What I read in January // mini-reviews

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Keywords: memoir, grief, a hawk, loss of a father, reflections, falconry history, author T. H. White

First line: Fifty-five minutes north-east of Cambridge is a landscape I’ve come to love very much indeed.

Last line: And in I go, where the dogs lie flat on the kitchen floor, tails wagging, and the kettle is whistline, and the house is very warm.

My thoughts on H is for Hawk come in three parts.

Part one. People have said really nice things about this book. The back cover says it was on more than 25 best books of the years lists, and the front cover of mine has a sticker icon that says it was one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 best books of 2015.

Part two. It was interesting. The book switches between stories from the author’s childhood, the journey of her relationship with Mabel (her goshawk), and a biography and analysis of T. H. White. T. H. White is an author–he wrote the Sword and the Stone book that the animated Arthur movie is adapted from. After reading this book, I will never think about him or that movie the same way again. That was interesting to learn about, and so were her descriptions of falconry and hawks. But.

Part three. At the same time, I was slightly bored. I don’t think I would’ve finished the book if I didn’t know how much people have loved it.

In summary, it just wasn’t for me.

Boom Town by Sam Anderson

Keywords: non-fiction, Oklahoma City, crazy history filled with equally crazy people

First line: Welcome to Oklahoma City.

Last line: It was Kevin Durant’s birthday.

This book has quite the subtitle: “The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptical Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis. And after looking up what “purloined’ means (it means stolen), I can promise that this book lives up to its subtitle and beyond.

It was fascinating, Oklahoma City is insane, this one line actually made me laugh out loud, and I love how the author writes. I really liked Boom Town.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Keywords: sisters, love, twists, I mean it’s Jane Austen

First line: The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.

Last line: Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate;–and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

I listened to Sense and Sensibility on audiobook. I found out from a blog I read that this website called Open Culture has links to the audio version of 1000 classics. The narration was definitely not as great as Rosamund Pike’s narration of Pride and Prejudice (she does different voices for all the characters! if you had told me that before I listened to it, I would’ve been like okay cool? but it makes it so much better), but it’s fine.

So far I’ve listened to four of Jane Austen’s book (Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Pride and Prejudice) and read one (Emma). In my mind, the inevitable question that follows this listing is which one’s my favorite, and to that I have to say, I don’t knooooow. Before I think about it too hard, I’ll say either Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.

These Truths by Jill Lepore

Keywords: non-fiction, very long, so interesting, US history from 1492-2016 but seen through very different glasses than what I’m learning in APUSH

First line: The course of history is unpredictable, as irregular as the weather, as errant as effection, nations rising and falling by whim and chance, battered by violence, corrupted by greed, seized by tyrants, raided by rogues, addled by demagogues.

Last line: And to steer that ship through wind and wave, they would need to learn an ancient and nearly forgotten art: how to navigate by the stars.

These Truths was my long non-fiction book for 2019. It was so good. It made me cry more than once. When I told my friends this, they were like, how did a history book make you cry???

If I did a post of all the new things I learned from this book, it would probably be half as long as the book itself. Some of what I learned is random facts, like how Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but most of it is huger stuff that I’ve never learned about in school.

For example(s):

I learned how much of an impact the 3/5ths Compromise made. I’m guessing all schools in America teach that the 3/5ths Compromise happened and what it was, but I had no idea how much it impacted important elections and decisions for years to come.

I learned parts of American history that I had no idea existed, like how the Equal Rights Amendment (a proposed amendment that guarantees equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex–basically an amendment to clarify that men and women have equal legal rights–I didn’t even know this was an amendment that people wanted to pass) was so close to being ratified twice, only to be campaigned against and beaten by women.

I learned how the two major political parties came to be what they are today and that they haven’t always been this way. Like did you know that “until the late 1980s, Republicans were more pro-choice than Democrats”? And that “Republicans had been, at that time, as likely as Democrats to support gun safety measures, as part of law and order campaigns”? Whaaaaat.

What are you reading right now?
Have you read any of Jane Austen’s books?
Is it hard for books to make you either cry or laugh out loud?

8 thoughts on “What I read in January // mini-reviews”

  1. I am reading The Kite Runner. I am less than a third of the way through and I am already traumatized.
    Recently it’s been increasingly easier for a book to make me laugh or cry out loud, though by no means is it actually easy. Often it really depends on my mood. And I’m pretty sure only three books in existence have made me sob, rather than just tear up. I don’t keep track of the laughing out loud times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, Kite Runner. It’s a book that of course I’ve heard of but don’t know what it’s about. But it has to be good if it’s hitting you this hard. Okay, now you have to tell me the three books! I love when books make me laugh out loud. That should totally be something we keep track of. That would be a very fun list.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I finished The Kite Runner, and it was kind of hard to handle, but overall I think I liked it. I found out that there is a movie but I am afraid to watch it because I know it won’t be as good as the book. But at the same time I’m curious.
        The three books that have made me sob are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the first book ever to do this to me), The Return of the King (on like my third or fourth time reading it), and Orbiting Jupiter. I don’t know why it’s those three, because I have read other books worthy of crying over. But it’s those three.
        Humor is amazing. We should definitely keep track of books that make us laugh out loud. That would indeed be a fun list!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh darn it, I don’t remember which Harry Potter book(s) made me cry. I’m telling myself that I’m sure I recorded it somewhere… I think most of the times I cry during books is because of love shown between characters, not because of something sad? Yesss, I will try to start my laugh list.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Boom Town is so good! I love great non-fiction about slightly random things, like Oklahoma City. Oh my, These Truths is a book I wish I could download into my brain.
      Do you have a favorite character out of the two??


      1. Hm. I don’t know, but not Mr. Collins or Mr. Wickham haha. 😉
        Probably Elizabeth Bennet, or the main two characters in Persuasion (their names escape me at the moment 😛 )
        Do you have a favorite character?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hahah, I agree with you :)) Ahh, I think it’s Frederick Wentworth? Okay, I looked online-Frederick and Anne Elliot. Ugh of course I love Elizabeth, but Anne Elliot is a very good one too. Anne reminds me of Elinor in Sense and Sensibility.


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