I cannot believe it is already March! February positively flew by and I don’t mean because it’s shorter than your average month. Anyway, we’ve reached the first Sunday in March, which means I’m supposed to tell you what all I read in February. I even finished a few books that had been lingering on my shelves for quite a while. Perhaps some of these titles will make their way to your March TBR.
I am rather proud of how widely I read this month and how many books I finished given that my day job kept me rather insanely busy throughout February. Good fiction that spanned a number of geographical locations and topics. Good craft books. Not much non-fiction though, which is kind of a bummer, but it happens.
Let’s get marching (pun intended!)…
The March Books:
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
I inhaled this one. I finished it in about 2 or 3 days. Actually, I’m pretty sure I had already finished it by the time I was writing last month’s Book Nook. But I couldn’t tell you about it yet because I had to save it for the March edition. This novel spoke to me in a way that I want to be spoken to by a novel. It has a great narrative about the choices that we make in life and where they lead us. And also a good bit about perception versus reality. Plus, it had a great story!
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
I started this book back in August, then set it aside for months. That’s how I roll. I rarely truly DNF a book; I just set it aside and come back to it later. Sometimes much later. I started Moby Dick almost 6 years ago and I have no intention of going back to the beginning.
Anyway, Love and Ruin. This is a novelization about Martha Gellhorn, who was a war correspondent. She covered every major conflict from the Spanish Civil War up to the US invasion of Panama. She had a truly exceptional career. In addition to her journalism, she also wrote some fiction. She was briefly married to Hemingway, but that’s more of a footnote than a headline when you consider all of the amazing things she saw and reported on.
The Best of Me by David Sedaris
I’ve already mentioned this one in my first Book Nook column. I finished! This was a great collection. Sedaris hand-picked the pieces that were included, so it was an interesting insight into his mind.
If It Bleeds by Stephen King
I really like King’s short stories and novellas and I don’t think they get as much attention as they deserve (at least not in comparison to his longer works; Stephen King does not want for attention or publicity). A lot of people don’t realize that The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me were based on two of his novellas. This is a more recent collection and I’ve only read the first piece in it, but it was really good! A really interesting story about a cell phone that might have some powers. Can’t wait to read some more.
On Writing by Stephen King
I dip into this one pretty much once a year. I think most writers have at least perused this one, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. But I love how it’s broken up into sections. The first half, a bit of a writing memoir, that shows how he developed into the writer he is. And the second half is full of information about the craft of writing, written in plain, simple language. I think he does a good job of cutting through all of the flowery BS that exists in a lot of craft books.
Also, for the record, I attended a live virtual event with him last spring and he has backtracked on his 2,000 words a day dictate, so put away your pitchforks.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
This is another craft book that cuts through a lot of the BS. This one focuses on writing non-fiction, which is more my jam than fiction. It has chapters on writing simply, word choice, and usage. It goes on to different types of non-fiction writing: interviews, memoirs, travel writing. And it talks about decisions that writers make that affect the piece. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s definitely calling my name.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
More Nick Hornby. I read this one because of a TV show. I needed to read the novel first so that I can watch the movie so that I can watch the TV show that gives us a female lead. I’m sure I’m not the only “read it before I watch it” person out there in DIY MFA Land. I just have to. This wasn’t my favorite Hornby. But it was interesting how deeply he went into the psyche of his protagonist. So much of the novel was interior.
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
It’s a wonder I’m still talking to my writing group after two of them neglected to tell me about this book for so long. Major writing group foul. I got this one at the tail end of February and dove right in, pen in hand. I’ve underlined so many passages. The early principles that she introduced really changed my writing process. As with all writing books, you have to sift through the advice and keep what works and release what doesn’t, especially when you come across a book that has so much advice in it.
[Editor’s Note: Retraction: As a member of said writing group, I can neither confirm nor deny the fact that I did not tell Lori about the lovely book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. But, in my humble opinion, I believe the real enemies here are Google and every writing teacher she’s ever had. She should probably take it up with them.]
[Operations Maven’s Note: I was at all of the same writers’ group sessions as the columnist and can attest that I never heard mention of this book because I feel we all would have bought it immediately. But I agree with the Editor that search engines are to blame as well.]
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This is a re-read and I’m still reading it. I’m trying to take it slow and notice things about the writing and the storytelling. My edition has a wonderful introduction written by Anna Quindlen in which she says that the book is very difficult to summarize because all of life happens. Smith does a wonderful job of writing about daily life, all of the small moments and details that don’t seem like much on the surface, but add up to an entire existence. This is definitely a top five favorite book for me.
Total Books Read in 2021: 6
Well, that’s all. Come back next month to see what books I read in March. Spoiler alert, I’ve already finished one.
Tell me in the comments below: what have you been reading?
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.