Sabbatical reading list

Reston Used Bookstore

I'm feeling bittersweet this morning. It's the last day of my sabbatical. I'm trying desperately to maintain the zen-like feelings I worked hard to discover and quell my rapidly rising heartbeat every time I think about what my inbox must look like. What better way to remain calm than to talk about books, specifically what I read while off!

You would think I'd have finished a huge stack of books, but the combination of reading weightier titles and spending so many hours writing resulted in a shorter finished pile. Here is a brief look at what I curled up with during these snowy weeks.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell - After hearing about this book for years, I finally bumped it to the top of the list, and I'm so glad I did! You can read my full write-up here. The quick and dirty summary is that a Jesuit priest leads a mission to another galaxy after discovery of other life. The story shifts back and forth between the mission itself and debriefing of the sole survivor who has returned scarred and silent decades later.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - This is a novel of split-second decisions and the impact they have. The story begins when our main protagonist, Theo Decker, is just a boy. He is orphaned after a tragic bombing at a New York museum. While struggling to get his bearings following the explosion and escape, he makes a few decisions that color the rest of his life. The story follows Theo from a wealthy Park Avenue home to the seedy Las Vegas desert and the monied world of antiques restoration and sales. I found myself rooting for Theo through every bad decision he makes and wanting him to thrive. While it seemed to drag a bit in certain sections, I dug it, and the nuggets of writing on art and antiques were enough to keep me going. If that turns you off, don't worry. This is Donna Tartt we're talking about, so it has drugs, sex, murder and deception, too.

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler - This is the story of four best friends from a small town in Wisconsin and how their lives and loves still intersect years later despite the different directions their lives have taken. For me, Shotgun Lovesongs really boiled down to a moving look at male friendship with a side of introspection on what success means to different people. Butler's writing is solid and leads you along in a lyrical fashion. Lots of warm feelings upon finishing this book.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer - I picked up Cinder when my BookBub (regular email notifying you when there are e-book sales) email mentioned it was on sale. I was drawn to the potential for a dystopian Cinderella set in the future wherein she's a cyborg and a plague threatens the kingdom. After The Sparrow and The Goldfinch (weird bird thing going on there), I also needed a bit of brain junk food. Unfortunately, starting this right after finishing the talented musings of Tartt and Russell was a bit like running into a brick wall. Tartt and Russell are masters of prose, and the first couple of chapters of Cinder read a bit like bad Cinderella fanfic. Luckily, I ended up being stuck somewhere with only this e-book with me and picked it back up. If you end up getting this one and are willing to stick with it past chapter six (page 48 on my Nook app), you just might get hooked. At this point in the story, Meyer diverges from the Cinderella formula and definitely snags my interest. I enjoyed the direction she took the story and don't want to spoil it for those you who may read it. Just know that this is a series (books 1-3 are already out), and it ends on a cliffhanger. I enjoyed the book enough that I'll buy book two (Scarlet)...again, brain candy kind of read. Also, if you're looking for a second opinion, my friend Steven also read Cinder with me and experienced a similar trajectory (disappointment-->interest).

For more of what I'm reading currently, you can add me on Goodreads or listen to That's What She Read!