With winter officially behind me, I decided to dedicate some time to wrap up the reading I did over these last few months, which is mainly to say January and February, as I did not get much reading done at the end of 2017. In December I was deliriously busy during with work over the holidays, and even before then I had found myself in a reading slump around Thanksgiving.
I wasn’t that I didn’t feel like reading, rather I did not know what I felt like reading. I would stare at my bookshelves and not hear any of the books calling out to me.
In this post, I talk about the five books I read this winter.
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld | Goodreads
My rating: ★★★
When I walked over to my bookshelves at the end of last year to decide what I would be my first read of 2018, I was not sure what I was in the mood for. Therefore, I opted for a book I’ve had on my TBR for a long-time and for which I had no expectations.
AFTERWORLDS is a long tome that alternates between two stories: Darcy’s and Lizzie’s. Darcy is an 18-year-old who successfully completed NaNoWriMo and got herself a major book deal during her senior year of high school. Her half of the book is covers her first year out in New York making a proper go at writing full-time. She learns about the YA publishing world, contemplates ethical choices she makes in her debut novel, and experiences her first love. Lizzie is the protagonist of Darcy’s novel who after surviving a terrorist attack can travel to the spirit world. She learns the ins and outs of her new power and gets drawn into a quest for justice.
I really enjoyed the first half of this book, but around the same time both Darcy and Lizzie begin to make foolhardy and arrogant choices that are responsible for their respective downfalls. Their mistakes are the main source of their problems and I don’t feel like I get anything out of stories like that.I guess it may be more relatable to teens, but as an adult I’m just thinking, “I would never do that,” even though I probably would…
Anyone who is interested in becoming a published author or simply wants to know what happens after an official book deal is made will enjoy following Darcy as she deals with editors’ notes, sequels, and ethical/moral dilemmas concerning e.g. cultural appropriation. Lizzie’s story is probably going to be a hit-or-miss for most people, but I liked it until Lizzie’s mission to execute justice became clear.
Night by Elie Weisel | Goodreads
My rating: ★★★★★
It took me a while to finish AFTERWORLDS and once I finally did, I was underwhelmed. I was not sure what I wanted to read next, but having decided that this year I would prioritize reading books that have been on my TBR for a long-time, I picked up what I hoped would be a short read that allowed me to add a quick tally to my goal of reading 20 books I owned before 2018.
I bought NIGHT at a second-hand bookstore when I was in high school. I had a friend for whom this book had been assigned reading in his freshman year of high school. I’ve long appreciated literature that came out of the Jewish Holocaust, so I picked it up to read on my own one day.
I will admit, another reason I entered reading this book is because I was going through a rough time mentally. I had decided to quit my part-time job to look full-time for something finally, and it was scary and stressful. I was feeling like a real drain on my parents, whom I am so lucky to be able to live with at the moment. So when I picked up this book, I was ready to wallow in someone else’s misery.
I’m happy to say that I’ve finally read this book. What happened needs to be remembered, not just so that it doesn’t happen again but also so that we can appreciate how as bad as things may seem in our own lives, others have been forced to live through much worse. NIGHT reminded me a lot of MAUS, because of the father-son experience, and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, for the raw depiction of hard labor.
The Chosen by Chaim Potok | Goodreads
My rating: ★★★★★
In my freshman year of high school, my Pre-AP English teacher assigned THE CHOSEN. I remember really enjoying the class discussion surrounding the book and realizing that it sounded like a fascinating read, but I don’t remember if we finished reading it. I certainly didn’t, but I don’t know if the teacher actually expected that we would. Having read it now, I don’t know what she was thinking! This is so not a read most 14-year-olds could appreciate.
I could appreciate this book as I did now because of the background knowledge in psychology, philosophy, and history that I did not yet have in 9th grade. Since the main characters start the book as young boys, I can see why people might think this is a book for children.
The reason I did not write a review of this book is because I could not put my love for it into words. At its heart, THE CHOSEN is a story of friendship. Reuven learns how to be a good friend to Danny, even when their family background/ideologies and current events make it hard. The book is about two Jewish boys during WWII, but I think that Reuven’s experiences translate well across boundaries. This novel certainly resonated with me.
This book made me laugh and cry hard. I loved Reuven’s dad who was willing to wreck his health to do a job he found worth doing. I loved that the act of study was such a big part of the novel. I loved the different portrays ofJewish history presented from the father figures. I loved the questioning of faith.
After finishing this book, I had to know what more was out there of Chaim Potok’s work. I found I AM THE CLAY and THE BOOK OF LIGHTS at my local 2nd and Charles. I also ordered THE PROMISE on Amazon, which appears to be a sequel to THE CHOSEN. I plan to read these books soon, when I feel like I need them…
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger | Goodreads
My rating: ★★★★★
This was a reread.
My junior year of high school, we read THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I fell into the camp that loved it and immediately needed to know what else Salinger had written. At the nearest Barnes & Noble (where I bought books when I was in high school), I picked up everything they had on Salinger alongside THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, which included FRANNY AND ZOOEY.
I read it, and I loved it. It became an immediate favorite. I still stand by my assertion then that this is the book that Holden Caulfield needed to get his hands on, the book that maybe could’ve prevented his breakdown. It’s the answer to people who feel lost and feel like they’re surrounded by people who are superficial and simple-minded. In that regard, I feel like this book is a kick in the butt to narcissists and anyone with a superiority complex. *reluctantly raises hand*
FRANNY AND ZOOEY is a really short read, one that could be completed in just a day (or evening) if you have a lot of time to spare and contemplate. It reads like a play, in my opinion. I read it this time with Andrew Garfield in mind as Zooey and Bella Heathcote in mind as Franny.
This is another book I kind of regret not dedicating a full book review to, but I honestly wouldn’t know how to trim down my thoughts on this book. I actually recorded my commentary as I read the book this time around, as I had so many thoughts swirling around my head. I just don’t think I could do my love for this book justice right now. Maybe one day.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson | Goodreads
My rating: ★★★★½
It took me a bit of time to recover from FRANNY AND ZOOEY. I wanted to let that book soak in, so I decided to steer clear of fiction for a little bit. At least until I wrote a review (ha!) or felt confident that Zooey’s words would not soon leave me.
In February I ended up treating myself to a little book haul in celebration of my birthday. TRULY DEVIOUS was the only fiction book I included in the haul, and it was a random selection as I had heard nothing of its release in January and it sounded right up my alley.
Turns out it was the perfect read after a little break from reading. I didn’t expect too much from it, and walked away from it impressed by the story and wanting more. I don’t want to go on about this book much more here as I wrote my first book review of the year on it, which you can find here.
Before I go, I also want to make note of three books that I didn’t see fit to include in this post. After I read FRANNY AND ZOOEY, I read some non-fiction books that I’d hoped would help me learn how to make money in new ways and build the career I want for myself. Below is the list in chronological order, including links to their respective Goodreads pages where you can also find the thoughts I had, and recorded, upon finishing them.
- Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do by Chris Guillebeau
- The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money by Chelsea Fagan
- Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
I hope you enjoyed this journey through my winter reads. I’ll be back in April with a lot more reviews.
What did you read this winter?