All is revealed--here are the books I read this month. As you can see, it was quite a mixed bag of subjects and genres.
1. Firedrake's Eye, by Patricia Finney
This is an Elizabethan spy novel. It was hard to get to get into, but it spurred my interest to learn more about this era. Talk about political intrigue--not to mention you could be killed for being on the "wrong" religious side!
2. The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. Meh. I thought I'd love this book but maybe I just wasn't in the mood for cryptic, ironic, minimalistic prose. Hempel's great at what she does, but I got tired of reading this book and kept putting it down for more exciting books.
3. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. Freaking amazing. I have never read a novel before that so effortlessly combined philosophical ideas with everyday reality--plus it was heartbreaking in a GOOD way, if you know what I mean, and I hope you do.
4. The Book of Jewish Values by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. This book really helped me understand what Judaism is all about. It's divided into short daily readings that could be spread out over the year.
5. Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. A great jump-start when you don't know how to start (or get back into) writing stories.
6. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. It was okay mommy-lit with a mystery thrown in and Weiner is funny. I had higher hopes for it, though.
7. The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor. Hilarious tongue-in-cheek "parenting manual" that is an antidote to too much earnestness. Mellor's serious point is that children should not take over your life to the exclusion of all adult activities. My favorite chapters were "Screaming: Is It Necessary?" "Bedtime: Is Five-Thirty Too Early?" and "Children's Music: Why?"
8. Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists. I laughed a lot, but maybe I just have a weird sense of humor. To find out if you'd like this book, go here.
9. The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block (YA). A pretty typical rehash, putting fairy tales in a modern setting, plus the prose frequently got overheated.
10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. This is one of the children's classics I had never read. I can see why it's a classic. But it's not just for children--there are some deep thoughts in there about relationships. Still, I don't think I'll ever reread it.
11. A Famine of Horses by P.F. Chisholm. This is by the same author as the first book on my list, but so much more exciting. It's a great adventure story based on the life of a real-life kinsman of Queen Elizabeth. I'll be reading the next books in the series.
12. About Alice by Calvin Trillin. A lovely tribute to his late wife. However, I was disappointed that I'd already read everything in the book in articles in The New Yorker. Unless you know his work (his family is featured in his nonfiction stuff), you probably won't be all that interested.
13. half of Hateship, Friendship, Loveship, Courtship, Marriage by Alice Munro (I'd already read the first half a month or so earlier). What can I say? If you haven't read Munro, READ HER.
14. The Girls by Lori Lansens (unfinished). It sounded good: a novel alternately narrated by conjoined twins. But I couldn't get into it. I applied the 50-page rule and bailed. Main complaint: the whininess of the main narrator, the twin who wants to write their life story. Plus, it was consciously quirky, and I hate that.
So there you have it. I actually didn't abandon too many books (of course, a book has to be pretty bad for me to stop reading it.) This was fun--I'm looking forward to getting some book recommendations.