March 30, 2023
I know here it is only the 30th and there are 31days in March, but I am eager to enter April, so why not post the summary of this month’s reading now. And what a month it has been!
I finished two books I mentioned in a previous posts this month.
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer. I read it slowly, trying to absorb facts, and stories, and reflections. Such an important book. Perhaps the section that most fascinated me was the detailed analysis, which he included near the end of the book, about the protests at Standing Rock. Don’t be deterred by the length of the book, for it is well-worth the time and energy you give it.
- Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, 50 Poems for 50 Years by Joy Harjo. I loved many of the poems, but I also loved her notes about each of the poems, their content, inspiration, and often the mechanics of the poem, also. Such a good companion this was to the David Treuer book. April is National Poetry Month, and I recommend this book as a way to celebrate poets and poetry.
I also read two other books in the broad nonfiction category. One is a book of meditations and the other, a memoir.
- Embers, One Ojibway’s Meditations by Richard Wagamese (1944-2017). A beautiful book in appearance and in its short reflections. I read a few pages in this book each morning during my meditation time. The author says morning meditation is his time to reclaim himself, and I concur with that sentiment. The book is divided into seven sections: Stillness, Harmony, Trust, Reverence, Persistence, Gratitude, and Joy. He writes this in the very first meditation:
I am my silence. I am not the busyness of my thoughts or the daily rhythm of my actions. I am not the stuff that constitutes my world. I am not my talk. I am not my actions. I am my silence. I am the consciousness that perceives all these things. When I go to my consciousness, to that great pool of silence that observes the intricacies of my life, I am aware that I am me. I take a little time each day to sit in silence so that I can move outward in balance into the great clamour of living.p. 15
- Leaving the Pink House by Ladette Randolph. This book made me nostalgic about living in the country during our years at Sweetwater Farm. Randolph and her husband buy a dilapidated house outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, and she describes the year spent renovating it and making it habitable, but she also reflects on the years that led to this decision and about changes in her faith along the way;. Randolph refers to herself as a “devotee of the quotidian,” and her writing draws us into her daily sights and experiences.
I best understand my life through the houses where I’ve lived. I have only to remember a particular house to summon clear memories of a given time and place. Like many adults, I’ve returned to those places–both in memory and in person–seeking from this exercise I’m not sure what: some part of myself, some time in the past I want to better understand. Houses are often the archives for my deepest, most resonant memories, the places where I’ve curated life stories.from Introduction
I read ten novels this month, and will highlight five of them.
- Afterlife by Julia Alvarez. Perhaps you read some of her earlier books, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents or In the Time of the Butterflies. If so, you know what a good writer she is. Antonia’s family, which includes her three sisters, immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Antonia is now 66, a widow, and poet and English professor. Her eldest sister, who is mentally unstable, disappears and the sisters rally to try and find her. At the same time Antonia becomes involved with a teenage unwed mother who is undocumented, and along the way Antonia faces her own “dragons.”
- The Swimmers by Julia Otsuko. What starts as a playful writing style and content (Has one writer ever used so many parenthetical phrases and done it so effectively?) becomes a poignant view of a dementia patient in a memory care unit. Alice is a faithful swimmer, but when the pool closes for good, her issues become more unmanageable. Sad and revealing and well-written.
- Island of the Missing Trees by Elif Shafak. A treasure of a book. Set in Cyprus in the 1970s and then again in 2000s and also in London, a Turkish woman and Greek man fall in love, but are separated, eventually reuniting. They have a daughter Ada who in her teens mourns the death of her mother. Her mother’s sister plays a role in helping Ada heal and also fills in the blanks of her parents’ lives. The father, Kostas, has brought a fig tree with him to London from Cyprus, and the fig tree tells its own story. I know this seems strange, but I believed in the fig tree just as much as the human characters.
- What Are You Going Through? by Sigrid Nunez. A woman dying of cancer ask a friend to be with her as she plans to take life-ending drugs. The woman is estranged from her daughter and has asked others to be with her, but all have said “no.” The friend, more of a distant friend from previous times in their lives, does agree, however, and they become closer and closer. The story is written from the friend’s point of view, but she relays everything the woman tells her. Brilliantly written.
- The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Many of us eagerly wait for the next book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Well, we need to wait longer, for this new book by Winspear is a stand-alone, but definitely a good read. The main character, Elinor White, however could be Maisie Dobbs’ soul sister, for she is also courageous, compassionate, and intelligent. White was a spy both in WWI and then again in WWII, and she carries demons with her during her retirement years in an English village. She is drawn out of her quiet life to help a neighboring family who want to remain separate from the husband’s organized crime family.
Waiting for me are two books from the library, Still True by Maggie Ginsburg and Women Talking by Marian Toews. I saw the acclaimed movie,Women Talking, and now am eager to read the book.
What have you read this last month? I would love to know.
12 thoughts on “Book Report: March Round-Up”
How do you read so many books in a month? I struggle to finish just two.
I get asked this often and perhaps I should write about this in my next Thursday Book Report. I will do that, but in the meantime I am glad you are reading. Don’t judge yourself by the numbers!
I do love all of your recommendations though and I’ve added many to my to be read list.
Thanks for your kind words.
Thank you for your recommendations, and the why.
I enjoyed this book in March: Foster – by Claire Keegan. Here’s my review: A lyrical short story set in Ireland with dimensional characters and a long-lasting emotional effect.
I loved Foster–so glad you enjoyed it too. Thanks for sharing your recommendation.
There’s an old book I’m going to pick up and read again – Knitting Yarns by Ann Hood. A wonderful series of short stories about how knitting has made a difference in the authors’ lives.
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This sounds perfect for you. I’ve read other books by Hood over the years—Kitchen Yarns: Notes of Life, Love, and Food and Comfort: A Journey Through Grief about the sudden death of her young daughter. Oh, and her novel Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine. I heard her speak at a conference once –about her book Comfort, and she is a good speaker as well.
I’m in the middle of reading Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World by Jenn Granneman and Earth’s the Place for Love by Elizabeth Berg. In March, I also read Billy Collins’ latest book of poems, which I was disappointed with, and The Self-Healing Mind by Gregory Scott Brown.
Sounds like it was a mixed bag of books this past month.
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The best thing I read this month was All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley. It’s the personal story of a young man who takes a job as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art during a period when he is grieving the loss of his older brother. I enjoyed the behind the scenes minutiae of what it’s like to work at the Met as one of several hundred guards. ($80.00 per year sock allowance!) But he mostly writes beautifully about spending his days surrounded by so many works of great art and how he found solace in a number of them as he worked through his loss. I plan to listen to it next. I want to follow along by looking at the art online as he talks about it. I’m a few weeks away from knee surgery and it might be a good recovery project.
This book is high on my TBR list. May all go well with your knee surgery.