2020, January through May

These early months of 2020 might be a record for least reading done by me. It’s partly the coronavirus excitement, which means I’ve been reading more news, as well as cooking and cleaning a lot more, since most of the kids are at home and I don’t have to go to work!

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan 🎧

Michael Pollan is an excellent writer and I love his books about food. I wasn’t sure I’d be interested in this one, but it was fascinating. I learned a lot and I hope current studies will lead to legal therapeutic use of psychedelics, because it seems like they could be helpful for many people and problems.

What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess

I’ve read many articles about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints written by Jana Riess, so when I discovered that she’d written a book about one of my favorite TV shows, I had to get it. It was a fun read. I bet it was really fun to write.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, read by Stephen Fry 🎧

Right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the first Harry Potter book is free to read or listen to online for free in various places and in various languages. I was delighted to find that the English audiobook is the British version, read by Stephen Fry, which I have wanted to hear. He reads more calmly and sedately than Jim Dale, with less characterization, but it’s very well done and I enjoyed it a lot.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

A pleasant and escapist read about a librarian in the rom-com style. Is that a thing?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read Dan Stevens 🎧

I didn’t like Frankenstein the first time I read it years ago, but I thought I’d give it another try. I believe this version, excellently narrated by Dan Stevens, is the original 1818 version; the more common version, published in 1831, was apparently heavily edited and different from the original. I can see how this book was revolutionary — what an imagination she must have had at such a young age! It sounds like her own life was pretty intense. It's a crazy story, told in letters and long narrations by Frankenstein and his creature. Frankenstein (the creator) is such an idiot and it’s impossible to have any sympathy for him. He abandons his creation, repeatedly refuses to take responsibility, and makes assumptions about the creature that are stupid and lead to more tragedy. It’s much easier to feel sorry for the creature, even though his actions are terrible. I’m glad I listened to it. Just a few days later, I watched the National Theatre production of the stage play with Benedict Cumberbatch as the creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein, which was moving, sometimes hard to watch —the first ten minutes plus are taken up by the creature coming to life with spectacular, super-bright lighting effects and a lot of flailing and thrashing around as he figures out how to walk.

The National Theatre production had Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in both roles, switching on different nights between Frankenstein and the creature, and I watched bits and pieces of the one with Cumberbatch as Frankenstein, too.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

It’s maybe too bad that I read this during and after listening to Frankenstein, because it shares some annoying characteristics, like letters and long narrations by different characters embedded in the letters, as well as long and slow devolving of situations, where you know how things are going to end up and it just takes so long! I liked it, though. Just maybe not as much as I used to. This was the third time I’ve read it.

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