I seem to have spent this week catching up on the number of books I’ve read for the month, because I started and finished three titles, and began reading three more. Most of these books were eBooks I sent to my forlorn little Nook, after having neglected it for a few weeks. Once I updated all the apps. Again (does it seem to anyone else like you have to update the stupid things every twenty minutes or so?). I feel like I cheated a little on the books I finished. They were relatively short (around 200 pages), and had a lot of pictures and block quotes.
In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton discusses how a secular society can benefit from certain aspects of religious culture, establishments, and art. As modern society moves further from religion, de Botton talks about the various elements of religion- art and architecture, the social acts of charity, rules for behavior, forgiveness of human frailties, etc.- and how they can benefit a secular culture without requiring belief in a god or gods. It’s an interesting read, though sometimes it reads like de Botton assumes that non-religious people have somehow lost the ability to appreciate religious art or traditions, and so he can come off as a little arrogant.
The Book of Hygge discusses the Danish notion of hygge, which roughly translates to the quality of coziness. It’s a trend that blew up, as far as I can tell, last fall and winter and had people curling up with fluffy blankets and hot chocolate while reading books by candlelight. At its core, its a notion of living that helped (and helps) the Danes survive their long, dark, freezing winters. The Book of Hygge isn’t really a how-to book for the lifestyle. It’s more of an extended definition as it relates to things like wellness and the home. I almost think that you could check out a few blog posts (like this one), apply those concepts to whatever seems clever to apply it to, and just skip the book unless you’re really into photographs of fluffy towels and bread.
The Architecture of Happiness is another title from Alain de Botton in which he discusses how the architecture of our homes, offices, and cities as wholes affects our well-being. Unified, beautiful architecture helps makes us happy. He provides examples like London’s Bedford Square, Parisian residential streets, and places where modernist architecture was designed to seamlessly fit in with centuries’ old structures without losing out on the features of either old or new buildings. At the other end of the spectrum, ill-planned structures such as the giant apartment blocks favored by slumlords and Soviet city planners incite despair and destroy communities. I liked this book more than Religion for Atheists– there was more wit and fewer pretensions- but de Botton still seems to be looking down from his (arguably well-conceived) tower as he explains to us little folk down below what the Grand Architectural Concepts are all about.
My current reads:
Margaret of Anjou, aka, Trinity (because it apparently needs two titles, just to be confusing) is the second book of Conn Iggulden’s ‘Wars of the Roses’ books. It picks up about a year and a half after Stormbird leaves off. I was initially confused at the start of the book, as it introduces a bunch of new characters, families, and conflicts. I think, though, that I might have been less confused had I not started reading it while waiting at a mechanic’s shop for one of my car’s tires to get fixed with the movie Bridesmaids blaring on the TV. Maybe I caught it at the wrong part, but I didn’t think ti was a very funny movie..
The Red Magician is about a little Jewish girl named Kicsi who lives in a Hungarian village, just before the outbreak of WWII. A magician comes to town with a prophesy of doom and seeks to protect the village, but is thwarted by the town’s rabbi. Then the Nazis arrive and change Kicsi’s world, and she must learn to survive as the battles between good and evil and the Old World and the New World rage around her.
Brief Gaudy Hour is a book I discovered while looking for historical fiction titles about Anne Boleyn for Danielle over at Books, Vertigo and Tea. I’d never heard of it or the author, Margaret Campbell Barnes before. Fortunately my public library had a copy available for download, and I dove right in. The prose is a bit old-fashioned (it was originally published in 1949), but once I got used to it, I was taken in by young Anne’s charms. It opens when she is eighteen and just starting out in the world of court intrigue in both England and France. She’s only a little naive and learns quickly, taking youthful pleasure in her ability to charm men. Margaret Campbell Barnes did not add any portentious elements to her story, but simply let events unfold through Anne’s eyes.
I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read this weekend. My plans changed overnight, so I’ll be doing a lot more driving than I anticipated. If the weather stays nice and everyone stays healthy, though, it should be a fun few days!