I’m tying up loose ends, finishing books I have been lagging on or either putting off reading completely. I recently realized the year will be done before we know it and I had some reading to check off my list (Gretchen Rubin would be proud) before I could sing Auld Lang Syne. And, as all good things must come to an end, so, too, do library renewals.

When I set out at the beginning of the year to read a multitude of books for the WV Reads 150 program, I made a list of books I’d been neglecting. For the self-improvement category I included Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project.’ While I did pick up some useful tips from her on leading a more productive, uncluttered, happy life, the book was just ok for me.  To be honest, I was turned off by her constant fight not to nag her husband and her incessant need for “gold stars.” As far as self-improvement books go, I much prefer reading the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Suze Orman or even Emily Post. I know, apples and oranges, but these books play more to the way I think.

I finally finished David Robertson’s ‘George Mallory’ after picking it up and putting it back down for months. Robertson was Mallory’s son-in-law. And although he never met Mallory, he had complete access to all the family letters and papers. Robertson’s is considered the definitive biography on Mallory, but to me it was too academic.  Mallory wrote a lot in his life: letters, papers, lectures, articles, etc. And it seemed it was all included, but no other voices–just Mallory’s. And while it is a great resource to have, there was no personality in the biography. I would think being that close to the family there would be more insight and stories, but instead it read like a one-dimensional textbook. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have it on my bookshelf, but for me, David Pye’s (a close friend to the Mallory’s) biography was much more compelling with personal stories and anecdotes. Although, I have to say toward the end of the Robertson book, I found myself wanting to go to it more. I don’t know if that’s because I was having Mallory withdrawal or because my only other option was the Gretchen Rubin book.

I am almost done with ‘A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare:1599,’ by James Shapiro. This one just couldn’t hold my attention. There were interesting bits here and there, but not enough meat about Shakespeare (understandable since very little is known about the man) to keep me interested in the huge tome of a book. It was more about the year 1599 and what was happening in London and around the world. Instead, I really enjoyed ‘Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare,’ by Stephen Greenblatt, which I read earlier this year. While also built on facts and anecdotes, Greenblatt’s book had more personality and kept me engaged.

Maybe Rubin’s book did me good after all. Patience and task completion were definitely in order for me on some of these reads. I guess I can say I get a gold star. 🙂