Books I Read in October

Is it just me or has this year flown by? October was a relatively quiet month for me – with the exception of my trip to California, I stayed in pajamas at home for the bulk of the month. I read six books this month, which is about average for me this year. I read a memoir, a nonfiction book, two books of fiction, and two books of poetry. In chronological order, here are the books I read in October.

yes pleaseAmy Poehler’s Yes Please – Before this book, I only had a vague idea of who Amy Poehler is. I knew her as a feminist, the best friend of Tina Fey, and one of the creators of Smart Girls. I chose to listen to Amy Poehler reading the book, because I’m a firm believer that anytime a comedian or actor writes a book, listening to them read it is 100x better. Since reading the book, I’ve become obsessed with Parks & Recreation, and I will probably read the book again in a year. I think this book is probably more enjoyable for true Poehler fans, because a lot of the book talks about the specifics of her career and journey. I enjoyed the book, but think I’ll enjoy it more in the future.


the sound and the fury

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury – This was probably the most difficult books I’ve read all year, but also one of the most beautiful and rewarding. I would highly recommend it to just about anyone. Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness style is frustrating at first, but a friend recommended that I sit down and read a big chunk of it at a time, so that I can really get into the rhythm of the book. This was exactly what I needed to do, rather than reading 10 pages at a time on the bus, so that’s my advice to you as well!


sixth extinctionElizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Sixth Extinction has been on my to-read list ever since I watched a work-in-progress cut of Six (now Racing Extinction) two years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. The book is cleverly organized into 13 chapters, each studying the extinction of a different species. The chapters build upon each other until we see the history of man’s understanding of and contribution to the concept of a mass extinction. I found the book enjoyable and fascinating, but also hopelessly depressing. I think Kolbert is an upbeat pessimist, who is able to write cheerily about things that she thinks will inevitably lead to our doom.


telephone ringingAdrienne Rich’s Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth is the second book of Adrienne Rich’s that I’ve read this year. I found the themes hauntingly similar to the first book I read, even though they were written forty years apart. I wrote a short review of the book last week, so for today, I thought I’d share another quote.

If the word gets out if the word
escapes if the word
flies if it dies
it has its way of coming back
The handwritings on the walls
are vast and coded


magiciansLev Grossman’s The Magicians – Okay, I have a confession. I almost never reread books. I have only read the Harry Potter books once, even though I thought I was a Potterhead. (I’ve come to accept that I am not really one.) This is the first book I’ve reread in years, and you know what? It was even better than I remembered! Dark, smart, and hilarious – this is absolutely everything that I want in a fantasy novel. I’m currently rereading The Magician’s King now in preparation of reading the third book of the trilogy as well as the television adaptation. Have you seen the preview? I’m nervous and excited!


the gold cellSharon Old’s The Gold Cell – This is one of the more deeply personal and insightful books of poetry that I’ve read this year. Olds dissects her own life for us in search of what it means to be a human, a mother, a daughter, a wife. After reading the book, I really felt a connection with her, like I knew more about her life and how she thinks and processes things than I know about even some of my closest friends. The book is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, because parts of it can be quite explicit or uncomfortable, but I think it will actually make you a more compassionate person for having read it.


I’m a lucky girl this month, because there wasn’t a single book that I didn’t like on this list. If you only read one of these books, I would have to say read Faulkner. Have you read any of these? What did you read in October? What should I read in November?

Behind the Title: Why The Sound and the Fury?


As you have probably noticed, I have been slowly making my way through The Sound and the Fury on the blog. It has been a tedious and slow slog through the book, in the best of ways. It’s the very first Faulkner book I’ve read. I’ve only read his short stories in the past, which have been much more manageable.  I have been reading all of the tips and hints about how to read Faulkner that I can get my hands on, and I think I might be sharing some of those tips with you soon. Today I wanted to think a little more about the meaning behind the title of the book.

Do you usually have an “Aha!” moment when you are reading a book, when all of a sudden you’ve connected all the dots and understand how the title of the book was chosen? Sometimes the author uses the phrase in the book (see: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr) or introduces an elaborate metaphor that the entire book can rest on (see: The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer). Unfortunately, Faulkner didn’t clue me in that easily. After some quick searching online, I learned that The Sound and the Fury was inspired by a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Macbeth, Act V, Scene v)

The more I’ve thought about it, the more fitting this passage is to set the scene for The Sound and the Fury.

  • The Sound and the Fury opens with Benjy telling us the story of the Compsons when he was younger. Benjy is mentally disabled, literally full of sound and fury because he is unable to communicate through speech.
  • This passage reminded me of Dilsey in the fourth section. Dilsey is convinced that she has seen the end of the Compson family, and repeats throughout the section that she’s seen the first and the last of the Compsons.

