I’ve been reading so much all year, but changed day jobs and haven’t had time to do serious thinking about what I’ve been reading, never mind writing about it. Every once in a while I pull up the blog and see the most recent old post from last summer and it makes me anxious and sad about not participating in rich booktalk conversations here and elsewhere online.
Today as I was driving a daughter home from week 2 of her summer theater program and realized we’re already talking about the end of August, I decided I really have to put something up over the “Summer Reading” post from August 2015. To anyone who receives a notification and takes a minute to read this, my apologies that it’s such a lame post!
The other thing that is prompting me is that just two days ago I wrote an email in response to a friend who wrote asking “Do you read novels? I need something new to read. What have you been reading?” Actually it took me over a week to finish the response that I sent her (which is ridiculous because it was nothing brilliant, just that I am constantly interrupted these days and juggling too much at work). And then today I realized, the thing about the blog was, it was just supposed to be like writing to friends about books I’m reading….
So anyway, here’s some of what I wrote to my other friend (we haven’t known each other very long):
I read a lot, across many genres and eclectically in terms of the literary/lowbrow divide. I am always looking for the immersive reading experience and actively resist judgments about literary merit based on distinctions between genre and literary fiction. I read mystery, romance, some thrillers like The Girl on the Train (though I didn’t much like it and don’t know why I stuck with it), lots of historical fiction, memoir (I am a huge fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s oeuvre! especially how far out in front she was about the whole inequality conversation), and a smattering of nonfiction, along with novels that I think of as more traditionally “literary.”
I do care (a lot) about the quality of the writing, and I love finding wonderful sentences, themes, and imagery in “unexpected” places (eg. the much maligned romance genre). I mostly read on weekends and early in the morning with my coffee (I should be exercising then, but have begun using it as reading time since I can’t stay awake reading at night as much anymore). I don’t read much so-called chick lit, which just goes to show that even an open-minded reader may be prone to dismiss books according to various marketing categories and criteria.
How interesting that we all have a recent experience of All the Light We Cannot See! I did read this book (in the traditional manner, with my eyes, not my ears) and loved the prose and the feat of it as sort of puzzle-box storytelling. It wasn’t one of my top books of recent years, however, and I’m not even really sure why. I remember thinking that the girls might like it; in spite of the serious subject matter, it had a fable/fairytale quality.
In no particular order, a short list of books I’ve read in the last year or so that either (a) I loved, or (b) stuck with me to the point that I think about themes or characters long after finishing the book, or both.
(Blog friends may note that some of these are in fact books that have been mentioned here in 2015)
We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
The Traitor’s Wife, by Kathleen Kent
Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte (nonfiction)
Perfectly Miserable, by Sarah Payne Stuart (nonfiction)
The Likeness, by Tana French (and all the others in this series)
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer (I may have loved this so much simply because of its sense of place; it’s set in the 70s very near where I grew up in northern California)
I do love historical fiction and always have; I haven’t read Room, but I loved Emma Donoghue’s first big book, Slammerkin. Have you both already read Caleb’s Crossing (Geraldine Brooks)? I also think Sally Gunning is an underappreciated and beautiful writer of spare and powerfully moving historical novels set on Cape Cod. The Widow’s War is the first in a wonderful trilogy.
My aunt and cousins are all raving about the Elena Ferrante books, and I received the first one as a Christmas gift, but I haven’t started it yet. Another book I have on my TBR pile is Hild, by Nicola Griffith – probably appealing for a reader who already likes medieval historicals, and perhaps less so if not.
In a way, I think my email morphed into a draft catch-up post as I was writing it. I think my friend probably just wanted a couple of titles to look for at the library, but she gave me the opportunity to get the wheels turning again in my rusty writing-about-reading brain. Now I really am curious who else has been reading Ferrante? Does anyone else wonder why they have such “romance novel” covers? And why was The Girl on the Train such a big deal?