Anyway, these were February's reads:
1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
2. A Double-Barreled Detective Story by Mark Twain**^
A strangely complicated little novel that mocks Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures. In it, Sherlock Holmes finds himself in the American west to visit his nephew, Fetlock Jones, who commits a murder right under the nose of his clueless uncle. The great detective is reduced to size with great relish by Twain, who delights in aping Doyle's writing style.
3. Rifling Through My Drawers by Clarissa Dickson Wright**^
Reading this chronicle of a year in the life of Clarissa Dickson Wright was a chore. Don't get me wrong, I love CDW. I mean, her life: She was, of course, the younger and fatter of the Two Fat Ladies. Her father was a surgeon to the British royal family. She was the youngest woman lawyer in Britain (though later disbarred). She drank and gambled away a literal fortune, inherited from her mother, an Australian heiress. But given a lifetime of material like that to work with, the book is a chaotic and uninspiring biographical collection of--what?--rants about "antis" (PETA types in Britain who protest things like fox hunts), rambling AA stories, overly long reminiscences about her cataract surgery, and recipes for things you'll never, in a million years, cook. Sadly, this book reminds me of Susan Powter's book Stop the Insanity which I purchased years ago at a thrift store for 98 cents and actually brought it home and read. Yikes. It reads like one long cocaine-fueled rant. Stop the Insanity? More like, Put Down the Coke Spoon, Girl.) Anyway, I hope Wright received a hefty fee for her book because I like her anyway and I want her to be comfortable in her old age.
5. Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor H. Porter^
When I was in my early 20's, a young man I was dating called me 'The Anti-Pollyanna,' and I knew exactly what he meant even though I'd never read either book. Still, twenty years on, I'll admit I teared up now and again at this pair of easy reads. They're definitely not at the level of Louisa May Alcott's books for girls (Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, etc.), nor do they remotely approach the emotional complexity of Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I would still recommend them to little girls. (Though I seriously doubt that very many modern little girls would be the least bit interested in them.)
6. An Englishman's Travels in America His Observation of Life and Manners in the Free and Slave States by John Benwell**^
This was a Project Gutenberg find about an Englishman traveling in America in the mid-1800's, just prior to the Civil War. He travels through huge swaths of the country by horse, by carriage and wagon, by train, by boat and steamship, and by foot. He is understandably appalled by the treatment of slaves and Indians, who were then being hunted by the federal government. He had intended to emigrate to America, but a few months in very primitive conditions in Florida (alligators, Indians) changed his mind and he returned to England.
7. Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory
An artist writes and draws about his family life, his young son, and his wife, who became paraplegic after an accident in which she was run over by a subway train. Danny Gregory interests me in part because he visibly struggles with something I have problems with, mainly how to pick oneself up and move on from a devastating event.
8. Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes^
You know, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was written, I believe, in part so that Hughes could introduce his young son to the ins and outs of public (British public, not American public) school before sending him off to one. Though it was published in 1857, it is remarkably modern. In some ways, it reminded me of The Great Brain series (which I adored as a young girl, young, like, first or second grade-aged).
9. A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill's Youngest Child by Mary Soames^
There are only a very few passages in this greatly under-developed book that make reading it worthwhile. The best it has to offer is a criminally brief description of a wartime, middle-of-the-night walk through a deserted, blacked-out London, the way lit only by a full moon. The story picks up in the last chapters, as WWII comes to a close and Winston Churchill is voted out of Parliament. Just as abruptly as it becomes interesting, the book ends.
10. God, If You're Not Up There I'm F*cked: Tales of Stand Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem by Darrell Hammond^
I'm actually glad I read this, Hammond's terrifying autobiography which documents his personal life as it spun out of control for decades as a result of PTSD from childhood trauma. The smallest part of the story, thankfully, is about his stand-up comedy and time on SNL.
11. Girl Walks into a Bar...: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle by Rachel Dratch^
Another SNL alumni writes an autobiography. I laughed in a couple of places. The bulk of the book is about her search for love (still ongoing, apparently) and a relatively unintended pregnancy at the age of 43.
12. Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller^
Kindled because I seemed to be on an SNL kick and it was cheap enough--under $7.00. It was worth about half that.
13. My Early Life by Winston Churchill^
Churchill is a delight to me, a treat, so I took a leisurely five days to read this autobiographical work. I find him hilarious, laugh-out-loud-ly so. His early memories--earliest memories, in some cases--are sweet and strange as early memories tend to be and he jokes about them in an easy, charming manner. My favorite read of the month.
14.Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson^
An amazing YA novel about a young woman with anorexia whose best friend's death nearly puts her over the edge. The New York Times loved it and I did too. I would read more by this author, even given my complicated relationship with YA stuff. (I still feel burned by Judi Blume.)
15. Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward^
I'm on an SNL jag, I guess. This was the best of the SNL-oriented books I waded into this month--at least the first half of it was. The drug binges get tedious and oppressive after awhile (always true, and it almost made me abandon the book) and the whole thing ends rather abruptly (though I guess that is how it all ended for Belushi anyway, no?). One of the eye opening footnotes was about the scads of money Belushi (and many Hollywood stars) burn through on a monthly basis, so much so that Belushi's $2500 a week plus for drugs was a very tiny drop in a very big bucket. The other eye-opening bit was how open many of the big and biggish names (Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Ed Begley Jr., Treat Williams, Carrie Fisher, Penny Marshall, Betty Buckley, and on and on and on) were about their drug use and abuse. Reminds me of Mia Farrow's recent tweet during the Oscars broadcast: "You can tell who's doing coke."
16. Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir by Hilary Mantel
My god, this woman can write. Just this first foray into her work (and she's published eight novels before this memoir) is enough to convince me that she writes books that are worth killing trees for. Wow.
These were my January Reads.
This is the legend:
**-Finishing a previously shamefully abandoned book
***-Begun and shamelessly abandoned