July/August Book Log

September 4, 2018

I missed last month in the rush of getting ready for school, so here’s the last two-months of reading. August has been a bad reading month for several years running. Something about the start of the academic year must make it hard for me to focus. Only three of these are from August. Here we go.

  1. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2.5/5) – This is a good candidate for disappointment of the year. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read from Egan before. Largely because she’s such an inventive storyteller. But this was so pedestrian.
  2. The Big 50 by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber (5/5) – Yes, I do know these guys. I’ve written about baseball with them for a long time. This is ONLY a book for Reds fans, but if you like the Reds, you’ll be interested.
  3. Summer: A Folio Anthology (4/5) – The last of the little freebie series the Folio Society has been putting out lately. And the best, I think. A very enjoyable afternoon read.
  4. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (4/5) – It has been a long time since I had to teach a book I hadn’t read before. This was my summer homework. I doubt I have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said elsewhere. I did enjoy it though, and it’s an interesting book to teach, so far.
  5. Andy Catlett: Early Education by Wendell Berry (4/5) – The last of my little collection of books form Larkspur Press. It was fun and tiny. I hadn’t read any Berry in a really long time. Maybe I need to again.
  6. The Goblin Market and Selected Poems by Christina Rosetti (5/5) – Now this book I have something to say about it. I had never read any Rosetti before and I can hardly believe Goblin Market was written in the 19th century. It’s so out of step with the time with its obvious sexuality. All of her poetry is highly structured and generally rhymed, but I didn’t feel it like I usually do. Her meter and rhyme were deft and natural seeming in a way that rarely occurs. Not many poets can make me want to read a list of fruits over and over again.
  7. Circe by Madeline Miller (4/5) – Good but not great, which I suppose I should have expected. I feel like it’s a bad sign usually, when writers categorize themselves. The Song of Achilles was a remarkable book but Circe is never as good a character as Achilles was. Her rages are glossed over. She is too rational. In some ways it feels that she’s not much more than a foil for the less rational mortals and gods who pop in and out of her story. I want more from a title character.
  8. Other People’s Love Affairs by D. Wystan Owen (5/5) – The best book of short stories I’ve read since Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy. Despite being ostensibly set in the English town of Glass, these stories feel mostly divorced from place and time. The setting is only there to the extent that it’s a necessary back drop for the characters who all come to life trying to figure out their own particular version of love. I want to teach all of these.
  9. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (5/5) – This is the best birthday present I’ve gotten in a long time. I’d never read any Waugh. He was one of my unfortunate blindspots. This wasn’t what I expected. I’d been made to understand that he wrote a fair bit of biting satire, but Brideshead was something else entirely. It wasn’t until the very end that I knew exactly what kind of story I’d been reading. It wasn’t exactly about love or friendship or family, but it was also about all of those things. All against the backdrop of war. An entirely worthy read.