WHAT ARE YOU READING? - Part 3
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How is everyone’d reading year going?
I've now started Young Men in Spats by P.G. Wodehouse, because, truly, there is nothing like Wodehouse to lift one out of a book slump.
I'm also slowing reading Madame President: the Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, the first woman President of Liberia. It's fascinating but very violent, so I'm needing breaks.
But for now, I finally finished David W. Blight's Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, thanks to a second library checkout and some recent time on a plane. And it was worth those 912 pages for the incredibly comprehensive overview of that time period and the very fraught courses of abolition and reconstruction (both of which are named to sound like contained processes, and both of which were anything but). Blight paints a thorough picture of the politics of the day—not simple, to say the least, but really worth taking the deep dive into if you have any interest in that kind of thing.
Now I'm reading another library hold that came in, Pretend I'm Dead—I'm about ready for a little fiction—and also a really nice looking graphic history, Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage, for a Library Journal review.
I’m also reading Daisy Jones & the Six for a book club, and it is just okay thus far.
>7 kidzdoc: noting. In December I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s experiences in these riots. Crazy stuff.
>8 lisapeet: I’m thinking this Frederick Douglas book should be my next audiobook. Maybe.
- 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson
- The Midnight Heiress by Ashtyn Newbold
- The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
I finished listening to Lucifer's Hammer over the weekend, but I haven't decided which book I want to listen to next. For the past few days I have been going through my backlog of podcasts instead.
On the train home I started Le colonel Chabert; I’ve also still got Anglo-Saxon attitudes on the go. And I found a further pile of Christine Brooke-Rose books in my mailbox when I got home...
This book is part memoir and part cookbook. Chiang has a co-author, and the this co-author has selected and written the story of Chiang's life. These memoirs are interspersed with recipes from Chiang's famous Mandarin Resturant. This format works very well. The recipes are interesting, but what I was really interested in was the story of this woman's life. The memoir reads like a novel. It almost reads like a Lisa See novel come to life. This is not an objective look at history or culture. It is the story of one woman's life and her point-of-view about how events affected her and her family. It is also the immigrant story of a filthy rich Asian who comes to America and makes good. I am not saying that Chiang didn't work hard and that she doesn't deserve her fame and success. I am saying that she came to the U. S. not intending to immigrate - but she did, eventually. Not intending to open a business - but she did. Not intending to life apart from her husband and raising her children in the U. S. - but she did. I am saying that she is not your typical immigrant. She came to the U. S. with all the advantages and made good use of them by finding something that she loved doing and making it a success.
I really liked this book and put it on my personal best of the year list.
Pretend I'm Dead was super quirky, which I don't necessarily like, but this one kept my attention—not least because it was so completely unpredictable. Plus I'm always interested in the ways people (particularly women) write about cleaning. The narrator is a house cleaner by profession, and has an interesting attitude toward it—slightly defensive, slightly proud—that made the book for me. Cleaning—it's such a thing. How or whether you learn it as a kid, how well you feel you accomplish it as an adult, how you feel about spending time on it. The author, Jen Beagin, was over 40 when she published it, so I'm thinking maybe there's a Bloom piece in here... she's got a sequel out, Vacuum in the Dark, so I'll probably read that first and see what I think.
Also finished and reviewed Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage, a really graphic history of Darwin's first expedition on the H.M.S. Beagle. I love when a graphic treatment uses all the techniques that make it a unique format, and this one is really terrific—very cinematic and the art is beautiful.
Now I'm reading Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America by James Poniewozik, for a nonfiction/current events book panel I'm doing at the end of May. Anyone who knows me raises their eyebrows at this—I don't like Donald Trump or TV—but his thesis, that Trump's persona is entirely generated by, and grew up along with, the medium, is a good one, and the book is very straightforward.
Amazon Is offering nine free kindle books as part of World Book Day. The deal is available through April 24th.
From Mexico, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
From Netherlands, An American Princess by Annejet Van Derek Ziji
From Spain, All This I Will Give To You by Dolores Redondo
From Germany, The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
From Israel, About the Night by Anat Talshir
From Sweden, The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist
From Japan, Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro
From Argentina, The Passion According to Carmela by Marcus Aguinis
From Norway, This Life or the Next by Damian Vitanza
The link to find the books... I should have added it earlier.
