Thanks to everyone who left a comment on the last post. It really means a lot during a difficult time. I’m still a bit shocked to be honest. I keep going to message my friend or send her a silly link, and it takes a bit for my brain to catch up to reality. Janine was an amazing artist, a terrific writer, and a great friend. I miss her dearly.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson I’m pretty sure I put this on my list because Obama had read it. It’s about a black female CIA agent and I was really looking forward to this. And, it makes a small mistake. It’s just boring. Completely boring. Not sure how you fuck up a spy novel but this one manages it. I gave up about halfway through.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman I read this when it first came out and decided it was a perfect pre-Halloween read again. And you know what. Still holds up. Extremely imaginative and hits all the right notes. Reminds me that I should reread Coraline also.
The Lovecraft Anthology, Volume 1 I was browsing a bookstore and came across a graphic novel version of some Lovecraft stories. The one I found in the bookstore was Volume 2 and I didn’t think it was worth spending $25 on. My library had Volume 1 so here we are. This volume has some of my favorite Lovecraft stories (Call of Cthulhu, Shadow over Innsmouth, Dunwich Horror, Rats in the Walls) so I was thrilled by the content. The art was well done but I felt like they cut way too much out of each story to make it easily digestible.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving This is more of a short story (maybe a novella? I dunno, read it on a kindle and forget how many pages it is) This is another reread except there have been so many adaptations that have expanded on the story that it’s difficult to remember how the original goes. I liked the simplicity and the ending which leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey Ok, I’m cheating with this one. I haven’t finished it yet. But I should finish it tonight. A good biography about Gorey. I have visited the Gorey House in Yarmouth, MA a few years ago which was filled with his work and amazing if not a bit on the small side. If you’re into his work, this book will be a treat for you.
And what have you been reading lately?
What are your favorite games to play on your phone?
I have a long commute. Sometimes, I’m too tired or not in the mood to read. So I’ve been looking for games to play that don’t involve popping bubbles. I started playing The Room which is a fun puzzle game. But also looking for other suggestions. So what are you playing on your phone?
September and October are for spooky/horror or any other autumn book you can find. So, expect a theme in my reading for the next month or two. Let’s get to it.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri. The only book that isn’t part of the fall theme. Jhumpa writes about her experience learning Italian. This book called out to me as someone who is learning other languages and the beginning was great. Jhumpa has an amazing way with words. Unfortunately, by the halfway mark it had grown redundant and I found the book a bit too self-indulgent. Meh.
The October Country, by Ray Bradbury. Ok, it’s September (or was when I was reading this) but close enough for me. I am fairly certain I have read this book long ago but didn’t recall. Like any short story collection, some of these are hits, others are misses. For some reason, Bradbury has never done it for me. Every single time I have sat down with one of his books, they leave me disappointed. Like I’m not getting the hype about him.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Another popular book which just wasn’t for me. I think the only book I have ever read by Straub was The Talisman which is coauthored by Stephen King. I’ll give him another go but I just couldn’t get into this book.
Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. A graphic novel set in a pumpkin patch between two work friends before they go off to college. There is nothing deep involved in this at all. It’s just pure brain cotton candy. But, cotton candy is delicious. And this is the perfect fall reading.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. I loved the first half of this book. Really loved it. And then halfway through I got bored and confused and threw in the towel. You ever have an experience like that where you’re really enjoying a book and suddenly it feels like your copy was missing a chapter and you’re suddenly deep in the dark woods without a map or light? That was Lovecraft Country for me.
The Fisherman by John Langan. This was my favorite read of the month. It grabbed me by my shirt collar from the beginning and didn’t want to let go. The story is so simple. A widower starts fishing as a way to cope with his grief. Another colleague also loses his wife and they start fishing together. The hook is that the narrator is a damn good guy and you like spending time with him. Things get strange when the colleague wants to take him to this fishing spot where some weird shit happened a century ago. There’s a story within a story that happens which goes on a bit too long and the last half of the book feels a bit sloppy which is too bad because this could have been spectacular. But still a solid fall read.
We haven’t done one of these in a long time. Let’s give it a go to escape from the news.
What’s something you have given up in the last year?
Eating mammals. Last August, I decided to start cutting my meat intake. I figured I would start with beef and pork products. I was a huge meat eater for the majority of my life. When I would go out to eat, burgers and steaks were what I looked for first on the menu. I thought I would just try to give it up for a month. I’ve been reading more about factory farming, and I was wondering if I would still eat animals if I actually had to be the one to kill them. I don’t think I could kill a pig. And definitely not a cow. So I went a month choosing either the fish or vegetable dish. Sometimes chicken. And that month went longer. It’s been over a year now since I have eaten a mammal. (There may have been some pork products I unknowingly ate since a lot of restaurants use pork in soups as flavor. New England clam chowder, I’m looking at you.)
