What I’m Reading, December 2016

We got our first real snowfall in Indiana last week, school canceled and everything. December has always been packed, and we have pared down Christmas traditions in our house.   Someday we’ll be able to pick them up again.

Tomorrow my daughter graduates from college.  Eight family members are joining her in California to celebrate.  I’ll take that kind of jam-packed December any time.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for December’s Quick Lit.

(Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase goes to support this site.)

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A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler’s work flows so easily.  I think I read somewhere if the author does the hard work, the reader doesn’t have to.

She takes a multi-generational approach in this book and bounces back and forth between time periods. The plot is intriguingly complex. The characters are likeable.  Okay, the daughters in the family are a little flat.  But, in general, you like the rest of them.

Really, it’s the interpersonal family dynamics that are compelling.  Everyone can relate to them, because everyone knows someone like them.

I would have to say that it wasn’t necessarily a moral book, but it didn’t glorify immorality.  The reactions to it were appropriate.  It would be virtually improbable and implausible to have a four generational book without any straying from the straight and narrow.  That is human nature.  How society responds matters.


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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

It’s hard to say what the book is really about without spoiling the story.  It’s even hard to say who the story is for without spoiling the main plot twist.

All the reviewers do a good job of not spoiling the plot.

“In the end, the book doesn’t just break your heart; it takes your heart and won’t give it back,”  according to one reviewer.

It took awhile to get into this book and about a fourth of the way through it took a wild left turn.  I felt jaded.  This wasn’t where I wanted to go.

It wasn’t really a book that resonated with me at a deep level.  Certainly not a story to invoke my tears.

But, it explored that question “what if?”,  just like Age of Miracles.

I haven’t read the end yet, so I’m not convinced it will be heartbreaking for me.

However, a good story is a good story is a good story.  It doesn’t matter who it’s written for.

When all’s said and done, every great novel is really a mystery, because every great novel keeps you turning pages to find the answers.

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Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

“The true story of one man’s miraculous survival after a mountaineering mishap high in the Andes of South America.”

I’ve been on the prowl for another great family read aloud, along the lines of Endurance and Unbroken.  Even though Touching the Void and Into Thin Air are incredible true life accounts, I didn’t think the writing was of the same caliber as those two.

There’s a lot of climbing terms and concepts that I didn’t understand and it took a while before the story became compelling.  If I hadn’t known what was coming, I’m not sure I would have stuck with it.  The account is a testimony to the human will to survive.  Although it was only given a passing reference, it’s also a testimony to the prayers of Joe’s mother.

It’s fascinating to me to analyze the decisions you make in the face of death.  What motivates you to keep going when it’s hopeless and what motivates you to give up?

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Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

In 1996, eight mountain climbers lost their lives while attempting to summit Everest.  Jon Krakauer is a journalist and climber who survived and wrote about it.

To me, one of the most interesting dynamics is the role of leadership and teamwork in summiting as well as personal, individual responsibility.

One of the critical factors in the deaths of those on the mountain in 1996 was the enforcement of the turn around time.

Hall, the team leader, had been so strict about that for other teams, but with this one, he wasn’t.  He didn’t communicate clearly whether the turn around time was one o clock or  two clock.  On the actual summit day, people were summiting at 4 and 5 o clock.

No one seemed to know that there was a storm blowing in.

There’s a lot of competing forces at play:  people who spent a lot of money to summit, the commercialization of summiting, magazines that would pay a lot for the story, advertisers looking for heroes.

There’s also different teams that were summiting and the different philosophies of the team leaders.

Should a leader be making decisions that are unquestioned?  Does that actually put his team at greater risk because they don’t follow their own wisdom?  Actually, the genius of Hall’s leadership was to make the decisions ahead of time, not in the heat of the moment.  And the actual breakdown came in not following through with those wise decisions.

The safety net wasn’t there when it needed to be.

The bottom line is, it impossible to erase all the risk.  That’s one factor that makes the challenge so attractive:  there is an element of risk involved.  Defying death is part of the victory.

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The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

I was profoundly disappointed by this book, though it is no fault of the author.  I had an expectation of this author’s work that was incorrectly based, as it turns out.  I had an expectation of the book based on the title, which was also incorrectly based.  So, it didn’t go where I had hoped and thought it would.

The story followed one family over the span of 70 or 80 years.  The things I enjoyed about the first Anne Tyler book I read still applied— snapshots over a long period of time involving the same characters.  Your desire to find out what happens to them keeps you turning pages.  Come to think of it, that’s the way Love Warrior was written–leaving out the boring parts.

What are you reading this month?

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