Good books I read in March

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Keywords: historical fiction, Russia, 1922-1954, the Metrepol Hotel, friends that are also family it’s hard to tell, beautiful
First line:
At half past six on the twenty-first of June 1922, when Count Alexander Illyich Rostov was escorted through the gates of the Kremlin onto Red Square, it was glorious and cool.
Last line: And there in the corner, at a table for two, her hair tinged with gray, the willowy woman waited.

Before the aforementioned first line of this book, there’s a map of Moscow (I know some people love maps in books), a poem (of which I now understand the significance of but still not the meaning), and a court transcript.

I had to read the court transcript twice. To my Russian-illiterate eyes, the last names blended together with their v’s and y’s, and then combined with the typewriter font, I was quite confused. But after I realized who was saying what and what they were saying, it was over. I was done for. It was the writing that got me, the characters that made me fall in love, and the plot that made the whole endeavor worthwhile.

I can’t explain how beautiful the sentences in this book are. Just watch, here’s a description of two dogs chasing a cat: For just as the wolfhounds registered the cat’s reversal and attempted to turn, the lobby’s expansive oriental carpet came to an end, and the dog’s momentum sent them skidding across the marble into the luggage of an arriving guest. With an advantage over his adversaries of a hundred feet, Kutuzov skipped up the first few steps of the staircase, paused for a moment to admire his handiwork, then disappeared around the corner.

And it’s like that, sentence after sentence for four hundred sixty-two pages!

To you, the idea of such a book might sound horrid—and I understand. Isn’t it slightly pompous to use so many words to describe one, possibly irrelevant moment? Maybe. But who cares?? I think it’s wondrous.

Sidenote: One page in, I remembered this book was about a man who has to stay in one hotel for the rest of his life (oh yeah, I guess I should’ve mentioned that), and I thought, why do I keep reading weirdly relevant books?

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Keywords: non-fiction, World War II, Churchill, London, Great Britain, the bombing
First line:
No one had any doubt that the bombers would come.
Last line: He added beneath his name a single word: “Finis.”

Churchill is the star of this book, but not entirely. (I think he would hate that sentence.) It’s also the story of his children, his wife, his secretary, and his advisors. It’s about Londoners, Britons, Germans, and Americans. It’s a much larger picture of the Blitz than just a singular biography.

This book made me realize how insanely close Hitler was in establishing a Nazi-Europe and how Churchill was very possibly the principal reason why he didn’t. This quote from British officer Ian Jacob sums it up: “It is possible that the people would have risen to the occasion no matter who had been there to lead them, but that is speculation.”

Sidenote: This is the third time in four weeks that I talked about The Splendid and the Vile in a post.

Station Eleven by Emily by St. John Mandel

Keywords: post-apocalyptic, traveling Shakespeare and symphony troop, a terrible flu, past and present timelines
First line: The king stood in a pool of blue light, unmoored.
Last line: He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight.

Dystopian is not a genre I usually read in. I’m looking at my Goodreads, and the last one I picked up was Severance last year, but I only read like three pages before deciding I wasn’t going to keep going. This book is definitely dystopian, but it’s not written like most books in the genre.

It’s not action-packed. It’s not go go go. It’s literary and slightly meandering and more quiet than loud. And it’s the most realistic post-apocalyptic world I’ve ever encountered. None of the constructed societies like Hunger Games and Divergent.

Wait actually, is this book definitely dystopian if it’s not trying to be an utopia at all? You know what, I already wrote multiple sentences based on the fact that it is, and also it’s one of the genres Goodreads and Goodgle put it in, so it’s fine. Anyways yeah, this book is technically dystopian/sci-fi but reads more like a contemporary literary novel.

Sidenote: One page in, I remembered this book was about a world where the huge majority of the population has died because of an insanely contagious global pandemic, and I thought, WHY DO I KEEP READING WEIRDLY RELEVANT BOOKS??

What’s the last dystopian book you’ve read?
What are you reading right now?
Do you have any biographies to recommend?