“I’ve seed de first en de last,” Dilsey said. “Never you mind me.”
“First en last whut?” Frony said.
“Never you mind,” Dilsey said. “I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin.”

  • Although I’ve never read Macbeth, I know that Macbeth is a tragedy about the rise and fall of Macbeth and his family. If you, unlike me, got the Shakespeare reference before starting the book, you would have known that Faulkner’s book is also a tragedy.
  • Finally, I’ve read some essays online that argue that Quentin’s mania in section 2 of the book mirror Macbeth’s soliloquy in Act V. I’ll have to read the play myself before I can see what I think, but I thought this might be an interesting tidbit to point out.

Have you read The Sound and the Fury? What did you think?

The Sound and The Fury: Caddy Compson &; Honeysuckles


I fooled you all,the time it was me you thought I was in the house where that damn honeysuckle trying not to think the swing the cedars the secret surges the breathing locked drinking the wild breath the the Yes Yes yes

The second section of The Sound and the Fury is told from Quentin Compson’s perspective. Quentin is currently at Harvard, quietly obsessed with the loss of his sister Caddy’s purity. He associates the suffocating smell of honeysuckle with her sexuality.

I could hear her heart going firm and slow now not hammering and the water gurgling among the willows in the dark and waves of honeysuckle coming up the air my arm and shoulder were twisted under me    

I thought this was such a smart, beautifully written contrast to the first section where Benjy equates Caddy with the smell of trees. If you’ve ever taken a walk in the South during the summer, you will instantly recognize the heavy and fragrant smell of honeysuckles. It’s an overwhelming smell that mirrors Quentin’s obsession. There’s a lot of discussion out there about whether Quentin actually wanted to sleep with his sister, but what interested me more is the way that Faulkner uses scents to evoke a certain feeling.

damn that honeysuckle I wish it would stop

I started looking into the symbolism of flowers and trees, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite finds with you.

There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

white heather

White Heather – protection and all of your wishes coming true. It was often used to stuff mattresses and thatch roofs, because people believed it would protect them from harm.


Hyacinths – sadness, grief, and asking for forgiveness. Greek Legend has it the Hyacinth was once a boy who was loved by both Apollo and Zephyr, the god of the west wind. Zephyr kills Hyacinth in a jealous rage, and Apollo created the flower out of Hyacinth’s blood. The flower can also represent constancy, sports, and sincerity. Hyacinths always remind me of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.


Jonquil – In the Victorian era, the Jonquil symbolized a desire to have your affections returned, sympathy, and requited love. The ancient Greeks believed that it was a flower that grew in the Underworld and symbolized the dead.

What are some of your favorite uses of flowers and scents in books that you’ve read? What do your favorite flowers mean?


Additional Reading:

The Sound and the Fury: Caddy Smelled Like Trees

the sound and the fury

I’m currently reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which is proving to be the most difficult book that I’ve picked up all year. It’s a slow-going but rewarding trek so far – it has taken me a week to get through the first section. From what I can tell so far, the book follows the Compson family who live in Faulkner’s famous Yoknapatawpha County. Each section is narrated by a different family member, and I am slowly piecing together the family’s history as I go.

The first section is narrated by Benjy, who is mentally handicapped and has no distinction between past and present, so everything is told as if it were happening in the present. He is dependent on and very affectionate of his older sister Caddy. He equates her with the smell of trees, a sentiment which is repeated throughout the first section.

“Caddy smelled like trees in the rain.”

Inspired by Kimberly’s earlier post on the smell of hometowns, I thought I would look into perfumes that smell like trees to get a better understanding of how Caddie smelled to Benjy. Here are two that I think would suit Caddie well.


memoirs of a trespasserMemoirs of a Trespasser, by Imaginary Authors – I love the name of this perfume. I think it would suit Caddy’s descent into adulthood and promiscuity. It has notes of Madagascar Vanilla, Guaiac Wood, Myrrh, Benzoin Resin, Ambrette Seeds & Oak Barrels.

Guaiac Wood is one of the hardest and most resilient woods in the world and has been used for many medicinal purposes. From what I can tell so far, Caddy is a head-strong and resilient girl, so this would be fitting for her!





siennaSienna, by DSH perfumes – this one is described as “redolent, distinctive and tempting. Cinnamon leaf, curry leaf and pink pepper are at the top, followed by basmati, cinnamon bark, honey and white oak. Civet, labdanum, leather, peru balm and tolu balm form the base.”

Maybe ironically, one of the sweetest scenes in the first section occurs when Caddy wears perfume. Benjy has a meltdown because she no longer smells like trees, and when she realizes what is bothering him, she washes off her perfume, and they give the bottle away to Dilsey, their family’s housekeeper. So maybe Caddy wouldn’t need either perfume that I’ve picked out after all!

Have you read The Sound and the Fury? Do you have any helpful hints for me?