Essential Reading: June 2016
Of course I had to bounce back from the dismal reading that I did last month (a measly three books when I’m trying to read at least five every month). The way I bounced back was by reading a bevy of shorter works, novellas and graphic novels (which are not lesser in stature just because of the length of time required to read them). Anyway, enough of that, here are the books I’ve read last month:
- Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (4/5)
- Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli (4/5)
- Why Are You Doing This by Jason (3/5)
- Cairo by G. Willow Wilson (4/5)
- Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown (5/5)
- Bartleby The Scrivener by Herman Melville (4/5)
- The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol (3/5)
- The Fun Parts by Sam Lipsyte (4/5)
- The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (4/5)
Lauren Groff continues to amaze me with her writing and this time it was her short stories that left me with a feeling of satisfaction after turning the last page of her book. Rovelli’s short treatise on Physics is a good introduction on the subject for science-deficient people like me although the writing can be a bit saccharine. Why Are You Doing This is the first Jason comic that I’ve read in years and it’s either I changed or the quality of this particular comic is just average because I remember loving his work back when I devoured them one after the other. On the other hand, Cairo and Ed the Happy Clown are excellent graphic novels (from G. Willow Wilson and Chester Brown) respectively with the former being an exploration of Egyptian myths and culture and the latter is a hilarious dark comedy about the misfortunes of the titular Ed. My first Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener, did not disappoint me with its exploration on the ennui that plagues the workplace, a theme that is certainly relevant despite the disparity between the novella’s time of publication and our modern era. Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas is, I’m sad to say, a mediocre work and, even though I have not read anything by Gogol aside from this novella, certainly not his best. Another first of mine is Lipsyte’s The Fun Parts which has been favorably compared to the works of George Saunders, an opinion that I disagree with because all that I saw were tiny moments that were Saunders-esque but not for the entirety of the collection (which I did enjoy). The first book of Robert Galbraith’s (JK Rowling) Cormoran Strike series proves that Galbraith (Rowling) is one of the most enjoyable writers of her era with writing that combines deft plotting and nuanced characterization.
Anyway, I have decided to read relevant books for our book club’s bingo challenge since I haven’t made any patterns yet. Therefore all of my reads for the month of June will be for the sake of crossing out some squares for our TFG Bingo.
- On Elizabeth Bishop by Colm Tóibín – For the Biography/Memoir square, On Elizabeth Bishop is Tóibín’s intimate study of one of the greatest poets of American letters. I went to a reading recently that featured Tóibín and the Irish poet Eavan Boland (more on her later) in which one of the topics that they touched on was the sublime poetry of Bishop and this particular book by Tóibín that Boland holds in high regard.
- The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi – For the Set in Asia square, The Colonel is said to be, if the burbs are to be believed, is a book written by Iran’s most important novelist. It frames Iranian history, particularly the Iranian Revolution, through the eyes of the titular Colonel who has served in Iran from the time of the Shah until the time of the Ayatollah and is now living in pained retirement.
- Domestic Violence by Eavan Boland – For the Poetry Collection square, I have decided to read a collection written by a recent discovery, Eavan Boland. As I mentioned above, I attended a reading in which she is one of the featured guests where she read four of her poems all of which left my mouth agape in admiration. After the event, I immediately bought two of her collections that were being sold for the event and had them signed. For the uninitiated, I highly recommend that you check out her poem, “Quarantine”.
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – For the Banned Book square, it seems fitting to read something from the former Soviet Union as it is one of the most repressive regimes that banned books on a regular basis. One such book was One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story about the titular Ivan as he struggles to cope the brutal realities of the Soviet gulags.
- A Void by Georges Perec – For the Experimental square, what better way to cross it out than read a novel by one of the most important figures of the Oulipo movement, Georges Perec. In this particular work of his, Perec has omitted the use of the letter ‘e’ and therefore it cannot be found within the pages of the novel. If that’s not experimental enough, I don’t know what is.
There’s also the matter of the books I’ve bought last May:
I have begun hoarding books again after I discovered several used bookstores in DC. There’s the two branches of Second Story Books, Riverby Books, Friends of the Library, and a thrift store in Bethesda. The selections were all great as evidenced by the three from NYRB, the two from Melville House, the two Barths, Foer’s Tree of Codes, Munro’s Love of a Good Woman, and McCarthy’s Theater Chronicles to name a few. The books by Erdrich and DeLillo were bought from the events where they were featured so they were sold at full price. All things considered, the month of May was a coup.
That’s about it. Til next time.