It’s fall! Chilly, leafy, busy busy busy fall. Since the beginning of September Anselm and Perpetua went back to school, we resumed all extracurricular activities, I relearned how to pack school lunches (can you believe I have to feed these kids every day?), I started a business, we all got covid, and we began our annual holiday gauntlet: birthday, Thanksgiving, birthday, Hallowe’en, All Saints, birthday, Advent, Christmas, phew! Also I started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine on Netflix and now literally all I want to do ever is watch it while crocheting.
Somewhere in between all that, I read some books… although it feels like I began and abandoned almost as many as I finished, particularly in October. It’s been a month since my bout of covid, and although it really felt just like a particularly bad cold at the time, I’m still struggling with a lot of lingering physical and mental fatigue. It’s not always easy to concentrate on a book, and I find it harder than usual to keep track of plot threads. So there were a lot of books where I read 20-70 pages or so and then put them away, and even more that I checked out of the library and then returned without ever cracking the cover. It was a weird month, you know? But anyway, here’s what I did get through:
- Run, Rose, Run (Dolly Parton and James Patterson)
- A Life in Parts (Bryan Cranston)
- Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls (Kaela Rivera)
- Babylon’s Ashes (James S A Corey)
- Available Light: Poems from the South Shore (Marty Gervais)
- The Last Graduate (Naomi Novik)
- What If? 2 (Randall Munroe)
- The Lincoln Highway (Amor Towles)
- Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
- Ajax Penumbra 1969 (Robin Sloan)
- The Golden Enclaves (Naomi Novik)
- Mary Poppins (P. L. Travers)
- The Invisible Library (Genevieve Cogman)
- As You Wish (Cary Elwes with Joe Layden)
- The Masked City (Genevieve Cogman)
One of the nice things about the lists above — and maybe this is a consequence of how many books I abandoned — is that I enjoyed every single book I finished over the past two months. Every one! So I can recommend all of them, although I will only single out a few in this post.
First on that list is Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, which came to me as a thoroughly delightful surprise and was everything my reader-y heart desired. My local library branch had a shelf of paper-wrapped “mystery books” to choose from, and really, who could resist something like this?
Rare books, magic libraries, fairy tales, and steampunk? Oh be still, my beating heart. And there are eight in the series! Eight! Wonder of wonders.
Now, let’s see…
I reread Naomi Novik’s The Last Graduate (the second book in her Scholomance trilogy) in preparation for the release of The Golden Enclaves. I’ve mentioned this series before, and now that it’s complete I recommend it even more wholeheartedly; Golden Enclaves was a remarkably satisfying end to the series. Novik does it again!
The Lincoln Highway is Amor Towles’s latest — he rose to fame with A Gentleman in Moscow, and rightly so. The Lincoln Highway follows young Emmett Watson, who is freshly released from juvenile detention for manslaughter and intends to begin a new life with his eight-year-old brother, Billy. But when he discovers that two of his former co-inmates have stowed away in his car, the story turns into a chase/heist narrative that felt like some version of Ocean’s 11 set in the mid-50s. Be warned, though: the ending is super-duper, unexpectedly sad.
I picked up Mary Poppins (actually an omnibus edition of the first four books) for bedtime stories, but I lost my voice partway though and haven’t gotten back to it as a read-aloud. I did keep reading on my own, however, and I’ve been particularly intrigued by how different they are than the Julie Andrews movie version we all know so well. The broad outlines of the story are the same, and Mary Poppins is still mysterious and magical — but where Andrews’s version is sweetness and light, the Mary Poppins of the books is vain, capricious, conceited, and wild. She is much less Disney’s good fairy and much more the Fae, changeable and fierce. I’m here for it.