This year I’m going to try something different. Besides books, I’d like to share essays I’ve read from around the web, as well as any novels I stopped reading. When I joined StoryGraph, I found that to be an interesting option, so why not include them as well?

The Rook by Australian author, Daniel O’ Malley is a fun sci-fi adventure – a bit of Dr. Who meets X-Files.

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up with no memory, but through a series of letters she has written to herself, she discovers she works for a top secret government agency that keeps the world safe from supernatural threats.

I’m not surprised this was turned into a TV series, of which I knew nothing about. I can’t even remember who recommended this one to me.

This is also Book 1 of 3, again, me is clueless. And a quick peek at the first few reviews of #2 claims the second is better than the first. Rather extraordinary considering O’Malley does an amazing job of creating a modern world meets crazy creatures and X-Men-like operatives with detail and wit.

I heard about Donna Tartt’s bestseller from a YouTuber. It sounded intelligent, so I took a chance on it without any other research.

The novel starts off strong, with a murder, and the writing is really good. You know, the kind that you feel like you could never do.

As I read, I had to look up big words that I didn’t know, too. And I figured out that the narrator, Richard Papen, was soon going to be part of an exclusive group of six students hand-picked by an eccentric professor.

So, I thought, I was in for a good winter read – college students are notoriously good fodder for stories. They murdered one of their friends, right? But I found myself feeling the most dreadful of feelings as I read — not caring.

Have you read this? Should I pick it back up again?

Okay. I’m on Cloud 9 because author Cheryl Strayed, read and commented on my essay.

But let’s go back a bit. I discovered Oldster Magazine through Memoir Monday’s newsletter. And I felt like I had finally found a publication of “my people” — and by that I mean, Gen Xers and intelligent women (and men!) who are of a certain age.

Anyway, I was inspired to write this because I had read the first “Letter to My Younger Self” in this budding series. I’m over the moon that it was published, and as I mentioned, currently floating among the sky.

Other essays I found groovy are: Two Immigrants by Ajay Makan, A Migrant’s Fashion Manifesto by Ucheoma Onwutuebe, and Lessons In Lust and Life from ‘Dirty Dancing’ by Sara Lippmann. I’ll stop there to see if this new section is anything folks are interested in.

I suppose if there is one word to describe what I like in an essay, it’s “unexpected”. But if I do know how it ends or where it’s going, I hope it’s uplifting and beautiful.

Have you read any good books or essays lately? Anything you didn’t finish?

10 replies on “January 2023 Reading Roundup

  1. I was hoping you’d do another post about books because I wanted to tell you about a just finished that I consider one of the best I’ve read. It’s called “The Luster of Lost Things” by Sophie Chen Keller. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you might like it. It reminded me a little of “The 10,000 Doors of January,” because there is a little fantasy mixed in with an otherwise believable reality. There’s also a little “Catcher in the Rye” in the book protagonist is a 13 year-old boy, takes place in NYC). It’s basically a book about what it means to be human, the good and the bad, painful and happy. Loved it & just wish she’d write more books!

    The Luster of Lost Things

    The 10,000 Doors of January

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, thanks Naomi. I will definitely check it out. One of my favorite books is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and when you mentioned the storyline for Lost Things, it reminded it of that. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. AHHHHHHHHHHH, your essay is amazing, beautiful, and totally goosebump-producing! Wow–that was brave of you to share. You have such a gorgeous face. And Cheryl Strayed. Holy shi*, that is so fabulous. Also, did you see Sari Botton also liked your top couple comments–and she’s a pretty big deal herself. Which means you are totally a big deal. Super huge congrats. Love it. I’m so pleased as punch for you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I appreciate that coming from a great writer like you. Yes, Sari is the editor. I feel quite lucky that she has liked what I’ve written. Her magazines are no longer accepting submissions due to popularity, but I hope I can write for her again. But, don’t put me in the big deal category just yet 😉 Thanks again for being so supportive ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I commented I didn’t realize she was the editor. She’s great! Do you remember when she was a WordPress Longreads editor? Exciting she’s gone off on her own–and I need to read her book. Well, you’re a big deal in my book. Total goosebumps reading your essay. Such a great conceit and stellar execution. Just love it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, I don’t because I found the lit world mysterious and intimidating for many years. Yes, I need to read her book. She has been wonderful. The essay came out of the form, so it was fun to write (as strange as that might sound). Thanks so much, Rebecca. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing the two essays, Lani. I loved Two Immigrants, not just for the connection with Portugal, but it is so well written. I’m definitely going to explore more of his writing.
    I often stop reading books these days, but hardly ever pick them up again. That said, I didn’t get far with Orhan Pamuk’s book Snow, before I abandoned it a couple of months ago. I just couldn’t get into the story, yet, I recently picked it up again (not sure why) and am glad I did. Now that I finished it, I appreciate the story and the way it was told, but if you would ask me if I would read anything else he wrote, the answer would be a tentative ‘no, I doubt it’.
    I also recently finished Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. He is a writer whose writing I adore, but I found this book disjointed, and echo the sentiments of so many readers in their criticisms of it. But maybe that is how he wanted his readers to feel – disjointed. I’m glad I finished reading it, but it is definitely my least favourite of all his work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, good. I’ll share more essays then. Yeah, I’ve definitely gone through those ‘tossing every book I pick up after a day or two’ phases. Unfortunately for those authors, my reading is SO up to my mood and what’s going on with my life. xo


      1. I completely agree about the link between books we read and where one is emotionally and mentally in one’s life.
        Oh, and I forgot to mention. I loved your essay too. AND the fact that I learned something new about you in the process. And a comment from Cheryl Strayed is just awesome!! Congrats on a beautifully written piece.
        And yes, please keep sharing essays you love.

        Liked by 1 person

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