Alas, February... I'm a little behind!
Changing My Mind- Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Ok... months like this one happen in my life more than I'd like to admit: months where I buy books and then I don't immediately read them. Sometimes a girl just feels like going to the bookstore and buying something, even though there are plenty of purchases at home that still need to be read. What can I say? I'm working on it!
This month I am proud to say that one year after starting it I finally finished the beast that is Team of Rivals, and yes, even though it took me so long and it was a book I would set down and not come back to for months... it is still awesome! As a person who is spent many hours academically and recreationally studying Lincoln and the Civil War, I have to say the ending of this book made me think about things I'd never thought before. I'm not giving anything away (at least I hope) by saying that upon Lincoln's assassination (gasp), I'd never thought about how his cabinet members must have felt. Can you imagine? Here in your younger days you were a political rival to this man, only for him to pick you to be a part of one of the most historically important cabinets in our history, to then fight for this nation to stay together and free a whole race of people only for him to end up shot and dead!!!! WTF?!?!?!? Some of these men I truly believe had a better relationship with Lincoln than his crazy wife did (not in any other way than friendly working professionals... all you conspiracy theorists!) I just think how tragic it all is. One of the cabinet members who went on to serve many Presidents wrote how late in life he had a dream he was delivering an important message to the White House and when he opened the doors it was Lincoln sitting behind the desk. He said he woke up weeping. Chills. This book only re-affirms what I've known since I was in 2nd grade, Lincoln is my favorite.
February brings Valentine's Day and this year one of my new favorite magazines (Darling magazine) suggested on a facebook post that this Valentine's I should discover a romantic classic. Not a bad idea, hence, Northanger Abbey. When I lived in England, Bath was one of my favorite places so needless to say I've visited the ol' Jane Austen museum and own a beautiful set of all of her books. Shamefully, I've only ever read Pride and Prejudice. I know that Austen is intended for younger girls but when I had read her the first time around (about 9th grade) I felt really overwhelmed with the flowery language. It has always put me off reading her again. Needless to say, I am a lot older now and more versed in older and fancier English then I was back then. This book definitely felt like a book for young girls. It was cute though and a quick read.
Zadie, oh Zadie how you slay me! So... my second Zadie Smith book in two months. Maybe this will be a trend this year... But, while White Teeth is highly praised, I think it may have been all that before there was On Beauty, this book just simply pales in comparison to her later work. Both are notable and as my work colleague and fellow Zadie Smith enthusiast says, "Seems like they are made for literary discussion", I just can't help thinking that if you start out with the best, it will be tainted. My suggestion: work up to On Beauty. You almost need to, because over a month later that book is still haunting me with it's rich meaning and it's dark, beautifully broken characters.
Dear Sugar, where to begin? Could your words be anymore beautiful? Could your advice be any more profound? It's amazing how you took the worst things life threw at you and sculpted it into compassion, acceptance, and stories that will give even the most broken of us hope. LOVE THIS BOOK.
Happy Readings Everyone!