Monday, April 30, 2018

Let's Talk Books

I'm on a bit of a reading binge these days -- a sort of defiance of the general zeitgeist of distraction, hysteria and just general shitshow stuff. 

Reading, I've said many times, is my only constant.

I've just started Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God. It's too early to say whether I love it or not, but I'm having a rocky start given the genre. I'm not a person who enjoys the dystopian novel or even fantasy, so it might be hard going. We'll see (or read). I just finished Cynthia Bond's novel Ruby which was lying around my house for many years. It has some amazing lyrical passages in it, but overall I found it overwrought. Obviously, this is subjective, but as I get older I find that I like things stripped down to the essential. Lisa Halliday's novel Asymmetry was riveting for me, a kind of meta-fiction thing going on (shoot me now for even using the word meta) and stripped of sentimentality. I found the story really interesting and sexy and was blown away by the structure and writing. Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied Sing was perhaps the most beautiful book I've read in years -- brutal, spare, lyrical and transcendent at once. If you look over there on my righthand side-bar, you'll see a list of all the books I've read so far this year -- when I glance at it, I'd say that Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied Sing and Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon were my favorites. Quatro is one of those writers who appears to have been living in my brain taking notes.

Up next, after the Erdrich, is poet Robert Hass' A Little Book of Form and maybe simultaneously Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere. I'm also making my way through a pile of New Yorkers.

Reader, what are you reading?


  1. I just finished audio-reading Circe which had some stunning writing in it. Also, an interesting perspective on the myth. Right now I'm listening to If The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss and I love it. It tumbles along in different voices like different parts of the same mountain creek.
    With my eyes I am reading an Alexander McCall Smith book but I do honestly think I've already read it. Does that say more about me or the author?
    Me, probably.

  2. I'm just finishing up "Little Fires Everywhere" and have been enjoying it. Before that was Anna Quindlen's "Lots of Cake and Plenty of Candles", it was a memoir and I loved it. I also read "A Wrinkle In Time" which was very good. My memory fails me:(

    I'll have to check out the books you're reading.

  3. Hmmm ... very odd. That's the second time today that a comment I was writing abruptly disappeared. That happens somewhat frequently at another blog I visit, and I thought it had something to do with a combination of me and that particular blog. Seems that there is some key that I am hitting inadvertently, which erases everything I have written. Until I figure out what I am doing, I will stop and save what I am writing using Command+C (-:

    Ha! It just happened again! But this time I had saved everything I had written.

    To my surprise, four books that I had put on hold at the public library came in on the same day. Three of them were interlibrary loans. Interlibrary loans and special requests for book purchases usually take weeks to months. I'm just about finished with And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyrans (about resistance in France during the occupation during WWII). Coming up after that are Artistic Form and Yoga in the Sacred Images of India, by Heinrich Zimmer; Turlough, by Brian Keenan (recommended by Sabine); The Hour of Land, by Terry Tempest Williams. Before they all came in, I was planning to re-read my copy of At Hell's Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace, by Claude Anshin Thomas.

    When I finish those books, Sing, Unburied Sing is likely to be next, as I have heard about it from several sources now.

    Ever since I learned to read, books have been like family to me. For awhile (a few years!), the internet was taking up all my reading time, but I am consciously spending less time on the internet these days and appreciating books more than ever. It is a return to my childhood in that I am not buying books, only reading books from the public library. I'm grateful for the interlibrary loan system which allowed me to read one of Rosemarie's books and that the library has purchased a few books that I have suggested.

  4. I think of you almost always when I am reading something, as I have allowed my blog to gently die, and yet I still think about books/reading/my readers sometimes. So: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore was pretty amazing, just lovely writing (but sad). Also Pachinko was fun but not gorgeous. Oh! And I just read Maile Maloy's (Melloy's?) first two novels which sort of play off each other and I think you would love them. And now I am set to read the Elegance of the Hedgehog, about which I know nothing. Also I very much hope you have read Victor LaValle's the Changeling, which is amazing (terrifying in the center, but you can get through it).

  5. Have you read Ng's Everything I Never Told You?

  6. I joined a book club a few months ago and its been saving me. The book choices are not always my type of book but it feels good to gather with other women and talk about what we got out of it. I'm going to check out your book list for ideas to read with the group.

  7. I've been on a reading binge, too. It's my escape from the utter shit show all around us. EDUCATED by Tara Westover is her story of being raised by a survivalist family, not setting foot into a classroom until age 17, and going on to earn a doctorate (maybe two, I can't remember) from Cambridge. I've been recommending it to everyone. Also highly recommend THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Looks like a fluffy romance based on the cover but it has a lot of depth. Fast-paced and completely engrossing.

    Others to look for later this spring:

    A PLACE FOR US by Fatima Farheen Mirza, about a Muslim-American family living in California and the struggles of their oldest son.

    ANOTHER SIDE OF PARADISE by Sally Koslow explores the tumultuous love affair between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham during the couple's three years in Hollywood.

    THE GREAT BELIEVERS by Rebecca Makkai (pub date June 19) about a group of friends shaken by the AIDS epidemic in Chicago with narratives that alternate between 1985 and 2015. It's astounding and, along with EDUCATED, will be among my top reads of 2018.

  8. One of my book clubs read Sing, Unburied, Sing in March and we all loved it. It sparked some great discussion, too!

  9. I am reading O Jerusalem again, with new eyes. I'm also reading Educated, but intermittently. Fighting that modern era distractibility. Too many screens. Too many demands. My attention is so fractured. I fantasize about going away for a month to a monastery somewhere with a beautiful view of the hills, and there, I will do nothing but read and read.

  10. The Sinatra Treasures... I have ADHD so there has to be good visuals in my Reading or I totally lose interest, I'm not very Deep into literature obviously... Smiles.

  11. I am currently - again - hooked on even more young Irish novelists and in particular Donal Ryan (The Spinning Heart, The Thing about December) who is the next John McGahern - and just in case, you have never read John McGahern, start with Amongst Women, I promise you will not regret it.

    I also read Austerlitz by W.G.Sebald and it shook me to the core.

  12. Sleuth, a how-to by mystery novel series writer Gail Bowen.
    The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Glass.

    Recently I read the late Ursula K. LeGuin's collection of essays and reviews, Words Matter, which put me onto the Glass book (among others).

    I've never warmed to science fiction or fantasy, either, and have never read one of LeGuin's novels, but she certainly made me consider giving them another chance.

    LeGuin was interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on her weekly CBC Radio program Writers & Company (anyone who loves books and authors would like this show, which can also be heard online or via podcast), and I kind of fell in love with her. When she read one of her own short stories at the end of the interview, I was smitten! And I'm usually not at all satisfied by short stories, either. But the one she read was perfect; absolutely perfect.

    -Kate of the North



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