I have finished quite a few books recently — My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith; The Opposite of Loneliness by  Marina Keegan; and both Seven Stones to Stand or Fall and The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon.

The Opposite of Loneliness is not itself a sad collection, but the author died in a car accident at the age of 22 shortly after graduating from Yale with a job at The New Yorker lined up.  So, it’s not exactly upbeat reading for that reason.  It is an impressive collection for someone to have generated in college, although certainly the book wouldn’t exist if she hadn’t died so it’s kind of hodgepodge of what she had created, and probably not a collection that she would have put together to seek publication.

It is yet another book that reminds you that life is very very short. And you’d better think carefully about how you’re spending your time.

So, with Christmas bearing down on me and all the difficulty that brings to those of us with dying relatives, mentally ill relatives, and multiple sets of relatives to visit and make happy, I took a turn and have been reading things that are much, much lighter.
I think I can safely recommend My Italian Bulldozer as fun reading for a broad swath of the population — man goes to Italy, man ends up without a rental car, but instead is able to rent a bulldozer.  Hilarity ensues, but being Alexander McCall Smith, it ensues in a way that is both over the top, while still being sort of very proper and subdued.

I feel bad talking down Diana Gabaldon, because I mean, she’s obviously doing something right, she has boat loads of money, many fans, and well, I clearly love her books.  And they aren’t crap.  They are very carefully researched, well written novels.  But they are purely for entertainment.  Fluff for those of us who can’t stand reading like a Harlequin romance novel, but would basically like to be reading that.  You may be thinking, aren’t novels basically all like that? I don’t think so, I think there are novels that make me see the world differently, that change who I am as a person, that give me a new perspective.  I don’t feel that way about Gabaldon’s books. But I love them.  If I’m reading to escape, they are excellent. So really I would say, if you love to escape to someone else’s head when you read, if you want to feel connected to the characters, and if you’re totally fine if there happens to be a good amount of sex, as well as murders, rapes, various acts of violence, I can safely recommend any of Gabaldon’s books to you.

At the moment I’m pretty invested in the side-novels she’s written involving the character Lord John, who is a gay character in mid-1700’s London/all over the world because he’s in the military.  These are mostly sort of mystery books with Lord John trying to figure something out.  I’m not a huge fan of a lot of really popular mystery writers, but again, during the holidays, light escape reading is a must, and I enjoy the history in these novels as well.

Currently reading: Lord John and the Private Matter (and I swear I’m going to the library when it opens tomorrow to get some new books so I won’t just keep reading all the Lord John novels….ALL MY HOLDS ARE FINALLY IN! So I’ll be reading The Power, Promise Me Dad, Artemis, and What She Ate!!)