This year I'm aiming to read 40 books. Why this arbitrary number and goal, you might ask. Or not. But I'm happy to share either way! Reading one book per week sounds reasonable, but I'm old enough to know that life often gets in the way, so subtracting 12 from that number feels like a realistic compromise.
Having a reading goal also serves as a reminder to read more books than scrolling social media. Goodreads have kindly pointed out that I'm already behind schedule, but since I'm taking a break from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter this February, I feel exceptionally motivated.
This is my meager "What I read in January" list.
Bröd och mjölk, Karolina Ramqvist
I started a book club with a couple of friends last year, partly as an excuse to catch up regularly, and this was our latest pick. I went into it knowing only that it had been well-received by critics in Sweden. It didn't take too long to realize it was a memoir of Karolina's troubled relationship with food and the role it played for her in relationships.
This felt like reading a complicated love story where food is the main character. The writing drew me in and I could relate to the descriptions of using food to comfort and numb emotions. But it was easy to put down and when it was finished, I felt relieved. Maybe I'll have a different take after our book club discussion, but I suspect it was simply not the story for me.
A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother, Rachel Cusk
Another memoir, but where Bröd och mjölk fell flat, this was an instant favorite. Rachel Cusk has that clever British saltiness that is my weakness.
I think of the women I know who have had children, none of whom has remarked of birth that it wasn’t nearly as bad as they were expecting. Most appear unable to speak about the subject at all, except one, who told me that at one point she begged the midwife to shoot her.
I've never wanted to be a mother, but that doesn't stop me from being curious about the experience. As a non-mother whose ability to communicate with kids is limited to waving awkwardly and saying "hello there, tiny human", Rachel's dissection of motherhood feels refreshingly honest. She draws out the contractive emotions and puts them a context. Becoming a mother is not only a radical lifestyle change, it's also a radical shift in who you are in the eyes of society.
Now it is as if some spy is embedded within me, before whose scrutiny I am guilty and self-conscious. It is not, I feel sure, the baby who exerts this watchful pressure: it is the baby’s meaning for other people, the world’s sense of ownership stating its claim.
Few things make me happier than reading a book that succeeds in both making me think and laugh out loud.
When evening comes I prepare the bottle. Her father is to give it to her, for we are advised that this treachery is best committed not by the traitor herself but by a hired assassin.
I'd recommend it to parents and non-parents alike.
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