Even though I’ve been away from the blog for most of the Spring, I’ve (mostly) kept up good reading habits throughout the last few months. I’m still way behind on my reading goal for the year, but I’m hoping that a few sunny weekends out on the porch with good coffee and good books will catch me right up! I’ve got lots of reads to catch you up on since my last round-up, so let’s get to it!
The Buried Giant (Kazuo Ishiguro)
This book was so stunning. I will admit that the first thirty or so pages had me scratching my head, but as the novel progresses it blew me away with how thoughtful and touching the story and its characters are. The story follows Axl and Beatrice, a married couple plagued by memory loss, familial loss, and, oh, a dragon here and there. I expected beautiful writing (Ishiguro also wrote Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, two of my favorite novels) and The Buried Giant absolutely delivered on that front. Give yourself time and calm to read this book – you won’t want to rush through it or be distracted.
Hidden Bodies (Caroline Kepnes)
I have such mixed feelings about this series! I rate this a little lower than the first book in the series, mostly because, well, this book was a little silly! Everyone is aggressively awful or inept! Hollywood people, am I right?! Joe Goldberg is just as clinically misguided as ever, but a bit of the shine from the first book has been wiped away, for me at least, due to my now familiarity with the character. If you’ve read the first book and feel invested, give this a go. But we’re firmly out of John Fowles territory and into fluffy beach read with this installment.
Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries (Jon Ronson)
I’m afraid that I might find Jon Ronson so delightful and insightful that I tend to gloss over many of his flaws. I know that a (small) part of Ronson’s appeal is how he weaves himself into his essays, painting himself as the hapless observer, but in many ways throughout Lost at Sea I found myself thinking, “Ok, but it’s not about you, Jon.” The book is fine, even good, and if you like Ronson you’ll like this. I did! I swear. But…well…I’ve read it before (literally, in some cases, as a few of the essays are re-prints).
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark (Anna North)
I found myself actively trying to dislike this book (the character development wasn’t amazing, in my opinion), but I found myself really charmed by the narrative structure and completely engrossed in the emotion of the story. It’s quite cool to get to learn about a character from the point of view of everyone but the character, and I enjoyed the story on the whole, but I found myself disappointed that the main character was unlikable to the point that it felt like a great waste that all of this effort was being spent telling her story. I think that might be a divisive opinion, but it’s how I felt upon finishing the book. This is one of those books that I think people will feel really strongly about either way, and for that alone I’d say it’s worth picking up.
What Happened, Miss Simone?: A Biography (Alan Light)
I picked this up in the wake of the trailer for Nina dropping (poor Zoe Saldana…I don’t know what that girl was thinking taking this role). I realized that my familiarity with Nina Simone was woefully insufficient and wanted to round out the knowledge that I did have of her and her music. This is a pretty matter-of-fact and to the point account of her life (which I appreciated) and made me long even more so for a biopic that would do such a magnificent woman justice. Maybe someday? But at least we have What Happened, Miss Simone?, which was wonderfully researched and written.
I guess I can come away from reading this book knowing that, since the movie has been described as fluff that dabbles in a bit of racism, I’ve saved myself the £10+ that I might have otherwise spent on seeing the movie adaptation. I think I’m just super tired of reading about self-absorbed, privileged women inserting themselves into dangerous situations and then spending 300+ pages obsessing over how hard it all was. To be fair, to Barker’s credit this memoir is better than a lot of the recent memoirs that I’ve read, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at her descriptions of basically anyone who wasn’t white. It was FINE. Better than the Tina Fey adaptation from what I’ve heard (though I wish that Fey would do better and not insist that she has the right to be unapologetically bigoted). Ugh. The book was fine. It could have been GREAT but it was fine.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Joël Dicker)
This book was bad. I can’t even remember now specifically why I disliked it so much but I remember being genuinely annoyed that Dicker wasted everyone’s time by writing 600 pages of trash instead of like…200 and calling it a day.
The Fishermen (Chigozie Obioma)
I LOVED this book. It was heartbreaking and beautifully written. It stayed with me well after I turned the last page and to me that’s the best that you can hope for when you’ve invested time in a book. The Fishermen deftly explores the relationships between brothers, parents and children, madness and sanity, people and government…I could go on. This book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it’s obvious why. If you read one from this list, make this one it!
Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
This was perfectly fun and light – just the kind of book that you want on your honeymoon, which is when I read it. I’ve read a few Moriarty books now and they’re always dependable sources of wit and insight all wrapped up in a soap opera-esque package. I’m a fan. Definitely grab this for your next beach vacation!
Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen (Alison Weir)
I got this at the airport on the way to Boston, kicking myself because I had packed three books for a four day journey. I have no chill. Anyway, Alison Weir has been popping up on all of my history podcasts lately (I’ve fallen into a Henry VIII rabbit hole) and when I saw the title in the airport bookshop I felt like I couldn’t not pick it up. I’m so glad that I did! Historical fiction can be hard to get right but I think Weir does a great job at bringing Katherine of Aragon to life in a way that feels rooted in reality but also adds a layer of dimension that a just-the-facts retelling of her life might not be able to achieve. I’m chomping at the bit for the next book in this series (Anne Boleyn!) because that is going to be DRAMA and I am HERE FOR IT.
I’m currently reading the second book in a Stephen King trilogy that I’ll report back on when I’ve finished the series. What are YOU reading? Any Summer reading goals?
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