Book Thirtyfive: Icelander

Icelander, Dustin Long

I am guilty of picking this book by its cover. But seriously, can you blame me for that? The back cover also boasts that it is a sort-of-mystery, which has become my unofficial theme for this year of books, so I doubly couldn't resist. Once I got it home and opened it, I realized that it's a novel with footnotes and my first thought was, "Ugh, pretentious footnotes." And then I noticed that it's published by McSweeney's and I got super worried. However, once I got about 20 pages in I was really into it. I can't even begin to summarize the plot, not even in a nutshell, but I will say that it involves the murder of a writer named Shirley MacGuffin (get it?); an underground kingdom called Vanaheim; Our Heroine, the mostly-narrator of the story and the daughter of Emily Bean who was a famed detective about whom the wildly popular Memoirs of Emily Bean were written; foxes; a Fenris Dachshund; steam tunnels; and another uber-narrator, responsible for some snarky footnotes and who, as the book wore on, I began see as highly unreliable.

Book Thirtyfour: The Sixteen Pleasures

The Sixteen Pleasures, Robert Hellenga

A young woman goes to Florence in the 60s after the Arno floods to help recover and restore damaged books. While living in a convent and helping to rescue their flooded library, she discovers a rare old book that contains pornographic engravings and poems. From there, she has a love affair, has some adventures with the explicit book, and discovers some things about herself while reflecting on the past. Sound trite? Well, surprisingly, it isn't. I wouldn't normally have picked this book, but it was for book club, and in the end I was glad to have read something out of my ordinary realm.

Book Thirtythree: Persuasion

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Oh, Jane. How I wish you would have lived longer just so that you could have written more books for me to read. I had the impression--falsely, I now realize--that Persuasion was kind of a dud just because it's the least well known of Austen's novels, but... so untrue! It has all the best aspects of her best stories. And I love how carefully she crafts her central heroines--they always seem to be women that we wish we were or imagine ourselves to be: smart, full of wit, steadfast and true, following just the right rules of society while breaking others seemingly at the detriment to their own desires initially, but then having things work out in the long run. Anyhow, Persuasion was brilliant. Anne Elliot combined the qualities I loved of Elizabeth Bennet and Fanny Price. While reading I wondered why no one had made this into a movie, then today discovered that of course they have, and it is now on top of my Netflix queue. Of course, I will have no time to watch it since I have 19 books to read in about eight weeks. Yikes.