What I’ve Been Reading Lately (September 2011)

You know I love to read, but I’m trying not to panic as my tower of books to read grows ever higher!  There are just so many good books to choose from!  Here are my personal favorites from September:

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

I was itching to read the real Jane Austen after reading 33 essays about Jane Austen in last month’s A Truth Universally Acknowledged.  Did you know that nobody can agree on which Jane Austen novel is best?  Scholars are divided on whether it’s Pride and Prejudice, Emma, or Persuasion.  I can relate.  I can’t choose a favorite, either, but I would recommend this poignant tale of love–and regret–to any reader who was the slightest bit inclined to read Austen.  (Right now Amazon has Jane Austen’s complete collection for Kindle including her 6 novels, The Watsons, Love and Friendship, The History of England and lots of other stuff I’ve never heard of available for 99¢.)

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand

I may be a Kentucky girl, but I still wasn’t too excited about a horse story.  But I loved Hillenbrand’s 2010 book Unbrokenand was eager to read more of her writing,and I am so glad I gave Seabiscuit a try.  I couldn’t put it down.  Seabiscuit is an interesting hero:  an ungainly and knobby-kneed thoroughbred, whose running style made observers ask if he was lame.  Seabiscuit became a champion because of the team behind him–his owner, his trainer, and his jockey, and the (true) story Hillenbrand spins around these characters kept me turning the pages into the wee hours.  Whatever Laura Hillenbrand writes next, I’ll read with pleasure.

Wednesday Is Indigo Blue: Discovering the Brain of Synesthesia, by Richard E. Cytowic and David Eagleman, afterword by Dmitri Nabakov

Never heard of synesthesia?  Me either.  But in high school I had a friend who said I was “a lovely shade of blue.”  In fact, he’d assigned a color to everybody he knew, and when he was in a jocular mood, he’d tell us about them.  I thought it was an elaborate game, but when Eagleman made passing references to synesthesia in Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and at his book talk it clicked:  my friend wasn’t playing games.  He was synesthetic.  Synesthetes’ brains are wired to assign colors to sounds, or graphics to numbers, or personalities to days of the week.  This is a pretty science-y book and I did a lot of skimming, but this book allows a fascinating look into a little-explored aspect of the human mind.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall

If you need to break out of a reading rut (and don’t usually read lots of books about long-distance running), McDougall’s account of his quest to answer a simple question (“Why does my foot hurt?) could be a perfect fit.  McDougall opens up the world of ultrarunning for his readers through his tales of ultramarathons, American expats and the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.  Don’t be put off by the lengthy segue about Why Running Shoes Are Bad.  This is a great book.

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions, by Rachel Held Evans

This is a memoir, which begins with the author–who’s not yet 30–saying she may be too young to write a memoir.  I disagree.  Evans’ paradigm is clever:  she grew up (well, mostly) in Dayton, Tennessee, home to the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial.  Dayton was a place where the beliefs of the past were challenged by modernity, but they refused to adapt.  They didn’t evolve.  Evans casts her story of personal growth as a similar struggle.  We’re about the same age and share similar backgrounds, and I resonated with her thoughtfully told story of growing up and into her faith.  (I’m very much looking forward to her upcoming book about her year of Biblical Womanhood.)

What have you been reading lately?

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  1. DFrazzled says:

    I am currently reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I bought it at the airport because it was the longest book for the lowest price, and looked remotely interesting. I am 75% through it now, and while I can sense the plot is ready to climax, I am not itching to turn every page faster and faster like I have with others.

  2. Katarina says:

    You know i had to laugh when i read your post
    I just got a week off of work and what would you know – my reading list just gets bigger and bigger

    Am reading
    1. Life Hacker – The guide to working smarter , faster and better – Adam Pash and Gina Trapani
    2.CS Lewis’s case for Christ by Art Lindsey
    3.The New York Times guide to Mutual Funds – by Carole Gould

    Am no literary giant but of all Janes books i love Pride and Prejudice the most . Emma , Persuasion , sense and sensibilty just dont seem to be able to compete

    I tried reading her earlier works but did not get very far

  3. Hannah says:

    The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie for me…Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder for me and the kiddos…we like the classics!

  4. Audrey says:

    I’ve heard of people associating colors with numbers and things but I never knew it was called synesthesia. It sounds like a fascinating topic. When I was younger I saw different words as being a certain color, is that the same thing? In any case, it seems to be something I’ve grown out of. I always thought it was kind of cool, though, if I do dare say so!

    • Anne says:

      There are tons of different kinds of synesthesia, and that’s one of them. Some people grow out of it, usually around puberty. And it’s definitely cool!

  5. Oh my goodness! I’ve always assigned colors to numbers. I thought it was just an odd little quirk I have. I would love to read Wed. is Indigo Blue!

    Right now I am reading the following:

    Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Makes me want to reread The Tipping Point! He is so interesting.)

    Montainge’s Essays – the 3rd autobiography on Susan Wise Bauer’s list from The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had

    Just finished a quick (one evening) read that was endearing – Mama’s Bank Account, by Kathryn Forbes. It inspired the classic film from the 1940s, “I Remember Mama”.

    I like to mix light reading with heavy stuff. Montaingne’s Essays takes a little more concentration, but I’ve found it to be quite humorous at times.

  6. Amy says:

    Oh, I love Persuasion. That and Sense and Sensibility are probably my favorite Jane Austen books.

    I had kind of a haphazard reading week because I started two books that just did not work for me. Now I’m reading What Women Fear by Angie Smith to go along with the book club at (in)courage. I’m really enjoying it so far.

    • Amy says:

      Another Seabiscuit reader chiming in here. I never thought I’d enjoy a horse book, but I let a librarian talk me into reading this one several years ago, and it really is a fantastic read.

  7. Kate says:

    Persuasion happened to be an arguement at the dinner table the other day. The English literature student saying that she couldn’t get into it, whereas I, the scientist, couldn’t put it down. I forced myself to pace it out a chapter a day, the boyfriend growing irritable waiting for me to put it down so he could sleep.

    This week is ‘Stardust’ by Neil Gaiman.

  8. I’d have to say that “Mansfield Park” is my favorite Austen novel. Although there are times when I just want to smack Fanny and tell her to stand up for herself, there are also a plethora of great and witty quotes to come out of that book (i.e. the title of my blog). Even though I am clearly a fan of Austen, I have always thought that Austen books made much better movies as the books are a bit wordy, but the plots and characters are so wonderful. I like to think that if Jane had been born today, she would have been a very successful screen writer. 🙂

  9. Jessica says:

    Synesthesia is a really neat topic, and actually helpful for composers and musicians if they can SEE the music. If you ever want to learn more about weird brain things, try reading Oliver Sacks. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat” is a classic – easy to read, short stories about different neurological oddities (savants, people who can’t recognize their own arm as theirs, etc….. weird stuff!). If I remember, he’s got some stories about synesthetes, too.

    I just see numbers and letters has having a little personalities attached, but that could just be trauma from “Sesame Street.”

    • Anne says:

      Ha! No, it’s not Sesame Street trauma–it’s synesthesia! Or at least that’s what Eagleman says in his book. I heard him speak at our library this summer, and he talked about how many of the people who are able to memorize pi out to the thousandth digit are greatly aided by their synesthesia–they see each digit as having not only a number, but also a color, temperature, gender and personality!

      You’re not crazy, but I’m definitely jealous 🙂 And I’ll have to look into that book (it was even featured on the back cover of Wednesday is Indigo Blue.)

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