January Reads (2015)

January reads

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

I highly recommend this page-turning story of the antebellum south told through the eyes of a white indentured servant and a black slave that captures the complexities of relationships in all their forms. It is a remarkable piece of historical fiction that will lodge a pit in your stomach. You will want to look away but won’t be able to.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

In this work, Patchett creates the most vivid sense of place I’ve encountered in a novel. I could hear the buzzing insects of the Amazon. I felt the oppressive jungle heat despite reading this book in a drafty old house on a cold January day.  My nose wrinkled with the stench of snake on my skin and I fought back a gag as I watched the scalpel’s first cut. At its heart, this is an adventure story. Though it requires some overlooking of technical questions and forgiving of exaggerated character traits, it is an adventure story well told and the only one I’ve read that gave me mosquito bites.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This story uses the voices of alternating characters – a blind French girl and a German orphan – to tell a story that is so fresh, beautiful, and layered that it stands out from the World War II fiction crowd. I suspect this will be one of my best reads of 2015.  Please read it and then call me to talk about it. 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Historical fiction (1895 English boarding school) paired with fantasy (mystical orders and entrance into other spiritual realms) and romance (bodices ripped). This book has flaws – unlikable and unbelievable characters, plot developments that feel forced, heavy handedness where subtlety may have worked better – but in the end I couldn’t help but enjoy my escape into the world Bray created. I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy but enjoyed losing myself in this book for a weekend.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

A mostly memoir about the writing life, this book focuses more on showing up than on showing how. Full of big truths in tiny chapters, this book is like a long chat with the kind of friend who knows how to meet you where you are while simultaneously helping you move forward. Early in the book, Shapiro includes an Emerson quote about how “The good writer seems to be writing about himself, but has his eye always on that thread of the universe which runs through himself and all things.” Shapiro passes the good writer test with flying colors – telling her story in a way that helps others understand theirs.


4 thoughts on “January Reads (2015)

  1. I’ve been enjoying your blog for a couple of years now – our kiddos were on the same soccer team in kindergarten and Jenny told me I should check it out! We have similar taste in books and I’ve been using your book reviews to find good books and so I decided I will go out on a limb and give you a couple of my favorites. I’m putting them out on the interwebs! Here goes: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz, Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim by David Sedaris, The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. Thank you for all your great reviews! Keep ’em coming!

    1. Kelsey – thanks for taking the interwebs comment plunge and sharing your book recommendations. We do indeed have similar taste in books. I loved Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and Prodigal Summer. I like David Sedaris but haven’t read that particular title yet. I’ve added all the rest of your picks to my list. Thanks!

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