Next up after Solaris, which turned out to be largely about absence of meaning, was another Christine Brooke-Rose, Amalgamemnon, in which everything means at least two different things at once...
Also, the mail brought me Ali Smith's Spring and 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich
My other book right now is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. At first I wasn't sure about this book because it was so slow to get started, but now I can't put it down at night. It has sucked me into the world of the characters. Lovely book with wonderful characters.
I’ve started my next Brooke-Rose, Xorandor, which looks as though it’s going to be fun. It’s written in a mixture of English and (a variant of) BASIC.
With regards to nonfiction, I continue with the exceptional All That Remains, but have started Around the World in 80 Trees by reading a tree or two each time I pick the book up.
In the meantime, it’s been overtaken by Stella Duffy’s Theodora: actress, empress, whore - a nice historical novel, but nothing special. And back in 19th-century-novel-land, I’ve also started Fontane’s Irrungen Wirrungen, which looks like fun.
I actually found the museums at least slightly interesting. If nothing else, they were different from town to town. But I really didn't need umpteen repetitions of the same list of shops that the town did or didn't have, or of "and then I had dinner at an Indian restaurant and then I had a beer and then I went back to my hotel." Sigh. The book wasn't entirely without merit, for sure, but "disappointing" does pretty much sum it up.
I'm also reading Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, which also is asking me to read more slowly than I usually do. I may put this one on hold if it makes the ToB Summer Reading Challenge, so as to finish it closer to the week its being discussed.
I finished Dina Nayeri's The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You. And interesting blend of memoir, narrative, and rhetoric, this takes a hard look at the experience of refugees and the mythology around immigration. There are a lot of tools in Nayeri's toolbox here, and she makes use of them well. It's a little rough around the edges in parts, but this is also an early galley so I imagine there will be more editing before it pubs. And when she gets impassioned she really gets the job done beautifully.
Now reading Moving Forward, by Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief public affairs officer for moveon.org—doesn't even have a touchstone here yet. She says this is aimed at younger folks who may be considering a career in politics, but I'm enjoying it a lot. Her personality really shines through, and I'm looking forward to doing this panel with her on it.
ETA: I am....17 reviews behind :/
I'm also reading We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White, which has a fantastic premise - the story of two college roommates, one who became a 60s radical in a group loosely based on the Weathermen, and the other who became a lawyer. Unfortunately, the book is hampered by the one-dimensional characters and predictable plotting, with anything interesting happening off the page.
And I'm reading Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg, whom I met at the book signing for her new book, Feast Your Eyes. She's a really interesting person and this novel, a seemingly straightforward historical tale is taking some risks with the format.
I listened to Wickett’s Remedy when it first came out and thought it was a good novel. As I was listening I began to sense that there was something off about the recorded version. I went to the library and checked out the book and sure enough the format was very different. This is one book I don’t advise people to listen to the recorded version.
The Artist Who Loved Cats by Susan Barnardo--a really cute rhyming picture book that tells the life of Steinlen. A lot of people are probably familiar with his posters. The colored illustrations provide interest, and there are facts about the artist at the end of the book, along with some seek and find pictures.
The Tinderbox by Beverly Lewis--novel about an Amish family dealing with past events that catch up with them. Shunning makes me sad--why turn one's back on someone who is a sinner and needs support and care? We all fit that description at some time. I am not Amish, so maybe I just don't get it.
I'm also supposedly reading Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I seem to have put it on hold for the moment.
“Is it not passing brave to be a king, Techelles?”
“To ride in triumph through Persepolis”
—the second, as a single line, as good as any single line in Shakespeare.
ETA almost right:
“TAMBURLAINE. And ride in triumph through Persepolis!—
Is it not brave to be a king, Techelles?—
Usumcasane and Theridamas,
Is it not passing brave to be a king,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis?”