Do I miss it? No. I don’t really crave a burger or bacon. It’s a little more tricky when looking at a menu but I’m still eating fish and chicken so ordering is not a problem. I think I would like to start limiting my chicken intake, and I have to an extent. I’m not actively trying to become a vegetarian, but as I get older I seem to be drifting that way.
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent I’m not going to say this book was not memorable, but I read it about 30 days ago and just had to look it up to see what it was about. Oh, yeah. Not bad. I think. I dunno.
D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose We are always hearing about our heroic boys who stormed the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from the Nazis, (which had some good people according to some orange-tinted presidents) but rarely do you hear about the women heroes who risked their lives for the war. One of my favorite books of the year.
Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman A reread for me given that I binge-watched the show on Amazon (David Tennant got most of the official publicity when he was cast but Michael Sheen was really amazing.) and it’s just a wonderful light-hearted end of summer read.
Watchmen by Alan Moore Another re-read but well worth it. Alan Moore’s writing is so tight in this that even the comic within the comic is a page turner.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik I have had this book in my queue for almost a year probably. Whenever I got to the front of the library line and it became available, I tossed it back and went to the back of the line. It just seemed a little silly on paper. A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin? Meh. But I figured I’d give it a start and just remove it from my list altogether if the first few pages sucked. So I read a chapter, and was immediately sucked in. Whoa. This is some hard hitting stuff. This is my new prime example of not judging a book by its cover. I had to go back and add more books by Novik to my list. Just an amazing read.
Post Office by Charles Bukowski I have never read Bukowski before despite knowing quite a bit about him. I was kind of blown away by his style at first. The writing is matter of fact and not very flowerly but there’s an element of honesty to it. But it’s a depressing read. The plot is basically, wake up with a hangover, go to work at a bureaucratic hellhole, drink, get laid, drink, gamble, drink, wake up with a hangover, go to work at a bu…. etc.
After a crappy month of reading in June, I got back into a groove for July. Yeah, there are still two days left in July but I need to start a new book tonight and there’s no way I’m reading anything in two days so here goes this month’s list.
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare I haven’t read Hamlet in ages so thought I would give it another run through. I had forgotten how wishy washy Hamlet was in the first 2/3rds of the book. Still one of my favorite of Billy’s plays though. I should reread Macbeth next.
Art Through the Ages, by Helen Gardner, picked this up at the library just to go through some art history. It’s a monster of a book though (in terms of actual weight.
Diary of a Genius, by Salvadore Dali, this is a very short read, maybe 200 pages, but 200 pages in the mind of Dali is more than enough. It covers a few diary entries and is well worth it to hear his musings on random topics like why he loves accidental coffee spills and how artwork by children is just annoying when adults act like it’s amazing.
The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, by Machado de Assis, I need to read more Brazilian authors (Not Paulo Coelho though. UGH). A look at 19th century Brazilian society through the eyes of a recently deceased narrator who reflects on his life. Very witty and sharply written. I need to read more books by Machado de Assis.
Fall, or Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson, Oh, Neal…. I have such a love/hate relationship with him. This book is extremely long, (well, all of his books are) and I just couldn’t get a good handle on it. There are certain sections in the beginning I enjoyed, and just as I got a handle of that arc, the section would end putting us in a completely different narrative. I gave up halfway through this one sadly.
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, A look at libraries through the prism of a library fire in California a while back. This book gets very high ratings on GoodReads. I thought it was ok but just got a bit bored about the fire.
The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King, One of my favorite books from the month. A nonfiction account of the art world in the 19th century which focuses mainly on two artists. Manet and one of the most famous artists of that period who is practically unknown nowadays, Ernest Meissonier. Manet’s painting, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, caused a stir when it was displayed in the Salon des Refuses (It was rejected from the Paris Salon), where it was openly mocked, derided, and then went on to be considered one of the first paintings of the Impressionists.
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak, by Jean Hatzfeld Oh, a book about the Rwandan genocide as told by men who participated in the killing of their Tutsi neighbors. My god. This is a hard book to read. They talk about killing and raping like it was a menial chore like taking out the garbage. I gave up about 3/4ths the way through.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan, There is surfing in this book. A lot of surfing. I probably should have realized this by the title, but I thought there would be some surfing and then something else. I was wrong. Ok, it also passes for a travelogue, with surfing. It’s very well written, if you like surfing. Did I mention that it’s about surfing?
Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald, Whoa, I had never heard of this one before. Written in the late 50s when nuclear war with the Soviets was not a question of if, but of when, this is told through the eyes of one of the people whose job is to push “the button” and has been basically imprisoned in an underground bunker for the rest of his life (along with other members of the military).