January is ended – some books that engaged me during the month

January was the month in which I started my 12 in 12 challenge. In a probably futile attempt to reduce the number of physical books on my to-be-read pile I have decided to theme each month and try and read books from the pile related to that theme. By my calculations I should, therefore, manage to read 144 physical books in the year. This will work well only if I fail to acquire as many books as I read !

For January I read crime novels and I have blogged about 14 of these (I included one I read on my Kindle). I just about managed to read them all within the month but I did have a bit of a backlog towards the end of the month and was blogging two a day. If I was more organised I could spread them out better but I am not sure that that is achievable in the very near future.

I enjoyed concentrating on one genre for the month but I did have to be careful when reading more than one book at a time to choose books that were not too similar – normally I read books of different genres at once.

For February I am going to read books set in different parts of the world. They can be any genre, fiction or non-fiction and I don’t mind for the purposes of this challenge whether or not they are written by someone who comes from the country concerned or is just visiting it. I have my pile of 12 books all ready to go but it may be more of a challenge for the month because some of them are considerably longer than any of the crime novels were.

I did, however, not just read crime novels in January and I read four other books that I want to comment on :

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster is a book I have been reading for what seems like forever. It is a seriously long book which was given to me on the Kindle by the publishers in the hope of a review which I will get to soon. It is four stories in one. The main character is Stanley Ferguson who is growing up in and near to New York in the 1950s and 1960s. His story starts the same but the book actually tells four different narratives about his life with minor differences. We get a chapter about his life at a certain age and then three other chapters at the same age but showing a slightly different life for Stanley. As the book progresses Stanley dies in the timelines so that narrative stops and we are left with three narratives and then two and so on. This could be a confusing book but the author is really good at keeping each narrative thread different enough so that you don’t get too mixed up. It is an interesting read as you explore the same world events from different points of view depending on what is happening to Stanley and also as you see how Stanley could become different people depending on events. I was a bit alienated by the emphasis on sports in the book as I know little and care less about baseball and I also didn’t know a huge amount about the American politics at the time but all in all I did enjoy it – it is a very long book though.
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is speculative fiction book about a possible future where books and independent thought are outlawed. I listened to this on audio. Guy Montag is a fireman which means that he sets fire to books but he is unhappy and begins to enquire about the content and what makes people hide them even when they risk death themselves. This is not a very long book but it is certainly thought provoking especially given that it was first published in 1953. It is one of the classic dystopian novels such as 1984 although Bradbury is more hopeful about the future than Orwell was. It is definitely worth a read.
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt is a more difficult book to understand. I listened to this on audio as well and it is another long read. The story is set in the 1970s in rural, Southern America where the Cleve family live. There are no women left in this family – Harriet and her sister are brought up by her mother and the maid/housekeeper as her father is living elsewhere. Her grandmother and a selection of aged great-aunts live locally too. The family was once important in the area but they have lost most of their money and have been devastated by the death of Harriet’s brother who was murdered some years ago. The family is effectively dysfunctional and 12 year old Harriet gets develops an obsession that if she can kill the man who murdered her brother she will somehow be able to save them all. She begins to pursue someone who she thinks is the murderer and we then get an insight into the lives of his family who are very poor and make a living dealing drugs. The atmospheric writing is excellent, the dialogue is witty and there are some excellent insights into children adrift in an adult world, but the book is very unsatisfying, in my view, because nothing is really resolved and the story seems to stop rather abruptly.
  • Persuade Me by Juliet Archer is a much lighter book than any of the three mentioned above. It is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s book “Persuasion” and is one of the best I have ever read. The book is witty and really clever about how it transforms the original story but still keeps the plot. I really enjoyed this and highly recommend it as a quick but very satisfying read.

 

I am looking forward to February’s books and travelling around the world vicariously. I shall get a few other books read too I hope.

Whatever you choose – keep reading.