Have you been wondering where my January book reviews are? Yeah, me too. I did a fair amount of reading in January, but not quite enough to finish any one book.
To be honest, I’ve had a hard time convincing myself to do much reading lately. I feel more like going out with friends, watching TV, or working, rather than curling up with a book. So this wasn’t a month for extra-long literary works. Instead I gravitated toward easy reads that just kept me turning the page.
Mysteries set in England are my literary comfort food. I blame an early introduction to Agatha Christie, and a family history of anglophilia. I don’t like to make a habit of reading only mysteries, because it feels a little like subsisting on a diet of Easy Mac. But eating Easy Mac is better than eating nothing at all. So, at times like this when I simply don’t feel like reading, I cut myself a break and pick up a mystery.
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry
Under the Harrow is a murder mystery set in the English countryside. It earned comparisons to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, both of which I loved. Knowing all that, I was prepared to really enjoy Under the Harrow. I did not. I didn’t like or care about any of the characters, and didn’t feel invested in the hunt for the murderer. Finishing the book felt like a total slog.
The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
The Girls in the Garden was the second mystery that I read this month. Had I not seen the e-book on sale for $1.99, I’m not sure I would have ever read it. The Girls in the Garden is described as a thriller, but I’d call it more of a fast-paced character study. I was surprised to learn that this is author Lisa Jewell’s 13th book, given that I’d never heard of her before. I’m now looking forward to reading some of her other work.
In the non-fiction department, I read two books by some of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner and Anne Lamott. I always read their work with a notebook and pen nearby, because their writing gives me so much to process. While Small Victories and Telling Secrets didn’t turn out to be my favorite books of theirs, reading them felt a lot like coming home, and that’s just what I needed this month.
Small Victories by Anne Lamott
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace is the latest from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. Like me, she’s a Christian who doesn’t believe that swearing, or being a crazy liberal, or generally being a mess makes you any less loved by Him. If you haven’t read her work, I’d suggest starting with Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, a memoir that reads like an autobiography. Once you’ve come to know and love Lamott, move on to my favorite of her essay collections, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Small Victories was good, but I wouldn’t consider it life changing the way I do other books of hers. My favorite essay in Small Victories is “This Dog’s Life”. I love how she finds the holiness in the small things – pets, sunsets, music – all of which are, of course, not so small at all.
Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner
I’ve had Telling Secrets on my shelves for years now. A dear friend gave me the collected works of Frederick Buechner when I graduated college. Since then, Buechner is an author I often turn to during times of distress. I think about Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary every day. For whatever reason, I’d never gotten around to reading Telling Secrets before this month. I didn’t love it, but I was very captivated by the theme of sharing memories and secrets. As he writes, ‘memory makes it possible for us both to bless the past, even those parts of it that we have always felt cursed by, and also to be blessed by it’. I’m not sure how much this book will stick with me the way some of Buechner’s others have, but I’m glad to have read it.
Got any book recommendations of your own? Leave a comment and let me know!