Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What's New on the Shelf?

Being in a bit of a reading slump hasn't stopped me from accumulating more books. No matter how slow my actual output my curiosity never rests.

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan. I think I read this in college but I'm not sure. Anyway I want to read it now because soon I'll be going on my fifth trip to San Francisco and I love reading about the city I love to visit.

The Brothers, by Masha Gessen. This is about the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. I have
my own experience of the bombing and I'm not sure what this book is going to tell me that I don't already know, but I respect Gessen's coverage of the Russian world and I'm interested to see what insights she can bring.

Anna, by Niccolo Ammaniti. I am not a big fan of post-apocalyptic dystopias but I can't resist Niccolo Ammaniti, so I had no choice but to pick up his latest to be translated into English.

The Break, by Katherena Vermette, is a melodrama set among a diverse community in Canada. It got my attention because I haven't seen many novels about indigenous Canadian people.

All of these are books I hope to get to sooner rather than later, but who knows, right? The only one I picked up intentionally was The Joy Luck Club; the rest were serendipitous finds on my many forays into the bookstores of NYC and northern New Jersey.

Monday, March 19, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So I basically cleared the decks last week- finally finished The Luminaries, gave up on my carry-around read and started a new one, and made it to book 3 of Buddha. I haven't started a new book at the gym because I was only able to make it to the gym once last week and forgot to take a new book. This week I have to travel for work and won't be at the gym at all (although I may be able to work out in my hotel room) so no new gym book this week either.

I did get to have some nice bookstore-cafe time last Monday and started Hideo Yokoyama's very compelling crime novel Six Four. It's about a police media-relations specialist and former detective dealing with three things at once. First, a controversy is brewing at his station because his department is refusing to release the name of a woman involved in a fatal car crash, so Yokoyama is dealing with police department politics and the issue of freedom of information. Secondly, Mikami, our main character, has a daughter who has disappeared. And finally an old case is coming back around, a case of a kidnapped and murdered child. Mikami has a lot on his plate and the book is long and detailed.

Bedside I'm reading Daniel Galera's latest in English, The Shape of Bones. This one is about a group of friends who are avid climbers. I like that his books seem to frequently feature athletes. It adds an interesting dimension to his characters and I learn a lot. I'm not far enough in to say more and it's a short book I hope to finish this week.

In audioland I have about an hour left of Tiffany Haddish's memoir The Last Black Unicorn. Since starting it I've become aware of the controversies around it and while I enjoy the book I'm not sure how those are going to shape my feelings about it in the end. I have a lot of audiobooks on deck and haven't decided what to start next. I'm leaning towards Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark but we'll see. And in the meantime maybe this is the book that will get me back to reviewing.

And like I said no new book at the gym, last week or this. I hope to be back in the swing soon.

Monday, March 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been in a kind of miserable reading slump lately; I blogged about it then deleted the post, because I thought it sounded too whiny and bummed out. And that's not what I want to convey on my blog. But the fact remains. So here's what's been going on. I started and couldn't finish The Good Life Elsewhere, so I'm going to reshelve it for the future. I have a huge pile of books to sell, and I'm going to take some of them in today, then get a cup of coffee and have some "me time" at my favorite bookstore cafe, with a book of course. I don't know which one yet. Probably Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama but no promises.

Speaking of being bummed out, I lost my copy of Renoir: An Intimate Biography, with only about 60 pages to go, and I'm very bummed out about that. And I finished Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself, which I found thoroughly delightful.

So here I am, it's Monday, and I'm still reading Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and I expect to finish it this week and have a new bedside read to tell you about next Monday. I'm also close to finishing volume 2 of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha series of graphic novels/manga.

On the audio front, I am really enjoying Tiffany Haddish's The Last Black Unicorn. You should all go read that right away.

And I don't have any new gym reads right now and may just stick to magazines for a while. I feel like reading about San Francisco since I'm going there soon, so maybe I'll start that book I got there last year about the earthquake. Or something else. Who knows?

Monday, February 26, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished up reading Alan Hollinghurst's latest, The Sparsholt Chronicles, and finished volume 1 (of 8) of Osamu Tezuka's graphic series Buddha. I ran out of other graphic nonfiction to read, so it's time to take on that particular behemoth. I don't know if I'm going to keep or discard the books after I'm done; I feel like it's something I may want to revisit, and it's a lot to collect, so we'll see.

I started Vladimir Lorchenkov's The Good Life Elsewhere, about a group of Moldovans who want to emigrate to Italy. I'm really just on page 5 so I can't say much else.

