Bibliophiliac is the space where one passionate, voracious reader reflects on books and the reading life. You will find reviews, analysis, links, and reflections on poetry and prose both in and out of the mainstream.

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Coffee in May

The Month of May

This month is a month of deadlines and distractions. My AP students took their Literature and Composition exam on May 3rd, and my ninth graders will be taking the End-of-Course exam for English 1 in about two weeks. As the school year winds up, there is not much time for reading for pleasure.

But I do it anyway.

Honestly, I don't know how I would survive my job or my life without the consolation of books.

Although this year has been a tough one for my reading life (fewer books finished than normal, lots of books begun and then set aside) here are some of the books that have been sustaining me recently:

Lab Girl, a memoir by scientist and professor Hope Jahren. I've been reading this book mostly at night, about a chapter at a time, but I've picked up the pace recently. I can't begin to explain just how amazing this book is. First of all, Jahren is an astonishingly good writer. I mean GOOD. She is also hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. She makes everything about plants, geology, science, and the workings of a scientific lab absolutely enthralling. And her perspective as a woman in a male-dominated field is riveting.

The Ambassadors by Henry James. When I was an English major in college I loved Henry James. Now, I'm wondering if anyone even reads him anymore--someone must, surely. I picked up The Ambassadors to see whether I still had the focus and ability to concentrate to read James. The reality is that the ability to focus deeply on the type of sentences and precise details you get with Henry James is something that requires practice. My life and my job have left me with fractured attention. But I am slowly making my way.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. This 490 page panoramic historical novel set in Korea and Japan hit the sweet spot for me. It is a beautiful, profound, entrancing book. I was lost, completely immersed, in this story of a Sunja, a young girl who becomes pregnant by a married man. Sunja lives with her widowed mother, who runs a boardinghouse. In a twist of fate, a young Christian minister comes to stay in the boardinghouse, and rescues Sunja from her shameful situation by marrying her and taking her to Japan, where most of the story takes place. I will be posting a full review of this novel, but suffice it to say for now that it is splendid.

As the school year comes to an end, I'm looking forward to reading for pleasure, sheer, pure pleasure, and reading all the time.But even now, when it seems like there is no time for it, I will be reading.

What have you read lately that hit the sweet spot for you? Do you find as life gets more and more busy and stressful, that you need to read more, not less?


bermudaonion said...

Lab Girl sounds like something I'd like. It sounds like summer break will be a welcome relief.

JoAnn said...

I've been on a Korean kick lately. Pachinko is already on my wish list, but maybe it's time to get on the library hold list... sounds wonderful!

bibliophiliac said...

@bermudaonion-I highly recommend Lab Girl. And yes, can't wait for summer!

bibliophiliac said...

@JoAnn-Oh, Pachinko is soooo good. And have you read The Orphan Master's Son? I loved that book as well. Novels are feeding my fascination with Korea....

JoAnn said...

I'm planning to read (or listen to) The Orphan Master's Son soon. Glad to know you loved it!

Judith said...

I simply loved Lab Girl! I'm extremely interested in native plants and trees here in the Adirondacks, so I identified with many of Hope's exploits. I also related to her bipolar way of life and how that can both obstruct and illuminate creative projects. I loved being on the inside of the "science in the lab" experience and all that entails.
By the way, summer is coming... I imagine you may be plotting your reading plans.

bibliophiliac said...

@Judith--I'm glad you loved this book as much as I did. Lab Girl was just enthralling. I loved the way Jahren wove her personal story in with the stories of trees, and I learned so much about how and why trees grow. I also was totally intrigued by the relationship between Jahren and Bill. Her story is fascinating on so many levels.

Summer is everything. I am dreaming of reading what I want, when I want. Thinking about taking on War and Peace finally!