What I Read in January + February

Jan Feb Books
Jan Feb Books Read

I love books. I love stories. I love to read and I love to talk about reading.

But for the last few years I just didn’t have the time or the drive to read as much as I used to. Can you relate? I’d still read a book here or there, but my unread pile was definitely higher than my read pile. That’s the way these things go sometimes.

I don’t know what happened, but last fall I found myself wanting to dive into stories again. Maybe I was excited about reading books about England now that we’d moved here. Or probably I was looking for a way to relax in the middle of moving chaos, haha – reading totally works as a wind-down for me.

I’d like to share what I’m reading here on my blog – it’s something I’ve always had in the back of my mind. A chance for me to reflect on what I’m reading, and just keep a list of sorts. I don’t have any particular goals to read a certain number of books, and (just so you know!) I’m not picky about what I pick up to try.

Here’s what I’ve read in January + February:

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson // I picked this up and put it down and picked it back up again. I always enjoy Bryson’s writing, and his new book The Body, with a structure less narrative-focused and more of a series of closer looks at how humans work, was easy to come back to whenever I was in the mood to read a chapter.

  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds // This was re-read for me. Actually a re-listen, because I checked out the audiobook on the Libby app from the library. (love) I’ve found that reading about sports science is a good way to keep me motivated to stay healthy, and there were lots of studies in this one I’d wanted to revisit.

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray // I’ve got a couple of English classics on my list inspired by a Brit Lit class my sister is taking. Vanity Fair was ok, but my favorite thing was it prompting a movie night to watch the 2004 version starring Reese Witherspoon. Love old school Reese.

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot // Also inspired by my sister’s Brit Lit class. Really struggled to get through this one, but it got easier as I went along. Maybe I will like the next Brit Lit book on her list better, haha.

Cheers to more reading in 2020,

kate

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A Lazy Day Off

Today was a lazy day for me.

I spent some time meandering around and exploring my neighborhood, plus hanging out at a nearby outdoor cafe. I couldn’t really read the Czech menu there, so I ordered randomly off the coffee section and got this espresso + ice cream + whipped cream drink. It was pretty yummy : )

day off.

I’m newly obsessed with the kindle – I’ve been reading all kinds of adventure fiction based on reinventions of old mythologies (Rick Riordan, Michael Scott….)

What are you reading lately? : )

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Our Town

Our Town by Thornton Wilder might be my favorite play ever.  I read it for the first time in 10th grade English class, as a requirement. And maybe you’ve read it, too. Or seen Paul Newman in the PBS dvd. (I love Paul!)

Our Town follows the lives (and deaths) of characters in the small town of Grover’s Corners.  I love the structure of the play, and I also love the plot. It depicts life itself, a story that encompasses all other stories, and connects to every person.

Recommended for: Taking a step back.

Our Town is a great way to step back from the hubbub and worrisome details of life.  It reminds us of the importance of human connections, while emphasizing the fleeting, ephemeral nature of life.

Will I read it again?

Yes! Over and over and over.

Best quote?

You know how it is: you’re twenty-one or twenty-two and you make some decisions; then whisssh! you’re seventy: you’ve been a lawyer for fifty years, and that white-haired lady at your side has eaten over fifty thousand meals with you.

How do such things begin?

 

What are you thoughts on Our Town? Do you love it like me, or not? Got any other theatre recommendations?

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Margaret Atwood at Emory

 

Margaret Atwood, author of great books like The Handmaid’s Tale and (personal fave) The Penelopiad, came to speak at Emory as part of our Ellmann Lectures series.

She was a great speaker with a sharp wit and good insights. She cracked a lot of jokes, shared stories of her childhood growing up in Canada, and even sang a song from one of her books!

Atwood was all about the juxtapositions, which I loved. My favorite insight from her was about our human spirit: “We want excitement and adventure. We want safety and security.”

One of her lectures centered on cartography: how every map has an edge, the border between real and unreal. Where the known is finite, but the unknown is infinite. And she poses the question: are ‘utopias’ and ‘dystopias’ a yin and yang? Do each contain parts of the other?

Food for thought.

My favorite part, ‘course, was getting her to sign my book. ;D

 

Atwood: “Here’s my advice to you. Read and read and read and write and write and write.”

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German Poetry, Anyone?

I like poetry.

I’ve heard that German poetry is really good. That there’s something about a cacophonous language with a bit of word order freedom that makes for unique verse.

That’s what people tell me anyway. Knowing about zero German, I read the words in translation. I love that translations of so many things are available these days, but the purist in me sort of wants to run out and learn German.

(I’ll put that one on the back burner.)

My fave German poem is by Rilke:

Spaziergang (A Walk)

Already my gaze is on the hill, that sunlit one,
Up ahead on the path I’ve scarcely started.
In the same way, what we couldn’t grasp grasps us:
blazingly visible, there in the distance –

and changes us, even if we don’t reach it,
into what we, scarcely sensing it, already are;
a gesture signals, answering our gesture…
But we feel only the opposing wind.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Muzot, beginning of March 1924

There are lots of different translations out there for this poem. I don’t really know which is the most accurate, but I do like the rendering of this one.

To me, there’s a DIY element to any kind of lyricism – a poem rises to meet and fill out the particular parameters that each reader brings to table. The same set of seemingly rigid words flexes to convey different messages to everyone.

SO! For me, this poem conveys a concise message: hope, purpose. The physical imagery is of a person at the beginning of their path, with a not yet attained end in sight. I extrapolate, imagining the onset of a journey not on that physical path, but rather a path through life with a far-flung goal ahead of you. The distance between your first steps on the path and the hill – that’s the journey part, the game plan part.

It’s a poem of a win-win situation. Because even if you don’t grasp that goal, your plans and endeavors along the path change you.

For the better.

What do you think of the poem? Any other German lit favorites out there?

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