February Reads in Review

Back in November, I promised to start following my own advice about making time for reading. And I did. Not to brag, but it turns out to have been rather useful advice, actually.

The result has illuminated for me the value of setting an intention. I say this not because of the massive number of books or pages I’ve read but because making time for reading has made my heart feel light. I’ve been reminded once again how comforting it is to hold a world in my hands. I don't mean comfort as escapism but as connection to human experience. Reading reminds me that we are all in this together, whether in this moment or across time and place.

I had such fun breaking down the numbers last month that I’m doing it again.

Number of books read: 14

Number of pages read: 3,846 (calculated by Goodreads)

Number of formats read: 5
Hardcover (5)
Paperback (5)
Ebook (3)
Audiobook (1)

Number of genres read: 5
Middle grade/YA (5)
Ancient literature (2)
Contemporary fiction (5: 1 ancient myth retelling, 2 thrillers, 2 historical fiction)
Memoir (1)
History/scholarship (1)

Full list of books read (in order of reading):

Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co. #1) by Anna Jame (400 pages)

First in a middle grade series about a young girl with the abilities to pull literary characters out of books and to travel into their worlds. Sweet story that brings favorite childhood literary characters—Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess—to life.

Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles (Canongate Myths Series #3) by Jeanette Winterson (151 pages, I listened to the audiobook)

Intriguing blend of fiction and memoir in Winterson’s retelling of Atlas and Heracles myths. The audiobook narrators are excellent.

Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, translated by Phiroze Vasunia (128)

A 2nd century AD ancient Greek pastoral novel that tells the love story of Daphnis (a goatherd) and Chloe (a sheepherder) on the island of Lesbos. Abandoned babies, abduction, mistaken identity, pirates—lots of action in a small space. It's fabulous, especially this translation by Vasunia.

The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (320 pages)

Well-paced thriller by Connecticut author Collins follows Sylvie, a tattoo artist. She returns home 16 years after her older sister’s unsolved murder to care for their terminally ill mother and gets drawn into investigating what happened on the night her sister died. Incorporates the myth of Demeter and Persephone in a clever, thought-provoking way.

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan (336 pages)

Mangan revisits the books of her childhood, delves into the publishing industry and its history, and tells the stories of some of her favorites. A fun read that exploded my to-be-read list (and resulted in my purchasing the next two books on this list).

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (408 pages)

Coming-of-age story of Cassandra, who lives in abject poverty in a crumbling castle in the English countryside with her father (struggling writer), stepmother Topaz (artist’s model), brother Thomas (jaunty school-age chap), and older sister Rose (determined to escape the family, ideally through marriage to a wealthy man). An absolute delight.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (192 pages)

Deeply moving autobiographical novel following Anna and her German-Jewish family as they flee Berlin ahead of the 1933 elections that brought Hitler to power, settling first in Switzerland then Paris and finally England. A beautifully told, immersive story.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti, translated from Italian by Denise Muir (256 pages)

Touching story of going-on-10 Mafalda who is slowly losing her vision due to Stargardt disease. Starts slow but builds tension and emotion.

Searching for Lottie by Susan Ross (176 pages)

Connecticut author Ross’ story of a young girl whose assignment to research her family history leads to surprising discoveries about a relative believed lost in the Holocaust.  

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (337 pages)

Espionage novel set in World War II and post-war London. In 1940, 18-year-old Juliet is recruited into M.I.5, initially transcribing meetings between an M.I.5 operative and his contacts then as a spy herself. A labyrinthine novel that plays with your head, making self-conscious use of the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur and the labyrinth.

The Quest for Classical Greece: Early Modern Travel to the Greek World by Lucy Pollar (304 pages)

Fascinating study of the travel writing of late 17th-century British visitors to the Greek world. Highly recommend for anyone interested in learning more about how and why classical Greece was appropriated by the West.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (368 pages)

Intense, mesmeric psychological thriller about seven Shakespeare students studying drama at a conservatory.

The Poems of Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, and The Shield of Herakles by Hesiod, translated by Barry B. Powell (208 pages)

Three of the earliest ancient Greek works. Theogony is a genealogy of the Greek gods. Works and Days is essentially wisdom literature: advice by Hesiod to his brother Perses, while also narrating the myths of Prometheus and of Pandora. The Shield of Herakles describes the magnificent shield Hephaestus fashioned for Herakles in the context of the encounter between the Greek hero and Kyknos. Hesiod is not one of my favorites, but the poems are interesting for their depiction of the myths.

Hidden in Plain Sight by Karen Batshaw (262 pages)

Love story between two doctors, Anna and Alexander, set in World War II Athens. Alexander’s Orthodox Christian family hides Anna, whose father has sent her away from their Jewish community in Salonica to avoid Nazi persecution. Impressively weaves historical events into Alexander and Anna’s story.

How was your month of reading in February? Any recommendations?

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