November Reading Round-Up
Autumn is ripe for reading (just like all the other seasons), and this November was full of amazing books.
I had the pleasure of picking up Tana French's Into The Woods during a week when I had two cross-country plane rides. The book definitely benefited from being devoured all at once, and would have been excellent no matter what pace I read at. I also read Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor's YA fantasy series based on Nigerian folk tales, and The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, which brought something to the short story genre I had never seen before! She's reminiscent of Miranda July, if you want an example. I also got to read The Idiot by Elif Batuman, and was underwhelmed by the second half but laughed a lot at the first half. Finally, I read Ways of Seeing by John Berger and Co, which was a thought-provoking exploration of the visual traditions of Western culture, from the oil painting to the advertisement.
November was the Golden Age of my 2018 reading experience.
Q: I can't leave my boyfriend, even though he's physically abusive.
A: Challenge him to a duel. Call him out to the river at midnight, and have at each other once and for all.
I read The Lonesome Bodybuilder and take proud credit for recommending it to Giorgi. A lot of the Goodreads reviews are men saying, "Baffling stories! What did they mean?!" But I felt like they had been written in my own heart and printed on the page while I was dreaming. I was in a ladies' bodybuilding club in college, and the collection's title piece felt especially relevant to me. This book made me more heterophobic in the best of ways.
“Our work is making sure that our stories are told and told true.” -Rebecca Walker
I reviewed Well-Read Black Girl and now I'm recommending it as a holiday gift to a reader in your life. The only book about books I've ever felt was truly worth my time.
This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.
I finally finished Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, which took me months but was always a pleasure. I have been forming ideas about what it means to live in the modern secular world, a place without spiritual meaning, ritual, or myths, and how that might be a terrible thing, and whether you are a Christian or not I think there is enormous value in reading Gilead slowly during periods of reflection. I love this interview between Robinson and President Obama. I love imagining Obama reading Gilead during his early presidential campaigning in Iowa. This book made me feel more connected to the world and less connected to my smartphone.
[P]ractical, earth-bound, a fighter …, nothing wishy-washy, nothing liminal, about him—as he slips like a shadow along the sides of his spectral ships.
Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls takes on the misogyny of not only the Ancient Greeks but also of our world, now. Narrated by Briseis, who was Achilles' voiceless bed slave in The Iliad, it paints larger-than-life characters with striking, vivid prose. I've never read an Achilles so complicated and torn, terrifying half-god, half-man, all violent boy-child. I will never be able to accept a placid romanticization of Achilles again.
"He isn't deep. All he wants is a pretty face. That's all they ever want."
My Sister, the Serial Killer is a delicious thriller-rumination on men, dating, feminism, and sisterhood. Yeah, the narrator's sister keeps killing her boyfriends. But what really matters is the love between them.
First may I say, sorry for any werds I spel rong. Because I am a fox! So don't rite or spel perfect.
George Saunders's Fox 8 is a 60-page letter written by a fox who taught himself to read and write by watching "Yumans" read storybooks to their children. I enjoyed this book for its mix of whimsy and grief, a fairy tale for adults about a little fox struggling through trauma.
Three bundles of sable and mink fur, one hundred and twelve panni of wool, nine rolls of Bergamo satin, the same quantity of gilt Florentine velvet, five barrels of saltpeter, two crates of mirrors, and one little jewelry box: that is the list of things that disembark with Michelangelo Buonarroti in the port of Constantinople on Thursday, May 13, 1506.
Mathias Énard’s Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants, translated from French by Charlotte Mandell, is a silky pleasure printed in ink. It follows Michelangelo to Constantinople after he is invited by the sultan to design a bridge fit for the empire. It is a poetic, queer book that delights in the sensuality of language, art, and bodies. It reminded me a lot of Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue and a little of Borges and Calvino. If I got to choose the books that would outlive us, to be found one day by alien anthropologists, this would be one of them, waiting in a cave, a literary gem amongst the treasure trove.