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.

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished Souad Mekhennet's I Was Told to Come Alone, and re-read César Aira's delightful Varamo to prepare for the book club discussion I lead on Sunday. It was a good meeting; folks seemed to have fun chewing on it even if it wasn't everyone's favorite. I hope I made a new Aira fan or two anyway.

This week I'm still in the thick of Babel Tower and The Luminaries; those two are long and dense and will be with me for a while yet. I'm also still enjoying Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, on audio.

Bedside I'm almost done with The Beats; I'll probably finish tonight. And at the gym I'll be starting Marita: The Spy Who Loved Castro, a memoir by Marita Lorenz.

Monday, January 15, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

We're back!

The first half of January has been fun and productive vis-a-vis reading. I finished my first graphic book of the year, Emmanuel Guibert's Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope. This was a quiet and introspective memoir of one man's experience of World War 2. I can't say it riveted me but someone interested in the subject might find it illuminating. Guibert's art is wonderful and evocative.

I also read Hadriana in All My Dreams, by René Depestre, a Haitian novel about zombies and one woman who dies on her wedding day and is reincarnated. Or something else? It's luminous and strange and unforgettable.

And I finished Secondhand Time, by Svetlana Alexeivich, an engrossing but extremely depressing collection of first-person narratives as ordinary ex-Soviets compare their Soviet lives to their post-Soviet lives.

As for what I'm reading now, I have several things going as usual.

A.S. Byatt's wonderful Babel Tower is the main thing. It's book three in her four part series about the character Frederica Potter; I read the first two, The Virgin in the Garden and Still Life, back in college, and I've been able to immerse myself right back into the story with no problems at all. I'm loving reading such a richly drawn and beautifully told story. Her books are so good. Like Margaret Atwood without the emotional trauma.

On my nightstand is Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, a Booker winner from a few years ago, a complicated and also richly drawn story about murder and gold prospecting in 1800s New Zealand. Also on the nightstand I'm starting The Beats: A Graphic History, by Harvey Pekar.

On audio I'm listening to Samantha Irby's delightful We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. She's acerbic and bitter, funny and human, miserable and wonderful all at once.

And at the gym I'm finishing up Souad Mekhennet's also very depressing I Was Told to Come Alone, about reporting on jihadis around the world.

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

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year, New Books!

Quite a few books found their way under my Christmas tree this year!

I found a new French dictionary there, the 2017 Booker Prize winner Lincoln in the Bardo, Paul Madonna's new illustrated novel and Escape from Camp 14, which I had started reading a while back and lost. And somebody is photobombing that picture.

I also got a boxed set of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels (wheeee) and some recentish books that caught my eye- Bandi's The Accusation, a novel from Uzbekistan called The Underground, by Hamid Ismailov, and Sargent's Women, by Donna Lucey, about the notable ladies painted by one of my favorite artists, John Singer Sargent, including Isabella Stewart Gardner and others. Wilder Mann is a neat book of photographs of European folk ritual a customer of mine from Porter Square Books showed me once, and Election there is a signed first edition.

A good haul! What bookish holiday gifts did you get?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Another Fun Book Meme

Fill in each line with the title of a book you've read in 2017. Here's mine.

Describe yourself: Made for Love

How do you feel? I’m Fine…And Other Lies

Describe where you currently live: In the Land of Invented Languages

If you could go anywhere...? The Literary Conference

Favorite form of transportation: Tram 83

Your best friend is: The Burning Girl

You and your friends are: Beautiful Animals

What's the weather like? Girl in Snow

Your favorite time of day is: Eva Sleeps

What is life for you? Theories of Everything

You fear: Smoke

Best advice: We’re Going to Need More Wine

Thought for the day: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

How you would like to die: Dinner

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Reading Goals

Last year I increased my overall number of books read, brought up my nonfiction numbers and my male/female author ratio not by accident but because of some specific strategizing. I read books at the gym, had audiobooks going much of the time and kept reading nonfiction at night. So at any given time I might have had 3 nonfiction books going at once! I'm really glad that I took this approach; it opened me up to some great books and helped get to some dark corners of my bookshelves that had been neglected.

I also decided to start reading my hardcover fiction at night too; I have accumulated many hardcover books but I seldom take them out and about to read because they're heavy and uncomfortable to tote around. So they just sit there. But I've been able to knock a few off this year by keeping them on the nightstand. I'll keep that up.

In 2018, I want to continue to attack specific, neglected areas of my TBR piles and make more dents.

  • I will continue to prioritize audio nonfiction by and about women.
  • For the first six months of 2018 I will focus on graphic nonfiction for my bedside table reading. I have a dozen or so graphic works of nonfiction that have been collecting dust. Time to read those bad boys!
  • I will continue to work through my hardcover fiction by reading them alongside my nightly nonfiction chapters.
  • For general fiction reading I will read indiscriminately anything I feel like as I feel like it.
Probably I will be slowing down the amount of background acting that I'm doing, assuming it doesn't take me too too long to find a full-time job. This will mean less reading time too, but I'll just have to make better use of the time I will have.

I am not a big challenge-type reader. I am far too spontaneous a reader for that. And I don't like my reading to feel like homework, so I'm not going to come up with a lot of specific goals ("read a new to you romance series about imaginary folklore animals") or do any commercial readalongs or challenges. I just like to read what I want to in the moment. But

  • In 2018 I will read at least 4 books that have won the Booker Prize;
  • I will read at least 6 crime novels, and
  • I will read at least 4 novels of science fiction/fantasy. Just to mix it up.
What are your reading goals for the year?