March Book Log

April 1, 2018

I continue to truck along with the only real difficulty being making sure I finish a long book every month. As was the case with January, I’m nearing the end of my long book (The Worst Journey in the World) but not quite there. Otherwise, it was an incredibly pleasing month of reading with one exception.

  1. The Golden Cockerel and Other Writing by Juan Rulfo (5/5) – There is a blurb on the back of my copy of this book where Gabriel Garcia-Marquez essentially gives Rulfo credit for his own writing. I don’t know that there could be a stronger endorsement. And the connection is clear. This is very much proto-Garcia-Marquez and it is uniformly brilliant all the way through.
  2. Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison (5/5) – Morrison mentioned this volume in an interview I watched while prepping to teach Jazz earlier this year, and I was intrigued. It’s a scholarly look at the way white American writers have dealt with blackness in the their novels. Really interesting and convincing work by a brilliant writer and thinker.
  3. The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (5/5) – McBride’s first novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing was a work of genius that was also nearly impenetrable. This novel is no less brilliant, but much more accessible as it gives a stream-of-consciousness account of romance between well drawn and complex characters. I definitely expect it to be on my end of year list. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  4. The Nagano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami (2.5/5) – Meh. There is nothing wrong with this book. Is well-written and I have no issues with any particular bits or passages, but I didn’t register a single feelings the entire time I was reading it. The characters aren’t much more than a collection of nervous ticks that try to stand in for human traits.
  5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (5/5) – I hadn’t read this in ages, but I’m teaching it, so a re-read was called for. This book is heavily chronicled at this point and if you haven’t read it, you should. O’Brien does the most honest job of writing about war of anyone I’ve read.
  6. Rumors of Light by Leslie Shane (5/5) – I was recently lucky enough to be given several editions from an Larkspur Press, which is an artisan book producer here in Kentucky. The books are gorgeous and this one, which is the first I’ve read, is excellent pastoral poetry. This kind of poetry often feels stale or empty but Shane finds new wrinkles and manages to play with the language without losing the mood or feel of a pastoral piece. Very well done.

April Book Log

May 2, 2015

Only seven books this month. I was going for eight. Alas, I finished that one on May first, so you will have to wait, with bated breath to read my little writeup of Bend Sinister.

1. Find Me by Laura van den Berg (4/5) – This book is very interesting the second half is almost completely different from the first half, which is why you find so many scathing reviews from readers out there. The change was abrupt, certainly, but it mostly worked. I prefer this to the other book about a plague making the rounds right now (Station Eleven), but they are so different as to not really be comparable.

2. The Arabian Nights (3/5) – Some of these I liked a lot. Some went on a bit. I don’t have too much to say otherwise.

3. Nora Webster by Colm Toíbín (5/5) – His books always startle me because they seem so simple while you’re reading, but in the end, they leave such a mark. This is a very powerful novel that doesn’t seem powerful at all while one is in it. It’s a story about a woman trying to deal with the death of her husband and raise her children and she manages okay, and that’s kind of it, but at the end, it ends up that you’ve really read something great.

4. The Tempest by William Shakespeare (5/5) – Taught this to my AP class. Probably safe to say this is my favorite Shakespeare at this point. It feels so much more contemporary than most of the rest of his work. Other than teaching, I’ll not be dipping into Bill’s plays too much for a while, though. I’m still recovering from last year.

5. A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (5/5) – This has won some big awards, but it is not a simple read. It is a masterpiece, however. Clearly influenced by James Joyce. It’s hard to imagine a more honest emotional portrait. It is like being immersed in how a person feels their own feelings.

6. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5) – I held Simone off for a while, but after a year, I was ready to read this too her again. She digs it, and I do to. It’s certainly better than the terrible movies that have been out lately. Simone has the animated version from the 70s and has watched it a lot. It’s pretty faithful, but omits Beorn, so when he entered the book she was thrilled (I was wrong, the book is better than then movie!).

7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (4.5/5) – This won the Pultizer as I was reading it. It is very, very, very good. It’s a different kind of WWII novel than I’d ever read before and I enjoyed how Doerr chose to present it in countless little chapters of intense moments. Not quite a masterpiece if you ask me, but I have a hard time imagining anyone who is a reader not enjoying this book.