Oops I Only Read 3 Books Last Month: February

I’d blame the shorter month on my slow reading progress in February, but I know I fell behind because of book #7, the first book I finished last month. Quality over quantity, though; while the book was dense and time-consuming, it was really, really great. I’m now 7 or 8 books behind schedule, but I’m good at playing catchup. Keep reading for a (brief) recap of my February in books.

Book #7: DARK MONEY by Jane Mayer

This was the monster book that took up the majority of my February. Jane Mayer is an investigative reporter for The New Yorker who also wrote The Dark Side and Strange Justice. The Dark Money seed was planted after Mayer’s 2010 New Yorker piece, which reported on the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, their Tea Party connections, and the expensive war they waged against Obama. This book was dense and extremely absorbing. Mayer began with the Koch brother’s foray into politics in the 1970s, touching on their family history and digging into exactly where their wealth came from in the first place. She skillfully weaves this family narrative into extreme tea party policies and the movement of both of these from the fringes of politics into the mainstream. I knew about the influence of big money on politics, obviously, lobbyists and Super PAC controversies, but this book laid it all out there in a pretty terrifying way. Mayer clearly shows how this shift in the wealthy influencing elections and policies happened in almost the blink of an eye in terms of relative history. It was scary and eye-opening and made me want to listen to Bernie Sanders speeches for hours, but it’s also an important book. I think Jane Mayer is brave and must have needed extreme resilience to write it and deal with the repercussions that a book like this undoubtedly had. I highly recommend that everyone read it.

Book #8: THE WAVES by Virginia Woolf

My first Virginia Woolf! I think I tried reading A Room of One’s Own a few years ago but didn’t make it past the first page. I felt more prepared for this one; it took me a bit to get into and it definitely wasn’t a book to be consumed in short bursts, but I loved it. The Waves is essentially about a group of six childhood friends who grow up together, experience life and love and loss together, and who die alone but kind of together. Uplifting! The entire story is told through dialogue that isn’t being spoken aloud. Every page is filled with long and short quotes from each of the characters, but instead of speaking to each other, their quotes are describing their thoughts, external actions, how they seem themselves in the context of their friend group and the world, etc. It fell somewhere between stream of consciousness and a screenplay almost, but where the stage directions are also part of the dialogue. That’s the main reason I wasn’t able to read this in short bursts. I needed to be able to commit a chunk of time to reading this, because I had to get used to that style and I was missing too much if I continuously had to become re-accustomed to it. The book was beautiful though, and poetic and filled with really quotable passages. Woolf’s writing was poetic and absorbing once I got used to it. I’m eager to read more from her, and may take another stab at A Room of One’s Own.

Book #9: THE BOOK OF SPECULATION by Erika Swyler

I closed out February with a dual narrative historical fiction novel and it was magical. The Book of Speculation follows the present-day story of siblings – Simon and Enola Watson – who are the children of a circus performer mom who committed suicide when they were children and a dad who died of heartbreak not long after. Amid the approaching anniversary of his mother’s death, Simon receives a mysterious antique book from a stranger in Iowa (!). He quickly becomes absorbed by this book, which inexplicably contains his grandmother’s name, and he soon realizes that it belonged to a circus owner from centuries before. He begins to notice a macabre pattern in the method and date of the deaths of a long line of women, stretching back before this circus troupe and reach his mother. Between Simon’s revelations, we get the story of this traveling circus troupe who owned this book. I enjoyed this read immensely. There are magical elements (tarot cards and a curse!) along with very real scenarios that touch on the nuances of family, loyalty, and love. I’m impressed by Swyler and her debut novel, and hope she keeps writing beautiful and absorbing books.

So that’s my sad showing for this past month. I’m hoping to be back in 30 days with a post that is 4 times as long as this one. ◊

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