I'm over 600 pages into The Luminaries now, and it's still really really good. No wonder it won the Man Booker Prize. What a tangled web we weave...

In audioland I'm enjoying Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself. I know I should be reading more serious books but sometimes I just like listening to women telling their stories. I'll probably finish it this week and then pick something new.

Finally I'm still reading Renoir: An Intimate Biography. I like it, and I'm learning a lot, but it does seem like the author is fighting really hard to convince us that her subject was a good guy. I get that standards were different in the nineteenth century but still. I also don't like the fat-phobia that creeps into her discussion of Renoir's wife Aline from time to time. But if you're interested in the subject of Renoir and his times it's well worth reading.

What are you reading?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Audiobook Listening Habits

My favorite audiobook vendor,, recently had a blog post entitled 8 Top Audiobook Listening Activities and it got me thinking about what I like to do while listening to audiobooks.

Audiobooks are a big part of my reading life these days. I'm finding it harder to concentrate on print sometimes, and my eyesight has gotten a little worse necessitating glasses when I do read print. Of course nothing can replace actually curling up with a good book, but there are times when I'm busy moving around and can't sit still long enough to turn a page.


Most of my audiobook listening is nonfiction, because I feel like if my attention drifts for a moment or two, I can catch up, and writing style is a little less important to me when it comes to nonfiction. And most of my listening time is spent in transit- on the bus and walking around my neighborhood. On the subway I have to be aware of my surroundings and a lot of information can come in through the ears so it's harder to concentrate on a narrative.

I can't listen while crafting because if I don't pay attention to where those needles are going, I'm gonna get hurt. And at the gym, I listen to music and read print; I tried doing audiobooks at the gym and I just found that I need the rhythm of music to keep my body going.

I like to listen best while I'm just relaxing. When I have to spend a long time waiting, like in a holding room, sometimes the lighting is bad and it's hard to read, or sometimes I've already spent a long time with a print book and need a break. Earphones have the added benefit of discouraging conversation, so when I need a little introvert time, audiobooks come to the rescue.


So there.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

So for reasons, for the last two weeks I've had an unusual amount of reading time. Let's just say sometimes when you work as a background actor, "working" can mean "waiting", and you can be waiting for a very long time indeed. Anyway I had basically a record amount of time to read. I finished Babel Tower almost right away; then I decided to just take the next random book off my shelf and read it. That happened to be Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate. I finished it. The next random book on the shelf was Skylark, by Dezso Kosztolanyi; it was an NYRB Classics I'd collected a while back (collecting is the right word for those books; I used to kind of just pick them up all the time). I read that too.  Both of them were a solid 3 stars.

I also finished Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and started and finished Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance. The Irby was definitely my favorite. The Ansari was more sociology than comedy, and although I enjoyed it and learned a lot, as a 40-something married woman I guess I'm not too worried about Tinder and the like. But it was fun.

So after all this binge-reading, what am I reading now? Well.

I'm taking a break from random books on the shelf and picked up my galley of Alan Hollinghurt's latest, The Sparsholt Affair, coming out next month. It's about a group of gay men and their families through the years, specifically about David Sparsholt, a golden boy of World War 2-era Oxford and his son Johnny. It's so beautifully written- you can always rely on Hollinghurst for a beautiful style. It's a pleasure to read.

I'm also taking a break from my graphic nonfiction and focusing solely on The Luminaries. I'm almost to the 500 (out of 800ish) page mark. It's great. It's about secrets and lies among gold-diggers and fortune-seekers of late 19th-century New Zealand.

(I actually finished all of my graphic nonfiction except for the 8-volume Buddha series, which I still intend to read this year.)

At the gym I'm still on Renoir: An Intimate Biography, by Barbara Ehrlich White, an excellent and highly readable bio of the famed Impressionist.

In audioland I'm between titles. I may start Jen Kirkman's I Know What I'm Doing---And Other Lies I Tell Myself. It would be the second memoir I've read recently by a woman with a title implicating herself as a liar, the other being Whitney Cummings' I'm Fine And Other Lies. Why do this? Anyway rant over. Or I may start Ben Greenman's Dig If You Will the Picture, about Prince. My pal Peter Berkrot is the narrator so there's that incentive. We'll see.

What about you? What are you reading this week? I'd love to know.

Monday, February 5, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week I finished Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, as well as A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower, which I didn't anticipate finishing for a while. But as it turned out all I needed was to sit around in holding for an afternoon without going to set.

