Welcome to Friday Reads. Each Friday, I’ll review any books I’ve completed that week, as well as share what I’m reading right now. And by “Each Friday,” I mean “some Fridays.”
(Oops – this was supposed to post Friday, Nov. 1)
Next week, look for October’s wrap-up and my report on Poe-tober.
25 Icelandic Ghost Stories—Jón R. Hjálmarsson—2* (Oct 31)
I bought this book on a trip to Iceland. The people there are really into ghosts and fairies and other legends, so I had high expectations. I was disappointed.
It was objectively awful. Each “story” was more of a collection of information about a ghost. There was no beginning, middle, and end, and the lack of narrative form made it awful to read. Most sections read more like the genealogy passages in the Bible, Jonbegat James begat Deborah. And many of the names, due to Icelandic naming conventions, were hard to keep straight. I often felt like I was missing connections between stories because of the similar names.
The Haunting of Hill House—Shirley Jackson—5* (Oct 29)
I last read this book in 2015. The review below (minus the final note) is from then.
Shirley Jackson knows how to tell a story without dragging it out forever.
This book really stands the test of time. Not that it would be necessary, but all it would take is a quick comment about “poor cell phone reception” and you could more or less place this story in modern times.
The best part of this ghost story is that it doesn’t jump right into things going bump in the night. She starts developing the characters and their relationships with each other so that by the time anything goes bump in the night, you care about their reactions.
There’s also a nice mix of paranormal and psychological circumstances at work. How much of what’s happening is because of the supernatural, how much is due to Eleanor’s loosening grasp on reality?
I’ll admit to finding myself actually chilled a few times and the ending was both surprising and satisfying.
I highly recommend this book if you like the genre. It would make a great October read.
Sidenote: After finishing it, I watched both movies based on the book. DO see the 1963 film directed by Robert Wise. DO NOT see the 1999 film directed by Jan du Bont.
10/29/19: After a second read, all I want to add is that it was worth revisiting and that the final 10 pages didn’t fail to deliver.
Medallion Status—John Hodgman (8h 2m remaining)
I’ll figure out how % for audiobooks at some point, but not today.
I love John Hodgman’s podcast and listening to him read the audiobook is like an extended podcast episode. He’s funny, warm, and wise, and I look forward to listening to the rest of it.