The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 7

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The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 7

Editado: Jul 22, 2020, 7:31am

New page, same subject!

I finished Sophia Chang's The Baddest Bitch in the Room, which ended up being less about the hidden corners of the music industry and more of a woman-coming-into-her-own memoir. But the setting and players were fun—Chang managed members of the Wu-Tang clan and other hip-hop stars, and was very immersed in that world as well as being partnered for many years with a Buddhist monk, who's the father of her two kids—and I liked her candor about sex, money, friendship, and professional power. I'm interviewing her for Bloom on Friday, so now I'm thinking about some non-obvious questions.

Back to The Great Influenza now.

Jul 22, 2020, 7:37am

Finished The Thief of Auschwitz, which was underwhelming. Still working on Buck's Dragon Seed and am going to start Edrich's A Plague of Doves. LTers are raving about Edrich, so I thought I would give her a try. Also need to find a transportation/maritime disaster book for another group in which I participate; am thinking about the missing Malaysia Flight 370, missing since 2014.

Jul 22, 2020, 10:09am

Currently reading the suspense novel the guest list by Lucy Foley. A celebrity wedding is happening on an isolated island off the coast of Ireland. All the members of the bridal party arrive with extra baggage . .

Editado: Jul 22, 2020, 11:35pm

I am not sure when I last posted. I’m not keeping very good track of the books I’ve read.

Right now I am reading David Mitchell’s newest book, Utopia Avenue. He is one of my favorite writers and this one is fabulous. I’m only 1/4 of the way through. It starts off in London during the mid-1960’s and follows a newly formed rock band and it’s got that perfect blend of weirdness, humor and dark foreshadowing and I can’t put it down. If you like him, read it - it’s “fookin’ good.”

The usual suspects here will love it.

Editado: Jul 23, 2020, 1:57am

Lynn!!!!!Great to see you here again! I have that book on my radar, and am waiting to receive Maggie O'Farrells new book Hamnet

Just finished Queen of Swords. which has been on my shelves forever and thought I was going to reread it. Um no I have no memory of doing so, and surely I would have remembered such an excellent book! Its about the kingdom of jerusalem after the first crusade. What a perfect book to read keep me distracted from todays news.

Editado: Jul 23, 2020, 6:31am

I read about The Guest List on one of those Upcoming Lists somewhere. It was a very good review. Please check back with your thoughts, nrmay.

Taking a break from Sherlock Holmes and started The Heavens which was a Miriam gift from the Great Guardian Swap of 2019. Finally getting around to attacking my physical TBR book stack (the Kindle one is daunting).

Speaking of all things Kindle. From my son, for my birthday this week: that new, fancy/dancy Kindle Oasis, which does everything but choose the books for me. I think this is the 5th Kindle iteration I've owned. My favorite, so far, was the Paperwhite, but this one seems pretty cool.

Jul 23, 2020, 6:34am

I read about The Guest List on one of those Upcoming Lists somewhere. It was a very good review. Please check back with your thoughts, nrmay.

Taking a break from Sherlock Holmes and started "The Heavens" which was a Miriam gift from the Great Guardian Swap of 2019. Finally getting around to attacking my physical TBR book stack (the Kindle one is daunting).

Speaking of all things Kindle. From my son, for my birthday this week: that new, fancy/dancy Kindle Oasis, which does everything but choose the books for me. I think this is the 5th Kindle iteration I've owned. My favorite, so far, was the Paperwhite, but this one seems pretty cool.

Jul 23, 2020, 7:08am

Happy birthday!

Jul 23, 2020, 11:49am

The Guest List is on my TBR list too.

I am reading Russell Bank's Cloudsplitter and really enjoying it.

Great to see you Lynn and welcome to tess and nrmay. I am always glad to meet new readers.

Jul 23, 2020, 2:11pm

Yeah, Hamnet has arrived!

Jul 23, 2020, 6:21pm

Finished Buck's Dragon Seed, another great oriental read; although there was a conventional ending. I just started Booked to Die by John Dunning--a great premise 3 chapters into it--the death of a "book boy", a generic term for a person who buys and sells and trades paperback books in the hopes of finding the "big one."

Jul 23, 2020, 11:57pm

>11 Tess_W: Dunning has many of those; all about the same formula, but fun

Jul 24, 2020, 8:32am

Thanks, Cindy.

Hamnet, although nothing earth-shattering, was an enjoyable read for me. I don't want to reveal O'Farrell's theme, but it's an interesting one, not unrealistic, and one that never occurred to me.

Jul 24, 2020, 8:08pm

Finished Lynn Coady’s Watching You Without Me.
Wonderful. Funny and sweet and a great fast read.really impressed.

Jul 24, 2020, 10:32pm

>4 lynn_r: Hey, Lynn! Good to see you. Here's a question for you about the Mitchell—I read somewhere (NYT? WaPo? one of those) that it helps to have read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. True? I have that and Utopia Avenue, but was thinking I might read the latter first... but if I should read them in order I will.

I could swear I have Cloudsplitter here, but maybe not. Lauren, did you see that there's a new book out by Eley Williams, who wrote that Attrib. that you liked so much (and that NYPL STILL doesn't have, damn them... I'm going to have to buy myself a copy one of these days). It's called The Liar's Dictionary, and I got myself an e-galley, yay.

Jul 25, 2020, 1:40am

>7 Pat_D:
>9 laurenbufferd:

Finished the guest list by Lucy Foley and I liked it.
Great setting & atmosphere on a bleak island, told from point of view of several different charactors, kept me guessing right to the end. Long hold list for this one at the library.

Now I'm reading the glass ocean, historical fiction by Lucy Foley.

Jul 25, 2020, 9:43am

>16 nrmay: The Guest List sounds like something I'd want to library up—is it Agatha Christie-ish? I've been in the mood for some good thriller/mystery type reading lately.

Jul 25, 2020, 11:26am

>17 lisapeet:

Not as 'cozy' as A. Christie.
A bit more graphic, and contemporary

Jul 28, 2020, 11:44am

Lisa, thanks for the heads up. I do like Eley Williams very much Attrib was one of the great discoveries from last summer. Seems like a lifetime ago.

I am LOVING Cloudsplitter - honestly, it could not be more timely and it is also so well written, wearing all the historical research very lightly.

Editado: Jul 29, 2020, 2:15pm

“Hey, Lynn! Good to see you. Here's a question for you about the Mitchell—I read somewhere (NYT? WaPo? one of those) that it helps to have read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. True? I have that and Utopia Avenue, but was thinking I might read the latter first... but if I should read them in order I will.”

Lisa, that’s a great question. I had to put the book down for a couple of days and then came back to finally finish it.

If I had answered your question at the halfway point I would’ve said you don’t need to read his prior books - Mitchell has this thing where he has some themes and past characters names or the characters themselves show up in all his books. It would be a little gimmicky, except not really.

Utopia Avenue sort of blew up for me towards the end and my answer would be not only should you read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, but also Cloud Atlas and surprisingly, The Bone Clocks and even Slade House.

I’d recommend The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet just because it’s one of my favorite books of all time and it does help with understanding Utopia Avenue, but you can get by without it. (And hang in there with The Thousand Autumns, it’s a slow start.)

So it’s a complicated answer - to *fully* appreciate Utopia Avenue it’s best to read all those past books. For once I wish Mitchell just played it straight and didn’t have those references play a part because it was fun as a look-back at the 60’s.

Edited - this book had one of the most visceral passages about grief I’ve ever read.

I’d say something else about how he covers mental illness but I forgot how to do spoilers in white.

Editado: Jul 30, 2020, 12:40am

Finished my Dunning, Booked to Die. I did acquire a lot of knowledge, but the plot was predictable. I listened to it on audio and lost some of the many characters. I'm going to read number two with a hard copy and see if I enjoy it more. If not, no more!

Currently reading Louise Edrich's The Master Butcher's Singing Club. Good so far, but I'm half way through and it's beginning to drag a bit.

Jul 30, 2020, 6:27pm

I've had a dickens (ha ha) of a time with my Zola/Rougon-MacQuart project lately -- it's been TOUGH to concentrate, or haven't you heard? But! Back to it because I was in the mood for a little class outrage in the Fronnnch Manner. I'm up to one of the most famous of all, Nana. It's the Frenchiest French thing that ever Frenched.

Editado: Jul 31, 2020, 5:38am

>21 Tess_W: yeah, after a few the formula gets old. Still those first ones were light and fun, just what I needed at the time

And oh I loved the MBSC, read it ages ago and was surprised when my book group read it just a few months back. Surprised by how well it holds up, and it got a pretty good reception. I really do need to read more of her books...

Jul 31, 2020, 5:41am

oh I am now reading The Fifth Season I am very intrigued by how this goes. Does have a taste of Dunes Bene Gessret about it, but nothing wrong with that

Editado: Jul 31, 2020, 7:03am

Once again I'm putting The Great Influenza to the side for a bit because my library hold of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration came in. I really am on a nonfiction kick lately. But I've wanted to read this one for ages, and since Wilkerson's got a new one out (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents), I figured no time like the present. Mostly I've just got an itchy trigger finger, and that one has been getting some backlist love.

>20 lynn_r: Lynn, thanks for the David Mitchell advice. Out of all those I've only read Cloud Atlas—though a long, long time ago—but I have the others.

Jul 31, 2020, 10:37pm

I don't know if Miriam is still checking in, but I finished one of The Guardian swap books from her: The Heavens ~ by Sandra Newman and it was a stunner. Not sure I could make it a universal recommendation. It's probably not for those who are allergic to non-linear storytelling. It didn't take until I was about 50pp in, but, wow, it's an impressive feat of intelligent imagination and beautiful writing. After I finished it, I went online and bought everything I could find by her.

In short, thanks, Mir. It was a great pick.

Editado: Ago 1, 2020, 11:25am

>25 lisapeet: I found The Warmth of Other Suns to be a, well, profound book. One of those rare works that entirely changes the way you read and look at American history.

So I've been binge-reading lately, to the detriment of my already lackluster housekeeping skills. I think it's in response to current events -- not the pandemic so much as the utter vacuum devoid of any coherent, much less intelligent, response by this administration. So I practically inhaled Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips. Thanks to whoever here mentioned it, god, that was a gorgeous book. I kept calling my mom up to tell her about it every time I finished a section. I've been making my way through my growing collection of Iris Murdoch novels, which I just have to take forever to read because Murdoch is so smart and I'm so dumb by comparison. I re-read Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red in a fit of "now for something completely different." And finished S.A. Cosby's fantastically gritty and beautiful Blacktop Wasteland after spending an hour and a half with him in a zoom meeting and sort of falling in love. In between novels I've been pushing through some of the books on the Anti-Racist reading lists: The Color of Compromise, which I wrote this ridiculously long review for, Hood Feminism, and now The Color of Law which may be the single most important and depressing book I've ever read.

All of this is to say that my reading life right now is very scattershot. Which brings me to the book in my hands now, something called Crossings by Alex Landragin. As sometimes happens, I find myself as caught up in my reaction to the book as I am with the book itself. Crossings has one of those colorful, complex scenarios that ticks a lot of boxes for me: historical fiction with an element of the fantastic set in late 19th century and early twentieth-century Paris; Baudelaire mourning the death of his mistress, a mysterious veiled and scarred woman who knows things she can't possibly know, a sad and weary nightclub singer in wartime Paris, a lost novel called the Education of a Monster, Coco Chanel as the evil villain. Soul transference. Also, a complicated story structure that allows you to read the chapters in two different orders to tell two different stories.

Atmospheric, colorful, literary, erudite, and duly rhapsodic of Les Fleurs du mal, it is a book that I counted on to keep me entertained for as long as I had it open. So I found my lukewarm response to be confusing. I thought perhaps the problem was that I was also reading Iris Murdoch at the time. Murdoch is one of those writers who manages to make one phrase mean eight different things, whereas most writers, including Landragin, need eight phrases to say one thing.

But I've loved other big blowsy overdone novels that don't pretend to great metaphorical depth: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, anything by Dorothy Dunnett, The Alexandrian Quartet books. So I wasn't sure what my problem was with Crossings. I thought maybe I was just too distracted but decided that couldn't be it because these days I seem able to fall into any book I open up.

I finally decided that what set Crossings apart for me from books like The Game of Kings or Strange & Norrell, was that in those books, the whole is somehow greater than the sum of their many many parts. Whereas in Crossings it feels just the opposite, there are many many parts, that somehow don't quite make a "whole". I wish I could explain it better and say exactly why, but that's the feeling I'm left with.

Editado: Ago 5, 2020, 6:35am

>23 cindydavid4: I really wasn't a huge fan of The Master Butcher's Singing Club for the fact that it introduced many characters who were the star of the show in 2-3 chapters and then are never seen again and by the end of the book I wondered what their importance was? I did not notice that they advanced the plot. I thought that it was a very average book. That being said, I did have her Plague of Doves placed on hold for me from the library--always willing to an author a second chance!

Ago 2, 2020, 4:17am

I've had "Crossings" on my Amazon 2020 list for quite a while. Thanks for the review, Niki. You saved me a few bucks. I replaced it with "Blacktop Wasteland" and "The Color of Law".

Ago 2, 2020, 7:37pm

>29 Pat_D: I hope someone here reads it if only to tell me I'm totally off base.

Ago 2, 2020, 8:17pm

>30 southernbooklady: I have a galley, so maybe I'll get to it one of these days. I need to stop placing so many library holds and just read what I got.

On the other hand, I'm SO glad I obeyed my cravings and reserved The Warmth of Other Suns. It's terrific, a really strong history lesson and so well written.

Ago 2, 2020, 9:43pm

>31 lisapeet: I pretty much hated that sheriff from Lake County, FL with the big hat.

Ago 4, 2020, 1:13pm

I thought that Louise Erdrcih's first three books were so perfect and well written with not a wasted or misplaced word and everything after felt bloated and under edited and slapped together. I kept trying them and then feeling disappointed so I finally stopped.

But if I ever need a palate cleanser or I feel like my mind is too full of crap Love Medicine. That novel was a game changer.

Cloudsplitter was great, although too long. There was a bit too much ruminating by the narrator but otherwise, man, it felt timely and interesting and so so powerful. What a history lesson. sbl, that might be a good choice if you haven't read it.

I am reading a new novel by an Algerian writer Straight from the horse's Mouth about a prostitute in Casablanca. it's very...…… colorful.

Ago 5, 2020, 6:41am

Finished my Dickens August read with a real BFB, Dombey and Son, which I really did like, although it was 1004 pages. (I started in July!) I'm moving on to the final book in the Accursed Kings series by Maurice Druon, The Poisoned Crown. The last book left off with Louis poisoning his first wife and exiling his mistress so he could marry Clementia of Hungary. This series interested me because I knew little of the Capetian dynasty.

Ago 5, 2020, 12:29pm

Just finished The Fifth Season and am off to see if my local used has a copy of the next two books. What an awesome writer!!!

Ago 5, 2020, 1:19pm

I finished the ss collection I was reading and was eager to jump right into the new Joseph O'Connor, but then I read he makes frequent reference to Bram Stoker's "Dracula" in it. I've had this sitting on a shelf for quite a while, so I decided to finally attack The New Annotated Dracula first. It's pretty hefty. I'll probably skim over some of the annotations which can get overly detailed. Weird, how I've got all this Victorian Lit happening at the same time. I certainly didn't plan it that way.

Editado: Ago 5, 2020, 5:31pm

>35 cindydavid4: I think the universe just spoke to me. Was asking others if the sequels to Fifth Season were as good as the first. Went to my local used to find them, and all three were sitting there, waiting for me! And they are in great condition! Im supposed to read ask again yes for a book group, but think I might get distracted...we'll see

Ago 5, 2020, 9:50pm

That "sounded" familiar to me, Cindy, so I checked. Yep. I've got on my Kindle. So much to read...

Ago 7, 2020, 11:31am

cindy, I just read such an interesting YA book about the deaf population on Martha Vineyard circa 1807. Show me a Sign. Have you read this??

Ago 7, 2020, 3:46pm

I haven't read it but know the history of the time and place. Will have to take a look -any fiction with a deaf heroine as the main character has my attention.

Ago 7, 2020, 5:03pm

Oh yes, it's a must for you. Very very interesting. I thought the plot was just ok - the villain is so villainous - but I learned a lot.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth was ok - I wouldn't rush out to find it but it's interesting and the main character is deliciously outspoken. I am reading a bio of folk singer Eliza Carthy The Wayward Daughter which could use a little context and depth and just started A Fairly Honorable Defeat. Let me tell you, people, Murdoch is good for what ails you.

Breakfast at Sotheby's was oddly tonedeaf, it read like it was written 30 years ago but maybe women and people of color don't matter in the art market the way Picasso does. Can that still be true? It was interesting and I actually found his stories about working in an auction house interesting but I'd hardly recommend it. It has a weird breeziness too that just doesn't work, despite being occasionally funny.

Ago 8, 2020, 8:47am

maybe women and people of color don't matter in the art market the way Picasso does. Can that still be true?
Probably, unfortunately, or at least until more recently than we'd like to think. Do you read Hyperallergic? Good arts/culture site that features lots of industry-wide pushback. Anyway, I think I'll skip that one.

Still reading The Warmth of Other Suns, which is excellent, but I have a feeling I won't finish by the time my checkout period is up... and I'm guessing it'll be months before I can get it back again. I may just end up buying a copy—though as much as I love, I could end up waiting as long as I would for a library hold to roll over... well, not quite. And on second look, I see has an ebook option. That's good to know.

Ago 10, 2020, 2:03pm

I finally came here and wrote out a whole message, and LT picked that exact time to go down. So y'all are going to miss out. Blame LT.

I'm reading Fahrenheit 451.


Ago 10, 2020, 9:25pm

Julie! youre here! Still think F 451 is one of the most prescient novel ever written. And it never ages.

Finished ask again yes which I thought would be like Ulysses tho tho alas it is not there is a character named Molly. Anway, really liked the writing, brings you right in and the pages were turning like crazy. Thought it would be a top lister. There is a tragic accident that affects all of the characters differently, and there is some coverage of that. But because it covers 5 decades there are real gaps in how people are making decisions or acting. I thought the immediate aftermath was very well done, but then it just went everywhere at once. The only characters I made a connection with was with the two kids, tho by the time they grow up they just become flat In those 5 decades she manages to cover a multitude of themes (mental illness, PTSD, alcholism for starters but then it adds other themes) so you are not sure where its going. Then there is are characters who take forever and a page to finish something they were doing (hee maybe it is like Joyce) The ending was just flat. Pity because the first half of the book held such promise. So we have a book group on this tomorrow and suspect I will be the only one who doesn't like it. Been a pattern lately.....

Now going back to Fifth Season to refresh my memory; we are reading that on thurs and really cant wait!

Ago 11, 2020, 1:26pm


Ago 13, 2020, 12:32pm

Just finished Girl in the Blue Coat. When I picked it up I had no idea it is intended as a Y A novel about the Dutch resistance during the Second World War. I’ve never read YA before and I think it pretty much reads like an adult novel.
It’s an interesting book,a story about the war told not by nor particularly about a Jewish figure,although the girl who the narrator tries to find is Jewish. I think it’s a good read for young people or for people who love Amsterdam as the book is full of street names and parks and food.

Ago 15, 2020, 11:35am

About half-way through The New Annotated Dracula. I was determined to skim through most of the annotations, as I'm really only reading this as a companion read to Joseph O'Connor's "Shadowplay." Of course, that's not happening and it's what's taking me so long to get through it. I'm finding the annotations fascinating for two reasons: 1). The backstories and the culture of the Victorian Era are full of ground-breaking events, inventions, and ideology. 2). The author's schizophrenic relationship with Stoker's classic is a wild thing to behold. At points, I had to put the book down and wonder whether the annotator knows Stoker's book is a work of fiction. He keeps criticizing dates in the journal as not coinciding with full-moons, etc. and so on... things like that. It's really kind of crazy. But I'm totally into it.

Today, The End of October and Redhead By the Side of the Road came available to borrow, so Im going to try to get a couple chapters read in both of those books. This will be my first Anne Tyler.

Ago 16, 2020, 9:57am

Well, as I feared, my library checkout of The Warmth of Other Suns expired before I finished, and I'm not sure I want to shell out for a copy just for the last 50 pages. I put another hold on it, but I'm currently looking at at least a couple of months. Fortunately those last few chapters probably won't suffer terribly from a little hiatus—I'm at the point where Wilkerson is wrapping up the stories of the three people she tracks throughout the book—but who knows, I may break down.

At any rate, I'm reading Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which is easing the pain a bit. Loving it—it's a real comedy of errors/manners, definitely just the thing for right now. Except the damn type is too small.

Ago 16, 2020, 12:48pm

Juggling a few at a time right now - The Paying Guests , Obelisk Gate and starting the new Emma Donogue Pull of the Stars .

Ago 16, 2020, 7:37pm

I think amazon is in cahoots with public libraries-they make sure you don’t finish your loans so you have to buy a copy from them.
Public libraries in Canada are planning to do away with overdue fines. This is something that arose as a result of covid where all fines were the libraries. They feel that enforcing fines discriminates against low income families,who so often need public library resources. They had this very high statistic of the number of users who are blocked every year because of their fines. As for people then taking forever to return items,they say it’s not a huge issue.

Editado: Ago 16, 2020, 8:57pm

I read Anne Tyler's Redhead By the Side of the Road in one sitting last night. Which was no great feat considering it's less than 200pp. It's a quiet little thing with hardly any plot. Very character-centric (along the lines of Stoner only not as profound). A pleasant read. Maybe not the one I should've chosen as an intro to Anne Tyler but I'm glad I read it.

I'm still putzin' along with The New Annotated Dracula, but tonight I'm going to try and blow through another one of my library books that came in: The End of October by Lawrence Wright. Now, I usually stay far away from medical fiction because it almost never rings true for me, but I've read lots of good things about this one. Plus, it's written by the guy who wrote The Looming Tower. If you haven't streamed the series based on that book, don't miss it. It's terrific.

Editado: Ago 21, 2020, 5:00pm

A Fairly Honourable Defeat was a perfect Covid read for me. Engaging, a little funny, a little horrifying, dialogue driven, very plotty. It took me completely outside myself. Highly recommend.

I am reading a terrible book about the British folk singer Eliza Carthy - not even going to link because really, the writing is so convoluted, it practically gives me a headache, , and some new stories by Shruti Swamy A House is a Body which are excellent, earthy and mysterious.

Ago 20, 2020, 8:45pm

Paying Guests was not very exciting, esp as the story practically told itself ( Waters is a great writer was hoping this would compare to Fingersmith, ah well)

Ago 24, 2020, 2:15pm

Cindy, that's one of the few Waters books I've actually read (I own several I haven't yet read), and I concur. I like the writer, and the story could have been better, but overall, it was just kind of boring. Disappointing read.

I still haven't finished Fahrenheit 451 (a reread), but since I have some job search-related goals for this week, I'll surely finish it soon in an attempt to procrastinate beyond what is healthy for my life. I'm a master of self-sabotage, so maybe this will get me reading!! Ha.

Ago 24, 2020, 2:31pm

I read Paying Guests a few years ago while on vacation. I really enjoyed it, as I do most of her novels. The only one i couldn't get into was The Night Watch.

Ago 24, 2020, 8:42pm

I loved the earlier one about the doctor who falls in love with a strangely asexual woman. I thought it was sensational.

Editado: Ago 27, 2020, 9:56am

The stories in A House is a Body were superb and unexpected. Some like fables, some like slice of life. Loved.

I tried reading The Everlasting but it didn't work for me. There's kind of writing that is right in vogue now - self-consciously smart and witty with esoteric subjects and loads of specialty vocabulary that you have to look up, but oooh , wasn't that author so clever. Ick.

I took some historical fiction out of the library - reading The Vanishing Sky which was gripping right away - a family in small town Germany in 1945. One son comes back from the front clearly disturbed psychologically. The younger one at a Hitler Youth camp decides to make the trek home. I am not sure where it's going I'm in for the long haul.

Ago 26, 2020, 10:49am

Sound very interesting..the last one sounds really good.

Ago 27, 2020, 7:57am

Finished A Fairly Honourable Defeat, my third Iris Murdoch of the summer—one of her later books, and one that feels like it's synthesized a lot of her themes. There's a large cast of characters, including a Hilda and Rupert, a bourgeois, slightly smug middle-aged couple; their spoiled Oxford dropout son Peter; the husband's sweet and insecure younger brother Simon and his slightly aloof partner Axel; Morgan, Hilda's extremely neurotic sister just back from the States and her completely hapless ex-husband Tallis; Tallis's bitter, nasty elderly father; Leonard and Julius, a manipulative, vaguely evil-but-charismatic academic who toys with everyone. Literally—he refers to himself often as a "puppet master," and the whole book centers around his attempts to break up the couples and manipulate everyone's lives, with varying degrees of success. There's a lot of philosophy, as with all Murdoch's work, but in this case it serves as more of an underpinning to the storyline and less of a series of thinky interludes—there's a satan and a Christ character, lots of Shakespearean machinations and crossed signals and some intensely evocative (and very deliberately doled out) settings.

I wouldn't exactly call it a feel-good novel, since bad things happen to decent people and the worst characters emerge to go on with their lives, but there's a tiny (two or three sentences, blink and you've missed it) reveal toward the end that completely changes the reader's understanding of one of the central characters. It's also notable for her portrayal of the central gay couple as the most sympathetic and stable (and, in a way, decent) of the lot, coming only three years after the decriminalization of homosexual relations in Britain. Maybe not notable for Murdoch, but I imagine it was a breath of good air for a lot of folks reading it in 1970. Anyway, this was a super entertaining, if often dark, read—a lot of intrigue, some twisty explorations of good and evil, and and as a side note, an interesting testimony to the ephemerality of words on paper.

Lauren, that A House Is a Body sounds great—noted. Is that The Everlasting the one by Katy Simpson Smith? Your link didn't go to the book I think you meant.

Ago 27, 2020, 10:01am

Thanks, Lisa, edited. Yes. Katy Simpson Smith. It's a style of writing I really don't care for although I thought the book itself seemed interesting, I just couldn't make myself read it.

A House is a Body is in a small pile to be sent to the Bronx so don't get it! In one story, a painter in NYC has repeated sightings of Krishna, in another a woman and her sick daughter are threatened by the fires in California. It's such a mix of fantasy and reality, India and the US. I was really impressed. And it's Algonquin and I find their stuff to be sometimes on the twee side so this is a real departure.

The Vanishing Sky is a real surprise. Apparently, it's the story of Binder's family - she was born in Germany and the family emigrated to the US - and she used family papers and diaries to write the novel. But it doesn't feel weighted down with research; it's very emotional and poetic. I am loving it.

Ago 27, 2020, 3:53pm

>60 laurenbufferd: Ooh, books! Are you still on a moratorium? I've been so good about not sending you any.

I'm heading back into The Great Influenza, the reading of which keeps getting interrupted by this and that. But it's a very good history.

Editado: Ago 28, 2020, 1:24am

I thought Id read all of Tuchman's histories but found proud tower on my tbr shelf, apparently unread. Really good as usualy,

Well into the stone sky Its rare to find a trilogy that flows so smoothly, not a weak moment in any of them which is probably why each book won a hugo. Need to read more of hers

Ago 29, 2020, 12:58pm

Lisa, the moratorium is over. Bring it on, girl!

I started reading Love After Love because it was recommended by Marlon James whose work I really like. It takes place in Trinidad and the three main characters are a mother and her adult son and their border who becomes a close friend of both. The voices are very very strong and the story is delightfully frank;one of the character's is gay and the a main theme of the novel is the Caribbean's repressive policies against gay people which I'm sure is why James recommended it. I am really enjoying it, in part, because it's well paced and a quick read.

Ago 29, 2020, 9:01pm

For any fans of Timothy Findlay,there is a brand new bio out which received raves in the local one page book section today.
Even though we can get so much book news on line these days,I still find it incredibly depressing that the book review section has been reduced to one page. Although I’ve heard many papers delated theirs entirely.

Editado: Ago 29, 2020, 10:46pm

Oh my I was turned on to his books from miriam in readerville, and remember reading Pilgrim, what an amazing discussion. I think Ive read most of this books. Thanks for the heads up, I will definitely have to read that!! Here's a lovely review of the book from the Toronto Star

Sep 1, 2020, 10:42am

I really enjoyed Love After Love, especially the easy rambling pace. I have some quibbles but they are tiny. It's very gentle and funny but it is an indictment of the Caribbean attitude toward gay people which remains repressive and combative, esp outside the larger cities. It's also the second book I've read this summer where issues of mental illness and depression in the immigrant community came up and thank god for that.

My next book from the library stack is Conjure Women and the jury is out. It has a lot of things I don't like - evil babies, antebellum settings, witchcraft=blackness but it also has a big SECRET and I'm curious.

Sep 3, 2020, 3:15pm

Cindy I think you said you were about to start the Donahue?Whats it like? I started listening on audio and I liked the little I heard but I was working and I couldn’t concentrate so I plan on reading it instead.

Sep 3, 2020, 5:38pm

ack Ive read too many bits of books since then and cant answer your questions! stay tuned...Oh right its about three nurses working in a maternity ward in 1918, just as the flu was getting under way. Im just under 50 pages and got distracted by shiny fantasy books, but I know I wanted to get back t it. She is able to juggle multiple POVs really well; be ready for what seems like a straight story suddenly twists and turns to the end. 'well chat once we get more into it.

Sep 5, 2020, 11:46am

I am really puzzled by conjure women. I think it suffers from a very convoluted narrative -- its very plotty and the jumps in time make it hard to keep track of what happened when. And I'm not giving anything away when I say really plotty - there is a decaying antebellum mansion, a baby that comes back to life, a rape, a laudanum-addled southern belle, another dead baby, another rape, a creepy doll, and that's a toe in the pond. Maybe Atakora is just playing with all these tropes. Or maybe all these things appeared in the research she did so she included them all. I didn't dislike it, but I did want to rewrite it so it made more sense and so there would be some anticipation . As it is, nothing builds.

I am noodling through the august New Yorkers and have a novel to review called The orchard. Nothing online about this guy and he's at the law school at Yale. It isn't bad - kind of like A Secret History set at a tony Modern Orthodox high school in Florida but I am scratching my head and wondering how people get book deals. It feels …. strangely irrelevant.

Sep 5, 2020, 12:38pm

I snagged a galley of that Orchard book—the Orthodox high school in Florida hooked me. Let me know.

I'm closing in on the end of The Great Influenza (in between coughcough July New Yorkers)... he talks a lot about how the pandemic was compounded in this country by mishandling at the top levels of government. At that time there was a war on—and I guess there's kind of a civil war on now, but the parallels are freaky. I wonder if at the end he talks about the other serious viruses (SARS etc.) that were handled well enough that they didn't warrant a 500 page book.

Sep 5, 2020, 6:30pm

>34 Tess_W: the movie David Copperfield is really good, well at least we read it, and it sticks to the book pretty well ymmv

Its taken me longer than I thought it would but I just finished stone sky It took rereading the last few sections a few times to totally get it, and still arent clear some things. But it didn't matter; I often find something to complain about in book endings, but she did it here, in spades. And I realized in the end it really is a love story.

More than ready to start her Inheritance series, but not quite yet. Continuing Sula, then Im restarting Pull of the Stars

Editado: Sep 12, 2020, 10:20am

Lisa, I HATED The Orchard. I'm still reviewing it b/c Cat needs something quickly and I know some of it was me but seriously, don't waste your time. It's so indulgent.

I started reading The Mercies.

Sep 15, 2020, 7:54am

Noted on The Orchard... that's too bad, because I liked the idea of the setup.

I (finally) finished The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History after many stops and starts. My slow reading was about library holds that showed up and book club books up for discussion, and no detriment to this very interesting panoramic picture of the pandemic that encompassed the history of immunology, virology, and medical education, as well as wartime politics and some great portraits of the scientists and doctors involved. Barry's style was a bit much—he never met a rhetorical repetition he didn't like—but it was worth putting up with for the story and info. And honestly it's not the worst thing to hear a historian's voice underneath the facts, as long as he's accurate—and I get the feeling Barry's research was very thorough.

His afterword, which he wrote in I think 2018, is downright chilling—he essentially says that the biggest challenge to the next great pandemic will be governmental cooperation and the honest dissemination of accurate information. Granted, Trump was president when he wrote that so he may have had a better idea of possible scenarios than he would have in, say, 2015. But I imagine if he saw it coming with that kind of accuracy, so did a lot of medical folks, scientists, and policy people. And THAT is scary.

Now on to reading a bunch of short story collections for LJ's Best Books 2020 judging. I've read half of Susan Minot's Why I Don't Write: And Other Stories, and while some of the middle stories are very evocative it starts out soft, so it's definitely not a contender. Plus an overabundance of smart women succumbing to the powers of charismatic men, which is fun to read but maybe not all the way through a collection. I may go back and finish this one, because it's short and the pieces I liked were interesting enough that I'd like to see if there are more, but right now I need to move on. Next up, Jen Fawkes's Mannequin and Wife: Stories (no touchstone for that).

Sep 16, 2020, 12:23pm

I finished Lawrence Wright's The End of October which I'm sure isn't as erudite as Lisa's pandemic read, but I chose it because Wright's a Pulitzer Prize winner (for The Looming Tower) and a New Yorker staffer.

It didn't disappoint. However, there are events in his story that have, as if lifted from the pages, taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic... almost literally fact-by-fact. I kept checking/rechecking the date of publication. Some of it is just too uncannily prescient for words. There's even a major sub-plot about the horrible infestation aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine.

I'm now reading another book Miriam sent me: The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Very impressed with the author Sara Collins. One of my personal assessment standards is how well a writer does dialog. Inauthentic dialog is a deal-breaker for me, no matter how good the plot or how interesting the subject matter. Collins does even better than that. Not only is the dialog authentic to time and place, but each voice is uniquely identifiable within the dialog. A lot of my reads have believable, authentic dialog, but rarely are the voices so differentiated and character consistent. It's such a joy when I fall in love with the language. Collins was a lawyer for almost twenty years then obtained a Masters in Creative Writing from Cambridge. I only mention this because TCoFL is, remarkably, her first novel.

Sep 19, 2020, 4:29pm

I finished up Jen Fawkes's Mannequin and Wife: Stories, which was a fairly quick read. Very good debut collection—dark and offbeat, skewing heavily toward contemporary explorations of myths, fairy tales, and sideshows, and their real-life counterparts: parental abuse, neglect, and estrangement; illness; violence. But for all that, this doesn't feel oppressive—Fawkes's characters all have a weird hopeful streak, whether a happy ending is theirs for the taking or, more commonly, not. There's an impulse toward the quirky that sometimes intrudes on otherwise solid yarn-spinning, but still it's an interesting and worthwhile collection overall.

Next up, If I Had Two Wings, by Randall Kenan, who just died a few weeks ago. It's a National Book Award finalist—one of two in my short story pile.

Sep 19, 2020, 9:47pm

Finished This is How to Lose the Time War and am just stunned with how good it is. Caterogized as a fantasy, but if so its one of the most poetic Ive ever read. I can see in my head the images as I read the descriptions. And then there are the love letters, yes this is a bit of a romance. I think the strengths of both authors combined to make this a work of art.

Editado: Sep 20, 2020, 10:56am

Thanks for the new titles Lisa..what did you think of the Best Canadian stories? I have a hold on it.
The first book you mention -I don’t understand who spiked the koolaid telling all short fiction writers to infuse their works with quirky twists of myth and fairy tale. Will this overwhelming style of writing ever cease? Do people think their slyness is being original? It’s too much. How I long for the days of the dirty realists.

Just finished The Pull of the Stars in the Sky by Emma Donaghue and it is as exceptional as the advanced word. Listening to it on audio is even a greater treat as the narrator has a beautiful Irish accent and there are a great number of ditties in the book which the narrator sings beautifully. I can’t imagine this book not winning the Giller this fall and it will certainly be on the list for the Women’s and Booker Prize next year. Her luck with timing in the release of the book is extraordinarary and the book is exceptional. People will be reading this for a long time.

Sep 20, 2020, 1:22pm

So glad you loved it so much! Im getting there (its starting to cool off here in az, so the outdoors beckons)
You are right about her luck. Definitely check out her others.

Sep 22, 2020, 10:50am

I find Donoghue really uneven and I've been a faithful reader since Stir Fry. There have some great books and some stinkers - I'm looking at you Life Mask but I'm always willing to give her another try.

I tore through a bunch of library books The Mercies ( whales, witches, Sami culture and lesbians) The Guest List (islands, Ireland, rich people behaving badly, murders) and am now reading a book that LuAnn gave me many years ago at a Guardian book swap - Leskov's The Enchanted Wanderer and feeling like a doofus for not reading it years ago because the stories are amazing.

Also reading Elijah Wald's book on Dylan and Newport

Sep 22, 2020, 11:03pm

Those of you singing the praises of Hamnet Let me join in. So well done; sometimes authors cant synch the two time lines they are juggling, but as usual she makes it work. And I know that most of the book was conjecture, since we don't know much about his family, but there wasn't one time that something didn't ring true. I love when a book is so powerful that you are greiving over a fictional character who died 400 years ago. So warning to those who haven't read it yet, have a box of kleenex or two!!!

Editado: Sep 22, 2020, 11:58pm

I finished up Randall Kenan's If I Had Two Wings in a couple of days, which I liked if not loved. Kenan cheerfully inflicts a variety of visitations on his characters, from rock stars to Howard Hughes, the ability to perform miracles, old flames, and the ghosts of escaped slaves and boar hogs. His characters are bemused by these happenings but never quite lose their equanimity—a byproduct of faith, maybe, or a grounding in home, both of which most of them have to some extent or another, and the story titles echo spirituals and folk songs. Kenan's fictional town of Tims Creek, NC, reminds me of Edward P. Jones's familiarity with Washington, DC, though without Jones's grit or urgency. This is an agreeable, kindly collection with a little otherworldliness dogging it; the writing and dialogue are lovely and go down easy. I was very sorry to hear he died in September—he's someone I would have gladly read more of as he kept writing, and I'll probably go back and check out his earlier work.

Now I'm reading Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Likes, which is delightful so far. I'm a big fan of her other two books, Madeleine Is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles.

>77 alans: I haven’t read the best Canadians, alan. I’ve got a whole lot of U.S. collections to get through first. I wish I were a faster reader sometimes...

Sep 23, 2020, 10:00pm

And I can’t wait to read your best of the year Lisa. I wonder who is on the front burner for the Story prize this year. I haven’t read as much buzz as I did for Lot last year. Actually I haven’t heard any buzz at all.

I’m just pages from the end of my sixth Giller longlisted book-Indians on Vacation by Thomas King. King is beloved in Canada and Margaret Atwood did an interview with him today. But I found the book so pointless and tedious.
Next Up is first collection by a writer from Montreal.

Sep 24, 2020, 8:42am

I haven't heard anything about The Story Prize either... they usually release a huge longlist in the winter, right? Maybe it's too early.

I wasn't disappointed in Sarah Shun-lien's Likes—these are lovely, well plotted and well told human-scale stories, all of them with little kernels of hard truths at their centers to be discovered. Pacing varies, but not a true dud in the bunch.

Reading Tom Bissell's Creative Types: And Other Stories now.

Sep 24, 2020, 9:02am

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Editado: Sep 24, 2020, 11:32pm

Oh I want this!!! The Writers Library The Authors You Love on the Books That Changed Their Lives Loved Nancy Pearls other books and this look like a keeper I know its out already, just need to wait a bit before I buy it...this has been one of those months where every thing has been due, plus car repair and dr visits.....eager to read it tho!

ETA Nancy mentions interviewing Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman - I remember her on Readerville, she wrote a ton of kid books I remember. Nice to see a blast from the past doing so well.

Sep 25, 2020, 2:24pm

I have loved her books about books. I used to get a lot of reading recommendations from them (pre-internet).

Sep 25, 2020, 9:15pm

>85 cindydavid4: Ayelet Waldman wrote mysteries, mostly, and books about motherhood, I think. She has a couple of anthologies that she coedited with Chabon that I'm hot to dig into—Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation (essays about the Gaza/West Bank occupation... Lauren B, did you give me that one?) and Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases.

Creative Types was kinda grim. I don't mean to penalize the book for doing what it was trying to do, which was—in my eyes, at least—exploring different varieties of discomfort. There are 100 names for love, or whatever, so why shouldn't a collection of stories look at all the ways you can want to leave the room, look away, yank someone out of a spiraling situation, or just flinch? From aggressively provocative new spouses to now-grown high school bullies to an awkward threesome to literal torture, Bissell knows how to set a scene to make a reader uncomfortable. And I was, throughout. The writing is good, the scenarios are imaginative, and often the stories' payoffs are interesting—I didn't put the book down, which speaks to all of the above. But man, I definitely thought about it a few times—this is not a collection that cuts the reader any slack.

Now reading Emma Cline's collection Daddy. Her novel The Girls was a total page turner, so let's see how she does short stories.

Sep 26, 2020, 12:29am

Daddy has received very good reviews. I have a hold on it at the library.
I remember Ayelet Walkman was on Readerville for about a day back in the day. She seemed to be very popular among other participants.
I was just thinking about how people used to white out comments that would be spoilers. That was very interesting.

Sep 26, 2020, 8:46am

>88 alans: You can do the spoiler thing here too:

When you want to talk about something that might be a spoiler you can use the word "spoiler" in angle brackets before the phrase, and then close it up after the part in question with the same thing with a backslash before "spoiler," because you want to play nice with everyone else so they'll hopefully return the courtesy.

Sep 26, 2020, 12:48pm

>87 lisapeet: Lisa, you are right but I think she's written childrens stories as well. Need to take a look at those anthologies she edited with Chabon

Editado: Sep 26, 2020, 9:55pm

I finally had my second library hold come through on Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns so I could finish the last 50 pages, and I'm glad I held out. This is a really remarkable piece of journalism and writing. Aside from the enormous breadth of the story Wilkerson is telling—about the deep injustices of the Jim Crow South, this enormous migration of people north and west, the circumstances they had to adjust to once they got where they were going, and the steady but slow progress of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, all playing out together—she humanizes these big histories by telling the detailed stories of three individuals who migrated from the South in different decades. The fact that she pulled off such a multilayered account so well, with a pitch-perfect rhythm swinging between micro and macro—and that she communicated the horror of the situations folks were escaping without being melodramatic—impressed the hell out of this writer. It's a balancing act of journalism and it feels seamless. And I learned a lot about a sweeping piece of American history.

I turned my attentions away from Daddy, which I own, to a few short story collections borrowed from the library that I need to read before they disappear. Right now reading Souvankham Thammavongsa's How to Pronounce Knife, which is so far very good.

Sep 27, 2020, 12:37am

Lisa, I have her new one Caste which Im really wanting to read but have so many books ahead of that one. Well Im retired,and we can't really travle, so maybe this is the year that I catch up on all my books! Or I'll just say to hell with it and read Caste!

Sep 27, 2020, 9:43am

Ayelet was definitely a Salon TT-er but yes, I think she did overlap into Readerville for a bit. Then she wrote that piece about how great sex with her husband was and the whole world went after her so I guess she got busy and vanished from Rville.

Sep 27, 2020, 6:14pm

She published A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life a couple of years ago. I read it and thought it was fascinating. She's edgy in a particular kind of way, and brave. I had only read journalistic stuff of hers before because I don't read mysteries or books about raising children or children's books.

Editado: Sep 29, 2020, 1:12pm

I had a funny experience with Ayelet. Those of you may remember the tension between writers and readers on Readerville. I honestly cannot remember the author but I read their book, made a less-then glowing remark and went away for the weekend - this was long before we had our phones that gave us internet access at all times. Well the thread just blew up, with all kinds of accusations and some pretty nasty comments directed at me and others rushing to my defense. In the midst of it, I got a private message from Ayelet saying not to worry about this tempest in teacup, she's read a comment I made about an older novel of hers and though it wasn't positive, when she looked back on it I'd made a good point and not to let all this craziness bother me.

I haven't kept up with her work but I've always liked her for that. I am interested in her book on micro-dosing.

I am reading two books for an author chat for the virtual Southern Festival of Books. The Hollows - rural Ohio in the 1902, lady sheriffs, mining unions and a lady KKK and Ghost Wood Song a spooky YA thriller with a fiddle that brings back the dead and a LGB love-triangle. Boy, the YA fiction is sure differently than when I was a lass. Praise be.

Sep 29, 2020, 8:23pm

I really miss that. When we didn't have real-time access all the time. I actually remember some discussions being so good, I couldn't wait to get home from work to get caught up. I very much regret not being able to save/archive the really special ones.

Sep 29, 2020, 8:46pm

>96 Pat_D: Hee, I even drove to the library to use a computer, to get logged in because dear husband needed the dial in computer for school....

Sep 29, 2020, 10:09pm

Lauren, I don't remember that incident at all—maybe before I got there (in 2003). That just feels like such a younger internet—and there was something to be said for letting conversations build without all this 24-7 access.

How to Pronounce Knife was a quick read. These are all tales of Laotian immigrants in the U.S., spare and sad without being bleak—they're little elegies for what is given up, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other, in order to get along. Thammavongsa's use of language is quite lovely (she is a poet) and she doesn't have to hammer home the sense of her character's otherness and alienation, which makes this a gentle—if not forceful—read.

Now reading A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason, whom I may have a little crush on.

Oct 1, 2020, 2:16am

I lucked out on my last two books and wanted to recommend them. It’s been hard to concentrate lately (I wonder why?) so I was happy to disappear into these.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. Super funny and profound at the same time. I couldn’t put it down. Backman is officially on my favorite author list. Lucky him.

The one I finished last night was Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. The story is told from the POV of an elderly woman with dementia and it goes back and forth in time. The book hit me hard for several reasons and I’ve never read a book that so puts you inside the mind of someone who is losing their memory. You realize that some seemingly random repeated questions may have their meaning and relevance way back in time. I won’t say more than that. There is also a mystery with a great twist. Couldn’t put it down.

Later gators.

Oct 1, 2020, 8:22pm

Lisa-How to Pronounce Knife is long-listed for the Giller. I’m reading the only other short fiction collection nominated-Dominoes At The Crossroads and its didactic and dull. In every story I feel like the author is trying to teach me a lesson by applying a hammer to my head.
The Giller short list comes out on Monday. I haven’t reached How to Pronounce Knife yet but I think it will make the short-list.

Oct 1, 2020, 9:43pm

Pull of the stars is really excellent. Lots of maternity details that might be too much for some, but what the staff had to do in that day and age, I can't even imagine. The ending was surprising but really well done. Interesting, The name “influenza” originated in 15th century Italy, from an epidemic attributed to “influence of the stars" which probably is where the title came from.

Oct 2, 2020, 5:06pm

I finished listening to Hamnet, which is beautifully written and beautifully read. I've started The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I've been meaning for a long time to read. I remember your liking it, Lisa.

Oct 2, 2020, 5:13pm

Elizabeth is Missing is on sale for Kindle right now ($6.99).

I put Anxious People on my library list. My hold on Susanna Clarke's Piranesi came through today, so I'll be starting that this weekend.

Oct 2, 2020, 5:54pm

>102 LaureneRS: who read it?

Starting to read One for the blackbird, one for the crow, heard a lot about this locally, the author did a reading here. Im not huge on pioneer stories, but this is based from the author's family and got rave reviews from my indies owners

Oct 2, 2020, 7:28pm

I think you’ll like them both, Pat.

I still haven’t read Susanna Clark’s first book and I’ve had that forever. Ditto with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Oct 3, 2020, 7:11am

I didn't read her first one, either, Lynn, and I thought Edgar was just ok (but that was a different author?). I read a couple of reviews of Piranesi that piqued my interest. It's a lot shorter than Jonathan Strange, anyway.

Nice to see you posting, Lynn.

Oct 3, 2020, 8:00am

I have a huge soft spot for Edgar Sawtelle, even as I realized it wasn't the best written book... but the dogs! And the relationship with the dogs—I couldn't not love it. In a weird coincidence, I'm heading over to the P.O. today with a box of books for a friend upstate that includes that book—much as it holds a place in my heart I'll never reread it, and someone else deserves the pleasure. I hope you'll like it, Laurene.

I never read Jonathan Strange either, though I did give copies to a few fantasy-loving friends. I have a sample of Piranesi but haven't read it yet—big fantasy is not always my thing, though I used to be crazy about it as a teen, and always think it would be fun to slip into another world like that again.

Just about done with A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth and it is VERY much my thing—many of the stories are set in the 19th century, and most revolve around science or medicine, so that hits a bunch of sweet spots for me.

Oct 3, 2020, 10:41am

>107 lisapeet: big fantasy is not always my thing, though I used to be crazy about it as a teen, and always think it would be fun to slip into another world like that again.

It's a funny thing about Strange & Norrell. It's clearly fantasy because it has fairies and magic in it. But it has a solidity to it that is really rare in the genre. I suppose that is what is meant by calling it a world-building novel, but the story isn't some finely-constructed "other place" like Tolkien's Middle Earth. It isn't a parallel world that you slip in and out of through the back door in the Leaky Cauldron like Harry Potter. It's England, a recognizable, familiar place. Somewhere in it, Jane Austen is penning her snarky, ruthless novels. But it is an England where magic is re-awakening and so mirrors and puddles can be doors, birds and blowing leaves can be read like writing, and you can negotiate with trees and stones. Magic isn't injected into England or overlaid on top of it, it is integral to it like rain and dirt is integral to it.

It's really quite an amazing feat. I'm sort of afraid to read Piranesi because how could it compare?

I finished reading Isabel Wilkerson's Caste. The book is the author's case for categorizing the racial disparity in the United States as an un-named but very real caste system. She does so by looking at the factors that define a caste system -- most visibly in India and Germany under the Third Reich -- and identifying the same elements at work in the United States: things like justification by divine will/laws of nature, the heritability of one's status, the importance of "purity", the use of dehumanization and stigma, and terror for the enforcement of the status quo. But also debunking the idea that "caste" is a rigid yet stable system, where everyone is, if not happy, at least resigned to their place within it. Pointing out that people, if they are people, always want life to be better for themselves and their children, and this is not a desire a caste system ever snuffs out.

She largely makes her case for defining American society as an unacknowledged caste system and in the process goes some way towards explaining why white people will often vote against their own interests in order to preserve that system. It's a good way to look at what we usually call "institutional" or "structural" racism, and is one of the better critiques on why so many white people can continue to say that it doesn't exist.

So, an important book, a highly useful one. It might even be revolutionary in its approach and goals. But it lacks the impact of Warmth of Other Suns and I think that will prevent it from sweeping through our culture the way Warmth has. I think the reason is because of how the two books are structured. Warmth is basically character-driven and narrative. Wilkerson uses the lives of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster as lenses through which we experience the forces that drove so many Black Americans to leave the South. They are the scaffolding for the picture she paints of a deeply flawed and frightening country. Their lives provide a focus to her thesis, and they become emblematic of the Great Migration itself.

Caste, on the other hand, starts with the thesis -- the American system is a caste system-- and illustrates each argument with anecdotes and personal experiences from a wide range of people, including Wilkerson herself. The result feels less structured, more disparate. Less narrative, more like a series of clippings put together in a file. There is no Ida Mae to get emotionally invested in. Instead, the reader has to decide if, for example, the young Southern white man's instinctive reluctance to touch or shake the hands of a Black man even though they are serving in the same Army unit is an example of the caste pressure to remain "pure."

In fact, I found I had to continually guard myself against an impulse to view all of Wilkerson's anecdotal illustrations of her points -- "anecdotal evidence" -- as isolated, unrelated incidents. The fact I had to work so hard at it is pretty strong evidence that her main thesis is true -- that white supremacy is the narrative we all consciously and subconsciously live by, and that we are trained to instinctively reject all challenges to that idea.

Oct 3, 2020, 11:55am

>104 cindydavid4: Cindy, the book is narrated by Ell Potter. In clarity of voice and textured delivery, it's a fine performance.

Editado: Oct 4, 2020, 5:53pm

I finished A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth, which I loved—it had a very cabinet-of-curiosities feel, and the author's curiosity was palpable. The stories were mostly set in the 19th century, with a couple before and after, and one contemporary piece that had enough echoes of the past not to feel out of place—all of them about some aspect of science, medicine, psychology. I'm sad to see it didn't get more attention, though maybe the subject matter is especially offbeat these days, when close first-person contemporary short stories really dominate the market. It reminded me a bit of Karen Russell's Orange World, where you could see a trail of breadcrumbs in each story to her "what if?" idea, and her enthusiasm for it. Fans of Andrea Barrett, I think you'd like this.

Also read Benjamin Nugent's Fraternity: Stories, short stories revolving around—you got it—a set of fraternity brothers (and some sorority sisters) at UMass. It wasn't as one-note as that sounds, and there's some good offbeat POVs and more than a few surprises, but people's enjoyment of this one will probably have a lot to do with how much they can tolerate the setting/milieu. I liked it well enough, but it didn't knock me out.

Those were all my library checkouts, so now I'm back to Emma Cline's Daddy.

Editado: Oct 7, 2020, 5:03pm

I am reading Exciting Times and really not getting the hoopla It attempts at Sally Rooney's kind of in-your-face obliqueness but mostly, I could care less about any character. And the author's photo just ticked me off.

Other than that, old New Yorkers, Dylan Goes Electric when I have the concentration but mostly waiting for my copy of Golem Girl to show up. I've known Riva since 1984 when we worked together in gift catalog fulfillment in the basement of the Art Institute of Chicago Museum Store. It was a shitty little job and there was ample time to bond over the shittiness. I cannot wait for this.

Riva is an amazing artist and the book is getting incredible reviews.

Oct 8, 2020, 12:31am

A Night in the Lonesome October read for a book group. Took a bit getting into this, but I was soon enough hooked. Fun bit of horror that really wasn't scary, good story, perfect for Halloween

Editado: Oct 8, 2020, 2:47pm

I grabbed a galley of Golem Girl on your say-so, Lauren. Looking forward to it.

Finished Emma Cline's Daddy, which is a good collection if you're in the mood for that sort of thing—stories of people misbehaving, testing boundaries, and making poor choices, with (predictably) bad results. For all that it takes on some engagingly uncomfortable stories, it feels pretty conventional—but very well done, and it goes down like a box of guilty bon-bons.

Now I'm reading Danielle Evans's The Office of Historical Corrections.

Oct 8, 2020, 12:16pm

I hadn't planned to read a retelling of Hamlet immediately after listening to Hamnet, and though it's overwritten I enjoyed The Story of Edgar Sawtelle because, you know, dogs, Upper Midwest, early 1970s.

Oct 8, 2020, 4:48pm

I love Danielle Evans - I am very excited about the new collection.

I gave Exciting Times another 20 pages and it hooked me. totally. The whole thing just clicked into place - the colonies of Hong Kong and Ireland, the money, English vs. Irish, class and sexuality as currency. I'm in now. I get the comparisons to Sally Rooney - I thought Normal People was the most extraordinary book about growing up in an abusive household without the word abusive ever being stated - and this has that same obliqueness but it's a bit more complicated because of the offhand narrative tone and the location.

Oct 8, 2020, 7:01pm

Read and enjoyed The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver and liked it a lot. It’s not my favorite of her books but we had a great discussion at book club. She’s my go-to pick when we are deciding what to read next. Next up for club is The Post Birthday World which I read years ago and liked a lot.

Editado: Oct 9, 2020, 3:54pm

Put aside Clementine for a bit, started Finding Dorothy Did you know that the wife of Frank Oz, Maud Oz, at 81 met Judy Garland on the set? I didn't and found it fascinating.

Oct 9, 2020, 1:12pm

I got my copy of Golem Girl last night so beside' work and sleep, that's all I am doing.

Oct 10, 2020, 3:44pm

The sad part of reading a bunch of books for a deadline is at some point you have to stop reading straight through if you have a pretty good idea of how you feel about something. Case in point: The Office of Historical Corrections, which is terrific: multilayered and subtle stories of mostly young women navigating a racialized world, smart and un-clichéd, with great writing. But unless she had a stroke halfway through putting this collection together, or the final novella is tedious (I will go back and check, or see if my fellow judge read it), this one is a definite yes—so I had to put it down and go on to the next. This one I will definitely circle back to and finish, though. And Lauren, I think you'll really like it.

On to Nicole Krauss's To Be a Man.

Oct 12, 2020, 12:41am

Trying to get myself into the autumn/Halloween mood (which is always a challenge in FL), so I'm still plowing through my Annotated Dracula doorstopper and just finished Paraic O'Donnell's The House on Vesper Sands which I enjoyed. That sounds like faint praise, I know, but this was a hard one to summarize and/or recommend enthusiastically. It had neither the Gothic spookiness nor witty satisfaction promised by its blurbs (or the Guardian review), but O'Donnell's wordsmith skills totally transported me to the London winter of 1893 via a trifecta of Victorian characters (it stars failed theology student turned apprentice detective, Gideon Bliss, tenacious, bicycle-riding, early female investigative journalist Octavia Hillingdon, and the brusque, insult-wielding Scotland Yard Inspector Cutter, who, IMO, steals the show), all managed to entertain despite not being earth-shattering originals. Those three characters, the created atmosphere, and the lovely writing made me forget the less-than-successful plot or one-dimensional villain.

Piranesi has been a challenge. This is a library loan, so I'm determined to finish it, but I've started/stopped it three times already. Early chapters seem to be just a bunch of descriptive lists trying my every nerve. The reviews promise a heady and worthy read, so I'll keep at it.

In anticipation of the TV serialized version of The Luminaries, I'm thinking of re-attacking that read. Despite the series starring the Bono girl (who come to think of it was actually pretty good in "The Knick"), I'll watch anything with Eva Green.

Oct 14, 2020, 1:19pm

I finished the Elijah Wald book Dylan goes Electric and it was very good, if a bit more than even I would ever want to know about a folk festival. Wald is a good writer though and manages to bring in all these other issues-social, political, the personalities involved, the structure of the festival itself, race (huge ), even the way Dylan used clothes to indicate a change in performance style. I really appreciated the level of detail in the research, even though I don't expect I'll retain much more than the gist.

If you are interested in societal changes of the 60s, this is not a bad choice as there is something about the festival that serves as a microcosm to other social and political issues.

Reading Riva's book still and an occasional story in The Enchanted Wanderer. they are very shaggy dog, mystically religious, vaguely anti-Semitic.

Oct 14, 2020, 2:37pm

I left off To Be a Man about halfway to keep up my judging pace, but I also really liked it. They're low-key contemporary stories about the balance of power and affection between men and women, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers, with a lot of them touching on Judaism in some way. Very thinky but good overall.

Also got partway through Jasmon Drain's Stateway's Garden and left it for the opposite reason—these are very spot-on, affecting linked stories about a young boy/man growing up in a Chicago project, but the writing is not beautiful and the stories don't feel well constructed. I'll come back to it also, though, because there's definitely something there.

Now I'm early on in Francesca Marciano's Animal Spirit. I did NOT buy the first story, but I'm liking the second, and that's where I am right now.

Editado: Oct 14, 2020, 3:40pm

I am geeking out reading Fire Cannot Kill A Dragon! Some of this I knew but most I didn't, love all the comments and stories from actors and crew. Lots of fun!

Oct 14, 2020, 5:10pm

I just finished Hidden Depths, the third book in the Vera series by Ann Cleeves. I guessed the murderer's identity about two-thirds of the way through the book, but enjoyed it all the way through for the further development of Vera's character and for the nature themes of birds and flowers.

I'm listening to the audiobook of Say Nothing and now want to watch again the movie In the Name of the Father.

Editado: Oct 23, 2020, 1:38pm

Bird Summons was my first novel by Aboulela and I really enjoyed it. It's about three friends from Aberdeen who take a trip to visit a gravesite of a 19th c. Scottish woman who was a practicing Muslim. Each woman goes through a transformation that I don't want to describe too much because it will give everything away but it's very unexpected and kind of magical. The plot line in part is based on the Sufi story of The Conference of the Birds but it's not essential that you know that. Excited to find a new novelist.

Oct 20, 2020, 6:58pm

Rehired for museum job having fun but its wearing me out. I come home and sleep. Ill adjust then jump back on the reading wagon again

Oct 21, 2020, 11:38am

What job, Cindy?

Oct 21, 2020, 6:26pm

>127 laurenbufferd: Oh the one I was supposed to have last march, Gallery Educator for our children's museum. They just found out two weeks ago they were to open next week, and so they've all been scrambling getting ready. Been a challenge, but Im having fun helping

Oct 22, 2020, 8:17pm

That sounds like fun, Cindy. Once things get in place, that is.

Oct 23, 2020, 8:53am

I ended up liking Animal Spirit pretty well, and it turns out they're not translations—she's Italian but writing in English. Maybe that's the slight remove I felt reading them, I don't know. Anyway, I only got about halfway through, but liked it enough to come back to it.

Also read half of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, which was fascinating but a little underbaked. The book itself was lively and very different, and I got a strong sense of being privy to intimate conversations among Black women, but it as far as the writing itself is concerned I felt like her craft needs to keep on evolving a bit. That said, I will definitely go back and finish it, and would pick up anything else of hers. I'm a little surprised at its being a NBA finalist, but I do think the voices are beguiling.

After that I read half of Ron Rash's In the Valley: Stories and a Novella Based on SERENA, which was kind of the opposite—technically very well done, but none of the stories moved me any which way. But also worth a read, since he's good at what he does.

And last of the contenders was/is Asako Serizawa's Inheritors, which I'm still reading and will finish (since judging is over and I'm not on a reading deadline anymore). It's a series of linked stories about the Japanese experience of WWII and its aftermath, and really a knockout so far. The stories range from 1913 to 15 years from now, exploring the reverberations of the war on one family, and wow—really ambitious, and she does a great job with it. She humanizes the horrors of war effectively, and some of the stories are just wrenching, but very much worth reading.

Oct 23, 2020, 8:10pm

I picked up the new New Yorker book on climate change and the environment,read through the table of contents and returned it. Life is so tiring these days.

Oct 23, 2020, 11:38pm

>131 alans: yes, I concur. Those books are important but the people who need to read it wont. I like reading non fiction, but prefer ones that won't put me in despair by the end....

Oct 24, 2020, 3:34pm

Inheritors was really interesting all the way to the end. A few bits that were a little rough around the edges—one that interrogated a Borges story as a big plot component that bogged down a bit in its thought-exercise-ness, but still fascinating overall, and I'm glad she aimed high with this one. It's 100% different from anything else I read this year, and if you're up for some challenging, but rewarding, historical (and some speculative!) fiction, this might be for you.

Oct 24, 2020, 3:53pm

I finished my friend Riva's book Golem Girl - it's very good but the first half is much more interesting than the second. It wasn;t because there was less I knew about her childhood and more to do with feeling like those were the years she was really digging deeply and reckoning with her family, her sexuality, and her art. The closer we get to now and a more conventional successful life - exhibitions, teaching - and of course, the lack of hindsight, the less I found compelling. Still, it's a memoir unlike any other and I highly recommend it. It's also a gorgeously made book.

I read Please See Us which is sort of on par with those kind of Gone Girl on a Train. I thought it was an interesting experiment - a man is killing women in Atlantic City and a young psychic who is being pimped by her aunt and a salon employee fleeing a relationship gone wrong in NYC team up to try and figure out what is happening. except the murderer is never found. It bites off a bit more than it can chew AND it has a magical person of color (who also has a disability) ; I am irritated by that at this point in my reading life. I thought it was an interesting experiment - and I loved that most of the characters were female.

Oct 24, 2020, 4:30pm

>134 laurenbufferd: I think I'm going to read that next, see if it might be a Bloom book.

Oct 24, 2020, 11:47pm

Planning to read Late Migrations: a natural history of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl Weather is finally fall like, and I have all day long tomorrow!

Finished Finding DorothyI normally am not a fan of two time period stories, because usually the 'modern story' takes away from the actual story. Not this time; Letts is able to tell the story of the filming of Wizard of Oz with the story of how the book came to be, and how an 80 year old Maude Baum came to meet Judy Garland. Thinking I may want to reread my old copy of the book.

Oct 25, 2020, 6:20pm

The Office of Historical Corrections is a WONDERFUL collection. Evans writes about loss and race and women who take no shit—sometimes all in the same piece—with a terrifically subtle touch. Which is not to say that she soft-pedals anything, because these are stories that will hit you where you live, but there's not a word here that doesn't ring true. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

Oct 26, 2020, 2:14pm

I'm reading This is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire by Nick Flynn. I like him a lot.

Oct 27, 2020, 11:31am

Cindy, I'm excited to know your thoughts. I know Margaret; she is the wife of someone my husband teaches with and used to write for the local paper here - howlingly funny essays about motherhood and teaching. Several years ago she began writing for the NYT and her essays are both thoughtful and thought provoking. It's been exciting to watch the rest of the world discover her.

I have mixed feelings about the book but am happy to know people are reading it - it definitely deserves to be read.

Lisa, that is so high on my list! Can't wait. And please get in touch with Riva, she is looking for more ways to publicize the book.

Oct 27, 2020, 2:51pm

>139 laurenbufferd: so far Im liking it but find I can just read a few at a time, and find there is a lot of repetition among the essays. But I like the stories she tells on various members of her family and on herself. Not far in, more later.

Editado: Oct 28, 2020, 1:10pm

Crooked Hallelujah fell somewhere between Elizabeth Strout and Louise Erdrich - linked short stories about a Cherokee/Holiness Church family in Oklahoma and Texas. I loved parts of it, though some chapters felt like filler and by the end, I wanted badly to edit and make it a better book. Great characters, unique voice, middling execution.

Editado: Oct 28, 2020, 9:34pm

Just happened upon this book at my local used and had to get it a life like other people's I love any thing by Alan Bennet the madness of king george the clothes they stood up in and common reader among my favs. This is a memoir, and its really quite a lovely telling of his childhood and mental illness, and being different.

Also still reading late migrations which because of the poetic language, its going slower than I expected but still likeing it

also still reading the writer's library which I'll be reading for a while as if I read more than a few of these, they all sound alike

sorry multiple postings but not everyone is in the same thread!

Editado: Nov 5, 2020, 6:56pm

I'm about 2/3 done with the slightly hyped The Talented Miss Farwell and here's the thing: if you write a book called THE TALENTED MISS FARWELL and name your lead character BECKY, you are absolutely, no doubt about it inviting comparisons with Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley and William Thackeray's Becky Sharp, both of which are dangerous for you right off the bat. That's all I will say but this character better kill about ten people in the closing third because if it just ends up being about a midwestern comptroller with an art-buying habit and the main plot is will she or won't she restore the town's Annual Petunia Planting Festival budget that she embezzled to buy an Eric Fischl painting, we're going to have to have a chitchat.

Nov 9, 2020, 1:14am

Shadow of the Wind a reread for a book group. Since I bought it around the time it was published,I haven't read it for 20 years. So it will really by like Im reading it for the first time!

Nov 9, 2020, 7:18am

Just finshed Riva Lehrer's Golem Girl—thank you so much for the rec, Lauren!—which was ooooh whee just a terrific memoir. Lehrer is a visual artist who was born in the 1950s with spina bifida, in a decidedly pre–disability rights era, and she weaves both of those—her life as a disabled (queer, opinionated, brilliant) woman and her art-making—deftly and intriguingly. She includes a lot of her art, links to the folks she collaborated with, and resources. Highly recommended.

Not sure what I'm going to read next. I have a lot of library holds that are about to come up, so maybe I'll finish up some of those short story collections so I don't get caught in the middle of something else.

Editado: Nov 10, 2020, 12:01pm

Wasn't it good??? I thought the first half was better than the second but that makes sense - she has much more distance on the past. But the events that occur at Children's Hospital and then the aftermath - I thought that was some brilliant writing.

I loved loved loved Emma Straub's All Adults Here. for me, she hits that same sweet spot that Cathleen Schine does and Elinor Lipman used to. The novel takes place in upstate NY, when Astrid Strick, the mother of three adult children witnesses a horrible accident causing her to question some of the decisions she made as a young mother and her current relationships with her two sons and daughter. Everything gets in a muddle and then gradually unravels to a happy ending but without losing sight of some pretty salient points like do we like the adults our children become and how much damage did we cause as parents.

I finished the Leskov stories which are strange, mystical, shaggy dog tales - almost like fairy tales but not quite. I loved the first and last stories - the Lady Macbeth of Minsk made me gasp out loud but for me, I don't think I'll ever feel the need to read more or again. I also read Mrs Robinson's Disgrace which was interesting but very slight - about a Victorian divorce case. I think those were both books from a long ago Guardian swap from SP and Kat, respectively.

