Let’s get right to it today…
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (5/5) – I kept meaning to read this, and I’m glad I finally got to it. What an incredibly imaginative telling. Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, it feels both real and not real at the same time. I’d love to teach this book at some point.
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (5/5) – Patchett is one of my favorites, and I always read her books as soon as they come out. A few years ago I was worried she’d lost her fastball a bit, but then she came out with the stunning Commonwealth, which I still think is her best novel. The Dutch House is nearly on that level. As with Commonwealth, it focuses inward and deals with close familial relationships. Patchett is a master of focusing on the small parts of ordinary life, which are so big to most of us.
- The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis (4/5) – I’ve started letting the kids suggest to me books they’ve read. This one came from James. I’d never gotten around to Narnia and even in the world of Narnia this book is often forgotten. But it’s is very good children’s novel. Written without condescension and with more creativity than I anticipated.
- Silas Mariner by George Eliot (4/5) – I read this both because I really love the Eliot I’ve read and to see if I might want to teach it (I do). This reads, really, as a very literary fable, which is a compliment as far as I’m concerned.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (3/5) – Simone wanted me to read this one. I didn’t think it was as good or inventive as the first book. It was interesting in spots, but felt a bit like several short stories wedged together.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (5/5) – The first of two teaching books from November. I hadn’t read this in a while, and it still holds up. Too much, frankly. It feels startlingly relevant in a way that would be hard to achieve for a book that was just written. Never mind one that’s about to turn 35.
- The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (5/5) – Speaking of teaching things. This has got to be one of the easiest books to teach. It’s complicated and real and for some reason, it deeply resonates with HS students.
- Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (4/5) – The third of her four connected novels (which she considers to be one novel, the internet told me recently). I thought this was the least of the three I’ve read so far. It was still enjoyable, but did feel like a lot of set up in places for not very much payoff. The characters were definitely at their most frustrating in this bit.
- McSweeney’s 56 (4/5) – McSweeney’s is so consistently good. I don’t think I ever dislike an issue and some of them are downright brilliant. This was very, very good. With one story (and only one) that I just didn’t care for. Always worth checking them out if you haven’t.