I am really starting to wonder if I’ll manage to finish my book queue. I want to have it done by Christmas, but it’s looking doubtful as I’ve got some pretty chunky reading left. That said, it is pushing me to read some things that might have remained in the “I’ll get to that eventually” pile forever.
I have, however, decided not to read the new Audrey Niffenegger. Cate and I were both a bit skeptical about it (though we loved the Time Traveler’s Wife) as it seemed Niffenegger might be a bit too pretentious given the chance. Cate checked it out from the library and only read a few pages before deciding it was not for her, I took a look myself, read the premise and decided I’d take a pass. So, counting, that I managed to get five books off the queue. As you’ll see below, I couldn’t be much more thrilled with my reading for this month.
1. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (5.0/5) – This was a book I really needed. I didn’t realize it, but I was really yearning to read about what it means to be a progressive, feminist man in today’s society. It was nice to see someone else go through some of the same struggles. I talked to Cate about this book a lot (she also read it) and while, I do think she’s right that the book has some flaws and that some of Chabon’s stories are rather un-feminist in places, there was enough here that I needed that I can’t give it anything other than a five. This book made me more comfortable with who I am. It isn’t very often I can say that about a book.
2. All the Days and Nights by William Maxwell (5.0/5) – I was totally, completely, utterly floored by these stories. I really can’t believe he isn’t more well known. What a fantastic, fantastic writer. These stories sit with Joyce and Cheever and Carver and any other great short story writer you can think of. This is not hyperbole: I have never read short stories better than these. Every one of them broke my heart at least a little bit.
3. Monsters of Templton by Lauren Groff (4.0/5) – I read this as one of my “new author” books from the queue. I hit on Groff mostly because Cate had checked a book of her short stories out from the library, really liked them, and then checked this book out. It was sitting around, so I thought I’d give it a go. Very good. There are some problems with the writing (I wanted to scream “show, don’t tell” in a few places) and though she really pulled off the proliferation of narrators (there are more than ten, if I remember correctly), that doesn’t mean they were all necessary. Anyway, though it isn’t perfect, the writing is good, and the story is very compelling. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she has.
4. Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (4.5/5) – This is one of the books I’d been spending months waiting for. Aside from his very early work, I love pretty much everything Lethem has done and firmly believe The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn are masterpieces. So, obviously, following on the heels of those two books, he was going to have a hard time meeting my expectations. This book was very, very good. I loved the characters even though they all started fairly unlikable and following the weird events of Lethem’s dystopia was really interesting, but… I don’t know there was just a little something lacking. I’ve written before that, at his best, Lethem uses the strangeness of his books to augment the story, and he does that a lot here, but there are certainly places where it just feels like he’s trying to be weird and he kind of loses the plot. So, it’s not perfect, but it’s very good and a hell of a trip.
5. Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (5.0/5) – Another new author for me. This one by Fred’s recommendation. I actually finished this just a few minutes ago and I was pretty well floored. I don’t know how to describe it except that it is wonderful and you spend the whole book feeling like you are breathing freely in a way you haven’t since you were much younger or maybe you’ve never breathed this freely and you only want it to go on forever, but it doesn’t and the way it ends knocks the wind out of you and maybe you cry just a little and you think, “damn, that was something.”
Fall Book Queue Update:
Robert Frost’s Poems by (ahem) Robert Frost
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Anton Chekov’s Short Stories by (double ahem) Anton Chekov
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Reivers by William Faulkner
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
The Machine by Joe Posnanski Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
One True Thing by Anna Qunidlen
Blindness by Jose Saramago
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff