This has been a good reading month. I was happy with all the reading choices I’ve made, and I got through the second of the three mammoth books I set out to read at the beginning of the summer. Soon, it will be back to school and time for a new book queue.
1. Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (4/5) – I love the language and places of Garcia-Marquez fiction. Everything about his writing enchants me. These stories were no different. The only issue I can take with them is that, often, they were very similar thematically (to the point of being repetitive in a few instances), but overall, the language made up for it nicely. I think he’ll always be one of my favorite writers.
2. The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt (5/5) – This was my second huge book of the summer. It clocked in at almost 900 pages, and every single one of them was wonderful. Byatt tells a wonderfully complex story set in early-20th century England. It is centered around the Wellwood family, whose matriarch, Olive, is a well-known writer of children’s stories. Nearly all the characters are extremely interesting, believable, and sympathetic train wrecks. There are fully a dozen well-developed characters who jump from the pages. The historical background is wonderful (rarely have I learned so much from a novel). And the language is flawless. This is in the running for my favorite book of the year. There is not one bad thing to say about this book.
3. Now and Then: Poems 1976-1978 by Robert Penn Warren (4.5/5) – All the King’s Men is one of my favorite novels, but I hadn’t read any of Warren’s poetry in a long time. It was nice to be reminded of the beauty of his prose. Unfettered from a story, his images become even more striking. I think he goes on a bit too long in a few poems, but it’s a minor quibble.
4. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (5/5) – This is one of the Hot New Books out there right now. I get why. Obreht tells a wonderful adult fairy tale that meditates on the meaning and significance of death with the Balkan wars as an appropriate backdrop. Her language is married to the text so perfectly you can’t imagine anyone else telling the story. This is, I think, a perfect combination of author and story. The hard thing is going to be having this as the first book she put out. How do you follow something so wonderful?
5. The Simple Truth by Phillip Levine (4/5) – I read Levine on Cate’s suggestion and I would say I adore half of the stuff in this volume. I think another third of it is excellent, but there are a few places where my personal taste would require a places for a mental pause. These are long, unbroken poems and when I was unable to give them my total concentration (something that happens often when Simone is running around), I found myself quickly lost. Still, I will be using him in my writing classes and reading more myself.
6. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (3.5/5) – Read this on Cate’s recommendation as well, and found it to be a nice break from the fairly intense reading I’d been going most of the month. Five really nice fairy tales. Excellent for children. I wish she’d write a whole volume of these as they’d make great bedtime stories.
7. The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene (5/5) – Speaking of dense reading… I love Brian Greene’s books. He is one of the very best writers for explaining absurdly complicated things to people who don’t have fancy science and math degrees. This book is no exception. He does a great job going over the various kinds of multiverses we might (or might not) be a part of, including several I’d not yet read about. He is always very clear about potential faults in each line of reasoning (none of these are really proven), but that doesn’t make any less fascinating to read about.
Summer Book Queue Update:
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell