After my last Book Nook column was a smashing success, the Powers that Be at DIY MFA saw it in their infinite wisdom to make this a monthly column! Henceforth, on the first Sunday of every month, you will see an update of all the bookish goodness I’ve been indulging in over the past month. Aren’t you lucky! (And aren’t I lucky for not getting fired?) Though if you thought I was pushing the deadline last month, wait till you hear how close to the deadline I was for February!
Today’s column covers all of the books I read in January. Admittedly, in some ways, it was kind of a slow month. I only finished one book, but I read chunks of several. Looking back, I really can’t identify what kept me from spending more time reading, but oh well! Here’s to a better February!
The February Books:
The Recovering by Leslie Jamison
I began January wanting to participate in Dry January. This lasted until domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol on the 6th. Those of us participating in Dry January voted and decided we deserved a 1 day reprieve. But for me, that 1 day reprieve was important. It showed me that drinking a glass of wine after work each day didn’t have to be a mindless habit, like shoveling in handful after handful of potato chips.
Get to the book, Lori!
Anyway, Jamison writes this amazing firsthand account of her struggles with addiction and alcoholism and weaves in a lot of great research about artists of all stripes who similarly struggled with various vices and addictions. Even if you or a loved one are not struggling with addiction, this is a fantastic psychological study. What I’ve read of it has been very enjoyable and very well-written. Can’t wait to keep going.
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
I have this one only on my Kindle. And I try to save books that I have only on my Kindle for reading in bed. The main problem with this is that Imaginary Friend is such a fabulously spooky page-turner that I don’t read a few pages and fall back asleep. I wind up reading for a couple of hours in the middle of the night instead of trying to go back to sleep. It has a great Stephen King-y vibe. Pretty soon I think I will decide that sleep is less important than getting to the bottom of this tale.
Just Like You by Nick Hornby
Fitting for February, but I love Nick Hornby. Fun fact: his book column inspired this column. His fiction is so much fun and does a great job of punching me in the gut with thoughts and feels. But I actually don’t mind because the writing is so good. This is his latest book and I bought it in the middle of the night one night along with another of his books (which turned out to be a dark horse that turned into a favorite, but more on that later). Hornby does a great job of getting inside his characters’ heads without it being overdone. If I ever go on another book-buying ban (and I really should) he would be on my list of exceptions.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
A while ago, I bought an autographed copy of Patchett’s latest novel, The Dutch House. In my order, I noted that I was feeling a bit discouraged as a writer and she sent me an autographed copy of this book as a bonus, with a note to read a particular essay. I’ve devoured this collection of essays before, but was feeling discouraged again, so I began devouring it again. Her topics in this collection run the gamut from writing to her dog to reviewing the RV life to her friend, poet Lucy Grealy. It’s a fun read and great to dive in for quick sips of wonderful writing.
The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick
If you know me very well, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how I want to be an essayist. There’s just something about the elasticity of the form. I read the first half of this very instructive little tome, which covers essays. I have not yet read the second half, which covers memoirs, but I really probably should because in a lot of ways the two go hand in hand. I think it even has some exercises at the back.
Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara
I bought this one on my Kindle and highlighted so many things in the first 40 pages that I decided I needed to buy the print version. If you are at all interested in writing essays, this book will be super helpful. It walks you through mechanics. It talks about different kinds of essays, including humor essays. It has examples. It has exercises. It’s written in a really conversational and digestible way. You won’t be sorry.
Everybody Behaves Badly by Lesley M. M. Blume
I’ve been a huge fan of Blume since Let’s Bring Back came out in 2010. Our interests align in so many ways, including a deep appreciation for Ernest Hemingway. I wish this book had been out when I wrote my thesis, which had a chapter on Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises. This book is exquisitely researched and so well-written that it would be easy to forget that you were reading non-fiction and not some gossipy tale. I need to go back and read the footnotes because that’s totally where the author puts in all of the cool stuff that they couldn’t justify adding to the regular text. (The footnotes of my thesis are where I put all of the quotes with profanity) This book really reignited my love and appreciation of Hemingway’s work, which as you will find out in a future column, has proven very useful!
I’m thrilled that my local indie is hosting an event with Blume in March, where she will be discussing her newest book, Fallout, which is about the attempted suppression of free press after the atomic bombs.
Total Books Read 2021: 2
Though I didn’t finish a lot of books in January, it was truly a month of riches in terms of literary consumption. I can’t wait to keep going in February. I’ve already got some goodies to rave about in my next column!
Tell me in the comments below what you’ve been reading lately this February!
Lori Walker is the Operations Maven at DIY MFA. Though she’s fallen off the wagon as a writer, she’s hoping to return to writing essays (perhaps even a novel!) through her involvement with DIY MFA. She is also Launch Manager and Podcast Producer for DIY MFA and a Book Coach. She resides in Smalltown, Oklahoma, with her husband and their cat, Joan Didion. You can follow her on Instagram at @LoriTheWriter.