Books I read in January 2020

I think I have been reading about as much as usual, but it’s hard to tell from my list of books finished in January. Mostly, though, that’s because I finished all the books I was reading last month, and didn’t start this month, as I usually do, with a few books I have nearly finished. But things are back to normal now – I’m in the middle of eight books, going into February.

Some people would find it confusing, but for the most part I have no trouble keeping them straight. (I did have to decide against starting one book I was planning on reading next, because it is set in WWII and I’m already reading another set in WWII.) I listen to one audiobook in the car, and another on the exercise bike. During lunch at work I read a book from the college library. At home I usually have a non-fiction book I’m reading, and a fiction book for when I want lighter reading. Though some fiction is anything but light, not difficult intellectually but emotionally, or I just can’t “get into” the story so it’s hard to push my way through. So then I pull out another book, that I know is light reading, when I really want to just relax. Then there is also the book I’m reading for book club, which meets the first Monday of the month (except next week, when we postponed it a week due to Iowa caucuses), so I read the book the last week or two before the meeting so as to have it fresh in my memory. (And book club books are often the ones that are harder to get into, because they’re books I didn’t choose for myself.)

What was very easy this month was finding books to fit the various categories of the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. Since it’s just starting, none of the easy categories have been taken up yet, and almost any book I read is likely to fit in somewhere. So far every book I have started this month fits one category or another, though there is some overlap. I’m in the middle of two books with at least a 4-star rating on Goodreads as well as two books published in the 20th century, and I’m on my second book by an author who has written more than twenty books (two different authors).

So here are the few I have finished:

I picked up An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon, thinking from the author’s picture that it would work for a book by a woman of color, but when reading the author’s bio I quickly realized that it would, instead, fit for a book by a trans or nonbinary author. It is science fiction, in that it takes place in the future, on a spaceship carrying people away from an uninhabitable Earth to find a new home elsewhere. But that is just the background for the story, which is really about oppression based on race, gender, and social class. It was interesting in that it was a far different perspective from most of what I read, but I confess I had trouble understanding what the message of the book was really supposed to be, as well as how the society of the technologically advanced future had so deteriorated that it more resembled a pre-technological society in many ways.

I chose In the Land of the Everliving, by Stephen Lawhead, simply because I like Lawhead’s writing and this is the sequel to In the Region of the Summer Stars, which I read last year, but I realized, before even reaching the first chapter, that it was also a fit for “a book with a map.” And I had to refer back to the map more than once, trying to figure out the character’s movements, and where the different tribes of Eirlandia lived in relation to one another. It also took me a few chapters of this book to remember enough of the events of the previous book to make sense of what was happening in this one, but once I figured that out I really got into the story. As a middle book in a trilogy, it serves as a bridge between the first and third books, and I was concerned that it would not stand well as a story on its own, but it does reasonably well in that regard, though it clearly is leading into what will follow.

The third book I finished was by John Grisham, and easily qualifies as a book by an author who has written more than twenty books (he has written at least forty, though I have read only slightly more than half of them). This one was The Reckoning, a novel where the mystery is not who killed the popular Methodist preacher, but why a war hero would murder his pastor. Unlike in many of Grisham’s novel, the legal parts are not particularly interesting, as they add little to the story. The murder trial goes quickly, but after that the appeals get tiresome – after all, their main function is to delay. What is more interesting is the depiction of life in settings unfamiliar to me other than from novels. Like a few of Grisham’s other novels, it is set in the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi, though most of the second part of the book actually takes place in the Philippines during WWII. The biggest problem with the book is that is seems a very long and drawn-out way to get around to revealing the answer to the mystery (for a while I wondered if it would be explained at all). In the end, it struck me mostly as evidence of how badly people manage to mess up their own lives and others’.

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