In January, I predicted that most of the books I’d read in February would have orange spines because I’m going through our color organized books one stack at a time to devour the ones I haven’t read yet. I was wrong. I only got through one orange book! I bought a few new reads that I read immediately, and then the rest of my month was eaten up by a behemoth of a classic.

February Reads

Shutter Island (2003) by Dennis Lehane

What you need to know:Mind bending and haunting.

I love that this book has you questioning reality. If you haven’t seen the movie DON’T SEE IT BEFORE THE BOOK. I didn’t know it was a book when I went to see the movie, otherwise I would have waited to see it. I called the twist ending easily in the movie; I never would have seen it coming in the book. I would have had to read it twice just to wrap my head around it. But the movie ruined that (though the movie itself is good). As an added bonus, the dream sequences that seamed cheesy in the movie were dramatic and intense in the book.

Dexter in the Dark (2007) by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter by Design (2009) by Jeff Lindsay

What you need to know:Once again: Not for those with a weak stomach. These books are screwed up. I mean, they are about semi-vigilante serial killer. It’s a given that they will offend some people.

I started reading the Dexter series last month and immediately had to buy these two (third and fourth in the series). The writing isn’t really that wonderful, but the character is so intriguing that I’m hopelessly hooked. Can’t put them down.

That said, I pretty much hated the third book. I still loved the characters and dark humor, but there was an unnecessary supernatural element. I’m fine with sci fi, but it doesn’t belong in my crime fiction. I would have been fine with people believing that there was something supernatural going on, but the way it was written showed that the supernatural element was REAL. It was annoying and distracted from the story and it didn’t make sense in the Dexter universe.

I’m glad I didn’t give up afterward, though. The fourth book was great! The premise was disturbing; I haven’t been this grossed out since reading American Psycho.

I’m going to wait until the fifth comes out in paperback to read it, so there will be a Dexter break for awhile.

Printing by Hand (2008) by Lena Corwin

What you need to know:This is one of the most useful crafting books I’ve ever read. It teaches you skills rather than just projects.

I can’t wait to try these projects out! I loved making reduction prints in high school and really want to handmake textiles, make my own silk screen frame, and learn to print on different surfaces. This book teaches all of those things and more. I bought it after a recomendation from Elise Blaha.

What you need to know:If you loved the web series (you can watch it here if you are in the US), you’ll love the comics.

Filled with the Whedon-style humor fans have come to know and love, this contains an origin story from Moist, a bit more on Penny’s background, “Be Like Me” from Captain Hammer, a rampage from the Evil League of Evil, and Dr. Horrible’s origin story.

Eliza is a big Dr. Horrible fan, so she wanted me to read this to her. There are some inappropriate spots, so i had to improvise. But she’s a smart cookie. “Mommy, you didn’t read that word bubble!” “That’s because there’s a bad word in there.” “But its not like I’ll say it!” “But I’m still not reading it.”

Vanity Fair (1847-8) by William Thackeray

What you need to know: The “novel without a hero” is filled with realistically flawed characters who are sure to capture your interest.

I technically finished the last few pages of this in March, but as I read more than 700 out of 800 of the pages in February, I’m counting it for the little month.

This book is brilliant. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the novel focusses on the moral discrepancies of high society in England through a cast well constructed characters. My favorite characters were Iago-like position-obsessed Becky, cowardly India-loving Jos, and naive and loyal Amelia. Though this book is known for its portrayal of the time period, I think that the true triumph is the character-driven plot. Thackeray is good at getting the reader to connect to the characters; he made me want things for them. And, masterly, he did not give me what I wanted until the last few pages of the book.

Rarely does a classic contain a great deal of humor, but Thackeray fills the pages with laugh out loud satire and witty sarcasm. It does take some knowledge of the time period, but you don’t need much background to follow the story. I do find it funny how shocking and horrible some actions are considered to be. This is hardly Jerry Springer; many of the wrongdoings of characters in this book have been normalized in today’s society (at least in the US… there are still modest places in the world, after all). It is interesting to see that people were ruined in that society for things that practically everyone does in ours.

P.S. I didn’t notice that I’ve seen (most of) the movie until I typed Vanity Fair into Amazon looking for the book. I remember having to leave the movie at the theater before it ended because it was WAY longer than I had intended. I never saw the end; I’ll have to re-watch it now that I’ve read the book.

On Reading Classics

-I keep a bookmark in the back of the book so that I can quickly get to the notes in the back.

-I never read the introduction before reading the book. It almost always contains spoilers. I read it afterwards instead. Usually the only thing that is in the introduction that you need to read the book for the first time is historical context, which can easily be found sans spoilers online.

-It sometimes helps to keep a list of characters with a quick note as to who they are as they come up. This helps if two different characters’ names are similar or if there are too many to keep track of. It can also help if people go by multiple names (first names, last names, nicknames, etc.). I’m looking at you, Russian literature.

-You can find almost all of them in a thrift store for forty cents to a couple of dollars.

-If it starts to get dull, don’t give up! Sometimes there are boring stretches. Put it down for a while and read some blogs or a magazine before coming back.