Recent Reads

Friday 22 February 2013

I've been reading a lot lately - perhaps it's the cold and darkness of winter encouraging me to curl up with a good book.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
-This book was chosen as the Book Club read for January and although I missed the actual meeting, I did read the book.  Based on the true stories of a young midwife in post-WWII London, Call the Midwife tells the tales of women, families & life in the East End of the city, notorious as a very poor community.  While I found myself a little squeamish at the beginning of the novel, I ended up really enjoying it.  Afterwards I felt inspired to download the TV show but as I watched the first episode, I decided I needed to wait.  The show really sways from the plot of the book and it was just too difficult to watch and enjoy after having just finished reading.  I'll give it a try again later.

A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous
-This book was lent to me by a friend after having heard how interested I was in Berlin and the stories of WWII.  The novel itself is actually a journal of a young woman who resided in Berlin throughout the entire period but specifically chronicles the end of the war and the taking of Berlin by the Russians.  This was something I knew very little about and it presented an often un-talked about aspect of the war.  As heart wrenching as it was, I am so glad to have read this book and occasionally think of the anonymous author and wonder how she faired in post-war Germany.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
-I actually can't believe I hadn't read this book before but as Joe and I talked of seeing the film, I knew I had to read the novel first.  I knew the author was Canadian but had no idea he resides in Saskatoon, a mere 2 hours from my hometown.  There were parts of this book I really liked and parts that I struggled with but I'm happy to have finished it.  Joe is currently reading it, and loving it, so I can't wait until we can chat about it - and then see the movie which I hear is visually stunning!

Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti
-I can't remember where I heard about this book but I had it sitting on my Kindle for ages before I finally got around to it.  It takes a sociological look at having children, the pressure placed on women (specifically in the US) to be mothers and it challenges many lines of thinking regarding parenthood that have developed over the decades in society.  I found this read fascinating but I often am fascinated looking at society and why we think the way we do.  I know the book has angered some people and I'm certain that some may find it negative or get defensive as it challenges such popular ways of thinking but I found it refreshing and realistic.  Contrary to what the title may suggest, I didn't find it to sway my own personal thoughts on having children to either side but it gave me a lot to ponder.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
-Taking place in Paris at an apartment building of upperclass families, this novel centres around a precocious young girl who has decided to end her life in a spectacular fashion on her thirteenth birthday and the concierge who is an unsuspected brilliant woman often overlooked by the bourgeois families residing in the building.  I won't lie - there were times where I really struggled with this book.  It took me quite awhile to get attached to the characters but when I did, I fell in love with their stories.  It was worth sticking out.

Currently Reading...

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
-This was chosen as the Book Club read for February and I've been meaning to read it anyways.  Thus far, I'm intrigued by this Mr Jay Gatsby and his lavish but secretive lifestyle.  I'm quite looking forward to the film out later this year - directed by Baz Luhrman, the director of Romeo & Juliet and starring Leonardo DiCaprio- I'm hoping it lives up to the expectations.

Next up...

Thanks to my last post about reading, my to-read shelf is massive!  Currently on my amazon wishlist:

The Round House by Louise Eldrich
All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
From Beirut to Jereusalem by Thomas L. Friedman
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
The Perks of Being a Wallflower  by Stephen Chbosky
Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

What have you been reading?


  1. Oh I LOVED the Great Gatsby. We had to read it in high school and the story, the period and the characters are fascinating. Enjoy!

  2. Oh, and if you like WWII stories, you should read Ken Follett's Fall of Giants and Winter of the World. Excellent sweeping dramas about WWI and WWII following interlinked characters from Germany, the UK, US and Russia. I'm halfway through Winter of the World and I love it.

    1. Thank you Jess! I will definitely add them to my list.

      I also really liked "In the Garden of the Beasts" about the American ambassador in Berlin as Hitler came to power. Very, very interesting look at a few of the behind-the-scenes things.

  3. What a coincidence - I'm also reading The Great Gatsby right now!! In the US, we all had to read it in high school, but of course we always hated the books our schools made us read. This time I'm reading it and actually enjoying it, I'm on chapter 3. You should use GoodReads - it keeps track of your books and give you recommendations on other books you would like!

    1. I do have GoodReads and usually keep it updated :)

  4. Oh, great post Jay. I have just been given a great long list of 'to reads" by a girlfriend, and its such a thrill to have a list. I find the kindle store just overwhelming, so its great to have recommendations. I loved the Great Gatsby 20 years ago and when I re-read it last year too, and can't wait for the film. Life of Pi is intruiging (and my 11 year old loved it too, we are hanging out to find a bootleg copy here!). I can so recommend The Unbearable Lightness of Being - I read it in my early 20s and it seriously changed the way I look at life. I've just started P.D. James' 'sequel to Pride and Prejudice' "Death at Pemberley", it is wonderful, even though I am not a crime fiction fan (PD James is a crime writer but she has done a marvellous job). I've read quite a historical, African based books this year. Cambridge was the best: telling the African Slave Trade story from the perspective of a White slave owners daughter and from the perspective of Cambridge, a slave. And from the expat viewpoint, Somerset Maugham's Selected Short stories should be compulsory reading for anyone considering an expat life, particularly in developing countries (despite being written in the 1920s-1940s; the characters and their experiences hold such resonance still). Thanks for your suggestions too. Call the Midwife and The elegance of the Hedgehog are now definitely on the list.

  5. Have to say, I love your opinions. Have a few of the ones listed up there on my bookshelf and will make sure I stick with them when they get too difficult!

  6. I am currently reading Life of Pi! It is so good, so far! I cant wait to finish it :)

  7. Funny, my husband just finished "A woman in berlin" and told me I should read it. I'm not sure, it seems so sad. I don't do well with those kinds of things, but perhaps I'll have to be brave. And, I LOVE the great gatsby. Such a beautiful written book.

  8. Ooh, and I forgot to say, I'm also a Canadian, and I live in South Africa!

    1. Always love finding fellow Canadians abroad!

      Nice to 'meet' you!

  9. I didn't like The Great Gatsby very much, but I'll save the reasoning behind that for once you're finished :] A Woman in Berlin sounds really good! I'll have to check that one out.

  10. I read A Woman in Berlin a month or so ago and finished Life of Pi last week -- both are amazing! Living in Berlin, I couldn't help but imagine today's city when reading Eine Frau in Berlin. The topic is still one that isn't so widely discussed, especially among those women who lived through it, but it's an important part of German history and I'm glad that the author gave testament to it.

  11. I just finished A Woman in Berlin not too long ago -- what an amazing story! Living in Berlin, I kept imagining the Berlin of her day and comparing it to the city I know. It's still a topic that isn't widely discussed in Germany, especially among the women who lived through it, yet it touched so many. I'm so glad that the author gave testament to it through her journal.

    1. Me too, Mandi.

      I read somewhere that the novel wasn't very well received when it was first published in Germany so the author didn't want it re-published until after she had passed. I hope she didn't regret her decision to chronicle it!

  12. I had no idea that Call the Midwife was a book! I started watching it when I was in the UK last year and was hooked, though I stopped watching it when I could no longer stream it (due to being back in Japan). Might have to pick this one up.

  13. Thanks for all of the new books to add to my list! I love WWII stories. Some favorites: City of Thieves, Sarah's Key, The Invisible Bridge, The Book Thief.

    The Round House is next on my to-read list. I'm a little sad I missed a city-wide book club discussion in a bar on it (With the author making an appearance), but it sounds like it's definitely still worth a read anyway!


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