Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Month In The Life: July 2019

After a pretty chill June, we made our first big trip in a while this month! It had been over two years since I last visited my beloved home state of Michigan, and a week there was exactly what I needed after an intense winter and spring.

In Books...
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: I'd never read Japan's master of magical realism before, and while I definitely wouldn't say that I "got" this book about an ordinary man drawn into a shadowy world when first his cat and then his wife disappear, I found it compelling and interesting and I enjoyed reading it.
  • Washington Black: This made the Booker Prize shortlist last year and I'd seen positive reviews floating around the internet, but the descriptions I'd seen of it as an adventure story kept it off my list...until it was chosen for my book club. I liked it more than I'd expected, finding the self-development of the titular Wash compelling, but I thought it had pacing issues and it never really clicked for me.
  • Polite Society: I do quite enjoy Jane Austen's Emma, so when I read that this book was a modern twist on it, set in India, I thought that sounded intriguing. I'm always prepared for this kind of book to be disappointing, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it! It's darker than Austen's work, and adding in the viewpoints of other characters made it more complex.  
  • Nickel and Dimed: One of those books I can't believe I've never read! As it's been over 20 years since its publication, a lot of the material from the undercover look at living on poverty wages has become a well-known part of popular discourse and has lost the power to shock. But it's still interesting and worth reading.
  • The Man in the High Castle: I'll admit that reading this in a disjointed way, on vacation, might not have shown it to its best effect. But it seemed more like Philip K Dick was conducting a thought experiment about what the world might have looked like if the Axis Powers had won the day than writing an actual novel. Flat characters, often silly plotting but interesting enough on the thought experiment side to have merit. 
  • How to be Good: Nick Hornby turns his trademark humor and insight on a marriage in crisis. Katie and David feel relatable (both have moments of sympathy and moments of being profoundly irritating, like most people), and Hornby's prose always shines, but it felt like the plot kind of got away from him. 
  • Sashenka: Simon Sebag Montefiore primarily authors nonfiction books about Russian history, but this was his first novel. That inexperience with fiction shows in often clunky writing even as he weaves an interesting story about a woman (the titular Alexandra, called Sashenka) living during the Russian Revolution and then the Stalin era, and then another young woman living in the modern day who tries to track down what happened to her.

In Life...
  • A week in Michigan: I should have known when I found out we were headed home during Art Fair that it was going to be a hot and muggy time! We spent a couple days out at my mom's getting in some quality lake time, and then into Ann Arbor to visit with my sister and brother-in-law in their newly purchased home (which was lovely)! I scored some Art Fair finds and luckily our only experience of power loss was a very brief one.

One Thing:

A New York indie bookstore takes user submissions of their favorite books and roasts them in this delightful Twitter thread. My own submission (The Virgin Suicides) did get an enjoyable quip back!

Gratuitous Pug Picture: 

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