Three and a half weeks into March, February feels a bit like it was part of a different life, doesn’t it? I mean, it feels that way because it was, in terms of restrictions on our movement. Truth is, though, quarantine has not significantly altered my day-to-day realty. Officially, I don’t have an office to report to; I’ve “worked from home” for years. Every once in a while, that might mean taking my laptop to a local coffee shop or library, but usually, I wake up, read a bit, drink lots of iced espresso, write a bit; at some point I will eat, spend time with my family, send some emails, scroll Instagram. And there’s my average day.
Except for the months that I travel. February happened to be one of those months. Just before the crisis, I traveled to London to see the British Museum’s Troy exhibit, then Athens, then back to London to catch an evening connecting flight to New York. For that flight, they boarded us six hours late then marched us right back off; the flight was cancelled. They put us up in a Heathrow Airport hotel, but I made it out the next day.
I wasn’t fussed. I love traveling. I don’t just mean the part about seeing new places and people and artifacts. I love everything about the experience of being in transit, of being between here and there. I love packing, trying to anticipate what I will need and what I won’t, though it’s nerve-wracking. I love airports, including waiting in them, reading in them, walking through them. My favorite is buying books in airport bookstores. I love rides to and from the airport. I love hurtling through space, at 30,000 feet, going 500 or so miles per hour, in a tin cylinder, though it terrifies me a bit. I love following our progress on the screen that shows where our little plane is in space. The only part I don’t like is when I go home again and have to unpack my suitcase. So deflating.
I suppose I’m telling you this because I want you to know in what context I read the books listed below. They’re the books I read while I was anticipating my trip (the first week of February), the books I read while I was between here and there, and the book I read when I returned and was already missing the place where I was not (the last few days of February). It’s strange to be writing about my love of travel when even running errands feels loaded with significance and travel to Europe and the UK is suspended. But that is part of the context too. And I want to remember that transitions can be scary. They can be heart-breaking. They are also inevitable. We get to choose how to confront them, what to make them mean, how to move through them with grace and compassion.
What I read in February:
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
A middle grade novel about a young boy who is grieving and searching for warmth. You don’t need to know more than that. Just pick up the book and start reading. DiCamillo’s words will wrap themselves around you’re heart, if you are receptive.
Recommended for readers who want to feel highly concentrated love and compassion through simple but powerful words.
Oasis by Katy de Becerra
Young adult SFF about Alif and her friends who travel to UAE to work on her father’s archaeological sit, get caught in a sandstorm, and trapped in a sentient, malevolent oasis.
Recommended for readers who like dark and creepy mood stories and don’t need plot and character to be consistent.
The Next Together (The Next Together #1) by Lauren James
This was my NY-to-London read, a YA romance about Katherine and Matthew. Time keeps bringing them together, but why?
Recommended for readers who enjoy time travel, history, and mystery as concepts and don’t mind repetition.
The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu
Archaic Greek epic about rage and grief, fate and choice, the desire for glory and acceptance of human suffering, and the importance of honoring the gods.
Recommended for everyone. I do think anyone can benefit from reading this poem at least once, if only because it shows us who we are, as humans.
The Greek Gods: A Day in Greece by Athina Bali
Four individual stories about Greek gods and goddesses in which they learn lessons about generosity and sharing, caring for the environment, table manners, and hospitality.
Recommended for young readers who want to learn more about the Greek gods and parents who want them to learn about the gods in a cute, funny, child-appropriate way.
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronie #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Adult fantasy novel that tells the story of Kvothe, a super genius whose life does not go according to plan.
Recommended for readers who enjoy a slow-paced, character-driven fantasy that is dense but accessible.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
On my transatlantic London-to-New York flight, I read this young adult contemporary revolving around Rukhsana, who is hiding that she is a lesbian from her Bengali parents.
Recommended for readers who enjoy hard-hitting young contemporary with complete resolution.
This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Young adult SFF about Red and Blue, two enemy agents fighting a war that spans time and falling in love in the process.
Recommended for readers who enjoy lyrical prose and don’t need plot to make sense.
What have you been reading these days, friends?