I am reading several things right now, though not as quickly as usual. I plan to give many of these full reviews once I have finished. I am also participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. Not sure why I do this to myself over and over… but here we are.

{each cover links to more info}

The Butchering Art 

from the publisher: In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery on the eve of profound transformation. She conjures up early operating theaters—no place for the squeamish—and surgeons, working before anesthesia, who were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These medical pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than their patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the deadly riddle and change the course of history. 

I am obsessing over every word in this book. I love historical medical topics (not sure why) and this is one area that I have only a passing familiarity with. Lister is such an important figure. So many things that seem obvious to us now (wash your hands, people!) were uncommon not very long ago. I’ve had the great fortune to visit Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh and the Old Operating Theatre in London, making this book all the more vivid.

Murder on the Orient Express

from the publisher: Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.
Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

It’s been several years since I’ve read Agatha Christie’s classic twist on a “locked room” mystery. I’m trying to finish it before the new film comes out at the end of the week. I am really hoping it’s good, although the trailers have left me skeptical. Poirot is my favorite recurring detective from Christie and David Suchet will always be the best Poirot. If nothing else, perhaps the film will bring in a new generation of Christie fans. 

The Silent Companions

from the publisher: When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure—a silent companion—that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition—that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

I’ve been hearing so much great press about this one from the UK. It is coming to the US in March. I’ve only read a couple of chapters so far but it’s very atmospheric. I look forward to really digging in and getting creeped out. 

I also bought a couple of books this week.

Vacationland by John Hodgman

from the publisher: Vacationland collects these real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.

The guy cracks me up and my parents just moved to Maine full-time, so I feel like this was a no-brainer.

What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong

from the publisher: It’s the story “They” don’t want you to read. Though, to be fair, “They” are probably right about this one. To quote the Bible, “Learning the truth can be like loosening a necktie, only to realize it was the only thing keeping your head attached.” No, don’t put the book back on the shelf — it is now your duty to purchase it to prevent others from reading it. Yes, it works with e-books, too, I don’t have time to explain how.

I literally just picked this up off the shelf randomly and the description made me laugh. Only later did I realize it is part three of a series. Oops! Has anyone else read the series? Do I have to read it in order?

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

from the publisher: A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life.

This is a short story collection by a very famous actor, so at first I assumed it wouldn’t be very good. Then I heard lots of readers, ones I know and trust, say they really liked it. No, Tom Hanks doesn’t need any more money but I feel like we should support “the good guys,” especially when they do something cerebral and it’s not a stunt.

What are you reading this week?

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