February 2020 Books (Valentine’s Edition)

Picture this: You are cozied up in the corner of a cafe, sipping a latte, eating chocolate truffles, listening to quiet jazz seep through the speaks of the coffee shop, while you read one of these captivating, heart-warming, enlightening books. That is the perfect way to spend February 14th, whether you are alone or with a partner. This holiday gets a lot of flack about making people feel sad about being single or only seeking to boost sales in the greeting card companies, etc. And it may well be that I am just a hopeless romantic, but I love Valentine’s Day. I love a day devoted solely to love (which should be every day), and I love that the focus can be on you and a partner or on making yourself happy. In either of those scenarios, reading, listening to jazz, and enjoying coffee and chocolates are how I spend the day. So, please do not feel like this holiday is mocking you, because what is most important is learning to love yourself! I know that is shouted at you from around every corner it appears, but it is true. And it is surprisingly hard to do sometimes. Therefore, I recommend on this day of St. Valentine, or any other day of the year, choose one of the books and enjoy spending time with yourself.

The Greats

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

What is there to say about Jane Eyre that hasn’t been said before? This book is a wonderful first-person narrative about a governess in the Victorian era that goes to work for a mysterious master. This book is filled with romance, passion, and dark mystery as some secrets become unveiled. Similar to Pride and Prejudice, this feminist novel is ahead of its time, as it criticizes class, religion, and sexuality. After you read this novel, you must immediately read: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, for it is somewhat a spin off of of Jane Eyre, writing about a different angle from the social criticism perspective of feminism and anti-colonialism.

“I would always rather be happy than dignified […] There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Wow. Wow. Sink your teeth into this read immediately, because it will captivate you from the first page until the last. This books is all about a spiritual and soulful journey of self-acceptance, purpose, and tenderness. Gilbert is an absolute genius when it comes to writing. Her words have such an alluring and soothing touch. Eat, Pray, Love is a very renowned memoir about a married woman that is unhappy with her life. She decides to get a divorce and completely reinvent herself by traveling to Italy, India, and Indonesia where she seeks to learn to enjoy true pleasure, to develop a spiritual connection, and to learn what love really is. After you read this memoir, which will probably take only a day or two since it is so immersive, you should watch the film of Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts.

“I look at the Augusteum,and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me to not to get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough–but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.”

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Just Kids by Patti Smith

My excitement for this book has reached new levels. If you read before my “January 2020 Book Review,” I wrote a piece on Patti Smith’s memoir, M Train. That book was well-written but a little disappointing. This book, on the other hand, is one of the best I have read. Just Kids is also a memoir, and it follows Smith around from her childhood, through her artistic 1960’s journey at the picturesque Chelsea Hotel, while she falls in love with Robert Mapplethorpe, and develops as an artist and a singer/songwriter/musician. This book is extremely cathartic, and Patti Smith’s narrative has a great deal of solace and wisdom. Just Kids also has drama and a plot twist that leads the narrator into difficult decisions and experiences of self-growth. I think anyone that reads this book will fall in love with it.

“Why can’t I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply.”

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Here is one that does not need introducing. I won’t insult you by trying to explain this too much, in case you have read it before. But, if you have not read it before, please read it. The language is lengthy and proper because it is written in 1800’s Georgian era, but the themes and character development is wildly intriguing. Austen was ahead of her time as she wrote progressively about the many reasons people marry, showcasing the various couples in relationships. In a time where the social structure was solid and momentous, Austen argues that this way of life only breeds pride, prejudice, and contempt.

“Your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T.S. Eliot

If you want more of a sorrowful, yet enchanting read, this one is for you. “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” is one of my favorite poems ever. This long masterpiece is enlaced with so much beauty and description but conveys a melancholy tone, as it follows the monologue of a man that is disillusioned with every aspect of his life. On top of the imagery, Eliot writes with many greatly strung allusions to give the poem a very nostalgic mood. Similarly, “The Waste Land”–one of the most famous modernist pieces of literature ever–is a five-part poem that contains hundreds of allusions, a depth of imagery, and many monologues. While his poems do take more effort to interpret, it is definitely worth the read.

“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”

“The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

The Good

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

When I first read this novella, it was not what I excepted. The book is about a cafe owner in a small town in the United States, who accepts a stranger into her home that claims to be her kin. While this novel does have a plot on the topic of romance, there is also mystery and some psychological thrill in the plots. This one is more of a depressing, dark view on love.

“He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world—a world intense and strange, complete in himself.”

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

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