Archives for posts with tag: Reading

I’ve read three books in the last two months at wildly different paces. While the pacing can occasionally be blamed on the authors, it’s mostly my fault. If you don’t feel like reading my rambling let me start by saying you should read all three of these books. They’re good. I promise.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (four days):

wave deraniyagala

Sonali Deraniyagala lost everything in the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004 – her husband, two sons and parents. Her grief is palpable if blessedly unreachable. This book should be read quickly. As quickly as one can stomach this much grief.

Simply flipping through this book one can see the pages are spare, the margins wide. Page layout encourages a quick read. If not for the sheer devastation within, I would have finished this book in a single day.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one week):

life after life - atkinson

I’m a sucker for a historical novel. Set it during WWII and I’m double sold. Atkinson delivers a lovely piece of the past with a bit of a mystical spin. Our protagonist, sweet Ursula Todd, dies over and over until she gets life right. At least I think that’s the moral of the story. I enjoyed the book even though I’m not exactly sure what I was supposed to “learn” from it. Maybe there isn’t a moral. Maybe it’s just a book.

Despite the heft (560pages) the chapters passed quickly for me once I found a rhythm. There is a special kind of satisfaction to eating a book this quickly. That’s kind of why I’m writing this blog. That satisfaction makes me want to brag a bit. It makes me want to big up another 500 page book and finish it over the weekend. (I won’t. This is hubris. But still, it feels good)

White Teeth by Zadie Smith (one month):

white teeth smith

Yes, I just read this. I’m slow. That’s the point of the damn blog. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend it. A book like this gets talked about for a reason. It’s good.

When I reached the end of this novel, I wish I’d read faster. After twisting ever forward, through generations and friendships, Smith swings around at the end to reference the initial sections of the book. I saw it happening. I saw my slow progress coming back to bite me in the ass. While I understood the moment was significant I had no recollection of the initial scene. Damn you procrastination!

Just read. Fast. Slow. It doesn’t make a difference. Reading is fun.


Weather like this can be a hidden blessing. After inching through Elizabeth Strout’s first novel for weeks I finally ate the last hundred pages:


For years I avoided Elizabeth Strout’s work. First passively, I had a long list of things to read after all. I’m busy reader when I want to be. Then, steadily over time, my avoidance became a bit more purposeful. Who cares about the upper Northeast? Why would I read a novel about such a place? Such people? Excuses, excuses.

Really though I was worried about disagreeing with my wife. Now don’t get me wrong. We disagree on normal topics just fine. What toppings belong on a hamburger? What TV show we should watch? Is it important to empty your pockets before putting your jeans in the wash? But something felt different about the possibility of disliking a book.

The book is a nerd’s heart. The author, our hero. I didn’t want to disagree with her hero. I should have known though, she was right. Strout’s simple prose is near perfect: “How unpleasant can it be?” Amy asked unpleasantly.

She kills me!

Moral of the story: Read this book, or this one. You won’t regret a single sentence of Elizabeth Strout’s work.

Also, always trust your wife.

This is a bit embarrassing but I figure I might as well start off the new year with honesty. I, Elizabeth Merritt Abbott, could not finish a book. Specifically, I could not finish this book:


Don’t get me wrong, Bobcat by Rebecca Lee is well written. The sentences are lovely. Lee draws a portrait of the Midwest college campus unlike any I’ve seen before, both loving and critical.

But that’s where the topics and settings stagnate. Each protagonist is either professor or student or administer in a 1980s Midwestern college campus. I spend my week days on these college campuses, I don’t want to spend my reading hours there too.

Putting a book down isn’t as traumatic for me as it once was. I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time with the first 141 page and I feel no longing for final 67 pages. We simply didn’t click, this book and I. That’s ok.

Happy New Year, dear ones.

The sweet Swedish forecaster here in Minneapolis said we wouldn’t break zero today. Even our optimistic, south-facing thermometer agreed. Worry not, dear reader, we planned ahead.

The plan today was to simply not leave the house. Errands all completed yesterday. Weekly meals planned. Walk and driveway shoveled. Car washed. Books and puzzles at the ready. Like a couple of good Midwesterners we were ready for a snow day. Even the poodle doesn’t seem to mind:


This kind of shut in day is my best argument for winter. My best argument for a Midwestern life.

We have no guilt about staying in. This is a rational hermitage. Our only logical choice, really. This is for our safety. Frostbite can occur within a matter of minutes in these conditions (don’t google pictures of that malady, just trust me on this one.)

A life in a milder climate doesn’t allow for such extremism. A day like this would feel like a waste in kinder weather. You should mend that fence or walk the dog a little farther or simply get your lazy ass off the couch. Not me. I’m just gonna sit here.

When it’s 22 degrees next week maybe I’ll wear shorts.

Ok, here I go. No big deal. However, I must confess, I’m a quitter. It’s true. I quit this book, Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness:


There I said it.

My love for Colum McCann only goes so far. He pulled me in with a detailed depiction of life under New York, life digging the Brooklyn Tunnel. Sign me up for some historical trauma and beauty. Then he jumped back to the present (or perhaps the 80s) and I’m lost. Who are these people? Why should I care about them and how are they connected to the past? Sure these answers might have come if I’d stuck around a little longer but I just couldn’t do it.

Maybe it’s Colum’s fault and maybe I’m not making enough time in my life to read. For now I think I’ll just blame Colum. That’s easier.

During my employment-free summer, I had all the time in the world to read. Why yes I’ll read that 600 page tome. My pleasure. I’ll just stack it next to a novella and all will be right with the world. I was casual and carefree. Even my reviews felt low pressure and unreasonably upbeat. I didn’t know then how good I had it. (Ok, maybe I kind of knew.)

Two weeks into my new job and I have read fifty pages. That’s it. A sad Obama ’08 bookmark sticks out of my current novel – just barely past the cover – as a judgment on my new life. My life where reading takes a backseat to eating, staring at the computer, playing with the dog, watching TV, staring at the TV and sleeping.

I want to fix this but I know better than to declare that I will. Not yet. I’m not yet sure how I’ll get back to my dear books. My brain needs them. My imagination misses them. Yet I can’t commit. I keep hoping they will find space in my day. At lunch perhaps. Maybe if I let one come to work with me, if I let it stare at me all day, maybe then I will read instead of trolling the internet when I have a few minutes to kill at the end of the day.


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