butterflies in november

End of the Year Mini Reviews

butterflies in november

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Quick Pitch: Following a difficult breakup, a young woman seeks a refreshing vacation, but ends up caring for her best friend’s son on a wild road trip across Iceland.

Thoughts: I’m so glad this novel was compared to Wes Anderson’s films, otherwise I may have confused some of the dry, dark humor for poor translation. Instead, I was totally charmed by the offbeat situations, quick pace and unexpected revelations. Anyone who loves a good, quirky read with a heartfelt center will be more than happy with Butterflies in November.

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Quick Pitch: A comprehensive look at the life of Jesus through both the lens of history and the stories written in the Gospels.

Thoughts: As a history geek, I’ve often found myself much more interested in the historical paths taken by religious figures than the beliefs of individual religions. Reza Aslan does an amazing job painting a historical picture of Jesus and placing the Gospels in context with everything happening in the region at the time. Without ever offending, Aslan points out inaccuracies in the Gospels by aligning them with history and allowing a new, revealing image to emerge.

zealot reza aslan

wolf in white vanWolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Quick Pitch: Following a disfiguring injury, Sean Phillips develops detailed game worlds that others begin to inhabit and eventually carry into reality.

Thoughts: This is the first time in years that I’ve gone into a book almost completely blind, with little idea about the general storyline and it totally worked. I think having someone try to explain the strange roleplaying game at the novel’s center could have unfairly put me off, especially when this book is about so much more. Darnielle writes with beautiful simplicity and allows his readers to feel every inch of his characters’ emotions. Quick and compact, the novel feels a bit like a fever dream in the best way possible.

Quick Recommendation: I couldn’t help thinking about Ready Player One while reading this, though it’s quite different. If you loved Ready Player One for its gaming bits, but wished it had a little more literary meat, run, run, run and get this book.


  • I’ve never heard of Butterflies in November…I may check that one out.

    I had a different experience with Zealot that you did. I appreciated Aslan’s efforts, but he was factually wrong and misleading in enough areas that I had trouble giving any serious credence in his hypothesis. I’m not saying there are not what could be considered inaccuracies in the Gospels, but there was so much “pick and choose” on his side of things that I felt that I had to write the whole book off.

    • I read quite a bit about the book before picking it up and felt pretty grounded in what I was reading (especially given the depth of his sources), but I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

  • I don’t know any of these books. THANKS for sharing.

    You always have the most interesting, attention-getting posts.

    ENJOY your weekend.

  • I was less than enamored of Wolf in White Van, I’m afraid. But Zealot sounds terrific. I was aware of its existence, sort of, but now I’m adding it to my reading list!

    • Zealot was definitely an interesting read for me. I had heard Reza Aslan on NPR and a few news shows, but reading the book was a good little dive into some of the things he had discussed.

  • Great reviews! I really want to read Butterflies in November, it sounds like my kind of read :) Will keep a lookout for it…Hope you had a lovely Christmas :)

  • My music minister has been reading Zealot… I’ll have to borrow his copy when he’s done. And yesssss Wolf in White Van sounds amazing, I think especially because yeah, I did wish Ready Player One was a little more meaty. Crazy cover, ha!

  • Wolf in White Van sounds amazing, and now I want to read Butterflies in November!

  • Ooh, Zealot sounds fascinting! I’d definitely be interested in getting a more historical, less religious perspective on the origins of Christiantiy.

  • I’ve been wanting to read Zealot. I find that stuff fascinating.

  • Butterflies in November sounds like something I should add to my list! I love quirky reads and dark humor.

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