Monday, August 17, 2015

Selected Reads: July 2015


The new job means that I am going to have to reassess my book posts. I've done six months of completist posting, everything I've read whether or not I enjoyed a given book or even felt strongly about it, but that isn't going to work any more. Partially this is a question of discretion but mostly it is just because a lot of what I'm reading at the moment isn't yet published. In the interest of accessibility I'm going to pick a couple of titles that I found particularly interesting/will be published in the UK within the next few months/are in print internationally to highlight each month.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend - Katarina Bivald: Little of what I read can be comfortably described as charming but this novel is light, pleasant and good natured. I suspect that heavy readers cannot fail to enjoy a story about fellow book worms - it appeals to our interests and our narcissism. Here are pen pals and shared books and small towns and introverts and gentle friendships. What's not to like?
  • Green Girl - Kate Zambreno: Green Girl is neither charming nor easy but over the last nearly five years it has become something like a modern classic. Although it has been publicly disliked it seems to have become a kind of touchstone for a new wave of idiosyncratic young female narratives. I didn't especially enjoy reading this, it is intentionally alienating, but I did find it interesting and my desire for possible mirrors is almost endless.
  • Men We Reaped - Jesmyn Ward: This memoir is brutal. Ward lost five young men in four years and 'lost' is such a euphemism. America is killing its young black men. This isn't a simple story about gang violence or police brutality or drug addiction although all of those things play their part. Ward is concerned with poverty and institutional racism and systematic violence. I didn't find this quite as overwhelmingly moving as Salvage the Bones but StB might be the best book I've read in the last five years so that is a crazy high bar.
  • Freedom - Jonathan Franzen: I spent the first third of this monster feeling quite defensive on J-Franz's behalf. He takes an unbelievable amount of stick from the interwebz but I thought the rape scene was handled surprisingly well and there is no doubt that he has an eye for detail. But then this book just went on and on and on and I lost a lot of sympathy. It felt flabby and the Lalitha character made me nervous all the time because she always felt a hop, skip and a jump away from horrible, tone deaf racism. Also, all of the sex stuff is so weird. If I never encounter another J-Franz sex scene again it will be too soon.
  • The White Road: a pilgrimage of sorts - Edmund de Waal: Moment of truth here... I never got around to reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes. I guess I was doing other things in 2010. So I didn't know that Edmund de Waal isn't primarily a writer - he's a potter/ceramicist/artist. When I eventually joined the dots I recognised a lot of his work and his fascination with white. This book is a history of porcelain and a travelogue across key sights in the production of porcelain and a memoir of EdW's career and his obsession with the mysterious material. It is quiet and thoughtful and the production on the book is beautiful. Also, it desperately made me want to track down a community pottery class...

1 comment:

  1. I've been reexamining my to-read list and trying to be smarter about it. I know it's supposed to be entertainment (for me at least) but I'm thinking I could do with being a little more discriminating

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