So this week I've started a couple of new books. On the fiction front, I'm reading Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, a kind of Downton Abbey-esque romance romp set in pre-WW2 Britain among the gentry.

I also started Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance for my audio book, which I'm enjoying. It's 80% sociology, 20% comedy and very entertaining when you listen to Ansari narrate it.

But the biggest thing for me is that I decided to participate in a readalong of Don Quixote, hosted by Nancy of the blog Bookfoolery and Ryan of the blog Wordsmithonia. They're calling it Tilting at Windmills, which is appropriate! I have tried to read Don Quixote before and faltered after about 150 pages. That is the first week's portion so I'll have to do better.

And that's pretty much it! Hope you're having a great week and I'd love to know what you're reading.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Oscar Films and Book Recommendations

I haven't seen all of this year's Oscar-nominated films, but I've been trying to get out to see some, and of course I have to come up with a list of books to recommend for moviegoers.

If you loved Lady Bird, read Chocolates for Breakfast, by Pamela Moore, a better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be coming-of-age book for adults (i.e. not a YA title) about a girl navigating life, love and growing up in LA and NYC in the 1950s. I did not love Lady Bird, and I think Chocolates is much better entry in the coming-of-age department than a film I found frankly rife with tropes and stereotypes. Chocolates is the real deal, though.

If you loved Call Me By Your Name, read The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst, about a gay man in 1980s London and his two great loves- one a man, another a family to which he yearns to belong. I liked the movie OK, but again I think this book is better. And of course the film was based on the novel of the same name, by André Aciman, and you can read that if you like. I kind of want to.

If you loved Get Out, read Slumberland or The Sellout, both by Paul Beatty, two wonderful crazy-good novels about black men and white rules. I loved the movie, and I loved the books and despite Beatty winning the Man Booker Prize for The Sellout, I still think not enough people have read it.

If you loved The Big Sick, read The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, by Mohja Kahf, about a young girl figuring out her place in America and the Islamic world. I loved the movie and the book. If you don't want to read about cross-cultural issues and want to go with a love story, I'd suggest A Very Long Engagement, by Sebastian Japrisot, a World War 1 drama which really doesn't have anything to do with The Big Sick but comes to mind because I loved it like I loved this movie.

If you loved I, Tonya, read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson, another unreliable young woman narrator who may or may not have done some very bad things. I, Tonya was a favorite of mine this year but a day or two later I definitely felt duped by this cleverly told and well-acted con job.

If you loved Coco, read Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros, a wonderful growing-up story about Mexico and America. I don't read enough about Mexico but I still say Caramelo is a solid pick.

What books do you think match up with your favorite award winners or nominees?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Shelf Control Wednesdays

Shelf Control is a meme hosted at Bookshelf Fantasies, celebrating unread books on our shelves! Each week I'll pick a book I own but haven't read, and write a post about it. 

This week's book is 

She Poured Out Her Heart, a novel by Jean Thompson, one of my favorite writers of the last few years. She wrote the wonderful The Year We Left Home, as well as City Boy and The Humanity Project, also great novels. I bought it at Housing Works Used Book Café here in NYC. Housing Works is a great used bookstore that supports services for HIV+ people and the homeless. I bought it because I've enjoyed all the books of hers I've read so much, I couldn't resist!

Monday, January 29, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished The Beats and another graphic novel, Farm 54, (semi-autobiographical short stories about growing up in Israel) and decided to be finished with Marita: The Spy Who Loved Castro. Kirkus described the writing in that book as "indifferent," which I think is a generous assessment. Anyhoo onwards and upwards.

I'm still reading and enjoying Babel Tower and The Luminaries; like I said last week, these are long books that will be with me a while. I'm almost halfway through The Luminaries and a little past half way in Babel Tower. Both are excellent. After this I'm doing some quick-hit crime fiction though!

In the graphic world, I'm reading Chester Brown's graphic biography Louis Riel, a "comic-strip biography" of a Canadian historical figure famous for rebelling against the British. I once worked for one of his descendants, which is how I came of hear of Louis. I anticipate about a week with this book, which I'm finding very enjoyable.

At the gym, I started Barbara Ehrlich White's very engaging biography Renoir, about the famous French painter. Back in college my favorite class out of all four years was a class about Paris in the nineteenth century, focusing heavily on the Impressionists and their milieu. This book is a great way to revisit that subject. It's very accessible and beautifully-written. This will also take me a while, but it will be a good while.

And in audioland I'm still savoring Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. After that I'm going to have to make some choices, because I have some good audio books waiting in the wings.

That's it for me! What about you? I'd love to know what you're reading this week.