Essential Reading: April 2016
The long cold nights of winter have now passed as we usher in April and spring. There is a revitalizing spirit in the air that makes me want to read more books than I could handle. I find myself every now and then looking at my library and dreaming of reading many of my books at once but we all know that it won’t happen. Anyway, here are the books that I’ve read for the month of March, the ides of which passed by without incident:
- Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges (5/5)
- Because She Never Asked by Enrique Villa-Matas (5/5)
- Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine (4/5)
- Mountain Language by Harold Pinter (3/5)
- Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (5/5)
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (4/5)
- Translating Music by Richard Pevear (5/5)
- Runaway by Alice Munro (5/5)
- Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (3/5)
- Agony by Mark Beyer (4/5)
The two short volumes from New Directions, Borges’ Everything and Nothing and Villa-Matas’ Because She Never Asked are perfect snippets of the genius of their writers and are good introductions to their works. Adrian Tomine’s Killing and Dying is once again evidence that he stands as one of the better graphic novelists of his generation with his particular strength in short-form narratives. Mountain Language is an interesting debut for a Nobel Laureate albeit with glaring flaws here and there. Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl should now be considered required reading not only for those who are interested in Soviet history but also for those who are interested in human stories amidst extraordinary tragedy. Bechdel’s Fun Home is a showcase of what the graphic novel can do in the hands of a sublime writer. Translating Music by Richard Pevear is an essential treatise on the nature of translation and how the practice itself can be executed as an art. What else can I say about Munro that I haven’t said before. To my mind, she has the best claim to the title of the greatest living writer and Runaway is proof. Moon and Ba’s Daytripper disappointed me with its many moments that felt false yet it had good artwork and a poignant message with a flawed delivery. Mark Beyer’s Agony is a romp. The debut title from the newly minted New York Review Comics, it is a dark yet funny work, an example of the weird places where fiction can take us.
Anyway, here are the books that I plan to read this April:
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I figured that’s it about time that I read another Atwood after reading The Blind Assasin, a book that I adore, two years ago. This book ranks among her best regarded work and is often said to be her masterpiece. It is a timely work too (or should I say timeless) because of all the news about society that I keep hearing about government and society policing women’s bodies.
- Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman – Call Me By Your Name may be our book club’s book for the month of April but my particular reason for choosing to read this book is because it is held in high regard by not only a lot of my friends but also my girlfriend, Rhena. She has sang praises about Aciman’s writing and the way he has handled this coming-of-age story about a young man’s sexual awakening.
- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – I went to a recent signing of Helen Macdonald at Politics & Prose having read none of her work and knowing her only by reputation. I came out of that reading like a man smitten with a strong urge to read Macdonald’s memoir about her relationship with her hawk, Mabel, as she tries to process the death of her father.
- Lovers on All Saints’ Day by Juan Gabriel Vasquez – Vasquez’s The Sound of Things Falling was one of the better novels that I read two years ago and it made me respect the writer who is being hailed as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s successor. If this collection of short stories can match or even surpass the beauty of The Sound of Things Falling then he may very well deserve the praise.
- The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien – I haven’t ready any of Edna O’Brien’s novels although I have read and love her short fiction. The Little Red Chairs is his most recent novel and it is about the war crimes committed during the Bosnian Civil War intersecting with the idyllic lives of people from the Irish countryside.
That’s about it for my April reading though, as usual, expect the final tally of books read change at month’s end. There’s also the matter of the books I acquired last month:
The three upright books on the left, along with Macdonald’s H is for Hawk and O’Brien’s The Little Red Chairs, are the books that I had signed this month at the author events that I went to. While the ones piled on the right are the books that I bought from various thrift stores that I went to except for Mark Harris’ Pictures at a Revolution and for Olja Savičević’s Adios, Cowboy which I won from a giveaway that McSweeney’s held at their Instagram page. From all of my loot, I’m especially glad of the movie-related books that I got namely the three books by and about Ingmar Bergman and the book of film scripts by Paul Auster and by Luis Bunuel.
Well that’s it for April.