I read a lot in December. It’s called procrastination. At it’s finest. Instead of working on my essays, I read. It’s fine (I say in a Ross Geller high pitch voice). Let’s not talk about essays. I’m currently in the midst of submitting them. I haven’t felt fresh air on my skin since Sunday. I’m fine.
I’m keeping these short and sweet because, erm, well, there’s a lot of books. You can check out my Goodreads page if you want to know more on my thoughts! As usual, if I have a review up, it’ll be linked!
Here’s what I read in December:
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy | 3 stars:
My final semester one book – it wasn’t even required reading, I decided to write an essay on it, so extra work for me. Arguably Hardy’s most scandalous novel, Jude tries to break down contemporary perceptions of marriage and education.
I thought this was quite… average. Hardy’s writing is a weird one for me. It’s either really good, or it’s so dramatic that it becomes ridiculous. I thought the start was very strong – I love how savage Hardy is – but the last few chapters just blew it for me. I wanted to throw the book across the room because. so. stupid.
‘Letters from Birmingham Jail’ by Martin Luther King Jr.:
This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love.
I enjoyed the first piece, which was the letter from Birmingham Jail, but the last one was a little tedious. Luther King Jr. is so powerful in his language – writes so beautifully, so convincingly. That’s why I loved the first piece. I didn’t like the second because it was so heavy on religion that I couldn’t really make out what his actual point was? I’m eager to read more of his speeches, though!
Round the Christmas Fire: Festive Stories | 2 stars:
This was a nice little collection of festive stories from a range of writers, including Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, P.G Wodehouse and M.R James. I somehow managed to read this in a day (but I did skip some stories I had previously read!).
I rated this so low because most stories received 2 stars from me. There were a handful, like Wharton and Wodehouse, who shocked me, but, for the majority, I found a lot of the stories quite plain (*cough* Stella Gibbons *cough*). It did, however, put me in the festive mood, so I think it was an alright pick!
Mythos by Stephen Fry | 3 stars:
Stephen Fry and Greek Mythology. Stephen Fry re-telling Greek Mythology. That’s all there is to it. Also, if you like audiobooks, he narrates it, which is lovely.
I thought this, again, quite average. It started off strong, went a little downhill, but managed to pick up again towards the end. I encountered myths I had heard before, such as Procne and Philomela, and I found some that I really loved, such as Arachne and Echo. I’m definitely interested in reading Fry’s new Greek mythology book
(when it’s out in paperback)!
Mr Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva | 2 stars:
Mr Dickens and his Carol is a fictional re-imagining of how Dickens came to write his famous Christmas story: A Christmas Carol.
I did not like this. I thought it was far too convenient. Silva basically rewrote A Christmas Carol but replaced Scrooge with Dickens. I found it quite lazy. Silva could have written such an interesting and innovate re-imagining, but instead it was the exact same. I also didn’t like her characterisation of Dickens – thought he was a little off. Don’t get me wrong, though, there were some aspects I did really appreciate!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander | 4 stars:
Newt’s lovely little book that details all kinds of magical beasts and creatures. It takes you through their origin, where to find them, what they look like, and how they act.
I really loved this. It was so pure and simple. It added such depth to the movies because, whenever Newt references a beast, I can easily conjure an image in my mind. I really wish the movies were about him embarking on an adventure to find and document these creatures! Don’t watch the movie, kids, it isn’t about beasts.
Athelstan: The Making of England by Tom Holland | 4 stars:
A short, brief look into the first monarch of Britain. Holland shows us how a royal dynasty rescued their kingdom from near-oblivion and fashioned a nation that endures to this day.
I thought this sooo fascinating. I love learning about the Vikings, so I had a feeling I would like this one. It was quite detailed considering it was only 100 pages, which I appreciated because I was often left wanting to know more. I just wish Holland included an index detailing who everyone was as everyone was either called Edward/Edmund/Edwin or Athel-something.
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees | 3 stars:
A 1920s fantasy classics. An influx of the forbidden fairy fruit has been turning people crazy and violent. Master Nathaniel’s son is one of the victims, and he is packed off to a farm near the borders of Fairyland, but something is amiss.
Mirrlees’s writing was so enchanting and whimsical – she could write a good story, and her characterisation was beautiful. But I found the narrative quite slow at times, and longed for more action. I was overly tired from my essay writing and working, so I think that might have affected my reading. I’ll definitely give this another go sometime! (also review coming soon).
Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward | 4 stars:
From the celebrated poet Yrsa Daley-Ward, a poignant collection of autobiographical poems about the heart, life, and the inner self. I actually found modern poetry that I like, who would have guessed it?
A beautiful and moving collection of poetry. I’m so glad I picked this up because, in all honesty, I don’t think I would have gotten to it any other way. It was so powerful, reflecting on so many of Ward’s experiences. Honestly, so lovely. I actually found some modern poetry that I like (albeit not all of it, but I found some that connected with me because of how powerful they were)!
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth | 4 stars:
A memoir written by Jennifer Worth detailing her life as a midwife in a post-war London docklands. If you’re a fan of the TV adaptation, definitely consider checking this out!
Worth put so much heart and soul into her writing that it felt like she was telling me her story – like The Actual Jennifer Worth. There was so much of her personality in the writing, which made it fun to read, especially when some cases were really quite sad. A lovely memoir – I’ve picked up the final two in the trilogy!
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh | 1 star:
A family of women, mainly three sisters, have cut themselves off from the world in order to protect themselves from danger. But they’re not safe, and men are coming.
I knew I wouldn’t like this one. I’m never a fan of massively hyped books, especially ones like this. I thought the story quite average. The plot was so overdone. I think Mackintosh could have written a feminist story, detailing the same kind of issues, in such an interesting and innovate way, but she relied on the same tropes and conventions that have come before her. Disappointing.
My Dearest, Dearest Albert by Karen Dolby | 4 stars:
My last book of 2019 was a lovely little biography on Queen Victorian. Karen Dolby, through Victoria’s own words (namely her journals and letters) offers an alternative understanding to the once reigning monarch.
I really loved this. I find, when it comes to non-fiction, that you can get a better idea of someone from their own writing than from someone else’s. Victoria was very open about a lot of things in her journals, so it wasn’t like we were only getting the conventional side of her person. This was really enlightening, and has pushed me to actually read Victoria’s journals (you can access them online!).
…and those were the books I read in December. To be honest, a lot of them were quite short reads, which probably explains why I managed to get through so much. I tried to read 10 books per month in 2018, which isn’t something I’m going to emulate this year, but I’m pretty proud of myself for managing it!
My favourites were definitely Bone, Fantastic Beasts and the biography on Victoria!
What was your favourite book of December?
Thanks for reading, Lauren X