Monthly Review – November 2015

Posted November 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 2 Comments

Numero ZeroI had plans to devote the entire month of November reading non-fiction (for Non-Fiction November) and participating in NaNoWriMo, however things did not work out to plan. I started November in a hospital in Nouméa and sadly my mother-in-law passed away. This was completely unexpected and while I did spend a lot of time with my wife’s family, I still manage to complete some reading and some of my goals for NaNoWriMo. My writing goals included catching up on my blogging, which I have done and looking forward to writing non-review posts soon. As for my reading, I did end up with seven books completed for the month.

The first book I finished was The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, which I was reading in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I had some plans to write my writing journey and while I never really got as much of that down on paper as I would like, I think this book gave me plenty of ideas. I have been enjoying writing lately and I hope to continue working on this little project and see where it takes me. I have never read Mary Karr’s memoirs (The Liars’ Club, Lit or Cherry) but this book has convinced me to check one (or all) of them out in the future.

While I was sitting in the hospital I was reading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill on my phone. I am not a fan of ebooks but this was more about convenience. I really loved this book, which is pretty much Hill sharing anecdotes about the books on her shelves. I love the concept of exploring the memories associated with books, however it is a little sad my memory of this with be closely linked to the passing of my mother-in-law.

Following on I picked up Caitlin Doughty’s book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, which I had planned to read before everything happened. I was worried I would not be able to handle the book. I did have to put aside Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Antonina W. Bouis). However this book brought me comfort and I really learnt a lot about the death industry. Maybe not for everyone while mourning the loss of a family member but knowing what goes on was comforting.

I started reading The Possessed by Elif Batuman which has the subtitle ‘Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them’ which sounds right up my alley but it was so boring and her literary criticism felt off. This killed my non-fiction kick (I did eventually finish The Prossessed but not after a few works of fiction), so I picked up Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin which is the first book in the Inspector Rebus series. I was inspired to read some crime fiction while writing my review of the last Dexter Morgan book. I feel I need to find a new crime series and I heard the Inspector Rebus series is good. Still too early to tell if this is the next series for me but I will try the next book to find out.

I planned to read Numero Zero at the beginning of December but I could not wait any longer. I really enjoy Umberto Eco’s books (this one translated by Richard Dixon) so I expected so much from this novel. While this was shorter and a little different, I really enjoyed this novel. Numero Zero felt more satirical that his other books, spending a lot of time criticising the media, especially newspapers and gossip magazines. This might be a good starting point for people who have never read Umberto Eco before; it is short and thrilling. It does have some real problem areas but for a novel less than 200 pages, they are easily overlooked.

My last book was Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56 by Anne Applebaum, which talks about the Soviet influences on Eastern Europe after World War II. This is jammed packed with information but I am fascinated about the history. I know a bit out Soviet history but not as much of what was happening in Eastern Germany, Poland or Hungry and this book covered this in great detail. Applebaum is an American, so I was a little worried that it might turn into a ‘pro-American, anti-Soviet’ book but I think she covered the topic rather well. Granted what the Soviet’s did was pretty horrible but I do not like when a book takes a propaganda approach to history.

I am not sure what to expect from December, although I am hosting a readalong of The Brothers Karamazov. I have some books on my selves I would love to read but I want to see what happens. Most people know I hate having a TBR. I did set some reading plans for November to meet the reading challenges for Non-Fiction November, but my TBR changed. I have a big book to read in The Brothers Karamazov and I think I want to pick up another but will see how things go. What do you plan to read for December, and how was your reading month in November?

Monthly Reading

  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  • Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  • Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin
  • Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
  • The Possessed by Elif Batuman
  • Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum

Monthly Posts

2 responses to “Monthly Review – November 2015

  1. Violet

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. What a terrible time it must have been for your wife. It’s good that you were able to be there with her. I hope you’re both doing ok.

    I bought Numero Zero and when it arrived in the mail I was a bit disappointed at how thin it is, and how large the writing. I haven’t started it yet. I loved Prague Cemetery and I think Numero might be a bit of a let down? Idk. I tried reading The Possessed, but I didn’t get far with it. The blurb sounded great but I couldn’t get into it. I tried it a while ago so I don’t remember much about it, tbh. I’ve had Howards End is on the Landing for YEARS and haven’t read it. I saw in a review that she was disparaging about one of my favourite books – I don’t even remember which one – and I kind of lost interest. It has a pretty cover, though. 🙂 Soviet history is so fascinating, in a car crash kind of way. The things they did, both bad and good, are pretty unbelievable. I can’t get enough of reading about it all.

    • It was a sad day for my wife and her family, so sudden and unexpected but I was surprised how well my wife and her sister stepped up and handled everything.

      It was disappointing that Numero Zero was so small but I still enjoyed it, Prague Cemetery is better and very different but still Eco. I was so excited for The Possessed, it sounded so perfect, what a let down. Don’t let Susan Hill’s book taste stop you from reading Howards End is on the Landing. I know she is pretty blunt with her opinions about books she doesn’t like but I think it is understandable…even if I disagreed with her.

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