a bookshop in a little seaside town, I thought it would be an intriguing read. And I discovered that there’s been a film made from this book as well. Usually, I tend to see a film and then discover that it was originally a book. I’ve been pleased to discover them in the reverse order this time.
75. The Buddha in the Attic – Julie Otsuka (129 pages)
“One calm, windless morning when the sea was flat as glass the sky a brilliant shade of blue, the smooth black flank of a whale suddenly rose up out of the water and then disappeared and for a moment we forgot to breathe.”
This book is about Japanese picture brides immigrating to America in the early 1900s and is a work of historical fiction looking at the Japanese internment camps during the world war. It was an interesting style in that it was told in plural first person.
76. Point Omega – Don Delillo (117 pages)
“To see what’s here, finally to look and to know you’re looking, to feel time passing, to be alive to what is happening in the smallest registers of motion.”
One of the interesting things about seeking out a bunch of short novels is that you come across many stories that you might not otherwise have found. The downfall to reading a short novel while trying to reach of goal of reading “x” number of books is that once started, you feel much more obligated to complete the book so that it can go onto your list. I read quite a few books that fell into this category. Ones that I wouldn’t have finished if operating under normal circumstances. I did not love this book. That doesn’t mean that you won’t love it. That’s the great thing about there being so many books in the world… you’re sure to find something that delights you.
77. The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett (120 pages)
“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.”
This book was about the Queen of England taking up reading profusely. I could relate to wanting to read at all times and it made for a fun, little read.
78. Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss (132 pages)
“I indulged myself with the idea that ancient knowledge runs somehow in our blood…”
Highly disturbing. That’s what I have to say about this one. I don’t know what to share without explaining too much, but there is definitely some Lord of the Flies vibes going on in this tale.
79. The Humbling – Philip Roth (140 pages)
“I have lived for so long in the constraints of caution.”
I guess I wasn’t haven’t great luck during this segment of time since I did not enjoy this book either. However, I have some other works by him in my pile so I’m not ruling out reading him as an author (yet). I just didn’t like this one.
80. Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald (141 pages)
“Everything that you learn is useful. Didn’t you know that everything you learn, and everything you suffer, will come in useful at some time in your life?”
Another book by Penelope Fitzgerald. I do like her writing style even if her stories leave me with lots of questions unanswered.
81. Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata (163 pages)
“It was like changing costumes to become a different creature.”
This novel was translated from Japanese. It’s a tale about not fitting in to societal expectation (hmmm…recurring theme in my reading). I sat and read this in a few hours during one solo evening.
82. Binti – Nnedi Okorafor (101 pages)
“I was on the threshold now, between home and my future.”
83. Binti: Home – Nnedi Okorafor (164 pages)
“I could go out there and my mind would clear like the sky after a violent power-outing thunderstorm.”
84. Binti: The Night Masquerade – Nnedi Okorafor (208 pages)
“Grains of sand blew about pretending chaos, but each arced a trajectory that coincided with those around it.”
Binti was a science fiction trilogy. The first of the series won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2016 for Best Novella. It follows the adventures of Binti, a young Himba woman who travels to space to attend a prestigious University. Unexpected things happen. It wouldn’t be science fiction if they didn’t. Right?! I don’t want to tell you too much. If you like science fiction, I think you’d like this tale.
85. The Dry Heart – Natalia Ginzburg (88 pages)
“Words have a way of scaring us when we’re young.”
This book starts the same way it ends. A few Google searches or reading the back cover of the book will tell you exactly what that is. I hate to give away storylines. The space in between fills in the story.
My bonus is not necessarily your bonus. If you’ve followed my blog, you are aware that my mother-in-law passed away at the end of August. When my husband and his brothers cleaned out the house, they found hundreds of letters, predominately one between their parents at times when their father was away in the Navy. They dated back to his time in boot camp when they were dating. Since I am a writer, they’ve graciously allowed me to read them. I read around 300 letters and gladly traded my book reading time to follow a lifelong love story during its time in the 50s and 60s. I still have many more to go and will go back to reading them once I’ve finished my reading goal.
Now over to you.
Have you read any of the books on this list?
How about any other books?
Let’s chat below!
Stay safe and healthy out there! Sending you all love and light!! xx
Let your light shine!