A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms book coverI recently read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway because for the first time in a long time I didn’t have my next several books lined up to read and I impulsively felt like reading something old. This book was first published in 1929 (nearing 100 years) and is often mentioned as one of Hemingway’s best books or most often discussed at least. I picked it up and surprisingly had it finished in just a few days. I felt as if I could have finished it in a day or an afternoon if I was inclined to do so. It reads easily and quickly and perhaps that is simply Hemingway’s style though I can see how some people may struggle with his form.

The ease of his prose may be the best part of the book. The story is written well enough that you can get through quickly, but the story itself is a bit lacking when it comes to characters. Granted, this book was written in a time when women were still often treated as objects (which is a bit distracting within the book) and men made all decisions, but there is little that makes you care for either Catherine Barkley or Lieutenant Henry.

The story takes place during World War I and follows an American who is an ambulance driver for the Italian army and who enters a relationship with a nurse. This brief oversimplification of the story may lead you to believe it is a romanticized wartime novel, but I must warn you that is absolutely not the case. The merit I found in this book is the description of the war and the return to simpler times which may sound contradictory, but what I mean by simpler is a world society that wasn’t connected 24/7 through technology and people lived their lives, even through a war, in a way that was much simpler than what we know today. I will admit simpler doesn’t translate to easier. It was just a much different world 100 years ago. Sometimes it is nice to see glimpses into that world through novels like this one. It is also interesting to read a book about World War I that was much closer to the actual event and not clouded by how history views the war, and was not written by someone who was not alive during the war.

I know Hemingway is known to have a machismo complex within his writing, and throughout his life, and he is considered a master of literature. However, I think his name has become an icon of something other than what he was or has been placed on a large pedestal and glorified for both good and awful reasons. I also think that many people have not actually read his work, and younger generations would not read it given a choice. I assume that most who read Hemingway today do so in an educational setting. I could be wrong. His is a also name that likely gets invoked by people who claim to have read his work without actually having read it. The same is probably true for Fitzgerald and Dostoevsky and other literary giants who wrote what are considered classics today.

Regardless of the good and bad centered around Hemingway as a name, and the good and bad present within A Farewell to Arms, I am writing this as a book recommendation because I think it was worth reading (for me at least despite having both liked and disliked portions of the book). Perhaps you have not read Hemingway yet and want to give his work a shot. Or perhaps you’ve tried his work and prefer to stay away. Maybe you have always known of Hemingway and stayed away because of his large presence in literature and deem him overrated without actually knowing why you think so. All are valid reasons to make your choice. I only wrote this post because I read the book and found some merit in it. Only you can decide whether or not you want to give it a chance.

Happy Reading.

July & August Reading Lineup

I ended up finishing my May reading lineup in June, so I figured I’d just give myself some extra time to get through these books. Luckily, I am finishing my current graduate courses and will have a six week break before my next few classes start up, so I should have some more time to read.

Castle in the Air Book CoverI am currently reading Castle in the Sky by Diana Wynne Jones and hope to finish it up soon. This is a companion novel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is a favorite of mine. I am about halfway through and there haven’t been any connections to Howl’s yet, so I’m not sure how it is considered a “companion” novel just yet.

House of Many Ways Book CoverMy next read is actually the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle which is titled House of Many Ways. I decided to read Castle in the Sky first because it was published before House of Many Ways and I just decided to read these books in order of publication. I will likely write a recommendation for these books and, if I do, I may do one post for both books dependent upon how much they have in common.

After these, I’m not entirely sure what I will read next. I typically pick up whatever I am in the mood for, but I think I may begin the Sandman comic series by Neil Gaiman. I recently acquired the omnibus editions of this series, and I have been meaning to check it out. I don’t often read comics (which is somewhat surprising considering my interests), but I have heard a lot about this series and know many people who really enjoy it. I honestly don’t know much about the overall story. I am a fan of Neil’s work though and I’m certain it will be great. I may even begin this series alongside the Diana Wynne Jones books. I typically don’t read more than one book at a time. I’ll sometimes read one fiction and one non-fiction book simultaneously, but I like to focus on one story. For some reason I don’t think it will bother me since Sandman is in comic format. We will see.

Sandman Omnibus Editions

I hope your are having some fun reading adventures this summer. I am actually volunteering for my local library’s annual book sale next month which I am looking forward to especially since it was cancelled this past year. I’ll likely acquire many more books that will sit on my shelves for a bit before I get to them.

Happy Reading.

