Welcome to a brand new month! February is finally here but, before we dive in, it’s the perfect opportunity to share what I’ve been reading lately. January felt like the longest month, I don’t know about you but I can hardly remember the start of the month anymore! However, looking back, I managed to read an interesting collection of books
I didn’t really have a ‘theme’ to my reading this month. Instead I stuck to my number one reading goal, to read what I love. I’ve seen quie a few posts popping up about this on instagram and it’s always reassuring to know I’m not the only person who doesn’t have a strict to be read list but likes to be guided by feeling instead.
I suppose you could say that was the theme of what I’ve been reading lately. Each book appealed to me for different reasons but the feeling was the same, I thought I would love them. As you’ll see, this is sometimes a success and other times not so much. Still, let’s get down to it shall we? Here’s what Ive been reading lately:
Women and Power by Mary Beard
Mary Beard is an English scholar and classicist, so I was intrigued to see what her book on feminism might hold. I like to think of this one as feminism for people who like books! Using the Classical myths as a starting point, Mary guides us through the history of women in public roles or lack of it! Her passion for Classic literature is so apparent that I was hooked from the start. However, she also made some compelling arguments about how women a perceived in the modern world, especially by men.
In Women and Power, originally delivered as two lectures, in 2014 and 2017, Mary draws on examples from the Classics: Penelope, Athena, Philomena, to name a few. By using these women she is able to show how even our literature often expects women to put up, and shut up. Her parallels with modern leaders are uncanny. I would definitely recommend this one!
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
This book came to me with a recommendation to ‘read nothing about it, just start’. And in many ways, I think this could be the best way to approach Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Sorry! Diving into this book with little to no expectations (I’d never heard of it, or the author) meant I approached it without any bias. What I found was a brilliant, often hilarious, sometimes tragic book that will stay with me for a long time.
Technically, it’s about a man searching for his family’s lost hometown in modern Ukraine. Which makes it interesting enough for me to read anyway! But what I really loved about this book is how Jonatha Safran Foer manages to build your connection with the protagonist, Alexander. His bad English started off as comic relief but soon became the parts of this story that I looked forward to most. Out of what I’ve been reading lately this was by far the most technically complicated book. However, it was a beautiful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ideal for fans of how language works.
Secret Passages in a Hillside Town by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
This is a funny one. To begin with, I loved this book. I found myself racing through it, eagerly anticipating the twists and turns that the author was laying down for his reader. Then somewhere along the lines, it started to make me feel deeply uncomfortable. This book is creepy and full of tension. Now, this might just be me but those are two things I usually don’t enjoy in a book. So that’s probably what happened here. I actually had to put it to one side for a while as it made me pretty anxious.
The first three-quarters of the book were amazing. I loved how the life of a seemingly boring, family man, slowly unravelled thanks to secrets from his past. And to be honest, despite my strong reactions to it, I would still recommend it to readers who like a good psychological thriller.
Can Jane Eyre Be Happy? by John Sutherland
Next up in what I’ve been reading lately is Can Jane Eyre Be Happy by John Sutherland. This was the perfect book to throw in my bag for morning commutes and to read when I had a few minutes spare. The book takes you through various thought-provoking topics to do with Victorian literature, like Who Inherits in Heathcliffe’s will?’ ‘Why is Fagin hanged?’ and of course the title essay. The author approaches each topic with a true love for books. I genuinely think anyone with an interest in reading Classics will get a lot out of this book.
I really enjoyed this one, although I didn’t read every essay. This was mainly because I didn’t want to spoil the plot of books that I’m planning on reading one day. However, it was fun to approach books I have read and familiar with from a new angle. The Jane Eyre essay in particular gave me lots to think about and now I’m dying to re-read it and see if it changes my perspective!
A Warriner to Tempt Her by Virginia Heath
After reading a few heavy-going books in a row this was the perfect antidote. Sometimes I just crave a book that’s happy, romantic and fun and a Mills and Boon always fits the bill. A Warriner to Protect her is the third in a series by Virginia Heath and I had been keeping an eye out for it since I enjoyed the others.
This a clear example of where I feel a book’s title doesn’t do the book justice though. This book tackles some heavy themes, such as PTSD and assault. The heroine, Lady Isabella Beaumont has overcome a lot and is a survivor. Her relationship with Joespeh Warriner develops slowly, and sweetly and is driven as much for their mutual appreciation of each others intellect as it by physical attraction. Despite the title, it was a lovely read and a welcome antidote to the hair-raising Secret Passages in a Hillside Town!
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Book Club Read)
You may remember that in my 2018 reading goals I decided to finally join a book club? Well, this January was our first meeting and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was our first book. The book club I joined is linked up to my local library, so the books we choose are on a list that the library can get for us to loan. I like this method because it means we aren’t totally focused on what’s newest and getting the biggest praise.
I’ve reviewed All The Light We Cannot See before. You can read that here if you’re interested in everything I had to say. But my feelings about it haven’t changed. It’s a beautiful, observant book about what makes us human, the impact war has on the trajectory of your life and the power of forgiveness and hope. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, I highly recommend it. It could a unanimous thumbs up from us at the book club, which is practically the best recommendation it could get.
That wraps up this edition of what I’ve been reading lately. January was full of interesting books, but I’m looking forward to what February holds.