What I Read in January

We’re halfway through February, and I still don’t know quite what I want my monthly reading wrap-ups to be and to do. I love tracking my reading—keeping a record of what books I read, what they made me think about, and what I thought about them. At the same time, the statistical wrap-ups (number of books and pages read, etc.) have made my non-work and research reading more goal-oriented than I want it to be. 

More and more, I’m realizing how important aimless reading is for me. By “aimless” reading, I mean reading for nothing more than the pleasure of getting lost in a story. I read challenging texts all day long for my work and my research, but reading is also a source of after-hours relaxation. It may seem strange that after reading all day, I then read to relax. Or maybe it doesn’t seem strange at all. Chefs cook at their restaurants and perhaps also for their friends. Car repair people work on others’s cars during the workday and maybe also enjoy tinkering off-hours with their own.

For me, words do a lot. They can educate me. They can challenge me. They can frustrate me. And they can carry me away and clear my mind of the day’s clutter. The stats I tracked last year, I now realize, injected into my reading life a sense of competition, if only against myself. This year, I want to dedicate a small portion of my reading to aimless wandering through stories that call to me and see what that yields.

So for now, no stats, no comparisons, just a list of the books I read, what they were about (broadly speaking), and who I would recommend them to.

The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3) by Samantha Shannon

Adult fantasy novel that revolves around a clairvoyant with special abilities who lives in an alternate London where clairvoyance is criminalized.

Recommended for readers who like immersive fantasy, enjoy ground-up world building, including its own language, don’t mind being thrown head-first into a new world, and who are comfortable with a pinch (or heaping tablespoon) of melodrama.

Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Young adult portal fantasy set in Connecticut that revolves around Kane, a gay teen who feels alienated from his peers and tends to run away from his problems.

Recommended for readers who like dream fantasy worlds, lush descriptive language, and character growth and development over plot cohesion.

Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll (Arc of a Scythe trilogy) by Neil Shusterman

Young adult SFF in which a benevolent AI, the Thunderhead, has solved all of the world’s problems except how to find meaning. The story revolves around two young Scythes, a privileged class of people charged with “gleaning” the excess population.

Recommended for readers who enjoy novels that are philosophical, present moral dilemmas, and complex plots with multiple points of view and points of departure.

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Adult literary fiction in which Greek gods Hermes and Apollo grant human intelligence to the titular 15 dogs to determine whether it will make them as unhappy as it seems to make humans.

Recommended for readers who enjoy a wry narrative voice, philosophical novels, and beautiful writing. Also, if you’ve read and love ancient Greek mythology, philosophy, and history, you might love this as much as I did.

Herodotus: A Very Short History by Jennifer Tolbert Roberts

Adult history (obviously) that provides an overview of Herodotus’s themes and topics. 

Recommended for readers who want context for reading Herodotus, a refresher on Herodotus, and/or to know whether they should commit to reading Herodotus in full (yes, if anyone’s asking).

The Poets of Alexandria by Susan A. Stephens

Literary analysis and historical context for four Hellenistic poets associated with Alexandria: Posidippus, Theocritus, Callimachus, and Apollonius of Rhodes.

Recommended for readers who have read any one or all of these poets and want more insight into the how and the why. 

What did you read in January, friends? Anything to recommend?


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