On the night of the election, I took to my bed with a Helen MacInnes which I am really enjoying Decision at Delphi. It's expertly written and not about Donald Jessica Trump.

Nov 10, 2020, 6:16pm

>145 lisapeet: really wanting to read golem girl as well!

Rereading Shadow of the Windfor a book group and oh my Id forgotten how good this was. Also starting to read Franklin and Winston for a history book group, which will be lots of fun having read a few HF about them.

Nov 12, 2020, 9:09am

Nicole Krauss's To Be a Man is a smart, empathetic collection about people in relationship with and orbiting each other, life and death (well, I guess that's most stories, but those themes form a real core to the collection). The stories here are unexpected but never gimmicky—sometimes a bit too wispy to pack a punch (the title story was not my favorite) but more often solid and astute. Standouts for me were "Switzerland," "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake," "The Husband," but the entire collection is very worthwhile.

Now my library hold of Diane Cook's The New Wilderness has come in, so that's next.

Nov 13, 2020, 1:55pm

Has anyone else read Lovecraft Country? It's one of the few books that has held my interest for more than 5 minutes lately. I loved Ruff's Set This House in Order way back when, and have enjoyed everything of his I've read. I haven't watched the tv series on HBO of LC yet, but plan on it as soon as I finish the book (hopefully this year, sad face emoji). Anyway, I think when I bought the book I had no idea what it was about, so I am really enjoying it.

Other than that, I've only been listening to audiobooks in bed. Educated was different than what I thought. I've read several of those "crazy religious father moves his family to the sticks so they can't be influenced by the real world, then proceeds to go more crazy and have sex with his daughters and weird crap" kind of books, so at first, I thought this one was tame. By the end, I was shocked at this family and also convinced there's a lot more that she didn't say (like I bet her brother sexually abused his sisters, not just physically hurt them). I also found out that my friend's doula had her buying essential oils from the crazy family, so she's put a stop to that! Freaking nut jobs, but now they have money and influence. Wonderful.

Editado: Nov 13, 2020, 4:08pm

No, but I'm almost finished with the HBO series which I found very entertaining.

I've been reading a lot, trying to keep my mind off politics and the virus and awaiting results from a CTA, but the one I can universally recommend is by Delphine Minoui. It's a wonderful story about a handful of young Syrians who decide to stay behind in their mostly deserted, continuously bombed, small town. One day, while scouring destroyed buildings and homes, they came across a treasure trove of books belonging to a school director (long gone). They piled them into the back of their pickup and looked for someplace safe to store them. They found an underground space, cleaned it up, painted the walls, built shelves, carted in some old sofas, noted the owner's name in every book (in case he ever returns), and shelved them. They then decided to create a secret library and go out daily searching ruined structures for more books. Within a month, they collect 15,000 books, a laptop, and contrived an internet connection. Soon, they're holding streamed lectures, English classes, and operating as a hidden, "public" library. A posted iPhone pic on Facebook led to the author tracking down the young men, but it was too dangerous for anyone to travel into the town, so...

This is a terrific, little book that's absolutely perfect reading for COVID times.

The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War

Nov 14, 2020, 12:21pm

Julie, I thought the exact same thing - there is a lot in Educated that she doesn't say and in a way, I found that even more disturbing.

Decision at Delphi was a really good distraction from the news. I am reading Hamnet.

Nov 14, 2020, 12:35pm

>151 laurenbufferd: Hamnet is one of the best books I've read this year. I hope you enjoy it, too, Lauren.

Nov 14, 2020, 2:48pm

Another fan of "Hamnet" here.

Nov 16, 2020, 3:23pm

Hamnet fan here too.

Nov 16, 2020, 9:23pm

Ditto. My sis borrowed my copy and was raving about it. Got her a couple of my Ofarrel books to read as well.

Now reading ancestor stones a recommendation from sprial sheep (think she's become my new reading buddy!) and Mantel Pieces

Nov 20, 2020, 6:32am

I have one hour left in the 34 hour audio version of An American Tragedy, and the greatest tragedy is that I have devoted so much time to this dreary, incredibly boring book. I've wanted to read the
book since my uni days because I really like Dreiser, but this is way too much Dreiser. Incredibly repetive and just very very dull. Sad to say I wish they would fry the man character already, just
The Decameron Project-the collection of stories that appeared in the New York Times magazine
at the start of covid (was there ever a start to this horrible plague?)is appearing in book form.
It's a wonderful document to a horrifying time.

Lisa-thanks for the heads up about the new Nicole Kraus. I really didn't like her highly-praised novel so it's great
to hear her collection of short stories are so great. Of course waiting on the edge of my chair
to read your best of list.

Nov 20, 2020, 11:18am

>156 alans: The Decameron Project-the collection of stories that appeared in the New York Times magazine at the start of covid (was there ever a start to this horrible plague?)is appearing in book form. It's a wonderful document to a horrifying time.

I read that when it came out and I was in tears through most of it, but at the same time really intrigued by the writing. Which reminds me I have meant to reread Decameron.....

Nov 20, 2020, 4:26pm

I love An American Tragedy, but Dreiser is no stylist...that's for sure.

Editado: Nov 22, 2020, 10:03am

I’m listening to the David Sedaris compiled collection of stories-Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. I have mixed feelings about Sedaris’s work, but this collection is a knock-out. Listening to Mary Louise Parker read In the Cemetary Where Al Jolson is Buried is heart-breaking. Unfortunately the entire collection isn’t on audio but the Patricia Highsmith-sounding very much like Dorothy Parker (who knew?) and Bullet to the Brain by Tobias Wolff are just fantastic.

Nov 22, 2020, 11:11am

Best Books goes up tomorrow, dog willing. I'll link to it when it's posted.

I've had Hamnet on my shelf forever... I think that's close to next, once I get through this recent batch of library holds. And speaking of which—Diane Cook's The New Wilderness was immersive but at the same time left me a bit flat—so much telling vs. showing, so many people talking about what they were feeling. The premise was good and pulled me in at the start, but ultimately I'm not sure I bought the setup of the doomed City, the preserved Wilderness, and the human settlers who were more guinea pigs than anything else. Still, it was entertaining and had some food for thought. Though—very minor quibble—I wish we hadn't been given Agnes's middle/last name in the last quarter of the book. That weird little bit of symbolism kept floating into my mind for the rest of the time I was reading.

Now I'm reading The Best American Comics 2019, because I need a little more graphics in my reading life.

Nov 22, 2020, 5:11pm

Oh happy day tomorrow-can’t wait. I think the Emma Cline,the Nicole Kraus and The lives of..? Women will be on your final list. Very exciting.

Nov 22, 2020, 5:47pm

Lithub has posted their top short fiction today and there is a link to an even longer list.
So many short stories,so little time. I make it easier for myself by skipping the ones about mermaids.

Nov 25, 2020, 1:48am

My hold came in on a book I've been hotly anticipating, my son did the curbside pick-up thing for me (our libraries are one of the few sites closed to the public), and it's almost 2 am and I can't put it down.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann, Trans. by Ross Benjamin

Nov 25, 2020, 11:19am

I've been interested in Tyll for a while... let me know what you think, Pat.

Finished The Best American Comics 2019, and mostly enjoyed it. Were the pieces selected the best of what was published all year? I have no idea, not being that immersed in the comics world. A few left me flat, a few were good but not amazing, and a few knocked me out and were added to the list of full-length works that I want to check out when I can: Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault's Louis Undercover, Joe Sacco's "Bitumen or Bust" (mostly for the drawing, which my crosshatching self loves) in Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life, Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared, Nick Drnaso's Sabrina, Connor Willumsen's Anti-Gone, and Eleanor Davis's "Hurt or Fuck" in Now #1—she's someone I really want to see more of; I love her handling of bodies and the way they occupy space. Also really liked Lauren Weinstein's "Being an Artist and a Mother," which I remember from the New Yorker. This was a good introduction for me to work that's being done right now—I fell off the comics map (or I guess it fell off of my map) years ago, but have been wanting to pick up more graphic narrative stuff lately. This is a good push in the right direction... I wish my library had more editions of this series in ebook format, but I guess you can't have everything.

Now reading my next cascading library hold, The Eighth Detective, from someone's recommendation here (sorry I can't remember... speak up!).

Nov 28, 2020, 12:12pm

You were right Lisa, The Office of historical collections is a stellar collection. Alcatraz is just first rate.

Nov 28, 2020, 7:28pm

Finished mantel pieces which I found quite enjoyable and interesting.

Reading Pride and Prometheus that is actually better than it sounds. Mary Bennett has had at least three books out about her, she would be so pleased

Reread Shadow of the Wind for a book group, enjoyed it as much as I did first time around, this time I picked up on things I missed. Love his language. Has anyone read his sequel Angels Game

Nov 29, 2020, 8:50pm

Have thirty minutes to go of the audio version of Last night at the lobster. I had first heard about this book on Readerville as many were reading it back then. I loved the title and wanted to read it for years. Almost finished I find it to be very mediocre and of minor interest. There just isn’t much to it.

Editado: Nov 29, 2020, 9:51pm

>167 alans: Hee don't feel badly I tried reading it back then and just didn't get the love. There was another book about the same time that was supposed to be edgy and the perfect Readerville book but just didn't work for me (wish I could remember the name...)

Editado: Nov 30, 2020, 9:37am

>165 laurenbufferd: Ive got collections in the stack, Its frustrating - I cannot remember a year reading this many stellar books and with several stellar books still to read! I want to read them all right now!!I am very blessed and grateful that I have the time to do so, plus weather that allows me to read outside and reminds me why I live here....(makes up for the horrid summer!) but every time I turn around one of you is tossing shiny covers my way! (and I say this with tongue firmly in cheek coz i don' have a problem with this!.)

Nov 30, 2020, 8:07am

Oh, I love the lonely smallness of Last Night at the Lobster. The mood of it has really lingered in my mind for years and years. But I always love a book where nothing happens.

Dic 1, 2020, 11:01am

But I always love a book where nothing happens.
Yes. I like a book whose world is spherical rather than linear.

Dic 1, 2020, 11:53am

I love Last Night at the Lobster. I do like a book where nothing happens but honestly, I think the novel is about the dignity of work and how labor offers us a sense of self and a sense of pride. I gave it to everyone I worked with one Christmas and have continued to offer it to work mates, especially young people.

I think about it all the time.

Danielle Evans's new collections is stellar and that novella - sheesh. So good.

I am reading a book about the last three significant relationships of HG Wells - for a shrimpy little guy with high pitched voice, he was a total hit with the ladies. Martha Gelhorn! Morua Budberg (who, if she wasn't a spy, then I'll eat my hat) It's called Shadow Lovers. I am also reading Travelers.

Dic 1, 2020, 7:04pm

Lisa,Lisa-the list..please.

Dic 1, 2020, 7:55pm

>172 laurenbufferd: Add Elizabeth Von Armin to that illustrious list :)

Dic 2, 2020, 8:57pm

I am trying to remember the name of a modern novel that is similar to Fitzgerals Benjamin Button. It was one a lot of us read in readerville time. Anyone recall it?

Dic 2, 2020, 11:59pm

Confessions of Max Tivoli— Andrew Sean Greer.

Dic 3, 2020, 12:01am

yes thats it, ended up reading others by that author. Excellent book

Editado: Dic 3, 2020, 8:43am

I think Greer's The Story of a Marriage is my favorite 21st century novel so far, and I'm on record as being delighted that Less won the Pulitzer -- comedies never seem to, but I suppose it's really not just that.

Dic 3, 2020, 9:10am

Yes love his stuff! for some reason didn't know he won the Pulitzer for that. (my copy does not have the big shiny gold medal on the cover!)

