January 2024 Reading Update

January 2024 Update

posted in: Personal Essay, Reading | 0

January is always a tough month for me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost my taste for winter even though winters in Philadelphia have gotten more mild the past few years.

December, at least, has Holly’s birthday, Christmas, and our winter break to distract me. After our October Staycation, Thanksgiving, and the aforementioned December activities, January feels like a long slog with not much going on and no time off from work except the 1st day. I joke that January feels like it’s 400 some days long since it seems like it will never end.

I don’t mind February as much. We’re starting to get more daylight, and it’s a short month. My birthday is in February and baseball’s spring training starts in the middle of the month so we have things to look forward to.

After our fun winter break trip to Washington DC, we didn’t do much in January. The weather wasn’t particularly bad. We had 1 week with a couple of small snow storms, otherwise it was generally cold and gloomy.

We did have to go to campus on one of the snowy and icy days. Otherwise, we stayed in and I took some photos out our window.

January certainly wasn’t all bad. We got out a few times. We had enjoyable dates nights at a few of our favorite places: Second District Brewing, Twenty Manning, SouthGate, L’Anima, and Spice Finch. I guess one upside to the long month is that we had an extra weekly Date Night.

We also went to the Philadelphia Pen Show for the first time. Both Holly and I have gotten more and more into pens and stationery over the past few years, and we’ve been wanting to go. It was a good first experience. It’s one of the smaller pen shows and, even so, getting overwhelmed by all the displays came easily. We just browsed and didn’t buy anything. We’ll know more what to expect if we go back or go to some other pen show in the future.

Sleater-Kinney released a new album, Little Rope. I’ve been a fan of theirs ever since hearing I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone in the under-appreciated and hard to find movie All Over Me. The first album I bought was All Hands on the Bad One which came out in 2000, nearly a quarter of a century ago! Hard to believe. Other than a couple of songs, I haven’t been overly impressed with Little Rope, but it’s not uncommon for me to take some time to warm up to a new album.

One of the better songs on the album is Hell, and the video stars Miranda July which is an added bonus.

Although most of the month was cold and gloomy, the last Saturday was relatively nice so we got out for a long walk. It was my first photo walk of the year. I’ll write more about that after I get my film developed and scanned.

The real drama of the month happened on the last Friday. While working from home, I knocked an entire cup of coffee onto my laptop. A direct hit with a full cup of coffee. It was not good. Luckily, I had recently purchased a new iPad and was able to quickly switch to that for the rest of the work day. 

When I got the iPad, I was curious how well it would perform as a computer replacement so I’m getting my chance to find out. For both work and my personal needs, it’s good for 90% of my tasks so I’ve been able to eek by, although some of those tasks get completed much more slowly.

I save my files in the cloud so I shouldn’t have lost anything important which is a relief. My laptop was several years old, and I was already contemplating replacing it so the idea of having to suddenly do so isn’t the blow it would have been if my computer had been newer. It was still shocking, and I spent a few days feeling rather flustered.

It never revived, and I ordered a new computer which will be available mid-February.


As I mentioned, I did get out for one nice photo walk at the end of the month. Mid-January, I brought out my light box to take some indoor photos to make up for my lack of getting outside. Not having a computer has broken my photo editing and posting workflow so I won’t get around to sharing any of those pictures until later in February.


Not wanting to go outside was good for my reading habit. I finished 4 books during the month and started a 5th.

Quite a while ago, I got the Kindle version of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman Is in Trouble. I started reading it on my Kindle but eventually checked the hardback out from the library where I work.

As I am sure I’ve said several times in the past, I appreciate the convenience of the Kindle but prefer reading in print. 

I was enjoying Fleishman Is in Trouble and got the print version to make sure I was getting the most from the experience.

I liked the set-up of a couple on the verge of a divorce where the wife just totally walks away from the relationship and her responsibilities leaving the main character of the husband to deal with the fallout of her absence, especially in terms of taking care of their children, and the mystery of why she behaved as she had. Neither character is particularly likable and their relationship was a hot mess which made it both a somewhat tough read and highly entertaining. 

Speaking of a trouble marriage, I followed that with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’ve been slowly working my way through most of his plays and have only a few more to go. I chose Macbeth for my next one because when I got the new iPad, I got 3 free months of Apple TV and Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth is available only through that service. In the old days, I would have gotten the disc from Netflix, but, alas, those days are gone.

Most of the plays I’ve read have been re-reads, and Macbeth is the one I remembered best. I hadn’t read it in at least 20 years, but it was all still quite familiar. I find it to be one of his more compelling plays. It took me only 4 days (which is quick for me) to finish it.

The Joel Coen version adhered pretty closely to the play with the exception of the roll of Ross. It’s amazing what a production can introduce visually without changing a word of dialog. In this film version, Ross had a bigger roll in orchestrating the action.

Of course, I couldn’t resist revisiting Akira Kurasawa’s exceptional Throne of Blood in which he crafts a Samurai version of the play.

Next, I read Carolyn Burke’s Lee Miller: A Life. I have long wanted to learn more about her. I knew some of her photography and her relationship with Man Ray but really had no idea of the scope of her life. This biography was fascinating and encompassed her entire life from her upbringing in Poughkeepsie, NY to her final days. It also included quite a few of her photographs but it left me wanting to see more. I didn’t know much about her role as a journalist nor the time she spent in Egypt, nor her late in life enthusiasm for cooking.

I finished the month with Daniel Clowes’ new graphic novel, Monica. I am a huge fan of his Ghost World as well as Terry Zwifgoff’s movie version and have always wanted to read more of his work. Unfortunately, I had mixed feelings about Monica. The title character is abandoned by her single mother and the parts of the book about her dealing with that abandonment and searching for her mother are fantastic. However, there are supernatural elements in the book that didn’t work for me and didn’t contribute much. I found they distracted from the heartfelt mother-daughter story. The end just felt weird for weird’s sake. It was worth reading for the parts that were effective.

Books Read in 2024

So far, I have read 4 books in 2024:

Being and Formulating Posts in 2024

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