All the wonderful books I’ve read in January

The annual book challenge is once again underway, and I’m aiming for a minimum of 52 books by the end of the year. January is a wonderful month for reading because I purposely keep my weeknight schedule fairly empty and spend evenings curled up under a blanket, reading on the couch. I make a cup of tea, nibble on whatever home-baked dessert’s kicking around, and enjoy the peaceful silence for a few hours before bed. It’s my special time and it recharges me unlike anything else. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien


This included all three books in the series: “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers,” and “The Return of the King.” It started out as a competition with my 16-year-old brother, a race to the end which I won (along with a latte that he still owes me). I’d only read the books once before, and that was in the early 2000s, so it was long overdue. While reading them this time, I was truly overcome by what masterpieces they are. I wept for a half hour straight — and by wept, I mean body-wracking sobs and sheets of tears — as I finished the final pages. It affected me so intensely, despite knowing how everything ends.

Since Jason is also a big fan, we’ve dug out the movies to watch again. It’s interesting to see my reaction to the movies after just finishing the books. They just seem so inferior, and I know I keep driving Jason nuts with my commentaries: “That’s not right! They’ve changed that. It’s totally different in the book.” Finally he turned to me and said, “Just because they’re ‘adaptations’ of the books doesn’t mean they suck!” Point taken. I’ll try to enjoy them on their own terms… even if they can’t possibly compare to the books!

2. “Mariana” by Susanna Kearsley


An awesome novel! This quick gem of historical fiction was recommended by the librarian. I read it during the endless blizzard, and it was the best antidote for cabin fever because it made me not want to budge from my perch on the couch. While it’s not the highest quality work of fiction I’ve ever read, it was fun and impossible to put down, and sometimes that’s all I want in a book.

3. “Dear Life” by Alice Munro

Dear Life Alice Munro cover

Considering that Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature this past fall, and lives in my neck of the woods (though I’ve never had the honour of meeting her), I figured it was high time I read one of her books. Actually, it’s quite embarrassing that I haven’t until now. “Dear Life” was really wonderful. While there’s something so simple and straightforward about each of her stories, they were also incredibly moving, sometimes disturbing. What I loved most of all was reading descriptions of ordinary settings in Ontario that I know so well. It’s not often that my daily surroundings are made to sound exotic and interesting.

The only thing I didn’t like — and I frequently encounter this in short stories — is the sense of incompletion at the end. Because they are only stories, not conclusive books, I’m left wondering what happens next.

4. “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home jacket

Read this book, if you give an ounce of care about the environment! It will change your life. It’s one of those “inconvenient truths” that both horrifies and inspires, but it has given me a whole new perspective on household waste. I’m now striving for Zero Waste, which I believe is a worthwhile goal to keep in mind, despite the many obstacles of living in an area that doesn’t really accommodate alternative modes of shopping. It’s chock-full of practical tips and tons of resources.

5. “Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products” by Jeannie Marshall


This is a book for all parents who want to feed their children well, who enjoy great food themselves, and love descriptions of life in Italy — all of which describe me. This book was especially interesting for me, since I lived in Italy as a teenager and was able to relate to Marshall’s horror at the inroads processed food corporations are making, even in a place where the food culture is supposedly ingrained. I just did a book review on TreeHugger today, so please check it out there.

6. “Hair Hat” by Carrie Snyder


I bought this book from Snyder nearly two years ago when I first read her Governor General’s award-nominated The Juliet Stories. My little claim to fame is that Snyder and I are distant cousins — both redheads, writers, and wannabe midwives (there, you just learned my secret) — and we had a lovely coffee date last winter that inspired me to keep blogging. Anyways, I finally got around to reading Hair Hat and loved it. It’s a short story collection that I couldn’t put down, about all kinds of people who are somehow connected by random encounters with a strange man whose hair is shaped like a hat.

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? I’m craving more historical fiction, if you have any ideas.

You might also like:
“Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products” [book review]
62 books in a year! And the best ones were…
November Book Reviews


12 thoughts on “All the wonderful books I’ve read in January

  1. I always enjoy your book round-up posts because you introduce me to some great new books. I’m currently reading Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’m only four chapters into it but I know it’s going to be a compelling read. I have read all three of her previous novels and especially enjoyed American Wife.

    Regarding recommendations for historical fiction, have you read anything by Ron Rash? I can highly recommend his novels Serena and The Cove.

      1. No, they are stand-alone novels: Prep, American Wife, The Man of My Dreams (I know, it sounds like ‘chick-lit’ but it really isn’t) and Sisterland.

        Prep is possibly my least favourite. I empathized a lot with the lead character in The Man of My Dreams, so much so that I found myself blinking back tears at one point. But it depends on what you’re drawn to. If you do read one of her novels, let me know if you enjoy it. 🙂

      1. I’m now on a good one passed on by Mr WG – Dominion by CJ Sansom. He’s famous for the Shardlake series, which my husband loves and I admire for his plot mastery, but Dominion is actually moving me quite a bit too. Worth picking up if you still need to hide from the weather! 🙂

  2. Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for the nice line up – I’ve put several on my wish list.
    I’ve yet to read this but am excited to get my hands of The World We Made… a fictional memoir written by a teacher in 2050 which chronicles a very plausible journey out of our current mess and into a sustainable happy future. I love the concept… more on my blogpost here for anyone who is intrigued:

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