Books I read in May

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As some of you may know, my husband left for nine days in Ireland and Scotland in May. So in addition to binge-watching two and a half seasons of Orphan Black, I also did a lot of reading. I read at least sixteen books in May. It’s hard to tell on Goodreads, because books I’ve read mysteriously disappear from my “Read” list and I have no idea why. Nonetheless, here are the highlights.

The Last Policeman, Countdown City and World of Trouble, all by Ben H. Winters. I found the first book in this mystery series at Village Lights. They’re published by Quirk Books and the author lives in Indianapolis. He’s also written Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina, so he’s quite versatile. These books ask the question, how would you live your life if you knew the world were going to end in six months? Would you go on doing what you’re doing? Would you start hoarding guns? Would you kill yourself? Leave your wife and go to New Orleans? I love a good mystery and a good apocalyptic novel, so these were kind of perfect.

The Tusk That Did the Damage, by Tania James and The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. I’d heard of Tania James’s novel before I picked it up off the shelf of new books at the library, but not of Shafak’s novel. I put them together because elephants were major characters in both, and this made me think about the need for more animals in my stories. In the James’s novel, the elephant really is a character–we hear his thoughts, his history. It occurred to me, why not? Why not make animals characters? It’s a long and glorious literary tradition, right? Both good reads, especially if you enjoy elephants.

From Doon with Death and The St. Zita Society, both by Ruth Rendell. How did it take me so long to find Ruth Rendell? I love mysteries. I love British mysteries. I can’t say that the first Chief Inspector Wexford book blew me away, but I love her non-Wexford mysteries, like The St. Zita Society and The Minotaur, which really aren’t mysteries at all in the conventional sense. They’re creepy and sometimes gothic and just generally fascinating.

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss and A Little Love Story by Roland Merullo. Almost all the TV I watch is tense and violent. The books I read are less so, but if you’re into mysteries, there’s going to be some death and murder. I told my friend Ellen I was hankering for some quiet books and these are two she recommended. They’re perfect. I could go on and on, singing the praises of quiet books in which nothing really, truly bad is going to happen. Life is like that, too, sometimes. The world doesn’t end. No one gets killed. People fall in love, or don’t. They get over bad things. They build a community. If you know much about the publishing world, it seems like a small miracle every time you hold a book like this in your hands. A hook-less book, so to speak. Nothing gimmicky about it. Someone published this! Someone took a chance on a small and beautiful story. Bless them, bless them! We need more. There’s a lot to learn in the quiet moments, too.

among othersAmong Others by Jo Walton. Another friend passed this book along to me. I’d heard her describe it twice as something she really liked, and her description didn’t sound like anything very good. “This girl’s mother is a witch and something horrible happened and then she goes to boarding school and reads books.” “Okay,” I said. But she was right. I don’t know why this book is good. I don’t know why I read it. There may or may not be magic. There is a lot of reading of science fiction and fantasy. There is a description of pulling a book up over your head to shut out the rest of the world. Who doesn’t remember that? I loved this book. I don’t know why.

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