January 31, 2010

January Reads

A new year is upon us and with that brings a new year filled with adventures in reading. What I love most about embarking on these literary explorations is the complete and utter immersion into a world other than my own, and meeting people I otherwise wouldn't have the chance to meet. And all without ever leaving the comfort of my chair. There's a bookmark I've had for as long as I can remember that echoes these words and captures why I find reading so magical: "Books are the tickets to faraway places, to adventure and friends everywhere. And the best part is that you can travel the world without ever leaving your chair." Friends, this January, I traveled to one of my favorite places in the world: England. And the travel fare was next to nil.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Adventure. Friends. Far-off places. The tales of Sherlock have all that in spades. Curling up with these stories is the literary equivalent of luxuriating in front of a crackling fireplace. They're that cozy. And Sherlock Holmes is probably one of the most singular, fascinating characters I've ever come across on the page. "A Scandal in Bohemia", "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb", "The Five Orange Pips" were some of my favorites of the short stories. Some people complain that reading short stories isn't very fulfilling, that the reader never really gets to know the characters, that the story is over before it ever has a chance of being fully developed. I disagree. I think short stories can be completely compelling and dare I say it, better written and more compact than a heftier novel that takes itself too seriously (and devotes too many pages doing it). Plus, short stories are great for diving into when you have 20 minutes left on the elliptical at the gym. Just sayin'.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. As you can see, I've been on something of a Sherlock kick this month. One of only four Sherlock Holmes novels ever written, Baskervilles appeared in serialized form in The Strand in 1901-1902. The story takes place in England's Dartmoor, a part of the country rooted in prehistoric history, where legends abound with myths of the magical spirits who dwelled there. This enchanted territory acts as the ideal backdrop for a little mystery. A man is found dead on his Dartmoor estate and the suspect is none other than a spectral, diabolical hound who has haunted the environs, cursing the dead man's family along with it, for centuries. I read this during a particularly wet and dreary week in Los Angeles at the end of January. It was heaven.

Next up for the month of February: re-visiting one of my favorite classics ever.

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