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New Year’s Day

For well over an hour last night, the Chisinau skyline gave the impression of a city under siege. It was virtually impossible to distinguish the official fireworks from those purchased by the general public. A thick cloud of smoke hung over the city center, as a myriad simultaneous explosions pierced the night, spreading their radiant starbursts above the Moldovan capital as far and wide as the eye could see. People were still setting off fireworks at 2am, when we called it a night.

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It was a fitting end to a noisy week. Living in an apartment building, we missed the Moldovan trick-or-treaters, but apparently the same youths who go door-to-door ringing bells on Halloween repeat the custom towards the end of the year. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, groups of teenagers called at our door, repeatedly sending Emmie into a barking frenzy. According to our friends, these youths sing carols, usually poorly, with the expectation of being remunerated for their troubles. However, as some of them had apparently forgotten to put away their Halloween masks, we decided against opening our door. As far as we could tell, our new neighbors were not any more inviting to the unsolicited visitors, and as all of them also have dogs, the entire street resonated with a canine chorus of barks and yelps for three nights.

By contrast, all was quiet on New Year’s Day. And there was even a tiny bit of snow, as if to complete the U2 lyric. Having already reflected on last year’s adventures, we discussed our resolutions for the new year over a late breakfast. Even though New Year’s resolutions rarely stick past the end of January, it doesn’t hurt to try to do the things that we know we should be doing anyway but for some reason can’t manage to accomplish. To make the task easier, we kept the list short: (1) be better about staying in touch with friends and family, so that our communication is more than just impersonal blog updates, and (2) read more books, with a corollary that we will endeavor to look at fewer buzzfeed articles and other random internet junk.

So, does anyone have any good book recommendations for the new year?

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m not sure what you like to read about, but I recently just finished two very good books.

    1.) To See You Again by Betty Schimmel
    It’s her memoir of the Holocaust in Hungary. It’s seriously one of the best, most heart wrenching books I have ever read.

    2.) Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
    He tells his hilariously written story of backpacking Europe. One of the best most funny travel books I have ever read!

    January 1, 2014
    • Bill Bryson is great! Having just been posted in Africa, try reading his book: African Diary. It is really short, but hilarious.

      January 2, 2014
    • I do like Bill Bryson. I’ve read African Diary and I loved A Walk in the Woods. His book on Australia left a lot to desired, in my opinion, but now that we’re living in Europe it definitely makes sense to read his European backpacking anecdotes. Thanks for the recommendations!

      – D

      January 2, 2014
  2. Wolf Hall
    Bring Up the Bodies
    Narcissus & Goldmund
    Tiny Beautiful Things

    January 2, 2014
    • Is Narcissus as dense as Journey to the East? I can’t say I enjoyed Hesse’s prose, but that may be because I was young when I read it.

      Hadn’t heard of the other books – the Hilary Mantel ones look interesting. Thanks for the recommendations!

      D

      January 3, 2014
      • I’ve read five Hesse books, but not Journey, so I couldn’t say. His works have impressive range: Steppenwolf is opaque, dense, and mystical, while Under the Wheel is quite mundane and straightforward. Narcissus, despite the stodgy name, is very accessible, thoughtful, entertaining, saucy.

        The Mantel books are the best I read this year, hands down. Stunningly good. I read a lot this year.

        January 3, 2014
        • I’m jealous. I think back to my Peace Corps days, when I read 100 books a year, and I sigh. There is just no time, it seems, my mother’s exhortation that well-cultured people always find time to spend with a book, notwithstanding.

          January 3, 2014
          • I live a more solitary life at work, home, and on the road than you — much of your equivalent time is likely spent talking. And in the PC, you were very independent also. I wouldn’t feel bad about it. Make time if you want. Hugs

            January 3, 2014
            • I would suspect that I fritter much more time away in front of the computer screen than talking. At the moment, for example, I’m on a big movie kick (great internet connection in Moldova) so catching up on some classics I hadn’t seen and more recent releases I missed. Speaking of which, it’s time for our movie night….it’ll either be Lolita or the Third Man tonight.

              January 3, 2014
  3. Hands down the best book I read this year was The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. The friend who recommended it to me said, “Honestly, toward the end I was turning pages before I had fi ished reading them.” It is THAT good. This review is pretty dead on: http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-best-books-of-2013-so-far,99753/.

    Other good reads this year:
    Nurture Shock (like Freakonomics for parents)
    Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies (Freakonomics for pregnant women)
    I Do Not Come to You by Chance (about Nigerian 419 scams – fascinating!)
    Unbroken (ridiculous real-life survival story of a WWII vet)
    State of Wonder
    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    Enjoy!

    January 2, 2014
    • Tara, I think you win for the most enthusiastic book recommendation. I am more than a little intrigued. And a few of the other books look interesting too. I’ll pick up a copy of the Golem and the Jinni when I’m back in the US next month and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

      Thanks!
      D

      January 3, 2014
      • Glad you were inspired by my enthusiasm. I haven’t met anyone yet who didn’t go nuts for The Golem and the Jinni. The two main characters are (obviously) supernatural, and I would not have normally been interested in such a book. But the anthropological / cultural analysis of Syrian and Jewish immigrants in late 1800s New York had me hooked… Can’t wait to hear what you thought of it!

        January 3, 2014
        • I have yet to read an e-book, and don’t intend to start any time soon. I like the feel of an actual book in my hands too much. So I’m starting the year with something off our bookshelf that I haven’t read yet – a Mark Haddon novel (A Spot of Bother), but i’ll have the better part of two months in the US and will make sure to visit a few bookstores while I’m there. Once again, thanks for the recommendations.

          January 3, 2014

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