October is almost over and I haven't even caught up with book posts from September.
Before assembling the above collage I would have said that I did not read much in September, but as I worked through the 15 books I realized that my sense of "not much" was related more deeply to the relatively light and transitive nature of my reading more than anything else. Two books, by Elizabeth Peters and Debbie Macomber where picked up at McKays primarily as disposable airplane books, and I read both on my flight to Scotland. Neither one came home with me, one abandoned in NY and the other passed on to a friend on the Scotland trip. But truly, book posts are not about such mundane things as how much or how little I read, or how smart or how frivolous and silly my choices are. Book posts are more for me to look back and reflect, and often what I find upon review is different than my first impressions, that value is a very subjective thing, and often surprisingly unrelated to my original ideas of importance or quality.
I have to admit that of the Man Booker nominated books I read in September my favorite was Ali Smith's Autumn, which still occasionally haunts my thoughts. I must also admit that I will not feel sad if I never read another book by Zadie Smith. She can write well, but her characters and her stories confound me, and unlike some authors who can write about people and situations that are completely outside my own assumptions about life, and leave me bereft, unmoored, and often a better person, Zadie Smith's novels do not have that effect, at least not on this reader.
Actually my favorite books were not profound, although a couple of the non-fictions are still nibbling away at the fringes of my mind. Hillbilly Elegy was reread for a class, and it paired nicely with The Sum of Small Things, both reminding me of other books I have read this year. Both books may be slated for an eventual, focused, rereading, along with a couple of other titles, if only to help me clarify my own thoughts. The books that I actually loved were the Louise Penny mysteries, especially Glass Houses, which I wrote about previously, and Still Life as Well. Both novels were picked up at McKay's, our local second hand bookstore, and were fortunate finds. Both novels also, despite being highly entertaining and easy to read, had their own mind bending qualities, sending their own sets of signals down my neural pathways, occasionally to resurface here and there, when least anticipated.
The other book that I enjoyed immensely and have picked up numerous times, not least because I have left it out in the sunroom where it is perfect placed for moments where a little light entertainment is needed, is Alyson Walsh's Know Your Style. It is not so much a how-to manual, and I tend to think those are all far too prescriptive anyway. If you haven't figured out that I both love rules and chafe at them by now, well, here it is. But I find the book charming and inspiring, and just fun. Admittedly I like the drawings as well as the individual views and voices. I purchased the British edition, not being the most patient sort anyway, and I added it on to an order of a few books I wanted to read from the Man-Booker list which were not yet available in the United States. Note that I have not yet read the literary fiction, only the frivolous style book, so it is possible I could have waited for the US publication dates. But one can lost down dark alleys if one spends too much time spent wandering the pathways revealed by the retrospectoscope; glancing acknowledgement of past excesses and mistakes, and a brighter look toward the future seems more promising.
It is raining and growing colder by the hour. This may be the perfect day for a pot of chili, a fire, and a good book, an escapist book. I was just notified by the local library that my turn has finally rolled around for last year's Jack Reacher novel Night School, and I may just curl up and let my mind still for a bit.