Put the Book Back on the Shelf, part 2

So, in January I’ve read 21 books and my aim for 2019 was to read 50… This probably just shows how much time I have, not being able to work. I’ve slowed down my pace of reading a little bit lately (it seems to have magically coincided with me downloading the Pointless app on my phone…) but at this rate I’ll need to up the target.

Here’s a taste of the books I’ve read in the second half of January – you can find out more about the other ones in this post: https://debbiescancerblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/put-the-book-back-on-the-shelf/

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

I enjoyed reading this, though I think it was more interesting in theory than in reality. A murder mystery crossed with Groundhog Day-esque time travel, it never quite lived up to my expectations. None of the characters were fully fleshed out and the nature of the story was that so much was hidden from the protagonist, and by extension from the reader, that it all felt a little messy.

Love, Hate and Other Filters, Samira Ahmed

As a book about a Muslim teenager living in America when a terrorist attack happens, this book was pretty far outside my own experience, but it seemed reflective of the experiences of so many. The narrator, Maya, felt genuine and I was definitely rooting for her throughout.

Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman

I haven’t seen the film version of this yet, but because that was comparatively well publicised, I already knew the main plot. I was distracted by the fact that X is only 24, supposedly – I’m fairly sure you can’t have finished a PhD and almost have a book ready for publication at that age! It’s a very minor quibble but it snapped me out of that mindset and the immersive nature of reading.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward

I enjoyed this as well – some of the characters I intensely disliked, but mostly in a way that I think the author intended. Like many of the other novels I’ve been reading, this one deals with racism and with American racism in particular.

(A warning that this book also contains rape)

The Little Book of the Hidden People, Alda Sigmindsdottir

This is a book of Icelandic folklore about elves – although it is pretty short for a book containing 20 stories (or thereabouts) I found it really interesting, especially seeing where the tales overlapped with each other or with stories from elsewhere.

The King Must Die, Mary Renault

This is yet another retelling of a well known story, this time the Theseus myth. I found it a bit less interesting than some of the similar books I’ve read – I think I prefer takes on myths that focus on a more minor character, although I’m not a classicist so most of my knowledge about mythology comes from Disney or the Percy Jackson books!

Becoming, Michelle Obama

I enjoyed reading this a lot more than I expected – in many ways it’s a typical political memoir, but it managed to be both interesting and actually funny! Michelle Obama is at her best, I think, when she’s talking about her childhood and about issues of gender and race – she manages to write both about how those things affected her experiences in the White House while also acknowledging her privileges, particularly around her education. I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, and often I find autobiographies aren’t a genre I can really get into, but I did like this a lot.

The Summer of Impossible Things, Rowan Coleman

I described this to a couple of people as ‘time travel versus brain tumour’, due to the main character not being sure whether she is actually travelling in time or if the fact she appears to be able to is just a symptom of a brain tumour. In case other people want to read it, I won’t spoil things by saying which it is!

(TW rape)

While this is probably my favourite of the books here, I don’t like it when rape and sexual assault are used as plot devices. In this instance it felt necessary to the story and was done sensitively (obviously not the rape itself) but I can imagine this being quite a triggering book for some people.

Disobedience, Naomi Alderman

This was a really interesting read, and it made me want to learn more about Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Jewish communities. It read easily and felt well written – at times I’m not sure that all the characters were as consistent or believable as I’d have liked them to be but mostly I enjoyed this – I would definitely like to read a perspective on this written by an Orthodox Jewish woman though!

One thing I’m consciously trying to do is read a more diverse range of books and a diverse range of authors. So, more books by women and by people of colour in particular. I’m not doing too badly on that aim so far – 7 of the books above are by women and 3 of those are women of colour (unless I’ve counted incorrectly and if so, I apologise!)

As before, any recommendations for books are always welcome! I’ve just started reading the Canterbury Tales as I’ve never actually read them (there’s a few of the individual tales I’ve read but most of my academic work has been early medieval so this has been an area I’ve missed out on and thought I should remedy!) – it’s quite nice having to read slower to make sure I take it in, and my aim is to finish reading it by the end of tomorrow, then I’ll work out what to make a start on next!

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