reading into joy

March Reading Recap

I insist upon March being spring because I was born on March 17th and refuse to believe I’m a winter baby.

Even though, technically, I am.

Nevertheless, this March did bring with it more sunshine and warmer weather, a relief after so much snow in February. It also brought more reading time, which means I’ve got a few books to review for this month’s Reading Recap!

(*Full disclosure: The book links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you, should you choose to purchase.)

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Format: Hardcover

Why I Read It: Does one need a reason to read Helen Macdonald? She is one of my literary heroes and I’ve read H is For Hawk four times to date (twice on audio and twice in print, if you care to know). I took my time getting to Vesper Flights because I really liked knowing there was new work out there waiting for me.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous approaching this one. H is for Hawk means so much to me, and I worried that an essay collection wouldn’t be as powerful following such a magnificent memoir.

It took a little getting used to the starts and stops, as many of the essays are quite short on the printed page, around 3 pages total being the average. But each of them are full of the sharp, beautiful observations of nature and human beings that make Helen Macdonald such a phenomenal writer.

In particular, I found solace and comfort from the essay “Symptomatic,” which makes a brief appearance in an essay about my chronic pain disorder, which was kindly published by Invisible Illness earlier this month.

I adored this collection of essays and highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is a human being in the world.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Format: E-book

Why I Read It: This was my choice for the “read a book with a cover you don’t like” part of the Read Harder challenge

I will fully admit that, though the cover and synopsis should’ve clued me in, I did not realize this book is categorized as “horror.” Since seeing Stay Alive and failing to successfully sleep for, oh, about a year afterwards, I have a pretty strict “no horror, thanks” policy.

This was a very bizarre book. I can’t say exactly how bizarre, since I’m not particularly familiar with the horror genre, but I, for one, was fascinated by the universe Szabo weaves throughout this story. They manage to create a universe in which the strangeness is simply a part of the world and the lives of the characters.

I don’t know if I enjoyed this reading experience, precisely, but it certainly held a gripping amount of mystery that kept me going. Not all my questions got answered, but I felt overall satisfied with how things wrapped up regardless. If you’re into horror, I’d be incredibly curious to hear how this one fits in with others in the genre!

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Format: Audiobook

Why I Read It: It’s been on so many lists, I got curious and had to see what all the fuss was about

Reader, I am not the target audience for this book. I did not realize this until I began listening to the audiobook and found the narrative tone to be… grating. It struck me as a bit overly self-assured and confident, which of course is the entire point. Later in the book, Glennon grapples with the ways in which women are socialized to be uncomfortable in the presence of other confident women, and I’m betting that’s a lot of what was at play in my reaction.

That, and I am not a mother nor do I want to be. Nor have I ever been Christian. For some reason these details about Glennon’s background and focus got a bit buried in the hype, and I was surprised to encounter so much of them.

I stuck it out, because while the tone and subject matter weren’t entirely my cup of tea, I was interested in some of the points Glennon made, and in her story. Can’t say I personally recommend it unless you know you’re a fan of her work already, but maybe head away from the audio if you’re prone to be irritated by tone.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Format: Hardcover (Book of the Month edition)

Why I Read It: March pick from Book of the Month, selected mostly because of the gorgeous cover

I loved this book! When I picked it, I wasn’t sure I would, because generally speaking poisons aren’t my jam. But apparently I’m a sucker for alternating perspectives across time these days (who knew?).

The way that Penner alternates between the historical and modern day storylines is a masterclass in writing, honestly. She doles out just enough detail to make the stories speak to one another, with discoveries in the modern day perfectly timed to speak to the unfolding of the story in the past.

This book broke me out of my reading slump for good. I absolutely devoured it and highly, highly recommend you check it out.

Falcon by Helen Macdonald

Format: Audiobook

Why I Read It: I wasn’t ready to leave the Helen Macdonald sphere after Vesper Flights

Pretty much what I expected here. It is a relatively short audiobook and it is Helen Macdonald talking about the history and science of falcons. I liked it very much as someone who is obsessed with both birds of prey and Helen Macdonald.

Either of those your jam? Go forth, readers.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Format: Audiobook

Why I Read It: Came across it on a list of books writers should read, saw it in an Instagram post, then heard someone recommend doing Gilbert’s books on audio. Hello, way to use my last stockpiled LibroFm credit!

Want to know my dirty secret? I’ve never actually read Eat, Pray, Love. I bought it with every intention of doing so, and yet on my shelf it sits, and so I still tend to picture Julia Roberts when envisioning Elizabeth Gilbert.

This book broke me out of that one a bit. It’s narrated by the author, and is a nice reaffirmation of what it means to live a creative life. I ended up buying a print copy so I can go back and mark off the quotes and statements that resonated with me, for reminders when I’m feeling utterly like a failure of a writer.

I will say, I felt myself being a bit annoyed at “I just kept writing and had no idea if any of it would ever work out” as advice when the writer is… well, the writer wrote Eat, Pray, Love. Easy to say you’re not attached to the outcome when you’ve already had a pretty good outcome, eh?

Nevertheless, a worthwhile read for the creative types of the world.

Final Thoughts

Whew! What a productive reading month it’s been!

Next up for me is finishing Josie Silver’s The Two Lives of Lydia Bird and deciding on my next nonfiction audio read… would definitely welcome recommendations!

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