June Book Log

July 10, 2018

Belatedly as always. And quickly.

  1. Craving by Esther Gerritsen (5/5) – This was a strange book. It feels fairly conventional to start, but takes a few turns along the way (I don’t really want to spoil things). Ultimately, the disparate parts work well together by the end of the book. I could stand to read this again at some point and that, in doing so, my assessment might change. I feel like the mind of the author was carefully managing every detail here. It reminds of non-scifi Atwood.
  2. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (4/5) – Part of the great Tolkien re-read. The hardest part.
  3. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (4/5) – The story of the shipwreck that Melville apparently based Moby Dick on. An interesting read whether you care for that novel or not, but especially intriguing for me since Moby Dick is one of my favorites. Philbrick does a good job with a portrayal of the crew that feels both honest and fair.
  4. In Full Velvet by Jenny Johnson (5/5) – I do not feel especially qualified to comment on these poems without spending more time with them except to say that they are wonderful and complex and I fully recommend them to anyone who is looking for new poetry to read.
  5. Calypso by David Sedaris (4/5) – David Sedaris has been around for so long now and written so many books. What he writes now is less about being overtly funny and more about an honest – if offbeat – appraisal of how we all go about our daily business.
  6. Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls (5/5) – Picked this up on the strength of the first page and was not disappointed. It’s a short novel that slips immediately into science fiction/fantasy without acting as though there’s anything unusual about it. This is, rather obviously, the story upon which The Shape of Water was unofficially based, which I didn’t know when I picked it up. It does what I always want books like this to do, using that which is unusual to force us to question the usual.

July Book Log

August 1, 2017

In July, I both sold my house and agreed to buy another house. I predicted back at the beginning of the year that this was going to be a complicated and busy year for me. So far, that’s accurate.

So four books this month and we’ll see about August.

  1. The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery (4/5) -Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog was my favorite book last year, so it’s safe to say I was excited for this one. As was the case with Elegance this one grows on me the more I think about it. I already wonder if 4/5 is too low a rating. Anyway, this book is like… I don’t know exactly. Imagine if David Mitchell was more fantasy and less sci-fi and also French. I’m going to have to read everything of hers now, I can feel it.
  2. Theft by Finding by David Sedaris (3.5/5) – This is a thick tome consisting of excerpts from Sedaris’ diaries over a 25-year period. Sedaris is an excellent writer, but he wasn’t in 1977. It’s interesting for the story it tells and the last 12 years or so contain a lot of really good writing, but it’s uneven overall.
  3. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (5/5) – Rare is the book where you have nothing in common with any of the characters, but end up genuinely empathizing with nearly all of them. I see myself in none of the people in this book, but their struggles are still very real and the emotions they feel hit home. Kang is a fabulous writer and I’ll be seeking out more of her work.
  4. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin (4/5) – Finally got around to this. it is, in many ways, supposed to be the Ur of Russian literature. And I see why. It predicts much that comes after it, especially Tolstoy. It was A LOT of metered, rhyming poetry for my taste, but I’m still very glad I read it.

November Book Log

December 1, 2016

I read five books in November, a bit off my normal pace, but I’m in the middle of one of the big David Mitchell books and didn’t manage to finish it before November was up. Anyway, here we go…

  1. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (5/5) – I went for this as a therapeutic re-read after several books in a row about war and death. It was a good call. Sedaris at his best is as funny as they come, and this book is, I think, tied with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim as his best. I was surprised, re-reading it, how much extra depth I found, though. I amy have to start working my way back through more of his writing.
  2. The Hardball Times Annual – I don’t rate this book because I’m too involved in the production to be in anyway objective. However, as an editor, I think this is the best one I’ve been involved with and that’s saying something, because they always contain excellent baseball writing. Certainly worthwhile for any baseball fan.
  3. How I Became a North Korean by Krys Lee (4/5) – I read her book of short stories last month and while this wasn’t quite as good as those, it was still an excellent and worthwhile read. I feel like she does an excellent job of making North Korea seem like a real place when the face we see of it in America is often so farcical and terrifying.
  4. Transformations by Anne Sexton (5/5) – Another re-read, mostly because I had a conversation about Anne Sexton. This is on my 100 favorite books list and there’s a reason. Great use of traditional fairy tales to comment on 20th century America.
  5. Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge (4.5/5) – Count Bainbridge as the first writer I ever discovered from a song. Mark Knopfler wrote a song about her and I looked her up and then I got a copy of this book and it was fabulous. I feel like this might work on me like The Sun Also Rises did where, the more I read it, the more I find inside. Definitely a candidate to be re-read soon.