We’re back in the ‘Burgh after spending some time in our hometown of Philadelphia celebrating Christmas with family and friends. I always have grandiose plans for these trips. There are always more people to see than there is time. I tell The Girl that perhaps this will be the year we’ll take that day trip to New York City. Didn’t happen (much to her disappointment, especially when she figured out that the boys of One Direction were there).
Instead, the focus this year was not to plan too much. This was more about recharging and relaxing than anything else. I didn’t want to be over-scheduled or constantly on the go.
Still, our time in Philly went so quickly, as it always does. I managed to finish a few books, which puts my goal of reading 75 books for 2014 within reach if things go according to plan. (I’m currently at 70, which ties last year and is my highest number of books read in a year ever.)
Here’s what I read during Christmas week. Reviews to follow later, probably in 2015.
The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards, Poems by Rachel Mennies
Rachel is among the authors (along with Jeff Oaks and myself) who will be doing a reading at the literary series Acquired Taste: Holiday Recovery on January 10. I’ve had this – her first collection of poems – on my to-read list since she signed it for me at a writing conference in October. These are poems about coming of age in America as a Jewish woman, and how one’s personal history intertwines with one’s present. I gave this as a gift to my sister-in-law, who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas.
Women in Bed: Nine Stories, by Jessica Keener
True confession: I started this collection earlier this year, also while on vacation, but for some reason I set it aside. I picked it up again to read while we drove to Philadelphia. (The drive takes us slightly more than five hours – which includes a quick rest stop lunch – so I was thrilled when I discovered I could read on my Kindle in the car. Reading a print book makes me carsick, but for some reason, the Kindle doesn’t have that effect.)
These are what I would describe as quiet stories; as the title intimates, all involve women in bed in some context or another. They’re not what you might think. They’re much more reflective.
The Chimes, by Charles Dickens
I have a new tradition of spending the quiet hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day night reading a holiday story. Last year was Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, so it seemed fitting that this year should be The Chimes, which apparently was published in 1844 as The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In.
It’s the second of Dickens’ Christmas stories, and this is actually more apropos for this week rather than Christmas. It is more of a New Years story, one with familiar Dickensian themes of taking care of the poor and doing good.
We Live in Water, by Jess Walter
I think Jess Walter is an incredibly talented writer (I loved The Financial Lives of the Poets and Beautiful Ruins) and this short story collection showcases him at his best. He’s a razor-sharp observer of people and situations, and it shows in these fantastic stories.
I needed an audiobook during Christmas vacation for a drive I took one night to meet a friend for dinner. I remembered I had started this but needed to return it to the library before I had finished it, so I downloaded it on my phone. This is going to be one of the last-minute entries on my Best Books Read in 2014 list because this will be getting five stars from me.
(In regards to that, I’ve already tipped my hand a bit with my Best Books I Read That Were Published in 2014 post from several weeks ago – I couldn’t help myself. I plan to have my Best Books Read in 2014 post up very soon after the New Year.)