Dic 4, 2020, 2:51pm

>173 alans: Here ya go, Alan—LJ's Best Books 2020. You might have to sign in but I don't think it's paywalled.

>172 laurenbufferd: I was friends with H.G. Wells's grandchildren in high school. Does that count for anything? And I'm really glad you liked the Evans, Lauren—you know, that feeling when you just rave about a book and you stop and wonder for a second if it was really as good as you said, or if you're just getting caught up in the moment. But everyone I know has loved it.

I read and really enjoyed Muriel Spark's The Girls of Slender Means. Spark pulls off that combination of drama and dark comedy—in equal parts of both—about a young women's residence and the young women who live there, with jumps in time and slow reveals of several things, notably a sad ending for several of the characters and Spark's trademark gradual unpeeling of character. The form of this short book is tricky and quite wonderful—I've been thinking about how she pulled it off since I finished. Very good stuff, and definitely worthy of a reread at some point.

Reading The Eighth Detective and I'm still not sure what to think of it, but it's fun.

Dic 5, 2020, 9:44am

>180 lisapeet: So, The Girls of Slender Means was somehow -- it seems impossible -- my very first Muriel Spark book. When I realized this when I started to read it, I found myself in the very very rare (for me) position of knowing almost nothing about the author or her work, so very few preconceptions to color my judgment or influence my reactions. It was an almost-forgotten experience.

But that book. I agree it is one of the best-constructed pieces of literature I have ever read. There is not a scene, not a snippet of dialogue, not a single moment of it that does not fit perfectly within its surroundings. And yet nothing was extraneous. Everything was deliberate and intentional. It reminded me of Gatsby in that way. Not in the style, but in the absolute control she has over the unfolding story. I loved the opening scene, where she describes looking at all the bombed buildings where you can see into the rooms because they are missing a wall. I thought she was basically doing the same thing with the May of Tek Club -- it was a little fishbowl world the reader was peering into. "Windows" seems like a major metaphor in that story.

I also had to go find copies of The Wreck of the Deutschland, and Moonlit Apples.

Dic 6, 2020, 8:59am

Some other recent reads:

The Big Green Tent by Ludmilla Ulitskaya, because I just wanted to lose myself in the world of Russian dissidents and samizdat. It's a beautiful, landscape-canvas of a story centered around the lives of three boys, best friends, and three girls, best friends, and their lives from early school-age friendships on the eve of the death of Stalin right through the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

Barry Lopez's Horizon, which is a kind of elegiac revisit of the many places he has seen and loved, and a lament for a future that he clearly feels is slipping away from us. He's led a mad and interesting life, and it's interesting to read his "second take" on some of the places that he spoke so beautifully about in his earlier books. He makes a heartfelt plea for a radical change in our cultural values -- a return to listening to the kind of deep land-based values that he loosely calls "the wisdom of the elders". But there is a bitter note in the plea, like he is losing faith in the possibility of such a thing happening.

Helen MacDonald's Vesper Flights -- worth the price of the book for the title essay alone. The book doesn't have the coherent inner structure of H is for Hawk, but there isn't a boring essay in it. There is a lot of contemplative and searching rumination on MacDonald's own struggles with depression throughout the book. It tinges many of the pieces, like sepia-wash across the pictures she paints.

Piranesi is another elaborate and alluring construction from Susanna Clarke. I found it impossible not to like, because the woman is a master at word-pictures. The book itself, however, is clearly created from the same foundations that she laid for Strange & Norrell, only told from the other side of the mirror, as it were. In that sense, there isn't anything "new" here. The book has its mystery at its central core -- Who is Piranesi? Who is "the Other"? What is this dark secret we get glimpses of in scraps of torn notebook pages dug out of the nests of birds? -- but really I think Clarke just wanted to set a novel in the world of ruined stone paths and crumbling Venetian houses that are behind all the mirrors and puddles in Strange & Norrell. The integration between setting and story isn't quite as seamless as her first book, but there is still so much to see in this other land she created I didn't feel the lack.

Now reading The Thirty Names of Night which is a magical book in its own way, although magic doesn't come into it, at least not so far.

Dic 6, 2020, 3:41pm

Lisa, I did not know about the grandchildren. He had a fair amount of illegitimate children so do you know the lineage? Just curious how they ended up in the US.

I have Vesper Flights and really look forward to reading it.

I am digging Glass Town (another for you, Lisa P) and Travelers and just feeling really happy about my reading.

Muriel Spark is such an amazing stylist. The pace, the detail and just the way Girls of Slender Means unfolds is simply masterful.

Dic 7, 2020, 11:46am

Thanks Lisap...going to read it now.

Dic 12, 2020, 3:33pm

Kind of disappointed in The Eighth Detective, which wasn't much of a math mystery—as a friend had described it—after all (hey, I like math). Good premise, with a series of fiddly mysteries leading up to an interesting denouement, but ultimately disappointing. There were some promising setups and I liked the twist at the end, but the characters were all pretty un-engaging, and the writing a bit odd, with strange similes scattered throughout like cranberries in vanilla ice cream (see what I did there). Maybe it would appeal more to folks who read more detective fiction and appreciate the way Pavesi is (I'm assuming) playing with the tropes. But it was entertaining, at any rate.

Now I'm about to start Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin. Sounds cheerful, eh? But also maybe interesting—I saw it reviewed somewhere at some point and put a library hold on it, and here we are.

>182 southernbooklady: I always like your book recs, Nicki, though I'm thinking Piranesi is maybe not for me. I have Horizon and Vesper Flights on the physical and virtual shelves, respectively, and am looking forward to those.

>183 laurenbufferd: Wells's grandchildren were Adam and Sophia West, kids of Wells's and Rebecca West's son Anthony West—they weren't married so he went by his mother's surname—and his second wife. Sophia died a years back, something to do with an epileptic seizure, but we'd lost touch.

Glass Town duly noted and wishlisted.

Dic 12, 2020, 3:59pm

>185 lisapeet: My guess is that readers that liked Strange & Norrell won't dislike Piranesi. But if you aren't a Strange Norrell fan, this book won't convert you. the plot is vaguely Donna Tartt -- mesmerizing professor, fanatical students, theories that go too far. But the setting subsumes the plot and really I think it is the setting she's most interested in.

Dic 12, 2020, 5:15pm

I really disliked The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. I really really disliked it. Such a pompous book of crap. One author I can delete from my to read list.

Dic 12, 2020, 10:25pm

Reading the ten thousand doors of January Just started it, and so far so good. Interesting because I had been trying to read Starless Sea which is similar in many ways but it was a jumbled mess. This seems more my speed

Editado: Dic 15, 2020, 1:23pm

I was also an intense disliker of The Friend. But Nunez wrote two books I adored Mitz and The Last of her Kind. I'll keep reading her.

American Delirium was just nuts but somehow it all worked. Three interlocking narratives - a taxidermist whose house has been invaded, a young girl whose mother has abandoned her for a back-to-nature cult, and a senior citizen who takes the problem of the neighborhood's aggressive deer into her own hands. And a hallucinogenic plant that everyone seems to have access to. Why does it work ? I have no idea but it does. I loved it. There is some deer-on-human and human - on-deer violence so if animal cruelty is tough for you, skip it.

I am reading the new Hala Alyan The Arsonists' City.

Dic 15, 2020, 8:22pm

Hmmm. I rather liked The Friend and I really liked her last novel What are you going Through.

Dic 15, 2020, 10:05pm

>188 cindydavid4: apparently the January book is just as insipid as Starless Sea, in fact the two books have much in common. Someone suggested this book be called the Ten Thousand Diaries of a Teenage Drama Queen..think I need to move away from fantasy for a bit

So trying to find a few books to finish off my very good year in reading: Looking at A Boy in the Field I love Livesly so this might be next

Dic 16, 2020, 12:52pm

I'm reading The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton. I had decided to abandon it after the first, pretentious, overwritten chapter, but a friend urged me to keep going. It does get better but won't make my 2020 Best Books Read list.

Dic 16, 2020, 1:11pm

I read whatever her first book was, Laurene, but I can't remember a thing about it.

Cindy, I liked the Livesey but it felt a bit underbaked, as DG would say.

Dic 18, 2020, 9:24pm

Hee, thanks Lauren. Actually I am probably going to put that aside for now because my LT secret santa sent me Tiff: a life of timothy findley Cant remember if it was TT or Readerville, but my first intro to this author was in a discussion of Pilgrim, I think lead by Katherine. Such a fascinating book and discussion,I went on to reading everything else he wrote. So when I heard this was coming out I knew I had to read it. And I will!

Dic 27, 2020, 10:59am

I spent a couple of weeks plowing through Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin. The concept was interesting—how the South Bronx in the 1970s and '80s became this overarching symbol for urban devastation and ruin, and how that was interpreted/misinterpreted by artists and in popular culture. It hit a lot of notes for me personally: urban studies and the Bronx in particular (I live in the North Bronx, an area that never fell into disrepair), high/low art, inclusivity—but fell short in a few ways. Most notably, although the book discusses how the reality of life in the S. Bronx of the time was othered or omitted from the examples L'Official featured, from really problematic pop culture like Fort Apache, the Bronx or Bonfire of the Vanities to more open-ended art world treatments like Gordon Matta-Clark's deconstructions taken from demolished Bronx buildings or the half-ironic gallery Fashion Moda, which had a storefront in the S. Bronx for a while, he gives hardly any space to actual S. Bronx voices, other than novelist Abraham Rodriguez.

I get that he feels hip-hop and graffiti and all their associated offshoots, have already gotten a lot of exposure as the voices of the Bronx, and I realize that that story wasn't the book he set out to write. But it still feels slightly inconclusive framed that way—I get a strong sense of a series of individual articles strung together. The book is also on the academic side, a bit too rooted in cultural studies artspeak formalism to be a joy—I felt like I was back in art school in 1985—and it was a slow read for me. What I did really enjoy was the overlay of 2020 tech, plugging the addresses L'Official offered as typical rubble-strewn lots of the time and seeing how they've been rebuilt now—a lot of polite, well-kept townhouses and typically anonymous low-slung brick retail stores that look pretty much the way they did then, but cleaned up. And it did give me some things to think about, not just in regards to the Bronx but the narrative of urban spaces and New York in particular, and my own (very white, very young, very hungry for sensation) experience of NYC downtown in those same years. I'm glad I was there and lived through that, but it's good to consider centered in the wider world—which I most decidedly did not do, then.

Next up, and I guess my last of the year, my library hold of The Best American Short Stories 2020 just came in. Maybe that's a good way to wind up this rotten year, with something positive that has "2020" in the title.

Editado: Dic 27, 2020, 12:12pm

I just finished Lethal Injection, which some consider a modern noir masterpiece. It’s very short and dark and I guess pretty noir,but it didn’t have me at the edge of my seat. It was written by Jim Nisbitt who appears to be a cult favorite by some. I don’t know if I will bother with the rest of his work.

Editado: Dic 29, 2020, 12:37pm

I started Blue Ticket and quickly assessed it's not for me. It's not just the dystopia but it's the misery porn element that turned me off.

I did read the soon to be published The Survivors. Harper has a formula and it works. The solution to the crime was a bit ho hum but the setting - a small seaside community in Tasmania with lots of gossip - was aces.

Dic 29, 2020, 12:38pm

>197 laurenbufferd: Yeah something about the description made me think it wasn't for me.

Editado: Dic 29, 2020, 12:40pm

I liked the idea but even the first few chapters had lines like - I was tired of letting men hit me in the face - or incidents of grotesque self harm - all in a kind of breezy prose. So that's a no.

Ene 5, 9:10pm

We ready for a 2021 thread? I'll roll this one over.