Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quick Lit • December 2015

(from Book Character Day at their homeschool academy)

This time of year, the evenings and weekends always seem so busy with holiday parties, the kids' performances, Christmas family gatherings, and (in my case) end-of-year accounting duties.

These activities, while (mostly) fun, seriously cut into my prime reading hours.

I was a little chagrined when I realized I only read three books in the past four weeks (a clear sign that my priorities are out of whack), but we are carefully setting aside some staycation time between Christmas and New Year's, and I am actively putting together a stack of books along with some good teas and snacks.

Today I am linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share short, snippet-like reviews of the books I have read over the past month.

Big Magic is a joyous celebration of creative living.  While it isn't exactly a roadmap for becoming creative, it is an informal invitation to jump headfirst into a life that is more open to artistic expression.  Through delightful anecdotes and an irreverent view of Important Art, Gilbert essentially invokes the reader to just get to it.  The book is entertaining and imminently readable, and ultimately inspiring.  My favorite takeaways from the whole thing are the ideas that we should take our creativity less seriously, work more diligently, and simply follow our curiosity.  Because it is presented in one-to-three page vignettes, I think Big Magic would make for delicious daily devotional reading.

Black Chalk was very nearly un-put-down-able.  The novel is described as a psychological thriller, but it isn't of the heart-racing variety one might expect by the use of the word 'thriller.' The author is a puzzle editor, and that shines through so well in both the expert pacing of the action and the slow and steady way in which secrets are revealed.  It takes place on campus at Oxford, and the tightly-drawn characters are both highly intelligent and a little dark-humored (think The Secret History, but not in a derivative sense).  Excellent debut novel.

What a luminous, phenomenal, rich work of narrative art.  Rare is the contemporary novel that reads like an epic tale, but this one seems destined to become a beloved classic.  Peace Like a River is narrated by an eleven year old sickly child who travels with his highly-literate little sister and his God-fearing gloriously-drawn father to the Badlands of North Dakota in search of his fugitive teenaged brother.  The story is laid out with such restraint that the reader scarcely notices the suspense and the slowly-building tension.  It reads almost like a literary Western, though that description does it little justice, and ends with some of the best-crafted sentences I have had the pleasure of reading.  Highly recommend.

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Anne said...

What a great list. You totally reminded me of another thing I appreciated about Big Magic: the way she talks about Important Art and all the pretension that can go along with it. I'd not heard of Black Chalk, but I read Peace Like a River last December! I finished it on Christmas Eve, which was appropriate I thought. I agree: that ending was wonderful.

Sarah Beam said...

Pretension can be such a barrier in art, cant it? That kind of thing always makes my brain shut down.

laurali99 said...

I couldn't have described Peace Like a River better! One of my favorites