Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for October, 2015…
Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson – Jefferson is a critic and cultural tastemaker who grew up in a privileged enclave of the African-American community. Her father was a prominent doctor at a historically black hospital; her mother was a socialite. Jefferson referred to her upper-crust world as “Negroland,” and in her memoir of the same name she deconstructs the social mores and the origins of respectability politics in which she was steeped. This was a wonderful book. I am trying to read more about the experiences of people of color and I would highly recommend this book as a fascinating take on a community that hasn’t received much attention before.
The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1-4), by Marjane Satrapi – Persepolis is Satrapi’s graphic memoir of growing up in revolutionary Iran. It’s been out for a few years and has been consistently highly regarded – even being made into an award-winning animated film. I’d been meaning to check it out and finally picked it up for Banned Books Week (because it’s one of the most frequently banned or challenged graphic novels) and it was incredibly powerful. Shocking in parts, but so well worth the read.
Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee – I’ll have a whole post coming up about my impressions of this book, and why I chose to read it. So to keep this post short, I’ll just say that I didn’t like Go Set a Watchman. I found the characters wooden and unconvincing, the story lacking, and the writing unpolished. It was an interesting literary history exercise – fascinating to see the original seed of what became one of the greatest masterpieces of American letters – but in its own right, I don’t think Go Set a Watchman is worth reading. (Fortunately it’s a quick read – only took me 24 hours.)
Undermajordomo Minor, by Patric DeWitt – Lucien “Lucy” Minor is scrawny, sickly, and a compulsive liar. Looking for a life outside of his small town, he takes a job as Undermajordomo of a castle far away. But something really weird is going on in the castle. Lucy becomes involved with a local girl and tries to solve the mystery of what freakishness is taking place behind closed doors in his new place of employment. This was good, but there was one scene that made me want to gouge my eyes out (and didn’t add to the plot at all) – and it loses a couple of points for me as a result.
The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood – New Margaret Atwood! It took me awhile to get into Margaret Atwood, but once I did I really came to love her work. This is another dystopia, and this one focuses on one couple: Stan and Charmaine. They are living in their car when Charmaine, while at work at a dive bar, sees an ad for something called “The Positron Project.” I won’t give away what it involves, but just tell you that Stan and Charmaine sign up and – of course – the Project turns out to be much darker than they were anticipating. The Heart Goes Last is a bit of a departure for Atwood, as it focuses intently on one marriage instead of a broad, sweeping story, but it really works. I know that opinions were mixed on this one, but I loved it. It’s not going to replace MaddAddam as my favorite Atwood, but it’s pretty great in my opinion.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert – This was described as part tough love, part woo-woo, and that was pretty spot-on. Elizabeth Gilbert’s non-fiction is kind of hit or miss for me, and this was mostly a miss. I did like the Ann Patchett story (you’ll have to read it to find out) but aside from that, I didn’t find it as useful as I was hoping. I thought I might be able to translate the advice beyond just a career in the arts (which is not my career path) to general life stuff, but I don’t think it transfers as well as I’d hoped. Oh, well.
Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max!, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters and Grace Ellis – The second Lumberjanes trade paperback contained issues 5 through 8 and wrapped up the first story arc, and IT. WAS. AWESOME YOU GUYS! Dinosaurs! Greek gods! Capture the flag! The mythological mayhem at the Lumberjane Scouts’ camp was soooooo much fun. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this comic, and now I want to devour it all.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, by Andi Watson – So much fun! This middle-grade graphic novel focuses on Dee, the Princess of the Underworld. Because her father is completely useless, she has to do all the work of running the kingdom herself, with no help – until Count Spatula, the new palace chef, shows up. Soon Dee is revived by the Count’s whimsical desserts, and King Wulfrun is not pleased. Oh, no! Read, and loved, for Readers Imbibing Peril.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This is going to be the biggest book of the year, I think, and I had to read it. Coates’ memoir is written as a letter to his adolescent son and contains a personal history and a sweeping social analysis. It was moving, powerful, shocking, sad, and uplifting. A hard read, but so worth it, and a book that everyone should read. EVERYONE.
Captain Marvel, Volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight, by Kelly Sue DeConnick – I was really confused about all the Captain Marvel comics out there, so I started with this 2012 run. I loved the storyline (time traveling plane!) but the art was uneven – great for the first half, but I didn’t like it nearly as much in the second half.
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, by Salman Rushdie – The new Rushdie looked like it was going to be amazing, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I expected to. The plot was really intriguing, but I didn’t feel that the characters were particularly vivid, and the writing seemed a bit clunky. I have enjoyed the other Rushdie works I’ve read much more. This was still good, just not as great as it could have been.
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1), by Zen Cho – Billed as a “diverse, feminist Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell,” this story of magic in an alternate Victorian England was so fabulous. Zacharias Wythe is the new Sorcerer Royal, the leader of the magical community in England, but enemies lurk everywhere he turns. Zacharias is a freed slave and a black man, and his white colleagues do not appreciate deferring to him. He is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the community, someone is trying to kill him, and he has a mysterious ailment that makes his nights a misery. On a mission to try to figure out why England’s magic seems to be drying up, Zacharias stops by a school for “gentlewitches” and is appalled by the methods the school is using to teach the young women to suppress their magic (only males are allowed to practice magic in this England). Soon Zacharias finds himself with an apprentice from the school and a new mission to reform magical education for women, and things become more complicated from there. I LOVED THIS BOOK YOU GUYS and will be buying a copy. Read it. GO READ IT NOW. My only regret about reading this is that I didn’t wait for the whole series to be out before picking it up, and now I have a long wait ahead for the next one.
Slade House, by David Mitchell – Also read and reviewed for Readers Imbibing Peril, I really enjoyed – well, if being scared out of my head can be classed as “enjoying” – this slim but spooky take on the haunted house story. Classic David Mitchell elements – time-hopping, surreal imagery – combined with a really compelling and terrifying story made this a perfect read for right before Halloween. Now I want to read The Bone Clocks, because I understand that some elements in Slade House would make more sense if you’ve read the main novel set in this world.
The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1), by Raina Telgemeier – I grabbed this on impulse at Target and it was a cute re-telling of a story I loved as a kid. Some elements of the BSC don’t really hold up (they have to meet in Claudia’s room because Claudia has her own phone line, so cute!) but it was fun to revisit Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey. I probably won’t get any more of these, but I had a good time with this one.
What a month of reading in October! So. Many. Good. Books. Sorcerer to the Crown was the runaway highlight, but I also loved The Heart Goes Last and the new trade of Lumberjanes. November reading has been a bit slower going, because we’ve been so busy at home, what with getting our house ready to list and hosting family and friends for a baptism, but I expect I’ll have plenty to share by the end of the month. Hope all of my friends are having a good fall in books!