During our vacation, Jason and I decided to go offline as much as possible. Not only did I take a break from posting on Feisty Red Hair, but I also logged out of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I checked email once a day. Immediately I noticed a difference in the amount of free time I had on my hands. When I felt a tiny bit bored with some time to kill, I didn’t sit down at the computer and end up wasting a half hour here, fifteen minutes there, but instead I found other things to do, primarily picking up books. I did lots of reading in August and discovered some fabulous authors.
1. “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris
This was the second of three Sedaris books I’ve read this summer. I love how he takes ordinary life and turns it into something extraordinary and hilarious using nothing more than some very strong powers of observation. This book has a great section about living in Japan and attending language classes, which had me laughing out loud constantly.
2. “The Magician’s Nephew” by C.S. Lewis
This was a trip down memory lane for me. I have read Lewis’ Narnia books more times than I can count, but not since childhood. I’ve been counting down the years till I can read them aloud to my oldest son, and even though that time is fast approaching, I just couldn’t stand waiting any longer and decided to indulge myself. It was as wonderful as I remembered and I marvel at the straightforward simplicity and ease with which Lewis writes this story, all about the founding of Narnia and how evil came to exist within it.
3. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
Carrie Snyder raved about this book on her blog, so I was happy to find it that same day at the library’s book sale. It’s about a woman in her mid-twenties who, in 1997, decides to hike 1100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Washington-B.C. border. Her life is at rock bottom and she takes on this trip as a sort of challenge to pull herself together, even though she’s never backpacked before. It was a great book and what intrigued me most was how my opinion of Strayed changed through the book. I couldn’t stand her at the beginning, and usually that first impression sticks, but I grew to admire and like her as the book continued.
My sister sent me this book back in 2003 when I was living overseas, so I’ll always associate it with happiness, getting a little piece of English-speaking home at a hard point in life. I reread it this past month for book club. I love historical fiction and I love stories about strong women, so this is the perfect combination. It tells the story of Dinah, sister of Joseph and daughter of Leah and Jacob, who is described once in the Bible as being raped, and then is never mentioned again.
5. “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini
Once again, Hosseini has written a captivating story about Afghanistan. This book is different from The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in that it doesn’t have a continual narrative. Instead, it tells the story in a roundabout way using different people’s perspectives for each chapter – people who are somehow connected to the main plot but whose connection might not be obvious at first. This confused me initially, but once I caught on, it was a wonderful book.
6. “Exploring Diabetes with Owls” by David Sedaris
OK, so I’m a little obsessed with Sedaris — that much is obvious! It’s just that I want to write like he does, even if I’m not nearly as funny, and this book revealed what his daily tactic is, how he keeps a notebook of observations and fleshes them out daily. He has 280+ diaries from the past thirty years that he uses as the basis for his writing, and that fascinates me. Much of this book I read aloud to Jason in the car and we laughed the whole way to Niagara this past weekend.
In progress: “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley
I’m halfway through this massive tome about Arthurian England, written from the perspective of the women – the ‘witch’ Morgan Le Fay, queens Igraine and Guinevere, etc. – and I’m really enjoying it. The scale of this book in terms of size, detail, and complexity is stunning. This is my favourite kind of historical fiction book, big enough to require some real dedication, yet rewarding for how in-depth it gets.