12 thoughts on “Good books I read in March”

  1. The amount of oddly relevant books you read!! Haha, I love that. (Well, of course I wish they were irrelevant, but since they are relevant, I appreciate the odd coincidence, because I’m the kind of person that likes odd coincidences.)
    The Splendid and the Vile looks really good! I think it’s a very common time period to be interested in, but I am very interested in books about World War 2. I recently finished a reread of The Book Thief, and was reminded how completely beautiful and poignant that novel is, and is also spurred my interest in reading more books about World War 2- my interest also stemmed from learning about the war in my history classes (not for the first time, but each time it’s repeated, I’m more and more interested).
    Right now, I’m reading a book called The Rest of Us Just Live Here (it’s by the same author who wrote A Monster Calls!!). I haven’t gotten very far in, and I didn’t know anything about it before going into it, because I picked it randomly off the YA recommendations on Overdrive. So far, it’s about the background characters living in a town where Something Huge is going on, but there aren’t a part of it, they’re just living their lives. It’s pretty cool to see a book focused on the “unchosen ones.”
    Happy reading in April! :))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah, I completely understand what you mean :))
      I just finished learning about the 1920s and some of the 1930s in school, and we’re starting World War II this week. One history teacher in my grade said the rest of the year are the most interesting units, so that is one thing I wish we were back in school for. Ohh, if you have any WWII recs, I would love to hear them. I read Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys last month which is about WWII–it was good. Today I just finished Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes which is about the Vietnam War (the author is a Vietnam veteran), and agh, I don’t know how to talk about it yet. I kind of wish we just read this book in school to learn about Vietnam.
      Yes, I know exactly the book you’re talking about! Patrick Ness, I can see the cover in my head. I love that concept–the “unchosen ones.” I hope it’s good!
      Ahh, you too :))

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, one of my history teachers said something similar! It was for AP US history, and he was like, “sorry guys, these last two units would have been the most interesting, but you’re going to be learning them through Crash Course” and we were all like, welp. I love Salt to the Sea! I think my best recommendations are- The Book Thief, Number the Stars (it’s more of a kid’s book, but still really good), Between Shades of Gray, All the Light We Cannot See. I’ve definitely read more, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head, but if I do, I’ll let you know for sure. It sounds like the book you read was really powerful!
        It was good! I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed reading it, if that makes any sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I remember reading Number the Stars when I was younger in school! At least if I’m thinking of the same book–by Lois Lowry? Have you read Ruta Sepetys’s newest book, Fountains of Silence? I got it as my Book of the Month earlier this year, and I actually got it signed when she was at the book festival! Yes, please do.
          And yes, that does make sense. What are you reading now?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes! That’s the one. I think my fourth grade teacher read it out loud to us and that’s when I got hooked on it. I haven’t read Ruta Sepety’s newest book yet- did you like it?? I’ll go look it up right now. :))
            Right now I’m reading The Astonishing Color of After. It’s good, but I’m having trouble getting into the story for long periods of time. What are you reading?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, I did like it! I’m happy to report that it has a happy ending :))
              Right now I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama! I just started. I saw your rating for The Astonishing Color of After on Goodreads-what did you not like about it?

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I really loved Becoming! I hope you do too. :)) Oh, haha, I think I mentioned it in a comment just a few minutes ago- I just thought it was a little slow, and some of the characters annoyed me a lot, but then the ending pulled together really nicely so that made me like a lot more!

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooohhh A Gentleman in Moscow sounds quite good, I’m going to check it out 🙂 Sometimes I find it annoying when authors use so many words to describe a moment that feels quite irrelevant but I also love it sometimes. I love how its relevant to our times right now 😂
    Lovely post 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s SO GOOD. Ahh, please tell me what you think if you do! Hahah yes, I completely agree. For me, I tend to get disinterested when it’s super long descriptions about the setting. And oh my, I know to it being relevant (face palm+shaking my head).
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The excerpt from A Gentleman in Moscow is quite good. I love it when words are used to create beautiful images of ordinary things. Haha, that’s great that you keep accidentally reading relevant books to our times.
    Station Eleven looks interesting to me. I don’t often read dystopian novels, though I like the idea of them. I feel like they don’t often live up to expectations. My favorite dystopian book is The Giver, I think. That book is beautiful.
    I actually recently read The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time, and I was underwhelmed by the writing style. I do like the story though, (aside from the appalling love triangle). I prefer the movies, even though that’s not what a true bookworm should say.
    I just started reading Vanity Fair. I needed something with masterful prose after Suzanne Collins. It just amazes me how people from the 1800s used words.
    I don’t read a lot of biographies, but I do have an autobiography to recommend. It’s called A Severe Mercy ad it’s by Sheldon Vanauken, who was a friend of C.S. Lewis. It’s about his relationship with his wife and their philosophical and spiritual journeys. I found it really interesting.

    Like

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