Reading Round-Up: January 2018

And just like that, we’ve made it through January — the month seemed to drag on longer than usual this year (perhaps because of the five Mondays?) but, as usual, not long enough for me to get used to writing the correct year on things. It was a good reading month for me, though. Here’s what I read:

  1. The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien)
  2. Let’s Pretend We’re Normal (Tricia Lott Williford)
  3. White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing (Gail Lukasik)
  4. A Tangled Web (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
  5. Write the Perfect Book Proposal (Jeff Hermann and Deborah Levine Hermann)
  6. Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (C. S. Lewis)
  7. The Wind Through the Keyhole (Stephen King)
  8. The Narnian (Alan Jacobs)
  9. The Divine Comedy I: Hell (Dante, tr. Dorothy L. Sayers)
  10. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass on Tour (Adrian Plass)
  11. The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 62 3/4: Adrian Plass and the Church Weekend (Adrian Plass)
  12. The Divine Comedy II: Purgatory (Dante, tr. Dorothy L. Sayers)

I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing this post, in part because most of these were such interesting reads that I’m hard-pressed on how to structure it. I can’t really pick a top read — there were so many good ones, and all so very different from each other. And because January felt so long, it feels like ages and ages ago that I read some of the first books on the list, instead of just a few weeks. Perhaps we’ll just go (mostly) in order.

To get these out of the way first, here are the three books that already have their own posts: The Divine Comedy 1: Hell, The Divine Comedy 2: Purgatory, and White Like Her.

The Return of the King was part of my annual re-read of The Lord of the Rings, which I always start in December (though, as you see, I don’t always finish it then!). Tip-top as usual, of course — I haven’t been reading these books for fifteen years because I don’t like them — but I especially enjoyed the added insights gleaned from Fleming Rutledge’s The Battle for Middle-earth, which I read in December.

I’ve been reading Tricia Lott Williford’s blog for a number of years. She’s a single mom (well, now remarried) who was suddenly widowed in her early thirties, leaving her with two preschool-aged sons to care for on her own. Let’s Pretend We’re Normal is her second memoir, focused on the challenges and graces of living as a single-parent family after bereavement. Her writing is charming and thoughtful, witty and honest. I loved it.

Some of you may remember my Lucy Maud Montgomery reading project (find the first entry on my post series page), initiated this past summer. I was thrilled to get A Tangled Web for Christmas; it was the last of her novels that I hadn’t read. A batty old Aunt of a large and tangled extended family writes a will that the recipient of the family heirloom jug will only be revealed a year after her death — and that the recipient could change according to the family’s behaviour as judged by her executor. Hijinks, of course, ensue. It was a very funny and occasionally touching novel, and would have been one of my favourite Montgomery books if not for one thing: it ends, in the very last paragraph, with a completely gratuitous and offensive racist joke (with bonus use of the n-word). It’s totally out of left field and quite spoiled the rest of the book for me. That was a real disappointment.

On a very different topic, I heartily enjoyed Alan Jacobs’s warm-hearted biography of C. S. Lewis, The Narnian. His approach was a bit unusual; instead of the strict chronology that most biographies use, Jacobs looked at Lewis’s life through the lens of his imaginative framework. Lewis is one of those writers that everyone knows a lot about without actually necessarily knowing a lot about — if you follow me — and I was surprised, well, by how much surprised me. And my reading jived nicely with Of Other Worlds, a collection of essays about fantasy and science fiction mostly, with a few finished and half-finished stories appended. I’d read Lewis’s space trilogy, but hadn’t encountered any of his shorter magazine pieces.

I’ve been reading Adrian Plass books since I was a wee lass, when friends of my parents would get them for us whenever they went back home to England for visits. Now Amazon and mean that I can get my very own copies, of course! These two are the last two installments (so far) of a very funny, very thoughtful, very touching, very silly series of books based around Plass’s fictional alter-ego (also called Adrian Plass) and his family and church. They’re just lovely.

And of course, there’s Stephen King. Sometimes I’m surprised how much I like Stephen King books, because I’m not into horror at all — but I love his Dark Tower series, among others, and was pleased to get to The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is essentially book 4.5 of the seven. Er, eight. Seven and a half? Whatever; it was a late release that happens in the middle of the series. The Wind Through the Keyhole doesn’t advance the main plot of The Dark Tower (indeed, how could it?) but it gives us another long glimpse into Roland Deschain’s backstory in Gilead-that-was. It’s a rollicking good story (within a story, within a story) and I’m glad to have encountered it.