Don Levy reading at the Poets Speak Loud open mic on Monday, January 28, 2019

Mid Reading Year Look Back

It’s almost the end of June, and it’s the perfect time for me to look back at my reading year so far. I’m pretty happy with the books I’ve read so far, even though I’ve only read seven books (even though Goodreads says 8).

The first book I read this year was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. In the online book club that I’m in, I was asked to pick a theme for this year. I picked books with cities in the title because I wanted to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Gentleman in Moscow, and Brighton Rock. I really enjoyed this book. It’s about the Nolan family living in poverty in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn during the turn of the century. You become invested in the ups and downs of this family.

Stones For Ibarra by Harriet Doer was a holdover from last year. It’s about Richard and Sarah Everton, ” just over and just under 40″, who have sold everything they had and mortgaged their house so that Richard could go back to Ibarra to run the copper mine his grandfather once owned. It’s a story about a marriage as well as a look at villagers in this small Mexican town.

I wound up getting into a reading slump. It took me a while to read both books. I decided to read a mystery novel next, and I chose The Case of the Gilded Lily by Erle Stanley Gardner. I never read one of the Perry Mason books, despite growing up watching Raymond Burr as the famous lawyer. I didn’t think the writing was that good, but I thought the mystery kept me guessing.

I am a huge fan of the book Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, and I’ve been wanting to read something else by him. I decided to read The Easter Parade. It’s about Sarah and Emily Grimes, two sisters who were shaped by their parents’ divorce. Sarah winds up marrying a British man who is abusive, while Emily flits from guy to guy. The writing is excellent, and I loved the first couple of chapters, but I was turned off by how almost everyone in it is an alcoholic and by Sarah’s abusive marriage. I still want to read more by Yates.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion was another book club choice. I had never read anything by Didion, but I really like this collection of essays and reportage. The book is broken up into 3 parts, the articles she wrote as a reporter for The Saturday Evening Post, essays on subjects that were personal, and lastly, a section on different places she went. There are stories on John Wayne and Joan Baez and the wedding industry in Las Vegas, but my favorite piece was the title essay about the migration of hippies to the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco in 1967’s Summer of Love. Young people came from all over thinking that they would find Utopia, but through Didion’s sharp eyes, you see that they squatted in abandoned buildings and took too many drugs.

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding was a book I had when I was teenager. I avoided reading it because I thought it was about bullying, and I was already was being bullied in high school. I wound up reading this in a buddy read with @rollyreadsbooks and @bethco20. I am the first to admit I was wrong. This book was fantastic. It’s about democracy vs. Fascism and what happens when society falls apart. Definitely a 5-star read.

The last novel I read this year was Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I originally read it when I was a teenager, and it quickly became my favorite book of all time because of Vonnegut’s humor. I read it with my friend Rolly this time and I had a deeper appreciation of the satire and what Vonnegut had to say about American life in the 70s. It’s not my favorite book anymore, but I still enjoyed it.

I have been reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I want to read it before the Netflix series comes out in November. I’m already up to page 200, but I know in July I have to read the next book club pick, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Hopefully, I can finish ATLWCS by August, where Rolly and I are reading Tender in the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I also want to read a book by an African American author, a book by a queer writer, and another mystery novel. It’s been a busy reading year, and I can’t wait to see what the second part of the year has to offer. Happy reading, everyone.