What I’ve Been Reading, Mid-August

Here is the second part of my Mid-August Update.

Needless to say, I’ve had a rather large amount of reading time lately. I’ve always got at least one book going on the Kindle and one audiobook on my iPod, and I sometimes throw a random baby book into the mix as well. I tend toward reading for pleasure, so don’t expect to find me reading Samuel Johnson or anything unless I’m being paid to do so.

These days, my audiobook choice tends to be a J. D. Robb mystery.

I’ve loved that series for years, and I’m making my way through it for the second time. And I no longer feel guilty about the fact that Nora Roberts writes it; she’s much funnier and more feminist in the “In Death” series than in most of her other romances. The books are pretty much procedural murder mysteries set in the near future in New York (with a few interesting changes in society: lasers have replaced guns and are restricted to police use; most food is a soy-based imitation of the original; prostitution is legal and regulated; etc). Murder cop Eve Dallas is one tough bitch with a traumatic past, but she has inexplicably gotten herself attached to the wealthy and mysterious Roarke. Granted, the premise is fairly obvious cheese-ball romance. I mean, come on, the main male love interest is described as essentially a younger Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair. And he only has one name, gross. But it’s the characters that make this series great. Eve kicks ass, but her flaws make her human, and her tongue is sharp. The relationship between Eve and Roarke (*SPOILER* they get married very early in the series) is a bit of a fantasy, but one that continues well into their lives after the wedding and shows them dealing with each others’ demons as well as being amused as hell by each other. Eve has a hard time dealing with friendships at first, but more and more strong, funny women make their way into her life, adding to what might otherwise be a fairly one-dimensional cop-world. Her sidekick, Delia Peabody, is a dedicated cop as well, but she’s also a sweet-natured, more typically feminine woman who is a good balance for Eve, and their interactions are always amusing. I tend to compare this to the T.V. show Castle. Fair warning if you want to read these: the crimes are often gruesome and described in detail, as is the depiction of the emotional trauma.

On the Kindle, I’m making my way through Jasper Fforde’s literary mystery series, which begins with The Eyre Affair.

In the series a character named Thursday Next is a Special Operations agent in an England that sort of resembles reality, but with some major differences: the Crimean War has gone on another 150 years, society cares far more about literature and art to the point that Shakespeare lovers proselytize door to door arguing over authorship, and extinct animals such as dodos have been re-engineered as pets. I didn’t know what to make of Fforde’s books at first, but they’ve really grown on me. He is quite unabashedly cheesy at times, and his alternate realities can take some getting used to, but he is obviously a book nerd with whom I can identify. Oh, and the author of this series wrote another good book titled Shades of Grey, which is definitely not that other book with a similar title, so don’t get the two confused.

The book that most recently really blew me away was Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.

It is a journal that the author kept during her first year of motherhood. I’ve sort of been collecting books of this type, which depict being the mother of a newborn in a very real manner. In her frank and often surprisingly insightful prose she voices the fears of an expectant first-time mom:

Worse than just about anything else is the agonizing issue of how on earth anyone can bring a child into this world knowing full well that he or she is eventually going to have to go through the seventh and eighth grades. (10)

She is amazed at how much she loves a creature that is at once beautiful and terrible:

I’ve decided the reason Sam’s so gorgeous is that God knew that I wouldn’t have been able to fall in love with this shitting and colicky little bundle if he looked like one of those E.T./Don Rickles babies. (20)

and

I wonder if it is normal for a mother to adore her baby so desperately and at the same time to think about choking him or throwing him down the stairs. (59)

And she tries to take care of herself as best she can while dealing with a newborn and her own fragile emotional state at the same time:

I naively believe that self-love is 80 percent of the solution, that it helps beyond words to take yourself through the day as you would your most beloved mental-patient relative, with great humor and lots of small treats. (53)

Although Lamott’s essential life-philosophy is based on her Christian faith and mine is not, she is never really tedious to me as so many religious people are because she has the gritty, irreverent type of faith that of someone who has really lived through some of the shittier parts of life and made it through.

So that’s what I’ve been reading. Let me know if you have any particular recommendations.

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