On Becca’s Bookshelf // January Edition

Recently Updated259-001 January was a wonderful, wonderful month. I am so thankful for January. It started off at home in Virginia with family, and then we came back to Coronado and really plunged into life here in a new way. I felt like a lot of friendships bloomed in January, and we celebrated Gil’s birthday and our 5th anniversary, and I made some new friends through this and this, and I did a couple cool things on the blog, and Coronado felt like home. Elliott’s schedule was also fairly light, and so we were together a lot as a family, which was especially sweet.

Why am I saying all this? Isn’t this post about books? Is it almost 10pm at night? Am I tired? Is there a glass of wine beside me?


So anyway, January came with some good reads. Well, ok, really just one, but all five were sweet and satisfying at the same time. Also… all fiction! (I’m remedying that in February by reading a massive tome on Hurricane Katrina and getting a seeeerious non-fiction fix.)

Here’s what went down in the reading department in January:

  • Delicious! by Ruth Riechl After Garlic & Sapphires, I became a fan of Ruth Riechl, the former New York Times food critic. Delicious! is her work of fiction and seemed promising, even if I felt very confused by the first chapter… twice. (I couldn’t get into it, returned it to the library, checked it out again a month later, was still confused, pressed forward, eventually finished it.) The story revolves around the closure of a cooking magazine in NYC, and I enjoyed the emphasis on food and writing. There’s an Anne Shirley-ish heroine, a bit of romance, eccentric friendships, hidden libraries, and delicious cheese shops. However, too many aspects of the story felt unbelievable or saccharine. Overall, sweet and relaxing, but maybe too much so? — 3 stars 
  • The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion I loved The Rosie Project, a hilarious first-person account of a socially awkward genetics professor on a quest for true love. The Rosie Effect is its sequel, and I put it on hold the instant it became available at our library. But oh… the disappointment of a reader’s unrequited love. The book was scattered, painfully awkward, and much too long. Better to have left The Rosie Project without a sequel. 2 stars
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin — I heard that this book was good for book lovers, so I picked it up at the library without knowing its premise. The story moves from believable to fantastical and back again, but it’s fun. A.J. Fikry is grumpy bookseller in a small, fictitious town off the coast of Cape Cod, but his dreary life changes abruptly one night when he finds an abandoned baby in his bookstore. Thus begins a journey of hope and restoration that is laced with good book references and nicely intertwined plot development. It’s well-crafted and ultimately satisfying. — 3.5 stars
  • Silver Bay by Jojo Moyes — Another Jojo book! (See my review of one of her previous novels here.) This is another of her earlier works, written before she exploded onto the international book scene with Me Before You and One Plus One. Just like The Ship of Brides, I found this book was too long, but this one is better crafted. The characters are easy to love, and the setting of a fading whale-watching town Australia has nostalgic appeal. The main character, Mike Dormer, is a flashy London developer who is commissioned to set up a beach resort in Silver Bay, but when he actually comes to know the inhabitants of the small town — and especially the salt-crusted Silver Bay Hotel — he begins to realize his work will destroy something fragile and precious in more ways than one. — 3 stars
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — I’ve been meaning and wanting and trying to read this book for years now. Finally I ran out of books to read over Christmas and found this one in my parents’ house. It took me the whole month to read it — slowly, in spoonfuls, savoring and digesting — and I am so glad I stuck with it. People told me, “Nothing happens,” and they were right in some ways, but I found myself more fascinated with the innerworkings of minister John Ames’ struggle to forgive and to say goodbye than I expected. I also found out that Home and Lila, her more recent works, are written from the perspectives of the other two main characters in this story. What a fascinating idea! Have any of you read this or her others? — 4 stars

Of all these books, I’m most interested in what you all thought of Gilead. Have you read it? Do you want to? Did you ever try and set it aside, bored or disillusioned? Or was it the most perfect thing you’ve ever read? Spill the beans, por favor!