Welcome to Fatherhood

IMG_44601.jpgI am extremely happy to announce that I am now a father to a beautiful baby girl. Emily and I welcomed Violet Skye Yarber on June 5th at 11:48pm. She was 8lbs 1oz and 20.5 inches long. I cannot state how incredible Em was during this past year, but especially during birth. She was an absolute champion and has continued to be during this first week of being new parents and taking care of little Violet. She is the best wife and mother.

I am overwhelmed and overjoyed at this new adventure into fatherhood. I hope to raise this little one to be an avid reader like myself, but that is still a few years away and will of course be her choice. We have plenty of kids books thanks to our wonderful group of family and friends.

I’m not going to lie, this first week has been a bit rough, but I think we are slowly getting the hang of things and hopefully it will get a bit easier. Violet is just so amazing for a tiny human that mostly sleeps. Then again, I am biased.

I am a lucky man. I hope to be a great father to this beautiful little girl.

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Book Hangover

Book Hangover is real and I have been experiencing one of late. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, I would define a book hangover as the inability to move onto a new book due to a lingering connection to the story you recently finished. Basically, you are still processing or thinking about the events or characters of the story you finished and need to take some time before moving on.

This can occur after reading a great book or a story you connected with strongly. It happens to me from time to time and usually occurs after I finish a series I really enjoy. There are many definitions the internet will provide because this is a fairly common occurrence but it affects people in different ways. There are several good memes out there that will give you a laugh. I enjoyed a few while writing this post. It's just a book;

The term “hangover” makes it seem like a bad experience, but I don’t consider it to be bad in any way. Yes, I am not yet ready to move on from a story I recently finished, but I just experienced a great story and need some extra time. Granted, a book hangover can be caused by a less-than-ideal experience or even a traumatic one (I’ve never cried during a book but some events can hit hard), but I wouldn’t consider relatively negative experiences in fictional worlds bad for us. It just means we were invested and being invested in a story or character is a good thing. I just wish more of us were as invested in our real-world friends and family (though these are longer-term commitments that require much more effort but they are that much more worth it).

Stories are amazing things. Books are simply vessels for stories. We create the connection and our imaginations bring the world and characters to life. My favorite, absurd description of reading a book goes like this: Reading a book is just staring at a piece of dead tree and hallucinating.

I’m curious if you have ever experienced a book/story hangover. Can you think of a book, series, tv show, or movie that stayed with you long after you finished it?

I think I am near the end of my own book hangover and will be ready to move onto the next experience. I wish you all a great story in the near future.

Reading Challenge

I’ve been participating in a reading challenge at work. One of my favorite things about working at a university is being able to participate in campus activities geared toward faculty, staff, and students, and meeting so many interesting people with specialties in different areas. This challenge recently made me think about my reading habits and what reading means to me and others. The challenge encourages participants to read books that will promote inclusivity and diverse perspectives. The challenge is split into months and cover the following categories:

  • Read a book about Activism, Advocacy, Antiracism, or Allyship
  • Read a book featuring a character with a [dis]Ability – to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous Author
  • Read an LGBTQ+ book, graphic novel, memoir, or comic featuring an LGBTQ+ character and/or written by an LGBTQ+ author
  • Read a book written by or about a refugee
  • Read a book written by an author of color
  • Read a book written by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  • Read an #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America

I have completed 7 of the 8 reading challenges on this list and will be reading the final one before the challenge is done. The recent self-reflection made me realize that although I read a lot and try to read widely, I also fail to venture into certain literary areas or pick up books that would be good for me to experience.

I am absolutely a big fan of science fiction and fantasy and many of my reading decisions sway toward this area. I read “classics” and memoirs and books on science and I try to remain open to all types of books. Granted, my reading list is forever long, but I couldn’t help but notice that there are many areas I should be including. I did take advantage of a few of these challenges to read authors I’d always intended to read but hadn’t yet picked up their work (like Octavia Butler and Viet Thanh Nguyen), but a few of the challenges above steered me toward a few new areas.

Reading, for me, is an enjoyable experience that lets me escape into wondrous worlds, learn new things, and meet great characters. Reading, especially fiction, is a great way to build empathy. I consider myself a highly empathetic person and I credit my enthusiasm for reading as a part of this. That being said, I think I was a bit surprised that my reading habits do often tend to stay on the same highway. One or two challenges above made me make a few pitstops I wouldn’t normally have made, and I realized I need to maybe make more pitstops on my journey through life. I will always read what I love to read, of course, but I think some great experiences may be waiting for me outside my standard fields of interest, and these experiences will likely make me a better person. To put it simply, I realized I need to read more widely than I have in the past. Libraries are great for trying new things.

I hope you examine your own reading habits and perhaps try a few books outside your own comfort bubble. Perhaps you will try some of the challenges above. Maybe you will find a new favorite arena to explore.

Happy Reading.