Bookends: August 2013

The first day of each month, I’m posting a summary of what I read the previous month and what I plan to read in the coming month. I would love if this could become a conversation in the comments about what’s on your reading list, too!

It’s funny how I seem to think of reading nonfiction as a virtuous act and reading novels and short stories—which I love much, much more than most nonfiction—as the equivalent to eating the whole bag of potato chips. (If it’s a classic of fiction, it’s more like eating a whole bowl of kale chips; it’s still an indulgence, but at least it’s good for me.)

My plan had been to assign myself two works of nonfiction just dripping with virtue—The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and The History of England, Volume V by David Hume—in the hopes that I would read one in order to avoid the other and at least finish one of them. Instead, I bypassed that plan and just read kids’ books all month. It’s as though I promised myself I would take a spoonful of cod liver oil and then at the last minute switched it for a spoonful of honey.

Here’s what I read:

Grown-ups’ Books:

Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skelany (Skelany tells readers why we don’t really need to worry about most of the things we worry about as parents.)

Nine Inches: Stories by Tom Perrotta (a book of short stories I won as a Goodreads First Reads Advance Readers’ Copy.)

Kids’ Books:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (audio, read by the author; a book that starts out like it’s going to be about a family dealing with the disappearance of the father, but ends up being about interstellar travel and alien mind control.)

Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver (second in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, in which Torak learns to paddle a skinboat and communes with orcas and seals.)

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter (a pampered house cat runs off to join a clan of warrior feral cats)

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale)

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (Julie/Miyax escapes solo across the Alaskan tundra to visit her pen pal in San Francisco and gets the help of a wolf pack along the way.)

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary (audio, read by Neil Patrick Harris; a boy finds a stray dog, his parents let him keep it, and his life becomes interesting.)

Soul Eater by Michelle Paver (#3 in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Torak and Renn travel across the ice to the Far North to recover Wolf from the Soul Eaters. It was kind of a Julie of the Wolves in reverse, now that I think about it.)

Outcast by Michelle Paver (#4 in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. In this one, Torak is cast out of Raven clan and most of the action takes place in the territory of the Otter clan on the “vast inland sea” (a phrase that shows up several times in this book).)

Currently Reading/To-Read for September

I need to make a choice about my virtuous nonfiction. I’m either going to have to just slog through and finish the Hume and the Alexander, or I’m going to have to just cry “uncle” and move on to classic novels and contemporary literary fiction. Every time I sit down with my nonfiction (and my pencil and notebook) Villette taunts me from my bookshelf, and both Lionel Shriver and Marisha Pessl have new novels on which I’m itching to get my hands. Once I get this nonfiction off my back (one way or another), I can indulge myself.

In the meantime, I have my kid books. I’m reading aloud Eleanor Estes’ The Middle Moffatt, and I’m getting ready to start Michelle Paver’s Oathbreaker. I hope to finish Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series this month. If my daughter has her way, I’ll also work through a couple more of Erin Hunter’s Warriors series about cat clans battling it out. (My spouse reminded me of the scene in Don Quixote in which DQ mistakes a herd of sheep for two armies meeting on the battlefield, and now I’m imagining a Wool Warriors series. I seriously need to get more sleep.) If I have my way, however, she and I will read Watership Down together instead. We also want to get to Enna Burning, the sequel to Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl.

I will still keep my nonfiction on my reading list, at least for now. You can read The New Jim Crow along with my sister and me by joining our Goodreads Sisters Book Club Group. Maybe a little discussion will help encourage me to finish the book this month.

But on the other hand, my September is really busy. We’ve got out-of-town guests arriving, choir and flute lessons and voice lessons and Girl Scouts have started again, and I have two campouts this month. So, I might just have to reconcile myself to a September of (comparatively) little reading.

What have you enjoyed reading in the past month? What’s on your to-read list for September? If you blog your answer, please post a link in the comments (and/or link back to this post, if you’re so inclined).

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