I'm currently reading Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken for the Tournament of Books Summer Reading Challenge and both are both good and also disappointing. Daisy Jones is purely entertaining and I'm very entertained, but it lacks the depth that makes for a memorable novel. I do recommend it as a good beach read. It's a blast. Just not a blast that is saying much more than "isn't this fun?" And Bowlaway has some sentences and paragraphs that are just superlatively written. My library copy is currently festooned with post-it notes marking our especially perfect phrases. But the whole isn't adding up. The quirky characters remain just that -- every time life creeps into one of them, the attention shifts away to someone else.
Black Coffee by Agatha Christie--a novelized version of her play. I found it slow going, and it seemed as if I was reading the play and all the stage directions. This was turned into a novel by an actor.
Deadly Deception by Hope Callaghan--This is number 4 in the Cruise Ship mystery series. The author is quite prolific and has several cozy mystery series going. This was the first one I read in this series, and I quite enjoyed it. I have a few more on my Kindle. The author definitely has a handle on cruising and the layout of the cruise ship.
I am now reading a few for NetGalley.
Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk - a mystery set in Zimbabwe, not always a comfortable read but enjoyable nevertheless. Third in a series... so need to read the first two.
4000 Miles and After the Revolution: Two Plays by Amy Herzog - two seemingly unconnected plays by Herzog which share characters - and as such reading them together actually makes a lot of sense.
Swamp Thing, Vol. 7: Regenesis by Rick Veitch - the 7th volume of the collected edition and the first one after Moore stepped down. From what I had heard, I expected something a lot worse - as it is, I actually did enjoy it.
The Parade: A Novel by Dave Eggers - call it an allegory, call it a story about a road - in both cases, it makes you think. How should someone help a country that needs help and can the help ignore the locals?
Reviews for these 4 in my thread (finally) :)
It does play on the racial history of Zimbabwe and it does play on the difference in education and customs a lot. But without sounding patronizing - even when it is making fun of some of the less-educated policemen. At the same time it has gruesome and uncomfortable elements to rival Billingham or Kellerman for example - but they do work in the context of the story.
It is not a cozy mystery but it does not cross all the way into the hard crime subgenres.
I am not very good at comparing books to each other :)
I'm reading an ARC of Paris, 7 A.M. by Liza Wieland and the writing is just so lovely. Wieland is imagining the time American poet Elizabeth Bishop spent in Europe, after graduating from university in 1937.
I'm also reading First Execution by Domenico Starnone. I really enjoyed another of his novels, Ties, and I'm glad Europa Editions is making his work available to English readers.
I've begun Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and I'm on the fourth story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black.
>141 RidgewayGirl: I'm reading a book with a marigold yellow cover...but it was published in '74 :-)
I climbed up on the library ladder to put the now finished latest Joyce Carol Oates novel away and found myself browsing through her collections. I pulled out a slim volume (with aforementioned marigold-colored cover) of The Hungry Ghosts: Seven Elusive Comedies and the idea of reading a comedy was somehow appealing to me....
Every time I said I was reading this, people would tell me that his last collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, was the real killer, so I'll probably be librarying that one up one of these days. But now for something completely different, and I'm packing Red Clocks for my commute, a donation to my TBR pile and recommendation from my friend Lauren.
Other recent reads:
Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another by Matt Taibbi—Agreeably testy, basically focusing on the anxiety-industrial complex aspects of network and cable news, and how their main business model is to keep viewers in a state of high anxiety in order to make a 24-hour news cycle viable. The left comes off no better than the right here—the cover features Sean Hannity side-by-side with Rachel Maddow, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. Smart commentary, a little rambly in places—it's pulled from his online Substack newsletter—but the premise is good. I agree with it, anyway... this administration is anxiety-producing enough without feeding the cocaine rat of "Now This."
Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit—Great contemporary retelling of the Cinderella story by Solnit, kind of a Stories for Free Children (dating myself here) for the new century. If I had youngsters I would definitely read them this... guess I'll just hold out for grandchildren someday. In the meantime it was fun, though, and I love her use of Arthur Rackham's original, and totally timeless, illustrations.
Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin—Interesting kind of push-me-pull-you thing going on with this book, and I imagine Beagin was aiming for a love/hate experience for her readers. The main character is equal parts alienating and relatable, as was the storyline(s) themselves. But I enjoyed it overall. I particularly like the two books' subtext of the ways we (especially women, I think, though it probably crosses gender lines) are defined by our relationship to cleaning. I spend... my god, a HUGE amount of my very limited free time just keeping my house from looking like shit, and I think about the whole time I'm vacuuming/mopping/dusting/putting crap where it goes—the unpaid labor aspect, the class aspect (because if I were more successful I'd have someone "come in" once a month), the woman's work aspect... so I particularly liked the books for their musings on that. Plus the cleaning tips, which were kind of awesome. Caveat: Lots of raunchiness and bodily functions, so stay away if that bothers you. I liked it.
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey: Extremely good, but I think the fact that it looks like it's packaged as a mystery/thriller does it a real disservice.
Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt: An interesting subject, but not as much so as I was hoping.
The Prestige by Christopher Priest: Good book that was made into a good movie. I recommend both, in whichever order.
To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North: Hamlet as a choose your own adventure! Ridiculous and delightful.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou: Good, but angry-making.
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang: Very popular here at the moment, and with excellent reason.
Time Traders II by Andre Norton: Omnibus of books 3 and 4 in Norton's Time Traders series. Not quite made worthwhile by the nostalgia factor they have for me, I'm afraid.
And, finally, I've just started Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer by Rob Manning and William L. Simon.
On the other hand, I’ve started dipping into Bettina von Arnim’s Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde, a spectacularly dull-sounding title which doesn’t really lead you to expect the cross-dressing, tree-climbing, pistol-packing Calamity Jane of German Romanticism. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the book is as lively as the first 20 pages...
I read The Amish Cookie Club for NetGalley, and The Not-So-Great Outdoors for LT Early Reviewers. Almost done with The Healing Jar for NetGalley. I have quite a few of those to catch up on.
>146 avaland: I have read all but two of the Smith mysteries, and I do like them. They are light reading, but I feel as if I know the characters like my own family.
Oh and before that, Ted Chiang's Exhalation. More commentary on my own thread, but I liked it a lot, thought it was a good thoughtful collection, and am looking forward to librarying up his Stories of Your Life and Others.
Now on to The Wolf and the Watchman, thanks to a few recommendations here. I have a train ride down to DC at the end of the week and a good historical thriller seems like just the thing.
Next up is a story collection from Early Reviewers: We Are Still Here by Emily Koon.
Now on to The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019 100th Anniversary Edition.
For nonfiction I'm reading Proust's Duchess, a new nonfiction book that explores the lives of 3 women on which Proust based his character, the Duchesse de Guermantes. Many of you probably remember how much I loved reading In search of Lost Time last year and this has been a fun way to revisit it.
Since then I've finished two quick reads - the 70s East German science-fiction novel Unheimliche Erscheinungsformen auf Omega XI and Dubravka Ugrešić's The museum of unconditional surrender, and I'm now having a go at Borges in Spanish with El Aleph.
Just reading a series about soccer that I don't think would be of interest to anyone plus it has not been translated. It's helping make up for the fact that I don't get to watch the Women's FIFA World Cup this year since the games (other than Japan and now that they are out...) aren't being shown on any of the free channels unlike the men's tournament. It kills me that I won't get to watch France v USA tonight.
Too bad it is not translated (soccer fan here as well) :)
Other than some rare cases like the basketball series called Slam Dunk, sports manga don't tend to get translated into English as there isn't a market for it. Not making any attempt at political correctness and going after the full on stereotype, "nerds" who read manga don't tend to play sports, and sports fans don't tend to like "foreign things". So it's hard to justify translating a series if they don't think anyone will buy it.
You are not wrong about that... Plus soccer even if it has somewhat of a Renaissance in the States, is not as popular as American football or baseball. Which does not help matters much. From what I am seeing, manga is getting more and more mainstream - but it is not there yet. So between the two, you are probably right in your analysis.
Now reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, which so far is as good as everyone says it is.
And it’s still balcony weather, so I’ve started Nana (no.9 in my Zolathon) and La forma de las ruinas by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, which was a tip from Darryl’s Booker International thread. They should both keep me busy for a little while...