It’s that time again! Pour yourself another cup of coffee and let’s gather round our screens to share what we’ve been reading this month, and what we’re about to read.

We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project) I kind of think everyone should read this book, no matter your political views. It’s a realistic view of the state of things in Iraq and our (as in the Americans) botched attempts at reconstructionism, as it looks when the people in charge have nearly unlimited funds and are only there for a year and need something that sounds good on a resume, whether or not anything is actually done. We come across as sort of bumbling Keystone Cops types, only with actual weapons. It’s a really depressing book, although the writer has a delightfully snarky style. I’m working on my review for 5MFB so I won’t go into detail now, although I suspect I may write a blog post about it at some point. But in the meantime, go get a copy and read it, and then we can discuss it in comments. It’ll be fun.

John Keats It’s autumn. Time for poetry. I have been rereading “Ode to Autumn” and then “The Eve of St. Agnes” for good measure. Also, the similarly spelled but not rhyming Yeats. I read several of his poems aloud to Elliot, who didn’t really listen. I find that changing seasons often inspire me to read poetry. Do you? Who are your favorites? Do they change by season?

A Double Death on the Black Isle (Aside: when your daughter’s name is Ilsa, do you know how hard it is to type Isle? First I wrote Ilsa automatically, then I changed it to Isle. Sigh…) This is linked to my review. Go read it. Also, Keats wrote a poem to Ailsa Rock, which is a place in Scotland, and we nearly named Ilsa Ailsa instead. Isn’t that a fun connection? Welcome to the world of my mind, where such things amuse and entertain. (i.e. I am reading Keats, and I read this book about Scotland’s Black Isle, and I can’t type “isle” because of “Ilsa”, and Ailsa Rock is in Scotland… Never mind.)

All Men of Genius Also linked to my review. It was a really fun book, but a little disappointing in that it should be a YA book but there are enough bits of it that I’m not going to be passing it on to Ilsa anytime soon. And this makes me sad because honestly, she would love it. WHY can’t people write YA books for YAs?

The Woman Who Heard Color This book basically lives the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I chose it based on its description, which is accurate, but when it came in the mail, I looked at it and wondered why I’d said I wanted it. The cover shows a woman, dress disheveled and loose, holding a dried rose against her creamy skin. There’s a quote by Nicholas Sparks, whose books I’m proud to say I have never managed to stomach. I sighed and decided to give it the old “50 page” try.

I’m halfway through and I’m pleased to say there are no disheveled dresses and I have no idea why Sparks liked it, unless he judged it by its cover. It’s not a romance. It’s a story about a young woman, Hanna, who flees the family farm and ends up married to rich Jewish man named Moses, but it’s also very much about art. Moses runs an art gallery and counts as personal friends people like Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. Hanna learns about art and develops her own eye, prompted in part by her synethesia, which is a mixing of the senses so that she literally hears colours. I’m at the point where Moses has died and Hanna is dealing with the build-up to WWII. The story is sort of being narrated by their daughter, Isabella, now an old woman living in New York, to Lauren, an “art detective” who is hunting for proof that Hanna collaborated with the Nazis in stealing art from Jews. I’ll finish it soon and write a proper review, but it’s carefully written and interesting and I’m enjoying it.

Aside: books do seem to go in trends, and Nazi-art thieves–modern paintings is a kick I seem to be on. There was Telling Lies and I feel like there was another one but I can’t think of it now. I read too much, possibly. Have you read any Nazi art thief stories lately?


The Time In Between

Amazing Adventures of a Nobody

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

I’ll tell you about them NEXT month–I’ve got to get going! Where’s my travel mug?