Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 13-18

13) Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels by Rick Steves.

More preparation for the 2015 European trip. Though we'll likely fly into London, then take the Chunnel over to Brussels in time for the Waterloo bicentennial, if the airfares are better we may go in through Amsterdam instead. Either way, this will very much be the military history part of the trip, since in addition to Waterloo we'd like to visit Flanders Fields.

14) Lysistrata, by Aristophanes.

I picked this Dover Thrift Edition up years ago, but only just now got around to reading it. I knew broadly what it was about--the women of Greece going on a sex strike to force an end to the Peloponnesian War--but I was surprised how laugh-out-loud funny it is nearly 2500 years later. (It helps that I've read enough on 5th-century BCE Greece to have a decent grasp on the cultural context.) The best comparison I can come up with is that it felt like I was reading the Daily Show or Colbert Report of ancient Athens.

15) A Summer Affair, by Susan Wiggs.

An enjoyable historical romance with a rather unusual setting--San Francisco in the late 19th century. A doctor who blames himself for the tragic death of his young wife a decade earlier and hasn't found a way to move on finds his life upended when he treats a self-described "lady adventurer" for a gunshot wound received in an incident she refuses to discuss.

16) Rita Book #4: This one got off to a bumpy start, and I never would've stuck with it past the first chapter if I hadn't been obliged to finish it because of my judging responsibilities. But around about p. 60 the story hooked me. Some might say the moral is that I should stop giving up on books a few pages in if I don't like the writing or characters, but in my experience this book is an exception, and books that start out dull, badly written, or otherwise problematic stay that way.

17) In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden.

This book is my February re-read, of a book I initially read back in the mid-90's. I found it through the Hypatia recommender on Alexandria Digital Literature, a site I believe is now defunct, but that led me to several favorites--this book in particular, but also Dorothy Sayers, Lindsey Davis, and Diana Gabaldon. It also kept insisting I needed to read the Vorkosigan Saga, but I ignored it because I wasn't a science fiction reader. It took me over ten years to give in, but ever since I've been an evangelist for the series. (Have YOU met Miles Vorkosigan and accepted him as your personal Vor-lord and savior yet?)

But I digress. When I first read this book, I didn't expect to be hooked by a story about Benedictine nuns. I'm not Catholic, and at the time I'd never even met anyone in a religious order. (That's since changed due to my stint as office manager for the Spiritual Care department in one of the Seattle hospitals, since some of our chaplain trainees were nuns.) But I was drawn in by the vivid portrayals of the characters. I've always enjoyed stories about communities, whether they be towns, ships' crews, extended families, or whatever, and you can't get a much more focused community than a monastery of enclosed nuns. And it's that sense of community--of revisiting well-known friends--that makes the book so re-readable for me.

18) Rita Book #5: Average.

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