Friday, January 30, 2015

Best Books of January

Here are the best books I read this month. The summaries come from Goodreads.

Moral Disorder: And Other Stories – Margaret Atwood

Atwood triumphs with these dazzling, personal stories in her first collection since Wilderness Tips. 
In these ten interrelated stories Atwood traces the course of a life and also the lives intertwined with it, while evoking the drama and the humour that colour common experiences — the birth of a baby, divorce and remarriage, old age and death. With settings ranging from Toronto, northern Quebec, and rural Ontario, the stories begin in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. Then the narrative goes back in time to the forties and moves chronologically forward toward the present.

In “The Art of Cooking and Serving,” the twelve-year-old narrator does her best to accommodate the arrival of a baby sister. After she boldly declares her independence, we follow the narrator into young adulthood and then through a complex relationship. In “The Entities,” the story of two women haunted by the past unfolds. The magnificent last two stories reveal the heartbreaking old age of parents but circle back again to childhood, to complete the cycle.

By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, tragic, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, Moral Disorder displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. This is vintage Atwood, writing at the height of her powers.
Review: This collection of linked short stories chronicles the life of a woman named Nell. The stories aren't in chronological order, but they begin with Nell's childhood and continue until she is in her 60s.

I'm a huge fan of Margaret Atwood. She might be my favorite author ever, but I didn't like this book as much as her others. A few of the stories seem very dull. There is a lot of telling and not much doing in some of them. Nothing really happens. I'm not sure if the stories went over my head, or if I'm just used to stories with more action, but I got bored with several of them.

Fortunately, the majority of the stories are great. I loved the ones about Nell as a child and as an older woman who is taking care of her parents. I also loved the ones about the animals on the farm. The title story, "Moral Disorder," is the stand-out for me. It tells the story of how Nell and her almost-husband, Tig, accumulate (and lose) their farm animals. It's the perfect mixture of deep and hilarious. I haven't read a short story that I enjoyed that much in a long time.

I would highly recommend all of Margaret Atwood's books. I think she's one of the best modern writers. Nobody develops characters, writes description, or evokes emotion like she does. Her books are amazing.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairytales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.
Review: This is a quick, cute, fun read. It's only about 100 pages, and the margins are huge, so I got through it very fast. The book is a collection of wizard fairytales from the Harry Potter universe. If you've read Harry Potter, most of the tales and characters will be familiar.

There's not much to say about this book because there's not much to the book. The stories are clever, and I loved Dumbledore's commentary. I especially liked that Dumbledore talked about how the stories changed or were censored over time. That made them more realistic because there are dozens of versions of real-life fairytales. It's interesting that wizard fairytales are the same.

Mostly, these stories made me miss Harry Potter. Now I want to go reread those.

The profits from this book go to a wonderful charity. It's worth buying just for that.

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams

It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the ’40s and ’50s.
Review: It’s my New Year’s resolution to read more plays. I started out with a Shakespeare play, but it reminded me of horrible high school English classes, so I switched to this one.

A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of a mentally unstable woman, Blanche, who is tormented by her brother-in-law, Stanley.

I hate every character in this play. Stanley is a terrible person. Blanche is annoying. Stella refuses to see what is right in front of her. None of them are people who I’d want to know in real life. However, I enjoyed reading about them. I read this play straight through without putting it down because I needed to know what happened next. These awful people are pretty fascinating. It takes a talented author to make me want to read about un-relatable characters. This play is impressive.

My favorite line: “I don’t want realism. I want magic. Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it.”


All The Things = 8 books (The lowest it’s been in years!)

I’m Currently Reading = What is the What? By Dave Eggers


  1. Moral Disorder sounds like a good book. I love how your page is set up. I do book reviews at my website too, but I like yours better. :)

    1. I really liked Moral Disorder, but I really like every book by Margaret Atwood, so that’s not surprising. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!