notes for dec/jan


If there is one thing I stubbornly carve time out for, it's reading. There are any number of reasons to be reading, but one important reason for me is because it's a lifeline when I am stressed.

December often turns out to be a stressful month, because ironically, many people go on leave thinking it's a quiet month. It only takes one or two big things to happen to turn a quiet month into one of little sleep constant pressure. So, over two weeks of December I read five books.
  • I just finished Alice Munro's "Open Secrets" which I got for Christmas and as always, am in awe of the class of writers that can paint such complete worlds and portraits of people, and in her case, with such brevity. 
  • I finally bought myself a copy of Dana Thomas' "Deluxe: How luxury lost its lustre" and read it just before Christmas. By now the book has been cited so often that it felt a little too familiar reading it but I do admire her knack for telling a story and giving such a succinct overview of the dark side of the fashion industry. I wonder if she has considered doing a sequel -- so much has happened since the book was published in 2007.
  • At a friend's recommendation, I read "Ender's Game". Few young adult books are as well-written and tightly plotted. When I finished I felt unsettled, in a good way. 
  • I also just got started on Olen Steinhauer's "Tourist" series - finished the first book "The Tourist" (NO relation to that horrible Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie movie) a week ago. It wasn't bad and I just picked up the second book in the series. I wished there were more spy novels that aren't as dense as John Le Carre but aren't too simplistic either. Recommendations?
  • During the more highly-strung moments, I turned to some comfort reading to slow my mind down before I slept. In this instance, it was an old favourite, "The Accidental Tourist" by Anne Tyler. 
Now that we've passed into the new year, I hope to keep the reading engines going and widen the scope a little. I tend to forget that reading can be educational and would like to pick up things that aren't just for pleasure. At Ammu's recommendation, I'm going to give "I'm OK - You're OK" a try.

Other things I want to do in January:
  • Bake. I can't let the measuring cups I got for Christmas go to waste!
  • Paddle-surfing. I think it looks a little silly but I've been promised I won't regret the experience


rachel said…
The same thing happens at my company! Everybody disappears in "quiet" December, turning it into a mad house for the rest of us! Winter is, if nothing else, for reading and I love hearing people talk about things besides clothes on blogs, so thank you. Happy New Year!
Ammu said…
Reading is one of my top pleasures during the winter holidays. I just finished "I am ok, you're ok" and am looking forward to reading a big, juicy novel next. A friend just gave me a copy of Orhan Pamuk's "My name is Red", which looks exciting :)
Natalie said…
If you haven't read any of Robert Ludlum's books, including the Bourne Identity (which is reasonably different from the movie), then they are great spy novels.
Kali Vine said…
That's an interesting list of recommendations, thanks! I'll probably pick up "Open Secrets", sounds like something I might like.

As for spy novels, one famous writer is Tom Clancy. I never read anything from him though, so I can't vouch for quality.

I like reading a lot during stressing periods as well - it provides a necessary bubble out of the real time. Good luck on your project to read more this year :)
Shutterbug K said…
I've seen people paddle-surf, and they do look pretty relaxed. I hope you get to try it soon!
Joy said…
Funny that I'm doing the same sort of binge reading too now that my internet is absolute shit for the time being. Can't wait to do a similar report at the end of Jan. I would love to see another update :) My current reading list leans more non-fiction than fiction.
miss sophie said…
you're so right about reading and it's meditative properties. i hope you're able to get a little more rest & relaxation now that the flurry of the holidays has passed.

happy 2014 and wishing you good tidings!
lin said…
Rachel: Happy new year! I hope your colleagues are back... most of mine are, which is a godsend.

Ammu: Ooooh I love that book, although, like most of his books, it could be edited down a tad. It will make you want to visit Turkey.

Natalie: I haven't, mostly because I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles with his name on it and never got round to starting. But I should not use that as an excuse. Thanks for the recommendation!

Kali Vine: It's really good - I've read another selection of her short stories but I think I want to go back to reading the volumes as they were published, rather than a compilation.

Tom Clancy! I've only seen the movies they are based on, and I am actually kind of excited about the new Jack Reacher movie where they bring back the guy from The Hunt for Red October.

Shutterbug K: It does look like a great way to enjoy some sun. Shall report back.

Joy: Looking forward to that list! I would love to see some non-fiction recommendations, I am hopelessly addicted to the pleasures of a novel but hope that changes. My sister passed me her copy of Empress Cixi by Jung Chang. I loved Jung Chang's other books so I'm quite excited on her take on such an iconic figure.
petrichore said…
I always appreciate the reading recommendations from everyone - sometimes I default to nonfiction too often, and it's good to get good fiction recommendations! I feel like I only want to invest my spare time in reading if I know it's going to be a great book.
I love reading but having worked in the media for a few years now I find that reading/writing all day has negatively impacted on my reading for pleasure. Very annoying as I love to read and have always had several books on the go. One I finally finished in 2013 was Atonement and I highly recommend it. Very unsettling and menacing in it's tone but an amazing read.
lin said…
petrichore: I'm the opposite - I read far, far more fiction.

And I am quite guilty of depending on what books have been given or nominated for awards! Pretty lazy way of choosing from what's out there.

La Fille mal Gardee: I love Atonement, it tipped me over into some serious Ian McEwan fandom as I started reading all his other works. Atonement really stands out though, partly because it covers so much ground and his other novels are more compact in comparison.

I found myself gravitating to easy reads in magazines and on the internet for a period of time because like you, I read a lot for work and couldn't sustain reading a novel for pleasure. But I think I managed to regain some of my concentration skills...just persist!
Aïssa said…
Reading (and music) is what keeps me together during daily commuting and a few pages at night can either set me for a good night sleep or a sleepless page turning one... "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is next on my list as well as "The power of Introverts" by Susan Cain that Miss Sophie recommended me. "Ender's Game" and the "His Dark Material" series you mentioned are also on the list.
Anonymous said…
long time lurker, first time commenter here -- the discussion of books brought me out of the woodwork :)

if you're looking for a good detective novel, I would thoroughly recommend the Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom. it's set in the time of Henry VIII, and features a hunchbacked lawyer who solves (truly) mysterious crimes. the first novel, Dissolution, is set in a monastary, where one of monks has been murdered, and the context and history of that period is fascinating.

like the title suggests, the monasteries were being ransacked by Henry VIII at the time, ostensibly for being repositories of Catholic excess and evil (as during the time of Anne Boleyn's ascent, Henry was leaning towards Protestantism), but also to add to the coffers of the monarchy. sorry for the essay, but I just really wanted to recommend this series!

- m

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