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18 Responses to On Becca’s Bookshelf // January Edition

  1. Rachel Amari February 12, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    I just got around to reading Gilead after multiple recommendations and LOVED it. I am looking forward to starting Home once I get through a couple of other books I just got from the library.

    • Becca February 12, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

      I have a huge stack of books from the library right now… a good problem to have, I think!

  2. Jenna February 12, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

    You must read Home! I read Gilead and said “okay. I see why I should like that, but I don’t really feel compelled to pick it up again.” I read Home and *loved* it, but I wouldn’t have liked it as much as I did without the background from Gilead. I haven’t heard Lila yet, but want to.

    • Becca February 12, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

      Wow, this is so good to hear! I think I shall read it. :)

  3. Sarah Stuntz February 12, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    I LOVED Gilead, but I actually think Lila might now be my favorite :) I enjoy stream-of-consciousness narratives though…

    • Becca February 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      I remember your 5-star reviews for these on Goodreads, and I thought of you as I read Gilead. xoxo

  4. Bethany February 13, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    I tried to read Gilead before MR came to speak on campus; I just couldn’t get into it, but I’d like to try again!

    • Becca February 13, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      I felt just like you for so long! I thought once I got into it and the characters’ heads, it was easier to enjoy it. I also thought it was a good exercise in just sticking with something and finishing it, which is not always my strong point with books.

  5. Sarah February 13, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    I tried to read Home recently (on my Kindle via Overdrive library) and gave up :(. Still trying to get used to reading on this darn digital device…but finding I prefer actual pages in my hands and a real sense of accomplishment from turning those pages! I keep hearing wonderful things about Robinson’s books, so maybe when the time is right (whenever that may be) I’ll give Home or Gilead a go. Thanks for your book reviews!

    • Becca February 13, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Maybe this is the sort of book that’s best read in a real book version? I don’t know… it seems like MR would like that. ;) But I feel your pain! And I definitely agree with you about the sense of accomplishment of turning pages. :)

  6. Esther February 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    Gilead has been on my “to-read” shelf for quite some time. Maybe I will get to it sooner, now? Are you planning to read the second or third books in the series?

    • Becca February 21, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

      I’d like to! I’ve heard “Lila” especially is wonderful, and I fell in love with that character in “Gilead” so I’d like to read the story from her perspective.

  7. Karen February 18, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    I just requested Gilead at the library. I’m very curious to read it after reading all the comments. I also just got Cuckoo’s Calling and Five Days at Memorial. Should be set for a couple weeks!

    • Becca February 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

      I’m so curious to know what you think of all of those, Karen! I am stuck in Five Days at Memorial right now… need to get back into it and get unstuck. It’s very dense, detailed, and sad, and I also didn’t watch the news during that time (no TV) so I have very few mental images to pin all these events on. I think photos would help!

  8. Heather February 21, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    I loved Gilead, and I think it came at a perfect time in my life. But I can see how it might be a bit slow-paced for some. It reminds me of Wendell Berry’s books. I just read Lila and loved it. And I’m rereading Housekeeping and discovering that it is much different than I thought the first time I read it. I think Lila might be my favorite, but I haven’t read Gilead or Home in a long time. I read this article on Marilynne Robinson, and it made me appreciate her even more: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/november/marilynne-robinson-calvinist-on-bestseller-list.html

    I’ve loved your book recommendations!

    • Becca February 21, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

      I also love Wendell Berry’s books, and you are right — they do have a similar style! Thanks for your thoughts and linking to that fascinating article. What an amazing woman!

  9. photogjenn March 5, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    I’ve never heard of Silver Bay! Need to look it up.

    I read Gilead a couple months ago. Loved the language and some of the thoughts. But, too true, NOTHING HAPPENED! It was driving me nuts. Maybe reading a bit at a time is the key to enjoying it.

    • Becca March 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

      Yes, or stage of life! I am convinced stage of life has a lot to do with enjoying certain books, and it seems like Robinson’s writing especially needs a season of thoughtfulness or savoring or thinking to really enjoy it.

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