Ah, August. My co-workers are freaking out about the heat and all I can think is, just a little longer please! I’m never ready for summer to end (and yet it does, every year).
It was a great month, with a visit to my sister and nieces in Wisconsin, dinner with friends, and a last summer concert at Wolf Trap. There were lazy hours spent reading on my deck, and not-lazy hours in the garden that grew NOTHING this summer.
I also “graduated” from a nine-month government leadership program, and it was surprisingly emotional. This is a program that’s much more about feeling out your own strengths and weaknesses than it is about work – and it included poking a stick at some childhood issues I thought I’d outgrown. One of the things we had to do is write a letter to ourselves that we’ll receive a year from now, so maybe in a year I’ll let you know how I’ve done. It might sound cheesy (it probably would to me) but I really learned a lot about myself.
Tomorrow I’m heading to the National Book Festival, which has been going on since 2001 in DC and which I’ve never attended. Book conventions aren’t really my thing – crowds, lines, and I don’t really care for book signings. But this year’s authors are fantastic, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (also Jennifer Egan, Richard Russo, Celeste Ng, Tayari Jones, Jacqueline Woodson, and Andrew Sean Greer, to name just a few). So I’m giving it a go.
August’s reading theme was U.S. history, with two books and this top ten post. A year and a half ago I would have said people in the U.S. spend too much time thinking about ourselves, we should be learning more about other countries. And then the country turned upside down and here we are. Maybe we need to learn more about ourselves (hey, kind of like my leadership program) before we can expect to make any progress.
Here’s what I read in August:
- In the Shadow of Statues by Mitch Landrieu
- Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
- Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
- Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
- South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
- Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
My favorite read: I enjoyed the dark and atmospheric Fingersmith, and I appreciated In the Shadow of Statues. My favorite, which I just finished, is Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, which I loved because (1) Sarah Vowell and (2) Hamilton (the musical, not the man, who has only a bit part in this book). Vowell is such a great writer of history, because she makes it fun to read but at the same time the details are really memorable. In May, my husband and I visited Yorktown, and while the battlefield itself wasn’t terribly interesting, Vowell’s book really brought it to life. And she makes some interesting points about how the events of the Revolution are still impacting us today.
Most disappointing read: I wanted to love Murakami’s South of the Border, but the truth is, I struggled with this book, which is maybe because of the translation or the cultural differences between American and Japanese ways of writing (I had similar thoughts about Norwegian Wood). I loved The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and I thought this one had some nice moments, but I had trouble liking the main character, who spends his life fantasizing about a girl from his childhood. In truth, I’m not sure I like the way Murakami writes about women. Then again, this may not be one of his best books.
Books for challenges:
- 20 Books of Summer: I read 21, 11 from my original list (I’ll do a 20 Books post soon)
- TBR Pile: South of the Border, West of the Sun
- Nonfiction: In the Shadow of Statues and Lafayette
- Reading All Around the World: South of the Border, West of the Sun (Japan)
What I’m reading now: The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which I’m enjoying but maybe not quite as much as I expected. It’s feeling rather long at the moment.
What’s coming up: From the library I’ve checked out: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, Warcross by Marie Lu, Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan, and Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin. And I’ve got Transcription by Kate Atkinson.
Added to my TBR: This month I added a lot of science fiction and fantasy to my TBR list based on Goodreads’ lists of 50 favorite science fiction and fantasy (of which I had read nearly half). A few I added: Neverwhere, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Doomsday Book, and Childhood’s End.
Things that made me happy this month: summer, visiting my sister, the British Baking Show, and summer.
That’s all for this month’s wrap-up! What was the best book you read in August?